Credit to the photographs

I would like to thank Brian Losisto (Air Canada's photographer) for always allowing me to post his pictures. (The above thrust lever pic is his). Then there is Kelly Paterson from Calgary and plane spotter "Erik" from Germany. Of course, I have lots myself. On that note, if you feel a photo(s) may be in appropriate or the content I post a bit dubious by all means send me an email. I will ratify it! That's all I ask!
P.S I'd like to add Nadia from "la belle province" for her contributions!
...and YYC Disptacher...

...I hope you enjoy the blog...

Monday, November 9, 2009

"Dicey" but doable into Vegas

Luxor Hotel. There is a "caution" noted on our approach charts.
"Aircraft may experience reflection of sun from glass pyramid
located northwest of airport."

While waiting for my coffee at Tim Hortons in YYC (Calgary), I chatted with a passenger on my flight heading to Vegas. For five hundred bucks he gets to stay at the Luxor for four nights which includes return airfare from Calgary. It's cheaper to travel nowadays than it was 20 years ago.

It all started when ATC asked us whether we had the 737 "visual" ahead of us.
American ATC asks this a lot. It's asked in LAX, MCO (Orlando) and SFO and many other airports I fly to. By stating you "have the traffic visual" it reliefs them of separation and they can pack the airplanes in tighter. This is particularly a challenge when flying into LAX at night. There's plenty of airplanes in the sky with a million lights below, but they ask whether you have traffic in sight or at least the airport in sight. At first you say no, or you are not sure of the traffic but they start asking more and more or start giving directions where the airport is. Finally, you take their bait and say, "traffic in sight" or "airport visual."

We were to follow Southwest (I later find out they rule and slow up to get off quickly because their terminal is nearby) on final onto 25 left for a visual. Everything is looking good. ATC told us to maintain 210 knots. He forgot to mention the preceding B737 slowed up significantly. The F/O was flying and he hadn't been to Vegas in years. I see on our TCAS (Traffic Collision Avoidance System) that our comfortable five mile separation has dwindled to four miles and then three.

Meanwhile I'm calling out the separation hinting to the F/O to slow it up. He had it in the back of his mind to keep the speed up as per the last ATC request, but we were cleared to visually follow the 737 i.e. fly it accordingly. Finally, he tries to slow it up but one thing a jet can't do. It can't "go down and slow down." We get the gear down and flaps hanging, but we are so close I can see what type of APU Southwest uses (not really, but you know what I mean). Plus we are getting some "wake" from him.

Finally when checking in with tower they suggest an "S" turn. I can't remember the last time I did an "S" turn. We are cleared to land and I make it known Southwest slowed up way too much.

At Air Canada we have a new call, "stable." Basically we have to be on the glideslope, the aircraft must be configured to land and the approach speed must be within 10 knots, etc. We were stable, but Southwest ahead of us thought they were the only aircraft landing in Vegas that day.

We broke it off to the left to do the "S" turn. People below must have thought Air Canada was giving the passengers a tour. Keep in mind everything was safe but the work load rose exponentially (What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas).

Southwest clears quickly, and the F/O puts in on nicely!

(Vegas is no different than most busy airports around the world. For example, landing in London, Heathrow tends to be as close. You are literally seconds away from executing a go around).

We are told to clear on taxiway A6 and hold short of 25 right. Tower then says (I thought) "next time slow up," but the F/O corrected me. They said, "nice job slowing up."

The next day we came back to LAS from Vancouver and we were ready. The flight was full and we had an Embraer captain in the jumpseat. (There was an Air Canada pilot golf tournament brewing so seats were at a premium). He says our approach yesterday happened to him as well.
The F/O was flying again and he made certain we were "on the numbers."

After his "greaser," I said aloud, "redemption."

I have to admit, Las Vegas has to be the prettiest approach at night. With so many lights and close proximity to town, one would think they are landing in a theme park.

This was the highlight of my four day pairing.



david said...

S-turns in a jetliner! You must have felt like you were back in a Cessna 172 behind a slow student pilot at a flight school.

