Join Me On Airplane Geeks Podcast

Posted in aviation podcast, military flying, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , on May 6, 2020 by Chris Manno

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Airplane Geeks podcast is the number one online source for aviation, airline and aerospace news. It was my privilege to join them once again for an episode where we discussed An Airline Pilot’s Life with the podcast crew.

You can listen to the entire episode here . We discuss the true story that is Amazon’s #1 new release in commercial aviation, giving you an insider, firsthand view of military flying from USAF pilot training to years of missions flown in the Pacific, Asia and the United States. You’re in the squadron, in the cockpit and in the air flying the missions.

Part Two of An Airline Pilot’s Life is complete and ready for release in both Kindle and paperback formats later this month. Start your aviation journey now with Part One on Kindle and get ready for Part Two which will put you in the cockpit of the world’s largest airline, flying the DC-10, MD-80, F-100 and Boeing 737-800.

Climb aboard, strap in, and let’s fly through An Airline Pilot’s Life.

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Fly Along On My First Solo

Posted in air travel, airline pilot, airline pilot blog, airlines with tags , , , , , , , , , , on April 20, 2020 by Chris Manno

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If you’re a pilot, there’s really not another moment that surpasses a first solo. Many other pilot milestones come after, but though some may equal the momentous experience, I’ve never found any that actually surpasses my first solo, and that includes even supersonic solo flight, solo formation, aerobatics, or any of the other big events like checking out as an airline captain.

Here’s an excerpt from my new book, “An Airline Pilot’s Life,” (Amazon’s #1 New Release in commercial aviation) that will allow you to ride with me on my initial solo in a Cessna-152 after I’d had just over eight hours of flight instruction.

The book is on an introductory price of only $3.99. This Part One of the story is over 300 pages long, spanning my early flying experience, detailing my passage through USAF pilot training then six years of military flying throughout the Pacific and Asia.

Part Two covers my decades as an airline pilot, starting as a flight engineer at the world’s largest airline and continuing through years as a pilot on the MD-80, DC-10, F-100 and 737. Join me in the cockpit as both first officer and then nearly three decades as a captain. Part Two will be released in both Kindle and paperback formats in May.

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Here, then, is a sample, a chapter that focuses on my first solo. The setting is at the Bedford Flying Services flight school at Roanoke, Virginia’s Woodrum Field. As an Air Force ROTC cadet selected for USAF pilot training after graduation from the Virginia Military Institute, I was enrolled in the USAF Flight Instruction Program. The program was equal parts flight instruction and screening for the Air Force. There was a basic syllabus designed to get a cadet ready to solo in minimum time and as importantly, see who had the aptitude (or didn’t) to become an Air Force pilot before arriving at a pilot training base.

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After a few hours of flight instruction from Pat, I was handed off to another flight instructor, a younger guy that the other Flight Instruction Program cadets had warned me about.

Bob was a former enlisted guy, a boom operator on a KC-135 crew. He seemed to have a chip on his shoulder, having had five years of “yessir-ing” officers on his assigned flight crew, pilots and navigators, but now we who’d soon be officers would have to answer to him. I think he may have resented the fact that he was helping us along the Air Force pilot path he’d never had an opportunity to travel.

His attitude was both aloof and condescending, especially compared to Pat’s easy-going instructor attitude. But for me, I had enough faith in the two Cessna-152s and my ability to fly them or as accurately, let them fly as they’d been designed, that I wasn’t going to let his attitude be an obstacle. Besides, for an FIP cadet who’d endured over three years at VMI, his caustic attitude was barely amateur level by comparison.

He was sarcastic in the plane and seemed to set up each maneuver as a test, then scoff if it didn’t work out perfectly, which often it did not. I had less than ten hours flying time, so chances were good, given my inexperience and his obstructive attitude, that my maneuvers would be somewhat rough. I didn’t let it bother me, although one of my classmates was having a very difficult time with Bob.

Bob actually let one nose high stall accelerate into what I realized afterward was a spin. We were nose low, corkscrewing toward the ground and that, I found out later, was definitely not in any part of the flight syllabus.

