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

Friday, January 5, 2018

A few weeks a hours in the book and a lot of nice flying and a happy new year to all

Since I have last written I have done another 4 legs on the plane and am back in the Middle East as I write this.
Looking out of the office window its howling with rain and 10 degrees. It goes to show that the sun isn't always shining in the desert, grotty grey skies for the first week of the new year.
To be honest this is going to be more of a pictorial post as I seem to have been really lucky and seen some lovely sights over the past few weeks and I have also treated myself to a new iPhone X which has an amazing camera on it for stills and for video.

The owner of the Plane bought me a lovely hat for Xmas. 
The end of December saw us flying back to the UK via the Ukraine where we landed in deep snow and packed ice with some of the coldest weather conditions I have seen as yet, we stopped off a 4 hours as we dropped a few passengers off and then proceeded onto London's Biggin Hill where we needed to leave the aircraft with Bombardier for some updating of some of the onboard systems.
This took the xmas and new year period and we were then to fly back yesterday upon collection of the plane back to the Middle East via Ukraine once again, picking up the previously dropped off passengers.

 We managed the fastest turn around of a plane that I ever thought possible, it felt like Lewis Hamilton for one of his pit stops. We collected the new passengers and were calling ready to taxi in 9 minutes. In that time I had got the clearance, programmed the onboard computer and set up the departure....... The heart was racing a little if I'm honest. The weather was down to the limits, upon arrival we had only been within about 75 feet of our limits before having to divert, so the cockpit was a pretty serious place to be.

Once airborne again and clear of the low cloud and ice conditions the shoulder straps were relaxed and the owner of the plane came up to the flight deck for a chat as he often does. He handed me some xmas presents for both me and my wife as he is a good humoured man and handed over a package with a smile on his face.
My present was a lovely bobble hat that I decided to wear for the remainder of the flight as we had quite a few children onboard the aircraft who were popping up to see us on the flight deck.

As I started to think about the arrival and approach into Beirut I saw there were some pretty substantial storms in and around the airport which was unusual but I suppose being winter its what can happen. 
It made my ears prick up a little and I was listening to the traffic ahead of us to see what they were encountering and it didn't seem too bad apart from heavy rain but there was lightening registering on the approach path.
With these things in mind the usual precautions are taken expecting turbulence and making sure I am really well versed in the miss approach procedure incase we weren't able to continue with the landing and had to break off.

Snow clearing in the Ukraine and taxiing on packed ice

Happily as I popped out of the clouds the runway was infront of us

All said and done it worked out really well as the storm had virtually blown itself out as we moved into the final section of the flight, the sun had dropped and we could make out some lightening off in the distance but not in our path and the strong winds had subsided.
We touched down with the grace that only this plane can do, and I could hear the puddles splashing so there had been quite a down pour.
We taxied back to the General Aviation terminal and were guided into our regular parking spot.
The holidays are over and its back to work....... well for me its time to get back to revising for my next exams in March. I'm sure it will come around quickly.

Thoughts for the day:

  • Wet Beirut is a lot less dusty and you can see for miles
  • Winter in Beirut is pretty cold and like being in Europe
  • Its taken 24 hours to work out where the heating is and how to get the heating working in the apartment
  • Apparently Air-conditioning units can be heaters as well.

Monday, December 18, 2017

Stops and Starts..... & Snow

The thing about this job is you never know what's next.
A lot of people say to me that this must be really annoying. No planning, always on standby etc but to me thats the reason why I do this job. The other option would be to be an airline pilot and that to me would mean always knowing exactly where I was going and when for the next few months and also having most of the work with planning etc done for me. Where are the surprises in that ?
To me when I get that phone call that we are off and its time to start the planning and getting the plane ready, it puts a smile on my face. The heart race increases ever so slightly and I know.....
We're going flying.
I'm at the point now where I'm approaching my first 100 hours in this plane and I'm really feeling like I know her.
The phone call came whilst having Sunday brunch, Monday morning departure and we are heading off to Eastern Europe from London.
This came as a bit of a surprise as the plane had been in for servicing and wasn't expected to be ready for another few days.
Emirates Airbus A380

Within 2 hours I was on a train to London from Exeter and sorting out a hotel for the night.
The thing that happens when the engineers have been on the plane is that everything gets moved.... all of my bits and bobs, have disappeared , pens, files you name it.
Its like another man has slept in your bed and worn your dressing gown and slippers.

