Archive for the flight delays Category

A Pilot’s Diversion Strategy

Posted in air travel, air travel humor, air traveler, airline, airline cartoon, airline delays, airline passenger, airline pilot, airline pilot blog, airport, flight attendant, flight crew, flight delays with tags , , , , , , , , , , on July 13, 2018 by Chris Manno

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“Everyone’s got a plan until they get punched in the face.”

–Iron Mike Tyson

The factors that shape a diversion strategy are both quantifiable and variable. Variables include weather, traffic density, airport crowding, holding pattern location, and what I call wild cards, which I’ll discuss later.

Quantifiable factors include altitude, speed, distance, time and fuel. Though there are many foundational points upon which to anchor a diversion strategy, I center mine on the one controlling factor common to every other facet of the decision: fuel.

That’s one very simple and unifying parameter that is reliably quantifiable and easily revised accurately. So, let’s start at the beginning with known fuel numbers. First, what is your required (you, the pilot, determine this) minimum on-deck fuel? Set that number in stone. For example, in a 737-800, I want 6.0 as a minimum in a divert situation. 5.0 is adequate, but in a divert situation, you really need to pad everything.

Next, the added fuel for holding. Dispatch adds holding fuel to a release when you and they agree on how much you’ll likely need based on destination variables like weather, construction, traffic density and more.

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The reserve fuel added for holding presumes you can hold for a specified time, fly an approach to a missed approach, then proceed to a landing at your alternate with your agreed upon (6.0, in my example) fuel.

But in the fuel planning phase, no one knows exactly where you’ll hold nor at what altitude. So, you have to work backwards from your approach to your holding fix: how much fuel will you need from holding to missed approach? Flight planning systems figure an estimate, because again, you can’t know for sure where you’ll be sent to hold.

And here’s where we encounter a few wild cards: we’re not sure where or at what altitude we’ll hold, so we really can’t confirm a fuel flow or total enroute burn. Also, we can’t rule out spacing and delay vectors enroute to the initial approach fix, nor non-optimum speed and altitude assignments along the way. Same thing with the missed approach: there could be multiple vectors, speed restrictions and worst of all, a much lower altitude for the cruise leg to your designated alternate.

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Throw in another factor: priority. If you’re planned to land at the same time as international flights that have been airborne for eight or more hours, you may find—contrary to what ATC might say—that you are vectored around or behind these flights. All of these factors can radically affect your fuel burn for the worse.

Step one: as you enter holding, you can and must determine the probable fuel burn from holding to your destination. Add that to your on-deck minimum. In my example:

Holding at an intermediate STAR fix:

6.0 + 2.5 = 8.5

Now we need to add the planned enroute burn from missed approach to your designated alternate. From DFW to TUL, a typical alternate, that would be an unadjusted 4.5. But we need to adjust that, adding a significant pad for the wild cards I cited above. I’ll add another 2.0. We have:

8.5 + 6.5 = 15.0

So, 15.0 is your bingo fuel: at 15.0 we’ve lost the ability to go missed approach and divert. What’s the next step? Figure the minimum fuel from your holding position to your alternate. Add a pad for the wild cards, and you have your bingo from holding.

If it takes me 2.5 to get from holding to TUL, I add a pad (1.0) and add that to my on-deck minimum:

3.0 + 6.5 = 9.5.

So, 9.5 is my bingo from holding direct to my alternate.

Why the difference? Simple: if you’re holding for a variable that may clear (weather, closed runway, traffic sequence, runway change, and more) you may have an option besides divert. As long as my enroute burn from holding to destination is equal to or less than the burn to my alternate, once the holding cause is eliminated (“DFW is now VFR”) we can proceed safely to our destination and land with 6.5 or more.

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And here’s another wild card you can play: ask for a different holding fix. Chances are, in major airport areas (ATL, JFK, MIA, ORD, LAX) the answer will be no. But in many other places, ATC may grant your request. You can even fudge it by adding “for weather” to your request, which sounds the same as what it really is: “For whether or not we can hold longer.”

A different fix offers one more good option: if you’re not in a stack, you won’t have your fuel burn incrementally increased as you’re assigned a lower altitude. Add to this asset an EFC synergy. Some pilots like to “Go Ugly Early” and divert if their EFC exceeds their planned holding time. But, if you’re sitting high at a comparable fix away from the descending stack, you can safely loiter till your EFC just to see if the EFC shortens, as it often does.

