Monday, July 23, 2018

West to East and some changes ahead....


Life on Lantau Island 

Well its been a little while and there is a few reasons for no blog posts, the main one being that I have had a job change during the month of May and am now working on a different Global Express XRS based no longer in Beirut but in Hong Kong and China.­­
The new plane 
The previous owner decided to sell his airplane and at the same time I was contacted by a large company based in Hong Kong to ask me to work on a plane which is based in Beijing but the crew would be living in Hong Kong.
So, since my last post I have been through further training on the aircraft and have passed that course which was in London and also in Dubai. The training was really enjoyable as I didn’t feel so much like a rabbit in the headlights and I realised that I had learnt a lot during the previous year flying along side captain Andy.
Unfortunately the previous aircraft has now moved onto live in Dallas but I am on a newer version now with a new Captain and his name is JJ.
Let me start this post by saying that I won’t really be able to write much about the specifics of each flight I am doing due to the privacy of the owner but I will be writing it as an aid memoire mainly to myself and my wife for years to come and maybe my kids will want to see a bit of what their old man has done in the years to come when they put their iphones down for a bit.
Fluffy cottonwool 
The big differences with this job now means that I’m not able to hop home as much as I did before and I am an 8 hour time zone away from my wife, so even talking on the phone gets tricky as one of us is usually sleeping or working. 
I am currently writing this whilst at 45,000ft over Russia on the longest flight I have ever done in the cockpit at over 11 hours. The differences in accents of the controllers along the route is challenging to say the least.
The darkness has just fallen and we left London 4 hours ago where it is currently 7pm. 
We will fly along the total length of Russia and turn over Mongolia and then into China. 
At the Chinese tailor getting the new uniform made
We will be arriving into China at 8am local time having flown through the night and the body will be somewhat upside down. The plan is to stay in the city where we arrive for 5 days and then move onto maybe Beijing or Singapore as we also have some maintenance to run on the plane. 
The other main things that have changed are the ways of life, gone are the calls to prayer of downtown Beirut and the dry heat and chaotic traffic, now it’s more humidity and storms with amazing markets and the hussle and bustle of Hong Kong in the summer. Life is expensive but very friendly, the company I am working for are very organised and it feels like I am working for an airline, gone are the days where I perform the flight planning hoping for good enough internet to do it, and now we have it delivered to us.
As flight crew we are very well looked after but there are a lot of cultural differences with the far east in the basic ways that things are done. Hierachy is one of those things and also pilots are put on a very high pedestal in the community here . 
The language barrier is profound to say the least with communications whilst flying very quite tough but I have now done about 40 hours of flying here and am starting to get used it. 
Sunrise over Russia 
The traveling is the other things, being based in Hong Kong but with the plane based in Beijing is like living in London and the plane being in Madrid. This means taking a 3.5 hour commercial flight each time I go to work and then stay in a Hotel over night then going flying the next day. Then the same in reverse with each return trip, so I am racking up the airmiles with Cathay Pacific and also am nearly at 50 nights Platinum level with Marriott Hotels. 
When spending time in China its really difficult with communications and internet as the internet is very restricted with no Google or Facebook and no facetime/skype what so ever. My blog is run through google so posts will only be able to be posted once I am outside of mainland china. 
One of the fun parts has been having my uniform hand made by a Chinese tailor….. a truly hilarious experience, with a lot of hand signals and gesturing…….
The other dimension to this new working regime is that I have had to find a local apartment which I have done on the island of Lantau, the same island where the airport is based for Hong Kong but well away from the hectic world of downtown. 
It’s more like living in a tropical version of Devon near the beach. 


It’s kind of like student style living in a studio apartment but it should be ok and I move in next week once I am back on the island. The strange thing about the apartment is that it is in the same village where I rented a place way back in 1996 when I came to Hong Kong the first time, when HK was still under British rule. The main difference now being that things are a lot more expensive. It costs nearly £12 a pint of beer in some places. The wild life can be a little fruity by all accounts although I’ve not witnessed it myself with a few large hairy friends around the place as the island is pretty much a jungle. 
But as far as I see it if I have some industrial strength bug killer around and don’t drink too much Carlsberg I should be ok.
The food is terrific with fresh fish plentiful and international restaurants are everywhere.
For the moment I am here talking to Russia over the radio and they have just given us a shortcut, here I am at now 47,000ft the moon has just risen and the stars are out to play.