A sticky Stansted morning

There's snow on the ground and frozen fog around, so we are well into cold weather operations.
The snow ploughs clearing the white stuff off of the private jet apron, the fuel truck operator has his thick gloves and hat, steamy vapour coming from his mouth as he speaks.
I sit in the cockpit realising I haven't taken off when its this cold before and we are off to an airport that's 10 degrees colder near Russia !!!!
The APU is running, the heaters doing their job and the systems gradually coming online. The computer/electrical systems in the Global Express can be temperamental at times so the best way of dealing with her is to turn the essential systems on and then let her settle for a good 5 minutes before getting to working with setting her up.
We have a last minute change of plans and are having to land into Dusseldorf to pick up a passenger and then head onto Eastern Europe, so I get to work with some replanning of the flight plan and file it, and then recalculate our fuel for the trip to make sure there's enough onboard .
The calculations for flying in icing conditions are different to a regular day as we are having to depart with wing and cowl anti ice on which will adjust our take off speeds so some extra considerations. Fortunately we have had the plane in the hangar so we don't need to de-ice the plane.
Sunset Welcome into Beirut 

Ice is one of the most serious of problems for aircraft and incredibly dangerous. A light covering of ice on the wing would bring the plane down or stop it from taking off and you might not even be able to see it, so if ever in doubt we de-ice. There have been way too many recorded accidents due to ice.
Before long the systems are all lighting up and I have the flight plan in the boxes and checked, the anti ice systems running , take off speeds calculated.

I'm pleased that I'm getting a real flow in the cockpit, and am starting to getting into the habits of the plane and noticing more and more if anything looks slightly out.

As per usual the owner and his colleagues were early so as soon as we were ready on the plane I was calling for engine start and signalling to the ground crew that I was starting the right hand engine, when that was up and stable I started the left one.
All the systems were firing as they should be so I called for Taxi and on our way to Germany.
The shorter flights on this aircraft are the busiest, before you have reached the cruise altitude you have to have the arrival all planned and briefed. No time for a cuppa on the way to Germany with it being a one hour flight and only getting to a cruise of 34,000ft.
I just had the flight computer programmed when I was called for initial descent so it was time to strap in and search for Dusseldorf.

It was a nice approach into Dusseldorf with German efficiency we were in with little time wasted on the parallel runways. Turning right off of the runway we had to wait for an enormous Emirates double decker to land and we crossed over the next runway and taxied to the private jet terminal for our passenger.
The Captain jumped off the plane to organise paying the landing fees and collect the passenger and I was left onboard to reprogram and get our clearances for the next flight to Eastern Europe which was going to take a further two and a half hours.
The tower controller was really helpful and I had the plane ready to go before passenger and Captain were back onboard, less than 20 minutes.
I briefed the captain on the departure and take off that we'd be taking and he was happy so it was time to call for taxi and head east.
Throttles to the fire wall and once again those rolls-royce engines roared it always gives me a rye smile and we are calling V1, with a slight delay to rotate and we are off the ground.
Positive rate of climb but we wait for gear up for 30 seconds to let any water drip off of the under carriage and there fore not freeze up in the gear bay.
We followed the published departure and were cleared straight up to 43,000ft which made life easy, this time we could take a breath and enjoy the cuppa in the cruise........
I managed to catch up on the paperwork for the flight , recording all of the fuel and timings which I can do these days on an iPad that will then sync with our computer back at base.