For example, if you’re given a 50 minute EFC and have planned for 35 minutes of holding, chances are decent that if you’re still holding at 20 minutes, that EFC might be cancelled or revised to within your holding fuel.

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A second wild card is to find a different suitable alternate, possibly close-in. For example, instead of OKC or AUS for DFW, if the weather movement allows, AFW, DAL and even SPS (daytime only) maximize your loiter fuel and when you’re refueled and outbound, you’ll be cleared from tower to approach, rather than tower to departure then center, which may get you slapped with a traffic flow wheels-up delay.

Other good reasons for choosing a different alternate include crowding (you don’t want to be the last jet in line for fuel or a gate) and even time of day for staffing requirements. Finally, if you’re going illegal as a crew as soon as you divert, do you really want to spend the night in Abilene, or would Austin be more “sensible?”

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Regardless, the bottom line is this: your minimum on-deck fuel. Add generously padded buffers for the wild cards, plus figure both from missed approach and direct divert. Monitor both figures. The 737-FMS will display both direct and missed approach fuel predictions—monitor both. We also often put in three or four different potential divert airports and monitor both figures for all of them.

As captain, I ask two things of the first officer. First, “What am I missing?” Not, what do you think of my plan—I really want to know what I’m not thinking of and what would be better. And second, I have the FO pick a divert alternate, and monitor both numbers. That keeps us both in the loop, keeps both sets of eyes on all the fuel numbers and finally, two heads are better than one. They both need to be fully in the game.

And that, fellow aviators, is one pilot’s strategy. Good luck and fly safe.

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Summer Air Travel 2018: We Have Met The Enemy, And He Is Us.

Posted in air travel humor, air traveler, airline, airline cartoon, airline cartoon book, airline delays, airline industry, airline passenger, airline pilot, airline pilot blog, airliner, airlines, airport, crewlife, flight, flight attendant, flight crew, flight delays, travel, travel tips with tags , , , , , , , , , on July 10, 2018 by Chris Manno

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I stood in the cockpit doorway last night saying goodbye to the deplaning passengers, mostly to support my cabin crew: it doesn’t seem right that the captain should be halfway to the employee parking lot while the flight attendants are still working. So I stay, unless there’s a crew change and the next cockpit crew is waiting to get started on their preflight.

That’s a ridiculous air travel roadblock: you’re the oncoming crew, probably behind schedule, having to wait for the off-going crew to finish fumbling around and get out of the way. “Plane ride’s over,” or “shift change,” I yell loud enough for them to hear in the cockpit. In other words, get your ass in gear and get out of the way.  Some pilots are clueless, gabbing, or worse (sure, we’ll all wait while you use the airplane lav–you sure can’t poop in the terminal) while the oncoming crew cools their heels on a hot jet bridge, waiting for access their job site.

Meanwhile, we have passenger connections to cover down-line, plus more passengers there connecting on our return flight. Ridiculous waste of time changing crews, due to some pilots’ blissful unawareness of others.

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But a crew change was not the case last night–the aircraft was not flying on again that night. A guy walked up the aisle with the other deplaning passengers, but he took a seat in first class and started tapping on his phone. His wife plopped down next to him.

Fine. Except once everyone has deplaned, the crew is done. It’s been a long day and we all want to go home.

His wife looked stressed-out. Finally, she approached me. “He’s trying to get someone from customer service to help him retrieve my gate checked bag before our next flight.”

“Gate checked bags will be transferred to your connecting flight,” I answered automatically. “No worries. It’ll be at baggage claim at your destination.”

“I need my anti-seizure medication.”

Damn.

“Let me see if I can find it.” I hustled downstairs, but it was too late: all of the cargo holds were empty, the bags on their way to connecting flights or baggage claim.

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“They’re usually not that fast unloading a full jet,” I told her. “But there’s nothing left in the cargo holds or on the ramp. Still, I can get you medical help right now if you need it.”

That’s part of the problem: passengers miss the instructions in the sometimes hectic gate checking of a bag: “Take any medications or important documents out of the bag before you check it,” agents recite the litany.

But mistakes get made. More typically, stuff gets left on the aircraft inadvertently. So here’s the point: always keep valuables, important documents and medications in your on-board hand-carried bag. If you don’t carry one–DO.

