Archive for airline pilot podcast

How Big is the Sky?

Posted in airline, airline delays, airline industry, airline pilot, airline pilot blog, airline pilot podcast, airline podcast, airport with tags , , , , , , , , , on April 13, 2013 by Chris Manno

cockpit panoThe cockpit is a solemn place in the pregnant pause between preflight and pushback. Always, like a deserted island where everything’s already been said: checklists done, preflight complete, systems verified, amen. Plenty more details and decision points ahead, but nothing to worry about now, because the litany of procedures, numbers, actions, maneuvers and control inputs are etched in your mind like an inscription in granite. Thinking about the details is unneeded; knowing what’s to come and when is like running a hand over the inscription without reading the words–and that’s enough for now.

“You have a visitor,” the number one flight attendant breaks the reverie, ushering a school-aged boy into the cockpit. He looked to be maybe seven . . . eight? Dutifully wide-eyed behind thick glasses, a woman–must be his mom–hovering behind.

“C’mon in,” you say. “Are you the new copilot?” You jerk a thumb toward the F/O. “Because he’s pretty useless. You can do a better job–you ready?” Covertly, F/O gives you the finger. You smile.

left seat

The young man shakes his head in silence. “Go ahead,” mom prompts. “Ask him.” Then she adds, “He’s usually a chatterbox; loves airplanes. I think he’s a little overwhelmed.”

Good thing I’ve been such a smartass–that doesn’t help. “Sure, ask away,” you say. Stuff about airspeed? Controls? How we operate systems? He fixes you with a flat stare like he was looking right through you and into your heart.

“How big is the sky?”

Now there’s a question I’ve never been asked. And I’m not even sure how to answer.

“Yeah, Captain,” a smirking F/O echoes, “You’ve spent about thirty years in the sky. Just how big is it?”

freefall

Hard to say. Seen it when it wasn’t big enough, plunging straight down with a tangled parachute, cows below coming into focus faster than I ever wanted. Had to get a reserve chute out before finding where the sky ended and the earth began and even then, hit like a ton of bricks as if both earth and sky wanted to teach me a lesson about leaving one for the other.

38Other times, the boundaries hardly mattered; gravity, the speed of sound–just mileposts on the way to somewhere higher, farther, faster and more furious than anything else in the thinnest parts of the sky. Those times felt like you were bigger than the sky itself, bulletproof and immortal.

But then you’ve seen it, too, when it was too large, swallowing up a past or a future, a passage never to be undone.

Because when it is, the sky is mute but bears the passage anyway, indifferent: coming back? Gone forever, though you thought not.

casket 1

There’s a road through the sky for that too. Too big, too far, but crossing the blue was a choice to be borne nonetheless. And if the sky were time, you’ve seen it too short, knowing some folks are making a one way passage . . .

old-young

. . . while others are only now setting out on their first. We’re all in the same sky, big or small as it is. You can ask the question, but the answer depends.

“I mean,” a small voice breaks into the suspended moment of thought and silence. “I mean in case we fall.” Big eyes, in all seriousness, all seven or eight years looking ahead and asking.

You just can’t worry about that. In fact, it wouldn’t matter anyway–we all go where we must, take the sky as it comes, cross it where we can, while we can. With those close to us or alone, however we must. Shepherded by mom today, shepherding his own tomorrow.

At the speed of sound on his own, without wings if he wants (bad idea, trust me), to new worlds and old, forward as we all go through the blue till it dims to black.

Smile. “We won’t,” you tell him. “You won’t, and we won’t. So let’s go fly.”

He thinks about it for a moment, his eyes searching, but not on me; elsewhere, maybe finding a place for the idea, judging for himself the size of the sky ahead of him. Mom gives me a look: what, knowing? Ponderous? Then a smile, steering him by the shoulders back to the cabin.

Couple more minutes and it’ll be time: seal it up, push it back, light the fires and taxi, then take off.  How big is the sky?