An hour out from the airport I use the online datalink to request the weather at our destination and with that I am able to judge the arrival and runway in use so then I can start to programme the Flight Management System for getting the plane on the correct navigational track. The strangest thing with Eastern Europe and Russia is that the measurements are in Metres per second for wind etc whereas most other countries use knots.

Whilst looking out of the cockpit at the view I received the radio call to commence descent and it snapped me out of my day dream thoughts and back into flight mode, I set the new altitude of 24,000ft we push the nose forward and its time to rejoin the real world way down below.

Landed in Eastern Europe with snow and ice on the ground.......

Thoughts for the day:
  • Taxing one Ice has its similarities to Ice skating but in a 40 tonne airplane
  • I can't believe xmas is not far away, its feels like August was last week
  • Oh hang on, it really is Xmas next week
  • Merry Christmas to anyone who reads this and I wish you all a happy healthy and prosperous New Year.

Monday, December 4, 2017

London's calling..... London's calling.....

Well, where are we......?
I was reminded at the weekend that I hadn't done my blog in a while, (thank you Gruff) so I have sat myself down to get the latest trip online.......
Departing Beirut and you can just about see the snow on the mountains in the background 
I'm back in Devon for a few days, we flew directly to London Stansted from Beirut. 
A few people have asked me a few questions over the passed few weeks about the plane I fly so I will try to answer them before I go into the flight back from Beirut to the Big Smoke.

I've been asked a few times how far can the jet I fly go with out refuelling and obviously this one depends a bit on winds (head winds/tail winds) but the plane's full name is a Global Express 6000 which is for 6000 nautical miles of distance that can be flown. That won't mean a lot to many people but to say we can fly for up to 13 hours in one hop before we need to refuel. So we can do some really long flights if we need to. 

My longest flight in it to date is just over 5 hours. 
We cruise at .83-.85 mach which in normal numbers is about 1000km/hour.
The altitude we fly at depends very much on our weight but we try to get as high as we can as it reduces the amount of fuel we burn. Usually up to 49,000ft which is way above the average holiday going jumbo so we don't have too many traffic problems that high up. We are usually above most weather issues as well so it makes for a very smooth ride indeed.

That being said, the high speed and altitude are all very high but the amazing thing with this plane is the take off and landing speeds are incredibly low, averaging around 105 knots which was I was convinced was a mistake when I first started to learn about a 48 ton airplane !!!
Anyway hopefully not bored you too much with facts and figures but I wanted to let people know as these are most of the questions I get asked a lot about.
The flight to London started out as a flight to Morocco, then a flight to Kiev over the course of a couple of days I was flight planning us even to Brazil but we got the final nod that the boss wanted to head to London.

In those few days the Prime Minister of Lebanon had returned to Beirut via France and the previous heightened tensions seemed to have relaxed a little but we still had the fuel on the plane which we had put on in anticipation of having to leave if the problems escalated at all. 
The flight planning on the computer was done in quick time and I filed it. I also had to update our EFB's , (Electronic Flight Bag) we are authorised to use iPads in our cockpit instead of thousands of bits of paper, we have 4 onboard iPads which really keep the cockpit in good shape, especially on the longer trips.
Turkey from above
The updates are tricky in Beirut as the internet in my apartment and in our office isn't the best and it can take a long time, so I have found the best wifi to be in Starbucks so usually park there with a pot of tea and my laptop and do the downloads in an arm chair.

