Contributions Welcome

You may have noticed that I’ve included a PayPal link on my web site. As I move more away from developing company documentation and focus back on Infinidim, I have included a link to my US PayPal account for anyone who may wish to offset some of the time and cost associated with maintaining my content. Many of you have expressed thanks and a willingness to contribute to my efforts towards content, and development and maintenance of the EBA Overtime/Allowance and ATO Allowance Tax calculator. I won’t be charging for anything I do or offer to others; but if you feel like throwing a few USD towards my efforts – that would be lovely, thanks.


Friday, 01st February 2019 : Pieter

Dear Ken, I appreciate you 777 contributions a lot. I found a 2011 copy of your Practices and techniques document: great work! Keep up the good work; I look forward to reading more from your pen/keyboard. Aussie tax documents are of less interest/concern to me :-) Best regards, Pieter, Captain 777 & 787.

Pieter – that’s extremely kind of you, thanks very much. There will be a 2019 release of the P&T very shortly – keep an eye on the site.

Regards & Thanks – Ken.


Monday, 11th February 2019 : Rob

Hi Ken, in appreciation of all Your work. Best Regards Rob

Thanks Rob, very kind.


V Australia 777 Delivery Flight : #13 VA9090 LAX-SYD – We Have An Airline : 10:30L 09.Feb.09

In February 2009 I was part of the team that picked up Virgin Australia’s (then V Australia) first Boeing 777-300ER. Having arrived into the airline in June 2008, it had been a long 7 months – very long – but now we were about to get an aeroplane – and fly it. For the benefit of those in the team that couldn’t come along (and we took a lot of them with us!) – I blogged the journey on our internal website all those years ago. Ten years later – to the day – these are those blogs.

Google Photos Album


The last post of the V Australia Boeing 777 Delivery Flight saga comes from Sydney after our first Trans Pacific LAX-SYD flight as a (proving) airline. With Passengers. Sort of.

As everyone now knows – V Australia now has its first Boeing 777-300ER on Australian soil. I’d like to say that we brought her in without a scratch, but unfortunately that may not be the case.

During the afternoon before the final Los Angeles to Sydney delivery flight, pickup from the hotel in LA was brought back an hour. While I caught this from Dave – unfortunately the same can’t be said for several other parties, including the crew transport and flight planning. So our crew transport was thirty minutes late, and the OFP only walked through the door of the plane twenty minutes before when we had been planning to push. It’s surprising how much you can’t do on a flight deck to prepare for a flight when you don’t have a flight plan, and how busy it gets there once you have it. Fortunately we took advantage of the time together in the hotel foyer for a few Crew snaps.

Check in and immigration were surprisingly seamless. The good news was that the center tank fuel pump was fixed. The SATCOM however was not. I had spent the afternoon exploring the impact of the lack of SATCOM, including no ACARS and the availability of Company HF and propagation tables.

It’s been 9 months since I’ve flown the 777 in an airline environment, and just one of the aspects of line operations I’d forgotten about was the chaotic, frenetic nature of the front end of the plane between push back and thirty minutes before. Dave had been through it the day before in Seattle and now it was my turn. In both cases the pressure of the nature of the operation added several layers of complications for us. Apart from myself and Dave, we had Paul and Kevin assisting in a typically competent and unobtrusive manner – with all the resources on hand, it should have been a piece of pie. But while I now can’t remember all that went on – I DO remember being quite flustered at several points.

As usual, once the doors were shut and push & start called for, things settled into the comforting routine that we know so well. A minor (fifteen minute) delay was incurred as Hallmark went off to find us a push back tug to replace the one that had been driving the aircraft all round LAX during the day, but had now decided it would no longer do so.

I was Pilot Flying in the left with Dave beside me, Kev Beard and CASA Clive behind. Paul had previously calculated that we needed to be airborne at 0850Z to meet the schedule comfortably into Sydney. Between all our efforts to go early, frustrated by some pre-departure issues and the tug – we were airborne at 0847Z. No Problemo.

Take off was when it really came home to me that I was back in the job again and if felt great with the big girl charging down the runway at 311 tons towards a rotation speed of 174 knots (325 kph). Once in the air I couldn’t resist hand flying for a few thousand feet. As we cleaned up, the weather radar showed a small green return about 8 miles ahead. I put the autopilot in and Dave and I discussed a vector round it. However it was quite small without any scalloped or unusual edges, and we watched the previous aircraft plough on through so we continued on the radar heading and left the seat belt signs on to keep the passengers and crew seated.

Just after we penetrated we entered a briefly moderate rain shower. Dave jumped on the radio to ask for a vector, when there was an almighty FLASHBANG! and we were struck by lightning. As quick as that we were out the other side and into the clear night sky. The later consensus was that the lightning strike was on the left fuselage near the L1 door somewhere, through the aircraft and out the right side. We’re still waiting to hear if there is any damage at the entry/exit points on the skin.

I’m fairly sure I recall a couple of expletives at this point and I distinctly remember thinking, “Well, I should have gone around that one.” I watched the autopilot for a minute or so, then asked if all was ok. About this time the Cabin Call rang, followed shortly thereafter by the Cabin Alert. However Dave and I flew the plane for a while, evaluated the EICAS (which was clear) and STATUS (also clear) and I just generally looked around and let things be while my heart headed back to its usual place and pace.

I handed over to Dave and took the intercom. By this stage Clair the Flight Manager and the crew had resorted to the All Call dial (since we hadn’t answered yet) and the intercom was a babble of voices. We discussed the situation and explained what had happened. I asked Clair to look through the cabin for indications of electrical impact, particularly galleys, IFE, etc. I provided some reassuring words (Lord knows what) then returned to the aircraft.

We cleared transition and at 20,000 ft I handed over to Dave to do a PA. I don’t remember what I said (I do remember pausing for 30 seconds to think about it, always important) but it began (after the introduction) with something like “Well this flight certainly has been one of Firsts; we’ve managed to achieve this aircraft’s first lightning strike”. I then went on to explain they were uncommon but not unexpected, etc, etc. Hah – this was only my second in 20 years of airline flying.

After top of climb Paul jumped in my seat and I went for a walk through the cabin to see how everyone was. While there were a few frayed nerves, and lots of questions, most wanted to know when the seat belt signs were coming off so they could get up and begin the festivities.

After I returned we sorted out the Crew Rest pattern. Paul was to jump in the right with me while Dave and Kev went off for a 5+ hour break, then Paul and I would rest while Dave and Kev flew. I was to come back at 30 minutes before top of descent, and Dave and I would land the plane. And that’s pretty much what we did.

CASA had scenarios to run on us related to an EDTO dispatch with DDL items, and subsequent failures. By the end, Paul and I had an aircraft with one fuel jettison valve inoperative, no APU, Left Backup Generator Failed, the EDTO enroute alternate had gone down and we were cruising 4000 feet below CFP with one engine operating at reduced thrust because of GE (General Electric home base flight watch) ACARS detected vibration. Eventually I think I preferred the lightning strike. We ended up (theoretically) in Honolulu. For Paul and I that was the end of it – when Dave and Kev came back, the aircraft lost the damaged engine on the way to Honolulu and completed a single engine landing there. End of exercise.

The lack of SATCOM was not particularly onerous, just inconvenient. It seems that San Francisco ATC owns most of the Pacific anyway and we had them on HF without difficulty. Contacting Virgin Blue Ops Brisbane on the HF was an entirely different story. Somehow it had escaped everyone’s appreciation that while the aircraft had SELCAL receive (ATC could call us via HF using a bell-ringing SELCAL [selective calling] system) – the 777 did not have such a system to send a bell-ring to the Company. The Company was not actively monitoring HF the whole time – they were waiting for us to SELCAL them, which we could not do. So we’re trying to get ATC to call the company for us to manage these theoretical scanerios, even as I’m combing through my PDA for frequencies for Stockholm/Portishead Radio for a phone patch. All in good fun.

I came back early from rest to find that we’d lost about 10 minutes on the original estimates, which gave us an FMC ETA of 9:50 Local. Brett Godfrey had previously communicated the importance of the arrival time (VIPs waiting) so I went back to discuss it with him and Scott Swift.

As long as we could be over the fence as close to 10:00, they were happy. Based on this, Dave and I figured we would have time to descend early to 1500 ft, cruise across the Heads, then swing over to the Harbour and Bridge, then truck on down for a reversal back to 16R.

ATC and Sydney’s weather had other plans.

The cloud base in Sydney was generally 700 ft with significant lower cloud at 500ft. A harbour manoeuvre was out of the question. Additionally they put is in the hold at Shark and gave us a landing time of 10:14. Despite out best efforts of cajolement with ATC, back door attempts through our company handler Toll Dnata and Virgin Blue Domestic Ops (who we confused the hell out of : “V-OZ what? We only handle the Domestic Side… you’ll be parking at International… call them.”)

So after the usual multiple step descents and vectoring, with the assistance of Dave and Paul I was finally descending nicely through about 900 feet on the ILS when we broke clear of cloud. I remember a VB 737 being cleared into position on the runway at this point, and as I was making a mental note of how close we might be, the VB pilot came back to ATC and said “Ma’am, if it’s okay we’d like to remain here and watch the Triple Seven land.” The female ATC Tower Controller came straight back and said “No problem – delays we can do.” Someone with a sense of occasion and someone with a sense of humour… fabulous.

The wind was 20 kts or so down the runway-ish and the viz below cloud pretty good. As soon as I was confident of the runway (799 feet) I disconnected and we continued down manually. The landing was a good one, I think… not a greaser, but in the right place. As we trundled down the runway towards the high speed we saw the cameras left and right, and a chopper overhead taking photos and video. Taxi and parking was cool as we passed by two Qantas aircraft being held for us.

As we rolled to a stop and set the parking brake, once the engines were off Dave and I rolled down our windows and got out the Australian Flags. We waved them madly at the V Staff in the aerobridge which to my delight included Phil Warth. At this point the ground engineer called the flight deck. “Yes Ground” I said. “This is your AQIS inspector ? CLOSE THOSE WINDOWS.” Oops. It appears I may have contaminated the country by opening the window prior to spraying. Don’t tell anyone.

It took about 90 minutes to get to the VB lounge at domestic, and on the way I met up with Meg who had flown up that morning to be there. I managed to finagle Meg a pass into the lounge event and, unfortunately, we arrived just as the speeches had ended. Damn.

I bumped into one of the PR reps and asked what was happening next. She said they were about to start bussing people out to the aircraft for tours. I asked if she wanted a pilot in the flight deck for the tours, and she said yes… so off I went on the first bus. On arrival at the aircraft there were dozens of pilots – mostly Cruise FO’s – lined up as an honour guard for people coming to tour the aircraft, waving American flags. It was very moving for me to walk down that line of all of you, shaking hands and recognising familiar face after familiar face. Everyone, we’ve done it, the plane is here.

Like in LAX I saw dozens and dozens of individuals who were delighted to find open (supervised) access to the flight deck, and a willing photographer to take a picture of them at the controls of a 777-300ER.

About half way through this Meg cam onboard and sat in the 2nd jump seat for a while. About two thirds of the way through we began to encounter mostly staff, then the pilots and cabin crew who have volunteered for escort duty that day. You’ll see lots of photos of our pilots sitting in the left seat in the pictures I took; these were just those who didn’t have cameras.

Eventually we ran out of visitors and left the aircraft in time to catch the last bus. Meg and I headed back to the lounge to collect our things, have a bite to eat and wait for the next Melbourne flight. It was 3:30pm. In the lounge I caught up with my crew for a chat, and bumped into many of the flight deck visitors I’d seen earlier that day.

All in all, it’s been an experience I will never forget. The first aircraft is the culmination of a lot of work from all of us, and hopefully the beginning of something much, much bigger.


The following is the anthology of associated posts. Note they become active (approximately) 10 years after the original events. So you can wait until they all drop to read them all in sequence – or read them as they come down. Or not!

  1. 03.Feb.2009 03:30 : Off into The Night
  2. 03.Feb.2009 07:00 : Melbourne Airport
  3. 03.Feb.2009 09:00 : Sydney (Outbound!)
  4. 03.Feb.2009 16:35 : Auckland
  5. 04.Feb.2009 13:30 : Los Angeles
  6. 03.Feb.2009 17:00 : Seattle
  7. 04.Feb.2009 17:00 : A Day in Seattle
  8. 04.Feb.2009 23:00 : Party Time!
  9. 05.Feb.2009 12:00 : Seattle Tour
  10. 05.Feb.2009 19:00 : Delivery Party
  11. 06.Feb.2009 12:30 : First Flight – Seattle Boeing Field BFI – Los Angeles LAX
  12. 06.Feb.2009 12:30 : Down to the Checkered Flag
  13. 09.Feb.2009 10:30 : VA9090 LAX-SYD – We Have An Airline

 

V Australia 777 Delivery Flight : #12 Down to the Checkered Flag – 12:30L 06Feb09

In February 2009 I was part of the team that picked up Virgin Australia’s (then V Australia) first Boeing 777-300ER. Having arrived into the airline in June 2008, it had been a long 7 months – very long – but now we were about to get an aeroplane – and fly it. For the benefit of those in the team that couldn’t come along (and we took a lot of them with us!) – I blogged the journey on our internal website all those years ago. Ten years later – to the day – these are those blogs.

Google Photo Album


This is part twelve of the V Australia Boeing 777 Delivery Flight series. We pick up the day before delivering V Australia’s first Boeing 777 to Australia.

After the kerfuffle yesterday, last night I had a quiet meal with Dave, Paul, Kev, Andy, Marto and our CASA friends Clive and Paul. After that, I headed back to the Hotel, ran through the urgent mail, uploaded the last three days of blog entries, and hit the sack. I think it was about 1 am that I went head down, and I’d had it – the last week has been full on. I left my mobile on but didn’t set an alarm, figuring a sleep til lunch time would do me good.

At 3:30pm I rolled out of bed and looked at the laptop and mobile (which I had slept through). Tonight has turned from a PR event towards a Simulator LOE challenge. One thing I didn’t mention yesterday was that we dispatched out of Boeing BFI with a centre tank fuel pump U/S. Yes, the plane actually is brand new, they didn’t swap us a repainted one at the last minute. I think.

Those of you with access to the MEL will know that LAX-SYD with only one centre tank pump inoperative is a vastly different exercise from yesterday’s little hop. We had all hoped the pump would be fixed and all efforts (including cannibalising another aircraft) have been made – so far to no avail. I should stop at this point and thank the engineering team who I know have been flat out trying to fix it since we left the aircraft yesterday for the comfort of the hotel.

An additional complication at the moment is the lack of SATCOM on the aircraft. Essentially we could not get any satellite communications to work yesterday, despite our best efforts. Should this reamain – we’ll be using HF (High Frequency Radio) to communicate with ATC and the Company across the Pacific – much like the WW2 bombers you see in the movies (same technology). This problem has also had all sorts of resources thrown at it last night, so far to no avail. Although the SATCOM has worked over the past week, it did not for yesterdays flight. Loss of SATCOM takes out the FANS/CPDLC capability of the aircraft (good thing we have four very experienced HF users on the aircraft – thanks to Mumbai Radio) and we’ve probably lost the ability to communicate through ACARS with the company as well, once we’re out of VHF range. On a normal flight this becomes quite a chore. With the scenarios CASA is going to throw at us, and the information and communication that will be required to solve problems – it’s going to require some ingenuity and work.

This proving flight has been an educational exercise for all concerned. Hopefully, all the nooks and crannies we’re now exposing will go a long way towards making our actual launch on the 27th a far smoother affair.

Individually and in combination, these defects are acceptable for dispatch, with some fairly heavy performance restrictions that have kept Tech and Nav Services busy as well. I now have John Bennett and Phil Warth on speed dial (poor guys). I plan to tell CASA tonight to put their books away – we have a scenario that’s far more interesting and unusual than any they could dream up!

The pickup has been brought back an hour, the earlier the arrival at the airport the better apparently. I’ve sent Meg a ticket and I’m hoping she can manage to get to Sydney to meet up with me after I escape the arrival celebrations.

Tonight and tomorrow is the payoff for all our hard work. Tomorrow we’ll have an aircraft over the skies of Australia, the first of many, I’m sure. For myself, I am humbled and appreciative of the privilege to be out front of the team that takes us all in V to the next step towards line operation.

Waiting for me in LA – an Indianna Jones hat to go with the Uniform.

I hope to see some of you in the morning in Sydney. Thanks for all the comments of support!


The following is the anthology of associated posts. Note they become active (approximately) 10 years after the original events. So you can wait until they all drop to read them all in sequence – or read them as they come down. Or not!

  1. 03.Feb.2009 03:30 : Off into The Night
  2. 03.Feb.2009 07:00 : Melbourne Airport
  3. 03.Feb.2009 09:00 : Sydney (Outbound!)
  4. 03.Feb.2009 16:35 : Auckland
  5. 04.Feb.2009 13:30 : Los Angeles
  6. 03.Feb.2009 17:00 : Seattle
  7. 04.Feb.2009 17:00 : A Day in Seattle
  8. 04.Feb.2009 23:00 : Party Time!
  9. 05.Feb.2009 12:00 : Seattle Tour
  10. 05.Feb.2009 19:00 : Delivery Party
  11. 06.Feb.2009 12:30 : First Flight – Seattle Boeing Field BFI – Los Angeles LAX
  12. 07.Feb.2009 12:30 : Down to the Checkered Flag
  13. 09.Feb.2009 10:30 : VA9090 LAX-SYD – We Have An Airline

 

V Australia 777 Delivery Flight : #11 First Flight – Seattle BFI – Los Angeles LAX – 12:30L 07Feb09

In February 2009 I was part of the team that picked up Virgin Australia’s (then V Australia) first Boeing 777-300ER. Having arrived into the airline in June 2008, it had been a long 7 months – very long – but now we were about to get an aeroplane – and fly it. For the benefit of those in the team that couldn’t come along (and we took a lot of them with us!) – I blogged the journey on our internal website all those years ago. Ten years later – to the day – these are those blogs.

Google Photo Album


Part Eleven of the V Australia Boeing 777 Delivery Flight blog has us finally flying our first aircraft.

The Big Bird Flies

After a late(ish) finish last night, I joined the cabin crew at 06:15am to be out at the aircraft in the early twilight hours. While the flight crew pickup was scheduled for 8:00am I couldn’t resist joining the cabin crew who were going to the plane early to complete their aircraft familiarisation training before today’s pre-departure festivities. While getting out of bed at 5am this morning (midnight body clock time? – I don’t know anymore …) was hard work – from the time the lift doors opened and the first cabin crew member joined me in the foyer, the excitement has just kept on building. The crew are just so motivated and thrilled to be here – and so am I!

Of course nothing goes to plan, and on a delivery flight, I was always expecting the unexpected – so when I received a call from a Boeing engineer to the effect that when they powered the aircraft up this morning, the upper display unit (DU, one of the Electronic Flight Instruments Displays that provides the engine instrumentation) was un-serviceable – I took it in stride.

While I was fairly certain, I broke out my laptop and checked the Maintenance Procedures DDG (don’t tell anyone I referred to a “non-controlled document”) – as long as we swapped Upper for Lower, we could go. If you’re like me, you’re thinking – “We’re parked at Boeing!they MUST have spares!” And you’d be right – except that the aircraft is technically “delivered” now and Boeing don’t deal in direct spares to the aircraft. Paperwork, Paperwork, Paperwork.

With no one present except the Boeing crew preparing for the event we headed straight to the plane, and there she was as beautiful as we’d been led to expect. Of course, I could be biased – it’s been 8 months since I’ve stepped into a real plane. Simulators are excellent for retaining currency, but there’s nothing like the real thing. We arrived at Boeing and walked through the “Party” area where the delivery ceremony is to be – it’s all set out as a beach set, with coloured balls, surfboards and the Boeing crew in windbreakers (did I get that right?) with “Life Guard” emblazoned across them. Lots of tropical drinks and tropical nibbles.

While I discussed the DU with the engineer, Nikki Thorn our manager of Cabin Crew hopped in first, then set herself up to take a picture of all the crew placing their foot over the door sill – all at once. All the operating cabin crew boarded the aircraft at the same time (Nikki has the picture) how fabulous is that?

I ran around discussing the likelihood of a replacement DU with Boeing, and eventually woke up poor Phil Warth in Brisbane (say, 1 am Australian EST?) to put him on the case. It took over 3 hours (which is a measure of the degree of paperwork ‘flexibility’ required) but a replacement DU arrived and was fitted.

I toured the aircraft with the crew and looked for differences from what I’m used to. The cabin is excellent, with shades of purple (Meg’s favourite colour) all through the premium cabin (do you think that’s a sign that I’ll be able to buy her staff tickets there?).

I also inspected the Bulk and Main cargo holds for security. Flight Crew rest DOES have IFE (sadly not the cabin crew rest though) and the rest area seems to be all it was reported to be. Interestingly the bunks have a slight tail up tilt, which I’ve not encountered so markedly before. EACH bed has TWO oxygen masks. Hmmm.

Lisa from Boeing volunteered to model the crew rest area for me. All the Boeing staff have been fantastic – they’ve bent over backwards to help me personally on both operational and personal requests. Their involvement has been a true highlight of the trip for me.

The bar is very cool with its own pop down oxygen supply for decompression, although it caused some consternation when Natalie noticed that each of the PSU’s had little “INOP” stickers on them.

I discussed it for a while with the Boeing guys, who decided they were put on at Boeing when there was no bar, the bar was put in at Victorville, and the stickers were left in place. I asked them to open the PSU’s and check there were present and serviceable, then to remove the stickers.

That’s when the fun started – the Boeing guys must have spent 20 minutes trying to open either PSU. Normally there’s a little tiny hole and while there’s a tool to do it, pretty much any old stick will pop them down.

Instead, these PSU’s had a little slot, and the Boeing guys had odd little strong plastic strips that fit in the slot and would hook on the catch inside and pop them out. Well, that was the plan … but 20 minutes later they didn’t have it open. I missed this bit, but they then “got creative” and managed to get them open without damage – PSU’s present and serviceable. They closed them up, removed the stickers – and there were the holes you can stick anything into to open the PSU!

The crew meanwhile had headed back into the Hanger for some PR. A couple of VERY understanding cabin crew were given a … ahem … special uniform for the event. I’ve since reached the conclusion that while our current cabin crew uniforms may be stylish and functional – they do not do our crew justice! Only at V … Only for V!

It was round about this time I struck Don Moloney (V Engineering) who has been faithfully following the aircraft around the States, nursing it through various ills with Mick. He was morosely working through maintenance documentation and staring at an EICAS status message which was a no go item. It was electrical, so after much part checking/swapping/changing, we eventually powered down the aircraft completely for 20 minutes, then powered it up in the hope that the problem would go away (believe it or not – a valid, documented maintenance procedure apparently – I believe they got it from Bill Gates).

Well, the message was still there. Things were looking bad, we were an hour before departure and Brett Godfrey was being held in limbo between the speech that would launch us all onto the plane, and the speech that would take us back to a hotel. It was then noticed that “ELMS P210 PANEL” had, in fact, become “ELMS P210 CHANNEL” which had no dispatch limitation.

Suddenly it was all on for young and old – they rolled back the hangar doors (we were parked just outside) to reveal the plane that would be taking them all to LAX. Nothing like last minute drama to add to the adrenaline of the event.

Passenger boarding seemed to involve an inordinate number of visits to the flight deck, which we took with good humour. At this point, nothing could dampen our spirits, although we knew we were on a tightening schedule.

Dave Kienzle flew the aircraft to LAX, with Clive from CASA on the jump seat. Andy Grierson and Craig “Marto” Martin assisted us greatly and ran interference for us with the cabin as well. Brisbane backed us up with Maintenance, Flight Documents and Loadsheet support. Boeing were there for all sorts of things. It really was a team effort – no more of this two pilot stuff for me. There were a number of operational issues to discuss – wet runway, long taxi, jet blast an issue because of the hanger/the crowd and because we had to start taxi with a tight turn, mountainous terrain – it was all there. But start, taxi and takeoff – and indeed the flight – were routine – and thoroughly enjoyable – from that point on. So good to be back in the real job again. The aircraft flew well – you’re all going to love flying her.

Descent and Approach were also pretty standard into LAX – other than icing in the cloud and bouts of moderate rain all around LAX. It actually started raining over the field about 30 minutes after we parked, and didn’t stop for quite some time. Despite some rocky turbulence very low to the ground, and an autocallout that forgot about forty feet, Dave pulled off a greaser in a gusty crosswind.

We landed on RW25L and cleared on A7 – right at the display area (who’s wooster was that?) and waited for a tug to tow us in. Flight Deck windows down and Australian Flags were out. It looked like a thousand people were there to greet us, along with a marching band and cheer leaders (this is LA after all).

Sir Richard went for his much reported wing walk ala champagne frizz – although Marto had to first roll out the rubber matt because no one else would go out there and do it!

Brett Godfrey popped his head in just after shut down, thanked and congratulated us and gave Dave a very nice keyring from Boeing. Someone later asked about the key ring and I told them that the reason we were slightly delayed from Boeing Field was because no one could find the key to the aircraft. Apparently they believed me and that story has rolled up in a few places since. In hindsight, probably not a good idea to joke about that!

Then all our passengers wandered up and down the plane for 20 minutes, then all got off for an hour, then a couple hundred got back on at L1, mostly industry related people, who wandered up and down the aircraft admiringly.

I sat in the FO’s seat and took pictures of anyone wanting their picture taken in the Captain’s seat of a 777. I must have snapped off at least a hundred photos for people, and chatted with prospective passengers about all sorts of aviation (and non-aviation) related things, not to mention taking pictures for the 20 or so who didn’t have their camera – hence the odd people in my online picasa album, sitting in a 777 flight deck.

Paul Halpin and Kev Beard were waiting at LAX and eventually fought their way the wrong way through the crowd to the plane. We all caught up during the lull between loads and munched a few crew sandwiches.

By now it was almost seven o’clock and the public had mostly moved on with their lives. We wearily gathered our things and got out of the plane, stopping only to take the obligatory crew Engine pictures before continuing on. I have yet to have my picture taken in the nacelle of a 777 GE engine, but it will happen one day soon I hope.

Tomorrow is the Universal Studios tour. For me however, after the whirlwind of the last four days, I’m looking forward to a quiet day in the Hotel and trying to catch up on some of the work that has been piling up.

The CASA EDTO review was cancelled this evening (thanks to all who helped “manage” that) and it will take place on the LAX-SYD flight instead, so tomorrow will also involve some study. Tomorrow evening will bring dinner a Bubba Gump Shrimp for the non-crew travelers, while the rest of us head out to get the aircraft ready to go.

Today felt like the culmination of an awful lot of work and for me – a grand moment in my personal career. On a personal note, I’d like to thank Phil Warth and others in BNE who probably got no sleep at all last night because of the shenanigans on the aircraft this morning.

Tomorrow night’s flight, which will include a flyby of the harbor bridge on the way into Sydney (weather permitting) will be the icing on the cake.


The following is the anthology of associated posts. Note they become active (approximately) 10 years after the original events. So you can wait until they all drop to read them all in sequence – or read them as they come down. Or not!

  1. 03.Feb.2009 03:30 : Off into The Night
  2. 03.Feb.2009 07:00 : Melbourne Airport
  3. 03.Feb.2009 09:00 : Sydney (Outbound!)
  4. 03.Feb.2009 16:35 : Auckland
  5. 04.Feb.2009 13:30 : Los Angeles
  6. 03.Feb.2009 17:00 : Seattle
  7. 04.Feb.2009 17:00 : A Day in Seattle
  8. 04.Feb.2009 23:00 : Party Time!
  9. 05.Feb.2009 12:00 : Seattle Tour
  10. 05.Feb.2009 19:00 : Delivery Party
  11. 06.Feb.2009 12:30 : First Flight – Seattle Boeing Field BFI – Los Angeles LAX
  12. 07.Feb.2009 12:30 : Down to the Checkered Flag
  13. 09.Feb.2009 10:30 : VA9090 LAX-SYD – We Have An Airline

 

V Australia 777 Delivery Flight : #10 Delivery Party – 19:00L 05Feb09

In February 2009 I was part of the team that picked up Virgin Australia’s (then V Australia) first Boeing 777-300ER. Having arrived into the airline in June 2008, it had been a long 7 months – very long – but now we were about to get an aeroplane – and fly it. For the benefit of those in the team that couldn’t come along (and we took a lot of them with us!) – I blogged the journey on our internal website all those years ago. Ten years later – to the day – these are those blogs.

Google Photo Album


Part Ten of the V Australia Boeing 777 Delivery Flight blog has us wining and dining with Virgin royalty.

I was barely packed and organised when I had to get ready for the pickup to the big function this evening. This was the one where Sir Richard Branson was coming, along with Brett Godfrey, Scott Swift and a host of other Virgin who’s who – this was the biggie. With Alcohol.

A quick photo in the foyer and we were off. Another quick photo when we got there, and in we went.

Delivery10 1 Delivery10 2

Several busses drove us to the function hall which was decked out for the occasion. Tasteful hors d’oeuvres accompanied free-flowing drinks until the VIPs rolled up and we all sat.

Delivery10 3 Delivery10 4 Delivery10 7

The dinner was excellent and came in several small courses that were interspersed with chat as people moved from table to table to meet and greet.

I met and chatted with several people from all areas of our industry – ILFC, Macquarie Bank, AAPT, ATW. It was fascinating and not a little daunting, although everyone I met was genuinely great to talk to. I spoke at length with an elderly couple who live in Canada but come from the Uk. It was quite some time – and several visits – before I found out they were Brett Godfrey’s In-laws (what stories could I have heard there had I known!)

Sir Richard (who’d just go off a plane) to his credit worked the room meeting as many people as he could, having lots of photos taken with V/VB employees from all walks of life. The man was tireless.

Brett Godfrey also worked the room and spoke personally to many people from his company. The night was great fun and a real eye-opener for someone like myself who has come from a company with a completely different culture.

Eventually, it had to end. Boeing wound it down with an invitation to a bar called Cowgirls Inc – something of a Seattle Institution and a Boeing favourite, judging by the way I saw one of their senior exec’s riding the electric bull!. I won’t speak more about the rest evening, I’ll just leave you with these two photos.

Delivery10 8 Delivery10 9

Tomorrow is the Boeing Field to LAX flight – where all the planning, preparation and effort that has gone into the last few days to my benefit – instead becomes part of my responsibilities. Dave and I are ready, and can’t wait. Some sleep would be nice first though!


The following is the anthology of associated posts. Note they become active (approximately) 10 years after the original events. So you can wait until they all drop to read them all in sequence – or read them as they come down. Or not!

  1. 03.Feb.2009 03:30 : Off into The Night
  2. 03.Feb.2009 07:00 : Melbourne Airport
  3. 03.Feb.2009 09:00 : Sydney (Outbound!)
  4. 03.Feb.2009 16:35 : Auckland
  5. 04.Feb.2009 13:30 : Los Angeles
  6. 03.Feb.2009 17:00 : Seattle
  7. 04.Feb.2009 17:00 : A Day in Seattle
  8. 04.Feb.2009 23:00 : Party Time!
  9. 05.Feb.2009 12:00 : Seattle Tour
  10. 05.Feb.2009 19:00 : Delivery Party
  11. 06.Feb.2009 12:30 : First Flight – Seattle Boeing Field BFI – Los Angeles LAX
  12. 07.Feb.2009 12:30 : Down to the Checkered Flag
  13. 09.Feb.2009 10:30 : VA9090 LAX-SYD – We Have An Airline

 

B777 Engine Failure on Takeoff (EFATO)

Engine Failure on Takeoff (Read : Sudden Bang, Vibration, Fire, Smoke, Fire Bells and other Cautions and Warnings) at the most critical point on Takeoff (V1) is pretty ubiquitous in our Check and Training regime and our Regulatory Matrix. We pretty much see at least two of them (One for You … Ta … One for Me … Thanks …) every six months in the Simulator, from somewhere in the middle of our initial Type Rating through the end of our Airline Career. Given with engine reliability they way it is these days, most pilots are never likely to see an Engine Malfunction of any sort – let along the sudden and complete loss of thrust at the critical moment on Takeoff … it seems a pity with all that training and preparation that we don’t get to see this event in the aircraft. Ok, perhaps not.

Anyway – the Procedures and Techniques document has and entire chapter on EFATO; and the following training presentation encapsulates much of that content:

To provide a little more content – here’s some of the content from the P&T, which can be downloaded from the front page of Infinidim.org

Engine Failure on Takeoff – Overview Diagram

This diagram overviews a sequence profile for Engine related NNM’s during takeoff and must not be extrapolated across the spectrum of other takeoff NNMs or other phases of flight – refer to the Boeing FCTM/ QRH.

Engine Failure on Takeoff Diagram Notes

  • Between A/Thr HOLD  and lift-off, only manual advancement of thrust is available. Once airborne the TO/GA Switches are available. It is acceptable to push the thrust levers forward below 400ft to increase thrust and still preserve LNAV/VNAV engagement. The A/Thr re‑engages at 400 ft AAL if VNAV engages and re-sets any de-rated takeoff thrust.
  • PM may call “Engine Problem” or the relevant EICAS message during takeoff – however nothing should prejudice the requirement for “Rotate” and “Positive Rate” from the PM.
  • If performance is marginal and PF is struggling with flight control, PM can consider a call of “TOGA Thrust Available” at the appropriate time.
  • If the PF is observed to be trimming with TAC available, a call of “TAC is Available” can be a helpful reminder not to trim / or to cancel any manual trim inputs.
  • AP engagement is strongly encouraged above 200 ft with flight path and performance stabilised. The aircraft does not have to be trimmed, but should be In Trim before AP engagement.
  • Apart from rudder pedal feedback, TAC failure will be indicated by EICAS after the takeoff inhibit ends (approx 200 ft). If the aircraft is accidentally trimmed with TAC engaged, use of the Manual Trim Cancel Switch will remove pilot trim inputs.
  • The correct technique for manual trimming achieves Control Wheel Neutral, with a slight angle of bank towards the live engine.
  • TOGA Thrust should applied as required by flight path and performance, by the PF. PM may suggest as appropriate. While FMA HOLD  is active, the thrust levers can be moved forwards by the PF without TOGA Switch use.
  • If TOGA lateral tracking is incorrect, one option is to steer the required track and re-select TOGA. Note this will deselect LNAV/VNAV arming/engagement.
  • The “400“ ft (RA) call is a lateral awareness standard call. During EFATO this call serves to remind the PF to consider the EOSID and the APFD modes required to follow them – such as runway track/track select when the normal departure LNAV/SID requires otherwise.
  • EOP/EOSID Navigation takes priority over failure assessment and checklist/memory items.
  • The AFDS limits bank angle engine out (HDG/TRK SEL in AUTO) to 15° until V2+10 kts, then increases to 25° at V2+20 – unless in LNAV. If full manoeuvring is required in HDG/TRK Select, the bank angle selector must be utilised to increase the limiting bank angle.
  • Engine Out Procedures are based on still air, speed between V2+15 and 200 Kts, with an angle of bank varying with increasing airspeed above V2+15. The EOSID is commenced irrespective of achieving engine out acceleration height, depending on EOSID specification.
  • Engine Out Acceleration takes place at a minimum of 1000 ft AAL, or higher as specified by takeoff performance calculation. Second Segment climb can be extended in order to complete checklist memory items – see 14 Acceleration, Configuration and Memory Items
  • The second segment (2) can be extended using Speed Intervention. Remember to cancel Speed Intervention when Memory Items are complete.
  • TOGA thrust is limited to 10 minutes from EGT above 1050°C (CON Thrust). Also Max of (N1 %110.5 or N2 %121.0) [see AFM]
  • If the 10 minute thrust limit is reached, CON thrust can be selected in order to avoid exceeding certified thrust limits, terrain permitting.
  • CON thrust is not set until Flaps are selected Up and Vref 30+80 (UP speed) reached. In basic modes use FLCH or A/Thr CLB/CON
  • Crew should consider terrain clearance before commencing a sequence of NNM checklists. However this does not require reaching MSA or LSALT prior to continuing with the NNM.
  • The “Short Term Plan” is used to manage short term flight path and navigation requirements between Clean/CON and completion of the NNM checklists. Typically the short term plan will conform to that briefed during the Departure Briefing and cover items such as immediate tracking/altitude requirements, any likely need to hold/jettison and general intent of destination. NNM checklists NOTES may well change these considerations.

Engine Failure After Takeoff (EFATO) – Pitch Attitude

Students are often taught during engine out training to target a pitch attitude of anything from 8° to 12° after takeoff rotation. This is because a pitch attitude more than this usually results in a subsequent loss of airspeed to V2 (or below) and a necessarily correcting pitch change to recover. Typically, engine failures in the simulator are practiced at maximum landing weight with de-rated thrust.

It is common (in the simulator) to see a student pitch to about 12° after an EFATO which initially results in a stable speed – but then as the Landing Gear retracts the speed decays and a pitch attitude at or below 8° is usually required (with an associated loss of climb performance) to recover. Typically, this recovery manoeuvre is necessary just as the student has commenced trimming the aircraft – hence the previous admonishment to aim for 10°.

However, the Boeing FCTM is quite specific in this area. It should be noted that Boeing FCTM guidance is intended to cover the full operating envelope of the aircraft – from lower weight take-offs with high thrust settings, to higher weight take-offs with de-rated thrust. Engine out takeoff rotation should have the following characteristics.

  • Flight director pitch commands are not used for rotation.
  • Rotation at ½° per second less than normal (i.e. 1½° to 2° per second)
  • Towards a pitch attitude 2° to 3° below the normal all engine target (i.e. 12° to 13° Nose Up)
  • Lift-off should be achieved in about 5 seconds (1 second more than that for All Engine) with a typical lift-off attitude of 9°
  • Once Airborne, adjust pitch attitude to maintain desired speed (V2 to V2+15 knots) – note that shortly after airborne this is the guidance the Flight Directors should provide.

As such, it is incorrect to teach (or target) a pitch attitude of 8° to 10° for EFATO – not the least of which because this may delay lift-off. The best advice regarding this issue is to follow the FCTM rotation guidance. Then once airborne, fly the aircraft until the gear is fully retracted and the pitch attitude and speed stable, before commencing a distraction such as trimming.