But if his intent was to have me lock up, or to panic, it didn’t work. The lesson of my skydiving streamer still held full sway: panic is never, ever an option, period. I fell back on Pat’s offhand remark and just pulled the power back, since we were in a dive, and let the plane right itself and eventually, return lift to the airfoil so we could fly again.

Maybe that was Bob’s backhanded way to build my confidence, which it did. I knew I’d be fine in those planes come what may when I was solo. Most of all, as I’d learned from skydiving, I could trust myself to keep a cool head

Or maybe it was his way of weeding me out, tripping me up, undermining my confidence or worse, the Air Force’s confidence in me. It didn’t work. I had more faith than ever in the two little planes and my ability to shepherd them around the bumpy skies of Roanoke.

On a late fall afternoon Bob and I went up in 11-Juliet. He sat next to me, elbow to elbow, taciturn as always. He’d shadowed my preflight walkaround, seemingly bored. I did all of the preflight radio clearances and we taxied out, lined up on runway 23 and took off.

We flew directly to the practice area and immediately worked through all of our maneuvers and a stall recovery series. I really felt it was unfair, two against one: me and Juliet against Bob, and he didn’t stand a chance. Whatever he demanded, we could do. Stall, falling off on the left wing? Give her slack, let the nose fall, tap the rudder, level the wings, feed in power—not too much, climb back to the original altitude.

Compass figure eight? Watch us. Slight back pressure and a touch of rudder, let the compass and Juliet swing her nose at a thirty degree bank left to right, in her own time; remember where you started, track back with the nose just above the horizon, now reverse course, smoothly. No rush; let her fly. Claim the peaceful time lag as your own little slice of calmness.

“I’ve got it,” Bob said abruptly, then aimed us toward a field a couple thousand feet below and just north of Interstate-81. I had an inkling of what might be coming next. Fine, I decided. Bring it on. It’s still two against one.

Bob pulled the throttle completely back and the engine fluttered to idle, the prop practically feathered.

“The engine just died,” Bob said, sounding annoyed. “Land.”

I set up a long, lazy downwind. I searched, then spied a smoke stack near the western edge of the practice area, all the while easing Juliet lower, trying to keep a clean, power-off airspeed to stretch our powerless flight. Smoke showed wind out of the west, so we’d land into the wind.

I eased a wide turn to the left, into the wind. I slowed, gradually fed out landing flaps. And waited. How far would he take this, I wondered, as we slipped below five hundred feet. But I also didn’t worry: I’ll land it in the field, I don’t care—that’ll be your ass, Bob, not mine.

At about three hundred feet, Bob pushed the throttle back in and the engine buzzed back to life. We climbed, and I retracted the landing flaps.

We entered the landing traffic pattern for runway 23 at Woodrum Field. I taxied us clear after a routine landing.

We taxied back towards the departure end, but at midfield, Bob spoke again.

“Pull over here.”

I swung us off the taxiway and pulled into an apron abeam the flight school. I let the engine idle. He popped open his door.

“You ready?” he asked.

Sweet Jesus. Ready? Ready? I was born for this.

“Yes.”

He nodded. “Do a couple patterns, touch and goes, then park it back at Bedford Flying Service.”

I nodded. He strapped down his seatbelt, then left, clicking the door shut securely, walked away and didn’t look back.

I nosed 11-Juliet forward, back onto the taxiway. I paused at the departure end and ran through the magneto check fairly mechanically. We’d been flying for an hour, the magnetos, the ignition, the airframe, me—we were all ready. This wasn’t about manuals and numbers and specs—this was about flight.

In that golden instant I had the rare sense that this was momentous not just for what it was, a first solo flight, but for what it meant. There are unique, lifetime flying moments that matter more than anything in a pilot’s life. Few they are, and I somehow intuitively knew the truth: whether you went on to fly supersonic, aerobatics or formation in an Air Force jet solo, or commanded an Air Force flight crew on trans-Pacific missions or succeeded in airline captain upgrade and took on worldwide jet flight with hundreds of souls in your hands—nothing would outdo this first solo. Nothing. Equal maybe, add to the legacy, but never surpass this moment. I knew that, even as a twenty-one year old strapped to a beautiful little Cessna, I knew that.