Downloads all complete and computers updated. 
The driver collected us and it was time to get the plane ready to fly. I started up the APU (auxiliary power unit, which is generates power for the aircraft systems on the ground) and began the checklist. I got so far when I realised there was a problem, and a big problem at that. One of the main electrical systems wasn't coming online.  Something I have never seen before so time to give the Captain a shout.
"Oh that's not good" he says........
"We might not be going anywhere"
What followed was like an education for me. I am happy to say that I learnt a lot when I did the ground school on this plane and know how the systems work but the underlying secondary effects of some of those failures I would say I am rusty on. But watching Andy at work systematically going through all of the possibilities, testing various systems whilst isolating others is great to see, and the benefit of having flown these planes for over 10 years with more than 5000 hours on them.
We even tried the old fashioned way of lets turn it all off and on again. 
The system which wasn't working was essential to flight, so we decided to fire up the engines and see if that would bring it online incase it was a system block with the APU, and bobs your uncle it came to life. 
We were going to be able to fly but it would need to be added to the servicing list for when we get to London. 
Before long the boss was onboard, the doors were closing and I was firing up number 2 rolls-royce then number 1. 
I just love that sound.........
After start checks, additionally checking the previously failed electrics were online which they were.
Taxi checks complete and we were told to line up and wait runway 17.
30 seconds and those magical words "Cleared for Take off Runway 17"
Throttles forward
Airspeed alive.

We're off the ground !!!!!

Positive Rate of Climb
Gear Up
Flaps 0
Slats in 

Radio call to Radar
Engage Autopilot
Then after take off check list.......

A nice right turn on the Kalde 2D departure and we can see the airport and the mountains in the distance with some early winter snow on them.
I'll hope fully be skiing up there in the new year. 

The rate of climb on this plane is just amazing, the heart rate rises with it. I quite simply love flying it. 
I am approaching my first 100 hours in the plane and am really starting to feel like I am getting the hang of it and by the time I reach the 200 hours I will be ready for my next exams on it which I am starting to look forward too. 
Its also a real pleasure flying with someone as experienced as Andy, as every day is a school day with him.
There's not much time to wind the seat back as the electronic paperwork has to be completed, as we reach the cruise Andy asked me to work out where we would go with an emergency engine fire, so I put my paperwork down and set us up as to where I would get us to and then even more fun to justify why I was deciding on those places. 
Its always a good session to do these exercises as it keeps the brain focused and keeps me on my toes.
I decided on taking us into Rhodes on this occasion with the time, distance calculations done. I had also remembered to check the weather there to make sure it was nice and clear......

Its a reasonably long flight of 4hour 30 mins usually but it usually does go quite quickly. I do wonder to myself though what the 10-11 hour flights are like as I have never done that in one go before in the cockpit. 
As we are jetting over Europe I talk with Ankara , Sophia, Prague, Germany, Brussels where we start our descent and then finally on to London Radar.
Our approach checks, and arrival briefing was done, which is something I am starting to enjoy doing now I am getting more of a hang of the plane.
This was the moment the flight got busy !!!!
I haven't in my 2000 hours of flying experienced an approach as busy as this one. I think we must have spoken with 7 or 8 different London controllers, and our descent was being fragmented to only 1000 feet at a time sometimes and we were on radar vectors everywhere you can imagine. 
I don't think Andy and I spoke to each other from top of descent until the approach checks were being done, I was also having to remind myself to breath.
I had a glance over occasionally to Andy and caught a smile and nod from him as I was being cleared onto the ils approach for runway 22 Stansted.
The runway came into view and I had a sudden feeling of nostalgia from my very first flight in the plane to do my qualifying landings way back in July when I had exactly the same view on my first ever flight. 
I realised how much I have learnt in 6 months of flying this plane and also how much I enjoyed flying it. It really is an amazing piece of engineering......
For the time being she is being serviced in London and kept warm in a hangar and I get to enjoy some xmas spirit in East Devon........

Thoughts for the day:
  • Its a strange one that for once I am at home and my wife is the one away on her hols in Prague
  • I actually feel really Xmasy which is a strange one for me this far out 
  • There's nothing quite like a full English breakfast on a cold morning
  • A full English in the morning isn't conducive to getting much studying done......
  • The Dambusters is a great movie to watch after a Full English


Wednesday, November 8, 2017

A long month and back in the air..... and all over the place..... and what to wear ??