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Don’t stash ANYTHING in the seatback pocket.

In the terminal, a woman stopped me and started talking to me in Spanish.  I can help in German or English. But I answered with the entirety of my Spanish lexicon, “No habla Espanol.” I do know “Cerveza, por favor” as well, but that didn’t apply.

She looked puzzled, then began to repeat herself in Spanish, only louder. Which still doesn’t work.

I played the odds: I glanced at her boarding pass, then pulled out my cellphone and Googled her flight number. I showed it to her: departure gate and boarding time.

She smiled. “Ah, si.”

Problem solved. Add the lesson “Google for key info in your native language,” to “get your shit together and get off the plane” (add the caveat, “but wait your turn,” see cartoon) and keep all valuables and medications with you as you travel.

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Don’t be “that guy.” Wait your turn.

Finally, traffic management. We have rush hour in the terminal between flights. There’s a bustling flow of people going gate to gate to concessions, services, restrooms, wherever. There’s always been the problem of passengers lurching around the concourse, stopping randomly and bottle-necking traffic.

Add two new impediments: the cellphone talker-texter-Facebooker-Snapchatter-Instagramer-surfer ass-clown willing to walk headlong into others or as bad, shuffle-creep along to manage their messages, posts, texts, porn; whatever.

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For the slow walkers, random stoppers and cellphone nitwits, two words: pull over. Get out of the way, let others get on with their lives as you fumble about your own.

The second pedestrian hazard I see more and more these days–maybe it’s a millennial thing–is those with or without cellphone suddenly putting it into reverse and walking backwards. I say at least twice an airport day–which, like dog years, an “airport day” is about 7 times the hassle of a human day–“this isn’t a good place to walk backwards.” Does that really need to be said?

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So there you have it. If you’re deplaning–passengers or crew–get your stuff together and move efficiently off the aircraft and into the terminal. Once there, have a destination in mind and actually attend only to smoothly navigating the traffic, always in forward gear. If you need information, Mr. Google speaks every language, though I do not. Finally, keep all valuables, like medications and documents with you at all times.

All of the above advice is for your successful air travel, your crew’s efficiency, and everyone’s sanity.

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Summer Air Travel 2018: Fly Smarter.

Posted in air travel, airline, airline cartoon, airline cartoon book, airline delays, airline industry, airline passenger, airline pilot, airline pilot blog, airlines, airport, fear of flying, flight, flight attendant, flight crew, flight delays, passenger, passenger bill of rights, pilot, travel, travel tips with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on June 18, 2018 by Chris Manno

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Let’s cut to the chase: air travel can be frustrating and confusing. Passenger service staffing is minimal and information scarce. Unexplained delays can prompt frustration, security hassles inevitably create time pressure and the whole situation can raise everyone’s blood pressure. Air travel is a struggle, that’s a given.

But rather than simply complaining–and posting exasperated social media rants–here are some key travel hacks that will let you take charge of your travel and surmount some of the hassles.

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First, information: don’t go looking for crucial data like departure or arrival gates, baggage claim, delays or boarding time. Rather, make that information come to you: every airline and many airports have an app that will fast-track critical information to your phone.  I recommend you use the airline app for your chosen airline, but the simplest, 9-1-1 info source is Google: know your airline and flight number, and tap this basic info into a search engine:

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Quick and easy, all of your questions can be answered without waiting in line for a passenger service agent or searching the terminal for a flight information board. If you’re using your airline’s app, you can even beat the rush to rebook in case of a delay or cancellation without waiting in any line.

You can get even more details for all airlines in a standardized format by downloading one of the many free flight tracking applications. For example:

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This app tells you key information regarding your flight, including departure and arrival gates, plus, it will tell you, if you’re interested, where your inbound aircraft is and its on-time or delay status. If you’re waiting for someone to arrive, this app shows you a real-time moving map so you’ll know–often before the gate agents–exactly what is going on, to include a realistic departure and downline arrive time. You won’t have to ask the thoughtless questions that make you look, well, thoughtless and helpless:

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Track your flight, including the inbound aircraft, yourself for your planning purposes: do I have time for food beforehand, either dine-in or to-go? And where is the nearest or best food option, given the realistic time estimate you’ve secured for yourself? Get the airport app(s) for every airport you’ll connect through or arrive and depart from. They’ll show the location of key services (law enforcement, medical, restrooms, water, baggage claim, restaurants/entertainment, lost and found, ground transportation, rental cars, hotel pickups, security and more).

