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 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.
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.
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 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......
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.
'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.
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.....
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.
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.
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.
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