From the Flight Deck said...

That's what I thought was going on in the 737

Thanks for the post David.

CanuckFlyer said...

I can't remember the last time I had to S-turn on approach! Usually in a 172, you just drop flaps then do the good old chop-and-drop! You jet guys have all the fun! haha

Ian said...

Hello Doug:

Sad to admit I was reading your blog when on layover in YYZ - and it's a super idea and a pretty great read too!

From all of your fellow aviators on the Speedbird flight decks (in my case the glorious Boeing 777-200) sending you best wishes, which I hope took the Great Circle to reach you!

Cheers, Ian

From the Flight Deck said...


Again, I can't remember my last "S" turn either. At least on a C-172 one can do the forward side slip. The last time someone tried that was landing the B767 in Gimli with no power.

From the Flight Deck said...

Ian. Thanks for the "thumbs up!"

Capt. Doug

Ian said...

Thanks Doug. Hope the hardwood is gleaming away!

Not just me, my FO also glanced at your blog, and thought it was great too - she also thought you looked very handsome in the uniform ;)

Haven't been into McCarran before, so it was an interesting precis.

EWR bound tomorrow, westward over the Pond.

Any news when the 787s you've got on order are coming on stream ? Rumour from our neck of the woods, thinking of suing Boeing (anything for revenue I think)!

All the best, Ian

From the Flight Deck said...

Hi Ian. Just finished bedroom number 3. So 3 out of 4 is not bad except the master bedroom (#4) is three of the others put together. I played Air Canada hockey yesterday and for the rest of the day the wife enjoyed watching me install hardwood.
It's a tough way to make a living.

Air Canada's official time frame for the B787 is now late 2013. It's certainly stalling everyone's career progression. Having said that, the recent retirement ruling may stall things even more. There were suppose to be 711 pilots retiring in the next five years. Stay tuned.

Maybe the next time you are in town we can meet up for a coffee/beverage.


P.S Tell your F/O thanks for the compliment!

Ian said...

Hi Doug: As my wife will no doubt testify, my handiwork skills are likely the worst ever seen - but we have a great renovator who covers up my efforts - good job on the bedrooms! Tough way to make a living, certainly.

The Dreamliner is turning into a bit of a Nightmareliner with the composite construction, and we're still over 2 years away too last I heard.

At one point, it was as little as 8-9 years from entry to command on mainline for the B737, and it is still not so bad to be honest - compared to other large carriers.

Our longhaul fleet will be the B787, newer versions of the B777 (in some regards, we have B777 antiques from the late 90s ;) ) and the A380. Our B744s are being steadily reduced.

Yep, I hear you, the ICAO regulations are a spanner - I even heard somewhere an AC skipper had started a campaign called something like "fly past 60", plus a court ruling means everything backing up in the command and fleet seniority over with you. Staying tuned.

Beverage would be great - bidding Toronto as usual and will email you when I know.

Bags packed in my case, NOTAMS checked online, quick glance at the MET, the missus has made me a sandwich and a cup of tea, so EWR here I come!

Enjoy the hardwood!

From the Flight Deck said...

Ian. Curious why you bid CYYZ? Do you have Canadian ties?

Seems like the airline business is experiencing light to moderate turbulence. We've gone through some pretty good bumps and the "seat belt" sign is now cautiously turned off.

I see B.A is laying off. Too many Air Canada pilots think it's just an Air Canada thing and quickly blame management. But I ask them, have they seen what's happening around the world?

Enjoy EWR. I was there last winter doing a hockey charter with our subsidiary company, Air Canada JETZ.


david said...

"Enjoy EWR" -- I'm guessing, then, it's not as nasty for crew as it is for passengers. What a dirty, unpleasant airport! (And don't get me started on the evening customs lines.)

From the Flight Deck said...

David. I agree with you. Both EWR and LGA need some upgrading. I avoid LGA. Luckily the A320 does not fly to EWR, it's the Embraer.
It's the delays in/out of New York which makes it a work out.