I managed to catch a lightening strike cloud glowing over Russia

The Bison roam freely on Lantau Island 

 Thoughts for the day:

  • I have no idea what is going to happen with my body clock after this flight after 8 time zones hopped over and pulling an all nighter......
  • It was tough leaving Naomi behind yesterday and I hope she is getting some sleep as I fly through the night
  • I have spent 43 nights in Hotels since I started my new job and in 19 different hotel rooms....
  • 47,000ft up in the sky just that little bit nearer to the stars is a great place to go to work and see the sunrise....







Monday, February 19, 2018

A pretty big week of flying with some centreline hopscotch.....

Hours flown this month(FEB): 33
Landings: 8
Countries visited: 5 
Continents visited: 3 
Quick iron of the shirt and in the lobby waiting for transport to the airport 

With the return trip to Paris complete back to Beirut and the work on the Oxygen system carried out I didn't even have enough time to unpack my suitcase before being put on standby to go once again.
The planned destination was going to be warm so I threw some shorts in the case.
The city of Muscat being the destination and a quick check told me it was reaching the barmy temperatures of 35 degrees there in the daytime.
Due to the countries in between Beruit and Muscat (Oman) being Syria, Iran, Iraq etc I decided upon a southerly routing to fly with an initial flight to the southwest over Egypt, then turning East, heading over Jordan and the Saudi desert.
Approximate flight time of 3hrs38.
Fuel Burn 11380 ILBS
FL430

The Egyptian coast 
Once again Andy gave me the reigns, and we were confirmed to be leaving. So a very quick iron of the uniform I asked our colleagues at the airport who look after the plane to file the flight plan for me as I was having internet problems at my apartment and I jumped in the car down to finalise it with them.
Over the Arabian Desert 
The thing about flying in this area is often getting the permits to over fly the various countries can be tricky to obtain and we needed Egypt, Jordan and Saudi for this trip. The chaps at the airport got to work on the phones and I wrapped up the flight plan with the very helpful and capable Hassan in his office.
A proper desert island off of the coast of Dubai 
We had 3.5 hours to departure this was going to be tight.
I asked for the plane to be towed into position and got onboard to start prep'ing her. Fuel ordered, fresh drinking water ordered, and I get the APU going to get some electricity to the onboard systems.
It was all coming together nicely, the fueler was fuelling the water was going onboard and the sun was shining.
She's looking good 
The magic phone call came with Hassan telling me the permits were granted just as the fuel had gone onboard. 
Which was pretty lucky really as the boss decided to turn up an hour early........
Following everyone the vapour trails 
Whilst the boss had his coffee in the lounge I was able to download the flight plan into the onboard computer and then programme the take off and departure profile as well as the weight and balance which gives me the take off speeds and climb speeds. As a matter of course I do a manual check of this to see if I come up with the same figures to double check the computer is not having a bad day which would then lead to us all having a bad day.
The desert landscape is just astonishing 
With Andy onboard and everything programmed I briefed him on the taxi/take off and departure and he was happy.
Perfect timing as it was time to get the passengers onboard.
 Doors closed and I indicate to the marshaller that I am starting engine 2 with a hand signal and the lovely Rolls Royce hum greets my ears, the heart rate goes up, just a squeeze, and the smile broadens just a touch .
Left hand Engine start completed and its time to call for taxi and get us to the runway.

The Sinai peninsular
 Its a short taxi at Beirut, the checks a done, Andy has taxied us out and we are cleared on to the runway and asked to wait as an aircraft is landing on the parallel runway.
We always have a positive exchange of controls of the plane, verbally.
Andy passes control to me, I accept and acknowledge .
I then give him control of the radios and he accepts and acknowledges.
And here I sit with the passengers behind me, 10,663 feet of runway in front of me, the plane at this moment weighs in at 69969 LBS.
I have 2 x Rolls Royce A220 Turbo fans which produce 15,000 lbs of thrust, each, behind me with my hand on the throttle and I feel like a formula one driver waiting for the lights to go out..........