More advanced airport apps allow you to access such key information instantly, and also, to arrange for services like parking and, in the case of DFW Airport, you can even order food.

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Finally, do security smarter: find out which security screening checkpoint at your departure airport has the shortest wait time, plus enroll yourself in the TSA’s PreCheck program to reduce the screening time and hassle. Get the TSA smartphone app:

TSA app

This app will let you assess the security lines and wait times instantly so you can choose the fastest checkpoint. Also, the app puts a world of information regarding security procedures, limitations, requirements, and frequently asked questions in your hands (literally), plus it will guide you to the application process for TSA PreCheck. All of this fingertip-accessible information will streamline and shorten your security screening, shorten your wait time and lower your blood pressure.

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Air travel this summer will include record passenger crowds in airports minimally staffed with customer service people at security checkpoints, ticket counters and gates, even at restaurants and retail stores. But you can optimize your trip planning and minimize your hassles by setting up a real-time, accurate information flow to your fingertips.

Don’t scour the airport and fight the crowds for crucial information and services. Empower yourself with apps and information that will quietly smooth your air travel experience. It only takes a few minutes to download the apps and to become familiar with their use. The payoff will be tenfold in reduced stress and frustrating delays.

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Air Travel Delays: “Mechanical Issues”

Posted in air travel, air traveler, aircraft maintenance, airline, airline cartoon, airline delays, airline industry, airline passenger, airline pilot, airline pilot blog, airline safety, airliner, fear of flying, flight, flight attendant, flight crew, flight delays, FoF, passenger with tags , , , , , , , on April 21, 2018 by Chris Manno

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“Mechanical issues” may sound like a catch-all for airline delays or, to anxious flyers, a mysterious, perhaps worrisome possibility. But it’s neither, and here’s why.

First, you have to understand two main concepts: airliners are complex mechanical wonders, and second, their maintenance and operation is very strictly and minutely regulated–and documented. This second point is essential to the aviation regulatory standard upheld by all major airlines, even though such detail must be correctly, diligently accomplished. That takes time. So, let’s walk through the possibilities.

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When you board an airliner, preflight checks are ongoing. This is especially true if the aircraft has just arrived from another station (airport). As soon as the flight completion checklists are accomplished, the preflight process begins anew by the crew. To waste no time, this preflight inspection goes on even as arriving passengers deplane and departing passengers board.

The checks ensure that all operating systems on the aircraft are up to the very specific standard set by the aviation regulatory agency that oversees commercial flight operations. In the United States, that’s the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).

Every system on that aircraft has an operational standard to determine if the aircraft is airworthy, and the jet does not move until those requirements are satisfied, right down to individual light bulbs.

Let’s look at that example: a light bulb.

If a pilot on an exterior preflight notices say, a landing light that is not working, this fact is immediately recorded in the aircraft logbook and the airline’s maintenance center is notified. The airline maintenance center will refer to the FAA specified “Minimum Equipment List” (MEL) for that particular aircraft.

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Without straying too deeply into the very complex decision tree of the MEL, there are three possible outcomes for the noted discrepancy (a landing light is inoperative). First, the landing light may be replaced, tested and certified by an FAA licensed and approved aircraft maintenance technician.

Second, the item may be specified by the FAA-approved MEL as non-essential for flight under specified conditions. For example, if the aircraft is about to depart for a destination to land in daylight, the MEL may allow the flight to depart, with proper logbook documentation of the exception.

Third, the MEL may allow for a redundant system to compensate for the component. If the inoperative bulb was a wingtip position light, the MEL may allow the flight to operate with the remaining position light–if the aircraft has two and only one is required (that’s why the aircraft designer put two bulbs there in the first place).

This is the same with all aircraft systems: if there are redundant systems approved by the FAA MEL, the flight may be approved for flight with that waiver to use the backup system, once the discrepancy and waiver are properly documented in the aircraft logbook.

Of course, some essential systems have no redundancy. In those cases, prescribed repairs must be made by FAA-certified mechanics (example: a tire at the prescribed wear limit must be replaced). The discrepancy, repair and results must be properly documented before the aircraft moves.

And there are “consumables.” For example, on my flight last night, when we were doing our “Before Landing Checklist,” we noted that the engine oil quantity was at the prescribed “refill” level. That, like all aircraft specifications, is a very conservative number. It’s as if you were driving your car down the highway and noted that you had just above a half a tank of gas.

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You’d turn to your passengers and say, “The MEL says we must always have more than a half a tank of gas, so we’re going to exit the freeway and refuel now.”

In flight, I sent a data-linked message to our technical operations center noting the requirement for oil service before the next flight, which I also wrote in the aircraft’s paper logbook.

Our tech folks coordinated with the mechanics at our destination to have the oil ready and a certified mechanic to perform the refill. That’s quick and easy at one of our hub airports, because we have mechanics on staff there.

At smaller stations, airlines rely of FAA-licensed mechanics approved for contract mechanical work on specified aircraft. Of course, most airlines have access to normal consumables like oil or tires, but no one has every part on every aircraft stocked at every station.

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If the required item is not in stock, it must be brought in, either from nearby (example: an airline’s LAX station may have an item needed for a flight out of Ontario Airport; staff can simply drive the part from Los Angeles International to Ontario). Other parts may be flown in on the next aircraft from the hub to the smaller station.

But either way, before the aircraft flies again, the prescribed maintenance procedure must be accomplished in accordance with FAA regulations and everything must be documented.

Most major airlines have this process streamlined for efficiency, like when I sent the data-linked message to prepare the arrival station for the required oil service. This was accomplished between flights with no delay. The certified mechanic noted the refill quantity and manufacturer’s details in the aircraft logbook as well as in the computerized records maintained at our airline technical headquarters.

But sometimes a procedure may take longer just by the normal time the process requires (changing a tire will take longer than changing a light bulb). Finally, the availability of mechanics at a given hour may add more time to the required procedure.

In all cases, the aircraft records must be meticulously documented, which takes time as well: approvals must be granted, remedial actions certified, and everything recorded both in the aircraft on-board paper logbook as well as the aircraft records at the airline’s technical center.

That takes time.

If the delay is predicted to be too long, we might be assigned another aircraft for the flight, which also takes time: passengers, cargo, baggage, and catering must be transferred to the new aircraft. So, if you’re waiting on board during a maintenance delay, it’s probably because swapping aircraft would take longer, or there isn’t another aircraft available.

To summarize, airliners today are complex machines with multiple parts and systems, all of which have MEL specified operating minimums. Not all replacement items are available system-wide, and and even where mechanics are immediately available, remedial processes can take time.

The “mechanical delay” we experience is due to the airlines’ unwavering adherence to very specific FAA standards.

The good news is, that’s why air travel on major airlines is as reliably safe as it is.

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Fear of Flying: Free Kindle March 25-26

Posted in air travel, air travel humor, air traveler, aircraft maintenance, airline, airline cartoon, airline cartoon book, airline delays, airline industry, airline passenger, airline pilot, airline pilot blog, airline safety, airline seat recline, airline ticket prices, airliner, airlines, airport, aviation weather, cartoon, fear of flying, flight, flight crew, flight delays, FoF, jet, jet flight, mile high club, passenger bill of rights, passenger compliance, pilot, travel, travel tips, weather, wind shear with tags , , , , , , , , , , on March 24, 2018 by Chris Manno

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Airborne Holding Pattern–Why Isn’t The Pilot Talking To Us?

Posted in air travel, air traveler, airline, airline delays, airline industry, airline passenger, airline pilot, airline safety, flight attendant, flight crew, flight delays with tags , , , , on May 27, 2017 by Chris Manno

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I get it: flight delays are frustrating for passengers. A hundred sixty-some people want information, they want time estimates. They have connections to make, events scheduled–and for whatever reason, the flight is late.

Two scenarios determine what I can do. On the ground? Easy: brakes parked, we wait. I give updates at least every 30 minutes on the ground, usually more often. We’re not moving, we’re not burning fuel–I have plenty of time and attention to give passengers. Here’s me in that situation:

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Sitting, waiting patiently, giving timely explanations over the PA. But in the air, it’s a different story. We’re burning fuel, which is literally eating away at the time we can stay aloft. We’re in a flow of traffic, meaning we have jets both ahead and behind us on our route and we have speed and altitude constraints: can’t speed up because we’ll close on the aircraft ahead of us (“Can we make up time in the air?” Probably not, and that’s why). We have ever-changing weather both along our route and at our destination and our alternates. When we’re sent to a holding pattern, here’s me:

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I’m conducting a multi-piece orchestra that includes Air Traffic Control, flight dispatch, and our jet to include route, fuel burn, alternates, alternate weather, enroute weather, holding pattern both position and altitude (as we go lower, the fuel burn increases and thus our range and endurance decreases), and the aircraft ahead of and behind us in holding, which is in reality above and below us.

Now is not a good time to tap the conductor on the shoulder and ask, “Are we there yet?”

I can’t say what other major carriers do, but on American Airlines flights, your cockpit crew has the latest greatest technology to provide real-time information and communication. The airline has always been a leader in advanced flight deck technology (first to have both comprehensive terrain warning and windshear predictive weather avoidance guidance) and in the last year, has added live-streamed WSI animated weather radar to the cockpit assets:

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Virtually at my fingertips is the combined radar, turbulence warnings, severe weather depictions, storm tops, and direction of movement, in real-time, animated, thanks to dedicated flight deck WIFI. We already had one of the most advanced radars ever built on our aircraft, which gives details out as far as 300 miles (I find it most useful at 160 mile range), but now we can look two hours down our route, see what’s developing and if prudent, request a different route clearance to keep the ride smooth and efficient.

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In the terminal area, on board radar does an excellent job of tuning itself and, because it has GPS positioning, it screens out terrain features that might appear as false weather echoes.

Once assigned holding, our cockpit workload includes the pattern itself (we always ask for longer legs to limit turns that burn gas and aren’t as comfortable for passengers. We’re given an Expected Further Clearance time (EFC on the display below):

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So we can begin the fuel calculations to determine how long we can hold before we must divert. Here’s a definition for you: Bingo Fuel is the minimum total fuel we can have before we must either proceed to our destination or divert. For example only, let’s say 5,000 pounds of fuel is what we want to be on the deck with.

To determine Bingo Fuel, we start with the total we must have on the ground at either our destination or our divert alternate. Add to that the amount of fuel it takes to get to your alternate, which is a different amount from that which would be burned if you diverted from the holding pattern rather than from an approach at your destination.

My airline has instantaneous navigation and fuel computations at our fingertips:

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Here is the fuel I’ll land with if I divert to Philadelphia, leaving holding now (the “D” after KPHL means “directly from holding”) which is 13.2 (13,200 pounds of fuel). Subtract 5.0 Bingo Fuel and that leaves 8,000 pounds available until we either have to land at our destination or alternate. Why is JFK arrival fuel less when it’s actually closer to our destination Newark? Because we’re holding well south of New York, so Philly is closer.

But there’s more to consider. What’s going on at Philly? Once again, our state-of-the-art cockpit resources have instant answers:

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A touch of the screen brings up current conditions at our destination and alternate. But there’s still another fuel consideration: how do I preserve Bingo Fuel after leaving holding and flying to the destination and completing the approach–then diverting? That number will be different depending on where you’re holding in relation to your destination, plus where your alternate is in relation to your destination. That’s signified by the “M” after the airfield, instantly calculated by our nav system:

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Of course, that number will be more restrictive because of the fuel burn required from our holding pattern location and our destination. The two figures (M and D) must be constantly monitored to be sure the M option is even possible, but there’s a catch: as you descend in the holding pattern, fuel burn will increase–and all of those fuel figures will change.

So, the conductor (captain) is sorting constantly changing data streams and at the same time, communicating with Air Traffic Control and Flight Dispatch but there’s a third stream that’s complex and must also be tacitly monitored: what are other jets doing? If those ahead of us get a further delay, we know we will too. If someone diverts, where are they going, because if too many go to that airport, there may be further holding.

What’s the ever-changing weather doing at our selected alternates and if needed (fairly typical), let’s set up numbers and weather for another divert alternate. Can we extend our holding based on the proximity of another suitable alternate?

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What approach are they using in real-time at both our destination and our alternate, and what is happening in real-time at our destination? If we can split our attention seven ways (Air Traffic Control, Dispatch, weather, fuel burn, destination and alternate weather), we can monitor the destination approach control frequency and see how long the final pattern (think: fuel burn) is so as to determine a more realistic enroute and approach burn to preserve the ironclad Bingo number.

