Tuesday, September 30, 2008

In the Cockpit at FL390

It's interesting to put on someone else's shoes for a while, at least via their writing. There really is something for everyone in the blogosphere, written by good authors who make their unique subject matter come alive for those of us on the outside.

Today's example is a blog I read from time to time that drops its readers in the cockpit of an Airbus A320. The author, an airline captain with a major carrier, has a very succinct writing style that just lays it out for you, making technical things simple. It's given me some good insights into the world of commercial airliner piloting, from the mundane to the exciting.

For instance, ever wondered what's it like to fly into the outer bands of a Hurricane on a scheduled airliner route?
We have penetrated the outer ring of clouds of the northwest sector of Hanna. The turbulence is annoying and the clouds are thick but not wet (wet will come in a few minutes). The forward shields are up (anti-ice systems ON) which automatically turns on the engine igniters. Seventy miles ago I told the lead flight attendant to batten down the hatches and get ready for a goat rodeo. The weather radar is on the 120 mile range and the returns are in the category of you got to be kidding me.

25,000 feet and descending...

Ice is starting to form on the windshield wipers and the outside air temperature probe. The turbulence is getting worse; I call the lead flight attendant to double check that everyone is strapped in; she confirms and says there are some worried looks in first class. No kidding...

We are leading the arrival stream into Philly at 310 knots indicated air speed, but we have to slow down... The turbulence is getting bad. It is hard to read the instruments. I select 280 knots for the engine management computers and watch the engines spool down further. The co-pilot tells ATC that we are slowing. No problem... They know it is a rough ride into Philly today. The controller starts slowing the stream down behind us by issuing instructions for "280 knots."

20,000 feet and descending...
Read on here at Flight Level 390.

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