The controller gives me the Green Light.
"Cleared for Take Off."
Auto-throttle engaged.
I ask Andy if he is ready.
"Ready"
I gently move the throttles forward and monitor the centre line with my eyes outside of the plane. 
Andy makes the calls
"Take off Thrust set"
Airspeed becomes alive and indicating above 30 knots
Andy calls 'Airspeed alive'
As we pass 80knots of air speed indicated Andy calls "80knots"
I have to visually check my speed on my side that it cross checks and we don't have a speed miss compare or we would have to abort take off.
I call "Check"
Next its: 
"V1, Rotate"
At which point I have to remove my hand from the throttle to avoid the temptation to reduce the them in the case of an emergency.
Once V1 is called, that's the point of no return, we are taking off whatever happens and we need the throttles giving as much power as they have. There is not enough runway to stop on the ground.
I gently ease back on the control column and my eyes come inside the plane and I follow the flight director, which are two magenta arrows on my flight display, and I watch the speed increasing to where it should be.

 The thing with this departure is that if you go straight on this runway heading we would fly into a mountain, so the departure is a nice right turn out over the Mediterranean .
As soon as we have a positive rate of climb, Andy calls it and I call for the landing gear up.

As the speed increased I called for the flaps to come into zero and then another minute or so and the slats in. By this point we are accelerating nicely and climbing quickly to our initial altitude of 5000ft and Andy is trying to get a radio call in to get us cleared higher as we don't want to level off, the idea is a continuous climb all the way up if its at all possible.



After take off checks completed and I'm still hand flying it to the recreated altitude of 20,000ft and we are heading off towards Egypt....

We were off.........
At 20,000ft I called for the autopilot and we made a steady left turn and were over the coast of Egypt to head towards Jordan then on to the massive desert of Saudi Arabia.

The coral reef so popular with scuba diving at Sharm El Sheik
I have never quite seen anything like some of the views over the deserts, seeing small villages and towns in the middle of nowhere that exist near the oil pipelines, the landscape is aggressive, mountainous and craggy in places.
Once were are recreated on up to 43,000ft I was able to see what a sandstorm from the sky looks like and I can honestly say I wouldn't want to be down there in it.

This turned out to be a really nice flight and the first of 3 in 5 days which is great for me with the learning I am doing on the airplane and Andy getting me to fly every one.

A sandstorm over the Saudi Desert 
The approach and landing went really well for me into Muscat just after the had gone down and was my first proper night landing in the plane which was a nice little achievement for me, although I did manage to land about 5ft right of the centre line which was annoying and something I used to be really strict as an instructor with my students..... and also something that Andy like to make a joke about at every opportunity. 
We were standing in the reception of the hotel later that evening and he kept stepping 5ft away from me.....and asking me what the weather was like where I am.
Mind you I did get my own back.
I had been in charge of booking the hotel in Muscat for us and when I booked it I didn't realise that it was a 'Dry' hotel and there was no bar and no alcohol what so ever to be drunk. Andy's face at checkin when he was informed that the after flight beer was not available was a picture, he was certainly less impressed with this than my 5ft off the centre line.

We were in the hotel for 24 hours before we were called once again and asked to ready the plane for a flight to Sharm El Sheik in Egypt so the phone calls start once again, permits requested and a flight plan filed for a lovely hop back across the Saudi desert to the holiday destination on the Red Sea.
We were to be there for 48 hours before returning back on a quick hop flight taking an hour and half to Beirut where they had had some extremes of weather whilst we were away, floods and rain.
Now its a case of waiting for the phone to ring once again........

Dubai down below with the Palm Islands visible




Thought for the day:
  • I miss my wife, I feel like I've been away for ages and I have a new bed to build at home waiting for me
  • DON'T BOOK DRY HOTELS.......... You never hear the end of it.
  • I have 175 hours on the plane now and finally feel comfortable 
  • I feel very lucky to have a Captain who invests time into my progress on this plane
  • I've been thinking a lot about my mate Will Falck RIP this week knowing how much he'd enjoy chatting about this plane and the flying. I miss my flying mate.