Well, let’s go find out.

cockpit sunrise

A Flight Attendant’s Story

Posted in airline pilot blog, airline pilot podcast, airline podcast, flight attendant, flight crew with tags , , , , , , , on October 24, 2012 by Chris Manno

What is a career as a Flight Attendant like?

The lifestyle, the experience, the passengers, the flights:

JetHead Live goes one-on-one with veteran flight attendant

Carola Shroeder-Delong

To download, click here.

Subscribe Free on iTunes:

Just click on the icon above.

A Pilot’s Eye View Part 1: The Way I See It.

Posted in air travel, airline, airline cartoon, airline pilot blog with tags , , , , , , , , , on October 17, 2012 by Chris Manno

If you’re a pilot, you probably see things about flying differently.  And it starts first thing in the morning.

Not so much looking at what’s in the local area, because you’re not spending any time there, right? It’s what’s happening across your route of flight that matters. There are other jets in the air transiting the route now, and their reports will affect the route, altitude and speed of your flight a couple hours from now, so you at least want to know what’s up and what the route planning for your flight is based on.

Okay, NOW you pay attention to more than just the road: which way is the prevailing surface wind? There are cues everywhere, but the most obvious and the most significant is, which way are the planes taking off?

And you’re headed north; they’re taking off south, means a longer departure with a big turnaround, so a longer outbound flight, right? Bad news?

Actually, no, it’s good news: you’re coming BACK from the north, so landing south will save you a few minutes on the go-home leg. That’s key.

Double check your gate. Of course, the smart pilot (or smart passenger) has even more current gate and flight information on a smart phone:

Just getting around the giant DFW Airport (the entire island of Manhattan could fit within the airfield boundary) takes time, but the payoff is in the sight of your jet from the Skylink train. I never get tired of spotting “my jet” from afar.

It’s a good feeling, knowing the jet’s fueled and ready to do your bidding for a day, to cross a few thousand miles and return to earth a workday later.

Now, I’m not a big “outside guy,” meaning I’m not a First Officer so the aircraft external inspection–we call it “the walkaround”–is not my preflight duty. But I’ll take you downstairs just this once.

You’ve got your head in the nose gear well–tow bar’s hooked up, ready for pushback. The red streamer is the pin in the steering bypass valve: the power to the tiller in the cockpit is disabled during pushback because with the cockpit nosewheel steering powered, any rudder movement will be transmitted to the nose wheel at about 3,000 psi of hydraulic pressure. They’ll show you that pin right before you taxi so you know your steering is enabled once again.

Now here’s a really cool feature that ought to make anyone who ever flies anywhere stand up and say, “I love Boeing jets.”  Seriously, this is amazing:

Your head’s now in the main wheel well, in the center of the fuselage–just look at the green light: that’s Boeing’s pure genius at work, it’s a nitrogen generator that fills the fuel tanks as they empty with inert, non-flammable nitrogen gas. Will not burn or explode no matter what happens in or to the fuel tank. How smart is that? And what a safety feature.

Okay, below, that’s the “vacuum zone” marked out in red: if that engine is running, you don’t want to be anywhere near the red zone, as it will literally suck you off your feet and into the engine. I’ve seen these CFM-56 engines create such a vacuum ahead of the intake that moisture from the concrete swirls up off the tarmac in a swirl and into the engines.

Here’s one main gear strut:

This is the main set of “sneakers” for the jet: they’re inflated to 200 psi and will roll up to 190 mph on some take-offs.

Really got to love the fat Boeing wing. And it sits higher off the ground than the MD-80’s spindly wing–after 10,000+ flight hours in the MD-80, this thing looks huge. Stay heads-up on the ramp: there’s ground traffic zipping every which way around your aircraft, and with hearing protection in use, you won’t hear them coming.

And watch out for jet blast from other aircraft adding breakaway power to start their taxi or pivot. See why I don’t come down here that often?