Beware of the flight director indications until you have achieved this stability – continue to fly attitude and airspeed until fully airborne and stable. At this point the Flight Directors provide guidance to achieve V2 to V2+15 and are valid for use. Note that if the aircraft is allowed to slow to less than V2 the Flight Directors may well command a descent to recover the speed. Finally, the increase in drag associated with gear retraction can be just the factor that turns a slightly high pitch attitude with a stable airspeed into an airspeed below V2 event.

EFATO – Trimming

Boeing specifically delineate the rudder trim as in the PF’s area of responsibility. As such the technique of the PF asking the PM to set a specific number or trim units is clearly against the intent of the Boeing SOP, and not encouraged by Manufacturer SOPs.

This technique comes generally from an observation during EFATO simulator training of the PF reaching for the rudder trim shortly after rotation and either (a) focusing on the trim to the detriment of aircraft flight path control; or (b) trimming in the wrong direction.

This issue is usually the result of unfamiliarity with the rudder trim control (a training issue); or the tendency of the PF to trim too early after an engine failure.

The solution to this is usually to delay trimming until the aircraft is stabilised, in trim (sufficient rudder deflection to centralise the control wheel) and climbing adequately. Trimming prior to this point (and prior to the completion of the gear retraction cycle) is usually premature.

A suggested technique is to first concentrate on flying the aircraft to 200 ft RA. This is the earliest point that the AP can be engaged – if the aircraft is under control, climbing adequately and in trim (rudder input sufficient to result in zero control wheel input); the AP should be engaged. Then make a conscious decision to review the need for trimming (has the TAC failed?) and deliberately establish a trim setting appropriate to the rudder demand. Typically by 200 ft the EICAS inhibit has ended, and while it would be inappropriate to start running Checklists at this stage, a quick look can confirm the status of the TAC if there’s any doubt, rather than peremptorily releasing the rudder.

There are a number of home-brew techniques for trimming such as using Fuel Flow on the operating engine as a numeric guide (14 tons/hour needs 14 units); or approximate trim settings (Climb : 12; Cruise : 6; Descent : 3 Units) which generally work well enough – but essentially sufficient trim achieves control wheel neutral with a slight angle of bank and small displacement of the slip indicator towards the live engine.

Engine Stall & Surge – at Idle

The Engine Limit / Surge / Stall NNM checklist memory items often complete with the engine at idle thrust and the engine still stalling/surging. Any further memory action by the crew should only be contemplated if flight safety is considered at risk. From the design of the checklist, Boeing clearly don’t consider a stalling/surging engine at idle thrust a threat to flight safety or the checklist would continue the memory items to engine shutdown.

The technique of continuing the checklist by memory to Fuel Control SwitchCUTOFF to secure an engine that’s stalling/surging at idle is not recommended unless the safety of the aircraft is at risk, which would be unusual for a surging/stalling engine at idle thrust. Complete the memory items as scripted, accelerate and clean up (takeoff scenario) and when clean/CON – then run the NNM checklist to secure the engine.

CON Thrust … VNAV ENG OUT

The Boeing FCOM/FCTM stipulates the selection of <ENG OUT on the CDU VNAV page once the Flaps are selected UP and CON thrust is set. This is a relatively new step, as traditionally the selection of VNAV – ENG OUT was left to the crew, who would usually only select it for diversions to ensure appropriate speed/altitude recommendations and predictions from the FMC for longer distance flying.

Selecting ENG OUT at this point will change the VNAV speed, typically increasing speed above UP speed to a higher value for climb to cruise. If this is not desired the selection of speed intervention by the PF prior to execution of the modification retain speed control to the PF. When the PM is actioning the FMC VNAV ENG OUT – calling any changed altitude (when above ENG OUT Maximum Altitude) and the change in SPD is a good situational awareness promoting habit.

In Conclusion

There is more than one way to skin a cat and while I’m no necessarily interested in Cat-i-cide, I am interested to learn about other techniques used in your airline to teach and conduct engine failure and engine failure on takeoff. Feel free to send me feedback on what is here – and don’t forget to check out the link to the Procedures and Techniques document on the front page.

Ken.


Contributions Welcome

You may have noticed that I’ve included a PayPal link on my web site. As I move more away from developing company documentation and focus back on Infinidim, I have included a link to my US PayPal account for anyone who may wish to offset some of the time and cost associated with maintaining my content. Many of you have expressed thanks and a willingness to contribute to my efforts towards content, and development and maintenance of the EBA Overtime/Allowance and ATO Allowance Tax calculator – here’s your chance. I won’t be charging for anything I do or offer to others; but if you feel like throwing a few USD towards my efforts – that would be lovely, thanks.


 

V Australia 777 Delivery Flight : #9 Seattle Tour – 12:00L 05Feb09

In February 2009 I was part of the team that picked up Virgin Australia’s (then V Australia) first Boeing 777-300ER. Having arrived into the airline in June 2008, it had been a long 7 months – very long – but now we were about to get an aeroplane – and fly it. For the benefit of those in the team that couldn’t come along (and we took a lot of them with us!) – I blogged the journey on our internal website all those years ago. Ten years later – to the day – these are those blogs.

Google Photo Album


The latest instalment of the V Australia Boeing 777 Delivery Flight series takes us around Seattle – including the Boeing shop.

Today we saw Seattle – but mostly the Boeing Shop.

This morning we were collected at 9am by Boeing for a Seattle bus tour. Since I hadn’t managed to get to bed until extremely late (the pub with the piano accordionist booted us out at 2am and the evening didn’t end there), it was not easy getting up for it. Quite a few didn’t show, and many of those that did succumb to the odd nod off on the way. I can, however, report that the Fairmont Olympic Hotel in Seattle does an Eggs Benedict that is almost as good as Megs.

Seattle is a pretty place in which much of the architecture and housing reflects it’s colonial fishing village origin. Very green of course (lots and lots of rain apparently). Our tour guide was a veritable font of information, so much so that I can no longer remember anything she said. We stopped at several places before returning to the hotel to collect the morning’s stragglers (including the redoubtable Charisma) to head to the Boeing shop at Boeing Field.

While I was really looking forward to it, everyone else was like kids in a candy store. The Boeing staff took one look at us all piling into the shop and gave us 10% off on the spot. I shopped eclectically, but specifically purchase a Lego 787 for Griffin (11) who I’m hoping will let me play (er) build it with him.

Back to the Hotel, I met up with Dave Kienzle and we spent the afternoon reviewing the plans for the next day’s flight. I could not find adequate details on the parking at the Air Museum at LAX, and resorted to a google earth/map image of the area, including cutting and pasting a 747 from elsewhere on the airfield to see how tight things would be. We were still unsure about many details of the flight, including whether we were being towed onto stand or taxi in, and what marshallers would be available. Much of this stuff has been take-it-on-faith, which as you might understand does not lead to high comfort levels for pilots. Cabin crew, on the other hand, take this kind of thing in stride and deal with what comes. Probably a lesson in there.

This evening is the 100 guest (not so) formal ball with Sir Richard and other veeps. I hope to be packed and ready to leave the hotel before the event, because it’s bound to go late and tomorrow’s pickup is 8am.


The following is the anthology of associated posts. Note they become active (approximately) 10 years after the original events. So you can wait until they all drop to read them all in sequence – or read them as they come down. Or not!

  1. 03.Feb.2009 03:30 : Off into The Night
  2. 03.Feb.2009 07:00 : Melbourne Airport
  3. 03.Feb.2009 09:00 : Sydney (Outbound!)
  4. 03.Feb.2009 16:35 : Auckland
  5. 04.Feb.2009 13:30 : Los Angeles
  6. 03.Feb.2009 17:00 : Seattle
  7. 04.Feb.2009 17:00 : A Day in Seattle
  8. 04.Feb.2009 23:00 : Party Time!
  9. 05.Feb.2009 12:00 : Seattle Tour
  10. 05.Feb.2009 19:00 : Delivery Party
  11. 06.Feb.2009 12:30 : First Flight – Seattle Boeing Field BFI – Los Angeles LAX
  12. 07.Feb.2009 12:30 : Down to the Checkered Flag
  13. 09.Feb.2009 10:30 : VA9090 LAX-SYD – We Have An Airline

 

V Australia 777 Delivery Flight : #8 Party Time! – 23:00L 04Feb09

In February 2009 I was part of the team that picked up Virgin Australia’s (then V Australia) first Boeing 777-300ER. Having arrived into the airline in June 2008, it had been a long 7 months – very long – but now we were about to get an aeroplane – and fly it. For the benefit of those in the team that couldn’t come along (and we took a lot of them with us!) – I blogged the journey on our internal website all those years ago. Ten years later – to the day – these are those blogs.

Google Photo Album


Part Eight of the V Australia Boeing 777 Delivery Flight series is all about the coming together of crew in Seattle and the beginnings of our journey home. The latest instalment of the V Australia Boeing 777 Delivery Flight series takes us to a party at The Crab Pot Seattle.

Two busses took us to the Crab Pot Restaurant down by the waterfront promptly at 6 this evening. Present were the competition winners and a number of V people, as well as reps from Boeing (who were sponsoring the evening) and we were joined later in the evening by the Crew who will be operating the flights back later this week. Richard Branson, Brett Godfrey and Scott Swift were at another function, I believe, no doubt more swanky but probably less fun …

Boeing went to town paying for the entire evening (including alcohol) as well as some free gifts. I talked with several Boeing reps during the evening, as well as a few journalists from ATW and others. The feeling I get from Boeing is that during these times (post GFC), they’re pleased by any aircraft delivery – but are particularly pleased to be associated with the launch of a new airline.

The Boeing Sales head there was particularly strident about that aspect – he reminded me how fortunate we all are to be part of this launch. It’s starting really to hit home now how fortunate indeed I am to be part of this delivery, part of this launch, part of this team.

I laughed at the “Subject To Regulatory Approval” comment at the bottom of the sign out front of the restaurant – then I remembered this Friday night’s grilling from CASA.

I’m sure there will be a few familiar faces here. There were only minor efforts at PR and speeches – everybody concentrated on having a good time instead.

Delivery8 1 Delivery8 2
Delivery8 3 Delivery8 4
Delivery8 5 Delivery8 6
Delivery8 7 Delivery8 8

Notice the Mallets? These are used to crack open the Seafood. And seafood there was, so much so that it was poured out over the table, from where you ate it. We got quite a shock when dinner came out and was served on the table!

The Boeing Reps were fantastic. One of my aims for this trip is to hit the Boeing shop and grab a few things for friends and my kids (Griffin has his eye on the Lego 787). When I discussed this with the Boeing reps, we did a quick survey and found almost everyone in the room had the same request (not necessarily for the Lego 787). So they’ve altered our tour of Seattle tomorrow to finish at Boeing Field Boeing Store.

Note : I did grab Fin a Lego 787, we built it together after I got back. They now go on Amazon for $700+ USD. Next time, I buy two – one for myself to keep …

Afterwards, we found an Irish Bar (of course) and also a piano accordionist who took requests. Much singing was accomplished, including the single longest rendition of American Pie in the history of bar singing (no-one could remember how it ended). I have the full version somewhere, it runs for 11 minutes, but if you accidentally repeat several of the verses over and over, time is no limitation. Alcohol seems to both retard your progress towards the end of the song and dampens any real desire to get to the end …

Tomorrow morning is the tour of Seattle and the stop in at Boeing Field.


The following is the anthology of associated posts. Note they become active (approximately) 10 years after the original events. So you can wait until they all drop to read them all in sequence – or read them as they come down. Or not!

  1. 03.Feb.2009 03:30 : Off into The Night
  2. 03.Feb.2009 07:00 : Melbourne Airport
  3. 03.Feb.2009 09:00 : Sydney (Outbound!)
  4. 03.Feb.2009 16:35 : Auckland
  5. 04.Feb.2009 13:30 : Los Angeles
  6. 03.Feb.2009 17:00 : Seattle
  7. 04.Feb.2009 17:00 : A Day in Seattle
  8. 04.Feb.2009 23:00 : Party Time!
  9. 05.Feb.2009 12:00 : Seattle Tour
  10. 05.Feb.2009 19:00 : Delivery Party
  11. 06.Feb.2009 12:30 : First Flight – Seattle Boeing Field BFI – Los Angeles LAX
  12. 07.Feb.2009 12:30 : Down to the Checkered Flag
  13. 09.Feb.2009 10:30 : VA9090 LAX-SYD – We Have An Airline

 

V Australia 777 Delivery Flight : #7 A Day in Seattle – 17:00L 04Feb09

In February 2009 I was part of the team that picked up Virgin Australia’s (then V Australia) first Boeing 777-300ER. Having arrived into the airline in June 2008, it had been a long 7 months – very long – but now we were about to get an aeroplane – and fly it. For the benefit of those in the team that couldn’t come along (and we took a lot of them with us!) – I blogged the journey on our internal website all those years ago. Ten years later – to the day – these are those blogs.

Google Photo Album


Where has the Day Gone?

After 12 hours of restless sleep, this morning I started on the e-mails that gathered in my inbox over the last couple of days. I’d been dealing with the easy ones along the journey and pushing down the inbox those requiring some effort. Many of you will be aware of the issues going on with the examinations on Virginetics – especially the CAR214 course material and exam (don’t get me started!). I looked up at one point and it was 2pm – missed brekky and lunch. Time for a walk.

The weather here in Seattle has been nowhere near as cold as I’d been led to expect. However, 10° is an excellent opportunity to wear my new coat. Things are quiet here – lots of sales in the shops, not many shoppers.

There are some interesting buildings, and I listened to a father explain to his daughter about the thousands of names on a WW2 remembrance area in the centre of the city.

When I arrived back from my walk, I ran into Dave Kienzle who’d arrived into Seattle this morning. Dave flew into LAX a few days ago and caught up with Andy Grierson, who is over here for the delivery flight of Aircraft Two. They’d driven around LA for a couple of days, including a bike ride along Venice Beach. Dave had scored an upgrade on the AirNZ flight (!) and found the Alaska Air LAX-SEA flight mostly empty.

As we spoke – the V party arrived at the hotel, those coming with us on the flights BFI-LAX-SYD – Competition Winners and Crew, along with Scott Swift and others.

Our delivery flight from LAX to SYD (and the Boeing Field to LAX flight) will be a proving flight for our AOC with CASA, and for that, we’ll need guinea pigs … er … Passengers. So a competition was held and a hundred or so V Staff have been flown over to party here in Seattle for the launch, then serve as Passengers for us to experiment on during the LAX-SYD proving flight.

While it was a long flight SYD-SFO-SEA for them, apparently the flight was quite empty on United and most got several seats, in some cases an entire row, to sleep in. Tonight we’re heading for dinner at Seattle’s Crab Pot Restaurant, something of a landmark around here.

Apparently, it’s not all parties though. Today I found out that Friday night in LAX after we arrive, CASA is presenting us with a Pre-EDTO dispatch exercise, designed to test us on all aspects of EDTO dispatch, from the Flight Plan, to the walk around and several DDG exercises that will require liaison with JMCC (Maintenance Control). Something to look forward to!

Next, I’ll come back with some pics from the evening with the crew at the Crab Pot, a renown restaurant here in Seattle that Boeing is taking us to for dinner.


The following is the anthology of associated posts. Note they become active (approximately) 10 years after the original events. So you can wait until they all drop to read them all in sequence – or read them as they come down. Or not!

  1. 03.Feb.2009 03:30 : Off into The Night
  2. 03.Feb.2009 07:00 : Melbourne Airport
  3. 03.Feb.2009 09:00 : Sydney (Outbound!)
  4. 03.Feb.2009 16:35 : Auckland
  5. 04.Feb.2009 13:30 : Los Angeles
  6. 03.Feb.2009 17:00 : Seattle
  7. 04.Feb.2009 17:00 : A Day in Seattle
  8. 04.Feb.2009 23:00 : Party Time!
  9. 05.Feb.2009 12:00 : Seattle Tour
  10. 05.Feb.2009 19:00 : Delivery Party
  11. 06.Feb.2009 12:30 : First Flight – Seattle Boeing Field BFI – Los Angeles LAX
  12. 07.Feb.2009 12:30 : Down to the Checkered Flag
  13. 09.Feb.2009 10:30 : VA9090 LAX-SYD – We Have An Airline

 

V Australia 777 Delivery Flight : #6 Seattle – 17:00L 03Feb09

In February 2009 I was part of the team that picked up Virgin Australia’s (then V Australia) first Boeing 777-300ER. Having arrived into the airline in June 2008, it had been a long 7 months – very long – but now we were about to get an aeroplane – and fly it. For the benefit of those in the team that couldn’t come along (and we took a lot of them with us!) – I blogged the journey on our internal website all those years ago. Ten years later – to the day – these are those blogs.

Google Photos Album


Part Six of the V Australia Boeing 777 Delivery Flight has me at Seattle Fairmont Olympic Hotel – (almost) the end of a very, very long day.

Despite that, of course it’s lunchtime in Geelong (the next day), so I’m exhausted but not ready (or able) to sleep. It’s 5pm here in Seattle and I’m about to head out for some fresh air and a bite to eat before I come back to finish some work and get some sleep. Free internet in the hotel room is a serious bonus – I hope we get the same in the Crew Hotel in LA when we launch.

I’m almost worldly now when it comes to the lower end of the airline market. The Alaska Airlines 737 flight LAX-SEA was by far the most comfortable trip in the last 30 hours. But that could be because I had the entire row, and the ones in front and behind me, free. They did a basic drinks service for free, alcohol was an extra cost.

I think there’s been a mistake though. The Fairmont Hotel is reportedly one of the best in Seattle.

At Seattle-Tacoma, I was met by a nice man in a Boeing T-Shirt (thanks Lisa from Boeing who organised my ride) who brought me to the Hotel. Service indeed.

For now, my time is my own so I hope to explore Seattle a little bit. The bulk of the crew and trip winners arrive tomorrow afternoon so that gives me tomorrow in Seattle. The next few days is a hot and cold affair of packed first aircraft delivery events and free time.

I will take lots of pictures over the next few days, but only put a few of them in these blogs.


The following is the anthology of associated posts. Note they become active (approximately) 10 years after the original events. So you can wait until they all drop to read them all in sequence – or read them as they come down. Or not!

  1. 03.Feb.2009 03:30 : Off into The Night
  2. 03.Feb.2009 07:00 : Melbourne Airport
  3. 03.Feb.2009 09:00 : Sydney (Outbound!)
  4. 03.Feb.2009 16:35 : Auckland
  5. 04.Feb.2009 13:30 : Los Angeles
  6. 03.Feb.2009 17:00 : Seattle
  7. 04.Feb.2009 17:00 : A Day in Seattle
  8. 04.Feb.2009 23:00 : Party Time!
  9. 05.Feb.2009 12:00 : Seattle Tour
  10. 05.Feb.2009 19:00 : Delivery Party
  11. 06.Feb.2009 12:30 : First Flight – Seattle Boeing Field BFI – Los Angeles LAX
  12. 07.Feb.2009 12:30 : Down to the Checkered Flag
  13. 09.Feb.2009 10:30 : VA9090 LAX-SYD – We Have An Airline

 

V Australia 777 Delivery Flight : #5 Los Angeles – 13:30L 03/04Feb09

In February 2009 I was part of the team that picked up Virgin Australia’s (then V Australia) first Boeing 777-300ER. Having arrived into the airline in June 2008, it had been a long 7 months – very long – but now we were about to get an aeroplane – and fly it. For the benefit of those in the team that couldn’t come along (and we took a lot of them with us!) – I blogged the journey on our internal website all those years ago. Ten years later – to the day – these are those blogs.


Greetings from LAX – Part Five of the V Australia Boeing 777 Delivery Flight.

Sitting in a barely air-conditioned Alaskan Airlines terminal area, the immediate space is one of those designs where the combination of layout and surface causes PA’s, loud noises, and for the most part general conversation to bounce around and around until you have no idea what anyone’s saying or your own thinking, and the noise never seems to end. Of course, after 28 hours awake, my tolerances are lower than usual. And I’m now definitely smelling worse than I did in Auckland, and not all of it is mine. Yuck.

As I mentioned at the end of my last post – I have discovered why I was unable to secure a spot next to an empty seat on either of my AirNZ sectors. While seated at the departure gate in AKL, 45 minutes before the sked ETD (by which time check-in is closed and all seats should be allocated) I was connected and checking the seating on my flight. I was much relieved to see that I had retained my position in a row of my own on the AKL-LAX sector.

However, as I looked around I began to suspect there may have been a schism between the AirNZ website where I was looking at my seat and the booking systems used to allocate them in real time. The first hint was that the departure gate was packed – standing room only. The second hint was that rather than the spacious B747-400 depicted on the website, parked at the stand was a much smaller B777-200. Hmmm.

The flight from Auckland to Los Angeles was Full-Full-Me-Full-Full, with just the odd empty seat here and there. I’ve realized that contrary to my perceptions, my international travel experience is actually quite limited by the fact that I’ve mostly traveled just one airline. As such, I still find it surprising/amusing/annoying when another airline’s cabin crew continually make PA’s advising the passengers what they’re about to do.

We are coming out with their service now, the selection is Chicken or Beef. If we run out we’ll try and make sure you get your selection of Breakfast.

We are coming round to collect your tray and provide tea and coffee. If you want tea and coffee please make sure you keep your cup, spoon, and sugar from your meal tray, or you won’t get any.

We are coming around to collect rubbish, please have your piles ready.

We are going to be walking up and down the aisle now, basically killing time until we go to rest.

And so on. It’s really, Really, Annoying.

Two things I forgot to mention before. One was that on the MEL-SYD flight, somehow that nice sturdy little silver luggage tag they gave us during Jump On Board indoctrination training (which I save and attached especially for this trip) went missing. Since the only way I can perceive this sturdy little trinket would have come off was for it to be unscrewed and taken off, I was a little miffed, to say the least.

Also, on the AirNZ flight SYD-AKL, not only did the safety demonstration fail to operate, we had the boarding music still playing all the way to AKL (including as we disembarked – along with the obligatory explanatory PA’s) I almost felt like I was back on a sub-continent Ek flight.

I suspect I might have gotten an hour or two’s sleep on the AKL-LAX flight, but I can’t be sure. I took along some work to do – laptop and a manual to read. Laughable really; I keep forgetting that in Economy, there’s no room to read, no room to open your laptop, no room to flex your mind; and your mind/body is so deeply into survival mode anyway, you can’t expend the resources on anything else.

Being in the middle of the middle, I didn’t see much of LA during the arrival. It’s a beautiful day here with blue skies and a temperature in the high twenties (that’s inside the terminal – not sure what it’s like outside).

LAX airport is one of those large airports that you can tell at some point was much, much smaller. There’s a wide selection of construction styles and ages, something for new and old alike. But all of it looks like it peaked in the 70’s.

When I was growing up, Flying High (known as Airplane in the States) was released. Coming from an aviation family, I saw it quite a number of times. So when I walked out of the terminal to the disembodied “There is no Parking in the White Zone” I was fully expecting a male voice to follow with “Betty, don’t give me that White Zone Sh!t again.” Unfortunately not. Just the Red Zone warning.

There are “Travel Assistance” counters everywhere in the airport, staffed by volunteers. Their job is to chat to you, tell you about their grandkids, listen to your stories about your kids, and talk on the phone. Stuck to the counters are signs and posters that should tell you most of what you wanted to know when you stopped at a travel assistance counter.

I see a StarBucks over the way, so I’m headed there in lieu of finding anywhere with actual coffee. Hopefully 5 hours from now I’ll be in my Hotel in Seattle. I’ve unpacked a coat and jumper, at this point I’m very much looking forward to 4°.


The following is the anthology of associated posts. Note they become active (approximately) 10 years after the original events. So you can wait until they all drop to read them all in sequence – or read them as they come down. Or not!

  1. 03.Feb.2009 03:30 : Off into The Night
  2. 03.Feb.2009 07:00 : Melbourne Airport
  3. 03.Feb.2009 09:00 : Sydney (Outbound!)
  4. 03.Feb.2009 16:35 : Auckland
  5. 04.Feb.2009 13:30 : Los Angeles
  6. 03.Feb.2009 17:00 : Seattle
  7. 04.Feb.2009 17:00 : A Day in Seattle
  8. 04.Feb.2009 23:00 : Party Time!
  9. 05.Feb.2009 12:00 : Seattle Tour
  10. 05.Feb.2009 19:00 : Delivery Party
  11. 06.Feb.2009 12:30 : First Flight – Seattle Boeing Field BFI – Los Angeles LAX
  12. 07.Feb.2009 12:30 : Down to the Checkered Flag
  13. 09.Feb.2009 10:30 : VA9090 LAX-SYD – We Have An Airline

V Australia 777 Delivery Flight : #4 Auckland – 16:35L 03Feb09

In February 2009 I was part of the team that picked up Virgin Australia’s (then V Australia) first Boeing 777-300ER. Having arrived into the airline in June 2008, it had been a long 7 months – very long – but now we were about to get an aeroplane – and fly it. For the benefit of those in the team that couldn’t come along (and we took a lot of them with us!) – I blogged the journey on our internal website all those years ago. Ten years later – to the day – these are those blogs.

Google Photos Album


Greetings from Auckland Airport for Part Four of the V Australia Boeing 777 Delivery Flight blog.

My cunning plan to keep logging onto the Air NZ website right up until just before boarding time and move my seat allocation around to ensure I would have an empty seat next to me from Sydney to Auckland worked extremely well – right up until about the 3rd last passenger to board the plane who very rudely sat down next to me. A quick stand-and-glance revealed about a dozen empty seats in the cabin, none of them two together. I never realised 4 hours (or was it only 3?) could be so long.

I’m not sure, but I suspect the seat pitch on an Air New Zealand A320 is even less than a Virgin Blue B737. I may never know the truth though because I actually have no interest whatsoever in finding out. Ever again.

The entertainment was better though – not only did I get about 100 free channels of movies, television, and radio, but I also got to experience – for the first time in many hundreds of hours of travel – sitting in amongst a group of rowdy Asian tourists. Although traveling as a group, they were clearly from several different nations. I recognized Japanese, Korean, Chinese and a few Malay-la’s as well. How they all come to be traveling together on an A320 to Auckland would probably have made a fascinating story, but since none of them spoke a speck of English, I can’t reveal it to you.

Despite the nationality and seating spread, my innate sixth-sense told me they were traveling together. That and the way they kept talking to each other over 5-6 rows along and across the cabin. The lack of English didn’t stop them communicating quite vociferously with the Air NZ cabin crew either, who coped extremely well, with great stoicism and tact. Although being tactful is probably not a major challenge when your antagonist can’t understand your verbal communication (I think they missed most of the non-verbal cues from the Crew and other passengers as well).

I’m now sitting in the Air New Zealand departure gate waiting area, where in the past (when I used to fly for Emirates) I’ve killed a number of hours waiting out the turn-around on a Melbourne-Auckland-Melbourne (or the Brisbane, or the Sydney). I’m sure the first time you transit Auckland your interest is captivated by the cosmopolitan nature of the area, the people, the shopping (especially if you’ve just come up from Wellington, Christchurch, Hamilton), the accents, the sheep products, but after ten visits or so, Auckland airport loses its edge.

I’m an hour through a three-hour wait here at Auckland airport. Then it’s AirNZ Flight 6 to LAX. I have roamed the airport for free Wi-Fi and I can reliably report it does not exist. I even loitered near the VIP lounges, but all connections required a password from Airline Mission Control.

NZ6 AKL-LAX is a 12:15 hour flight departing at 7:15 pm AKL, arriving at 10:30 am LAX (on the same day – thanks, International Date Line!). That makes it a night flight, so if I don’t get some sleep on this one I’m in trouble tomorrow (earlier today?) in LAX. I’m armed with a travel pillow, ear plugs, eye shades and an I-don’t-give-a-damn attitude that will hopefully have me sleeping through anyone else’s problems. At this point I’m a bit tired and I kind of smell a bit. Economy deserves me.

I should add that the second implementation of my cunning plan to keep an eye online on my seat on flight NZ6 is being frustrated by the fact that the online booking systems says I’m flying in a 380 seat B747-400, and there’s a 280 seat B777-200 parked at the gate … this does NOT bode well.


The following is the anthology of associated posts. Note they become active (approximately) 10 years after the original events. So you can wait until they all drop to read them all in sequence – or read them as they come down. Or not!

  1. 03.Feb.2009 03:30 : Off into The Night
  2. 03.Feb.2009 07:00 : Melbourne Airport
  3. 03.Feb.2009 09:00 : Sydney (Outbound!)
  4. 03.Feb.2009 16:35 : Auckland
  5. 04.Feb.2009 13:30 : Los Angeles
  6. 03.Feb.2009 17:00 : Seattle
  7. 04.Feb.2009 17:00 : A Day in Seattle
  8. 04.Feb.2009 23:00 : Party Time!
  9. 05.Feb.2009 12:00 : Seattle Tour
  10. 05.Feb.2009 19:00 : Delivery Party
  11. 06.Feb.2009 12:30 : First Flight – Seattle Boeing Field BFI – Los Angeles LAX
  12. 07.Feb.2009 12:30 : Down to the Checkered Flag
  13. 09.Feb.2009 10:30 : VA9090 LAX-SYD – We Have An Airline

V Australia 777 Delivery Flight : #3 Sydney (Outbound!) – 09:00 03Feb09

In February 2009 I was part of the team that picked up Virgin Australia’s (then V Australia) first Boeing 777-300ER. Having arrived into the airline in June 2008, it had been a long 7 months – very long – but now we were about to get an aeroplane – and fly it. For the benefit of those in the team that couldn’t come along (and we took a lot of them with us!) – I blogged the journey on our internal website all those years ago. Ten years later – to the day – these are those blogs.

Google Photos Album


Part Three of the V Australia Boeing 777 Delivery Flight saga comes from the new V Australia office at Sydney Airport. The ride up here on the jumpseat of a Virgin Blue 737 was excellent, extremely welcoming and informative.

Having arrived at Sydney Domestic, I headed across on the T Bus to find our new International Office.

Having been told it was near the Etihad office, I figured we’d be the small office no-one knew of yet, near the large and lavish Etihad Airlines office space.

Nothing could be further from the truth. There are three separate offices spaces (one office space, and crew rooms for Cabin and Flight Deck crew) along with flashy neon signs outside each. For one flight a day (for the moment), it’s fabulous. I arrived just in time to catch the ground staff heading out the door with all the display stands, roping, posters and other paraphernalia that’s put out before each departure. It’s pretty funny really; they build a departure area each time a flight goes out, and tear it down again before taking it back to the office for the next day.

I just managed to catch Phil Warth in Sydney before he headed out to get some things done. Phil has been awesome in the project to date and is an important contact in the Delivery Flight support team for me. This is not his first rodeo – it’s the presence of people like Phil in V that give me the confidence that we can pull this off.

  

Catch you from Auckland.


The following is the anthology of associated posts. Note they become active (approximately) 10 years after the original events. So you can wait until they all drop to read them all in sequence – or read them as they come down. Or not!

  1. 03.Feb.2009 03:30 : Off into The Night
  2. 03.Feb.2009 07:00 : Melbourne Airport
  3. 03.Feb.2009 09:00 : Sydney (Outbound!)
  4. 03.Feb.2009 16:35 : Auckland
  5. 04.Feb.2009 13:30 : Los Angeles
  6. 03.Feb.2009 17:00 : Seattle
  7. 04.Feb.2009 17:00 : A Day in Seattle
  8. 04.Feb.2009 23:00 : Party Time!
  9. 05.Feb.2009 12:00 : Seattle Tour
  10. 05.Feb.2009 19:00 : Delivery Party
  11. 06.Feb.2009 12:30 : First Flight – Seattle Boeing Field BFI – Los Angeles LAX
  12. 07.Feb.2009 12:30 : Down to the Checkered Flag
  13. 09.Feb.2009 10:30 : VA9090 LAX-SYD – We Have An Airline

 

V Australia 777 Delivery Flight : #2 Melbourne Airport – 07:00 03Feb09

In February 2009 I was part of the team that picked up Virgin Australia’s (then V Australia) first Boeing 777-300ER. Having arrived into the airline in June 2008, it had been a long 7 months – very long – but now we were about to get an aeroplane – and fly it. For the benefit of those in the team that couldn’t come along (and we took a lot of them with us!) – I blogged the journey on our internal website all those years ago. Ten years later – to the day – these are those blogs.

Google Photos Album


The next stage of the V Australia Boeing 777 Delivery Flight mission comes from The Lounge at Melbourne Airport; I didn’t even need a tie, just a $199 salary-sacrificed deduction for the year.

Since the bus dropped me here at 5:05 am and I was checked in and ready to go at 5:10 for a 7:00 am flight – brekky, the paper and some work on the laptop is in order.

Currently, I’m working on Day Two of the Phase One recurrent simulator training program for Primary Crew. Perhaps a magazine or The Age.

Before leaving home, at the last minute I popped back inside and grabbed a tie (how pathetically hopeful am I?) you never know when that upgrade might come along. The taxi 5 minutes early, the lady driver friendly and efficient – I love Geelong! After a week of high temperatures (including a memorable 44.8 degrees with rolling power failures all week) it’s 18° and raining as I load my case in the boot of the taxi. On a whim, I make one last (nervous) check of my passport and ticket before closing the boot.

During the drive, in a manner reminiscent of the Truck Driver Rain God in the Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy, she describes to me in great detail the type rain we are experiencing (light, misty, not enough for full wiper usage) during the drive, as opposed to what was falling earlier during her shift, which oddly enough, I now don’t remember the description of. I wonder if she really was a Rain God? Just out of Geelong (on the bus) there was no rain, in fact, the ground was very dry, as is most of Victoria as we continue through several seasons of drought. Hmmm …

The Gull bus driver is his usual taciturn self, refusing to allow me my carry-on bag on the bus – it has to go in the trailer. The usual eclectic mix of passengers to Melbourne Airport on the mostly empty bus (what else can you expect at 4 am?).

While waiting on the bus for it to leave I look down the street, my sight attracted by the flashing red and blue of some sort of emergency vehicle – Ambulance? Fire Truck? As I watch I’m startled by a loud bang and shower of sparks all over the road from a transformer exploding (twice) as the street and the surrounding residential area is momentarily brightly lit before being plunged into darkness. Five minutes pass and the first blue and red flashing vehicle is joined by another. I guess I’ll never know what that was all about, but it certainly served to fill in the time.

It’s hard to keep my eyes open on the bus, hopefully the driver isn’t having the same problem. I wonder how often my passengers think that of me? I manage about 20 minutes of kip and wake to hear the driver sharing the news of the road over the radio to others of his ilk. Apparently, there are now several SES vehicles back at the bus depot. I wonder what the first one was doing there, before the transformer went kaput?

Check-in complete and almost two hours to wait for the flight. I’ve requested the jump seat, something I usually do. I haven’t been near the front seat of a plane since May, and sitting on the flight deck and watching others do it helps keep my hand in, in a strange envious but not sort of way. Also, there’s more leg room (sort of). And I sometimes get a free bottle of water.

Next will be boarding for the (hopefully) jump seat to Sydney and the transfer to International for the Air New Zealand flight to Auckland. Fush and Chups anyone?

Hopefully, I can connect in Sydney or Auckland, prior to the big one across the Pacific to keep posting. No sheep jokes, I promise.


The following is the anthology of associated posts. Note they become active (approximately) 10 years after the original events. So you can wait until they all drop to read them all in sequence – or read them as they come down. Or not!

  1. 03.Feb.2009 03:30 : Off into The Night
  2. 03.Feb.2009 07:00 : Melbourne Airport
  3. 03.Feb.2009 09:00 : Sydney (Outbound!)
  4. 03.Feb.2009 16:35 : Auckland
  5. 04.Feb.2009 13:30 : Los Angeles
  6. 03.Feb.2009 17:00 : Seattle
  7. 04.Feb.2009 17:00 : A Day in Seattle
  8. 04.Feb.2009 23:00 : Party Time!
  9. 05.Feb.2009 12:00 : Seattle Tour
  10. 05.Feb.2009 19:00 : Delivery Party
  11. 06.Feb.2009 12:30 : First Flight – Seattle Boeing Field BFI – Los Angeles LAX
  12. 07.Feb.2009 12:30 : Down to the Checkered Flag
  13. 09.Feb.2009 10:30 : VA9090 LAX-SYD – We Have An Airline

V Australia 777 Delivery Flight : #1 Off Into The Night – 03:30 03Feb09

In February 2009 I was part of the team that picked up Virgin Australia’s (then V Australia) first Boeing 777-300ER. Having arrived into the airline in June 2008, it had been a long 7 months – very long – but now we were about to get an aeroplane – and fly it. For the benefit of those in the team that couldn’t come along (and we took a lot of them with us!) – I blogged the journey on our internal website all those years ago. Ten years later – to the day – these are those blogs.

Google Photos Album


Deliver1-2My name is Ken Pascoe and I’m the fortunate guy who will be one of the Delivery Captains for V Australia’s (Virgin Blue’s Long Haul Airline, later to be part of Virgin Australia International) first Boeing 777-300ER next week from Seattle to Los Angeles and then the big one, LAX to Sydney.

I’ve decided to blog the trip, mostly for the benefit of the other hard working deserving staff at V Australia who aren’t fortunate enough to be part of this experience.

I’ve been with V for 7 months now, training and checking pilots in the simulator, designing and documenting lesson content and Standard Operating Procedures, providing decent coffee and cake at the sim center (thanks to my wife Meg), and everything in between.

With me on this flight will be Captains Dave Kienzle, Paul Halpin, and Kevin Beard. All of us will be making our own way across to Seattle. What follows is a series of blogs that detail this journey from my home to the conclusion in Sydney. I hope you enjoy reading them at least part as much as I did experiencing them!


Well, it’s 3:30 am and the taxi is due in ten to pick me up and take me to the Gull Bus to commence my journey. I’m packed and on a whim have decided to blog this epic as much as I can, just to see how it turns out. I’ll try and take some snaps on the way to make it interesting (including for me).

It’s going to be a looong day.