Tuesday, February 6, 2018

This plane really is the most fun you can possibly have with your clothes on........


So lately my Captain, Andy, has been pushing me on which always feel good as I am sure its easy sometimes to sit up above the clouds and take pictures and enjoy the easy life in the right seat.
This is a plane that takes a lot of flying, which I really enjoy but I can see and I know that he wants more for me than sitting in the right seat.
Meaning that I have to start making more decisions and fly like I know what I am doing at least....

So on Monday morning I received the call that we would be heading up to Paris for the next flight, just as we did earlier in the week, for a few reasons but one of them being that the plane needed to have a bit of work done on it for a few teething problems that we have been having.

Our routing over Switzerland into Paris
First thing Tuesday morning we reported on duty at the airport and I could see Andy had the thought in his mind to get me to run the flight a bit more, so he told me I had to choose the fuel, routing, and flight profile and make all of my own decisions. 

Bulgaria 
I got the fuel onboard, the flight plan filed, the onboard computer set up. Feeling that little bit of pressure started to make me have little doubts, if I had forgotten something.
But I went back in my mind to when I was teaching so many pilots and would tell them just to take their time, keep to the check list and work through it slowly.
Time to take my own medicine.
Slowly and progressively.

Up at 43,000ft 
Just before the owner arrived onto the plane I gave the Captain a full and detailed briefing of everything that had been done, including a take off briefing.
I received the knowing smile and one single word.
"Good"

Bulgarian Mountains 
 I called for engine starts and got approval, so I indicated to the marshaller outside that I was starting the right hand engine just as the passengers were approaching the plane so that by the time they were onboard I would be ready to get the left hand engine started (nearest the door and can't be started with the door open)



Both Rolls-royce Engines whirring away back behind me, taxi clearance given and we are on our way.
In this plane there is a taxi tiller to turn left and right, like a large handle, there is only one on the captain's side so he taxied us out to runway 17.
I completed the taxi checks, and pre-take off checks and made sure our departure was in the computer.
Cleared for take off and the engines come to life and we are on our way.
We lift off the ground and start the right turn and as I am flying us to the West I ask Andy for the autopilot at about 4000ft and he suggests I should enjoy hand flying a bit more..... we were cleared initially up to 24,000ft so I hand flew the whole departure procedure and up to 24,000ft and was enjoying it so took us up to our initial level off at 32,000ft by hand. That was a first for me.


 Cruise checks complete and autopilot engaged. I realised that I had enjoyed that more than I would I thought and was smiling like a Cheshire Cat.
I really must do more hand flying, especially when the air is so clear .


Next we were cleared on up to 40,000ft, as soon as we levelled off Andy started a bit of what I call the "What Ifs"
What if the fuel transfer fails now ? How much fuel becomes, unusable , could we carry on ? where would you go, how would you get that information. Today he meant business. Every day is a school day and I really enjoy it.
A couple of hours in the cruise and it time to plan the descent and arrival.
Now the screws start to turn.
Time to look at the weather at the destination.
Oh hang on a minute, the clouds are low, frozen fog, gusting winds, ice down in Paris.......
This isn't going to be a usual day at the office.
I worked out the direction which we were coming in from and got a good idea of the expected STAR (Standard Terminal Arrival) a routing along which we descend to the airport and then briefed it all.
Croatian coastline


It wasn't too long before we were in the thick of the cloud and descending down. The key to this stage is not letting the plane getaway from me, and its easy to get fixated on the instruments especially when there's only thick cloud outside.
The thing with the Global Express is that it doesn't like to descend easily without starting to gallop like a race horse down the final straight.
Being ahead of the plane and gently descending at less than 2000 feet per minute especially at the high altitudes and the early stages of the descent.

It was time to get the passengers strapped in and take on the weather down below. We were through the initial STAR and now getting given directions (headings) to fly towards the ILS (Instrument Landing System) still in thick frozen cloud.


I find myself looking to Andy for a touch of reassurance as the only times I've done this before in clearer conditions, he tells me I've got it set up really well as I'm manually adjusting the vertical speed to follow the vertical path and keep the descent going comfortably for the passengers yet quick enough to stay ahead and not get caught too high whilst at 300knots.
Passed 10,000ft......
It takes all of my concentration to keep us coming in whilst we are getting bumped around a bit. Andy is working the radios and I'm watching the ILS come in as we straighten up in the direction of the runway 07 descending through 3000ft.
We have the flaps and slats out down to 200knots and I am running through things in my mind about the minimum altitude we can descend to safely without seeing the airport and what we have to do if we have to execute a missed approach in the weather on the ground, and I am watching the altitude tape run down closer to the ground but we are still in the frozen fog.
Cleared to land.
Gear down, Flaps 30......
Still checking outside.
Looking down and I can just make out the ground and then the runway edge lights ahead with only a 100ft to the minimum altitude.
Eyes outside and its time to judge the wind and bring us in........



Taxi to apron H4.......
We're in.....



Thoughts for the day:

  • The heart is still racing quite a bit as I write this
  • The smile is fixed and in place
  • This really is the most fun you can have with your clothes on







Cairo and Back and Then Paris... Mini Blog Post.

Turkish snowy mountains 

Back into Beirut
Its been a rollercoaster couple of flights on the Global and for various reasons I have had to leave it a little while until writing about it.
The Egypt trip is always a quick flight usually an hour or so in the air and then the almighty chaos of the arrival in to Cairo as I've mentioned before there are no arrival procedures and the air traffic controllers are like having the "Young Ones" from the 80's tv show running the whole thing. They get you to fly to directly over the airport at 3000ft and then send you where ever they want until they want to slot you into the landing queue.........
Unfortunately for me the weather was a bit ropey in Cairo and I still haven't been able to make a trip to see the pyramids on and take a few pictures.

Maybe next time......

This week I found that a plane spotter at London's Stansted airport took this picture of us taking off a couple of months ago
So all in all its been a busy week or so, as when we got back from Cairo we had a day or so to rest and then it was straight off to Paris for a quick over night trip and some lovely night flying which I always enjoy so much. 
We departed back to Beirut on Saturday just gone and had Sunday to relax. 


This is a night time view from my Beirut apartment when we had the Super Moon this week



Preparing for the Night flying to Paris

I shot this picture departing Paris for Beirut as the sun was coming up and we were flying between two layers of cloud



Saturday, January 20, 2018

Sunset splender

Climbing out of Belgium 

A phone call and we are off.
The same journey as arriving to Devon to get back to Belgium.
Exeter to Paddington on the train.
Overnight stop in a hotel. A lovely walk around China town.
Early Eurostar back to Brussels and a driver to collect us and take us to the plane.....
I've discovered I really don't mind travelling on the train, far less stressful than some of the airports these days with backward thinking luggage limits, speedy boarders racing to the front of the queue like their life depends on getting onboard first and then being hounded to buy scratch cards once onboard.
(Yes this pilot has become and traveling snob)
Far too many private jet terminals have changed me.
Maybe I need to go and take a Ryanair flight for a taste of reality.
Upon arriving at the private jet terminal we were greeted by the guys who have looked after the plane for the past few days, we pop out to the plane and get changed into our uniforms and start the process of getting the plane online and warm as its a barmy 1 degrees with a baltic wind making it feel like minus 8.
We have a standard rule between the Captain and I, one of us looks after the inside of the plane pre flight and one does the outside.
The one looking after the inside does all of the flight planning, systems checks, clearances and sets the plane up to the point where its ready to start and the one who does the outside gets the fuel onboard, the water and loos serviced, takes the covers off and removes the landing gear pins.
Lucky for me with the baltic temperatures its inside duty for me today with the heaters on full crack and I get the computers fired up and start downloading the flight plan, the departure route and then work on the weight and balance sheets to get the take off speeds and distances.


V1-107
VR-107
V2-122
VFTO-164
Runway needed: 3454ft

Clearance received and a SOPOX2U departure which was basically a nice left turn after take off climbing to initial altitude of 6000ft.

