Saturday, September 4, 2010

"Trans Conning"

The sun is trying to burn this stuff off. A weather report may have in the remarks, "sun dmly vsble" (the sun is dimly visible)

The sun wins "the tug of war " minutes later on the same taxiway.

The city of San Diego poking in and out of fog.

The fog comes
on little cat feet.

It sits looking
over harbor and city
on silent haunches
and then moves on.
Carl Sandburg, Fog

I sneak in a quick photo. A fog bank is at the end of the runway right at "rotation" with the sun visor sitting on my head.

The city breaking through the fog as we head eastward.
(The sun visor is now where it should be, blocking the rising sun)

On Thursday, my first "Trans Con" (Continental) flight entailed a CYEG (Edmonton) turn. Edmonton had one runway shutdown (pity both ends have ILS approaches) which seems to be the norm for many airports this summer. A light southwest wind meant the backcourse on 20. The F/O claimed he hadn't done a backcourse approach in about two years. His seniority meant he got to fly to places like Barbados, Las Vegas and Caracas, Venezuela which all had ILS approaches. He did a beautiful job.

Everything went well on the leg home except when we were cleared the ILS 24R approach into Toronto near midnight. The first officer began deleting some unnecessary waypoints, but for some Airbus mystical reason, it cleared out my approach. ATC wondered where we were going. After Captain Doug blurted out a typical Airbus W-T-F!!!...I disengaged the autopilot and flew it manually, descending via the lighted approach system, PAPI. The F/O figured his "clear" button stuck a little and because of it, started deleting things. I alluded to this phenomena before, when things are going too smoothly, one senses something is lurking.

Yesterday, meant a five hour flight to San Diego. This meteorological uneventful flight meant the seatbelt sign stayed off the entire flight. My F/O had never been to San Diego with Air Canada so I let him have the leg. He had been there as a corporate pilot many moons ago. In fact, he had been to many places around the world and because of his chatty nature, I got to hear about lots of it. The flight went by fast. I even had difficulty concentrating on a crossword. (Today his many adventures may have been the reason why Chicago Center reminded us we missed two calls. Again the flight went fast. :)

He did an exemplary job "step-downing" on the approach to a "smoothie" of a landing.

This morning, San Diego was down in fog. Many think fog is an east coast phenomena. From California (think San Fran) all the way up to B.C can sit in "advection fog." It forms the same way, when warm moist air advects over a cold surface. The water off the California coast is cold because of upwelling. (Sorry for getting meteorological on you).

What does this mean for a pilot? Well, we needed a take off alternate in case we lose a "fan." For the Airbus 320 it has to be within 340 nautical miles of the airport. KONT (Ontario, California) worked out nicely.

During the taxi, the fog went from an RVR (Runway Visual Range) of 2600 feet to 6000 plus. We get the clearance and captain Doug sets take off thrust and calls the standard..."Man flex, SRS, runway, autothrust." As soon as I finish the "Airbus" mantra the plastic mechanical sun visor falls down upon my head and sits there. The F/O saw what transpired as the airspeed built up to V1, but elected not to do anything. "You didn't miss a beat" he later chuckled. I rotated smoothly into the fog bank and called for the gear up.

As we flew over the American Midwest and listened to where the F/O drove to in his car adventures, I started watching Halifax's weather as Hurricane Earl paid a visit. I saw it peaked to 60 knots, but the high winds only lasted a few hours. I made the in-flight announcement for two reasons. (Usually I let the F/O do it when I fly). First, I wanted to recruit more questions for my enRoute column plus I wanted to point out the winds in Toronto were stronger than the winds in Halifax. Toronto gusted to 40 knots from the west today.

While waiting in the "welcome to Canada" customs line up, four guys in their mid twenties (looks like they were returning from a Vegas binge) discussed their recent landing. (Not my flight) One guy in the group, with an obvious fear of flying, looked miffed by the fact one wheel touched down before the other. Captain Doug came to the rescue to explain this is the way it has to be, but the Vegas partaker didn't or wouldn't fathom the explanation.

Tomorrow my "trans conning" will take me to Calgary for the night. Labour day weekend means Captain Doug is working.


Andrew said...


looks like your flying to Cali quite often this month, Similar thing happened to me when I was driving down the 401, a box flew out of a pick-up and smashed into the window. Amazing what concentration can do.

From the Flight Deck said...