As mentioned I flew a charter (Boston Bruins) from Bradley (just outside of Boston) to EWR. The flight was only 40 minutes but we waited on the ground in Bradley
for two hours to get a take off clearance. And that was with the manager of the Bruins having inside contacts with ATC. All of the controllers were apologetic
because they delayed their hockey team.

It worked out well, I had the pleasure of eating some the catering. I had the salmon while waiting on the taxiway. Rumour has it the catering bill was $5000
for this short flight.


david said...

I'm guessing the jet was too big for Teterboro, but why not Republic, Stewart, or Westchester? Flying a charter into EWR sounds like you're just asking for trouble. :)

From the Flight Deck said...

David. Actually, once we got to EWR it was a smooth operation. I guess they picked EWR over the others because of the close proximity to the arena. The FBO was top notch. There was even a private Airbus 319 and B737 owned by "oil" familes.

Ian said...


Good morning from near the Big Apple. Arrival was 17 minutes ahead of schedule lsst night and I agree with David, KEWR is a dump - I was expecting to see Tony Soprano at the CBP checkpoint judging by the accents!

Bid Toronto a fair bit as my sister about a decade ago fell in love with a Canuck, and now lives in a little place called Ancaster - so she comes into Toronto or I'll stay with her. She is now an ice hockey afficianado - so it is obviously in the blood and air over with you Doug!

The seatbelt signs with the Speedbirds remain on - news you might have heard: the long awaited coming together of BA and Iberia is on the cards for 2010 under a separate operating company, and there will be lots of rationalisation - especially with ancillary functions. Rumour is the HQ of the combined group will be Madrid! I guess we get Latin American exposure where our route system is weak, and the pension deficit will be ironed out too.

Layoffs and suspended recruiting for BA flightdeck - along with a voluntary redundancy scheme, which my friend, Peter (of the 777 incident last year) took advantage of. In his case, 12 months salary, plus benefits. For someone who did such a great job with his SFO John, it's sad that he still doesn't have a seat somewhere - believe outfits like KAL where he was applying won't take you with an accident on your record. As an aside, we've tried recreating in the sims what happened - and given the position of the double failure, and the glide extension the guys achieved, it was a grand job.

Big problem in Speedbird land is the "J" class yield - lower than ever - and since most long hauls are configured in 4 classes (First, Club, World Traveller Plus and World Traveller) lots of companies who used to send their employees in business are now downgrading to Plus. Also the loads weaker this year. Add to that a likely cabin crew strike, and that seatbelt sign is ON!

So to answer your question, Doug, it's a malaise the industry over - not just with the Maple Leaf.

I'd still not swap life in the air - and will fly till the wings get permanently folded away!

Hope Toronto is well (just a little inland from me until later)!

Cheers, Ian

From the Flight Deck said...

Ian. Great post! I live in Oakville, sort of in between CYYZ and Ancaster.

Speaking of hockey, I'm out the door to play some more Air Canada pilot hockey.
How do you get a grown captain digress back into early childhood with an attitude and forget about CRM? ...Put him in hockey gear.
I'm not talking about me, but some of these guys bring their Type A+ personalities unto the ice. It used to be a little disconcerting, but now I try to laugh it off.

Yes, BA is being splashed across the news with your 8 billion dollar merge with Iberia. I hope it goes a little smoother than our merger did or like any merger for that matter.

There are guys taking leaves here as well, but not as many as one would think. I was entertaining Bahrain Air last year, but things fell off the rails. They aborted the mission of more Airbus 320s.

I agree with you 100 percent. We airline types belly ache over our job, but I'm certain 90 percent of my blog readers/followers would love to be in the position we are.
Having said that, it's not a business for the faint of heart.

Again, thanks for the great insight from the other side of the "pond."


Ian said...
This post has been removed by the author.
Ian said...

First, let me apologise for pushing the delete button on my previous comment - I found a brace of spelling errors - and with no way to correct them, did the decent thing!