0330-0345 : Taxi to the Gull Bus
0400-0515 : Gull Bus to Melbourne Airport
0700-0825 : Virgin Blue Flight to Sydney
1130-1330/1635 : SYD-AKL : Air New Zealand Flight to Auckland
1915-1030 (same day) : AKL-LAX : Air New Zealand Flight to Los Angeles
1330-1430 : LAX-SEA : Air Alaska flight to Seattle

With all the time zone (and date line) switches, I haven’t looked to see the total travel time. But it looks to me like about 28 hours in and out of Economy. Frabjous Joy.

That said – thanks to the International Date Line, it takes place within a single day – the 2nd of February, 2009. So how bad can it be?

And that’s the end of the negativity. I’m headed off to collect Vs first 777 – How fabulous is that? – I wouldn’t be anywhere else or anyone else for the world.


The following is the anthology of associated posts. Note they become active (approximately) 10 years after the original events. So you can wait until they all drop to read them all in sequence – or read them as they come down. Or not!

  1. 03.Feb.2009 03:30 : Off into The Night
  2. 03.Feb.2009 07:00 : Melbourne Airport
  3. 03.Feb.2009 09:00 : Sydney (Outbound!)
  4. 03.Feb.2009 16:35 : Auckland
  5. 04.Feb.2009 13:30 : Los Angeles
  6. 03.Feb.2009 17:00 : Seattle
  7. 04.Feb.2009 17:00 : A Day in Seattle
  8. 04.Feb.2009 23:00 : Party Time!
  9. 05.Feb.2009 12:00 : Seattle Tour
  10. 05.Feb.2009 19:00 : Delivery Party
  11. 06.Feb.2009 12:30 : First Flight – Seattle Boeing Field BFI – Los Angeles LAX
  12. 07.Feb.2009 12:30 : Down to the Checkered Flag
  13. 09.Feb.2009 10:30 : VA9090 LAX-SYD – We Have An Airline

 

 

777 Engine Failure Analysis

There are a broad range of possible engine malfunctions in the 777, some of which are clearly annunciated ([] ENG FAIL, [] ENG EEC MODE, [] ENG OIL PRESSURE, etc) – others that manifest only through EICAS (or other) engine indications. For the most part, the occurrence of an EICAS annunciated checklist in the B777 leads pretty clearly to the Memory Items or the Checklist for that annunciation.

But for Engine Malfunctions – not always …

In Short:

  • With the changes to the Boeing QRH of circa 2006; engine failure analysis became much, much simpler.
  • In addition, the instances of being required to run memory items for engine malfunctions (whether at low altitude or elsewhere) was significantly reduced.
  • While subtle – these changes were actually a paradigm shift in the way we handled engine malfunctions (hence it took us a year or so to get our heads around it).
  • This Procedure/Technique has now been adopted by several major International 777 operators.

 

Engine Malfunctions – Which Checklist?

A Jet Engine is a complex beast, and many common failures result from a breakdown of elements of that complex system, with a result that ranges from a small impact on the ability of the engine to produce thrust or maintain parameters within limits, to the sudden irrevocable seizing of one or more of the spinning components of the engine. There are a a number of engine malfunctions which result in a clearly annunciated checklist that the pilot accepts as given and completes – but many engine malfunctions require you to choose between one of the following.

[] ENG FAIL
– an annunciated checklist;
– appears on EICAS when the Engine Speed is below a minimum idle value;
– indicates that EECs have given up on relighting (fuel/ignitors) the engine, and closed both the Engine and Spar Fuel Valves;
– allows for the possibility of an engine re-start (which the other checklists do not).

[] Eng Lim/Surge/Stall
– is an un-annunciated checklist, which means the condition statement(s) can be considered memory items since you need to know them from memory in order to know to call for the checklist (like all un-annunciated checklists);
– covers a variety of not-so-serious engine malfunctions such as an Engine Stall, various loss of engine control malfunctions such as Engine Surge, and the various Limit Exceedances of the engine’s operating parameters (rotor speed, temperature, etc);
– covers the scenario where a loss of engine thrust control has occurred, where thrust lever movement does not result in the appropriate engine thrust change;
– the Memory Items reduce thrust on the affected engines (as low as idle) but do not shut the engine down;
– By implication – this checklist is usually only called for when the engine is running (no EICAS [] ENG FAIL)

[] Eng Svr Damage/Sep
– another un-annunciated checklist (with a much shorter condition statement to remember);
– deals with more severe engine malfunctions where the engine is (severely) damaged or has separated;
– the Memory Items reduce thrust to idle, turn off fuel/hydraulics and otherwise “secures” the engine;
– also deals with the case where high airframe vibration remains after the engine has been secured.

There are a number of other failures that we can leave outside this article, because there’s no real diagnosis required … such as …

[] FIRE ENG
– if you see this, you’re running the memory items to fight the fire.

[] ENG OIL PRESS
– there may be exceptions – but usually you run the checklist, and typically shut down the engine. See Engine Oil Pressure – a Simulator Scenario.

… etc.

So, returning to the original problem – when you have an engine malfunction, how do you decide which checklist/memory items to run?

Reviewing all Engine Indications – the Traditional Approach

Prior to (about 2006) – the traditional approach to diagnosing an engine malfunction was to review the EICAS instrument stack (as well as potentially external indications) and use those indications against the condition statements of the three checklists to identify which one was the best match.

For reference – the original Engine Malfunction Checklists (and their conditions statements) are shown here.

Typically this technique was taught as follows:

  1. Start with the annunciated EICAS messages (eg: “EICAS ENGINE FAIL LEFT and TAC“)
  2. Then move onto the Engine Indications (N1, N2, [N3], Fuel Flow, Oil Temp/Pressure/Quantity and Engine Vibration indications). While some PMs would call out all the indications, a better approach was to highlight exceedances and other unusual indications that led towards a diagnosis (eg: “Ok, the N1 is spinning, EGT is High, N2 is Frozen, Oil Pressure is Low, Engine Vibration is a 3“)
  3. Other external factors – Yaw/Rudder; Airframe Vibration; Light (night time) and Sound from the affected engine can also provide useful (and in the case of Airframe Vibration, determinative) indications of the malfunction – but were often give scant attention at this stage of the failure.

Sounds simple enough, doesn’t it? But as usual, the devil is in the details.

It’s a Busy Time for a Complicated Procedure

Firstly – engine indications themselves can be pretty complex. Apart from the basic nine indications, instrument indications such as EGT can show abnormally (for the thrust required) low; abnormally high; show an exceedance – or that an exceedance has occurred but is not occurring now. Take that aspect and apply it to the N1/N2/N3 – where the rotor can also indicate Zero (frozen) or missing (such as in a separation) – and you have a pretty complex set of indications.

Seeing all this and not only analysing it correctly, but communicating it clearly to the Pilot Flying (who is, unsurprisingly, busy flying the plane with an engine failure shortly after takeoff low to the ground) in such a way that the PF can meaningfully confirm your analysis – is a neat skill that only comes with practice and good, clear documentation. When you take the breadth and depth of the scope of 777 operations throughout the world – it’s a big ask.

Memory Items are a RISK

Secondly – the implementation of this technique more often led to more occasions of running checklist memory items than was strictly speaking required. Depending on what your definition of “Severe Damage” or even just “Damage” was – if the engine was seized (Zero on the N1, N2, or N3) – you ran the Engine Severe Damage/Separation memory items – even if the engine was essentially failed ([] ENG FAIL on EICAS) and shut down already.

In principle, securing a malfunctioning engine by memory at low altitude should not be a safety risk for a well trained crew. In practice – running memory items un-necessarily at low altitude to secure an engine is a flight safety risk. It kills people. This was one of the prime motivators for the change in the Boeing QRH Engine Malfunction condition statements. There have been plenty of examples before and since of aircraft that got into trouble running memory items at low altitude – and all Instructors have seen it go wrong in the simulator.

The New Paradigm – Two (Simple) Questions

Actually it’s not quite this simple. The new paradigm (technique) consists of a mix of basic EICAS Prioritisation and a clarification of some basic axioms that we always knew, but perhaps we were not considering.

Note that this process begins AFTER the crew have identified that they have some kind of Engine Problem (“Engine Problem“) – as a result of the Pilot Flying calling for the Pilot Monitoring to “Identify the Failure.

1. Look at what you have NOW.

When you are analysing the status of the aircraft/engine after a malfunction – look at what you have now – not what occurred during the failure. There are a number of situations where this concept is actively encouraged during NNMs.

  • Hydraulic Failures? – let the systems settle down (fluid/pressure loss) to see what you’re left with before rushing in and running checklists that may be soon be replaced as the aircraft sorts out what has gone on during the onset of the malfunction.
  • Similarly with electrical failures – sit on your hands and wait for the final state of the EICAS instead of rushing in and dealing with the non-normals that result when an electrical system malfunctions.

So – when it comes to engine failures …

  • Sure, the EGT exceeded with a stalling/surging engine approaching V1 during the takeoff roll – but now that you’re at 400 ft and been asked to “Identify the Failure” – and it’s not exceeding or otherwise miss-behaving now. So why would you want to run a NNM Checklist/Memory Items?
  • Ok, so there was a loud bang and engine/airframe vibration when the engine failed at 39,000 ft – but your priority was Fly The Aircraft – so you chose to maintain flight-path control, initiate a drift down and fire off an ATC call. That sorted – now you’re back and been asked to “Identify the Failure” – there’s no vibration now, no abnormal noises, [] ENG FAIL on EICAS (so the engine is shut down). So do you need to respond now to engine malfunction indications that are no longer present? Deal with what’s in front of you NOW – not what you think you remember from a while ago.

In short – when being asked to “Identify The Failure” – look at what you have now – not what came with the initial malfunction, and didn’t persist once the EECs had dealt with the failure for you.

2. Start with the EICAS Messages

The 777 is an EICAS driven aircraft. That’s drummed into us time and time again. So let’s start there. Read the messages, all of them or at least the highest level ones. For the worst of failures, with multiple systems, multiple messages, some summation might be called for. EICAS prioritises messages (Warnings vs Cautions vs _Advisories) – so why shouldn’t you? But make sure your PF is getting the picture of what’s wrong.

Then ask yourself two questions.

3. The Two Questions

A. Is the engine still running? (best recognised through [] ENG FAIL on EICAS)
B. Is there Airframe Vibration?

This latter point is crucial. Engine Vibration (as indicated on the EICAS VIB display) in an of itself is not a determinative factor in engine malfunction analysis. But (Unusual) Airframe Vibrations combined with Unusual Engine Indications is textbook [] Eng Svr Damage/Sep.

Armed with the answer to these two (pretty simple) questions – you can now choose your checklist. Onto … The Flow Chart.

The Flow Chart

Before you get on your high horse – no I don’t pull this out in flight. No, it’s not laminated and stowed under the dash. It’s a training tool to illustrate what is actually a very simple procedure/technique.

For more detail on how this Procedure/Technique is used and the implications of the steps in the flowchart – see the training video in the link at the top. But briefly:

EICAS [] ENG FAIL  – YES.

If the engine is NOT running (EICAS [] ENG FAIL):

  • if you have Airframe Vibration, secure the engine through [] Eng Svr Damage/Sep Memory Items;
  • otherwise run [] ENG FAIL checklist at the appropriate time.

Note that this engine is already shut down. The memory items are unlikely to have a meaningful impact on the Airframe Vibration; but the Engine Severe Damage/Separation checklist attempts to assist with that later on.

EICAS [] ENG FAIL  – NO.

If the engine is still running (no EICAS [] ENG FAIL] – then it comes down to an Airframe Vibration severity question:

  • If the Vibration is negligible or not significant to Flight Safety / Flight Path control (such as you might get with a Stalling or Surging engine) – run the [] Eng Lim/Surge/Stall memory items. You are choosing here NOT to shut down the engine by memory, to leave it running at reduced thrust setting or at idle (even if it keeps surging/stalling) – making a choice that is at least theoretically reversible.
  • If the Vibration is such that you believe Flight Safety is impacted (such as impacting your ability to control Flight Path) – run the [] Eng Svr Dam/Sep memory items to shut down and secure the engine. In a just and fair world this should reduce the impact of the (severely) damaged engine on your ability to safely fly the aircraft away from the ground.

If this technique seems radical, then the rest of this article is for you. On the other hand, if you’ve been doing it this way since the QRH change back in the mid 2000’s (and there are quite a few now) – I’m surprised you’ve read this far through …

Issues and Justification

Firstly, I went through the same angst you are in now back in 2008 when this first came through. Emails, Phone Calls and eventually a Meeting with Boeing Flight Standards who were adamant.

  1. Running memory items at low altitude is a high risk activity.
  2. Many of the engine malfunctions we were treating with memory items (such as seized engines) did not warrant memory items at all.

Before you read too much further – think for the moment about how you are diagnosing your engine malfunctions and making the choice to run memory items on them based on “damage” (N1/N2/N3 seized; Engine Vibration; or Airframe Vibration at the time of the failure) – is “your” technique fully documented and supported in the FCOM, FCTM? Sure about that? Are you doing it that way because that’s the way it’s always been done?

Q : If the engine has failed, don’t we need to secure it?
A : Yes, this is what the checklist is for. In the meantime – if you see [] ENG FAIL on EICAS – the EEC’s have detected a below minimum idle event and closed both the engine and spar fuel valves anyway. How much more do you want?

Q : Isn’t a seized engine a damaged engine – so N2 Zero requires [] Eng Svr Damage/Sep Memory Items?
A : It’s definitely damaged if it’s not spinning, but is it Severe? Moreover – un-annunciated checklists are called for based on the Condition Statements – if there is no Airframe Vibration, why are you running the memory items on your “damaged” engine?

There are many more and if you send me your questions I’ll attempt to address them in the context of what I have come to understand about this issue. But let’s look at the checklists for a moment.

[] ENG FAIL on EICAS

For many of the failures that we used to run memory items on – we now run the [] ENG FAIL checklist after the aircraft is clean and at a safe altitude. This presents a couple of new issues (such as whether to re-start the engine) but first let’s look at the checklist. Once you’re past the condition statement (which uses “is” to indicate to look-at-what-you-have-now):

  1. It makes sure that you’re only dealing with the loss of one engine, not both.
  2. It says that if airframe vibrations exist (with abnormal engine indications) – you’re in the wrong checklist buddy – you’re supposed to be in [] Eng Svr Damage/Sep!
  3. And then to add insult to injury – it makes sure that somehow you didn’t miss that your engine has fallen off.

In essence – the checklist questions back up the Two Question process above. If you asked those two questions and chose the appropriate response (from the flow chart) – you won’t fall foul of these questions in the [] ENG FAIL checklist.

Re-Starting a (Damaged?) Engine

Another common question is that if we are no longer running [] Eng Svr Damage/Sep memory items for seized or otherwise “damaged” engines – this leaves us exposed to the option to re-start that engine as a result of running the [] ENG FAIL checklist. A couple of points on that …

  • While the checklist may offer the option – it’s the PF/Captain who is ultimately responsible for the decision to re-start an engine that has failed. Just because the checklist says you can re-start an engine, doesn’t mean you need to re-start the engine – or should.
  • The checklist specifically restricts starting without N1 rotation.
  • When it comes to N2; the response we got back from Boeing/GE was that there are circumstances of airspeed/altitude combinations where the N2 may show zero rotation even though the engine is not actually seized. Accessories on the engine can limit rotation when the engine is un-powered. In any case – we are told that if you attempt to start an engine with a seized N2 – that start attempt will be un-successful anyway, and should not cause any further damage.
  • The issue of whether you (as the checklist puts itneed to re-start an engine after a failure is whole ‘nother topic.

ENG FIRE SWITCH … PULL

Another significant result of this change is that whereas previously a “damaged” engine (N1 or N2 seizure, engine vibration during the failure, etc) would result in the Engine Fire Switch pulled at low altitude, under the new paradigm the Fire Switch will not be pulled at all.

The response we received from Boeing confirmed the desire to minimise the use of memory items at low altitude and the reduced requirement to run either the Lim/Surge/Stall or the Severe Damage/Separation checklists for failures that result in engine speed below idle.

In Conclusion

I present this for your consideration. I believe it’s a process that is well justified by the QRH and FCTM an in line with Boeing’s stated intent that came with the QRH changes in the early 2000’s (and subsequent). I know of two other major international 777 carriers who are doing exactly this process – after much consultation with Boeing and their engine manufacturers. After all – this was a significant change. But it’s a change for the better, so why not consider it?

Ken.


Contributions Welcome

You may have noticed that I’ve included a PayPal link on my web site. As I move more away from developing company documentation and focus back on Infinidim, I have included a link to my US PayPal account for anyone who may wish to offset some of the time and cost associated with maintaining my content. Many of you have expressed thanks and a willingness to contribute to my efforts towards content, and development and maintenance of the EBA Overtime/Allowance and ATO Allowance Tax calculator – here’s your chance. I won’t be charging for anything I do or offer to others; but if you feel like throwing a few USD towards my efforts – that would be lovely, thanks.


 

TAT and Takeoff Thrust in the 777

Recently I witnessed an interesting occurrence on the line that has resulted in a number of queries to Boeing, and while not all the answers are back, the results so far are fascinating. Eighteen years on the aircraft and still learning, which is actually a nice place to be.

Disclaimer : Normally I try to produce content to engage readers across the spectrum from those with an interest in Aviation through avid Simmers through to other Professionals operating the 777. In this case, the following is unashamedly technical and I apologise if I lose you on the way through – each time I re-read it, I lose myself and change it again!


We were parked on stand in Melbourne (YMML; Stand D20) getting ready to go to Los Angeles and while the ambient temperature was 19° and a light northerly blowing, we were heavily loaded and full thrust was going to be required – Melbourne has some hills to the north which reduces the weight you can lift, despite a small headwind component. As the temps get higher in Melbourne, you can get into a weird situation where you’re better taking a small tailwind away from the hills off Runway 16 than a small headwind towards them on Runway 34 – but I digress … for this sector, I was in the jumpseat, conducting an Annual Line Check on the two operating crew members.

During entry of the takeoff performance into the FMC (Flight Management Computer) by the Captain, I noted a disparity between the N1 specified by the Takeoff Performance Calculation (TLDC); and that calculated by the Flight Management Computer.

While the TLDC (Takeoff Landing Data Calculator – the computer software we use to calculate takeoff and landing performance) calculates the N1 that we’ll be using for takeoff – in actuality, the performance calculation specifies a Fixed Thrust Rating (TO, TO1 or TO2) in combination with an Assumed Temperature value.

We enter these TLDC calculated Thrust Selections into the FMC and in conjunction with the entered weight and aircraft systems sensed ambient conditions (temperature, pressure) – the FMC calculates the target N1 for takeoff.

There is almost always a small difference between the value calculated by the FMC and that calculated by the TLDC computer. This comes down to several factors, one being that the Airconditioning Packs prior to takeoff are working at full capacity; whereas they are reduced to a low flow rate during the takeoff roll. This leaves more thrust available for the engine, resulting in a different N1 calculation result. The TLDC computer is aware this is going to happen and calculates accordingly; the FMC modifies the Target N1 once the Packs are reduced during the roll.

On this day – the difference was more than “normal” – about 1.5% with the FMC calculating a lower value (which typically calculates a slightly higher value). Our SOPs note the difference but have no crosscheck or tolerance as such. In the past, I’ve seen this occur when the ambient temperature is higher on the aircraft gauges than the Airport Weather Service (ATIS) is giving. While we use the ATIS reported temperature in our (TLDC) calculations for N1; the FMC can only repeat the calculation of N1 by referring to the temperature “felt” by the aircraft and reported through the TAT (True Air Temperature) probe. In this case – the TAT indication on EICAS was 37° as against the ATIS 19°. That explained the N1 difference – but not why the TAT indication was so high.

N1” is engineering nomenclature used to refer to the rotation speed of the First Rotor – in our case the big fan you see at the front. Broadly speaking the rate of spin of this fan is equivilated (another engineering term) to Thrust. The GE90’s have two engine spools, the second of which is (of course) called the N2. The 777-200’s I used to fly had Rolls Royce Engines with three spools, so of course, there was an N3. On modern high bypass engines, the N1 is essentially a huge fan (not terribly dissimilar to the Propellors of old), rotates the slowest, produces most of the actual thrust, and is driven by a connected turbine in the exhaust gas flow at the rear of the engine. The N2 (and N3) spools are all about compressing the air (intake) and extracting energy from that air on it’s way out the back end after that air is burnt in the depths of the engine casing.

N1, N2 and N3 values are given as percentages (for example Red Line Maximum N1 for the GE90’s in my aircraft is 110.5%) because their spin rate differs vastly. The big fan at the front averages 4000 RPM during takeoff; the little one in the middle closer to 13,000. As to why maximum speed is not 100% – I really have no idea, it’s never made sense to me for them not to callibrate things that way. It just is.

The Captain remarked on the N1 difference and we noted the high TAT reading. I’d seen this before when parked and airflow is poor through the TAT probe; but we were facing the Terminal (East) and the probe was actually in shadow, so it still seemed odd. We resolved to re-examine the TAT during aircraft push and engine start; hopefully, the TAT indication would assume a more appropriate value.

TAT is the measure of Total Air Temperature, as measured by a dedicated probe on the outside of the flight deck (Aircraft TAT) or just inside the top of the two engine nacelles (Engine TAT). It’s called Total Air Temperature because at speed the temperature measured reflects the combination of Outside Air Temperature (OAT, somtimes referred to as Static Air Temperature, SAT) and the temperature rise that occurs when air molecules are smashed against a fixed probe racing through the atmosphere at 800 kph. At 35,000 ft the OAT can be -56°C wheras the TAT can 20-30° warmer.

On the ground, the TAT indication is considered a valid measure of OAT, but caution has to be exercised if you’re going to use it to second guess the airport ATIS temperature. The temperature reported by the ATIS is essentially a certified value, taken at a specific location, behind a Stevenson Screen, monitored, crosschecked, etc. The TAT probe … is not.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Meanwhile, I started to think about the problem of the numbers we were seeing and what impact it might have if the TAT did not drop down. The TLDC had told us that MaxT (the maximum temperature we could accept to be able to take off with our present load) was 29°, so it seemed to me that the TAT remaining well in excess of that was likely to cause us problems.

Engine start and aircraft pushback did not actually improve things:

  • During Engine Start, that TAT indication remained high.
  • After Start, we received an FMC Scratchpad Message V SPEEDS UNAVAILABLE (“For certain high thrust/low gross weight takeoff conditions, FMC VSPEEDS are not calculated. Adjust gross weight and/or takeoff thrust limit to enable VSPEEDs.“)
  • Our previously entered speeds remained in the FMC and displayed correctly on the PFD.
  • The FMC CDU Thrust Limit Page was basically completely blank (headings only)
  • The Target N1 was removed from the EICAS N1 displayed.

But the temperature had dropped a few degrees with the Engine Start, so we decided to continue the scenario (looking behind us to make sure there was no Sim Instructor and this was not a Simulation …) and commenced taxi. During taxi, the TAT indication continue to reduce.

As it dropped below 28° …

  • The CDU cleared the V SPEEDS UNAVAILABLE message, replacing it with “TAKEOFF SPEEDS DELETED” and our Takeoff Speeds dropped out of the FMC
  • The previously selected Thrust calculations returned to the CDU Thrust Limit page and the EICAS N1 gauge.

We re-entered our performance data from scratch, double checked everything and proceded for a normal departure. As we commenced the roll I noted that the EICAS was targetting an N1 of 105.5; whereas the TLDC had recommended 105.2 – which seemed pretty reasonable. Interestingly while the TAT had reduced on taxi down to the ambient 20°; it then began to increase while we sat at the holding point and re-entered the takeoff performance. During the takeoff, it reduced once again with airflow until increasing again as is normal with increasing airspeed. The FMC N1 target adjusted accordingly to these variations.

As a footnote – we became airborne normally and survived.


As is often the case – the follow up has been informative and not completely satisfying. I pursued this with our Technical Department, a contact at Boeing Propulsion, and the Flight Training/Standards and Technical Departments at three other 777 operators. So far, I have the following:

  • The N1 gauge on EICAS includes a Red Line Limit (maximum rotation 110.5%); the Amber N1 Max; the Green N1 Target; the White Arc N1 Commanded; and the White Line N1 Actual.
  • The N1 Amber indication represents N1 Max – the max rated value of the N1 for the current flight conditions. This is the value that would be commanded if the thrust lever is placed at the max forward position, as limited by the EECs (Electronic Engine Control) operating in Normal Mode.
  • The value of N1 Max, Commanded N1 and Actual N1 (to a lesser extent*) is computed by the EEC using the selected TAT source, which is normally the aircraft TAT (as displayed on EICAS) as long as it is within 2.5° of the engine TAT. In the case of a large disagreement (>5°), the EEC will select its own onside engine TAT sensor in the calculation of N1 Max. Between these two values, the selected EEC value linearly ramps the value used towards the engine source. The value of 2.5° was selected as it corresponds (on a hot day) to an amount of thrust error that is small enough preserve the acceptable operation of the engines.
  • If the EECs are in Hard Alternate Mode, the EEC computed N1 Max is set to invalid, so the displayed N1 Max is subsequently computed by the TMF (Thrust Management Function) of the FMC – using aircraft TAT.
  • On takeoff, after 80 knots (at a constant thrust lever position) the Commanded N1 automatically changes as temperature airspeed and then altitude increases after liftoff. The EEC and TMF both calculate the N1. The TMF target (Target N1), the EEC Commanded N1 vary automatically during the takeoff as a function of airspeed and altitude. There are a number of considerations such as engine temperature/pressure and other factors that determine the precise N1 variations to provide optimum performance and engine life.
  • As such, the aircraft TAT is used throughout the takeoff to determine the N1 values by the TMF and the EEC.
  • * In most cases, the Actual N1 is independent of sensed TAT in the thrust lockout period during takeoff, but it is possible for a significantly elevated TAT (such as during a Temperature Inversion) to affect the indicated N1 as well. Note that engine TAT sensors are not used to compute the TMF N1 Target.
  • There is a cross-check between Aircraft and Engine TAT – if the difference exceeds 15°,  then the air data is declared invalid for use by FMC and TMF, the thrust ratings will go away, the CDU Thrust Limit page will blank, and there will be no performance predictions.
  • There is also some magic going on in the conversion from “corrected” N1 to “physical” N1 that is relevant to this discussion, but I’ve yet to find any clear definition of what’s going on with that. More magic I presume.

What does all this mean? Good question. As far as I can determine, the above summarises into:

  • Target N1 is calculated by the FMC and is dependant on Aircraft TAT.
  • Commanded N1 and Actual N1 are calculated by the EECs, which use the Aircraft TAT unless the difference between Aircraft and Engine TATs become significant, in which case the EECs bias towards – and then slave off of – the specific Engine TAT probe.
  • All the values of N1 Max, N1 Target, N1 Command and N1 Actual are subject to the influence of a false TAT reading to one degree (!) or another.
  • A false reading of more than 5 degrees in the Aircraft TAT would impact the N1 Target, but not Commanded/Actual N1
  • A false reading of more than 5 degrees in the Engine TAT would affect the EEC Commanded and Actual N1 (affected engine), but not the Target N1.
  • There’s a whole lotta magic going on

In the aftermath of this, I notified Engineering and while I lost track of the story, I believe another crew experienced a similar occurrence and a problem with airflow through the TAT probe was identified, and corrected. What is impressive in all of this is how well thought out the system involved is, and the technical depth and forethought that goes into account for all the possible things that might go wrong in something as crucial as calculating thrust for takeoff. It speaks to decades of experience in development at GE and Boeing, and it’s awesome.

Ken.


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Wide Body EBA 2017 Calculator [UPDATE 27Nov18]

With the implementation of the 2017 Wide Body EBA – it’s time to revise the spreadsheet I developed to track and check Overtime, Callout, etc for the 2011 EBA. Part and parcel has been seeking clarification from the AIC/CP on certain aspects of the EBA’s implementation. Most particularly clarification over the MCG, how RP changeovers are going to be implemented and how they impact the credit hours associated with Duty Periods and Flight Duty Sequences (MCG) that take place over the RP changeover to the next RP. I believe I have the answers now, the spreadsheet is in beta; welcome to the test program!

Note : Some the images here may look a little small – but if you click on them they expand to a decent size over the text.

Note : The Allowance Calculator requires Visual Basic. This means it does not run properly on MAC or IOS (iPad). You can use your Mac/iPad to enter the list of duties, but the Payslips tab requires a custom function I wrote to work. You can use the Excel in Citrix, or if you have a PC you can get Office Pro as a Virgin Employee quite cheaply – ask me how.

Version History

27Nov-2018 : RP13/01 has just been published with RP01/2019 starting on 31DEC18. Fowl Ball! How can you start an RP on the 31st of the year before? It should have been RP1314. I think they did it just to annoy me. Anyway – manual fix required in this version to accurately reflect RP1301/2018 (and RP0203/2019, etc). Download HERE.
18-Oct-2018 : Updated for ATO Domestic and International Allowance Changes.
21-Mar-2018 : Whoops – previous upload had my roster in it!
09-Mar-2018 : This release fixes a coding error that I missed in my review of the EBA. When called out for a Non (Flight, Sim, Standby) duty – you are paid the Callout but not creditted any overtime value. The sheet now allows this and inserts “OT+CO” where the normal credit for a Non (Flight, Sim, Standby) would be paid. There are a few other changes so – “Positioning” has become “Position Only” and “Away Day” is now “Away/Blank Day”. I’ve also highlighted the use of “Positioning (FRMS)” in the positioning area to show no credit … 
22-Feb-2018 : Made some minor formatting corrections, and changed “Away Day” to “Away/Blank Day” (Thanks Tim)
29-Jan-2018 : Added the ability to enter duties/periods and calcluate allowances to see what you’re getting on an overnight, and to crosscheck your payslip. There are some other minor changes to the OT/Callout sheets (both fleets) as well that do not affect the calculation result. I’ll add some instructions and a few videos for this at some point
26-Jan-2018 : Found some bugs in the new A330 sheet. Basically it wasn’t calculating Carry-Out Flight Pairings correctyly.
22-Jan-2018 : Updated 2 Operating sectors for the A330. Tidies up the conditional formatting in cells to more appropriately highlight cells that should have data (Green) and cells that really should have data (Yellow). Also Combined Position/Operating route into a single cell eg: “MEL-BNE” – note this means that the instructions below aren’t quite matching the spreadsheet for the moment.
20-Jan-2018 : Update for the A330. There’s now an A330 tab in the sheet. Please advise if it’s working ok!
09-Jan-2018 : Initial Issue.

Video Tutorials

The following video covers Entering Your Roster.

This next one covers entering Actual Hours for Positioning/Flights and entering Callouts and Changes …

This next one covers Carry Out Flight Pairings (including MCG) and Carry-In Flight Pairings.

Finally – the A330 Differences in the sheet.

Late addition – Entering Duty Periods and Checking Payslips for Domestic and International Allowances.

Overview

As usual, the sheet copes with Ranks, Salary Levels and Years in terms of the changes to the various values of Overtime, Callout, Ad Hoc Training Pay and more through the life of the EBA (noting that the last 3 year EBA lasted about 7 years). If you peek into the Data tab, you’ll see the A330 stuff in there as well. An RP calculating sheet in the same Excel file for the A330 is my next task. If you’ve used this before – you’re in for a mix of the familiar and the startlingly new …

Note : While the sheet does both the A330 and the B777 (on the 2017 Wide Body EBA) only the 777 is described here. At the moment the A330 sheet only handles one sector per day but I will fix that shortly. Other than that – the instructions are valid across both fleets (I hope).

  • Ranks : It does Captains, First Officers, and Second Officers. The 2017 EBA has levelled the playing field in terms of Checkers/Trainers and OT and Callout, so there’s no longer the need to differentiate.
  • Levels : Whether you’re Level 5 or Level 1 – you select and the sheet does the rest.
  • Level Changes : On 01 July each year, your Pay Level increments. Therefore the Overtime/Callout rates increase also. The sheet copes with this.
  • A330 Odd/Even SN : The A330 has a different number of min days off each RP, depending on whether you are an odd or even staff number. Seriously? Anyway I’ve added this to the A330 sheet so the min DDO’s calculates correctly.
  • Duty Select : You don’t have to know credit hours – just select the duty for each duty day and the sheet will use the relevant EBA Credit Hours.
  • Leave : Leave impacts the Overtime Threshold, as well as the minimum number of days off required in the month – the sheet copes with this.
  • Positioning : Positioning changes a bit, with the introduction of a 1 hour sector minimum, 50% basis for credit hours and 2 hour minimum for position only duty periods. As always the maximum of Scheduled vs Actual is the basis for calculation so you’ll need to track and enter both. I’ve also added the ability to Position (FRMS) after going fatigued so the credit hours won’t count.
  • Ad Hoc Training : When you’re not a Check/Training Captain, but conducting Ad Hoc Training as an Instructor (eg : NTS) – there’s a credit and payment. The sheet tracks this as well.
  • Data Filtering / Validation : As much as possible, cell entries are checked from lists for validity (Duties, Airports, Yes/No’s, etc). Any time this is done – there’s a list box you can click to drop and choose from.
  • MCG : The Minimum Credit Guarantee of 5 hours for each day of a sequence of Duty Periods that takes you away from Home Base and includes an operating crew Flight Duty Period (FDP). This was a little tricky to implement, and I’m not sold on my method – suggestions welcome!
  • Carry-Out : Individual Carry Out Duties are no longer necessary – any single duty period that has a credit value (ground or flight) that commences prior to midnight (Crew Local Base Time) on the last day of an RP – the credit hour value for that duty period is paid in that originating RP. Also…
  • Carry-Out DPs/FDPs (including MCG) : Any series of duties (must include an FDP) that carries into the following RP are credited as a whole into the could well result in an MCG based additional payment in the originating RP. Therefore in order to track and calculate this, you’ll need to enter all the Duty Periods past the end of the current RP at the bottom of the sheet in order to ensure the DP/FDP credit values are added and the any applicable MCG calculation is checked.
  • Comments : So you can stir the memory every 8 weeks without having to come back here, many of the cells include comments to remind you how to fill them in or the function they perform. These comments are indicated by the small red rectangle, and pointing your mouse at them causes them to popup.
  • Cell Color : Cells are color coded to assist in entry. Generally only cells coloured GREEN are where you should (can) enter data. Sometimes a cell will be coloured YELLOW to indicate that either no entry has been made (and one is required); or to highlight the use of that cell to you (such as to override a calculated value).
    In the example show, because Positioning has been selected, the Sector field is yellow indicating an entry required, and the Scheduled and Actual Block Times fields are green, also awaiting entry. Note the EBA Credit field is white and is a calculated field you cannot enter data into. Meanwhile, the Over Ride field is also green in case you want to over ride the calculation. Similarly, on the Flight line, the FromToScheduled and Actual Block fields are yellow, awaiting the details of your flight duty.
  • Error Checking : There is a comprehensive cross check built into the sheet to try and ensure you have completed it correctly. If an error is detected (such as a day you forgot to fill in) the “Error” box in the top LH Corner of the sheet. Further, there will be an error flag at the end of the row that contains the error. Finally, the cell in error (might) also be red/yellow to indicate a problem.

1. Primary Selections

  • Choose your Rank (Capt, FO, SO). This influences rates for Callout, Overtime, etc.
  • Choose the Pay Level/Year applicable at the end of the RP. You’re paid after the RP completes, so if there’s a changeover of rates (01 July each year) then the rate applicable after the change will be the ones used,
  • Select the Roster Period.
  • A330 Only : You need to select whether you are an Odd or Even Staff Number (SN). This impacts the calculation of your Min Days Off for the RP.

Having made these basic suggestions, the Overtime Threshold, Effective Overtime Rate (paid after the RP completes) and the Callout Rate are displayed. Note that the OT/Callout rates are based on your Pay Level/Year selection, and the OT Threshold includes the vLearn credit in each RP. The Error flag is shown because the selections against the days of the RP are not yet complete.

2. Daily Duty Types

So the main sheet is where all the work happens, of course. You must select a duty type for every day in the RP – even days where you didn’t do anything, or days that don’t exist (such as the one between takeoff and landing on the way back from LA).

Select the cell, then click the little drop-down arrow to see the list. You can also just type in the entry you want (you must spell it correctly!). Note that having selected it once, the next time you can just start typing the entry, and Autofill will quickly work out what you are after. This seems to be the best way.

Strictly speaking, the days in the column on the LHS of the sheet are based on Crew Member Base Local Time. So when you assign a duty or flight down route in LAX – you should be selecting the Australian Date for this duty. In practice, this only comes into play for carry-out flights/duties at the end of the RP – and this area has been tidied up immensely since EBA 2011.

Shown here is the current list of duty types in use. These may change from time to time, but so far these have worked from the previous EBA.

  • Admin Duty : Admin duties that come with the standard 5:00 hours credit
  • Admin – No Credit : Used when doing an admin duty that does not credit you towards Overtime (0:00)
  • Away Day : Basically days away down route that are not days off. Also the day between departing LAX and arriving back into Australia.
  • Day Off : This is your DDO’s and ADO’a. Note that sometime Crew Control will convert a duty to a Blank day as the result of a change. This is basically a Day Off that won’t generate a callout if you subsequently work it.
  • Flight : Select for any Flight Duty Period (FDP).
  • Gnd/Trg Duty : Basically any type of Ground or Training Duty that’s not Admin – SEP, NTS, etc. This includes running such courses.
  • Leave (All) : All types of leave that reduce your OT threshold, including Annual, Parental, Carers, etc.
  • Open Day : This is the 12 hour notice, 3 hour credit standby day that came in with the 777 2011 EBA. Love these.
  • Positioning : Any form of positioning, where the positioning is the only duty undertaken that day. The sheet automatically handles the 50%, minimum 1 hour per sector; minimum 2 hours for position only duty days.
  • Position (FRMS) : Positioning in the event of going fatigued may not attract credit. Check the EBA whether this applies to your positioning after going fatigued and if so, select this duty to calculate your credit hours correctly without the credit for FRMS Positioning.
  • Sick : Sick days do not attract credit and do not reduce your credit target.
  • Sim Instructor / Sim Student : These two duties have different credit values.
  • Standby/Reserve : This is applicable to both Standby at home and Hotel Standby.

3. The Simple Duties – as well as Callout, Ad Hoc Training and Cancelled Accommodation.

So some of the duties (Flight, Positioning) are clearly more complex than others. Let’s get the simple ones done first.

  • Day Off ; Admin (both); Gnd/Trg Duty; Leave; OpenDay; Sick, Simulator, Standby/Reserve : Once selected, that’s it for that day … except if …
  • Callout : If a callout is applicable, you need to Enter or Select Yes in the callout column. Note there is no longer  Day One, DayOne+ callout rate – it’s all one rate.
  • Ad Hoc Trg : If you’re performing a Gnd/Trg Duty as an Ad Hoc Instructor – enter Yes in this column to have the sheet calculate your Ad Hoc Instructors payment to the breakdown/total.
  • Canc Accom : If you have cancelled company accommodation for one or more duties, select Yes here to have the sheet include these in the breakdown/total.

4. Positioning

Positioning requires additional detail to calculate correctly. The (basic) EBA 2017 rules for calculating Positioning Credit are as follows:

  • Positioning typically gains a 50% credit of the larger value of (Scheduled or Actual Block Time). Once again – prior to positioning the Flt Time value on your roster is the Scheduled Block Time; once you’re positioned your roster will show the Actual Block Time.
  • There’s a minimum 1 hour credit per sector (applied after the 50% factor).
  • If the only thing you are doing in the duty period is Positioning – then there’s a minimum 2 hour credit.
  • Remember that if you commence a Duty Period with Positioning (or anything else) that goes over midnight Crew Base Local Time of the last day of the RP and into the next RP – the credit (Scheduled/Actual/EBA) goes into the RP in which the Duty Period commenced.
  • There are some very specific instance where International Positioning in Economy comes with 100% of the (Scheduled/Actual) hours as Credit. In this case – the EBA Override cell is used to credit yourself with the full sector’s credit.
  • Clear as mud?

Here you can see a typical series of duties. Day One is positioning up to BNE for Simulator. Day Two is the Sim Session, and (yet to be entered) the positioning sector home. Note the Yellow cell showing a required entry (the sector) and the three green cells for Sched BlockActual Block, and Over Ride. The EBA Credit is already filled in at 2 hours minimum since that’s all you are doing during the duty period.

Now the first line is basically complete. The sector (MEL-BNE) has been entered. The Sched Block (from roster publication) has been entered. The Actual Block (from the roster after “flown”) has also been entered. Since 50% of both these values is less than 2 hours – the EBA Credit remains at 2 hours. Note that any value you enter in the Over Ride cell will over-ride the EBA Credit cell. Any value you enter in this cell turns the cell Orange to indicate that an over-ride is in use.

But we have to get home from BNE after sim. This positioning is part of the Duty Period applicable to the Sim Student duty. To apply this, click on the Sector cell and enter the BNE-MEL sector (even though the cell is not green). Once you’ve done this, the Sched BlockActual BlockEBA Credit and Over Ride cells will activate for further entry. You can see that in this case the 50% credit value is calculated (since there is no 2 hour minimum) and that Actual is great than Scheduled. If this was SYD-MEL, the EBA Credit value would show 1:00 since 50% of SYD-MEL is less than the one hour per sector EBA minimum.

Finally – in the event that we go fatigued after a duty and are not safe to drive home, any positioning sector that follows the rest may not incur a credit value. In this case, show the duty as Position (FRMS) and whatever you choose to enter in the Sector,  Sched BlockActual Block cells – the  EBA Credit cell will show 00:00. Note however that the Over Ride cell still functions to override all calculation and uses the entered Over Ride value to credit your hours.

One case the Over Ride cell could be used is when positioning internationally on a sector length above 7 hours where the rest period after the positioning, prior to operating, is less than the minimum proscribed in the EBA. In this case – manually enter the maximum of (Scheduled ActualBlock Time into the EBA Over Ride cell – there is no factoring here, any value you enter over-rides all other positioning considerations. In this case the EBA Over Ride cell shows in orange to indicate it’s over-riding all the other positioning calculations.

Note : Occasionally you have to do mental maths to work out the Scheduled or Actual Block time from your roster. If you have a Start and Stop time for this, you can do the maths in your head (remember the two times are Local Time so between MEL and BNE there could be a missing (or extra) hour you have to account for in your formula) – then you can use the following formula in Excel (say the Actual Block is between 14:37 and 16:58) in the cell where you need the result. After you’ve used the formula to get an answer – it’s easiest just to type the answer in over top of the formula.

=Time(16,58,0)-Time(14,37,0)

4. Flights

Flights also require more details in order to calculate the correct credit value. This includes tracking both Scheduled and Actual Block Times (Pushback to Park). Note that the Flt Time value that appears on your Sabre roster at publication (or before you fly the trip) is the Scheduled Block Time applicable for the trip. Shortly after you have flown the trip – this time becomes the Actual Block Time you flew – and the Scheduled value is no longer accessible. I therefore strongly recommend taking screenshots of your roster after publication so you can retain the scheduled values.

MCG : Minimum Credit Guarantee

More complicated is the implementation of the Minimum Credit Guarantee. Basically when you head off from Home Base on a series of duties that includes a Flight Duty Pairing where you are operating (not positioning) – you get a minimum credit of 5 hours per day until you complete the Duty Period that signs you off at Home Base. This includes any Duty Types (Simulator, Admin, Ground Training, Open, Standby, Day Off, etc) as long as one of them is a Flight (Operating).

At the end of the duty series – if the 5 hour per day credit exceeds the credit from the Duty Period/Types – you are paid the MCG. I’ve implemented this methodology using the MCG # column to the immediate right of the Duty Type column. Anytime you start a series of flight-related duties (1 or more) where the MCG is applicable (because of a Flight) – place a number in the MCG # cell for each date of the sequence of duty periods. Keep that number identical for subsequent duties until complete the series ends back at Home Base. Use a new number for the next series of duties that includes an FDP. It sounds more complicated than it is … Mostly.

Firstly select Flight from the Duty Type list box on the left against the departure date of your flight. Note that technically this is the departure date based on your Crew Base Local Time. Which for evening LAX departures means the day after that shown on your Sabre roster.

  • Now enter the MCG # value. While the specific number actually doesn’t matter (I’ve limited it to 1…9 for now) – I suggest using 1-1-1-1 for your first trip; then 2-2-2-2 for your second trip, etc. Note that when you select Flight the MCG # cell next to that selection will turn yellow to highlight you need an entry there. When you choose a non-flight for the next day (say, Away Day) the cell will not be yellow – but this cell still needs the MCG # since it’s part of a sequence of duties.
  • Next, scroll across and you’ll see the Flight Details area has some yellow areas for entry. Enter the From airport and the To airport, then enter the Scheduled Block time (shown on your Sabre roster as Flight Time at publish). This will give you an initial estimate of the credit hours that will come from this duty. For the moment I have not provided for multiple sectors on the 777 – I’ll do it with the 330 and then decide if the solution should be rolled back. Further to the right, you can see the EBA Credit has your scheduled block time value.
  • Once you’ve operated the flight, look back at your Sabre roster and enter the actual Flight Time into the Actual Block time in the spreadsheet. If Actual was longer than Scheduled – you’ll see the new, larger value in the EBA Credit cell.
  • Remember that if you’re called off one or more days off for a trip – enter Yes into the Call Out cell to the immediate right of your Duty Type selection.
  • Finally, once again remember that if you commence a Duty Period with Positioning (or anything else) that goes over midnight Crew Base Local Time of the last day of the RP and into the next RP – the credit (Scheduled/Actual/EBA) goes into the RP in which the Duty Period commenced.

After the entries are complete, scrolling further across to the right (see below) you can see the Duty Type Credit (Max of Sked/Actual Block); MCG Cumulative Credit (5 Hrs/Day), the Pairing Cumulative Credit (based on Max of Sked/Actual Block); and MCG Additional – in the case above the credit from the flying exceeds the credit from the MCG, so there’s no addition. Let’s hit all the highlights with the next one …

Final Example – Flight with Callout, Positioning, Standby and MCG

The following is an example where the MCG applies – in this case, the shorter BNE/LAX flight times (after Standby), along with an extra day in LAX brings the MCG into play. Since the MCG Accumulation (7 x 5:00) comes to 35:00 while the Sequence of FDP related duties comes to 33:00 – there’s a 2:00 in the MCG Addition column at the end of the MCG sequence, and this 2:00 extra has been added into the EBA (& MCG) column on the far right. The MCG is paid by the spreadsheet against the last day of the sequence – either as the only credit (if the last day has no credit, like an Away Day) or added to any credit on that day – like in this example where the 2:00 is added to the Positioning Credit of 1:10.

This sequence is positioning to MEL-BNE for Standby, then heading off on a 5 day trip to LAX (you never know …) then coming back to BNE and positioning BNE-MEL home after arrival. Note in this instance I was called out for this sequence as indicated by the Yes in the Callout column.

  • The MCG # (2) is selected for the entire set of the MCG related days. Because the Positioning and Standby days are associated with the Flight Duty Period sequence – they count towards MCG. The “2” probably means this is the second trip on my roster.
  • Positioning on 28/Jan was 2:00 because that’s the minimum. Although the MCG of 5 hours on the day exceeds this value – MCG applies across the total sequence of duties, so you can’t tell if MCG is going to pay until it’s all over (including Actual vs Schedule for both Positioning and Flights).
  • Standby on 29/Jan has a 5:00 hour credit.
  • The Flights on 30/Jan and 02/Feb are credited based on the highest of (Sked/Actual) Block Time.
  • During the sequence, the highest of the MCG Cumulative Credit or Pairing Cumulative Credit is highlighted (subtle yellow).
  • At the end of the sequence – the MCG accumulation comes to 35:00; the duty related credit 33:00 – so the MCG adds 2:00 hours to the EBA (& MCG) Credit for the series of Flight related duties.

Note that while the EBA may not be clear – the Payroll system is coded to look only for an FDP as part of a series of duties; then it looks for the first Duty Period that took you away from Home Base at or before the FDP; and the last Duty Period/DFP that brought you back to Home Base. MCG is applied across the entire series of duties – FDPs and non-FDPs alike.

In the example below, I choofed off to Sydney on 02/Jan to teach two days of Ground School. Then I headed off SYD-LAX and came back the next day. On the last day (after arriving into SYD) I positioned home to MEL. The MCG calculation is done across all these duties. In this instance MCG Cumulative Credit is less than Pairing Cumulative Credit.

[Read more…]

Tax Time : Crew Allowances (v3.4) [14Sep18]

It’s Tax time again and as since I’m one of those lazy people who does all the work at the end, instead of keeping up with it as it goes along – the first thing I need to do is update my Allowance calculator spreadsheet. I’m posting a copy of the sheet here for you guys to download because each year more and more crew ask for a copy and I can’t remember who’s asked for it and who hasn’t. In this post, I’ll discuss the basis for the tax refund, and how to use the spreadsheet.

Disclaimer

Sorry – but this Excel spreadsheet is all care and no responsibility on my part. I’m using it myself and so I have certainly checked it as best I can to determine if there are any errors – but I can’t promise there aren’t any. Feel free to look through all the tabs at the tables of values I’ve taken from the current TD to make sure there aren’t any entry errors – please let me know if there are via the comments at the bottom of this post and I’ll fix it and re-upload.

Background

Essentially the Australian Tax Office produces a Tax Determination each year which covers this issue. There’s a new one each year and it’s urbanely titled “Income Tax : What are the reasonable travel and overtime meal allowance expense amounts for the 20XX-YY income year?“.

The TD determines the maximum reasonable amount for overnight allowances (without receipts). The amount is determined by location (separate listings for Australia Cities vs Overseas Countries/Currencies) and are also affected by salary level – the concept being that if you earn a lot more, you are allowed to spend a lot more when you’re on a trip. I wish.

Salary cutoff’s for the salary bandings are as follows (all values are AUD) :

Low : Less than $110,650 AUD
Mid : Between $119,650 and $212,950
High : Greater than $212.950

Typical ATO maximum claim values are values for our trips are:

LAX (Short)  => Lo: $660 / Med: $860 / Hi: $1,020
AUH (Long) => Lo: $1,075 / Med: $1,400 / Hi: $1,725

As you can see – the ATO values are in excess of the allowances typically paid to crew, irrespective of salary band.

I would encourage you to read through the TD in detail, but basically it says that if your company pays less than the ATO allowance for overnight expenses (Meals and other Incidentals) you are entitled to claim the difference between what the Company pays and what you actually spend, up to a maximum threshold which is the ATO allowance.

Notice that you can claim the difference up to what you actually spend – which may be less than the ATO allowance. That said – the TD says that while you can’t claim what you don’t actually spend – you don’t have to provide receipts either.

For Australian Stations, how much the ATO allows is a combination of a meal allowance (eg: if you’re “on station” anywhere between 0600am-0800am, you get a breakfast allowance) and an “incidental allowance”. The incidental allowance is paid for each day you touch while you are on station. Note that the actual meal time bands are not published anywhere in TD 017/2011. I’m still hunting down an ATO reference, but apparently the ones the Company uses are based on the ATO time bands.

For International Stations, while there is a concept of Meals – time bands are not applied and instead for each day (or part thereof) you are “on station” a combination of all the meal allowances (brekky, lunch, dinner) and the incidental allowances is paid.

In the past there’s been a lot of too-ing and fro-ing about this (as you can imagine). My accountant has allowed me to claim this for four years now and since he worked for the ATO for many years – he’s is extremely conscious of what is and isn’t kosher when it comes to income tax deductions. owever I’ve had a number of pilots and cabin crew tell me their accountant has said it’s not kosher.

If your accountant has issues, and you want to persist with it – I suggest you talk to my accountant about it. He’s had extensive discussions with the ATO and two years ago obtained a judgement/ruling in this area. He can be reached via his web site. As an aside – he’s been my accountant for about 9 years now and I have no hesitation in recommending him.

Geoff Taylor http://www.majenda.com/ +61 (2) 9904 6933

Cash Allowances – Report from Payroll

The cash allowances we now receive down route complicates things a little. You will need to provide the details of this money to your accountant and the ATO. This can be done in one of two ways.

  • [CASH] Go back in time and note down how much you were paid (in local currency) on each layover; or
  • [REPORT] Get a report from Payroll (payroll.queries@virginaustralia.com) which will give you a total in Australia dollars.

The former method has the advantage of being highly accurate. The latter (report from payroll) is difficult to check for accuracy. Please note I have labelled the two methods above CASH and REPORT – this is because the spreadsheet allows you to do either of these methods, and later I’ll show you how.

The Spreadsheet

Ok, so onto the spreadsheet. As an overview:

  • Enter some basic parameters in the Summary sheet (approximate Salary, etc);
  • Enter the Payslip and Cash Allowances paid to you via Salary in the Summary sheet;
  • Enter the details of your layovers (both domestic and international) in the DutyLog sheet; then
  • The Summary sheet will advise the totals – but I just give the whole sheet to my accountant.

Summary Page – Company Payslip (domestic) Allowances

The spreadsheet is protected against accidentally overriding the formula’s – the green cells are where you can enter values.

Basically, you need to log onto the portal and run V-Claim and look at your past payslips. For each two week pay period – take the value you were paid in allowances by the company (“Meal/Incidental Allowances”) and enter it against the correct date in the spreadsheet. Where you were docked overpayments (or paid extra) – these are to be entered too, even if it means entering negative allowances for that payslip.

Note this amount will NOT include allowances paid in cash over the hotel check-in desk. That’s handled elsewhere.

Summary Page – Basic Variables.

Now there are some global numbers to enter on the Summary Sheet. The major one is Gross Salary, which is used to determine which Salary Range you are in and therefore which allowance band will be used. All of the following values are required:

  • Enter your approx Gross Salary into the green box.
  • If you are using the [REPORT] method to determine cash allowances paid down route – enter the total from the report provided by Payroll into the Hotel Cash Allowances (Report) green box. Otherwise – leave it blank.
  • ATO Tax Rate : when you look at how much tax you paid last year, divided into your Gross Income – you can get an approximate percentage figure. Based on this, the spreadsheet can estimate what you’re allowance refund should be – which is Allowance Difference x (1 – %Approx Tax Rate). This will give a “best guess” at how much you can expect to get back on your allowances.

Once you have completed the Duty Log section of the sheet, you’ll get the following values on the Summary Sheet.

  • Payslip Allowances : Summed from the table (on the left) you entered them into.
  • Hotel Cash Allowances (as paid) : If you enter all the local currency cash paid down route onto the Duty Log sheet – it’ll be summed here.
  • Total Company Allowance : The addition of the Payslip plus Hotel Allowances.
  • ATO Allowance : This is how much the ATO calculates Crew Allowances at for Tax Purposes – based on your roster entered on Duty Log.
  • Difference – the gap that you can claim.
  • Approx Tax Refund : Based on your ATO Tax Rate this is a general stab at what you should get back.

The Duty Log (Where it All Happens) Example : SYD – MEL – LAX – BNE – SYD

The Duty Log tab is where you enter in all the details of the flights you have operated during 01.Jul.2011 -> 30.Jun.2012

While the data you enter is based on the flights you operate – in fact for the most part is is the off duty periods between flights while away from home that you are claiming. This is an important distinction when entering the information. For the trip pictured below, you’re claiming:

  1. The time from getting on the flight SYD to MEL until the next day when you sign on for the MEL-LAX flight; and
  2. The time between arriving (sign off) into LAX and departing (sign on) LAX for BNE; and
  3. The time between arriving (sign off) into BNE and arriving back into SYD after the domestic flight.

Note : It doesn’t matter where your domicile is – all these calculations are to be Sydney based, as your roster is.

Note : All Dates/Times are Local Time, wherever you are.

Remember that you are only addressing periods of time between flights or during ground duties such as SEP or CRM, which are NOT at your home base. Thus you can’t claim anything for SEP in Sydney – but you can if you are flown to BNE for SEP training. In which case you would claim against the time away from SYD : From the time you go on the flight in SYD; until when you got off the plane again back in SYD.

The headings of the spreadsheet are reasonably self explanatory and if you place the mouse cursor over each of them, a popup comment (cells with little red triangle in the corner) provides additional detail … However … using the picture here as a sample :

(A) Date : The Date column is pre-filled with a Date for each day of the tax financial year. For each FLT or GND duty – you place it on the date that the allowance claim period started. So you start claiming an LAX layover period on the day the LAX flight departed Australia. However if you land after midnight after flying into AUH – you would start your claim on the day after the flight departed SYD – does that make sense?

(B) Duty Type : Duty Type is either FLT (Flight); GND (Ground Duty – Meetings, SEP, etc); or SIM (Simulator Training). You can enter it or choose it from a dropdown box.

(C) Station : This is the three letter code for the layover airport. This determines whether the station is Domestic or Overseas, as well as linking into the exchange rate later on. You can enter it or choose it from a dropdown box.

(D) Start Time : This is a time (entered in 24 hours time with a colon, eg 23:40) which denotes the start of the period for which allowances are to be paid. For LAX/AUH flights – this is the Sign Off time after you arrive into LAX/AUH.

(E) Start Date : The date is automatically filled in from the first date column and is only repeated for convenience. Again – watch out for AUH flights that get in late after midnight.

(F) Stop Time : This is the time at which the paid layover period ends. For LAX/AUH flights – this should be the Sign On time for the return flight.

(G) Stop Date : Since our layovers will end on a different date to the arrival time – a separate date is entered alongside the Stop Time to help with the calculation of how many days you were on station. Dates can be entered into Excel in a number of ways (12.3.12   12.mar.12  12.mar  12.3  etc) but always check after you’ve entered one that it’s worked correctly. Also look in the Days column to see if the calculation has worked. Remember that you lose a full day on the way back from LAX (which you can’t claim for – nice try!)

(H+I) Start / Stop Date/Time : These two columns are the calculated start and stop date/time based on what you entered. Have a quick look at these two after you enter in your values to make sure you’ve done it correctly.

(J) Cash Allowances Hotel Paid (Local $) : If you are going to use the [CASH] method for down route allowances, enter the amount in local currency you were given here. This will be converted to AUD using the RBA exchange rate on that day.

(K) Cash Allowances Hotel Paid (AUD $) : If for some strange reason you want to enter your [CASH] Hotel paid allowances in Australian Dollars (Why? Why?) – you can do that here. If you enter both $Local and $AUD – the sheet will get grumpy at you. Be warned.

(L) Total Cash Allowances (AUD$) : The sheet will calculate the AUD amount of allowance paid over the counter by the hotel based on what you entered into the previous twe columns. But you only used one of those columns – correct?

(M) Done : If the spreadsheet has enough information to calculate – there will be an Ok in this column. Otherwise it will be blank and you should go back and see what has been done wrong.

(N) Days : This is the number of days you were on station, rounded up to the next whole day. This number forms the basis for the Incidental Allowance calculation, and the Day of Meals calculation for International Layovers.

Ground Duty not in SYD.

Here is an example of how a ground duty somewhere other than SYD is claimed. Basically you claim from the time you board the flight in SYD, until the time you get off the flight back into SYD after ground training in BNE, three days later, or whatever.

[Read more…]

Tax Time : Crew Allowances 2017/2018 {UPDATED 13AUG18)

It’s Tax Time again 2017/2018 and as since I’m one of those lazy people who does all the work at the end, instead of keeping up with it as it goes along – the first thing I need to do is update my Allowance calculator spreadsheet. I’m posting a copy of the sheet here for you guys to download because each year more and more crew ask for a copy and I can’t remember who’s asked for it and who hasn’t. This years’s ATO Taxation Determination is here.

Note : I’ve updated the sheet to greatly expand the list of available stations (both OZ and OS); and corrected a few issues that have popped up with initial use.

Note that this article is a follow on from the original article which covers the basics of the relevant legislation – and more importantly, how to use the spreadsheet.

Ken.


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Reading Into/Beyond the Checklist

Firstly, it has to be said that most of the time, this is not a good idea. Broadly speaking Aircraft Manufacturer checklists are designed to be followed and not second-guessed. When you’ve lost all your hydraulic fluid, and therefore hydraulic pressure, and the checklist tells you to turn first one and then another hydraulic pump from AUTO to ON – you know this isn’t going to work. So why do it? Let’s just ITEM OVERRIDE this step and get on with the NNM. At this point, your instructor will (hopefully) lean forward and say something along the lines of “Stop thinking so hard – you’ll hurt yourself (or something else) … do the checklist items.” Harsh, but sage advice.

But while most of the time we are taught to robotically work our way through the checklist – there are times when the PF/Captain really needs to understand what a checklist is trying to achieve. NNM checklists are broadly speaking flow charts – and the critical points are the Yes/No decision points. These points in effect allow the crew to determine the flow of the checklist and what state the aircraft will end up at in respect of the NNM. This question in the Eng Limit/Surge/Stall Checklist is just one of those points. Sounds like a simple question, doesn’t – objective enough for you?

Again, most of the time these Yes/No points are based on an objective assessment and there’s little subjectiveness about them. But sometimes you are being asked more than you realise – a knowledgeable, seasoned 777 pilot knows the true meaning of what these questions are asking in relation to the flow of the checklist, and there are times when less objective assessment and checklist knowledge is a requirement …

Example time.

Engine Rundown to Idle

In flight, you have a failure where the engine rolls back to idle even as the associated thrust lever stays at the commanded thrust level. In fact, as speed reduces, both thrust levers advance, but the affected engine remains at idle. In this scenario, the engine doesn’t actually fail – no  ENG FAIL on EICAS. What you do you? – Fly The Plane, of course.

But after you run the Engine Failure Analysis, you’ll eventually end up in the Eng Lim/Surge/Stall Checklist, and you’ll be at this question. At this point your engine is running at idle, powering pneumatic, hydraulic and electrical systems. There’s no vibration, exceedance – or EICAS messages.

What’s your answer going to be? Are you Sure?

This question regarding stabilisation and EGT is a cover for what the checklist is actually asking you. To determine that you need to appreciate the question holistically in terms of where the two answers take you in the checklist. Only then can you answer this question in full knowledge of the implications of the answer you choose.

What this question is really asking you is – Do you want to shut the engine down? If the answer is No – then it’s off to Step 4; otherwise, we are shutting the engine down and setting up for an Engine Out aircraft. Note that this is your last opportunity to shut this engine down in this checklist – after this, if you need to do so you’ll be doing it off your own recognisance, without configuration guidance from the checklist.

There are a few questions like this throughout the Boeing QRH/ECL and you only really understand them if you armchair fly them and when considering the question – look at the steps that follow your selections. By the way … when I said in the scenario description that the engine was at Idle …

Engine at Idle Thrust

There’s a failure in our simulator where the Auto Throttle system loses the ability to know where the thrust lever is at. Since it doesn’t know what thrust is being commanded – it sets Idle thrust, and this happens as soon as the failure occurs – on Takeoff, in Cruise, during a Go-Around.

When considering continued flight with an engine at idle thrust – one of the considerations must be … How do you know it’s actually at idle? It’s not like there’s an idle thrust detent on the N1 gauge. If you think about it, the only way you can really know an engine is at Idle is to bring the other one back to idle and compare. Having achieved that – now all you need to do is assume that it will stay at idle, particularly during the flare, where discovering that actually your malfunctioning engine is not at idle – or is not under control – could do serious damage to your landing plans.

Ken.


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The Volcanic Ash Encounter

Procedure and Techniques : Volcanic Ash Encounters

Hang onto your hats everyone, here we go … The Volcanic Ash Encounter is the last remaining bastion of the major NNM exercise in the 777. Enjoy it while you can folks – in the 787 the AP remains engaged for Dual Eng Fail/Stall and in the event of Unreliable Airspeed, a flick of a switch restores the Airspeed based on angle of attack to an accuracy of something like 5 knots.

But in our antiquated777, you’re going to see some or all of the following:
• Loss of thrust from one or both engines;
• Failure of one or both engines (be aware of the difference between engine loss and thrust loss …);
• Loss of the PFCs leading to Secondary/Direct control, no AP, FD, probably no A/Thr (good thing all you want is Idle Descent for a while);
• Reversion to Left PFD/ND/Upper EICAS with all other screens failed – if both engines fail. The RAT returns the Right PFD/ND; the APU brings with it the lower MFD. Nothing returns where you were up to in the ECL, you’re starting both the NM and the NNM checklists from scratch.

Anyway – this single event incorporates a host of NNM Management Procedures, Techniques and Axioms, often in conflict with each other. Each time you run this in the simulator, the basic scenario manifests differently, and even to the same scenario – crew respond differently much of the time, more often than not correctly in their own respect. But after a while you realise the same questions come out time and time again, and some crew have better management techniques that we can all learn from.

As always – this is a techniques discussion firmly rooted in (hopefully) common sense and airmanship, but also a lot of experience watching and doing this in the simulator – and absolutely no actual experience in real life. While I’ve spoken at length to Eric Moody, I’m still waiting for my first real Volcanic Ash encounter – and I spend a fair amount of effort in pre-flight and in-flight doing my best to avoid it.

Volcanic Ash

Without spending time talking about what you already know – suffice to say flying in Ash is bad, and your first voluntary action should be to get out of it and protect your engines. This requires (a) a Descent; and usually (b) a Turn.

So now you’re turning in HDG / TRK SEL – AP engaged ideally – and Descending with Idle Thrust in FLCH SPD. With any luck, you get away without losing both your engines, retain your airspeed indications, and you’re left with (probably) at least one malfunctioning engine, and an un-annunciated Volcanic Ash Checklist to do. I personally have a terrible habit of reaching up and starting the APU in all of this – a bad technique that so far no-one has managed to train me out of – but as always, I’m hopeful of self-improvement.

Then … Dual Eng Fail Stall – or is it?

At least, that was your plan. In the sim, things happen a little quicker than you’d like – or recognition takes longer than you’d planned – and if you haven’t commenced a descent, you’ve got one or both engines rolling back. That leads you into the Dual Eng Fail/Stall Memory Items. I personally consider the Airspeed and APU as part of the memory items, but that’s technique.

If you have commenced a descent – congratulations, while you were hoping to protect your engines, you’ve probably also disguised the Dual Eng Fail/Stall occurrence. They may not be both failed as you descend in Idle – but they could well be both Stalled near Idle. If you want to test this, you can (in HOLD) push each thrust lever up one at a time to see if you’re getting a response. If you have one engine, then you can continue down secure in the knowledge that you’ll be able to level off when you want to (maybe). If not – you need to get onto the Dual Eng Fail/Stall Memory Items. If the APU is running at this point, it’s all sweet – if not, you’re about to lose all the screens except yours when you cycle the Fuel Control Switches … Cutoff/Run. I say “yours” because if as the Captain you’re not already flying, you soon will be when the right PFD/ND disappear, including the ECL and whatever progress you’ve made through the outstanding NNM checklists when the engines are cycled. Note – I’m NOT saying to delay the Memory Items while you wait for the APU.

Management

A quick word on Management. With my Captain hat on – I’m pretty confident in my ability to “Manage” most NNMs, as well as my ability to do things like selecting and implementing a preferred flight path, choosing between different memory Items, telling ATC what I want (no requesting at this point), considering conflicting checklists, including the Cabin into the equation as soon as I’m able, Aviate/Navigate/Communicate, Assessor/Action/Manager and generally FORDECing the stuffing out of this day.

Right up until the point where I’m trying to do any of this while hand flying a 777 glider on raw data, no engines and bad airspeed.

Therefore – in this scenario, my standard response is to get the aircraft into the safest immediate state that I can – Fly The Plane, Descent (Idle), Turned (Away), Memory Items (if necessary, done) – then hand it over and get on with my real job.

All of a sudden, the workload of flying is gone, I have 90% of my brain released from the task of flying (some would say more) and my capacity to deal is increased significantly. At this point as the PM/Captain, the most common mistake is to sacrifice Monitoring against Management and leave your other Pilot to deal with it all. Don’t forget to Monitor – especially if the scenario does transfer to Manual Flight and Unreliable Airspeed (and the requirement to recognise it) as is a likely consequence.

The Cabin

Obviously, one or both of your engines will return and you’re headed off to whichever airport is nearest/suitable. How do I know this? – 20 years of simulator exercises, that’s how I know. But if you want to allow for the possibility of NOT getting your engines back – then I suggest getting your Cabin Leader into the scenario slightly before the “Brace Brace” call at 500 feet. Know how you’re going to get her/him into the flight deck asap; exactly what you’re going to say – while managing/flying/breathing.

The Question Is – Which Checklist?

So, when you’re just into the Volcanic Ash checklist and you lose both engines – what do you do? Dual Eng Fail/Stall Memory Items of course.

With those out the way (how easy was that) – now you need to decide what checklist to do now. The likely choices are to continue the Volcanic Ash Checklist, or run the Dual Eng Fail/Stall Checklist. Which one are you going to run – considering that they are both un-annunciated and so EICAS does not offer any direction here.

First principles suggest that the checklist with the Memory Items could be considered a higher priority than a checklist that does not have them, and that’s an entirely defensible position. That leads to Dual Eng Fail/Stall.

If you know your checklists, you also know that all the elements of the Dual Eng Fail/Stall checklist are (currently) contained within the Volcanic Ash Checklist (and a few more, since the Volcanic Ash deals with not just the engine problem(s) but also … you know, the Volcanic Ash). So, while procedurally the correct response is probably to run Dual Eng Fail/Stall Checklist, I’d like to believe that continuing the Volcanic Ash Checklist instead is a forgivable sin.

Either way – you’re going to end up running the Volcanic Ash Checklist at one point or another anyway, even if it’s after you’ve completed the Dual Engine Fail/Stall Checklist. Sorry – did you want a clear answer to this question?

Tidying Up – One Engine To Go

One final odd element left behind from the two checklists is that it’s quite likely that you can be left with a stalled or failed engine and no checklist on EICAS. Until you’ve got one engine back and leveled off – or never lost both and leveled off clear of the ash on (at least) one engine – this is a minor inconvenience only. But at some point, you need to deal with the second engine. How you do that depends on your Engine Failure Analysis. This should lead you to …

  • the  ENG FAIL checklist (and the option of a re-start);
  • the  Eng Limit/Surge/Stall checklist (via the Memory Items) and the option of continuing to run the engine at reduced thrust;
  • or the  Eng Svr Damage/Sep checklist (via the Memory Items) and a secured engine.

All of these checklists will also sort out TCAS TA; Flap 20/30 other Engine NNM considerations.

Ken.


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GPS Failure and Subsequent Navigation

One of the limitations I’ve encountered with today’s all singing all dancing aircraft simulators is the total inability to simulate casual mapshift.

As you know, the position of the aircraft (for display on the Map and as used by a  number of systems) – is determined by the FMC (Flight Management Computer). Of course the FMC actually has no inherent ability to determine position at all – it merely looks at the positions provided by other systems and uses that information to decide where the aircraft is.

These systems include ADIRU/IRS (Inertial Reference System),  Radio Navigation Aids and of course the now ubiquitous GPS. The FMC looks as these positions and uses the most accurate one – typically GPS – to update it’s own determination of aircraft position.

This distinction is important. In the event of a GPS failure which causes the FMC to re-consider (for example) the ADIRU/IRS as the new position source, it will take some time for the FMC position to “wander” across to the IRS determined position. It’s not instantaneous – which is a good thing, given that the aircraft would take a sharp turn to head back towards track if the position reference were to change quickly.

GPS is indeed ubiquitous, as these days at any point in space it’s not unusual to be able to gain position information from in excess of 12 satellites (your smart phone, which also sees GLONASS, has a lot more to choose from). This is a whole lot of redundancy and increased accuracy in position fixing. While that many satellites are unlikely to fall out of the sky any time soon (solar flare activity notwithstanding) the weak point is of course the onboard GPS equipment. Should it fail then we revert to 1980’s navigation technology of Radio Navaids falling back on ADIRU/IRS. Today’s IRS’s are stunningly accurate – after 14 hours of flight, despite an ANP of 20 miles or more – it’s not unusual to see less than a mile’s difference between the GPS and ADIRU. But that mile discrepancy is a significant impact on terminal navigation – were it not for radio updating of the FMC position.

Isn’t it about time someone looked at the formula for determining the ANP of a current generate IRS? It sure seems like the numbers (which starts at about 4 nm/hr and ameliorates out to about 20 nm after 10 hours) seems a bit excessive when I’m scarcely seeing more than about half a mile drift on the IRS when I shut down after 14 hours).

Oh – and if  you’re not clear on the difference between the ANP of an inertial position and actual IRS drift then you’d better stop reading this and head back into the FCOM.

Therefore, it’s such a pity we turn off NAV RAD updating of the FMC position by default in the FMC during Pre-Flight. There’s a reason we do this and it’s based on RNP / RNP-AR approvals, but it does leave the ignorant exposed should GPS position fixing fail.

From a training point of view – this is where the simulator frustrates me no end.

You see today’s simulators are totally unable to simulate IRS drift, except as a hugely obvious simulated mapshift failure. IRS drift is actually a normal event – rather than a non-normal one. At any stage of flight, pressing the EFIS POS button will show some degree of IRS drift – along with the FMC ignoring it because GPS or NAV RAD is in use. If these other more accurate sources aren’t available – you won’t see IRS drift because the FMC is following the IRS – even though the drift is there; you now have mapshift. But in the simulator – the IRS doesn’t drift and no matter how long you fly for, the IRS position is superimposed right over the GPS position – which is totally misleading.

This is where the GPS failure comes in. In preparation for RNAV RNP AR approaches – all radio nav updating in our aircraft has been disabled by default. Hence if the GPS fails, the FMC will not use radio aids to calculate position – instead, it will default to the Inertial ADIRU/IRS position. Fortunately, the GPS Checklist encourages the use of radio navaids as a navigation source – but it’s not exactly clear about the need for it.

Practices & Techniques : GPS Failure and Subsequent Navigation

In the event of total GPS loss to the aircraft, the QRH NNM checklist asks the crew to consider allowing the update of FMC position by radio updating “If radio updating is allowed.”

Radio Updating of the FMC position is inhibited by default and checked in this position during pre-flight. After a GPS failure, if radio updating remains OFF, all position fixing all FMC position (and subsequent LNAV Navigation) is based on IRS positioning. On a typical 14 hour flight to LAX, this means the aircraft could be anything up to 1 nm left or right of centreline if LNAV is used to position onto a precision or non-precision approach.

Crew will need to enable radio updating and closely monitor navigation performance – typically via the EFIS POS facility.

Ken.


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KLAX Los Angeles SIDs & STARs

Early last year, the FAA revised the SIDs and STARs at Los Angeles KLAX airport. I don’t know if I had annual leave or missed any associated documentation, but it’s fair to say that as a fleet that basically operates into the East Coast of Australia and LAX exclusively – it was something of a baptism of fire. There are a number of issues that subsequently developed, and we’re actually grappling with the best way to deal with some of the issues that resulted, even today. Let’s head down the rabbit hole.

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EBA Overtime Calculator (v2.6) [Update 27Oct17]

I’ve watched the EBA with some envy for the last three years. Between Overtime, Callout, Domestic Allowances, Leave and Days Off, the position of Manager hasn’t quite kept pace with the EBA. I’ve also been watching the need for a spreadsheet to calculate the Overtime, Callout and Accommodation Cancellation monies, but resisting the temptation to build one. I didn’t quite want to know how much I was missing out on.

Current Version : V2.6 27.Oct.17 : Down HERE.

– Corrected for leaving the wrong cells locked in 2.5 – no other changes.