And back around the left wing . . .

Okay, satisfied? But while the exterior inspection is going on, here’s the captain’s biz you need to attend to. The flight plan, which, as you were already thinking about, will have a lot of assumptions based on the early flyers–which may or may not be valid now.

So you think fuel numbers based on your best instincts: winds? Ride? Weather enroute?

It’s all about creating and preserving options, and that’s all about fuel. Trust your instincts–if you think you need more, you do. Get it.

There’s the info sheet for the cabin crew–they’ll program that into the Boeing system that makes the PA’s with the video of the safety demo.

Seems impossibly calm and quiet when the jet’s empty, doesn’t it?

But it won’t been empty for long. The caterers have been here . . .

All’s well below and in back, so now it’s at last time for you to head into the flight deck.

First thing, get the dual Inertial Reference Units cooking. They’re just about at eye level when you step into the cockpit.

Next, stow your suitcase in the cubbyhole behind your seat:

Kitbag slides in beside the seat–no, there’s not much room, but it is what it is.

Now sit yourself down:

Get the instrument lights up:

Time to fire up your side of the cockpit: lights, displays; IRUs to align, comm cords, headset, pertinent paperwork; get the official weather off of the printer and make sure it agrees with the take-off performance planning–if not, adjust the plan. Consider the wind and the power setting.

A glance around the cockpit, scanning panels and at once you know every switch is where it should be or if not, you set it where it needs to be:

Now, you’re ready to go. Once the First Officer is settled in, we’ll check all of the navigation and performance data in the Flight Management System, verify the flight route clearance and waypoints, then run the checklists to get this 170,000 pound machine with 166 people on board into the air.

That story will be part two, coming soon.

What’s it like to be a flight attendant at a major airline?

What kind of lifestyle and career comes with a position as a flight attendant?

We get first person answers from a career flight attendant: the ups and downs, the joys and pains.

Next, on JetHead Live!

Subscribe free on iTunes–just click the logo above.

JetHead Live with Mark Berent

Posted in air war in vietnam, airline pilot blog, airline pilot podcast with tags , , , , , on September 6, 2012 by Chris Manno

Mark Berent not only wrote the gripping 5-book series on the airwar in Vietnam–he lived it.

Over 400 combat missions in F-100s and F-4s, earning a Silver Star, two Distinguished Flying Crosses and over two dozen air medals, and all of them captured in his book series.

And now, he’s live, one on one with Jethead:

To download, click here.

Also available on iTunes free–just click the icon below:

Jethead Live: Inside Los Angeles Air Traffic Control.

Posted in airline pilot blog, airline pilot podcast with tags , , , , , on August 9, 2012 by Chris Manno

The air traffic controllers working the airspace around Los Angeles have their hands full with an incredible volume of diverse air traffic. How do they sort it out?

Here’s Air Traffic Controller Pat Keane from Los Angeles Approach Control with an inside look:

To download, click here.

JetHead Live: Aerial Reconnaissance, Past, Present & Future.

Posted in airline pilot blog, airline pilot podcast with tags , , , , on July 6, 2012 by Chris Manno

This interview is for the hard-core military aviation enthusiast:

what’s the strategic and tactical application of  aerial reconnaissance, past, present and future?

One-on-one discussion with aviator and historian Bill Flanagan.

To download and save, click here.

JetHead Live: Flying the 747 for Cathay Pacific Airlines

Posted in airline pilot blog, airline pilot podcast with tags , , , , , , on June 13, 2012 by Chris Manno

One pilot’s flight odyssey from Winnipeg, Canada, flying metroliners around Canada, to Hong Kong, flying 747s around the world.

Here’s Jeremy Giguere’s story, in his own words:

To download and save this podcast, click here.

Also available free on iTunes–just click on the iTunes icon below.

To visit Jeremy’s blog “Pushin’ 4 on the Second Floor”click here.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 4,974 other followers

%d bloggers like this: