This photo was taken while lining up on the runway in New Delhi in the middle of the night enroute to Toronto - non stop. The airport was reporting an RVR (runway visual range) of 600 feet, but if you count the runway lights (separated every 200 feet) you'll see we had 800 feet and a bit. These take offs at max weight made for some interesting departures in the Airbus 340.
The flight to KTPA (Tampa, Florida) and back proved uneventful - just the way I like them.
We encountered the westerly jet again over the state of Georgia, but it increased in intensity. Our wind read out had the winds clocked at 190 knots. Flight dispatch had us planned at significant lower altitudes going there and right in it heading home. We did get some bumps off it, but by listening to other pilot reports we changed altitudes accordingly.
The F/O just finished a gruelling one year "route" check so he gave some heads up as to what the pilot supervisor checkers are asking. Apparently, they are asking and conveying lots. Because of it, I too was in the books a little more than usual as I have my "route check" in January. I didn't have time to read the "weather maps" (code for newspaper, but this is classified info).
I did notice the go around in the FMS (flight management system) and what it said on our Jeppeson charts did not jive. The F/O's chart read the same. It was CAVOK so I did not query ATC. (CAVOK stands for ceiling and visibility OK - this is a short version. There is a technical definition for those writing pilot exams).
Our flight to Newfoundland was a continuing flight from Fort McMurray (a.k.a Fort McMoney). This flight is a very successful route because many Newfoundlanders are commuting back and forth to work the oil sands in Alberta. As luck would have it, it was running late. Now we have to look at busting our duty time. We have up to two hours discretion due to unforeseen circumstances such as weather delays, but it's at the discretion of the pilot. The flight attendants who were with us all day (this is rare) wanted to continue on their pairing as this was day one. They would be reassigned and this would prove too costly nearing Christmas. I could sense a little reluctance with the F/O, but it was his call.
Finally, the aircraft arrives and everyone scurries to get it turned around. However, during the approach into Toronto the airplane picked up ice. "Jacques from Airbus" did not implement a deice system for the tail wing (stabilizer). So it's off to the deice centre for a quick spray of the tail only. Now we are well past 13 hours. The flight is full. I have two flight commuting flight attendants - one just in from Hong Kong and the other from Tokyo - asking for the jumpseat. A pilot shows up so he out ranked them. I okayed it for him. I know of two commuting check captains and I would probably deny them. Not what you want in the jumpseat during a long day, with a approach to minimums, because they never take off their checking hat. Luckily because of some misconnections everyone got a seat in the back. Meanwhile, we are watching CYYT's weather.
CYYT 210105Z 11010KT 1/4SM R11/1800FT/N R16/2200FT/N -FZDZ FZFG VV001 M00/ RMK FG8
To a layman this means poor visibility in freezing drizzle and freezing fog. To a pilot, it raises more than an eyebrow, especially after a long day. This is the same weather weather reported when Air Canada had an incident in CYFC (Fredericton, N.B) years ago in an RJ Challenger. Many things stemmed from this incident and one of them is the captain must do low visibility approaches. It was the F/Os leg so being "mister nice guy" I offer him to do the take off. (We all know where nice guys finish).
The flight plan shows us 10 minutes over 'sked' because we won't be getting the usual push from the prevailing westerlies, but instead we will buck rare easterly winds aloft. (Do not use the word "buck" in P.A announcements. It may sound like something else). See the Flying Scotsman's great post on oceanic procedures. He included a weather chart depicting the easterly jet over Newfoundland.
While airborne we are rattling off weather reports from our datalink. The entire east coast of Canada is being ravaged by a storm. Our alternate is CYYR (Goose Bay, Labrador). It's a military/civilian airport just under two hours north from a go-around in Tore Bay. I haven't been there in years and I didn't want to revisit it last night. I got another roll of data link paper just in case we ran out and things got busy. Our "have a look at alternate" was CYJT (Stephenville, Newfoundland). Dispatch includes a second alternate sometimes meaning it's more feasible to go there. However, this "built by the Americans in WWII airport," did not have readily deicing available. It did have a 10,000 foot runway. But the prevailing winds in Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, P.E.I and Newfoundland were from the east meaning non-precision approaches. Not what you want after a long day.
I have a cousin in Stephenville and he would be tickled pink if I landed in this near "ghost town" airport. (I truly have a cousin there. For those in the know, "having a cousin" or "going to see a cousin" is code for something else. Think hanky-panky). More classified info.
My F/O has two small children with another one on the way. He is ready for bed. Dispatch sends us a datalink stating our flight from Halifax will be shooting an approach into CYYT soon. He got in! In fact, we notice a slight improvement in visibility with the forecasted wind shift. But it's minus one so I'm thinking icing on the approach and the runway is 20 percent ice covered.
One might wonder why Canada's foggiest airport doesn't have Category II landing or better yet Category III (Autoland)? They do have CAT II on runway 29, but this would have entailed exceeding our tail wind limits. I'm not sure why they put a CAT II approach on a westerly runway. A westerly wind in Canada generally means a clearing wind.
Westjet is a head of us and we have to slow up, but I have to descend. You can't slow down and go down in a jet. I'm getting high on the profile. I compromise by increasing the speed a little. Finally, we are cleared the approach.
At minimums, there are three calls, "runway in sight", "lights only" or "no contact." The response is "landing" or "go-around, flaps" in a loud shrill. The F/O calls "lights only". It's enough for me to curtly call, "landing!" Autobrake medium slows us nicely on wet runway 11. By setting the park brake at the gate the day is over.
On a side note, while enroute to Newfoundland I'm reading the approach charts extra hard -remember I'm spooled up for my pending route check. I notice this: "Precipitous terrain on approach." Okay, I'm an ex-meteorologist so I know precipitation and precipitate. I pull out my mini dictionary (used for crosswords) but the word does not exist. I feel better. It did have the word "precipice" meaning "very steep cliff or rack face." Okay, I get the drift. Now when I get drilled by the check pilot next month, I'll be armed with a question to counteract his barrage of questions. I'll bet he doesn't know what it means either.
I'm sitting in my hotel room. I have a great view of the approaches to St. John's harbour where waves are crashing upon the shore in easterly gales. (Update - visibility just reduced to 1/4 mile in fog - go figure.)
It's soon time to meet with the F/O for a debriefing beverage - or two.