And I made a point of savoring the reality, burning it into my memory as a golden moment, even back then. I knew it belonged equally to the tough guys like Clark King who punched me into reality, to Buck who held me strictly accountable for my life, to Coach Wade who led with tough but caring leadership, to Major Sullivan, who found me a way forward from disaster.

But it also belonged to me and I’d damn well own it, every God-given second. Cleared for take-off I took a deep breath. This is mine, I resolved. I don’t deserve it, but no less than anyone else who’d attained it, nor any more than those who hadn’t. But I can own it, do it justice.

I had a weighty premonition that once I left the earth solo, nothing would ever be the same again.

When the sturdy little engine reached takeoff power, I released the brakes. We rolled into the headwind, she steadied, then Cessna 9811 Juliet and I rose into the sky, alone.

We climbed to pattern altitude as I’d done a dozen times before and I allowed myself a glance to my right, to the empty seat, and a real peace and jubilation warmed me from the inside out. This was how it was meant to be. Airplanes just fly better solo, I realized, because flying was all about the aircraft, you, and flight. That’s what mattered and everything else was just giving the devil his due for the privilege of flight, of piloting.

And I was right—I was never the same after that. This was what my life was meant to be. And in that moment—at long last—it was mine. And there was no way, not so long as I breathed, that I’d ever let it go.

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To get your copy of Part One on Amazon Kindle and

live the adventure yourself, CLICK HERE.

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Free Sample: An Airline Pilot’s Story

Posted in airline pilot, aviation, pilot with tags , , , , , on April 8, 2020 by Chris Manno

Hundreds of new Kindle readers a day are enjoying this true story, the Amazon #1 aviation new release:

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Here’s a free sample, along with some actual photos of the places , people and jet in the story. Enjoy this sample, then get your copy of Part 1: An Airline Pilot’s Story from amazon HERE.

Here’s the scene: me and my aircraft commander Widetrack (see picture below) find ourselves roped into a “mission spare” status for a buttcrack of dawn mission of tankers and BUFFs (Big Ugly Fat F*ckers) launching out of Andersen AFB, Guam. What could possibly go wrong? Well, everything. Live it yourself:

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The next day, upon release from alert after crew changeover, we were immediately assigned to crew rest for an early morning refueling mission. Crew rest, of course, called for us to drink as much as possible right up to the eight hour cutoff for alcohol, while the ongoing alert crew planned our mission.

“Don’t worry,” Widetrack promised me, “I finagled us the number five tanker position. We’re just the spare.”

That meant we’d start up and taxi out with the four primary tankers, but we’d only launch if one of them had a no-go mechanical problem at the last minute. The two BUFFs (B-52: Big Ugly Fat Fuckers) would launch first, then after the primary tankers launched, we’d taxi back in, shut down, then go back to sleep off our hangovers.

So on our “crew rest” we replayed the beer-filled maintenance van on the beach deal, and Casey, the then-off duty alert controller, met me on Terragi Beach for a private, beer-lubricated day of beach fun and other interpersonal activities.

It was well after midnight by the time we’d paid our proper respects to General Shaky, returned the van, and hit the sack. The room spun, my skin felt tight and scorched from the sun—Casey’d gotten herself fried—and the air conditioner gurgled and clanked every time I fell asleep, waking me. But, I told myself, no worries: we were just the spare. I’d be back in the sack by eight o’clock.

I dragged myself through the buttcrack-of-dawn showtime, crew briefing and preflight, then slouched in my cockpit seat. Widetrack slumped in his and no one, including Stinkfinger and Flintstone said a word—it was too damn early and we were all still suspended in the nauseating grey netherworld between half-drunk and well-hungover.