Firstly there are some worrying signs of things in the Beirut/Lebanon region that are causing some feelings of uncertainty for all based and living in the region.
The Prime minister has resigned upon a visit to Saudi Arabia leaving the country rudderless with many different opposition factions who have historically not got along over the passed centuries.
Things are a little tense in the region and as a relative new comer to the area its hard not to sit and read every rumour online as to what is happening.
I have been fortunate enough to have a lovely few weeks off work whilst the plane has not been flying to visit Spain and my parents and have a well earned break with my wife
She deserved the break not me, she's works so hard at her job every day helping so many people, most of whom are far worse off than the rest of us, where as I get to hang around at 47,000ft looking out the window at clouds.

Upon my return to Beirut I landed at 1am and then had to be up and ready to fly at 10am later the same morning, so an early alarm call, get the iron out, press a couple of shirts and dust the uniform down, then empty the suitcase and refill it.
Hmmm...... where are we going and whats the weather going to be like......?
Plans for Cairo then Algeria , then possibly onto Europe then ending up in the USA.
That means a mixed bag of seasons and clothing to match.
Sitting in the Global express after nearly a month away and I realised how much I had missed it but also how a month away can affect the memory so decided to take it slowly in getting everything organised.

I checked with clearance delivery and the flight plan was in and I copied the clearance down.
True to form the owner and his business colleagues were early so I called for engine start and got the right engine going first as the doors were closed by the captain followed by the left engine firing up.
Boy it was nice to feel hum of those engines a greeting from a old friend.
Cleared for taxi and we were heading out to runway 17 for the Kalde 2d departure procedure.
Straight on up to 41,000ft.
It was nice to be in the air once again.
Cleared up to the cruise just over Cyprus to 45,000ft.
To be honest I didn't think we'd have time to get up there for a 1hour 5 min flight to Cairo but we were there in 22 minutes so a 10 minute cruise and I'm getting the weather for Cairo and working out the arrival.

Now as flying goes there is usually a bit of the time you are on the edge of your seat but for the most part its all procedures and it all works well.
Well that is until you try to fly into Cairo.
What a mess, its the meaning of the word chaos. They have no arrival procedures or departure procedures, its all just done on the hoof by the airport controllers. Which is fine when one aircraft arrives every half an hour but I could hear at least 8 on frequency arriving at the same time and if I put it in layman's terms all of us were heading for the same point in the sky much like a round about at Piccadilly Circus.
All speaking different languages, Arabic, French and English and we were doing 250knots.
The last time I felt like this was when I decided to drive around the L'Arc Du Triumph in Paris, I felt like my socks do when I throw them in the washing machine.
My job in all of this was to get the controller in the tower to let us descend and get us on the ground, much to my disappointment we were at 4,000ft directly over the airport and sent out on a direction to the Pyramids ........
Kind of like driving on the M4 and you look at the junction your meant to get off at but find yourself looking over your shoulder as it fizzes passed.
I looked over at my Captain and he smiled..... "I told you Cairo can be fun didn't I ?"
I managed to get us descending and I was happy to see the runway infront of us and be putting the landing gear down and going through the landing checklist.
We were in and down on the ground.
This was only going to be a quick stop though for 3-4 hours before heading off once again.