My own little notes to self 

The passengers arrived nice and early as per usual and we closed the doors up.
I give the controller a call and get permission to start the engines.
I start the right one first as per usual and then let it settle.
I start the left one and for the first time since I've been flying jets it didn't seem to want to get going with the efficiency it usually does, it seem to have a think about it for about 30 seconds half ay through the process and the N1 speed was just holding.
Its such an automated system with these engines that if there's hung start or any other issue the Fadec kicks in and stops the starting process in its tracks.
But she seemed to have just been wanting take her time coming on line and the indicators on the engine panel started showing us lots of green lights and all parts of the engine were gradually firing up with the temperatures rising up to the usual parameters.
After start checks completed and I have a chat with the tower to let them know we can take an intersection departure instead of having to taxi all of the way back which saves us 5 minutes.

Crescent moon shining 
The only problem with this is that we although we are given a quicker departure the controller gave me a new revised clearance with new departure which usually takes a couple of minutes to programme into the flight management system and also cross check, Andy I work this between us quite swiftly and cross check it.
I call ready for departure and am cleared to line up and wait on the runway.



There's Ryanair taxiing past to line up behind us and we are given clearance to go.
"Cleared for take off Runway 25"
Throttles eased forward to the firewall.
The power starts to kick in and the air speed comes alive.
Take off thrust set.
80knots.
I watch the speed tape roll to 107 knots.
"V1"
"Rotate"
The vertical speed indicator shows a positive climb
"Postive rate of Climb"
"Gear Up"

A lovely 72 knot tail wind as shown on the right screen with the little arrow
As the speed gently increases flaps come back in the zero and the slats come in.
I was quickly on to the radio frequency change to get us cleared higher so that we can have a continuous climb instead of being stuck at 6000ft, we are cleared straight up to 18,000ft.
There's quite a lot of traffic around us and I can see at least 4 planes visually and another 8 or 9 on the radar.
A further climb to 28,000ft approved and Andy who is the pilot flying is enjoying it as he's decided to hand fly all of the way up and its great to see him enjoying it so much.
I called the ATC to negotiate a further climb up to our cruise altitude of 45,000ft and we are given a slight change to the routing to get us up there and avoid the traffic.
Andy asks for the Autopilot at about 30,000ft as we fly between two 737's only a couple of miles either side of us.
sunset selfie


As I look over my shoulder I can see the sun dropping quicker and quicker towards the horizon and we are reaching the altitude where we can start to see the curve of the earth. 
 I decided to take a picture of it just to show all of the loons of the 'Flat earth Society' .
Flat Earth ?????
The setting sun, a cup of tea and clear air with the crescent moon shining.....
Not many better places to be when your a pilot.
There's plenty of other traffic around but all of it down below us.

When you get to that altitude you can quite easily lose track of where you as you change frequency between the various air traffic centres of  Berlin, Prague, Sophia, tracking down to Turkey then negotiating between Nicosia for transit with Ankara for our entry point in to Lebanese airspace.
I manage to get an entry at 37,000ft which suits our descent profile.
Weather is the next question as I need to get the information to programme the arrival into Beirut.
The information gives us an approach into runway 16 at Beirut. There are 3 runways in Beirut with 16, 17 and 21.
So its always important to get the right one!!
ILS 16 programmed and the speeds calculated, a nice gentle descent profile working all the way down from 45,000ft without any levelling off.
On our airplane there are 2 totally independent GPS systems, as we descended below 10,000ft over the Mediterranean Sea after leaving Turkey behind we had rather a strange indication come up that both GPS receiving systems were not functioning, which is almost impossible for a fault to happen on both at the same time.
Andy turned to me that the only time he has heard of anything like that was when there was war zone activity and one of the super powers had blanked a huge area from having any GPS signal at all.
I started having visions of Submarines or war ships in the ocean down below us on exercise or worse.....
I was quite happy at that point to see the lights of Beirut on the horizon and I was handed over to talk to the Beirut controller who cleared me to 2000' and for the ILS approach runway 16.
Final checks completed and I send a Bing Bong signal to the passengers to get themselves strapped in.