Flintstone hadn’t even bothered getting a jug of coffee, the fat, lazy bastard. All he’d managed was a couple gallons of room temperature tap water since we were just the spare. He’d figured he’d just end up dumping out the coffee anyway, which I kind of craved as a result.

Me and Widetrack, waiting on the wing of our jet.

Me and Widetrack, killing time on the wing of our jet.

After engine start, we lumbered out behind the two B-52s and the other four tankers. I was only vaguely aware of where they were all headed, having ignored most of the briefing. Something about the BUFFs doing a low level bombing route, then popping up for max fuel offload then blah-blah-blah. My head pounded, my mouth felt like sandpaper, so I just didn’t care.

That is, until mission frequency crackled to life and the command post ordered, “Launch the spare.”

What the hell?

“Confirm,” the command post snapped. “Trade 19, launch.”

That was us. Shit.

“He didn’t get water,” Stinkfinger grumbled, pointing at the tanker on the runway.

I squinted at the squatty tanker, engines bellowing, but no telltale black cloud from the water injection. Fuck, he’s got a boost pump failure.

“Try it again,” Widetrack barked on the mission frequency, a bold and prohibited move on his part, but I hoped that might prod the other crew to cycle the boost pumps a few more times.

No dice.

“Trade 19 now mission primary,” Stinkfinger groaned over the mission frequency.

As if in a bad dream, I acknowledged the tower’s take-off clearance among the muttered curses in the cockpit from my three fellow crewmembers.

We ran through the final takeoff checklist items while I silently prayed that our water injection system would fail so we could abort as well. But no dice; the water injection system kicked in, then Widetrack released the brakes and we began to inch forward.

We rolled most of the long runway, into a glowing pink sunrise, then wobbled into the air and past the cliff at the far end, over the Pacific.

“Gear up,” Widetrack said. I reached for the gear handle and raised it.

Nada.

“It’s not coming up,” I said.

“Well, cycle the handle,” Widetrack said.

I put the gear handle down, waited a heartbeat, then raised it again. Still nothing.

“Fuck me,” Widetrack muttered, lowering the nose slightly to preserve airspeed with the huge landing gear trucks dragging in the slipstream.

Fuck all of us, I decided. With the gear down we’d never make the formation, much less the mission.

“One-ten, water,” Stinkfinger whined.

“Tell the Command Post we’re an air abort,” Widetrack said.

Stinkfinger relayed our status to the Command Post while I coordinated a cruise clearance with Departure Control. No one else spoke, because we all knew we were still screwed: with our mission fuel load, we’d be too heavy to land for hours.

I began to calculate the fuel burn, then the max landing weight. Sonofabitch.

“Three goddam hours at ten thousand,” I relayed the bad news to Widetrack. Flintstone cursed roundly, Stinkfinger whined.

“Request a cruise clearance at five thousand,” Widetrack ordered. “Nothing to hit out here anyway.”

That would help. Maybe only two hours. Flintstone and Stinkfinger unstrapped and went back into the cargo compartment to forage in a survival kit for something to eat while Widetrack and I scoured the manuals for a technical solution to our landing gear failure to retract. There was none.

“I know what you’re thinking,” Widetrack said as I eyed the fuel dump valve switch. “And so does the Command Post.”

I sighed. He was right: they knew exactly how much fuel we’d launched with and even as we spoke, some asshole with a calculator in the command center was figuring out just how long we’d have to fly in order to burn off fuel to be below the max landing weight.

Sure, in an actual emergency, no one would question fuel dumping. But our only emergency was an ever-worsening hangover, although I began to get the impression that only three of us were actually suffering. Stinkfinger had avoided the beach beer binge both days and actually seemed to be enjoying everyone else’s discomfort. Just one more reason for me to despise his whiny ass.

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Seems like I spent a lot of time hanging out on the wing which was much cooler than the cockpit in the South Pacific heat.