With the Captain in Algiers

I closed the engines down and decided to stretch out in the back of the plane and have a snooze, rest and read a book.
This VIP travel really can be a strange way of life.
It wasn't too long though before we were starting up those Rolls Royce engines once again and this time heading due West over North Africa.
Departing was with little difference to the arrival, I was given our departure clearance by the clearance delivery frequency, started up the engines, and we had a long old taxi, nearly 10 minutes to the other side of the airfield. The departure clearance was programmed into the computer and everything seemed to be going swimmingly.....
We were given permission to take off and just after the wheels had left the ground the tower controller amended our clearance, quite literally the busiest moment that we have in any flight. We are flying the plane, climbing away, accelerating and the chap decides to change everything, so I think I went into racehorse mode, Blinkers on and managed to change everything before we busted any altitudes, I think its the first time in my life I have successfully managed to multi task.
I looked over to Andy and he gave me a reassuring nod of the head as my left hand was amending the clearance instructions in the flight computer and the right hand was carrying out the take off departure  flying instructions, flaps, gear, heading, altitude , after take off checks.
Auto pilot engaged and a close eye on the flight management system to check that the new instructions were being carried out.
It was with some relief that we were leaving Cairo airspace and were passing 10,000ft and loosened the shoulder straps and I think started to breath.
The captain was happy, the plane was flying and we were on our way.
Up to 47,000ft and 3 hours or so in the cruise and we were heading in a straight line over the Med towards Crete and were taking a left turn towards the coast line of Tunisia.
As the sun was dropping I could see some storm cells forming and decided to try to video one as it reached its mature stage and could see the lightening from above.

How a thunder storm looks from above

As night fell I could see there were storm cells all around the area and also our onboard weather radar picks them up as well.
We had to dodge a few of them in the descent in to Algiers but it was quite impressive to see in the night sky even if it was a touch bumpy at times.
I could hear over the frequency a few aircraft who don't have the same equipment as us getting a little worried by the situation as they were trying to pick their way through the sky.
We made it nice and safely onto the very wet ground and could see that there had been some pretty serious amounts of rain through the area prior to us arriving.
For the time being it was time to secure the plane, head to the hotel and wait to hear when it was going to be time to fly again.

Thoughts for the day:

  • As I near my first 100 hours on this plane I'm getting to a point where I'm getting ahead of it at times which is a good feeling
  • I'm studying for my ATP exams at the moment and have realised that the February exam date is not that far away
  • I miss my wife
  • I really do hope the people of Lebanon don't have to suffer the problems of conflict once again
  • I don't really like flying in to Cairo

Sunday, October 1, 2017

Pointy Pyramids and a windy Nile, back in Africa and a room with a view

The River Nile whilst on descent into Egypt
Today was a good day in the air.
Up early after a shockingly bad nights' sleep, unfortunately someone set up a band playing outdoor music literally outside our hotel window who played quite few curtain calls. Oh and then they decided to dismantle the scaffolding stage until after 3am.
So when the alarm went off, or rather AD/DC started blaring out of my phone Back in Black at 0645, hiding my head under the pillow rather than filing a flight plan and putting my uniform was my initial reaction.
Hitting the snooze button was not an option though, it was time to file the flight plan, check the routing, look at the weather and the study the options for an alternative destination in the case of a problem.
The routing of the flight was to be out of Northern Europe over Maastricht turning south east over Austria, the coast line of the Adriatic and out over the Med and directly towards Africa.
The flight plan filed, a quick bite of breakfast and a drive out to the private jet terminal at the airport.
Climbing out of Europe
There are some differences in traveling through private jet terminals than when you travel cattle class with ryan air through a main terminal building.
One of my particular favourites is that I get to drive a rental car up to the VIP terminal and give the keys to a nice chap who works there and leave it with him, he then drives it back to the car rental people and deal with the paperwork and I don't have to get on buses and deal with the facetious people with their magnifying glasses checking the car over whilst rubbing their chins.
Another favourite is the coffee. The coffee really is good.
Downtown Cairo 
When I turned up this morning there was coffee, warm croissants and even the Formula 1 on the tv.
Not a bad way to start the working day whilst going over the paperwork and having the plane fuelled up, I sat going over the departure procedure for the take off that we were about to perform.