Andrew. I'll be off to San Diego again the middle of the month. I really regret the fact the beer math does not add up. :(

I agree... when things like that happen at quick speeds, no sudden movements is the way to go...

Anonymous said...

You are quite the photographer. I especially like your second photo with the CRJ.

Seems like it was a fun day for flying into CYYZ today.

Of the many A319/A320/A321 flights I have taken, I haven't had a smooth landing as yet. My smoothest landings were on the A340 flying Air France in December. On the flight from CYYZ-LFPG the TAF for LFPG was indicating 2SM visibility and a ceiling of 200 feet and snow for our arrival.

I am not sure if it was the FO or Captain flying, since we had a tight connection, but boy was it smooth.

As you are an Airbus expert, did you find that the A330/A340 was easier to get a smoother landing as compared to the A319/A320/A321?

Thanks Nehal

From the Flight Deck said...

Nehal. I still fly like I'm landing the A340. After three years left seat on the A320 I still get a little uncomfortable as to how low we go at flare.

I miss that "big bird." The "mains" went on nicely, but the main bogies would snap down kind of abrupt sometimes. For years, many thought it was the
center gear doing it. Not so.

Having said all this, last week I flew the A321 into Montreal landing on 24 left. Our gate is at the end so Tower usually lets us clear at the end.
Translation, we get to finesse our landing. Captain Doug decided to use a rare flap setting (for me) - flap 3 instead of flap full.

It was so smooth a deadheading B767 captain poked his nose into the flight deck and said it was the smoothest Airbus landing he experienced
in 15 years. True story. Compared to golf, it would have been a near "hole in one." But I'm wise enough to realize my next landing could be a "mulligan." :)


Daniel said...

More good pictures :)

All the landings I have been on have been pretty good. Although it feels like the Embraer is a little more firm then the Airbus's. The 767/777 guys have done a good job but a A333 I have been on landing in Toronto took the prize, felt like we barely touched down, you could only really tell from the small thump and looking out and seeing the spoilers deployed.

Scote1992 said...

I had a landing like that. JetBlue at JFK in an A320. I really only could tell we were down when I saw the plane's nose start to move downward. I love the Airbus series and hope to fly them eventually in real life. Either that or corporate.

Chris Gardner said...

Nice poem about the fog I guess the author never experience the fog in St. John's NL.LOL.

Edwin said...

Hey Captain Doug! This is the first time I'm commenting on one of your posts, but I've been reading your blog for a while and we had a chat on YouTube a while back!

And I think your photos are great and the fact that you upload multiple photos to one post is really nice!

But I was wondering if your camera has a video function? As I would love some videos as well. Of course I understand you can't hold the camera in one hand and flying the approach with the other, but check out on youtube, he's a DHL freight pilot and films videos by putting the cam on the glareshield. Something you could try? Or when jumpseating!

Great post as usual!

Kind regards, Edwin
Gothenburg, Sweden.

From the Flight Deck said...

Chris. Good point! If the author experienced the fog in St.John's, I'm certain the poem would be more negative.
In fact, I'm willing to bet it would have lots of expletives. :)

Doug soon to depart for Calgary.

From the Flight Deck said...

Hi Edwin from Sweden! I was mentioning to my F/O yesterday about your idea of producing aviation videos with a simple camera. He thought it was a great idea and in fact wanted to help. He thinks a MAC computer is all I need.

My camera does have a video function. I recently had a flight attendant sitting in the jumpseat film a CAT II approach into Halifax late one night.
Two things happened. My built in memory card filled up. (I now purchased an extra memory stick). Then I inadvertently deleted the part we filmed.

It reminded me of my luck with cameras. Many years ago, I did a 30 day tour with Kon Tiki Tours (ages 18 to 35) of Europe. Hung over Doug thought he replaced a new film in his camera, but inadvertently put the old film back in. I took pictures over pictures. Some of the ruined pictures included a helicopter ride in the Swiss Alps.

It is difficult getting still shots while on approach. I took about seven while landing in San Diego, but they all turned out blurry.

I'll see what I can do. I like the Captain's name for his site: Yank and Bank. :)

Thanks for commenting on my blog and I look forward to other suggestions/comments.