Sounds like the BA soccer I play in - and I still can't bend it like Beckham! You'd think there was a medal at stake and it is only five-a-side!

Fitful sleep through the morning - although I rested well last night, slept like a baby (and that doesn't mean waking up hysterically crying every hour)!

BA is trying to reinvent itself in the face of low-cost competition for the likes of Ryanair and Easyjet - the former is a nightmare, and is still being investigated for misleading commercials. They're even looking at making the PAX spend £1.00 for taking a bio-break and are even thinking of trialling stool seating to max out their B737NGs. It makes our recent pay for food policy on economy short haul seem quite reasonable. I guess your domestic competition is Westjet?

Part of this BA reinvention are the introduction of unique A318s flying out of LCY (London City) to JFK. From the UK AIP, LCY has an overall tarmac of way under 5,000feet, (TORA is less than 4,000 feet) so the marketing is of course centred around pre-clearance of US Immigration at SNN before going Oceanic, service (J-class only), and the re-introduction of the call-sign "Speedbird One" - originally retired when Concorde stopped 6 years ago. However, the operational reality is being light enough to use that tight piece of asphalt.

Also, LCY operations mean that crews must be specifically certificated to operate at glideslope angles of 5.5 degrees or above, and have satisfactorally completed a good handful of approaches before getting the tick in the box.

I've taken a leaf out your book, and started my own little blog - no-where near as good as yours (which is the pinnacle), and entitled it "The Flying Scotsman", since I was born in St. Andrews. Instead of being captivated by golf, my head was always in the skies watching the fighters - Phantoms when I was a kid, from the nearby RAF airbase -Leuchars.

Time for some soup I think - Manhattan Clam Chowder is appropriate I think given my current locale.

Cheers, Ian

From the Flight Deck said...

Yes, Westjet is our competition domestically. They are introducing more routes throughout North America on a seemingly regular basis.They have a good product, and in the media's eyes, they can do no wrong. Air Canada is always under the vindictive watch of the media.We are as popular as the Post office (was) or the government run weather office.
Although, we can't be that bad because I've handed out numerous jumpseat coupons to commuting Westjet pilots.

A318 to JFK? We tried the A319 from YYT (St. John's, Nfld) to LHR but it lasted a few months.

A 5.5 glideslope? I've done a few 4.5s. One must be set up early.

Congrates on starting a blog! It should be a good one because you write well with lots of interesting tidbits.
What's the address? I'll include it on my blog.

Gone flying early tomorrow.


Ian said...

Hello Doug

Hope the flying was enjoyable!

Westjet I heard have mega-ambition and I understand are sniffing the possibility of overseas runs - but that doesn't fit with their business model I suspect.

I sometimes see Transat at LHR - pretty rare - haven't seen them for a while either so not sure if it is still current - and a little birdie told me all of their A310s will be gone in 2012with A330-200s replacing them, with an option to upgrade to A350s. I believe Transat are like Monarch or Thomas Cook from this island.

A318s are operating similarly to Privatair that use Boeing BBJs configured for perhaps 40-odd PAX in J-Class. Believe Lufthansa and Swiss sub-contract some Atlantic runs to them, so that's where the inspiration for 30-odd seater A318s come from - and directed at the bankers of the Big Apple and the Big Smoke who want the convenience.

I spoke to a couple of the guys on the Airbus who are LCY certificated - and setting up very early is key for the approach as you said, and as the asphalt is very tight, the runway also has unique markings - and lights - basically you have the main gear well settled before the lights, or it's go-around time. It is really that tight operationally.

The little blog is
(hardly a great name), and I am reading, prepping, doing all that we all do in readiness for the semi-annual coming up later this week.

Will post on my blog, what they throw at us (last time, they incorrectly stowed the QRH on purpose), gave me a fuel leak out of the blue, pressure failure - so O2 masks on, took the visibility from 12 miles to CAT III in 2 minutes, failed the left hand engine on short finals, with the grand finale of the other engine bursting into flames just as manual braking started at 80kts...I needed a drink after that lot!

Cheers, Ian