I really would have thought we’d be on the new EBA by this RP, but apparently not? Anyway – 2.5 extends the sheet for a couple more RP’s just in case. Esp since there’s still seems to be a lot of overtime going around, even with an aircraft in maintenance for most of this RP …

– Ok, so after some discussion at a recent EBA meeting, positioning credit/before after duties (1 hour) is going to be paid for the time being. Meanwhile the lack of any payscales after 01Jul17 has broken my spreadsheet. For some reason I didn’t plan for the 3 year EBA of 2011 to still be in force …  fixed in 2.4

– After years of paying it, the company is now no longer paying a 1 hour credit for positioning before/after any other duty. Until recently, the 6 hours or so added to my day that is positioning up to BNE for Sim/Admin/etc is not worth Zero. The interpretation is that this event is “travelling” before/after a duty and not positioning under the EBA. Yeah right.- Positioning BNE/SYD/MEL no longer carries a 1 hour credit unless it’s completed as it’s own duty.
– Corrected adding error in Block Hours Total (Top RHS)
– Thanks to PM for spotting to bugs that I’ve corrected in V1.5
– Thanks to TH removed Super from Salaries to better compare Overtime with payslips in V1.6
– Now deals with Carry In/Out Flights that wrap from one RP to the next (see below) – V1.7
– Bug correction in Carry In/Out Flights & Updated to clarify that Push/Park are for Sked; Actual (was User) is for Actual Block (Tks TD) – now in V1.8
– Corrected Calc Blocks Time not showing 00:00 for midnight V1.9
– Added BNE/MEL positioning; change to allow for zero credit positioning on same day of Duty V2.0
– Added CCA/TCA/TFO Rank Selectors to incorporate appointment pay in overttime V2.1

The combination of recently updating my Tax Allowance Claim Calculator for the 2011/2012 Tax Year as well as seeing someone else’s overtime calculation sheet come past my inbox, I decided it was time to get off my tail and build one. I also decided to see how much I could test the data validation and conditional formatting functionality of Excel and turn it into a custom form like entry interface that would test and indicate both incompleteness as well as validity of entries. In the past I’ve always tried to maintain compatibility with Excel 2003, forgoing the really cool features of Excel 2007/2020 – not anymore.

VAI 777 EBA Overtime Calculation Spreadsheet.

I wanted my sheet cope with the following aspects, all in a single spreadsheet.

  • Ranks : It does Captains, First Officers, Relief First Officers; Check Captains, Training Captains and Training First Officers under the EBA.
  • Levels : Whether you’re Level 5 or Level 1 – you select and the sheet does the rest.
  • Level Changes : On 01 July each year, your Level increments. Therefore the Overtime rate increases also. The sheet copes with this.
  • Duty Select : You don’t have to know the credit hours – just select the duty for each duty day and the sheet will use the relevant EBA Credit Hours
  • Leave : Having Leave impacts the Overtime Threshold, as well as the minimum number of days off required in the month – the sheet copes with this.
  • Positioning : There are two types of positioning – EBA (MEL-SYD-MEL or BNE-SYD-BNE) and All Others. The EBA has the standard credit hours – the rest you have to enter. The sheet uses the default credit for EBA positioning; facilitates your entry of the Block hours for non EBA positioning (SYD/KUL/SYD).
  • Ad Hoc Training : When you’re not a Check/Training Captain, but conducting Ad Hoc Training as an Instructor (NTS) – there’s a credit and payment. The sheet tracks this as well.
  • Data Filtering / Validation : As much as possible, entries are checked from lists for validity (Duties, Airports, Yes/No’s, etc). Anytime this is done – there’s a list box you can click to drop and choose from.
  • Summaries and Analysis : Once complete, quick reference summary at the top for Days Off; Leave; Sims; Admin; Standby/Open; Ground Duties; Credit hours (in relation to the Overtime Threshold); Callouts; Block Hours; Cancelled Accom and Ad Hoc Trainer. There’s also a list of duties with a count on the far right, and I’m playing with Pivot Tables and Charts in this one too.
  • Variables ?: I’ve coded as much as I can as variables that can be changed should I need it to. I can’t see anything changing in the EBA in the next 12 months – but just in case …

Let me run you through how to use it:

1. Basic Entries.

The first things the sheet really needs to know is your Rank (Capt, FO, CRFO); Pay Level (1 … 8); and which Roster Period you are looking at (currently only from RP 2012 3/4 onwards). Note that Rank now includes choosing Check/Training Captain/First Officer since this impacts some values.

Note that the Pay Level is the one at the start of your target RP. For most of the original VAI pilots that will be level 5 from RP 9/10 2012 onwards.

Note that when you point your mouse at a cell with a little red triangle in the corner – a hint pops up. Also not that when you click into a cell for data entry – if there’s validation on the cell (such as the requirement to select from a previously established list) a small down arrow shows to the bottom right of the cell – click the example here to see.

Having chosen these variables, the initial credit threshold (it will updated as Leave days are later selected) and Initial Overtime Rate should be checked. All the Dates down the LHS should also fill in for the 56 day RP.

The?Clear Button – clicking this will remove ALL entries into the sheet (From Rank through to all the duties and Positioning/Flight entries – and There’s No UNDO!

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Cold Temperature Altimetry Corrections [Corrected 26Jun17]

I’ve been looking at Cold Temperature Altimetry Corrections in anticipation of potentially operating into such environments again in the near future. While my professional past includes operating the 777 to Moscow, Baku, Seuol, Beijing and a few other cold temperature destinations – most of the last decade has been focussed on Australia, Los Angeles, and the UAE. As such it’s been quite a while since cold temperature corrections have reared their ugly head – let alone metric altimetry. To say I haven’t really missed them is understating it.

Update 26.Jun.17 : Correcting Altitudes on APV – a Cluster

This one’s for you, Alex AFR!

The last week has been a whirlwind of contradictory opinions and conflicting manufacturer and regulatory guidance in this area. I am now firmly of the belief that I have no answer to the following questions (but I’m continuing to chase down something concrete, and definitive).

  • EASA guidance (AMC CAT.OP.MPA.126 (d) (2) Ii) (B), recently published) specifically prohibits changes to the FAF/FAP and DA/H (as opposed to “Minima” which would include MDA). From this document, correction to altitudes is not required from (and including) the FAP through to the MAP. Prior to final approach and the missed approach still requires correction.
  • Previous EASA guidance (AMC  20-27A App4 1.2 ) required corrections for initial, intermediate, missed approach – and the DA/H.
  • This document (2.6.1.5) assumes that cold temp corrections have been made to the DA/H on APV.
  • The documentation provided by two Middle Eastern airlines to their respective crews conforms to this guidance. A highly respected Asian carrier however still corrects the minima on APV. My own airline conforms to the EASA guidance – no correction.
  • Meanwhile, there are FAA and several other regulators to do provide guidance on correcting the minima for APV.
  • That said, if you do not correct the minima on APV, I cannot find documentation that guarantees terrain clearance in the transition from the temperature independent obstacle protected final approach slope – into the temperature sensitive, correction required missed approach. Hence if you don’t correct the minima on an APV, you will be lower on approach – are you guaranteed obstacle clearance as you transition into the missed approach, with it’s requirement to correct temperatures?
  • The Middle Eastern carriers correct minima at 0ºC and below; and Terminal, Initial, Intermediate, Final (where necessary) and Missed Approach altitudes at -30ºC and below – with no clear explanation of why temperatures in between are ignored. There is some justification for this in the Boeing FCOM – but I’m not convinced.
  • Additionally the question occurs that if you correct your Intermediate constraint on an APV, but not your Final Fix (Point) altitude, your FMC commands a steeper (non CDFA) descent on the approach, and takes you below the minimum altitude between the IF and FAF. This would seem to be a clear violation of approach altitude constraints, and it’s unclear to me how you are protected at this point by the final approach slope inherent in APV approach design …
  • And for Alex – on baro-compensated FMS such as the A380, what corrections are required at the FAP, Minima for APV approaches. The A380 presumeably is flying the temperature corrected slope, which means if you do not correct the minima, you’ll be flying further down that slope than you would in either an un-compenstated uncorrected APV or an ISA approach – that can’t be right, can it?

As you can see – THIS IS A CAN OF WORMS. I can’t believe that I’m struggling to understand and obtain clear guidance on something that we’ve been doing for Decades (at least). This is really pissing me off.

It’s possible that the latest documentation from EASA contains an error (that would be the simplest for me!); it’s also possible that the recent change from EASA corrects a previous error. Frack.

More to come … meanwhile …

I thought I had a pretty good grasp on the concept, but as I dove deeper down the rabbit hole and came up hard against the fundamentals of the FMC and VNAV PATH on final approach – I was back to basics in trying to sort out what is required. Fortunately, I had the help of good friends at several other airlines to aid me in my quest. While they have reviewed the following material – any mistakes in what comes next are mine.

As always, the following content is couched firmly in the area of my own “expertise” – Boeing, the B777(-300ER), my airline. Your mileage may vary – but as mentioned I have passed this in front of a number of other consummate professionals across the globe.


Cold Temperature Altimetry Corrections

Aircraft altimeters and altimetry systems are calibrated for ISA conditions. When the OAT deviates from ISA, an indication error occurs in the altimetry information provided to the pilots as well as the barometric altitude reference passed along to the FMC and other systems. The 777/FMC does not currently have the ability to correct for non-ISA temperature deviations.

coldtemp1Deviations from ISA in terms of Altimetry are referenced against a ground-based temperature source, typically the temperature on the ground at the departure or destination airport. While it may not be entirely accurate, a uniform deviation is assumed from the ground to the level of the aircraft.
The size of cold temperature altimetry errors is proportional to:

  • The degree of variation from ISA; and
  • The height of the altitude being corrected above the ground temperature source (above airport elevation).

As shown here from the Boeing FCOM Supplementary Procedures, for a fixed deviation from ISA the correction required increases with altitude. For a fixed altitude, the correction required increases with height above the airfield. Note that ATC provided radar vector altitudes do not require pilot correction for cold temperature corrections.

Warmer the ISA

coldtemp2

In warmer than ISA conditions, the altimetry system under-reads. When the aircraft is flown by reference to a barometric source (whether driven by the pilot/autopilot using the altimeter or the FMC using a barometric reference) the aircraft is invariably actually higher than indicated on the altimeter. An approximate rule of thumb is 0.3º of slope for every 15º of temperature above ISA.

For a Non-Precision Approach (whether driven by the pilot/autopilot using the altimeter or the FMC using a barometric reference) the aircraft will be higher than indicated. Since the error decreases with descent, the height above a 3 degree slope decreases until the aircraft is only a few feet above the required threshold crossing height. In effect the aircraft starts the approach high, descending on a steeper effective angle than promulgated by the instrument approach, which results in slightly higher descent rates and less thrust required. If a visual guidance system is provided the indications will show high on slope to the threshold (see below).

For Precision Approaches (whether ILS or GNSS based), the aircraft flies the commanded 3 degree (or otherwise) slope down to the runway and threshold crossing height. For such approaches, the altimeter will under-read since the aircraft is actually on slope, but the altimetry indications are impacted by the ISA deviation. This is often noticed at the outer marker crossing height check during precision approaches to warmer temperature airports. The minima will require correction for cold temperatures unless RA based (see below).

papiapproachBoeing do not require corrections for warmer than ISA temperatures, and this information is provided for guidance only.

Visual Slope Guidance

From a barometric based approach, in non-standard ISA conditions, the aircraft will be higher (warmer) or lower (colder) than the promulgated instrument approach and any provided visual approach slope guidance system. The height error decreases as the aircraft reduces height above the ground and the aircraft approximates a steeper (warmer) or flatter (colder) approach path, which is maintained to the threshold. This deviation from the visual guidance system approach angle will be reflected in the visual approach slope systems indications.

coldtemp3The values shown here are approximates for a PAPI system aligned at 3 degree slope and are for guidance only.

Correcting Minima (nearly all Approaches)

Precision (Cat 1) and Non-Precision Approaches (RNAV GNSS / RNP LNAV) based on barometric minima (both MDA and DH) require cold temperature corrections. You’re looking at your altimeter to to make your Continue/Don’t decision, and that altitude only provides obstacle clearance protection if it’s been cold temperature corrected.

NOTE : THERE IS (A LOT) OF CONTRADICTORY GUIDANCE ON (NON) CORRECTING FAF/FAP AND MINIMA ON APV. I’LL UPDATE TO WHAT I FINALLY BELIEVE IS CORRECT (WITH REFERENCES) WHEN I KNOW WHAT I FINALLY BELIEVE IS CORRECT!

The exception to this is APV (APproach with Vertical guidance) such as RNAV GNSS/GPS with LNAV/VNAV DH minima and RNP AR / RNP LNAV-VNAV approaches. Such approaches come with an operating temperature range on the chart (usucoldtemp11ally a minimum but often a min and max OAT). Down to the minimum temperature specified, the FAF and Minima (DH) are protected by a sloped obstacle clearance surface (OCS). There is no need to correct the minima for colder temperature altimetry, down to the minimum temp specified on the chart.

Note that Radio Altimeter (RA) based minima do not require cold temperature corrections.

Basic Modes using FPA in Non-Standard ISA Temperatures

When Flight Path Angle (FPA) is used in non-standard ISA temperature conditions, a higher approach angle (warmer conditions) or lower approach angle (colder conditions) is required to commence an approach from an un-corrected initial altitude. This is typically required for NPAs in high temperatures. For low temperature corrected NPAs the promulgated glide path angle should be used with FPA since the aircraft is at the corrected height above the runway, despite the altimeter indications.

Colder Than ISA

coldtemp4

Here we go …

In colder than ISA conditions, the altimetry system over-reads. When the aircraft is flown by reference to a barometric source (whether driven by the pilot/autopilot using the altimeter or the FMC using a barometric reference) the aircraft is invariably actually lower than indicated. This can lead to unsafe clearance from terrain in relation to all minimum safe altitudes in the departure, arrival, approach and missed approach phases of flight. Boeing requires low temperature corrections when the ambient airport temperature is at or below 0C

SIDs and STARs

coldtemp5Minimum Safe Altitudes (MSA), Lowest Safe Altitudes (LSALT) and minimum altitudes on SIDs and STARs may need to be corrected in cold (Airport Temp At/Below 0º C) conditions. Corrections are based on the Boeing FCOM SP chart with extrapolation in accordance with the guidance provided. Corrections are made based on the ambient airport temperature and the height of the minimum altitude above the airfield elevation. Deviations from charted altitude constraints due cold temperature corrections must be communicated to ATC. Note that some FMC constraints cannot be cold temperature corrected (such as conditional altitudes).

The FMC & VNAV PATH in Cold Temperatures

coldtemp6Outside of the CDU LEGS page final approach angle, the FMC drives VNAV vertical path commands through the use of the on-board barometric reference systems, which are subject to cold temperature errors. As such for all instrument approaches, if VNAV is going to be used the FMC LEGS page altitude constraints will require cold temperature corrections. Crew should appreciate the difference between adjusting these altitudes to ensure clearance from terrain (yellow ovals) vs restoring the programmed aircraft flight path to that intended by the approach design (yellow highlight).

Strictly speaking, the Boeing FCOM requires corrections to altitude constraints, although correcting crossing altitudes is a similar procedure. Deviations from ATC cleared altitudes for cold temperature corrections must be communicated to ATC.

Once past the FAF, the FMC follows a path dictated by the geometric angle indicated in the LEGS page, as restricted by any constraining higher altitude in the LEGS page. However the FMC is fundamentally a barometrically driven device, and while a geometric angle is indicated on the LEGS page, in fact the FMC converts this to a barometric path based on the end of path lateral and vertical co-ordinates. As such the FMC flies the LEGS page slope by reference to altimetry, and is subject to temperature error. Since this error is magnified by deviation from ISA and height above the airport:

  • In warmer conditions the FMC will start the final approach high, and fly a steeper slope.
  • In colder conditions, the FMC will start the final approach low and fly a flatter slope.

coldtemp8With corrected FAF (or later) altitude constraints, the FMC calculates a steeper approach angle to meet this increased constraint altitude requirement. Since the barometric temperature error reduces with descent, these corrections will result in the FMC approximating the original promulgated approach angle (while believing it is flying the steeper angle).

coldtemp9Constraints that typically require correction are At, At-or-Above, and At-or-Below. Below constraints do not require cold temperature corrections.

In Short :
While nominally on a glidepath – FMC / VNAV PTH flies a barometrically calculated glide path that is subject to non-ISA temperature altimetry error.

Approach with Vertical Guidance (APV) including RNP-AR

coldtemp10APV approaches differ from standard NPAs in that they are constructed similarly to precision approaches with a sloped Obstacle Assessment Surface (OCS) in the final approach, rather than the traditional step-down criteria shown on such charts. These approaches must be flown in LNAV and VNAV, typically to a Decision Altitude (DA) rather than an MDA.

When these approaches are flown in cold temperature conditions, the final approach slope altitudes do not require correction, and the approach is flown from a lower FAF altitude on a shallower approach. The instrument approach chart includes a minimum ambient (airport) temperature below which the lower, flatter approach is not guaranteed to be clear of the OCS. When the ambient (airport) temperature is below the charted minimum, a reversion to LNAV only minima is usually available – but the charted LNAV/VNAV minima must no be used.

NOTE : THERE IS (A LOT) OF CONTRADICTORY GUIDANCE ON (NON) CORRECTING FAF/FAP AND MINIMA ON APV. I’LL UPDATE TO WHAT I FINALLY BELIEVE IS CORRECT (WITH REFERENCES) WHEN I KNOW WHAT I FINALLY BELIEVE IS CORRECT!

coldtemp11For APV approaches, cold temperature corrections are required to all altitudes outside the final approach – IAF, IF and other constraints as well as the Missed Approach. The FAF constraint does not require correction, nor any altitude constraint in the LEGS page after the FAF down to the Missed Approach Point (MAP). The minima while technically a barometric reference (you’re looking at an Altimeter) is protected by the OCS and so therefore does not require correction. On an APV in a cold temperature environment, you’re making your Continue/Don’t decision at a similar geographic location to an ISA approach, closer to the ground – but still clear of terrain (down to the minimum temperature on the chart.

Ken.


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General Use Allowance Calculator

I have recently been looking at the allowances paid down route to us in LAX, with a view to developing and easy way to identify a discrepancy in what we should be paid; and to re-calculate what the difference should be in the event of an early arrival or delayed departure. Accordingly, I have developed this spreadsheet to be used for this purpose.

Note that you can run this sheet on MS Excel for iPad (as well as PC/mac, etc) although the “Clear” and “Sort” buttons won’t work on IOS.

When complete, the sheet looks like the image below. The blue sections are where the user enters information. The port is entered at the top (currently supporting BNE/LAX/MEL/SYD) and you can compare scheduled with actual to see changes in the allowances.

Note …

  • The On Blocks Date/Time (arrival) and Off Blocks Date/Time (departure) values must be entered in the same time zone so a meaningful total days/hours value can be calculated.
  • While the ATO pays a per day allowance based on meals/incidentals (so if you go 1 minute into a day, you get the full days allowance) the company only pays meal windows and incidental hours actually you touch with your off duty down route time.
  • Note that early arrivals and therefore early sign off’s should generate additional allowances (where relevant).
  • Delayed departures that do not result in delayed sign on do not incur additional allowances – you need to have your return sector sign on delayed to achieve additional allowances.
  • While the CSP’s (A1) specify 80 minutes between Sign On and Off Blocks for all international departures (from Oz and elsewhere); the company has increased this to 90 minutes for LAX departures.
  • The values in the current sheet are relevant for Pilots under the current EBA; Cabin Crew will need to amend the values in the data sheet.

GenOver7

There is a second data sheet you can use to update/amend the values the sheet uses to calculate:

GenOver6

Ken.


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Tax Time : Crew Allowances 2015/2016

It’s Tax Time again 2015/2016 and as since I’m one of those lazy people who does all the work at the end, instead of keeping up with it as it goes along – the first thing I need to do is update my Allowance calculator spreadsheet. I’m posting a copy of the sheet here for you guys to download because each year more and more crew ask for a copy and I can’t remember who’s asked for it and who hasn’t. This years’s ATO Taxation Determination is here.

Note that this article is a follow on from the original article which covers the basics of the relevant legislation – and more importantly, how to use the spreadsheet.

B777 – Rejected Landing

While it’s far too early to tell what actually happened, in light of EK521 it’s perhaps germane to re-visit a topic that I wrote about in my Procedures and Techniques document quite some time ago – the Rejected Landing. As a reminder – the text of that entry into my tome is below, along with Boeing’s paragraph from the FCTM.

The Boeing text on this fairly unique maneuver is pretty quick and bland. In no way does it hint at the hands and feet going everywhere this exercise can become when it’s taught to pilots during their initial training onto the aircraft type. I recently completed training this exercise in the simulator to two new Captains transferring onto the 777, and as always I ensured each trainee had at least two goes at it; one to make the mistakes; one to learn and apply the lessons; sometimes a third to turn it into a maneuver that holds no mystery and less challenge.

That’s both the beauty and the trap of the simulator. It’s actually quite a challenge to introduce this maneuver into a simulated training environment in such a way as to take the pilots under training by surprise. You’re not trying to do that in transition training anyway – the lesson plan in full is pre-briefed and the techniques and procedures that will be used in response to pre-programmed events discussed at length so that everyone involved can get the most from their time in this expensive device.

But when it comes to training qualified line pilots – being able to instill?parameters into a developing situation on an approach that will lead to a genuinely surprising need for a rejected landing maneuver is actually quite challenging. But that’s exactly what you need. When it comes to rejected landing – no line pilot is going to get a couple of goes at it to get it right in the aircraft; and when it comes, the requirement to perform the maneuver well enough may be a complete surprise.

A bounced landing in particular may well come off an unstable approach and therefore be a foreseeable incoming maneuver for the pilots concerned – but equally it can all go pear-shaped in the last 100 ft with wind and temperature shifts that take a slightly less aware pilot into the runway with some force – and probably back up again. Then you’re firmly in the potential rejected landing regime.

In some ways – much like AAR214 it is often the case that the automation is not the reliable friend in this scenario that it usually is for the pilots. Once you’ve touched down the inherent automation paradigm is slowing down and stopping. Given enough time on the ground (and?in fact, not all that much time) the spoilers deploy up off the wings to spoil lift and push the aircraft down onto the wheels, where the automatic braking is just about to kick in.

The TO/GA switches which would have initiated a go-around (commanding a Pitch UP indication and an actual Thrust Increase) only a few seconds before; are now disabled until the aircraft registers airborne again. Thus the pilots who are heavily reliant on the relatively automatic response to the TO/GA switches may not get what they have been trained to expect by practice and preaching.

But it’s still a Boeing.

Push the thrust levers forward – and there will be thrust.

Pull back on the controls – and the aircraft will pitch up if there’s any airspeed at all – even if there’s not quite enough airspeed yet; there’ll still be enough pitch up and start a pretty sprightly climb away from the ground.

But sometimes, we forget that – pushing the buttons we’ve been told to push and waiting for the Flight Director to tell us what to do now …

Procedures and Techniques : Rejected Landing Procedure

Boeing FCTM

A rejected landing is a manoeuvre performed when crew decide to action a go-around after the aircraft has touched down. The reasons for this are few, but included in them would be a late landing with potentially insufficient runway to complete the landing roll safely.

Note that this could occur after speed brake deployment, but prior to reverse thrust application. The application of the reversers commits the aircraft to the landing.

While the FCTM documents Go-Around after Touchdown, the following points should be noted about the Boeing procedure.

  • Go-Around after Touchdown is actioned using normal go-around procedures (see FCOM NP and QRH MAN)
  • After touchdown, the TOGA switches will be inhibited ? thrust application will be fully manual (maximum thrust should be used) and the flight directors will not give correct indications until the TOGA switches are used airborne.
  • Be aware that the stabiliser trim may not be set correctly and control forces may be unusual during rotation.
  • Speed brakes will stow and auto brakes will deactivate when the thrust levers are advanced sufficiently.
  • A takeoff configuration warning is typically generated as the thrust is advanced with landing flap.
  • Once airborne, the TOGA switches should be selected to provide normal FMA/Flight Director/Auto Throttle go-around.

Ken.


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Clipboard Reference : 06Jul16

ClipboardMost pilots at some point develop a set of crib notes on the aircraft and operation they fly. For some this is quick and dirty, it essentially gets them through line training and these home grown notes are often then abandoned.

Current Version : 06.Jul.2012 and can be downloaded as a PDF here.

For many pilots they are somewhat more extensive. For a few they become a complete re-write of all the manuals, including the company specific ones, and become a tome (or tomb) of information. In a very few instances – they become a source of reference for others and are sold as such. A friend of mine at Emirates has such a document for the Ek 777 operation. The last time I looked – it was 23.7 megabytes and 250 PDF pages that he now sells to other pilots. And it’s worth it.

I have developed various reference pieces in my time as well. Some continue. I have a database used to test myself with Questions and Answers. In that database are hundreds of questions on the 777, the A310-300/600 and the Fairchild Metro 23. There are also questions on?777 Recurrent Phases, A300/A310 Airbus Cbt Questions, Boeing 777 CBT Questions, Breast Feeding Support Group, Pilot Training From Engineering Dept, Cold Weather Operations, Drug And Alcohol Management, Dangerous Goods, Dangerous Goods 2010, Boeing 777 Fctm, Flash Card Questions, Flight Operations Manual, Airport ILS PRM Procedures, Boeing 777 Refresher Points, Reduced Vertical Separation Minima B777, Sep 2010 Exam, and Upgrade Questions. In short – anytime I come across an exam resource I try to find time to add it to the database. In the past I’ve sold it too.

Another resource that has survived is my clipboard document. It sits (surprise, surprise) inside my clipboard. Various things appear on and off it. Some stay from issue to issue, some are updated for accuracy and content, some things disappear to be replaced by something else.

In the past people have asked me for a copy and I’ve obliged, with the usual protestations of accuracy, legitimacy, relevancy and clarification that I am all care and no responsibility. As a Trainer, Checker, Training Manager and now a Standards Manager, the only thing that worries me more than seeing someone with a copy of my work (that’s outside the sphere of company documentation, much of which IS my work) – is seeing someone with an out of date copy. Hence this post and why you can find the latest copy of my clipboard document here.

Clipboard Reference

Here’s what’s on my clipboard document, how I made it, and why.

Boeing 777-300ER Unfactored Autobrake Landing Distance

I wanted to develop an appreciation of the effectiveness or 777 braking and the kind of landing distances I could expect across the range of airports we used to operate to at Emirates. I started with this table, which turns an approach reference speed as provided by the FMC and converts it into distance based on Surface Conditions (Dry or Wet with Good Braking Action) and the selected Autobrake.

[Read more…]

Ask 20 Questions …

So recently I was called out to operate a Check Simulator session on one of our pilots who is returning to the fleet after a spell on another aircraft type. Since this was a one-off session, he was rostered with another pilot in support. When this occurs I like to make contact with the support pilot, let him/her know what will be involved in the session and ensure the correct details for the session have been passed along.

So I contacted crew control a few nights before and asked them to let me know who the pilot would be when the selection had been made so I could get in contact.

The next morning Crew Control had written back and answered my question with the name of the individual concerned, and added the phrase …

Morning Ken,

It looks like SO XXX XXX has been assigned as support for your Sim.

If you have any more questions, please dont hesitate to ask.

Thank You, Kind Regards, Crew Control

Having received this kind offer, I sat down over breakfast and constructed the 20 questions below. I sent this off to Crew Control, figuring I’d probably get some sort of reply at some point … But it turns out half of Crew Control spent time during the day answering all the questions in details. Fantastic response.


From Ken:

Hello Crew Control – Thanks for the offer! When you have time …


From Crew Control:

We never have time. But we did it anyway! The collective genius minds of Crew Control have answered your questions

1. What’s the answer to the question of Life, The Universe, and Everything? I’m now pretty confident the answer is not 42.

The answer is 42, however the ultimate question is unknown. The Earth was destroyed by a fleet of Volgon demolition ships before it could be deciphered

2. How do you know which armrest at the movies is yours?

Same principles as on an aircraft. Is the person next to you either a) bigger than you, or b) attractive? Then its theirs.

3. How come there no “B” batteries?

There are, or at least used to be. They were used to send a positive charge to the plate to attract the electrons from the filament in a vacuum tube, most commonly used to radios. These batteries were usually high voltage (up to 90V). The more you know.

4. When a mime gets arrested, do they still tell him he has the right to talk?

If a mime speaks, they cease to be a mime, which would then mean the police officer has not given them their rights. The officer is then in clear violation of policy, and therefore must let the mime go free. Those mimes. Criminal masterminds.

5. When the Enterprise goes to warp – how come you can hear it when there’s no sound in space?

If warp isnt accompanied by a crescendo written be John Williams, its not worth watching. (Thats right! We are saying that Star Trek sucks)

6. Why is “fun size” the smaller version of chocolate??

Its the chocolate industrys attempt at encouraging exercise ? there is energy expended when picking up the second (and third, and forth, and fifth) fun size bar

7. Is it still a crop circle if it’s square?

The aliens that create the crop circles have ocular nerves that are incapable of seeing angles, hence the perfect circles they create.

8. When something is new AND improved – what’s it improving on?

Well they cant say New and exactly the same can they? Who would buy it?

9. When the sim broke last week, who was the first guy to break it (I hear he works in Crew Control?)
If a sim breaks, but no one is present because a support could not be found, is it really broken?

10. Do bald chefs have to wear hair nets?

As a result of workplace diversity and inclusion, yes, all chefs must wear hair nets regardless of follicle status.

11. Why is the “Lone” Ranger always with Tonto – and two horses?

The Lone Ranger was a figment of Tontos imagination ? the guy he always wanted to be. Tonto was autistic and didnt like company, hence the Lone moniker.

12. If Wile E Coyote had enough money to buy all the ACME stuff – why doesn’t he just buy dinner?

Roadrunner is the CEO of ACME Corp, and is punishing Wile E for picking on him in high school. One of the unseen inventions of ACME is molecular regeneration, which is why Wile E never dies ? he just suffers immensely. Roadrunner takes great pleasure in this.

13. Why is yawning contagious?

Others subconsciously see yawning as someone trying to suck in more oxygen. A fight-or-flight response occurs, and more often than not, the yawn continues as everyone fights one another for air.

14. What happens if Pioncchio says “my nose is going to grow now.”?

Pinocchio experiences a time/space paradox, and collapses into dark matter. Theres a 23% chance of this collapse triggering a chain reaction, which would cause the end of the universe.

15. Why do Americans drive on parkways and park on driveways?

It is not very well known that in 1607 when the British colonized American one of their first village planners was secretly illiterate and a little bit dyslexic and confused the two. This is also the little known reason why they drive on the opposite side of the road.

16. Why do we say the Alarm Clock “went off” when actually it it’s the reverse?

Went off is used as a shorter version of the phrase, went off like children chasing a flock of wild turkeys.

17. When it’s called drive through – why do we have to do so much stopping and waiting?

Its all about the upsell ? the longer youre waiting, the more hungry youll be, and the more youll order.

18. Why is it called getting your dog fixed when that’s clearly not the outcome you’re after?

Why are there two number 18s?

18. Why does Henry like playing pool so much …

(From Henry) What happened to what happens in Singapore stays in Singapore?….

19. If a Lime is green and a Lemon is yellow – what went wrong when they were naming the Orange?

Orange was the final word created by the Romans, which is why it sounds like noises mashed together with no coherent flow. The academics were tired, so they used the same word for both the colour and the fruit.

20. Why is the name for a fear of long words hippopotomonstrosesquippedaliophobia?

A practical joke to torment those with the fear itself


Fabulous.

Low Missed Approach Altitude Restriction

LowMAA2A question concerning a recent change to the missed approach procedures in Dubai UAE (OMDB) has raised some interesting points about the 777 in this flight regime – high thrust, low altitude, high pilot workload; and ATC procedures that would seem to be not too well thought out.

Specifically the new procedure introduces a not-above altitude of 1300 ft AMSL after going around from a near sea level Precision or GPS approach minimum (1000 ft missed approach climb).

As any pilot of a two engine jet aircraft can tell you – early level off’s in the missed approach are not a good thing. Typically anything below 3000 ft introduces a significant workload on the pilots – and that’s when the missed approach is straight ahead, the autopilot is engaged and the aircraft fully functional. Add some manual flight and a non-normal element to this … the SandPit Pilots must be just loving this new procedure in the simulators in Dubai. The French did an extensive study on errors made during the missed approach and the folly of low altitude requirements in the missed approach path was just one of their conclusions.

This new procedure initially tracks straight ahead from the Missed Approach Point (MAP) [That’s a good thing] to DB710; but requires the crew to level off at 1300 ft AMSL [Not so good]. It then requires level flight for approximately 3nm [Why? Why?] during which a turn must be commenced (at DB710), and the then finally the missed approach climb segment may be continued (from DB711) to the final Missed Approach Altitude (MAA) of 3000 ft AMSL.

LowMAA1Multiple altitude requirements in missed approaches are nothing new. Typically however they are must-reach-by or at-or-above requirements to ensure terrain clearance, rather than “Stop” altitudes like this one. I haven’t looked around for a while, but I can’t actually recall a missed approach quite like this one.

That’s why I jumped into the simulator today and ran through it, just to see what it looks like. Looking at the chart – it looks like a dog’s breakfast. Looking at it in the simulator – I was not disappointed.

There clearly must be a reason driving this procedure. For the life of me I can’t think of an obstacle related one, unless a Sheikh has placed a permanent hot air balloon at 2000 ft off the end of the runway to see the sights, one of which is watching aircraft sailing by under his balloon at 1300 ft. This is Dubai remember, it could happen.

I can only assume that this altitude requirement in some way keeps aircraft going round from tangling with aircraft either (a) going around; or (b) approaching in the opposite direction on the other runway. In either case it’s a poor excuse for the potential cluster this introduces into the flight deck.

Thrust, Lots of Thrust

The biggest problem with these early level offs is Thrust. The 777 Autothrottle is supposed to limit thrust on a two engine go-around from full thrust back to a setting that guarantees at least 2000 fpm. It does this very, very well. In fact it does this so well that you usually get well over 3500+ fpm by the time things have settled down, which by definition is at least 2000 fpm, but is not particularly helpful when you’re trying to keep control of your aircraft. You have to remember these engines are designed to lift 350 Tons of aircraft (with one engine failed). Lifting the aircraft’s 250 ton landing weight on both engines is an underwhelming task to say the least. All two engine aircraft are fundamentally overpowered right up until the point where one of the engines fail …

Additionally the link between the software of the Autothrottle and the software of the AFDS Takeoff Go-Around (TO/GA) and Altitude Capture (ALT) modes is a tenuous one – in fact there isn’t one really. As such each and every time I ran this scenario – unless the pilot intervened, the 1300 ft restriction was exceeded by at least 100 ft because there was simply too much thrust/energy for the autopilot to capture the altitude adequately. This probably won’t set off alarm bells in the ATC center or the airline Flight Data Monitoring (FDM) programs. But it doesn’t look good in the sim on your check.

The really cool thing is that after this minor bust you’re about 1300 feet above the ground shortly after a go around and sinking back down to your required altitude – you guessed it, several times the GPWS activated to give me a stern “DON’T SINK” caution. It’s a good thing really. Because I spend far too much time operating this aircraft safely within the best practice envelope, I just don’t get enough practice at listening to GPWS warnings. It’s nice to know I can go somewhere in the world and operate the aircraft as the manufacturer intended but still get to hear “DON’T SINK” after the go-around …

What to do?

Well, you have a couple of options, all based around manual flight intervention. You could disconnect the AP early in the maneuver and manually capture the altitude, avoiding the altitude bust. Nothing is for free however, your workload will increase significantly also increasing the likelihood of error. Meanwhile your thrust won’t be behaving any differently, so as you push forward manually on the flight controls to capture your altitude (giving your passengers a free roller-coaster feeling) you’re likely to get an small overspeed as the thrust levers struggle to catch up. Options to fix that include overriding the Autothrottle temporarily and reducing thrust to contain the speed/altitude – or going full manual on the thrust. You thought the workload was higher going manual early in the missed approach? How is it now? The truth is that there just isn’t a simple, appropriate fix to this problem – if there was, the Autopilot would have been able to do it.

When to Accelerate

MAPP Accel1With an intermediate level off prior to the final MAA, the question occurs – when will you accelerate and retract Flap? Initially the speed will be flown based on the approach speed, with one stage of flap retracted in the go-around maneuver. Hence you are typically flying at Flap 20 and you’re a few knots below Flap 20 minimum speed, which is considered acceptable when you have a massive amount of thrust on and you’re rocketing up for the sky. But since you have not reached the final MAA, most airlines will require their pilots to retain this slower speed to ensure terrain clearance in the subsequent sectors of the missed approach procedure until reaching MAA or an earlier altitude that guarantees terrain clearance. As discussed elsewhere, typically terrain clearance for intermediate acceleration in the missed approach is not assessed – and there’s no indication that it has been assessed here. The presence of a 768 ft obstacle just at DB711 where you’re still held down at 1300 ft for no obvious reason isn’t encouraging. So the chances are you’ll want to retain your initial missed approach speed until you finally reach the MAA of 3000 ft AMSL.

But as your Autopilot Flight Director System (AFDS) captures 1300 feet as set in the Mode Control Panel (MCP) Altitude Selector – the speed automatically jumps up and the aircraft accelerates away, taking the decision away from the unaware pilot. Thrust – which is already very high for a 1000 ft altitude change – now increases as it’s released from the shackles of only needing to provide at least 2000 fpm, and instead drives to full GA thrust in order to accelerate the the Flap limit speed. Given this occurs as you’re still trying to level at 1300 ft – you can see why the altitude bust keeps occurring.

In any case – since most international airlines do not accelerate in the missed approach until reaching either MAA or a point at which terrain clearance is assured – you will NOT want to let the aircraft accelerate. This means winding the speed back after ALT capture; the later you managed to do this, the longer you’ll be under large thrust settings.

LowMAA4It’s worth noting that any physical change in the MCP Selected Speed after the TO/GA mode has been activated dis-arms the speed jump up when ALT captures. I demonstrated this several time today. Once estalbished safely in the go-around (Flight Mode Annunciator (FMA) modes verified; positive climb; Gear Up) – when the “Four Hundred” foot call was made I reached up and increased the selected speed by one knot. With this done, the speed remains at go-around speed when the AFDS ALT captures. This technique works even if you change the speed and then reset it to the initial go-around speed; or simply set it to the minimum speed for your go-around flap setting (Flap 20 or Flap 5) for a more comfortable level segment at 1300 ft.

Missed Approach Commenced Above MAA

In my Procedures and Techniques document, I have a small paragraph on commencing the Missed Approach from above MAA and a suggested technique for it – we experience this occasionally in KLAX where the approaches often commence from 4000 ft – but the MAA is 2000 ft.