The plane was ready and as I sat in the cockpit getting the computers computing and all of a sudden there were fire engines driving all around and parking at various strategic points along the runway.
I popped the radio on and listened out as one of the training aircraft from the school based at the airport was have some difficulty with his under carriage. Well some difficulty with the light that indicates whether his under carriage is down or not.
The small twin engined plane was going to have to do a low pass with his gear down at 50foot over the runway whilst a lot of people were looking closely at their under carriage through binoculars, whilst at the same time lots of 737's were holding with hundreds of passengers onboard up in the skies.
Bosnia, Serbia and Montenegro pass below

This reminded me of a similar incident I had a few years ago at Nantes in France when all I could see was the flashing blue lights at each exit to the runway as I approached.
The plane came down the runway flying at its 50ft all all of its wheels looked like they were in the right place, and I heard the radio call to the pilots saying as much. I'm sure I could hear their relief in their voices as they made another circuit of the airfield to come and make another approach to land. Fire Engines still at the ready.
The Greek Islands far down below
The twin engine DA42 landed on runway 25 safely, much to the student's relief.
Time for me to call for our departure clearance from the ground controller, I can see the owner of the plane's car arriving so I also call for engine start and get the immediate clearance.
Doors closed.
I hit the start switch for the right hand engine, and the reassuring whirl starts to send vibrations through the aircraft.
The numbers start to rise, oil pressure, N1 rising ITT rising.
A stable start on the first engine and time to start number 2.

With that its time to call for taxi and run the taxi checks, and for the first time since I have been flying the global express we are going to do an intersection take off, which in basic terms means that I'll not be taking off from the end of the runway but instead from one of the intersections part of the way down the runway, hoping that I have checked the right charts with the distances available and we have enough tarmac.
Cleared onto the runway and its time to push the throttles forward and get into the sky and onto the published departure.

Climbing through 1000feet , 2000 and on the way up to the cleared 6000ft.
When I get a call over the radio with a change of plans and have to swiftly change our course to follow the new directions.
Fast fingers on the controls and we are cleared up to 14,000ft on a different heading.

I think it was the busiest of departures that I have ever done, especially when you are easing on up to 1000km per hour.
Passing 10,000ft and I can relax my shoulder straps, change frequencies and even look out of the window.

I still love looking out of the window.
I'm not sure if its the photographer in me or 8 year old boy in me who used to love looking out of the window on those summer holiday flights, but its still looks special to me every time.

It really is a better office view than any corner office even on Central Park New York would ever offer.
Plus it moves at 1000km per hour.

Finally cleared up to the cruise altitude of 45,000ft and the views are just amazing.
Its time to enjoy a decent cup of coffee as the eyes are sagging a bit after the late night music and scaffolding Hokey Cokey.

On our aircraft we have a datalink system which allows me to request information electronically about the destination even from 500 miles away, so whilst sipping on the coffee I start to have a look at the weather reports at the airport. Its going to be 36 degrees and also the visibility isn't great but nothing to be worried about.
I note the current winds and that allows me to start to predict the arrival runway and I have a look at the charts to familiarise myself with everything I can expect.
I read with interest that there are 3 parallel runways, so its going to be busy and also lots of taxiing to be done when we are there.
Its going to be a busy day.
The first call for decent comes through, down to 37,000ft.
Descent checks are done, I have briefed the captain on the IFR approach into the airport and the plane is set up for the last part of the flight.

An incredible view of the desert city on finals
The first I see of Africa is the coastline in the mist as we are descending through 8000ft and then I see the sprawling cityscape. Its massive.
I've flown low over London many times and this is just as big. Only here there are the Pyramids of Giza and the River Nile in front of me rather than the River Thames and Big Ben.
Its just an incredible sight, thousands of years of history that I have only read about and seen on the tv is just below me.
Too busy to get many pictures as we are getting bumped around a bit and also directed all over the place by the controllers who's English is pretty questionable.
The final clearance that is always music to my ears, cleared for ILS approach, contact tower on.....
Thats when I get cleared for landing and we have the middle of those 3 parallel runways dead ahead.
Gear Down
Flaps 30
Landing Checklist


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