Captain Doug

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

Yeah, amazing how you can fly an Airbus Fly-By-Wire aircraft and not being able to keep a video on your camera :P It took me a couple of hours just to understand the air condition part of the FCOM :P

I know how careful you pilots are about spending money, but instead of buying an expensive Apple Mac computer I would recommend a full HD camcorder.

That one is great as it shoots full 1080p and is very portable!

If you're not that found of editing I'd be more than happy to help you out.


carlton said...

Sounds like another fun day at the office!!!

You mentioned that you set auto-thrust for take off. On take off on the Airbus is the auto thrust activated or do you manually push forward the thrust levers to get the desired speed for V1 and Rotate?


From the Flight Deck said...

Carlton. The autothrust is armed (blue colour) when the thrust levers are set to take off thrust. It engages (white colour) when the thrust levers are brought back to "climb" detent.

The thrust levers are pushed to the "climb detent" for "flex" take off power or one notch further to TOGA thrust (balls to the wall thrust).

Here's a PDF I just came across on the internet.

Hope this helps. Good question.

Gone flying to Calgary.

From the Flight Deck said...

Edwin. Looks like you posted three times. What is that about technology. :) :) :) lol

We pilots are careful with our money? ha ha We are downright cheap!!! Well some of us are. :)

Buying an expensive MAC? Too late, I have a new desktop and I love it!

I couldn't open your link, but I'll give it another try once I'm in Calgary, Alberta.

Thanks for the offer as far as editing.

Talk to you soon.

Gone flying.

Captain Doug

Edwin said...

Captain, the reason I deleted my post was because English is not my native language, and I screwed up a few times =P, tech side here is fine thank you! =)

And by the way, how come when you made Captain at Air Canada, they put you on the A320, and not the A330 you where already typed on?
Do airlines upgrade captains to bigger types the more senior they get?


Anonymous said...

Hi Doug,

You seemed to have enjoyed flying the A330/A340's. Would you say you enjoyed the A330/A340 handled more then the A320's?

Looks like your flight to CYYC was running a bit late this evening.


Daniel said...

^ Late inbound aircraft. Also been watching it :P

Anonymous said...

@Daniel, looks like the plane was coming from CYYC earlier in the day, eh.

Amazing how much technology has changed so much. 40 years ago the computer just came out, and now I can track planes and figure out the route they are flying to within 10 minutes. Blows my mind some days :D.


Daniel said...

lol yeap, cant agree more.

From the Flight Deck said...

Edwin. Your English is better than mine! I am amazed how well you write. Again, Sweden must have excellent programs.

Positions are strictly based on seniority. Common sense dictates I would stay on the A330. Not so. That's the problem with a system
based on seniority, the cost of retraining. It costs any large airline...millions!

Good question though.

Now it's time to fly back to Toronto. I had a rough ride last night. I'm hoping another day brings smooth sailing.

Thanks for all the comments.

Captain Doug

Giulia said...


Wow...I am so impressed with the number of blog posts you are making! Almost everyday?! I love it!

I agree with the other people, the pictures are great, and if you figure out the video side of things, it would add a lot more to your blog. :)

Sigh...I wish there was a picture of you with the visor on your head. (Giggle)

Keep up the great writing, but I know you should also maintain balance (as in...the rest of your life). :)

All the best from YOW,

Hormazd said...

Captain Doug,
You say that sometimes one wheel has to touch down before the other. Why is that, is it due to crosswind?

From the Flight Deck said...

Hormazd. That day the winds were very strong crosswinds.

An airplane weather cocks into the wind, but we can not land like this because it would pose undue stress on the landing gear.

We must align the aircraft with the runway. The procedure is to bank into the wind and counteract the bank with opposite rudder.
The net effect is having the aircraft land straight, but the upwind wheel lands first. Many passengers can not seem to grasp why this must be done.

I hope this helps.

Captain Doug

From the Flight Deck said...

Daniel and Nehal.

Thanks for keeping an eye on me. It truly is amazing what can be found over the internet.

Like my blog!

I hope you keep enjoying!

Captain Doug

Aviatrix said...

Ah ha ha! That sunvisor thing happens to me all the time. I've resorted to duct tape at times.

From the Flight Deck said...

Aviatrix. I dare not think what a mechanical sun visor costs for an Airbus. But because it gets moved so much the adjustors wear so a tight hold is not possible.

Back to the drawing board for Airbus regarding sun visors. lol

Nice to see a "blog celebrity" pay my site a visit!

Captain Doug