When commencing a missed approach like this one where you’re actually higher than an altitude requirement – the standard procedure of TO/GA, Pitch/Thrust, Gear won’t help – you actually want to continue the descent down the approach to the altitude restriction (1300 ft). For a precision approach the priority is to de-select Approach (APP) mode. By design an engaged APP mode will fly you straight through your 1300 ft requirement.

Additionally if you’re in APP?mode at 1500 ft it locks in and you’re only way out of LOC/GS at that point is to disconnect the Autopilot AND cycle both Flight Directors OFF. Having de-selected APP the AFDS should be in HDG/TRK and VS. Laterally LNAV is probably the best choice (is your active waypoint ahead of you?), and VS will suit you fine until you capture either MAA or the lower requirement (in this case the 1300 ft). If you’re capturing MAA (such as in KLAX) you now have the option of accelerating and cleaning up. But for this strange procedure – you may need to maintain your approach speed flying level until you eventually reach the final MAA of 3000 ft. Don’t forget to raise the gear at some point …

In Summary

In summary – odd procedures like this expose some of the limitations of our aircraft, it’s systems and our procedures. It’s worth running a few of these low altitude captures next time you’re in the simulator.

Finally – a recent NOTAM indicates that UAE ATC may have had a change of perspective on this procedure. Whether this comes from operational experience and results in a permanent change – we’ll have to wait until the next documentation cycle to find out.

EBA Allowance Calculator (Domestic Only) UPDATE

I recently developed a spreadsheet to check the domestic allowances I was being paid. The process was educational, to say the least. This initial version only checks domestic allowances – I will develop further to facilitate the checking of rostered vs actual international allowances as well.

Update : Recently Payroll have been paying correctly the meal allowances; but still persist on under paying the incidental allowance. I’ve also discovered they are unable to backpay correctly based on what was agreed was in error (hence V1.4 to allow you to enter backpay and highlight further discrepancies).

  • Version 1.4 (02Apr16) : Added a column on the RHS of the calculator to allow backpaid allowances to be entered and checked.
  • Version 1.3 (10Jul15) : Added allowances for post 01Jul15 (to be updated); unlocked the green allowances section for user edit.
  • Version 1.2 (14-Apr-15) : Bugfix Release (Dinner using Lunch Allowance in Duty Periods sheet).
  • Version 1.1 (05.Apr.15) : Initial Issue

Background

Having only recently come to the EBA, I’ve started seeing the additional payments that come into my salary associated with Overtime, Callout and Allowances. The first of these two I track and check using my EBA Overtime Calculator, which you can get from the linked post. Certainly the comparison of what I believe I should be paid as compared with what I have been paid has been an educational process, illuminating for me both the detail of the EBA and inner working of the rostering and payroll systems, occasionally requiring follow up redress. I encourage everyone to check their overtime/callout when it’s paid every 8 weeks.

Allowances however are a different story. The process of calculating how much should be paid across a series of meal windows and an associated incidental period is relatively simple and I used such a process extensively in my Crew Allowance Tax Calculator (the latest of which can be downloaded from the link).

As such I figured it would be easy to develop a sheet to check my domestic allowances. To make sure I was doing it right, I started with the EBA, which is where I struck my first problem. The paucity of detail in this document covering a moderately complicated issue such as crew allowances at domestic and international ports was manifestly inadequate for my purposes. I fired off a couple of emails with comprehensive questions to the responsible line management, so far without a reply. In the end I reverted to the Short Haul EBA for the basis of calculation, the premise of which is basically that from the time you sign on at home Base for the purpose of operating Duty(ies) which include an overnight away from home base, you’re continuously paid Meal/Incidental Allowances until you sign off again back at home Base. This happens irrespective of whether meals are provided associated with your duties or not – or so my fellow domestic pilots advise.

I would like to give credit here to Dean Young, who provided the original formulae for the Allowance Checker. He was looking at this issue at the time as I was, and developed the formulae to assess the presence of a duty period over a meal window.

Dean was using a spreadsheet to fact check paid allowances, I used it for a different purpose (Tax) but the formula requirement was the same. His solution was elegant and with his permission I used it in my own sheet. Dean was responsible for much behind the scenes work in the early days of V Australia (we didn’t call it Volunteer Australia for nothing …), for which many will never appreciate.

Thanks Dean.

In any case I thought I had a handle on it so I started a sheet based on my Tax Calculator. It took me an afternoon to get a sheet I was happy with, which looked substantially like the following:

Allowance1

As always with my spreadsheets, the green cells are where you enter your information, the other cells are where you shouldn’t change things unless you want the calculations to go wrong. The Clear button deletes your entries in the green cells.

Basically you enter the periods away from home in green. On the 15th March I reported at 15:55 for a flight to BNE, to undertake a few days of simulator training, before returning to Melbourne, signing off at 18:50 on the 17th March after the flight home. The calculation is relatively simple where Incidental is purely based on hours away from home at a fixed rate; Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner meal allowances paid when your time away from Base touches any of the allocated meal windows. Or so I thought.

Allowance2However when it comes to checking the allowance you were paid – it’s a different story.

You see we are paid on a two week basis, covering a two week period, and we receive that pay about 4 working days after the close of that two week window. This payroll fortnight takes no account of your comings and goings and as such you can be paid for half of your time away in one pay check, and the rest of your time away in the next.

As such I was now confronted with the requirement to turn the fairly easy to enter blocks of time away from home base to a meal/date specific result that would be easy to check against the payslip. After much effort – I finally realised I couldn’t do it without code.

I therefore built a custom function in Visual Basic (Applications) for Excel, called:

Payslip (PaySlipDate As Date, Meal As String, Payrate As Currency) As Currency

This is certainly not my best piece of programming, it’s pretty quick and dirty, but it does the job. This formula requires three variables:

  • A Date – the date during the payslip period which is to be examined for possible allowances;
  • a Meal – the name of the meal band (“Breakfast”, “Lunch”, “Dinner”) which the calculation is to look for; and
  • a Rate – the rate of the particular meal allowance to be paid.

The value returned is either Zero (no allowance paid); in the case of Brekky, Lunch or Dinner the PayRate of the particular allowance if there is one on the date requested; or in the case of Incidentals – how much is to be paid in the way of an Incidental amount for that date.

This formula is incorporated into another sheet that looks like this:

Allowance3

  • The Payslip Date is Entered/Selected at the top.
  • The Start/End date of the related period fill in at the top, and down the LHS of the calculating area
  • Based on these dates, each Meal Period (and Incidental) for each date is reviewed in the context of duty periods away from base entered previously on the other sheet. If you were on station during a meal period on a particular date – this sheet detects that and fills in the amount. The incidental amount depends on how many hours you were away from Base (up to 24) and calculates it accordingly.
  • Once the sheet has calculated where you should have been paid something – the green cell next to the required payment value turns yellow.
  • The yellow cells are where you are required to enter something (one of the following):
    • Yes : You were paid the full amount. (enter the word “Yes”)
    • No : You were paid nothing against this meal/incidental allowance (enter the word “No”); or
    • $##.## : The amount you were paid (this is reserved for the Incidental figure as printed on your payslip).

The result?

Allowance4

As can be shown here, there is a missing meal, and the incidentals are rarely paid in full. From a review of the last 6 months of allowances calculated vs paid:

  • No incidentals are being paid on the first day of a duty (neither positioning up to BNE for simulator nor positioning up the day prior to simulator)
  • Incidentals are never paid in full for full days away from Base (my suspicion is that when I sign on to teach simulator in BNE, I stop being paid the incidental allowance).
  • The odd occasional meal drops out of the Company’s calculation. I originally postulated that when I signed on to teach Simulator, I was no longer being paid a meal allowance, hence the odd meal on most days there would be a meal allowance missing. However this turns out not to be the case – I can’t see any rhyme or reason as to why I’m missing a meal every now and then. Perhaps they’re not paying me when I skip meals?

Over the past 6 months the difference I’ve calculated comes to over $600. I have yet to claims these and will be doing so early next week. Many years ago I detected an error in the way I was being paid an allowance at Emirates, my previous employer. This error affected a small number of pilots several times a week (depending on them operating a particular flight pairing); but went back a couple of years. The solution was for the company to change the wording of our “contracts” so that the manner in which the allowance had previously been paid was correct. I don’t think that’s going to happen here .. but it will no doubt be interesting, especially given the vague wording of our agreement.

Deciding to Stop

TkoffInhibit2Many years ago when I was a junior FO new to the 777, I did one of my first recurrent checks in the simulator with an Examiner who started asking questions about the takeoff inhibits system. After several such questions – of both the Captain and myself – it became increasingly apparent that not only did we not seem to have the fullest of understanding of the in’s and out’s of this system, but that the Examiner himself was something of an expert. To my increasingly widening eyes he regurgitated fact after factoid as to the intricacies of this system, drawing a diagram on the board of such breadth and depth of complexity that by the time he was done, the result was unrecognizable as anything that could possibly relate to a system existing on this planet, let alone anything on board the aircraft. After it was over, I thought to myself “Man, this guy really knows the 777 inside and out. He Is Awesome.

Now, I know better.

This particular Examiner missed the point. While the Boeing transition course, and the associated documentation explains the system in detail – the value of this system is in not needing to know the nitty gritty. The reason this system is in place is to keep the detail away from the pilot’s attention during critical phases of flight – such as high speed takeoff – and only present just what you really must know in order to make simple what would otherwise be a complex decision at high speed during a time critical phase of high stress. Unfortunately that wasn’t communicated to me at that time, nor was it communicated 6 months later when I did another check with the same Examiner, nor even the time after that. I finally realised that this display wasn’t being done to teach me anything in particular (or at least not anything useful); it wasn’t even being done to demonstrate my lack of knowledge or lack of commitment to excellence (even though it seemed that way at the time); it was done to show me the extensive repertoire of nonsense that this gentlemen had command of, along with a very firm grasp of the non-essentials.

So when I was asked about this recently during a briefing I was conducting for a sim check on two pilots – I brought out my diagram …

 

TkoffInhibit1

I showed this on the screen, and told the candidates they had a couple of minutes it memorise it before I start asking questions. Not.

The EICAS alerting inhibit system – specifically referring to takeoff – exists to be used practically to determine:

  • What to reject the takeoff for at Low Speed (nominally less than 80 knots); and
  • What to reject the takeoff for at High Speed.

In spite of the excessive focus given to this system by some Examiners, the system itself is not a memorisation item. Some things are worth nothing from the diagram above however:

  • For the most part the EICAS Warning/Caution messages are not inhibited during takeoff and will display during the takeoff in association with the malfunction/failure.
  • The Master Warning/Caution Lights and Aurals are inhibited from before V1 (Decision speed) until 400 ft / 20 seconds after liftoff.
  • Generally speaking alerts that commence before an inhibit is reached will continue to show/sound after the inhibit subsequently commences. It’s a clue that you shouldn’t be carrying low speed failures into the high speed regime, essentially.
  • Pilots (Captains!) should be particularly aware that the CABIN ALERT Com message and the associated Hi/Lo Chime is not inhibited at all during takeoff. See at the bottom of this post.

So what do we stop for?

Low Speed (<80 Knots)

Low speed rejected takeoff’s are usually less critical and as such you’ll initiate a reject for less serious reasons. That doesn’t mean they’re not a handful.

My previous carrier had a policy for quite some time that all takeoff’s in minimum visibility were to be conducted with full thrust irrespective of the weight of the aircraft. The theory I guess was to minimise the time spent in the risk window racing down the runway in almost no visibility (125m), which is good as far as it goes …

In practice however, I sat beside a Captain once who was given a complete engine failure at about 50 knots in just such a scenario. At these speeds the autobrake does not arm, and the auto throttle is still actively engaged. He rejected the takeoff, closing the thrust levers, before reaching for the speedbrake. But he forgot to disconnect the autothrottle and so the levers advanced up again as he reached for the speedbrake lever. Being the big beast that it is, the still functioning non-failed GE90 777 engine had barely begun to spin down from it’s 115,000 pounds of thrust before the lever was back up again and thrust began to restore the barely previously left full power setting. Since at these speeds you’re well below VMCG (minimum speed for being able to steer the aircraft straight with large amounts of asymmetric thrust) – we were in the grass off to the side of runway before He (or I for that matter) could work out what was going on. A quick analysis, a reposition to the start of the runway, and we did it again. And I mean we did it again – off the side of the runway once more. After the third try, and the third attempt to mow grass with a 270 million dollar airliner – cooler heads prevailed and we took a break.

Here’s the good guts on a low speed reject.

TkoffInhibit3


 

High Speed Reject

High Speed Rejected Takeoff is an exercise in and of itself – practiced and perfected in no small degree during transition and upgrade training. Despite the veneer of calm professionalism pilots display at all times (which my wife calls my “air of authority” Ha!); the last thing we actually like doing is making really important decisions with serious outcomes during highly critical phases of flight – in a hurry. That’s why the inhibit system is so great – it reduces genuine complexity down to some fairly simple options.

TkoffInhibit4

Further …

Keen eyes will note that the CABIN ALERT chime (referred to as the PILOT ALERT by cabin crew) is not inhibited at all during takeoff – and neither is the associated Hi/Lo Chime. A useful exercise, to be followed by a consequence-free and open discussion afterwards, is the following I like to give to newish 777 Captains in “extra time” in the sim.

  • Heavy Weight Takeoff (high V1)
  • Failure of the Captain’s Pilot Flying Display (PFD) at 120 knots (say V1-50)
  • EICAS CABIN ALERT at 150 knots (say V1-30)

The PFD failure is nasty because the Captain/PF loses his/her primary reference for speeds, pitch, altitude, tracking – all that good stuff. If you haven’t had it before, it’s not a small thing. But two deep breathes and the 777 automatically switches the PFD across to the secondary screen and all is good again. Besides – you’ve been taught that unless the aeroplane talks to you during takeoff (Buzzer/Chime/Siren etc) – you shouldn’t stop.

Then the CABIN ALERT Hi/Lo Chime goes off. At this point, one of two things happen:

  • The Captain rejects the takeoff – “STOP!” After he’s closed the thrust levers, applying maximum braking (or at least he thinks he is); Raises the Speedbrake lever and applies full reverse; steers the centerline and brings 350,000 kg of aircraft and souls-on-board to a halt just short of the end of the runway, he picks up the intercom and hears the Cabin Crew at L5 asking the Cabin Crew at L1 where they should go to dinner tonight in LA … or …
  • The Captain continues the takeoff “GO!” … Once the takeoff is complete and the aircraft is clean and above terrain, he reaches down for the intercom and the Flight Manager informs him that there’s smoke everywhere through the cabin and it all started on the takeoff roll …

Despite the latter (nasty) scenario, the right decision is almost always to take the problem – whatever it is – into the air. While cabin crew are trained in the concept of sterile flight deck and are well drilled on not calling the flight deck for any reason during takeoff, mistakes are made and the chances are that any problem identified in the cabin – but not seen on the Flight Deck – at high speed is best taken into the air, rather than (potentially) off the end of the runway.

Addendum

Having read the post above, a friend of mine asked “We seems to have a lot of guys stop for bird strikes in the high speed region. No indications of fire or failure just a bloody great thump. What do you think?? By the book it’s a no no.

Response

RTO2When you are operating smaller aircraft on longer runways – it can be hard to argue with success, right up until the point where someone rejects at high speed for a birdstrike that doesn’t impact the aircraft’s ability to fly, and that aircraft runs off the side or the end of the runway. Fundamentally if the aircraft is safe to fly and you’ve reached the high speed regime, the manufacturer (and almost without exception your Standards Department) wants you to take the aircraft – and the problem – into the air.

Taking the aircraft into the air from the high speed regime is something we do everyday – sometimes several times a day – as part of our business-as-usual operational practice. Stopping the aircraft from high speed within the confines of possibly not longitudinally but always laterally limited piece of pavement is something we practice perhaps twice a year, in the simulator only. It’s a high risk maneuver. As such I agree with the Manufacturer (easy course to take, I know) – unless the aircraft isn’t safe to fly – take the problem into the air.

In some ways this argument parallels a similar discussion regarding Unstable Approach (see Checking in the Aircraft). If you get down to 1000 ft and you’re not stable, but you soon will be, why can’t you continue past 1000 ft and go-around later if you have to. The answer is that policy compliance here is required at least in part for the big pictures of safe aircraft operations. It may be justifiable that for your situation on the day continuation might not be unsafe at all; it is undeniable that the policy of requiring all aircraft to plan and fly to meet stabilisation criteria, and go-around if they are not stable, has reduced the industry accident rate considerable.

Recently I saw a failure in the sim at high speed of the loss of 4 of the 6 tyres on the LH bogie in a 777. I am certainly not new to any of the seats in the sim, and despite the fact that I am fully cognizant that when it comes to noise and vibration the simulator just can’t reflect the true severity we will see in the aircraft when the real thing occurs – I was surprised at the level of noise and vibration this failure gave us in the sim. As the examiner – I fully expected the Captain to stop the aircraft as a result, which he did not. Speed still increasing, thrust still there – “Go!“. While it was was what I wanted to see, what I expected (theoretically) to see, it was definitely nice to watch.

Checking Crew in the Aircraft

I’ve been sitting on this post for nearly two years. I originally developed the content for internal discussions within our Standards Department as the result of an occurrence on a check; then further developed it as I discussed the issues raised with my fellow Checkers; along with Checkers and Standards Managers from several other airlines. Interestingly while the issues were common across other airlines – there is a wild divergence in how far down this path various Airline Standards Organisations have gone. For myself I couldn’t publish this content while in a Standards Management role; subsequent to that I’ve been working and re-working the following until it’s at a point where I’m not happy with it – but it’s going out anyway. In truth I think the following is best suited to a discussion during a ground training day while upgrading new Check Captains. However before any discussion is entered into – the Standards Management team needs to consider the implications carefully and thoughtfully develop and document policy. The following content is also relatively complex (unfortunately) for which I apologise to anyone reading this not directly involved in Aircraft Training/Checking. That said – these issues could easily be mapped across to just about any industry seeking to train and maintain standards within an operational regime.

Update 06Jan16 : A friend of mine in a management role at a UK airline read this and asked a follow on question; question and answer at the bottom.

Training vs Checking

An airline standards organisation is typically responsible for both the training of pilots that takes place in the airline, as well as the checking of the standards of those pilots. As a generalisation, training is typically provided for the purposes of achieving a satisfactory standard in a subsequent check; rarely is training provided to qualified pilots as a means to an end (unfortunately). Such a following check can be at the end of a long course of training – such as a new aircraft type rating transition course; or following a short one – such as a single day of training in the simulator every six months followed by the Check simulator session. A Check event can also come to crew without any preparatory training – such as an annual line check in the aircraft.

Note : Some airlines have split Checking from Training into separate departments with separate lines of reporting for the Check and Training Captains. The Training Department is seen as a service industry, the service being the delivery of training and the product being the standards of the airline’s pilots. The Checking department is seen as an independent quality assurance mechanism, ensuring the standard of the product and providing improvement feedback to the Training Department based on assessment of the product – the standards of the pilots.

Having worked under a system like this (as well as the more traditional combined training/checking department); I like the split, not in the least of which because when you combine the two the Training often becomes subservient to the Checking; whereas I believe it should be the other way around, or in the very least equal. The biggest failing of the split system I believe is when you end up with Checkers who never train. Maintaining your training skills is crucial as a Checker, and it’s not something you can do effectively during a check.

Training

Training is typically characterised by published lesson plans so the student(s) are fully aware of what they will be expected to do, and an open environment in which questions are asked by all involved – and equally, answered by all involved, before during and after the training.

The training is conducted by a Training Captain (or exceptionally a Training First Officer); and input/feedback/instruction (verbal and otherwise) from the trainer to encourage the student towards higher proficiency, is manifest. A good Trainer pitches the level of input for each student not just to push them towards at least the minimum required standard; but to improve each student’s own personal standard as well. Training can be of the non-recurrent type, typically for the purpose of gaining a new qualification – or of a recurrent nature, the latter being essentially training provided against tasks for which the student is already qualified to do, usually be followed thereafter by a recurrent Check event.

Note : The issue of placing training before assessment is a hot topic of discussion. Many airlines have moved to a “First Look” concept where pilots are checked before they are trained. While this may seem overtly unfair, this is because you’re coming at it from the wrong end of the stick. The purpose of recurrent training is not to prepare you for the check – but to improve your proficiency as well as address any shortcomings that may have developed in your standards.

The purpose of the check is not to assess whether the training you were given was adequate – it’s to ensure you are meeting the standard required to fly the aircraft safely, and to identify areas in which you need, or would benefit from additional training. Hence the ideal paradigm is firstly a check in which your ability to perform straight off the line is assessed; then you are given training which should be driven at least in part by the assessments taken during the check.

The content of the training and checking being delivered to pilots is slowly moving towards a paradigm where that content is driven by the performance of the airline’s pilots during checking. As the data from checking identifies that a particular manoeuvre is done poorly by a statistically significant number of pilots – more of the focus of training and assessment is introduced in subsequent recurrent phases of training onto that poorly performed event. This works best when your Check is done before the training, when the vagaries of your line pilots is not masked by the training delivered before a check.

Occasionally events are repeated in training to achieve a better outcome or illustrate a technique; moreover there is typically no limits on the number of repeats available to the student in order to reach a good standard (within the limits of time, etc). Checks on the other hand usually offer a limited number of “Repeats” within the check to allow a candidate to demonstrate competency only after having already demonstrating a lack of competency in that event within the check. More, an event can only be repeated only once, and must achieve a higher standard than was required at the initial attempt.

While Trainers assess performance and grade accordingly – including “failing” grades (which should be termed as a “Failure to Progress” or “Not Ready for Check” rather than “Fail”) this assessment is made on the back of training delivered and does not consider whether the student would have been successful at the task without the input of the trainer.

From the point of view of recurrent training, this is an interesting conundrum – why should we be providing training to pilots in something could have happened to them in the aircraft the day before they were in the simulator? Such training is provided on the back of decades of clear evidence that it’s required; in part this is to maintain and improve proficiency in an entire suite of events in which we expect all pilots to be able to deal with – events you can’t or shouldn’t practice in the aircraft. Jet Upset/Unusual Attitude Recovery is something best not done when First Class passengers are trying to balance their champagne glasses 10 meters behind you …

I deliberately use the word “Proficiency” when training, and “Competency” when checking.

Years ago I came across a phrase which has stuck in my mind to this day – through various training, checking and management roles.

Our intent is to Train to Proficiency; and Check for Competency.

Perhaps more than any other this characterises the differences in the task and the role of the assessors of Training and Checking. The implication here is that we look to achieve a higher standard in our students in training than we require of our candidates in checking – is this how your organisation does it?

Checking in the Simulator

Checking on the other hand, is a different animal indeed. In some parlance, the perfect check event is where during the assessment the Check Captain may speak to the crew as ATC; as the Flight Manager or Purser; as the Engineer; as Dispatch; as the Fire Chief; as the Company – but never as the Check Captain.

The candidate(s) are given an initial set of criteria as they would normally expect for a flight – the from, the to, various performance and weather data; in short all that’s required to get a serviceable aircraft from A to B; but they aren’t told what non normal events are likely to occur, how the weather will change, or which instrument approaches they are going to do. The Check Captain will vary the conditions (weather, airport/runway status, etc) and inject normal and non-normal events into the flight based on a confidential script to provide the opportunity for the candidate to demonstrate desirable behaviours; whether the basic competencies such as procedural application or manipulative skill, through to the higher order aspects of situational awareness; task management or decision making. Broadly speaking this skillset is divided in the Technical Skills, and the Non Technical Skills (formerly CRM).

This assumes that the session runs from beginning to end without interruption. Unfortunately this is rarely the case and often “repositions” are required in the simulator to position the aircraft and crew to a time, place and condition where they can then go on to demonstrate competence in a specific sequence or single event that will occur once the simulated aircraft is released. With this breakdown in the natural ebb and flow of the flight, the Check Captain is expected to “set the scene” for the candidates so they have a clear mindset adequate to the task they are about to undertake.

One major difference between simulator and aircraft checking is that in the simulator, the Check Captain is “God”, able to control the weather, the serviceability of the aircraft, the progress of the flight – even freeze the entire simulation or reposition the aircraft around the airport or around the world. While checking in the aircraft, we don’t have that option, unfortunately.

It’s a little excessive, but not incorrect to say that any input from the Check Captain to the Candidate during any check has the potential to invalidate the independent assessment of that check. It’s also not unfair to say this is a tremendous waste of resources and talent. Here you have a highly qualified, trained, experienced and motivated individual, sitting in a simulator (or an aircraft) behind two pilots who are probably willing to learn. But the Check Captain is not there to train; the Check Captain is there to check. From the point of view of making better pilots – 50% of our resources are wasted on checking. That’s a Trainer’s purist view, but a somewhat valid one I think.

So it can be seen that the role of Trainer and Checker is quite different. It is expected that all Checkers have the ability to train – but this is not necessarily a requisite skill. It is required that all Trainers have the ability to assess and grade performance – but this kind of assessment is subtly different from actual Checking. It’s fair to say that some Trainers would make better Checkers. It’s also fair to say that some Checkers would make superb Trainers and are in fact “wasted” in the Checking role. Unfortunately this is a consequence of a system that places undue reward (both monetarily and from a”prestige” point of view) on Checking over Training. To my mind we have this ass about; in the very least the roles should be remunerated equally.

At various times I have been involved in the conduct of interviewing Training Captains for the role of Check Captain. One of my questions of the interviewees (all of whom were current Training Captains) has been –

Once you become a Check Captain – which pilots do you think I (the Standards Manager) want to see you Fail?

In some cases, the response was that they were confident I (Ken) wouldn’t want to see anyone fail. While that’s not necessarily untrue, the correct answer of course is I (the Standards Manager) want anyone – everyone in fact – who fails to reach the minimum standard (of Safety) to be given an Unsatisfactory result. That’s incumbent in both the Checker and the Checker Manager.

Another area in which Checking is different to Training is the personal responsibility of the Trainer/Checker in terms of the Result.

As a Trainer when I’ve “failed” a student, it’s always a shared responsibility. The Student has been unable to reach the required standard to progress on to the next stage of training (or the Check) – on the back of the training I provided (or failed to provide). By definition, I own part of that failure as the Trainer who wasn’t able to train the student to proficiency. This truism remains valid whether the student is patently unsuitable for the role he/she is in or is training for; or if that student is just having a bad day. As the trainer, you own at least part of that failure.

On the other hand – as a Checker, you’re not there to assist anyone to achieve competency – you’re there to see if they can do it themselves. That said, most organisations recognise that the simulator is not the aircraft; that people have bad days; and as mentioned the system allow for some form of Repeat for a failed event within a check simulator session. This is usually only provided if there’s time available to do so; and only offered against an event for which the Checker has already graded the candidate a Fail/Unsatisfactory grade.

Unlike the Trainer, the Checker needs to be circumspect (depending on airline/regulator policy) on the feedback provided to the Candidate when giving a repeat. The specific reasons for the Repeat (against the failed event) must be provided to the Candidate. More input than this, and you’re starting down the road of training within the check, thereby invalidating the check itself. Your airline may allow this to some degree; most don’t.

Of course this is within the hothouse environment of the Flight Simulator – when you get out on the Aircraft; it’s a different kettle of fish altogether. This is where it really starts to get interesting.

Checking in the Aircraft

By definition – since repeats are only offered against an event that is a clear failure (below minimum standard); and of an event that brings an overall fail of the check – you can’t repeat failed events in the aircraft.

Ok Bloggs, that landing was unsatisfactory since you touched down about 50m off to the side of the runway in the grass and nearly hit the Control Tower. You control inputs were incorrect for the decreasing crosswind down final, and you didn’t apply rudder correctly in the flare to maintain the centreline. I’ll now position you and your 350 passengers out to 5 miles and we’ll have another go at that, shall we?“. If only.

In essence – any event in the aircraft that requires a repeat instead results in a failure of the line check. Any event which the candidate fails but does not result in a failure of the check, by definition is not a “fail” event in the check. For example, Bad Approach/Landing – fail your check. Crappy PA to the Passengers – not so much.

Traditionally the mantra of the line checker was that if you had to intervene in the progress of the flight, by definition this implies the failure of the candidate. What this means in practice however is in some airlines, a less than optimal situation may be allowed to progress to the point of a clear SOP/ATC violation before that intervention is forthcoming from the Assessor. Now we have a problem …

Annual Line Checking as a Crew Member

Annual Line Checks are conducted by a Check Captain who typically sits on the flight deck jumpseat as an extraneous member of the crew. While our aircraft only require two crew pilots; we have four pilots on board for reasons of crew rest. There isn’t room for the Check Captain as a fifth; hence on our flight deck the Check Captain is there also in an operational role – as a relief crew member. Logically (in terms of the check) when the Check Captain sits on the flight deck, he/she should not be involved in the flight; or at least involved to the least extent (safely) possible. However even when you’re not in a long haul environment, the point is moot. As a qualified Captain, as a professional (at least partly) responsible to the airline for the safe and efficient operation of the flight – can you really just there and let things degenerate to the point of a violation and not speak up – because it’s a check?

For each flight there is a Captain (CA), a First Officer (FO), and a Relief Crew Member (RCM). There is also the Pilot who is Flying (PF), and the Pilot who is Monitoring (PM). When the PF takes an action or fails to take an action that results in the failure of the check – what is the impact on the Pilot Monitoring who should have caught this? Or the Relief Crew Member who is sitting on the jump seat in the middle of the action with a (relatively) lower cognitive load than the other two pilots. Is the failure of one pilot the failure of the crew?

Consider also the situation where only one crew member (say just the FO) is under check. If this crew member similarly fails the check in such a way that could have been prevented by appropriate action or prompting by the PM or RCM who aren’t under check – is there any implication for their ability to operate their next rostered flight?

An important point to keep in mind is that the primary intent of this operation – and the focus of all crew (including the Check Captain) is not the assessment pass/fail of the crew members assigned to the flight that day – the mission is to get all the passengers and crew safely and efficiently from A to B.

This issue becomes more important as we discuss fail scenarios. With all this in mind – we’re finally at a point where I can discuss the issue at hand – assessment of candidates during aircraft line operations.


Scenarios

The following scenarios discuss some of the issues encountered by Check Captains during Line Operations, and highlight the need for Airline Check/Training Standards policy development on Aircraft Checking and the role of the Assessor. Let’s start with the most obvious, and probably most common.

Unstable Approach

After decades of incidents and accidents, it is universally recognised that best practice is for an airline standards department to establish an altitude at which the aircraft must be “Stable”. This includes appropriate lateral and vertical positioning from which a safe landing can be made; fully configured for landing (gear and flap); appropriate airspeed and thrust control; normal procedures such the Landing Checklist complete. Most airlines have this as 1000 ft; some airlines lower it to 500ft in visual conditions (some do not). If the aircraft is not stable by this “hard” altitude, the PM must call “Unstable – Go-Around” and the PF must comply. Similarly if the approach was stable but becomes unstable below stabilisation height – the crew must go-around.

Scenario : On approach, it becomes clear that the crew may not be able to comply with the company 1000 ft stabilisation requirement (on speed, configured for landing, checklists complete, etc).

  • Should the Check Captain intervene?
  • When should the Check Captain intervene?
  • If the Check Captain prompts the crew to take action to bring the aircraft back towards a stable profile – what impact does this have on the check?

The crux of the issue is not necessarily the independence of the assessor, but the conflict between the need for the Checker to remain hands off, let a situation develop and see the crew react appropriately – against the requirement to see the aircraft landed safely and efficiently at the destination.

While it would be nice to operate under the assumption that the only time an aircraft will get unstable is just before the crew fail a line check, in the real world, aircraft become unstable for a variety of reasons – environmental conditions and ATC intervention being the most common. It’s crucial that a crew who are becoming unstable have the capacity to recognise this situation; know how to effect change to bring the aircraft back towards stable parameters; have the judgement to call for a go-around when it becomes obvious that the approach is not going to meet the stabilisation requirements. How does a Checker know that the crew in front of him have these skills if he/she intervenes before the situation develops fully?

Against this is the requirement of (a) safety; and (b) the needs of the operation (to land the aircraft at the destination). The Checker must not allow a situation to develop that puts either of these requirements in doubt. Assuming the Checker has no immediate concerns as to the safety of the aircraft at this stage – remember that the aircraft, crew and Checker aren’t here today to evaluate their knowledge/skills/attitude (KSA’s) on a line check – we’re all here to take 350 passengers to the destination. The check is a side issue to the requirement to achieve the mission.

As with most of these issues – this will come down to the experience and judgement of the Checker. Similarly, if the Checker decides to intervene (“We seem a little fast today, don’t you think …“) the implied failure of the crew is also within the judgement of the Checker. The Checker will use a variety of parameters to assess whether this is a fail – how out of tolerance the approach was; whether the crew demonstrated awareness of the situation; mitigating factors such as ATC, Weather, etc. Intevention may not be a fait accompli for failure.

If this (unstable) approach is called as “Stable” at 1000 ft – what then?

  • What is the impact on the Check for the Pilot Flying (PF); Pilot Not Flying (PM); Captain; Relief Crew Member (RCM)?
  • Should the Check Captain call for a go-around? If he/she does – what is then impact on the Check? For who?

Approach Stabilisation is a concept developed the the Flight Safety Foundation as part of the Approach and Landing Accident Reduction (ALAR) program, on the back of many, many incidents and accidents that were directly attributed to the inappropriate continuation of a fast/high approach to an unsuccessful landing. As such, continuing any unstable approach below the nominated height implies that safety has been compromised on the approach.

That said, there are degrees of stabilisation (aren’t there?); while technically an approach may be a little fast, or the last line of the checklist not quite done – it’s pretty close and it’s easy for the Crew and the Checker to allow the approach to continue confident that it will shortly meet the criteria. But while a line check is an assessment of a crew’s “normal operation” – if this crew is willing to take a “slightly” unstable approach past the stabilisation height requirement – what are they willing to do when no-one’s watching?

Contrary to this, the industry is starting to recognise the risks inherent in the get-out-of-jail manoeuvre that is the approach go-around. As more and more crew avail themselves of a go-around, and as we start to look more closely at it in the simulator, it’s being re-discovered that this manoeuvre itself presents some challenges. It involves a sudden and usually unexpected radical change to flight path, large amounts of thrust and pitch change – which is not usually a good thing. On the back of this is decades of crew being required by Regulatory Authorities to demonstrate proficiency in the single engine go-around from very low altitude in the simulator based on the assumption that surely if someone can do an engine out go-around near the ground, an all engine go-around from higher up is a no-brainer? As such regular exposure to the vagaries of all engine go-arounds, particularly from higher altitudes (such as off unstable approaches) has suffered. As it turns out – the two engine go-around from 1000 ft to a missed approach altitude that may be as low as 2000 ft can be a handful. Just ask an A320 pilot.

So therefore, sitting in your Checker’s jumpseat, watching a crew who have just operated a long haul flight find themselves a bit high/fast/late on the approach at 1000 ft – is it safer to let them get stabilised and land, or “force” them into sudden go-around by calling for it from the jumpseat? It must be acknowledged that such a call from a Checker may carry more “weight” than a similar call from the RCM. It’s probably better to reserve the call “UNSTABLE – GO-AROUND!” for particularly severe circumstances and instead perhaps highlight the relevant parameter(s) to the crew instead. Again – Judgement on the part of the Checker. This is why we pay them the big bucks.

So why didn’t this crew call “Unstable Speed – Go-Around.“? There are several possibilities including poor Situational Awareness (SA) or a lack of procedural knowledge. Another factor may be the PM not wanting to bring on the “fail” of the PF. While this may seem incredulous, you do get this in both the simulator and the aircraft – the PM is reticent to highlight deviations out of concern for bringing to the attention of the Check Captain the deviation. Like we didn’t see it anyway …

Ostensibly it’s the PF who is to blame for allowing the situation to develop whereby the aircraft is out of tolerance at stabilisation height. Therefore if this is a failure, that failure belongs to the PF, doesn’t it? However much more than “along for the ride” is the PM, who presumably sat there with a lower cognitive load than the PF, allowing the situation to develop. There was bound to be a point prior to 1000 ft when it was clear that (a) we might not be stable; and (b) we aren’t going to be stable. The failure to clearly call this to the attention of the PF is a clear failure of the crucial PM role – either in terms of SA (didn’t notice the situation developing); or violation (didn’t make the call). So it’s entirely possible that this failure will be shared with the PM as well – even if the PM isn’t actually on a line check. Now there’s a can or worms …

Finally we have the RCM who is under the lowest load of all, and can clearly see the entire flight deck from the center jumpseat. This crew member should have the experience and training to detect a developing unstable approach and call it in absence of anything coming from the PM. A check failure of the PF (and PM) may reasonably be stretched to the RCM as well.

Just to further illustrate the complexities – if approach was allowed to deteriorate without intervention of comment where a go-around at stabilisation height became a requirement, and the Checker didn’t make any calls to bring this to the attention of the operating crew – shouldn’t the Checker be failed as well? The answer is Yes – and this has actually happened.

Scenario : Very Unstable Approach

Another approach is clearly unstable, and results in a go-around at 1000 ft in accordance with SOPs. However it is clear to the Check Captain that the approach was never going to be stable, but the PF/Crew persisted with the approach all the way down to stabilisation height (1000 ft). The alternative – discontinuing the approach much earlier – was never considered by the crew.

  • Is this a Fail for the PF/PM/RCM?
  • Should the Checker have commanded a go-around (or otherwise highlighted the unstable nature of the approach) much earlier? And if the Checker did?

Note that this discussion assumes (a) that the Airline’s stabilisation policy includes a recommendation to discontinue an unstable approach when it becomes clear to the crew that the aircraft is not going to be stable by the stabilisation height; and (b) the scenario here is that the approach has been flown in such a way as to be grossly unstable, and that it is clear to the Checker well before 1000 ft that the approach is never going to be stable in time to comply with policy.

For an approach to be discontinued well before 1000 ft AAL, it is certainly within the purview of the Check Captain to intervene and subsequently fail Candidate/Crew who choose to continue the approach (or not choose to discontinue it). Judgement is exercised as to whether the action to continue is done wilfully, or through a lack of SA; or whether there was a genuine (mistaken) belief that the approach could have become stable in time. Even if the crew express such a belief – if in the judgement of the Check Captain stabilisation was never possible, a fail is definitely a likely outcome.