Ontrack at 45,000ft
The lights of Beirut shining brightly as we descend down the ILS for runway 16.
30ft throttles back and a nice gentle night landing back into Asia.
Its always a huge long taxi at Beirut as we traverse the other runway and back to the private jet terminal, as we taxi in the friendly faces of our handling agents are waiting for us.
APU fired up, shutdown checks complete.
Times logged.
Doors opened.
17 degrees of night-time air flood into the plane.
As the engines spool down the fatigue kicks in. Its been a long day since a 6am alarm call in my Central London hotel and its 20:45 local time.
The passengers disembark quickly into the Beirut night and its time to put the Global to bed.......
Until the next time.....

Thoughts for the day :

  • I have no food in the apartment and its late on Friday evening 
  • We have a run of flights on the horizon which look quite exciting so I will get the video camera readied 
  • I wonder if the Cheesecake Factory is open late on a Friday night
  • Google informs me that the Cheesecake Factory is open late on a Friday night and its Steak night !!!!








Monday, January 15, 2018

And we're off ...... no we aren't , yes we are we a 100nm long final.......

After a few days of are we going, aren't we going , we ended up going somewhere completely different than expected.
With some bad weather heading the way of the Middle East I was given the heads up that I should be planning for a trip to Europe.
The captain and I went down to the plane yesterday and got her ready, updating the onboard computers, and checking over some of the work that was done on the recent servicing as well.
Secretly I think we both miss the plane when we haven't seen her for a few days and want to go and see that she's alright.
I got online with my flight planning programme and started the process of working out our routing and therefore what our flight time will be, how much fuel we need and also if we need any over flight permits for the countries that will pass by down below.
I also do some working of the weight of the plane, with passengers, with bags and with the fuel etc to plan the optimum altitude that we will be flying along the various sectors.
The result is a flight plan of 4 hours 7 minutes, initial altitude of 43,000ft.
Our V1 and VR speeds of 114 knots and I'll be taking 28,000 lbs of fuel with me for the flight.
The weather on departure is forecast as low cloud, thunderstorms, rain and wind. Never ideal really.
The destination forecast fog fog fog and a bit more fog, down to about 250-300ft.
All in all not great news but as always doable.
Skip forward 16 hours to my alarm going with ACDC's Hells Bells ringing out of my phone , I open my curtains and the rain and storms have passed through (as I heard them through the night in my 9th floor apartment) and have left some rather nice clear weather behind it.
Quick shower and get the uniform on and the trusty driver is waiting outside to get me to the plane.
At the private jet terminal I used their internet to update my computer and iPads with the current weather at departure , destination and the winds aloft at altitude as the boss always likes an accurate timing plan for the flight.
Downtown Beirut 
I give him all of the details and then he's able to impress his guests onboard, I'm starting to think its like insider trading and he makes bets with them for the exact flight time/landing time.
The plane had been pulled up to the 1st stand so that the guests can literally step out of the VIP lounge to the plane.
I got on board , the APU started so that things started to get moving and then the computers fired up.
I downloaded the flight routes, double checked them and tested the onboard systems, hydraulics AC Electrics and DC electrics and it was all systems go.
Flight plan loaded, clearance obtained from the controller and permission granted to start her up.
Without further ado the owner and his guests arrived, I gave him the information about the flight times, altitudes, speeds etc and he gave me a knowing wink......
With the door closed I indicated to the line man outside that I was starting the right hand engine and that whirring power came online, Rolls Royce was ready to do its job, followed by the left .
After start checks complete, permission to taxi granted and we are off to runway 17 for the Kalde 2D departure that I'm getting used to .
Taxi checks completed on the move and I call over to tower that we are ready for departure and we are cleared to line up and wait on the runway . Strobe lights on.
Looking down the runway.
Waiting for the go.
The heart always races a little bit no matter how many times I've sat in this spot.
'T7-ATL cleared for take off runway 17' from the tower.
'Cleared for take off runway 17 T7-ATL' I read back.
Andy looks over to me and asks if I'm ready, 'Ready' and throttles to the firewall, the power comes in, the airspeed is is moving, check, 80knots, check, V1 , Rotate. We are off the ground.
Positive rate of climb.
Gear up
Start the right turn away from the mountains and above 400ft accelerating bring the flaps to 0, slats in.
Frequency change and immediately cleared up to initial altitude 18,000ft whilst in the turn towards the north.
After take of checks.....
The climb performance of this plane is quite unbelievable after further clearance we are heading to 36,000ft then onto 43,000ft but we did give it an extra nudge as we were requested by ATC to make the 43,000ft by a certain position somewhere over Turkey.
Above all of the weather and into lovely clean air, shoulder straps loosened find the sun glasses and settle in for the next 3 and a half hours........
Still makes me smile.
As we start getting our paperwork done for the initial part of the flight I started to notice quite a bit of traffic heading past and below us so I decided to try out my new iPhone X video camera which I've been really impressed with so far and managed to capture 2 planes passing us in the opposite direction.
The view from this office really is one of the best that there is.
It made me think that sitting where I am there are not many people on the planet who are higher in the sky than we are at 47,000ft, maybe a few other pilots and the half a dozen chaps on the International Space Station up above us somewhere.