Sawdust bars, or what the Air Force called “survival concentrate,” which was densely packed, dried cornflake cubes the size of a soap bar, was all the survival kit offered. I gnawed silently, washing the sawdust down with tepid tap water, and made a promise to myself that I’d cram some sort of survival food into my flight bag going forward.

I’d usually grab a can of Coke before leaving Base Ops for the jet, and I had a special place just aft of the crew entry door wear the insulation could be peeled back and I’d stow the can next to the external skin where at altitude it would chill just shy of freezing within an hour of takeoff. But I hadn’t bothered, being the spare. How I wished for that cold drink as we cruised over the Marianas Islands and the impossibly blue South Pacific at five thousand feet and three hundred knots.

After landing I spent the rest of the morning sleeping, then hung out at the Officer’s Club pool the rest of the day. Though tropically hot and sticky, regular dips in the pool counteracted the heat and on and off catnapping restored my strength from the early showtime.

“Have you heard anything about the plane,” I asked Widetrack who snoozed on the beach chair next to mine.

“Nope,” he said. “And who cares anyway?”

I hadn’t thought of it that way, but it made sense: the tankers were old and creaky and in the tropical climate, cranky from the heat, humidity, and corrosive salt air. I had heard that one of the BUFFs had also been unable to raise the landing gear so the entire mission was a bust. Copyright 2020 Chris Manno All Rights Reserved.

Read the story: paperback coming soon, Kindle today.

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Flying Story: Read It NOW.

Posted in action-adventure, air travel, airline, aviation with tags , , , , , , on April 1, 2020 by Chris Manno

If you have hours of time with nothing to do but worry, why not take a flight of fancy?

Same pilots, different setting: now, versus back in our USAF days.

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Left to right, that’s Animal Hauser, wide-body captain; Chip, me, and the Coke, all narrow-body captains. It was a long road from the Air Force to the airlines. It wasn’t always easy, but most of it was fun and all of it memorable. You can climb into the cockpit with us as we all earned our USAF wings.

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Then onto the airlines after the Air Force, and you’ll be there every step of the way. Here’s where we are today:

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Left to right: me, Father-O, Coke, Chip, and Animal–the actual guys in the book:

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Part one is available now from Kindle here, part two and the full paperback will be available very soon from Amazon Books.

Why wait? Get yours today. Live the story, take the ride; enjoy the real thing: An Airline Pilot’s Story.

Amazon Books Rated #1 New Release in Commercial Aviation

 

 

Here’s Your Chance to Fly With These Guys

Posted in air traveler, airline, airline pilot, airline pilot blog with tags , , , , , , , , on March 27, 2020 by Chris Manno

Fly with these guys, I dare you. I did–in fact, that’s me, fourth from the left, standing. The “official” USAF photographer had taken the required group photo, then we as The Wolfpack reverted to our original, crude, f*ck this nonsense attitude.

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The details and the people above–including Coke, Beldar, Ruff, Animal, Pulsar, Kirb, Dorf, Landshark, and more fly in vivid detail on these pages:

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In this first Kindle installment, you’ll start flying in a Cessna and end up solo and supersonic in a T-38. Then, it’s off to the Pacific in two different USAF squadrons as a pilot. You’ll live Amazon’s #1 rated aviation new release in full detail: the missions, the pilots, the adventures, squadron life and more.

Then, in May, part two will be pushed to your Kindle and you’ll step into the cockpit of the world’s largest airline, as copilot and quickly, as a captain for decades of airline flying in a multitude of jets.

The paperback will be released in May, but why wait? Climb aboard now and let’s fly.

Order your Kindle copy from Amazon for only $9.99 HERE.

What are you waiting for? Strap in, and let’s fly.

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“An Airline Pilot’s Life” is Amazon’s #1 Aviation New Release!

Posted in air travel, airline, airline pilot, airline pilot blog with tags , , , , on March 11, 2020 by Chris Manno

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Reserve your Kindle copy by pre-ordering here.

Your copy will be sent to your device in two parts, the first half delivered on March 21, the final half on June 2. Simply set your Kindle device preferences to receive updates and you’ll receive the entire Kindle book for $9.99 (paperback will be $19.99).