There is much discussion around this point. The issues of failing a pilot who executes a missed approach because of approach instability is rife with contradiction. Don’t we want crew who are unstable at 1000 ft to execute a go-around? Don’t we want to encourage this behaviour? While true, we also want crew who can position the aircraft appropriately for landing as well. Again the point of this exercise is not to pass/fail the candidate(s). The point of this exercise is not to see a crew member correctly assess approach stability at 1000m ft and commence a go-around. The point of the exercise is to deliver 350 passengers safely to the destination. The safety and intent of the operation itself should not be subverted by the supposed needs of a line check.

Scenario : Descent Altitude Compliance

During descent, the PF demonstrates a clear lack of SOP compliance in the setting of the MCP altitude selector to ensure Standard Terminal Arrival Procedure (STAR) altitude compliance. The PM/RCM make no comment on this. No actual STAR restrictions are breached.

  • What is the impact on the check?
  • Does it make a difference if the PF is the Captain vs the First Officer?

The FCTM makes it clear that unless altitude restrictions are closely spaced such that workload would be high as would be the risk of unintentionally “capturing” an altitude restriction – all STAR altitude restrictions should be set to protect the flight path from a violation. The most obvious reasons for this crew member not doing this are (a) uncertainty as to the correct procedure; (b) wilful deviation from the procedure; (c) bad technique through fatigue/error/etc. Without a clear violation, this occurrence in an of itself is unlikely to be a reason for a fail – but certainly it should be reflected in the grading of all three crew members. The occurrence may also be part of a larger picture of each crew member’s KSAs that might drive an overall unsatisfactory result for the check.

How does this change if the lack of SOP compliance results in a likely altitude breach (without Check Captain intervention)?

  • When does the Check Captain intervene?
  • What impact does this intervention have on the check?

Check Captains are absolutely required to intervene in the operation to prevent an altitude violation. It is likely that this intervention would result in a failure, but it is certainly within the judgement of the Check Captain to assess the likelihood of an altitude violation if no Checker intervention had taken place. By definition intervention of this sort must take place before it’s too late to correct it; but that then leaves a window in which the crew could have self corrected. Again, it’s big bucks time and the Checker is the one to make the call about whether the crew could have/would have self corrected in time.

How does this scenario change if the lack of SOP compliance results in an actual altitude violation?

  • Is this a fail? What if there were no other aircraft, no airspace breach, no real risk to the aircraft?
  • Who fails? The PF, the PM, the RCM?
  • What role does any fatigue of the first rest crew member play in relaxing fail criteria (to all the above scenarios)?

An altitude violation is a clear breach and should result in a fail assessment. This begins with the PF, but may necessarily extend to the PM as well. One further aspect is that if the PF was the First Officer, the PM (Captain) carries an additional responsibility here as the Aircraft Commander. It would be more likely that the Check Captain will fail the PM for an altitude violation if the PM was the Captain than the reverse (logically). Also within the realm of the Checker’s judgement is whether the RCM should share the fail assessment. Again if the RCM could have seen the impending violation – should have seen and called the violation – it’s probably a point of failure for the RCM as well.

Additionally – where was the Checker when this situation was developing without intervention; and the breach occurred without the Checker speaking up. Once again to take this to it’s logical conclusion – this is a fail for the Checker as well. Just imagine the paperwork …

Finally, it should be noted that Fatigue is an (un)necessary evil in the operation of all long haul flying. The Fatigue factor can certainly be part of the Checker’s assessment of crew performance, right up to but excluding a violation.

Scenario 4 : Taxi

After landing, the crew exit the runway via the wrong taxi way (as was instructed by ATC).

  • What impact does this have on the Check? For the PF, PM, Captain, RCM?

Once again, this could be considered clearance violation with potentially significant consequences. As always, there are judgement calls to be made – how clear was the exit instruction? Is there anything miss-leading about the guidance provided? Was the required exit realistic? Is this an intentional, unintentional or inadvertent violation? Big Bucks time. Clearly if the PF took the wrong taxiway despite clear instruction and clear markings, the outcome of the check could be in doubt. As always the complicity of the PM and RCM must be considered, and the Captain as PM wears additional responsibility for safe conduct of the flight. Finally – did the Checker really sit back and let it happen? Was the Checker asleep? Did the Checker missread the instructions/markings as well?

After Landing, the crew are instructed to hold short of the (active) second runway – but continue across it (or make the intention to do so clear).

  • Impact on the Check? For the PF, PM, CA, RCM?

Similarly we now have a definite violation with possibly catastrophic consequences, likely to lead to a failure of the check, mitigating factors aside. Assuming the Checker intervened to prevent the violation – is it still a fail? It should be, once again within the judgement of the Checker as to role and culpability of the PM, Captain, RCM.

During taxi in, the Captain elects to do Single Engine Taxi In (SETI), when clearly the turns, taxiway slope and configuration of the gate makes this an unwise decision.

  • Should the Checker intervene?
  • If the Checker intervenes, what impact on the Check? For the Captain, for the First Officer?

Single Engine Taxi In (SETI) is a fuel saving initiative where after landing and engine cooldown (3 minutes) one engine is shut down by the PM. Ideally it’s the engine that will be on the inside of all the taxi turns as turning against the live engine can be challenging (but not impossible). If you anticipate sharp turns in both directions, if there’s a lack or maneouvring on the apron for the final turn to the parking stand – SETI may not be a good idea. Additionally there can be other restrictions for operations with slick ramp ways, inclement weather, etc. In this instance it’s assumed that SETI is not clearly precluded by the operating restrictions, but clearly not ideal. SETI can save up to 15 Kg of fuel per minute of taxi (or holding position on the ramp) and multiplied across a fleet adds up to a significant cost and environmental saving.

Whether the Checker should intervene depends on circumstances, but certainly the option remains. In either case choosing to do SETI is unlikely to affect the outcome of the check, and may not even justify a grading impact or comments on the form … unless …

Having elected to do SETI, aircraft stalls to a halt halfway through a turn towards the operating engine, and the geometry/surrounds clearly don’t permit straightening or excessive thrust to regain movement. The Captain/Crew elect to re-start the engine to continue taxi.

  • Impact on the Check? Captain only?

Having (perhaps) poorly decided to conduct SETI, when confronted with the reality of the problem, the Captain elects to return to full operation, rather than risking a taxi excursion or damage to the surrounds through excessive thrust. Having made one questionable judgement, this Captain has made a good decision. For me personally this is a good sign and would be reflected as such on the check form. It’s unrealistic to expect that crew will make the best decisions at all times; how crew deal with poorly made decisions is at least as important as making good decisions in the first place. Not being a slave to your previous decisions is a good NTS attribute.

Having elected to do SETI, the PF is required to use excessive thrust to turn towards the operating engine and to taxi onto stand. As far as the Check Captain is aware, there is no damage or injuries to ground equipment or personnel, although the thrust applied was clearly excessive.

  • Impact on the Check? PF vs PM vs Captain?
  • What if the Tower advises that ground equipment was damaged/blown onto the taxiway?
  • What if the Ground Agent advises that one of the ground marshalers was injured by jet blast?

Use of excessive thrust at anytime is a significant risk in the 777, and a known problem with SETI and certain taxiway configurations. Unless the PF is certain the area behind the equipment is clear, thrust above that normal for taxi should not be used. Using this thrust places people and equipment at risk. Irrespective of who decided to do SETI and who is the PF during taxi, both crew carry culpability for excessive thrust use, although if the PF is the First Officer the Captain as PM carries perhaps more responsibility than the reverse. Excessive thrust use during taxi is unlikely to bring about a check failure – but damage to equipment and/or personnel is certainly likely to do so.

Summary

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been back through this extensive, at times inarticulate and confused writing. At times it’s sat in drafts for weeks without input. I’m not sure that a Summary is helpful, or even appropriate – but here we go.

  • No doctrine or philosophy no matter how well thought out and documented takes the place of the expertise invested in the Check Captain on the spot, on the day. Within established guidelines – it’s the Checker who determines the outcome of the check based on observed performance and outcomes.
  • Remember that on every flight there is a Crew. While an individual pilot may bear the direct responsibility for an action, omission or error – our basic operating paradigm is a crew working together to pickup the errors of others. In that there is safety for all – not just the crew on their check but the passengers on their flight. As much as a candidate may be under review on a check – so is the crew paradigm. Additionally the Captain of the aircraft (whether PF or PM) bears additional responsibility for the safe and efficient conduct of the flight that cannot be over estimated by the Check assessment.
  • While only one candidate may be under check today – all crew on the flight deck can be considered liable under the assessment and potentially could find themselves stood down as a result of a bad check. While most obviously the Captain bears responsibility for the untrapped outcome of an action/omission/error on the part of the First Officer – the reverse should hold true as well. In a long haul crew where relief crew are on the flight deck – an uncorrected mistake that isn’t picked up by the relief crew would also justify criticism, if not an actual fail assessment.
  • It is incumbent on the Training/Standards Department to train Checkers well; clearly document a policy in relation to Checking – and then back their Check Captain’s judgement when the inevitable Monday morning quarter backing comes. Despite the plethora of instrumentation and recording that takes place on a modern flight deck – none of this information is likely to be available to provide context for a check fail (unless it involved an actual incident). It therefore comes down the Candidate vs the Checkers word. If you can’t trust your Checker – either He/She shouldn’t be checking or you shouldn’t be in Management.
  • Never forget why we are here on the flight deck today. We are here to (a) Safely; and (b) Efficiently land the passengers at the Destination (or possibly, Alternate). The completion of the check assigned to this flight comes a long way behind. An un-necessary go-around on the way to that landing that could have been avoided if someone (including the Check Captain) had spoken up is likely an unacceptable compromise of both Efficiency and to a lesser degree, Safety. If as the Checker you find you can’t speak up on the flight deck without failing your candidates – you need to go talk to your Standards Manager.
  • A violation on a Check is just as unacceptable (if not more so) as a violation on a normal line flight, and should reflect extremely badly on all involved – including the Check Captain. Having to speak up as the Check Captain (or as a crew member) to avoid a violation may not be an automatic fail of the check – but is certainly a likely outcome and within the judgement of the Checker.
  • The responsibility and authority of the Checker rests partly on the Regulator; but mainly on the support of Standards Management and documented policy. If you have the support, but not the documentation – it’s time to roll up your sleeves and do some admin. If you don’t have the support of your Standards Management – I can’t help you; no-one can.

Follow On

After reading this post, a friend of mine in a Management role in a UK airline asked me the following:

“When you rock up for work as the check captain how involved do you get with the crew paperwork preparations and what kind of brief do you give them?

There are two questions here, starting with the easy one … on the back of my clipboard is the following:

Pre-Flight Checkers Brief

  • Introduction (Normal Line Ops)
  • Crew not Under Check (also PM/RCM Roles)
  • Asking Questions
  • Role of the Assessor (Safety, Efficiency, Assessment, NNM)

This translates into something like the following. As with all briefs, it’s pitched to my perception of the experience of my candidates, and the operation on the day, and my personal sense of whimsy.

“Just quickly, this is obviously an annual line check today for competency. I’m here to assess normal line operations and that’s all I expect to see.
Optional : [John, I realise today that this is not your check and you are along for the ride. However I feel it’s important to point at that you are responslible to the safety of the operation today just as much as XXX, and since I am a Check Captain, you must consider yourself under check as well. That doesn’t mean there will be any paperwork, questions, etc – but if something occurs that would result in a fail grade if this were your check, then being placed SOC is a likely consequence of that today.]
I won’t be asking you a series of difficult technical or procedural questions, but you can expect me to ask you questions during quiet time about what has come up in the normal course of events, and to talk about general or topical items of operational concern in our flight decks. I would also like discuss any questions or issues you want to talk about – so remember the more questions you ask of me, the less I ask of you.
My role today is independant assessment. As such I would ask you to allow me to sit back and watch you operate. I will not intervene unless I feel it’s appropriate, but don’t take my intervention as an indicator that your check is going badly. Remember I’m here not just for safety – but I’m a Captain in this airline and bear part responsibility for the safety and efficiency of our operation, so I might choose to speak up for something other than a fail point if I believe it’s appropriate and won’t compromise your check. You can definitely expect me to speak up for reasons of safety or to avoid a violation, but don’t rely on that – you guys are responsible for the operation today as you always are. In any event – I want to be a fly on the wall but I’m here if I’m needed.”
Or something like that … Moving on to the other question
Check Involvement in Pre-Flight Documentation

Logically the Checker needs to be involved in all aspects of the operation to the point where he can assess competence in the various activities, as well as provide the safety net from violation as is required of a Crew Member on the flight deck (if not the actual aircraft commander).

Practically that means becoming involved in the review during pre-flight, otherwise how can you (a) assess that the crew are performing as required and (b) detect that something has slipped by such as an illegal dispatch?

Now we’re firmly back in the groove of the participation of the Checker contaminating the check, but we were always there really. As a Checker there’s a constant reminder in the back of my mind that this is a check and I’m (a) keeping an eye on what’s going to so I can assess; (b) keeping an eye on what’s going on to ensure safety/legality/efficiency; and (c) be constantly aware of my level of involvement and the associated risk of contaminating the check. As long as I remember to keep that reminder going (no, I don’t actually have that voice in my head – just to note) – I’m confidant that I’m keeping all three requirementes in balance.

Like any other role, you develop your personal techniques over time, and learn from your mistakes if you’re honest about your own performance. In the classic two-crew-with-a-Checker-on-the-jumpseat operation I would suggest the Checker has to be a sponge in the preflight, aware of everything going on enough be able to assess and secure safety; but hands off as much as possible to ensure integrity.

The contrast with a LOSA audit is interesting. LOSA is an industry standard of assessment of flight deck operations developed by the University of Texas and the FAA in the late 90’s. Here you have an assessor on the flight deck always over an above the actual crew requirement with specialist training; someone who is aware of the SOPs and how things are supposed to be done – often from a “book” point of view rather than what actually happens in the aircraft on the day – often without local knowledge of the crew, the route, the aircraft type or even the airline. Truly an indendant assessor and free of the requirement to pass/fail the crew; from any real responsibility towards the efficiency or the safety of the flight (other than the obvious – “That’s the ground rushing up, isn’t it?”); free to observe and report. Add a Checkers rating to the observer without an aircraft/route/airline qualification and you have the perfect checker, from some points of view.

 

EICAS VNAV STEP CLIMB

VNAVStep2

The introduction of the [] VNAV STEP CLIMB checklist highlights procedural handling of EICAS/ECL and the management of enroute climbing in the aircraft.


The FMC schedules step climbs throughout the flight based on the settings in the Cruise Altitude (CRZ ALT), Step Size (STEP) and potentially Step To (STEP TO) fields based on the aircraft weight, actual/forecast wind and temperature data and speed schedule (usually cost index). Additionally climb steps can be placed on the LEGS page of the FMC to schedule climbs at geographical waypoints in the flight plan, rather than the optimal weight/speed/wind schedule predicted by the FMC. What this all means is that for a long flight the FMC assumes that you will be able to increase your altitude as the flight proceeds, and calculates ETA and Fuel at Destination accordingly.

I remember when I first checked out on the 777, standard practice in my airline at the time was to set the Step Size to Zero during pre-flight and keep it there. In this way the fuel/time predictions for destination would be based on not getting any climbs – after all, how can you predict time/fuel based on climbs you may not get? At the time this was considered “conservative” and therefore safer. For shorter flights this was indeed unnecessarily conservative. For longer flights, it meant operating for half the flight with an “INSUFFICIENT FUEL” message flooding the CDU scratchpad … eventually wiser heads prevailed and we returned Step Size to the default value – which at the time was ICAO.

The “risk” here is that you may not get the climb(s) you need, but the FMC continues to assume you will. Indeed, if you pass a step climb point and don’t get a clearance, the FMC continues to calculate time and fuel assuming you’re just about to start a climb to the next step. This has been part and parcel of FMC’s of this type for decades and pilots haven’t been overly burdened by the requirement to monitor flight progress, seek climbs appropriately and deal tactically/strategically when we don’t get them.

VNAVStepFor whatever reason, Boeing have implemented an EICAS message when the FMC Step Climb point is passed without an associated climb. This message, rather than just prompting crew to seek a climb, also comes with a full EICAS NNM checklist – although how this can be called a non normal is beyond me.

Purportedly this iniative came from the FAA’s involvement in extending ETOPS approvals for the 777 beyond 180 minutes. Rumour has it the checklist will benefit from further refinement in future blockpoint updates.

Can’t come too soon …

Long haul pilots tend to be pro-active about climbing and often seek climbs prior to the recommended step climb point. This is usually in an effort to avoid being blocked from higher levels by the increasing numbers of other aircraft on the more common routes. If you can get up there earlier, you’re more likely to be the one blocking, rather than finding yourself blocked from those fuel saving altitudes. Do it too early though and you’re punishing yourself, with deviation from optimum altitude typically being a 2:1 ration against being high – that is, you are approximately equally less efficient being 2000 ft above your optimum level as you are being 4000 ft below it.

In any event – Since ideally we probably don’t want to run an entire NNM checklist everytime we pass a step climb point without actually starting a climb, there are now several unofficial habits I’m seeing creep in that are being driven by the inclusion of this checklist. This includes manually setting a step climb point a waypoint or three down route while you wait for a clearance to climb. This isn’t bad technique as it at least “resets the timer” for the prompt to remind you to climb, and is in fact one of the responses within the checklist itself. Which waypoint should you choose? Well, the next one would seem to be the most obvious, but otherwise – the next one where you change FIR to another ATC unit isn’t a bad choice either. Perhaps Auckland will be more pro-active than Nandi in getting you that climb …

Another is setting the step size to an increasing value, or to set the Step To altitude higher than 2000 (RVSM) or even 4000 (ICAO) to delay the climb reminder.

Another is to ignore the EICAS and leave the message there until you get your step climb. While definitely within the purview of the crew – this response doesn’t keep a clear EICAS which is something we actively encourage.

Another is to override the checklist instead of running it. This is definitely no recommended, since you’re effectively removing the checklist (if not the message) from serving it’s intended function – dealing with a situation on board the flight deck that the manufacturer has decided you shouldn’t be ignoring.

On top of these techniques is running with the actual checklist occurrence itself. As you can see the checklist is a essentially a decision tree that says

– Step climb is needed Now? – Then Climb! (Doh!)
– Step climb is needed Later? – Use the LEGS page to delay the Step.
– Step climb is NOT needed? – Remove all Step Climbs by entering 0 into the FMC VNAV CRZ page Step Size.

Of course what’s missing here is :

– Step Climb is Needed but ATC won’t give it to you? Ok then ….

The last action in the actual checklist (Step Size Zero) of course removes all reminders that a step climb is ever going to be needed for the rest of the flight, and is typically only the relevant choice towards the end of the flight when you are either unable to obtain or decide you don’t need that last increase in altitude. Setting 0 in the Step Size too early in a long flight will give you a falsely low estimate of fuel on board at destination (which contrary to common belief may not be the most conservative indication); as well as potentially an inaccurate estimate of your arrival time. Finally – find yourself forced down this path early enough and your FMC will continually be telling you you have INSUFFICIENT FUEL all the way to your destination (or not); or at least until you do get a climb. And we’re back to my Airbus airline of the mid 90’s that couldn’t learn from it’s Boeing pilots.

In the end this conundrum of what action to take when you aren’t able to climb straight away – or at all – enroute is something pilots have be dealing with since ATC was invented. I’m not convinced we needed a checklist to highlight it to us.

VNAV Path Intercept from Above

With the airline industry moving progressively towards GPS and GPS Augmented based approaches and away from the more traditional ground based navigation aid approaches, the use of LNAV/VNAV – with all it’s eccentricities – are becoming the norm for many airlines, rather than the exception.

The boon of flying such approaches more often is that your crews develop a body of expertise, particularly in regards to those eccentricities – but at the same time you expose crews to the vagaries of approach types that were previously not the norm, and to some degree were perhaps not designed from the ground up to be a mainstream solution for approach and landing.

Note : Stating that “VNAV may not have been designed from the ground up to be a mainstream solution for instrument approach” may sound a little harsh – but can you really look at the full scope of VNAV and it’s implementation across the various phases of flight from Departure to Destination (and go-around) and not shake your head and asked if someone really designed it to be this way?

Case in point is the requirement to intercept a VNAV Path based approach from above the programmed slope. For pilots coming from a precision approach – intercepting an electronic glideslope from above is less than ideal, but a documented procedure in the Boeing FCTM using Vertical Speed (VS) is provided.

The fundamental underlying assumption of this capture maneuver however is that the AFDS Glideslope (GS) mode is armed and will capture as the aircraft closes in on the electronic glideslope from above, hence providing protection against a below path situation developing during what can be a high workload phase of flight. There is no such armed mode in relation to VNAV – it’s either engaged (VNAV SPD/PTH) – or it’s not. Hence using VS to capture VNAV PTH approach from above is not considered appropriate.

VNAVCapAbv1Instead VNAV SPD is used. In this context – where VNAV is selected when more than 150 ft above the programmed approach path – VNAV SPD is an idle thrust descent mode, and the elevators will command speed without deviation (as far as possible).

Once the thrust levers reach IDLE (or earlier, if the PF overrides the thrust setting) – the PF can vary the thrust to control the rate of descent. Unless the rate of descent is excessive in regards to your Airline’s maximum rate of descent in the terminal area, retaining idle is usually the norm. The more likely requirement is to increase the rate of descent to expedite descent on the Flight Management Computer (FMC) approach path – using judicious Speedbrake.

Note that the MCP Altitude Selector is still a command instrument in this case – if you fail to capture the approach path before the relevant point on the approach – you’ll end up with VNAV ALT capture (ie: VNAV wants to go somewhere, and the MCP ALT-itude selector is in the way …). The MCP Altitude Selector also interferes with the progression of the approach down final, resulting in a capture anytime you forget to set a lower altitude, or the Missed Approach Altitude once that setting becomes appropriate. Refer back to the previous note on the designed-from-the-ground-up-NOT comment on VNAV.

It can therefore be seen that VS is not an appropriate mode. While it gives more direct control of the rate of descent (which may well be desirable) – the inability to arm VNAV means that the PF would be required to select VNAV when approaching the path – exposing the aircraft to a below path scenario in the event of a distraction (when was the last time there was a distraction just before an instrument approach …)

DP – thanks for the suggestion!

 

Basic Modes Engine Out Drift Down

EODDBasic1An engine failure at altitude above the maximum engine out altitude, followed by the obligatory engine out drift down is a bread and butter event for a cruise pilot. Typically this is practiced and evaulated using the highest levels of automation in LNAV and VNAV. For more information see Engine Out Drift Down and the FMA. However the ability to execute this maneouvre using basic autopilot/flight director modes is occaisionally tested – and a useful procedure to have when VNAV fails to do what you expect …


There are a couple of reasons why you might find yourself with the requirement to initiate and manage a basic modes engine out drift down from altitude, including a failure of VNAV to behave as expected/required – but the most common reason is because a Check Captain asks you to.

Broadly speaking the procedure required falls into one of two possibilities – when the FMC VNAV Cruise page is available; or when it’s not. When the FMC is there to give you an altitude and speed to aim for, you set those as part of the procedure shown here. Otherwise initial values of FL150 (or higher if MSA requires) and Turbulence Penetration speed are used until these can be refined using the QRH Performance Inflight.

Once VNAV is out of the picture, there are only two modes available for the descent – Vertical Speed (VS) or Flight Level Change (FLCH).

EODDBasic2VS would be a high workload solution since fundamentally you are looking for a speed targeting manoeuvre (which VS is not), and without the constant attention of the PF, VS at high altitudes can risk overspeed / underspeed excursions. Hence FLCH is the mode of choice for a basic modes drift down.

However since FLCH is an idle thrust mode and you want to minimise the rate of descent, the Autothrottle is disconnected and CON thrust is set manually. This is done using the Thrust Lever Autothrottle Disconnect Switches so as to leave the Autothrottle armed (not the MCP Autothrottle Arm Switches). Note that the Autothrottle is disconnected after FLCH is selected, since engaging FLCH after would re-engage the Autothrottle.

If the engine is actually failed (either EICAS [] ENG FAIL or the Fuel Control Switch in Cutoff) then when FLCH is selected, the CON thrust limit will be set, and the PF must move the thrust levers as required to maintain the CON thrust limit. If necessary, the CLB/CON switch should set CON thrust limit manually (but not not the actual thrust setting).

Standing the Crew Up

I’m working on an update to the Practices and Techniques document I developed in 2008. While this has been a published document in my airline for several years, it was recently taken offline and is now a training background reference, as was the original intention for it’s development. Just one of the many subjects beng added is a section on whether to Stand the Crew Up during a Non Normal on the ground. Most particularly applicable to a Rejected Takeoff – this issue is the cause for much discussion at times.

[Read more…]

777 Normal Procedures Flow Diagrams

What’s been missing for our documentation for some time is decent diagrams showing the normal procedures flows. The B777 normal operation centers around these flows, and the normal procedure ECL checklists that follow. For Normal Operations – the ECL Checklist is a “Done” list, where all then items you run through on the checklist should be done before you open the checklist.

By far the most common error we see in the simulator in regard to the flows is forgetting to select the CHKL button at the appropriate time to display the next ECL normal checklist; closely followed by innapropriately displaying the checklist early.

Before Start Flow

Before Start FlowThe Before Start Flow is triggered once the CM2 has obtained Start/Push Clearance from ATC. During the flow the CM2 will action an EICAS Recall “Recall … Engine Shutdown“. CM1 responds “Cancel EICAS” to the message(s) read by CM2 this action triggers the associated CM1 Before Start Flow (Trims). At the end of the flow the CM1 calls for the “Before Start Checklist“. Once this is “Before Start Checklist Complete” the CM1 returns to the Ground Engineer and pushback/engine start commences.

Before Start Checklist

Flow1The Before Start Checklist is called for by the CM1 once the trims have been set in the CM1 Before Start Flow. This assumes the associated CM2 flow is complete and the Before Start Checklist has been displayed by the CM2.

  • Flight deck door is verified by a visual check of the door and door arming mechanism by the CM2 as well as the center console door locking mechanism indications.
  • Passenger signs are read as positioned “AUTO, ON” (NO ELECTRONICS / SEAT BELT selector positions).
  • MCP V2, HDG/TRK and ALT should be called as selected, and verified appropriate. This includes the V1 (PFD vs CDU), V2 as displayed on the PFD (not just the MCP/CDU), an appropriate heading/track selection for the departure, and an Altitude selection appropriate for the (expected/cleared) departure clearance.
  • T/O speeds are called as displayed on the CDU, but the V1 and the V2 should be verified on the PFD.
  • CDU pre-flight confirms the completion of the CDU Pre-Flight Procedure as well as the Final FMC Performance Entry procedure. CDU-L should be set to the TKOFF REF page and CDU-R should be set to RTE Page 2 in preparation for the Departure Review.
  • Fuel is read from the EICAS totalizer indication and no cross check against required fuel for departure (OFP) is scripted, although a mental check of this is a reasonable action.
  • Trim commences with the Stabiliser setting as required from CDU-L and indicated on the Stabilizer Position Indicator. Note that prior to the completion of aircraft loading the stabilizer green band segments may not indicate correctly.

After Start FlowAfter Start Flow

The after start sequence is initiated after the second engine start. The associated CM2 After Start Flow commences automatically once the second engine EGT Start Limit has been removed.

Before Taxi Checklist

The Before Taxi Checklist is called for by CM1 after pushback/engine start is complete, the Engineer is disconnected and the flaps/flight control check is complete. The CM2 After Start Flow completes with the display of the Before Taxi Checklist.

  • Flow2Anti-ice is called based on switch position as selected in the CM2 After Start Flow. Normally the challenge response would be “AUTO” but in icing conditions with the EAI selected on, the correct response would be “AUTO” (wing anti-ice), “ON” (left engine anti-ice), “ON” (right engine anti-ice).
  • The EICAS Recall completed during the After Start Flow indicates aircraft serviceability status for flight.
  • Ground equipment reflects the removal of pushback tug and personnel removed after pushback is complete. This check does not obviate the requirement to report Clear Left / Clear Right prior to aircraft taxi.

Departure Review FlowDeparture Review

Once clear of congested areas and when workload is low, the PF will call for a Departure Review. This review of EFIS and other settings for the departure is conducted by the PM, and monitored by the PF during taxi. It completes with the display of the Before Takeoff Checklist (CHKL). WXR/TERR is only activated once CABIN READY has been received.

Before Takeoff Checklist

The Before Takeoff Checklist is displayed by the PM as part of the Departure Review flow. PF calls for the checklist once the Departure Review is complete and Cabin Ready has been received. The Before Takeoff Checklist can be done any time and does not need to be delayed until approaching the runway.

  • Flow3Takeoff Flaps setting is closed loop and defined by the entry on the CDU TAKEOFF REF page.
  • Cabin Ready displays on EICAS with a chime but is removed automatically after one minute.
  • Once Cabin Ready is received and the Departure Review complete, PF/PM will select WXR/TERR as appropriate. This is typically PF/WXR & PM/TERR however there is non restriction in both crew being WXR or TERR as appropriate for the specific threats of the departure.

Flow10

After Takeoff FlowAfter Takeoff Flow

The After Takeoff Flow is commenced once the Flaps are selected UP. The PM should ensure that the flight stage is appropriate – low workload, low distraction environment. The Flow and the subsequent After Takeoff Checklist can wait until immediate terrain and weather clearance is assured, ATC is quiet, traffic is light and the immediate demands of the SID (tracking, speed, altitude) are met.

  • The APU … OFF is only usually required after a Packs on APU takeoff.
  • Similarly the PACKS … ON is only required after a PACKS … OFF takeoff
  • Note that if a NNM has occurred during departure, the CHKL button should not be pushed as this would pre-empt the selection of a NNM checklist by the PF

After Takeoff Checklist

Flow4The After Takeoff Checklist is displayed by the PM once the Flaps are selected Up as part of the After Takeoff flow. PF calls for the checklist once the workload is low and the aircraft clear of terrain on departure. PF can use the removal of the Pitch Limit Indicators (PLI) from the PFD as a tip to call for the After Takeoff checklist – although at high weights at UP speed the PLIs may not be removed straight after flap retraction is complete because of proximity to the manoeuvre margin.

Descent Preparation FlowDescent Preparation

Descent preparation is typically conduct by the PF who may hand over control to complete the setup. As a guide, preparation consists of some or all of the following actions/considerations, in any order determined to be suitable.

  • Recall EICAS and Operational Notes.
  • Obtain ATIS and if appropriate, updated TAF for Destination and Alternate.
  • Review weather and NOTAMS for arrival and diversion.
  • Select most likely FMC Runway/Approach, STAR and Transition.
  • Review Jeppesen Airport 10-7 Charts for specific station notes.
  • Estimate Landing Weight and enter Flap Setting and VREF Speed. Consider likely groundspeed and Descent Rate on final.
  • Set Approach Minima (Barometric and/or Radio Altimeter)
  • Review and compare Jeppesen with FMC, cross-check LEGS page Tracks, Distances, Altitude and Speed Restrictions.
  • Verify Approach, Missed Approach and Holding. For NPAs, validate FMC approach for LNAV and VNAV use.
  • Verify Missed Approach Path against Chart. Consider the impact of auto-LNAV engagement if differences exist.
  • Consider settings in NAV RAD, FIX, VNAV DES, DES FORECAST, OFFPATH DES, Approach RNP required, ALTN list.
  • Assess likely arrival fuel and compare with Minimum Diversion Fuel required.
  • Review Landing Distance Required and compare against Landing Distance Available.
  • Consider likely taxiway exit and select an appropriate Autobrake setting.
  • Review Taxi Route after landing in view of NOTAMS and likely parking stand.

Flow5Descent Checklist

The Descent Checklist is typically completed once the Arrival Briefing is completed. Like all normal checklists, the Descent Checklist is intended to be completed against actions that have been already completed.

  • Recall verifies the aircraft status for the approach and landing and should be completed prior to the preparation for descent and approach.
  • Similarly, Notes may contain restrictions or requirements that may well affect the choice of airport, runway or approach.
  • Autobrake is chosen after a Landing Performance Assessment.

Landing Checklist

Flow6The Landing Checklist is displayed by the PM after selecting Flap 20 (irrespective of the landing flap setting). When calling for the Landing Flap setting, PF will add a call to complete the Landing Checklist “Flap 30 … Landing Checklist“. These two SOP requirements are important barriers to forgetting to run the Landing Checklist.

After Landing FlowAfter Landing Flow

The After Landing Flow is actioned once the aircraft has reached Taxi speed, cleared all active runways, and the crew have received, briefed and understood the subsequent Taxi Clearance from ATC. The flow is actioned by the CM1 stowing the Speedbrake Lever – CM1 should not take this action until the aforementioned have been done. Should the aircraft be required to hold between two active runways – the speedbrake lever can be stowed and the flow completed while waiting. The flow completes (as they all do) with the EFIS CHKL switch to display the After Landing Checklist on the ECL

Flow7After Landing Checklist

The After Landing Checklist is displayed as the last item in the After Landing flow. The trigger to commence the flow is CM1 stowing the Speedbrake Lever after landing – irrespective of which pilot is PF

  • The Speedbrake lever is stowed after landing by CM1 and commences the PM After Landing flow. CM1 should not stow the Speedbrake Lever until all active runways are cleared, taxi clearance is received and the taxi brief confirmed/updated. If the aircraft is required to stop/wait between active runways, the Speedbrake Lever can be stowed and the After Landing flow commenced.
  • Strobe lights are left/turned ON while crossing any active runway after landing.
  • Clearing the runway, the PF may call for the PM to select the ground maneouvre camera (CAM) onto the PM ND. Ideally the PF/PM should turn off the WXR on that side prior to displaying the CAM, since WXR cannot be deselected on that side once the CAM is displayed on the ND.
  • Crew should be aware that extensive taxi after landing with the Flaps fully extended can be taken as a sign by ATC, particularly if communications with ATC has not been established.
  • If TERR mode was in use on landing, this is deselected as part of the After Landing flow by the onside pilot.
  • While this flow commences with the APU, starting the APU is typically delayed until approaching stand. At approximately 2 minutes prior to parking on stand the APU is started and the After Landing Checklist called for and completed.
  • Occaisionally the taxi to stand after landing is extremely short. In this instance the crew should consider starting a clock once reverse thrust is deselected to provide a time for the minum engine cool down after landing (3 minutes). Starting the APU by recall late in the landing roll is usually a better choice rather than commencing the After Landing flow before receiving/briefing the taxi clearance.

Shutdown FlowShutdown Flow

The CM2 Shutdown Flow commences once the N1s have reduce to 10% and CM1 switches the SEATBELT Signs … OFF.

Shutdown Checklist

The Shutdown Checklist is displayed as the last item in the Shutdown flow.

  • Flow8The Parking brake is an item where the required state is not scripted and the CM1 calls whether the Parking brake is Set or Released. That said, best practice is typically to delay commencement of this checklist until the the ground engineer has confirmed that chocks are in place and the Parking brake is released. Crew should be aware that leaving the aircraft with the Parking brake set and chocks not in place leaves the aircraft liable to roll on inclines once residual hydraulic press as bled away.

Flow9 Secure FlowSecure Flow

The Secure Flow is actioned once all passengers have left the aircraft. However if you’re handing over to the next crew these actions may not be required.

Secure Checklist

The Secure Checklist is commenced once all passengers have left the aircraft, and is to be completed anytime a handover to the next operating crew is not possible.

  • We have no policy on the retention of the ADIRU state after shutdown since we currently dont operate any turn around flights. Other airliens typically leave the ADIRU on for times on ground of two hours or less, although cycling the ADIRU off for 30 seconds to force a realignment is standard practice.
  • Flow9Packs are typically turned OFF for most of Virgin Australia operations as part of the Secure Checklist. This includes warm/humid countries where leaving the Packs on can causing icing issues after longer peroids on ground.

 

Engine Out Drift Down – and the FMA

I’m working on an update to the Practices and Techniques document I developed in 2008. While this has been a published document in my airline for several years, it was recently taken offline and is now a training background reference, as was the original intention for it’s development. Something that’s been missing for a while is some content on one of the bread and butter check/training events for cruise pilots – engine failure at altitude and the subsequent drift down descent.

[Read more…]

ACARS and Error Checking

I recently discovered something interesting about ACARS. There’s no error detection or correction. None. To be honest, when I was told this I wasn’t exactly surprised, but now that I’ve had time to think about it – I’m somewhat appalled.

Note : I have recently received feedback that some of my contentions in this article are incorrect, specifically that CPDLC messages are in fact NOT encrypted. I am endeavouring to souce more accurate information and will update when I have it. For the moment – Caveat Emptor.

Some background – ACARS

ACARS : Aircraft Communicatons Addressing and Reporting System

ACARS1ACARS is ubiquitous in most of today’s aircraft. Originally developed by ARINC in the late 70’s, this system is subsequently maintained by SITA and facilitates the communication of relatively short, heavily proscribed (no emoji’s!) text only messages between the aircraft and ground. Think SMS for Aircraft.

Fundamentally an Aircraft to Operator (and back) system, the infrastructure was co-opted to support the FANS CPDLC (Future Air Navigation System – Controller to Pilot Datalink Communications) initiative in the last decade. However messages sent by ATC to the aircraft are not only error checked – but encrypted as well. While no system is 100%, the likelihood of a message from ATC to the Aircraft using CPDLC (or the reverse) being eavesdropped or interfered with is extremely remote, if not impossible.

On the other hand – messages sent between the Company and the Aircraft are not, and this is an inherent weakness in the system. Rarely are these messages (or more correctly the accuracy/privacy of them) a personal concern – Weather, NOTAMS, ETA’s, Parking Bays, Messages about the Football) – all of these are zipping their way back and forth in real time, all the time. And can be read by anyone – such as here or here.