Given all of that information coming in, communications going out, calculations being done and ever-changing, plus flying the 70 ton jet smartly, safely and efficiently–this is not a good time to tap the conductor on the shoulder and ask, “are we there yet?”

I’ll make a PA when we’re released from holding, or if we divert. But now that you are aware of what’s actually happening during a very routine airborne holding pattern, you can understand why I barely have time to drink my already cold airplane coffee, much less talk on the PA. We have the absolute best inflight equipment in the airline industry and the tightest, most consistent crew coordination in the world, so now is the time to let us work for you.

Rest assured that we’re doing everything humanly possible to get you safely to our destination.

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Air Travel: What You SHOULD Worry About.

Posted in air travel, air traveler, airline delays, airline industry, airline passenger, airline pilot, airline pilot blog, airline safety, airliner, airlines, airport, blog, cartoon, flight attendant, flight crew, flight delays, passenger, pilot with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on September 18, 2016 by Chris Manno

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There’s seldom a day that passes without some type of media headline regarding an air “scare.” But the news stories are mostly about minor hassles such as a divert or a passenger disturbance, maybe even turbulence injuries for the unwary passengers who won’t keep their seatbelts fastened.

Whatever. Most of what’s reported as a “scare” isn’t worth a second thought. That said, there are things you should worry about. Here’s my Top 5 list:

  1. Fatigue: Your crew has been browbeaten into the longest flight duty period allowed with the shortest rest period possible. That’s due to effective lobbying by the airline industry hellbent on reducing crew costs–at all costs. Rest periods have been shaved to the bare minimum for pilots, and there’s no rest minimum stipulated by the FAA for the cabin crews responsible for your safety in an emergency. The airline industry has  relentlessly and successfully lobbied the FAA and congress to resist any rest requirements for flight attendants. So, they have none, often working a 12 hour day with only 8-9 hours off for sleep, food, and getting to and from work. That’s a bad idea, cost-driven, that makes little sense.
  2. Unrealistic Flight Schedules: Airlines have stretched the planning of flights to use the minimum number of aircraft on multiple, interlocking segments, often planning a single jet for 5 or more flights in a single day. The unspoken prerequisite for such an operation is an unavoidable fact that airline planners know–but ignore. That is, system variables such as aircraft maintenance, weather, Air Traffic Control and airport delays are the rule, not the exception. So, if your flight is three segments into that jet’s day, the chances of your arriving on time is reduced significantly. There’s not a certain probability that one of those delay factors will occur in an aircraft’s day–it’s guaranteed.
  3. Pay Restrictions: Overtime pay is taboo among airline planners, despite the havoc wrought by such a restriction. For example, if your aircraft has a maintenance problem requiring a mechanic to repair a system or component within an hour of maintenance shift change time, that repair will wait at least that final hour has expired just to be started. Why? Because no licensed mechanic can do half of the work, then have the work finished by an oncoming mechanic who must put his license on the line for work he didn’t do. The answer is, overtime for the mechanic required to work beyond a scheduled shift to complete work that will let you depart on time. That choice has been made: the answer is, no overtime.
  4. Oversales: That’s a direct result of restricted capacity, meaning, airlines have trimmed schedules and thus seats available to the bare minimum required–but they’ve sold more seats than they have in stock. Rain check? That works in a retail operation selling “things,” but not for a business selling transportation. How does that work for the time-constrained passenger with a business meeting scheduled or a resort already paid for?
  5. Manning: Every student taking Business-101 will tell you that personnel management dictates some overlapping duties if personnel costs are to be contained: you must answer your coworker’s phone if they’re out sick. That doesn’t work in the cockpit, or the cabin. And yet, crew manning has been pared to the bone, requiring a “perfect operation” (see #2 above) which airline planners all know never happens.  So, pilots with mandatory maximum duty hours run up against FAA mandated limits and very often there are no spare pilots–because hiring and paying pilots is a cost item airline planners minimize regardless of the price to be paid in delayed or cancelled flights. That price is paid by passengers and as often, by crews.

Those are my Big Five, the only “scary” things that you are likely to see in air travel. They don’t make the news, probably because they aren’t “news,” but rather, just the sad result of spreadsheet dollar-driven choices already made before you even get to the airport.

Have a good flight.

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