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Pre-Order “An Airline Pilot’s Life”

Posted in air travel, airline, airline pilot with tags , , , , , , , , on March 2, 2020 by Chris Manno

Here’s your early opportunity to pre-order this first-person, real life account:

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An insider-view from an airline cockpit: you’re in the captain’s-eye view, from USAF flying all over the Pacific and Asia, to over three decades in the cockpits of the world’s largest airline, most as captain.

Live the life, an airline pilot’s life, firsthand.

Get your Kindle copy delivered March 21 from Amazon Books.

To pre-order your copy, CLICK HERE.

 

 

Sneak Preview: “An Airline Pilot’s Life.”

Posted in air travel, airline, airline passenger, airline pilot, airline pilot blog, airport, aviation, crewlife, pilot with tags , , , , , on February 2, 2020 by Chris Manno

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Here’s an excerpt from the true story, An Airline Pilot’s Life, scheduled for release in March from Dark Horse Books. This story puts you in the captain’s seat in the cockpit of the world’s largest airline.

In this excerpt, you’ll fly what turned out to be a hair-raising approach into a lifelong lesson you–and every pilot–will never forget. The book will be available on Amazon.com next month. Now, strap in and let’s fly.

 

Chapter __

“Maintain two thousand till established, cleared back course localizer runway three-two, contact tower,” the approach controller said in a bored monotone.

Ahead, the McAllen Airport crept onto my map display. My FO read back the instructions, then checked in with the tower.

“American 1410, you’re cleared to land runway three-two,” the tower controller said. “Previous arrival reported patchy fog over the south end of the field.”

That was the problem with McAllen Airport: they only had a non-precision approach—the back course localizer—for landing north. The descent minimums were much higher than on a precision approach, which meant if we didn’t see the runway at a higher altitude, we couldn’t land.

A precision approach like a Cat 2 would let us descend to a hundred feet, at which point we’d likely see the runway. We’d just flown a Cat 2 approach on a Charlotte turn before the McAllen flight due to fog in Charlotte. We were ready to do the same at McAllen, but the precision approach was only from the north end, and that approach would have a tailwind that was beyond our American Airlines limitations.

I’d called the dispatcher before we left DFW to discuss the runway conundrum: the only sure bet was a precision approach. But, as was typical of McAllen weather, the fog usually blew by in waves. If we were lucky, we’d reach the runway in a gap in the clouds. If not, we’d just go missed-approach and divert to our alternate. We’d planned to carry plenty of fuel for that.

After I talked with the dispatcher, I spoke with another captain, a former AirCal pilot I knew from my merger work a few years earlier.

“Yeah,” Steve said, shaking his head, “Fog in the Rio Grande Valley. We’re headed to Harlingen and the same low viz.”

“Well,” I said, “What’s your alternate? We’ll see you there.”

We both laughed, then filed out of Flight Operations for our departure gates.

After the approach clearance, I pressed the arming buttons for the Cat 2 approach, then glanced at the FMS (Flight Management System) “Progress Fuel Prediction” readout. I always did that when cleared for the approach to decide what our options were if we couldn’t land and went missed-approach. Options were all about fuel, which determined flying time available.

We were way ahead on fuel, meaning, we had much more than we needed to complete the approach, fly the missed approach and divert to our alternate and still land with extra fuel.

Knowing that the visibility at McAllen would improve and degrade in cycles, I believed we’d have enough fuel for a second approach, if we wanted to do that. Or, we could simply divert after the first unsuccessful. I wondered what Steve was doing on his approach into Harlingen, where the weather always seemed to match McAllen. That was why we chose San Antonio for an alternate rather than Harlingen, and so did Steve.

“Looking at the fuel,” I said cross cockpit and I pointed at the FMS fuel prediction, “We have enough fuel for a second approach, with clearance on request to San Antonio on the missed approach. Are you comfortable with that?”

“Comfortable” was the key word: not “okay,” which to me meant I can stand it but I don’t like it. “Comfortable” meant my FO felt there was no worries in the idea. And he agreed.