 During the course of the cruise time felt like was on a go slow this morning, chatting away as we do and the owner made his usual visits to the flight deck, banana in hand to make sure his pilots are getting their potassium.
Its really nice to fly for an owner who enjoys his plane, takes pride in his plane and also cares about his pilots.
On the last trip back after Christmas he even bought gifts for my wife and the Captain's wife, and he even dared go into territory that I wouldn't and bought handbags for ladies..... Brave man.
 About an hour out from the destination airport I usually start getting my brain back into the next stage of flight, the approach and arrival.
With the airport having D-ATIS I can make a request through the data-link on the plane plane's computer to get the up to date weather and then start to look at the likely runway in use, and plan the descent accordingly.
As I get a call from the Air traffic controller to take us off the airway and onto heading based navigation, basically the Controller gives us headings to fly instead of us flying from GPS point to GPS point I realised that the chap at the end of the radio was giving us a huge short cut and was lining us up for a 100 nm long final for the runway 25.
This chopped about 7 minutes off of our flight time which is always appreciated but also meant I needed to start getting us down a bit quicker. This is a wonderful plane to fly but one thing she doesn't like is slowing down, and she really doesn't like slowing down in the descent, its not like you can just pop the brakes on so planning way ahead is essential. If you imagine suddenly 7 minutes less flying time, would mean I am over the airport at the altitude that I would be 7 minutes from landing probably 11,000ft so some adjustments to the descent rate are required.
I was right and it was a lovely Sunday 100 mile long final into the airport as there was no traffic and not a cloud in sight which was a relief when the forecast was for the Fog Fog Fog......

Landing Gear down, 3 green lights, flaps 30 and & landing checks.....
We touch down in -1 degrees Belgium
The passengers disembark and its planes trains and automobiles for me and the captain to get home.

Its all too easy for the public to criticise the public transport but I have to say after landing in Belgium, to then catch the Eurostar to London's Kings Cross , The London Underground and then Great Western train to Exeter all on time, in lovely clean trains was actually a pleasurable way to travel to leave Brussels at 4pm and arrive in Exeter at 8:30pm was a good job done.......



Thoughts for the day......

  • Well I only have one thought today. 
When I started my flying school in Limoges France I was lucky enough to get to know a man, Alain Fradet, a man who was passionate about flying, passionate about history also passionate about art and photography.
We would talk about old planes and he would always have 5 minutes to show me his latest pictures and reminisce about the history of said plane.  He used to tell me he enjoyed my blog.
He would always know when some strange or wonderful aircraft was coming to land in Limoges and he would be out taking pictures of it. A lovely man to spend half an hour on the terrace of the flying club just chatting away in the sunshine. Alain left us yesterday and will be truly missed in his home community in the Limousin and there will be a very empty space at the Aeroclub du Limousin.
 I felt very lucky when we landed in Brussels yesterday that when I was packing up the aircraft a Tiger Moth taxied next to us for his engine run up checks, I quickly got my camera out and took this one for you Alain as I know its one that you appreciate. R.I.P














West to East and some changes ahead....

Life on Lantau Island  Well its been a little while and there is a few reasons for no blog posts, the main one being that I have ha...