“In the event of a missed approach,” my FO told the tower, “We’d like vectors to a second approach, with clearance on request to San Antonio afterward.”

“I’ll relay that to approach,” the tower controller said.

As we neared our descent minimums, there was no telltale lightness or gaps in the fog—just depthless gray. I executed the published missed approach and as we climbed past the departure end, the fog vanished. We’d been a minute too early for the fog bank to blow by, but that was encouraging nonetheless because we’d possibly catch the gap on the next approach.

I glanced down at the fuel prediction once again before committing to the approach and also checked with my FO.

“Are you okay with another approach?” I asked. “We could just bail out to San Antonio now. It’s no big deal.”

But he agreed: we had enough fuel to fly this second approach, go missed-approach and fly to San Antonio and still land with extra fuel.

But, at the minimum altitude, we were still in thick gray fog. Again I executed the missed approach and my FO told tower, “We’re ready for clearance to San Antonio.”

The tower controller acknowledged the request and told us that departure controller was ready with that clearance.

We switched frequencies and as we climbed to our enroute divert altitude, the FO made contact with departure control.

“Climb and maintain ten thousand feet,” the departure controller said.

That would have to change. We’d planned a much higher cruise altitude to ensure a minimal fuel burn. With the ten thousand foot cruise altitude set in the FMS, the fuel prediction showed us to land with less than planned fuel.

Then the same laconic voice on departure control frequency stabbed me in the heart.

“Be advised that San Antonio is calling their ceiling and visibility zero,” he droned. “They’re not accepting arrivals. State your intentions.”

Just like that, we were instantly screwed and I knew it. The fog had rolled up the Rio Grande valley much faster than our weather shop and dispatch had predicted. I desperately needed that two thousand pounds of fuel we’d burned on the second McAllen approach, but it was long gone. And if we’d left those fifteen minutes earlier, we might have made it into San Antonio. There was no one to blame but myself, because I’d made the decision to fly that second approach.

“How’s the Austin ceiling and viz?” I asked the controller. Less than fifty miles more flying beyond San Antonio. If we could get a higher altitude, we might conserve enough fuel to land in Austin with an uncomfortably low fuel total, but what were the options?

“Their ceiling and viz are dropping rapidly,” the controller said. “You’d better plan minimum time enroute.”

We coordinated a higher altitude but the fuel prediction still showed a frightfully low fuel total at Austin—if we beat the fog rolling up from the south.

I’d failed Cecil’s second dictum, “Know when to get the hell out of Dodge.” If we couldn’t land in Austin, the next option was Waco almost a hundred miles north. That arrival fuel total would be horrifying, if we even made it that far at all. I’d relied too heavily on the FMS technology and not enough on my instinct, which usually was, there’s nothing you’re going to see on a second approach that you didn’t see on the first. Just get the hell out of town. The MD-80 didn’t even have a fuel prediction function.

There was no panic in the cockpit, though we both knew instantly what we were up against. There was just intense concentration, with an ample side order of tension.

We climbed into the twenties, then I had another critical decision to make. Do I pull the power back to an endurance speed that burned minimal fuel? That would add time to our transit, which could mean the difference between landing before the relentless fog bank swallowed up the field and having to race further north.

The longer we waited, the cooler the evening air would become, and that was the insidious culprit: the fog wasn’t really “moving north” so much as the temperature-dew point spread was diminishing as the sun set. When it reached zero, there’d be fog, from the surface to at least a thousand feet.

It was an all-in bet, keeping the engine power high to minimize enroute time, albeit at the expense of arrival fuel. The new landing fuel prediction was about half of what I’d normally accept, but the minimal time gave us at least a fighting chance to fly the approach and find the runway at descent minimums.

We entered a long, shallow descent toward the Austin airport. I held the speed at two-hundred-fifty until just about twenty miles out, then we “threw out all the shit,” as Coker would say, dropping the gear, the boards and the speedbrakes to slow to approach speed. We broke out of the overcast well above minimums, which was a huge relief, then I flew her to a normal touchdown.

I don’t recall ever being so glad to slow a jet to taxi speed as I was that night. It had been a hell of a day, a long one at that, including three Cat 2 approaches, two go-arounds and a divert at emergency fuel levels.

The passengers never knew the ugly details, other than what should have been just over an hour of flying time turning into nearly three, plus ending up in Austin instead of McAllen. Nor did the flight attendants, really. There was no point telling either of them, as far as I could see.

I told the agent we’d need crew hotel rooms for the night, because we were done. We’d been on duty for twelve hours and besides that strain, the uncertainty of the Austin divert left both of us in the cockpit fried.

The agent invited me inside to operations where the dispatcher was on the line.

“Captain,” said a female voice I didn’t recognize. She must have taken over the shift from the original dispatcher. “We’re going to refuel you, then you’ll fly the passengers back to DFW.”

“No,” I said. “That’s a bad idea. We’re both done for the night.”

“We need you to fly these passengers back to DFW.”

“That’s not a good idea, so, no.”

“Are you refusing a direct order from dispatch?”

She must be new, I thought to myself.

“Call it whatever you want,” I said. “We are done and we’re going to the hotel. Don’t call me back—I’ll be in crew rest. We’ll be ready tomorrow after we’ve had a decent night’s sleep.”

Then I hung up the phone. The next morning, I got a call from Doug Anderson, the DFW Chief who’d recommended I try the F-100. He listened carefully, then said he agreed with my decision, even ending the day in Austin, and supported me one hundred percent. That was typical: whether it was Doug, or Zane lemon after him, I never had anything but full support from the DFW Flight Office.

When I mentioned to Doug the shockingly low fuel we had left after landing, he simply said, “I’ve landed with less.”

I rounded up the crew and we ferried the jet back to DFW empty. On the very quiet, short and routine flight home, I added an addendum to Cecil’s “get out of town advice.” There’d be no multiple approaches, at least not without holding for a significant time to allow conditions to improve. Back-to-back Cat 2 or 3s? Right then and from then on, I’d just get the hell out of Dodge.

Look for An Airline Pilot’s Life in paperback and Kindle format on Amazon next month!

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An Airline Pilot’s Life

Posted in air travel, airline, airline industry, airline passenger, airline pilot, airline pilot blog, airline safety, airliner, airlines, airport, aviation with tags , , , , , , , on January 12, 2020 by Chris Manno

Want to live the airline pilot life from an insider’s view? Here’s your chance: for the past two years, I’ve been writing an insider, no-holds-barred true story from day one in my forty-plus years of airline and Air Force flying.

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It’s over four hundred pages of details and the real-life, true adventures of flying jets for a lifetime, both USAF and at American Airlines for nearly thirty-five years, twenty-nine as captain.

Watch this space for upcoming excerpts, and the official release date in both paperback and Kindle from Dark Horse Books. Now, the manuscript is in its final rewrite stage:

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Soon, very soon, you can have your own copy, and live the life yourself. If you enjoy the stories and adventures that are the JetHead blog, you won’t want to miss this true story.

Stay tuned.

Airline Cartoons LIVE

Posted in air travel, air travel humor, air traveler, aircraft maintenance, airline, airline cartoon, airline cartoon book, airline industry, airline passenger, airline pilot, airlines, cartoon, fear of flying, flight, flight attendant, flight crew, pilot, travel with tags , , , , , , , , , , on June 1, 2019 by Chris Manno

The best airline cartoons just got better: now you can watch them come to life. Just tap on the image.

Of course, you can still enjoy the static version,

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the best of which are in the cartoon collection, available in paperback or Kindle format from Amazon here,

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but meanwhile, here’s a sampling from the “live” cartoon channel on YouTube, which you can subscribe to free for updates.

There are plenty more cartoons on my YouTube playlist, which you can access and subscribe to here.

Just one more way for you to enjoy the best, frontline airline cartoons.

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