As you can see from the image included, not all messages are official. In fact when I write my memoirs, I have several anecdotes to include that refer not only to pilots (and company agents) forgetting not only that messages sent over ACARS are liable to be eavesdropped by a third party, but that messages sent to “Ops” go not only to an Operations Controller, but are often copied to an ever widening email distribution list that includes a wide array of line managers, training/standards managers, technicians and other parties …

A quick note on error checking for the technicaly interested (challenged).

CRC – Cyclic Redundancy Checking

ACARS3CRC is an acronym I mentally associate with disk errors. In the old days of DOS and early versions of windows – CRC messages after a Chkdsk (Check Disk) occurred where I was given information that did not really need to be actually understood in order to communicate clearly to me that I needed a new (bigger, faster) hard drive.

In essence CRC when applied to messages sent to/from an aircraft is part of the ARINC 702 A standard for FMS communications on transport category aircraft. The ASCII contents of the message are subject to a complex algorhythm that results in a short string that reflects the content of that message. As such any changes in the message can be detected by comparing the calculation result for the message received.

So apart from sending the message, the sending system also sends a form of “checksum” result of the CRC check along with the message. The receiver subjects the message part to the identical algorithym – and compares the calculated resulting checksum with the one sent alongside the message. If the checksums don’t compare (can you hear the FMC saying “check”?) there’s a problem and the message is rejected by the receiving system.

All messages sent to the FMC Flight Management Computer (Flight Plans, Wind Uplinks, Performance Data) in the aircraft are subject to this CRC process, and validation fail is indicated by the scratchpad message “INVALID (ALTN / TAKEOFF / ATC / FLT NO / FORECAST / PERF INIT / ROUTE / WIND DATA) UPLINK”. There are other reasons for the INVALID … UPLINK message, but a CRC fail is the main one.

I’m told that the requirement for CRC dates back to the early days of the system when the ARINC/SITA system was less “Robust” and is less applicable today, although still enforced for the more critical uses of the system – such as data sent straight to the FMC, of CPDLC comunications. For a somewhat cynical view of the concept that complex systems increase in reliability over time – see below.

But in essence, messages sent between the aircraft and the airline using the ACARS system (which despite some pre-formatting options are fundamentally free text messages) for all sorts of purposes – are unsecure (not encrypted) and not subject to any sort of data validity checking.

OK – so why is this a concern?

Takeoff Performance & ACARS

ACARS2Most airlines have progressed away from referencing paper manuals to determine critical takeoff performance and instead rely on some form of computer based system. While the administrative burden and cost to the company (and environment) of printing and flying around all those manuals cannot be under estimated – a number of compromises have to be made to produce a relatively simplistic set of printed solutions to the incredibly complex set of calculations that takeoff performance is in a modern aircraft – so the result is by it’s nature less than optimal. Additionally while the administrative burden of maintaining this system is clear, the potential for aircraft to be carrying around out of date manuals for months is not just folklore …

ACARS4The newer computer solution can be a tablet/PC (but not a Mac!) on the flight deck used by the pilots themselves, or via a remote system where the pilots use ACARS to request a takeoff solution, specifying in the message the various parameters of Airport, Runway, Takeoff Weight, Ambient Conditions, etc. A person at Ops with a tablet/computer or (ideally) a computer server uses these values to calculate a solution and sends them back to the aircraft as a pre-formatted display on either a screen or a printout – again via non secure, non error checked ACARS. Can you see where I’m going with this?

Why not use onboard tablets/computers exclusively? As usual the devil is in the detail. Just like having books on the flight deck, keeping all those laptops/tablets up to date with a host of airport/runway and most particularly obstacle data is a significant burden – and a significant opportunity for error. Maintaining a central repository for this information reduces the cost as well as the complexity. Hence airlines save money and produce safer results with the ACARS system.

But …

If this system is used to send this takeoff performance information directly to the FMC, then as mentioned the message itself is subject to CRC and the possibility of an error being introduced is extremely remote. But (as I’ve recently discovered) – very few airlines (none that I’ve found so far …) use this option. Instead the message comes to the pilot as a pre-formatted screen/printer text display which the pilots review and manually enter into the FMC. Apart from the manual entry error problem (don’t get me started) – there’s an inherent assumption on the veracity of the ACARS system which so far I haven’t been able to evaluate.

Complex Systems get Worse, not better, with Time.

At a recent discussion, CRC was referred to as a system that was required when ACARS was in it’s infancy, rather than the developed, robust system we have today. While that’s fine as far as it goes – but in general computer based systems don’t improve with time. As time goes on, complexity invariably increases as systems once developed to achieve a pre-determined scope and volume, are forced to work outside those limits and are (eventually) expanded and developed to deal with such changes and basic growth. Those change programs are rarely projects that are well scoped/funded and rarely involve any of the programmers who built the system in the first place. If you have any interest in this at all, I strongly recommend reading through to the end Quinn Norton‘s missive “Everything is Broken“. I’ve been reading Quinn’s stuff since the early days of Boot Magazine, and she is awesome – but this particular post should resonate strongly with anyone connected to a computer (and who of us is not?)

Your average piece-of-shit Windows desktop is so complex that no one person on Earth really knows what all of it is doing, or how. Now imagine billions of little unknowable boxes within boxes constantly trying to talk and coordinate tasks at around the same time, sharing bits of data and passing commands around from the smallest little program to something huge, like a browser. That’s the internet. All of that has to happen nearly simultaneously and smoothly, or you throw a hissy fit because the shopping cart forgot about your movie tickets.

NASA had a huge staff of geniuses to understand and care for their software. Your phone has you.

When we tell you to apply updates we are not telling you to mend your ship. We are telling you to keep bailing before the water gets to your neck.

You get the idea …

This seems to me to be a very good reason to move towards using the system as it would seems to have been intended – Secure, Checked Data, straight into the FMC computer that needs it, skipping the Human altogether.

After all – when has that ever gone wrong?

Airspeed Unreliable

The Airspeed Unreliable scenarios is one of the more challenging non normals faced by pilots in the simulator. Of the many serious malfunctions I’ve witnessed crew deal with in the simulator – this one more than any other has caught crew out to the point of a serious limitation exeedence (high/low airspeed) or potentially an airframe loss. In the real world, this failure has killed people in the past, with the Air Peru B757 accident being the most common one that comes to mind. However accident and incident statistics are replete with this outlier failure that has recently become a major focus of the world’s airline training systems, most especially after the loss of Air France 447 in the Atlantic.

While the Air France and Air Peru events were clearly accidents of the first order with significant loss of life – unreliable flight instruments malfunctions have cause significant loss of control incidents that were eventually recovered. The following text is taken from another incident report, where a fully functioning set of co-pilot (and presumeably standby instruments) remained available to both crew. In spite of this the aircraft suffered signficant deviations of flight path owing to a combination of the autoflight and pilot inputs.

At 2203 the captain’s airspeed indicator increased from 276 to 320 knots and the captains altimeter increased 450 feet in approximately 5 seconds. To re-capture altitude, the autopilot commanded pitch down approximately 2 degrees. An overspeed warning activated whereupon the captain retarded the throttles to idle. The autothrottles disconnected automatically but the autopilot remained engaged. The autopilot pitched down another 2 degrees before pitching up approximately 8 degrees. The overspeed warning remained on for about 41 seconds. The captain disengaged the autopilot and manually initiated a climb. Thrust remained at idle and the captains airspeed indicator decreased to 297 knots. The captain increased pitch to 12 degrees nose up, his airspeed indicator rapidly increased to 324 knots producing a second overspeed warning. The aircraft climbed to an altitude of approximately 35,400 feet above sea level (asl), then started to descend. The captain’s indicated airspeed reached a maximum of 339 knots, before decreasing as the aircraft started to descend.

The aircraft was descending through 34,700 feet asl with the captain’s airspeed indicator decreasing through 321 knots and the overspeed warning on when the stick shaker activated (a stall warning device that noisily shakes the pilots control column as the stalling angle of attack is neared). The overspeed warning remained on for the next 20 seconds, became intermittent for 26 seconds, then stopped. The stick shaker activated intermittently for about 1 minute and 50 seconds from its initial activation. When the aircraft had descended through approximately 30 000 feet asl with the captains airspeed indicating 278 knots, the captain increased thrust and within 9 seconds the stick shaker stopped. As the aircraft descended through 29,100 feet asl, the captain’s airspeed indicator rapidly decreased from 255 knots to 230 knots and the airspeed fluctuations stopped. The aircraft continued its descent to 27 900 feet.

Throughout this event, the first officer’s airspeed indicator displayed information that was not indicative of an overspeed event.

The point here is that to a fully qualified, current and experienced crew, this is a failure that can present a significant challenge to retaining flight control and returning the aircraft safely back to the ground. The benefit of simulator training in this area cannot be under-estimated. The two thrusts of this simulator training should be:

  1. Recognition and initial control; and
  2. The procedures and techniques that will be required to return the aircraft safely to the ground with erroneous flight instruments, in various weather conditions.

This latter point is crucial. While it’s absolutely imperative that such training give crew the skills to recognise this failure and respond appropriately to regain/maintain control of the aircraft – the challenge inherent in returning a modern glass jet aircraft to the ground without functional airspeed/altimeter readings cannot be understimated. Except of course the 787 and the pilots that fly it – where with the flick of a switch airspeed is calculated from angle of attack and is accurate to about 5 knots. B@st@rds.

Recency & the Retention of Manual Flight Skills

A (previously) unspoken impact on this failure is the effect of a lack of aircrew skills and recency on basic instrument interpretation and maniulative skills. What this means is, pilots who spend most of their time either watching the autopilot fly, or following what the flight director tells them to do are in a poor position when these two marvelous systems are not available. Compounding this are crew who either don’t fly very often, or get little opportunity for manual flight.

I myself am a product of what is perhaps the worst combination of the various factors that impact my skills and my recency to perform my most basic task – hand fly the aircraft.

  • While I learnt to fly on conventional instrumentation, I am fundamentally a child of the magenta line. My last 10,000 hours have been in EFIS glass flight deck Airbus/Boeing aircraft that were heavily automated, and typically subjected to airline automation policies that both encouraged the use of the highest levels of automation, and discouraged the practice of manual flight.
  • As a long haul pilot (all sectors 12+ hours, augmented crew) I typically fly perhaps twice a month, which means 4 sectors, two of which (if I’m lucky) where I get to be the handling pilot. If the weather is reasonable and the airspace/traffic conditions conducive, and my partner (and myself) sufficiently alert – I can do some manual flying. Typically I make every attempt to do so, but my experience of flying with and watching other crew fly – I find myself an outlier in this. Much of the flying I see is “200 ft to 200 ft” with the autopilot used to nearly the maximum extent possible.
  • Worse than this, I am a simulator instructor. Hence I fly slightly less than an average line pilot. Offsetting this is the fact that I have (limited) access to this fabulous million dollar toy in which I can practice my craft. Of course, things are never that simple and while our entire regulatory system is built around the concept that the simulator is just like the aircraft, I’ll let you in on a secret – it’s not. Coupled with this is the issue that while the ability to jump into the seat and do a takeoff or a landing to maintain/return legal recency is a simple thing – using the device properly to maintain the complete spectrum of of operational familiarty is not.
  • Finally – I’m a Check Captain, This means that if I’m rostered with 3 flights this month (and by implication no simulator access because my roster is full at that point), typically two of those flights will be sitting on the jump seat watching other pilots fly. While it was clear that such activities have a detrimental impact on manual flying skills, at least you were part of the operation and therefore gaining valueable experience of watching other operate. Or so we used to think …

All this means that I have precious little opportunity to maintain these skills, and practically none to develop them.

Current regulatory requirements state I must have done a takeoff and landing in the last 45 days. This takeoff/landing doesn’t have to be on the same flight, and it can be (and is) accomplished in the simulator.

Why is the Simulator Different?

Sim1I’ve hinted before that the simulator is not like the aircraft. Which is a strange thing to say, given that this multi million dollar device probably has hundreds of millions of dollars and decades of research making every effort into making it so. Well, from a technical point of view – it’s pretty good. The “feel” is not quite the same, but as a device that serves as a next-best alternative to the aircraft, it does a great job.

The problem is in the way we use it.

While the simulator functions quite well as a tool to emulate a suitable environment for maneouvre practice – takeoff, landing, engine failure, instrument approaches, missed approaches, etc. – the problem is that while you can be trained to demonstrate technical competency in these maneouvres – it’s pulling them all together in the line operational environment where the “simulation” falls down. Sometimes in the aircraft the most difficult maneouvre to pull off without compromising safety is pushing the aircraft back and starting the engines [OTP]. There are so many people involved in this process that sometimes a Captain is like a traffic cop in the middle of a jam, rather than a manager steering the process while simultaneously mantaining the big picture awarness to safely integrate what must be done with would be nice to see done.

Simulators can provide this environment – but the preparation required of the instructors and the training management is extreme. This kind of simulation is called LOFT (Line Orientated Flight Training); or LOS (Line Orientated Simulation) – or when you’re being checked and not trained – LOE (Line Orientated Evaluation). While LOFT/LOS/LOE heavily influenced training thought up to a decade ago, many airlines seem to be back at that point where their training syllabii are driven towards a token half-session LOS/E; combined with multi-repositioning maneouvre training that completes set exercises as dictated by a regulatory matrix.

I might add some of these maneouvre are patently irrelevant to “modern” aircraft. In my 777 which was designed in the early 90’s and is now over 20 years old – we have to practice the failure of all primary flight instruments, a failure more appropraite to the aircraft of the 50”s, 60’s and perhaps 70’s. This basically means failing my two LCD screens (assuming I don’t just lean back and look at the two in front of my Co-pilot), each of which have a mean time between failure of something like 400,000 hours. So far in my 9000 hours/18 years on the 777 I haven’t had one fail – only 391,000 hours and 782 years to go before this check event that I have to do every year becomes beneficial …

When we step into a simulator perhaps 75% of the available time for training and assessment will be taken up by regulatory based maneouvre requirements. Matrix’s that dictate that each 6 months you must to an engine failure on takeoff in the lowest visibility with the engine failing at close to decision speed, for example. Not only this this simple exercise consume perhaps 20 minutes of simulator time – it dictates the nature of that section of the session – there must be a takeoff, it must be in low visibility, etc. The option of starting the session in mid flight nearing your critical diversion point over the pole goes out the window.

One final thing on skill retention. The rules that determine how often I must do a take off and landing to be legal to operate may or may not adequately address manual flight skills (or at least, the manual flight skills required to do a takeoff and landing) … but it does not address the wider skills required for manual flight in non-normal operations, nor does it consider “operational familiarity”, or if you like, recency as it relates to everything we do that doesn’t include takeoff or landing. Most particularly this means the cognitive skills that sits behind the manipulative ones. I recently came across an article on this in the Journal of Human Factors. The article itself is fascinating but the conclusions are both logical and startling; namely …

  • After large gaps between flight exposure, the basic manipluative skills of piloting tend to fade slowly, and return quickly to a good level of proficiency with exposure.
  • However after the same abscence, the cognitive skills required to operate safely and efficiently fade quickly and take more exposure to build to previous levels of proficinecy.

This second one is crucial. You can throw a pilot into a simulator after 45 days do a few takeoff/landings and be satisfied that as far as that skill goes, that pilot is good to go. But what about the cognitive aspoect. As a member of a small group of highly skilled, highly qualified pilots who seldom touch an aircraft, and have been this way for 8 years now – I can confirm that the least of my worries is takeoff, landing, basic flying. It’s everything else – and most particularly exposure to high workload situations that require practiced cognitive skills that present the greatest challenge to proficiency, efficiency – and safety.

To (finally) bring this round to the original heading – if you barely get the chance to practice hand flying the aircraft (while thinking at the same time) – how much harder is it going to be to respond correctly when your instruments are lieing to you?

Airspeed Unreliable Checklist

AirspeedUnreliable1The Airspeed Unreliable checklist was revised in light of Air France AF447 to provide some short term figures for pilots to rely on. The basic intent of this change is to avoid the fixation that often occurs on airspeed and airspeed related alerts during this failure, to the exclusion of sensible pitch attitudes and power settings for existing aircraft configuration.

The settings promulgated in the checklist are designed to keep the aircraft in a safe (if not necessarily desirable) state of flight clear of high and low speed extremes for at least as long as it takes the crew to progress through the checklist to that point where they are looking up more appropriate values in the QRH. This may leave the aircraft in a climb or a descent, it may leave the aircraft at innapropriate (but safe) high or low airspeed compared to the normal flight regime. But safe.

It’s worth noting that the simulator leaves the Flight Path Angle displayed if selected. However while the FPA, PLI and Stick Shaker are fundamentally attitude based – all take airspeed as an input parameterfor validity checking. Boeing cannot guarantee that any of these will display, or will display correctly in the event of unreliable static/dynamic sources and hence the checklist warns against their use.

Cabin Altitude as … Altitude

In the event of a complete static port blockage, some crew have attempted to depressurise the simulator (Outflow Valves – Manual, Fully Open) to use the ASPC pressure sensor to provide an aircraft altitude through the Cabin Altitude display. This technique is technically (systemically) valid and will display an approximate aircraft altitude in a depressurised aircraft.

However it has been noted that when most crew takeoff with all static ports blocked (takeoff being the only time this is likely to occur), once crew recognise the malfunction, adopt the promulgated memory pitch attitude and thrust settings and commence the NNM checklist – by the time they achieve level flight in accordance with the QRH, they’re usually over 10,000 ft. Selecting the Outflow Valves open at this point would result in an EICAS [] CABIN ALTITUDE, followed by Oxygen Masks and a Rapid Descent – all while on unreliable flight instruments. As such this technique is not recommend by most Training/Standards Departments of the aircraft manufacturer. Using the Cabin Altitude earlier in this failure might indeed give you an altitude to maintain, but without valid power settings/attitudes, you’ll compromise your ability to maintain a safe airspeed until you get into the QRH.

 

EICAS CABIN ALTITUDE – Controllable?

I’m working on an update to the Practices and Techniques document I developed in 2008. While this has been a published document in my airline for several years, it was recently taken offline and is now a training background reference, as was the original intention for it’s development. Just one of the many subjects currently under revision is the section on Depressurisation Events – specifically the assessment of the Outflow Valve Position during an EICAS CABIN ALTITUDE or other related NNM’s that could lead to a Rapid Descent.

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Totalizer vs Calculated Fuel

I’m working on an update to the Practices and Techniques document I developed several years ago. While this has been a published document in my airline for several years, it was recently taken offline and is now a training background reference, as was the original intention of it’s development. Just one of the many subjects currently under revision is the section on Fuel Quantity Indication System (FQIS) – Totalizer vs Calculated Fuel. This comes after ongoing investigation of the fuel stratification issue (still unresolved).

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Droning

This post will commence a series of musings on both the personal (hobby) and potential commercial use of QuadCopters. I’ve been experimenting and learning in this arena for the last six months, which includes being the member of a number of online forums and discussions. I will attempt to make these posts useful for those seeking to learn, seeking to enjoy, or as a reference source for the often asked questions I regularly encounter in the online forums.

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Slats Drive Go-Around

The last phase of recurrent simulator training – for Cruise Relief First Officers – included a two engine go-around after a Slats Drive failure. The outcome was usually surprising – for no apparent reason the AP/FD pitches to less than 10 degrees and accelerates well through Flap Limit speed. The PF is required to disconnect and pitch?manually?above the Flight Director toward the standard 15 degrees to recover speed control.

Update : I recently revisited this in the simulator and filmed the sequence as part of an investigation with Boeing.

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Practices & Techniques : Slats?Drive Go-Around

Slats Drive go-around has been shown in the simulator to have unusual flight characteristics. Boeing have confirmed that the simulator is following the same control law as the aircraft, and as such crew should expect the aircraft to behave the same way.

Essentially during a go around after a Slats Drive failure, the AFDS increases pitch rate slowly to a target of about 8-10 while airspeed continues to accelerate through the flap limit speed. The solution is to either disconnect and fly manually, or potentially a reversion to FLCH will restore correct AFDS speed/pitch behaviour.

Engine out Slats Drive Go-Around has the same pitch problem, although the result is less marked owing to reduced performance. Note that the use of FLCH to recover will reduce the thrust limit setting to the CLB/CON limit prematurely, and may compromise go around acceleration/performance.

777 Autoflight Speed Protection – Asiana 214

I was asked recently to write for an internal newsletter to provide some Boeing 777 specific information to non-777 pilots on the role of the 777 Autopilot Flight Director System (AFDS) and Autothrottle in the Asiana 214 accident. The following article is based on that contribution.

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Weather Avoidance via Satellite

Weather avoidance is part and parcel of an airline pilot’s standard task list. From the Mark One Eyeball to the Rockwell Collins WXR-2100 Weather Radar there are various tools available to assist in this task; all of which leverage the training and experience an airline pilot brings to the flight deck. But my last trip illustrates the changes we’ve seen over the past few years in weather avoidance becoming a wider task that just the pilots on the flight deck, so I thought I’d share it here.

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50,000 volts into the MCP

Next time you reach up for something on the Mode Control Panel (MCP) – try and remember that 50,000 volts could be involved … Let me explain.

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Missed Approach Acceleration at ALT Capture

In another article, I discuss the issue of acceleration and cleanup in the missed approach. The Boeing 777 FCTM mentions accelerating at 1000 ft (AAL) in the missed approach, and many airlines use this point on two engine missed approaches. As discussed – this is inappropriate and potentially dangerous in the event of a single engine missed approach as terrain clearance is not assessed. We use the Missed Approach Altitude MAA (or if lower/higher and more appropriate, the Minimum Safe Altitude MSA) instead. We use this point on both all engine as well as engine out go-arounds to maintain procedural consistency and reduce the likelihood of a crew acceleration (inappropriately) early on a single engine missed approach.

AltMAA1Recently I was asked about early ALT capture in the missed approach. The issue of concern was whether we could accept “early” acceleration in the missed approach when it’s associated with AFDS ALT capture. In essence – this is acceptable and in fact expected two engine go-around behavior.

Basically when you’re climbing up towards an altitude at which you intend to level off, the Autopilot Director Flight Director System (AFDS) is aware of this since it’s usually set in your Mode Control Panel (MCP). The AFDS monitors your current altitude, your rate of climb and your target MCP altitude during the climb (among other things …) and schedules a capture of the altitude earlier if your climb performance is good.

At some point you enter a capture range as you near the target altitude and an altitude capture mode engages in the AFDS. This is indicate by ALT on the Flight Mode Annunciator (FMA) and the AFDS either (a) commands the flight director to provide guidance for the level off; (b) commands the autopilot to action the level off; or (c) or both.

How early the capture phase begins is mostly dependent on your rate of climb. A rule of thumb when manually flying is 10% of your rate of climb. If you’re going up at 1000 ft/min – you can expect to have to begin the level off at 100 ft to go. My read of the AFDS is that it’s a little more sophisticated than that (one would hope so …) – it schedules level off much earlier than I would when manually flying – see the picture above. The AFDS level off process is?primarily limited by a “g” limit that the autopilot is is allowed to actuate through the flight controls – aimed at providing a smoother ride with less stomach pulling for the passengers.

Note : It’s worth noting that during climb you’re in a speed-on-elevator mode where speed control is provided through pitch (elevators). When leveled off – you’re in a speed-on-thrust mode where the autothrottle moves to protect speed. However during the capture you’re on neither.

I once had the capture mode described to me as “the aircraft following a pre-determined 3D path in space/time” by a particularly nerdy (but brilliant) Instructor – in which speed protection is NOT guaranteed. This 3D path is calculated at the commencement of the capture mode, and the AFDS follows it until the aircraft is levelled off. As such if the environmental or thrust conditions change during the capture process such that the initial calculated path is now invalid – all bets are off and pilot intervention may be required to protect speed and/or altitude. Supposedly the altitude capture mode does not heave the ability to re-calculate on the fly …

I’ve seen this myself on several occasions, where a change in MCP speed or thrust available – or resetting the QNH – completely throws the AFDS and a reversion to basic modes or manual flight is required. The classic scenario in the sim is to fail an engine in a two engine go-around just as the AFDS captures altitude early because of climb performance. Pilot intervention is almost always required as the aircraft tries to follow a 3D capture path based on 2 engines, using the thrust available from just one engine.

The missed approach – particularly the two engine missed approach – can be an extremely dynamic regime where large rates of climb – anywhere from 3000 to 5000 fpm – can “normally” be achieved. As such the capture phase can begin quite early, and owing to the dynamic nature of the maneuver – can seem too early for a normal level off.

This is where the question comes in. I recently encountered pilots who were intervening in the event of an early ALT capture off a two engine missed approach, because our SOP is to continue missed approach climb to the MAA. This is not required. On a two engine missed approach, the climb phase can be thought of as over when the AFDS enters ALT capture, even if it seems to be doing so well below the MAA. Early altitude capture is (usually) an entirely normal and appropriate action by the AFDS (or the pilot) and the SOP to climb to the MAA before accelerating was never intended to preclude this. In any case – on a two engine missed approach you’ll (almost) never be limited by?terrain clearance and commencing level off at an altitude below the MAA appropriate to the rate of climb is absolutely normal.?The issue doesn’t present on single engine go-arounds because the climb performance isn’t there to generate early captures.

None of this is of course intended to limit the PF/Captain from taking action in the event of inappropriate behavior of the AFDS – Fly The Plane.

B777 Cruise CoG

CrzCog5Recently I’ve had a couple of discussions about the Cruise Center of Gravity (CoG) setting/default in the B777 Flight Management Computer (FMC).

Basically the 777 FMC comes with a default Cruise CoG setting on the PERF INIT page (shown). The FMC has a default value (small font) and valid pilot entries vary from 7.5% to 44%, although the typical operating range for a 777-300ER (in my experience) is 25% to 35%. Usually the further aft the aircraft is loaded, the better for improving takeoff performance and cruise performance (although not aircraft handling) – for reasons explained at the bottom of this article.

This is different from the Takeoff CoG (%MAC) entered during pre-flight. Despite setting the Takeoff CoG before engine start, this has no impact on the setting used by the FMC in cruise to calculate Altitude Capability. For various reasons, the further forward the FMC Cruise CoG setting, the lower the Maximum Altitude Capability calculated by the aircraft (see CoG, CoP below). At it’s typical worst (from 7.5% to a more reasonable value of 30%) this can reduce the Maximum Altitude calculated in the FMC by 1000 ft. The location of the CoG impacts other aspects of the aircraft, including fuel consumption – but the FMC does not account for these impacts. I’ve always assumed that it assumes the worst value – but when you ASS-U&ME …

In our 777’s this default is 30%. This is a pretty good approximate mid range setting. So good in fact that if you update it to the actual value on the day – a change of +/- 5% only results in a Max Alt change of a a couple hundred feet at most. Since we rarely travel around at Max Alt and instead usually maintain a margin 500 ft or so (by habit, training and common sense, rather than SOP) – this difference doesn’t change much.

CrzCog7I’ve recently discovered that there are still some airlines operating their 777’s with a default of 7.5%. This means that their VNAV Cruise Page is calculating Maximum Altitude with a falsely low value. While safe and conservative – it’s not especially accurate, and could have the result of preventing crew from climbing when the option is available.

At this point there would seem to be three options. (a) leave it alone; (b) introduce a near-enough default; or (c) introduce a procedure where an accurate value is calculated from the loadsheet and entered in cruise.

While reviewing the issue with the training manager of the particular airline, we diverged down the road of an interesting discussion of the benefits of a changed default vs a procedure. A changed default will serve most purposes most of the time, potentially introducing a small error (not always on the conservative side) where the default is different from the real value, but with little or no impact. The alternative is to introduce a written procedure the crew would utilise to determine an accurate cruise value from the loadsheet and enter it into the FMC – but introduce the opportunity for error. I was on the side of (b) – but this may as much be a situation bias on my part since this is how we operate.

CrzCog6Why do some 777-300ER’s have a default of 7.5%?

When I first operated the 777-300ER, the default was 30%. At one point early in the life of our new 300ER’s, this value was changed by Boeing to a full forward Cruise CoG of 7.5% – and we were not allowed to correct it. The reason behind this was the discovery during flight testing of some kind of aerodynamic anomaly related to the engine nacelle and the wing root – a vibration/flutter problem that only manifested when operating at or very near to maximum altitude. This was determined not to be a Safety issue – but more of a passenger comfort issue. By operating with an artificially low Cruise CoG value of 7.5% – Boeing lowered the Max Alt calculated by the FMC and kept the aircraft clear of the troublesome regime. I vaguely recall that eventually the problem was fixed through the installation of an air vane on the side of the nacelle – and a cruise CoG default of 30% was restored. But not everywhere it would seem …

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When do you Rotate?

A while ago I was looking into tail clearances on takeoff, rotation technique and most importantly what tools were available to train and evaluate rotation technique in the simulator and the aircraft.

Rotation5As part of this review the question was raised about the calling of “Rotate” on takeoff and the initiation of the rotation manoeuvre itself. It seems an esoteric distinction but when the takeoff is critical – high weight, high density altitudes where limitations such as maximum tyre speed become a factor – it can be part of the problem of rotation technique.

Before you read on, answer honestly the following question – When do You start to pull back and initiate rotation on takeoff?

  • When the PM calls “Rotate“; or
  • When the airspeeds indicates you’ve achieved VR?

The answer of course comes from the FCTM.

The requirement for the PF to initiate rotation at VR rather than “Rotate” has some implications for takeoff. If you weren’t already – as the PF you should have airspeed in your scan (along with everything else) during the takeoff roll, particularly as you approach V1/Vr. Essentially as you hear the PM call “Rotate” – you should have already begun the control input; you should not be reacting to the call.

It’s a small difference (made bigger by any delay in the PM (Captain!) to call “Rotate) but with the odd tyre speed exceedence seen in Abu Dhabi in the summer and occasionally Los Angeles at heavy weights – a difference that can bring you closer to an exceedence.

This concept provoked some discussions amongst the standards guys as to whether we should be calling “Rotate” a few knots early. Again – referring to the FCOM/FCTM – the answer is … No.

Background

Years ago when my previous operator transitioned from the awesome Boeing 777-200/ER’s to the even more awesome B777-300’s – prior to the ultimately awesome (… at least until the 777-X!) B777 300ER’s – we were concerned about the rotation technique our pilots were using in the -200 aircraft and how that would translate across to the far more critical -300 aircraft. I promise I won’t call anything else awesome for the rest of this page.

While training was provided in the simulator to Instructors (to teach/assess) and to Line Pilots (to do!) on takeoff rotation to refresh them in preparation for the -300’s; one of the most effective solutions was produced by Engineering.

After each takeoff in the aircraft, the onboard maintenance computer would print off a takeoff rotation report which listed some of the basic parameters associated with the rotation itself and allow the pilots to compare their own impression of the rotation manoeuvre as against the data itself. Pilots were heavily cautioned against reading too much into the data and reminded that the prime reference was the FCTM technique – but it was fascinating how often a rotation that felt slow, looked slow on the data; felt fast, looked fast on the data – or felt ok, looked slow or fast on the data. Over time we trained into our brains and muscle memories the correct technique using the aircraft itself as our guide. Quite cool really.

Rotation6As an aside, I can remember several tailstrike incidents in the B777-300 (never the 300ER) during my time with my previous airline; all involved some fairly (not so) unusual (UK) weather with strong/gusty crosswinds involved. While information was never provided as to whether pilot technique was a factor – knowing as I did at least three?of the pilots in those occurrences, I really don’t think so.

Later the FCTM would be changed to recommend full TOGA thrust on all takeoff’s in strong and/or gusting crosswinds in all 777’s – an action which increases the tailskid margin on takeoff.

Boeing 777 Tailstrike Prevention Solutions

When the 777-300ER’s arrived they came with a software based tailstrike prevention system that would all but eliminate tail strikes. In fact to the best of my knowledge no 777-300ER’s have experienced a tailstrike in operational service – and the system had to be disabled during certification in order to produce the data necessary for unstick tests.

Across the various types of 777’s …

  • B777-200/ER/LR/LRF : Has tailstrike detection – but no protection.
  • B777-300 : Has tailstrike detection; separate tailstrike protection (physical tailskid); but no software based protection.
  • B777-300ER : Has detection; Tailskid Protection (tailskid); plus a software based protection system and semi-levered main gear which pivot during rotation to reduce the likelihood of a tailstrike.
Tailstrike Detection Skid

Tailstrike Detection Skid

Tailstrike Detection (All)

The detection system is a sensor/antenna mounted on the underside of the aircraft, not far past the point where the lower body tapers upwards towards the tail, and when activated alerts the flight deck that a [] TAILSTRIKE has occurred. This system is highly sophisticated, so to understand it – you need to read the next paragraph carefully.

Basically if you pull back hard enough during takeoff and drag the back end of the aircraft along the runway – you rip off this strategically placed orange fin, and an EICAS message goes off on the flight deck.

Highly sophisticated, wouldn’t you say? Still it seems to work.

In the event of an activation of this system – on any 777 – the checklist requires you to depressurise the aircraft and Land. Potentially you’ve done damage to the airframe, which could well be structural and include the cabin pressure cell.

Protection Skid/Cannister

Protection Skid/Cannister

Tailstrike Protection (Hardware, B777-300/300ER *)

The physical talkstrike protection cannister solution is a skid that retracts with the landing gear but during takeoff and landing provides a crushable cannister that absorbs the impact of a tailstrike. Note that you can drag this bit of kit along the runway – even crushing it – without activating the aforementioned detection system (no EICAS message). Apart from some harried calls from the crew and passengers – you might not even know it had occurred …?In any event in this circumstance it’s acceptable to continue the flight because the cannister has done it’s job of protecting the airframe, even if you failed to do so …

Accompanying this (B777-300ER only) is the implementation of the semi-levered landing gear which “consists of an additional hydraulic actuator that connects the forward end of each main gear truck to the shock strut. During takeoff, the actuator locks to restrict rotation of the main gear truck and allow takeoff rotation about the aft wheel axle, thereby improving airplane performance capability. During landing, the actuator is unlocked to permit rotation of the main gear truck and provide additional damping.

We like to think that the aircraft essentially hops off the runway at the end of the rotation sequence …

Tailstrike Protection (Software, B777-300ER)

The 300ER’s come with a software innovation that assesses the likelihood of a tailstrike during takeoff based on a sea of parameters that include not only tailskid height but pitch attitude, rotation rate, airspeed as well as pilot control inputs. This is a solution that is a direct benefit from a fly by wire control system – there’s no doubt a stack of software in the background operating on a stack of data coming in at (I believe) 60 frames of information a second. Basically the system calculates how low the tail skid will be at the lowest point in the rotation – and if it believe that clearance will be less than 1.5 feet (yes – that’s 18 inches folks …) – it springs into action. Effectively?it reduces the pilot commanded elevator input, slowing the rotation of the aircraft, thereby preventing a tailstrike while continuing the rotation manoeuvre.

There is no pilot feedback, and no advisory to the crew that this has taken place. Depending on your airline’s setup – the flight deck, Engineering and/or Flight Operations Department could receive a report from the aircraft that the event has taken place, incorporating a subset of the data generated during the activation of tailstrike prevention.

Additionally an airline’s flight data monitoring (FDM) program that monitors digital data continuously for exceedences in a variety of parameters may well detect in the takeoff data indications an execeedence of various values such as fast/slow rotation rate; high rotation pitch attitude at liftoff, etc. It’s worth noting however that FDM captures data at about 5 times a second whereas TSP works on at least 12 times as much data – I’ve seen circumstances where the TSP has activated, but FDM never caught anything unusual (enough) on the takeoff to report.

* Finally – it’s worth noting that the software solution on the 777-300ER is so good that recently Boeing stopped placing the physical cannister tailstrike protection solution on the -300ER’s; this protection originally provided on the 777-300’s is no longer required and Boeing have been looking at rolling the software system back to the 777-300’s.

Resources

Calculated/Totalizer Fuel & Pre-Fuelling

FQIS2After an 8 month hiatus – I returned to flying in August to the Los Angele route. On my first trip, I noticed that during the return sector from LA we had burnt more fuel than I could readily account for, and the FMC Progress Page Calculated Fuel was somewhat lower than the Totalizer fuel (more on this later).

Note : There are two means for determing fuel on board on the 777 – Totalizer Fuel (fuel sensed in the fuel tanks); and Calculated Fuel (calculated as fuel on board since start by the Flight Management Computer FMC)

Over subsequent flights, and based additionally on feedback from other Instructors – it appears we’re seeing some odd behavior in the Calculated/Totalizer split. From my experience (and that of others) – the following is what I would expect to see from these two values. Note I’ve validated my background data with other 777 operators who agree with my expectations.

  • Calculated equal to Totalizer in the very early stages of flight; typically within a couple hundred kg’s at top of climb;
  • Slow variance between steady state Totalizer and Calculated values; trending generally in one direction or another (Calculated exceeding Totalizer or vice-versa);
  • Often a developing Calculated/Totalizer split will reverse it’s trend for a while;
  • Split values of 1000 kg or more are unusual but not unheard of; usually towards the middle or last third of a long haul flight you would see this maximum value;
  • Such larger values have usually reduced to a few hundred kg’s approaching Top of Descent;
  • There has never been an absolute consistency of Calculated Higher or Lower than Totalizer all the time across Aircraft/Sector/Season, etc.

What I’ve been seeing however is the following:

  • At Top of Climb, Calculated is up to 1000 kg below Totalizer;
  • This split tends to increase slowly over the rest of the flight, occasionally reversing back towards but not coming under the original Top of Climb 1000 Kg split
  • At Top of Descent (3x LAX-Australia sectors so far) – a split of about 1500 kg’s; Calculated always below Totalizer.

Implications

It should be remembered that all FMC fuel predictions are based on the Calculated value. Based on the expected behavior of the aircraft systems – we have always trained that for most of a long haul flight, the FMC Calculated fuel on board (and hence the FMC fuel predictions) are the more accurate figure. At the end of the flight – the Totalizer should be (more) accurate, but pilots are reminded to review the Calculated/Totalizer split – particularly those cases where the Calculated is higher than the Totalizer, since this can lead to false impression of fuel state on descent.

With a 1500 kg lower Calculated value, and a slightly increased fuel burn – we are seeing the FMC/EICAS [] INSUFFICIENT FUEL message, which cautions the crew that based on current FMC predictions, they will not land at Destination with enough fuel to conduct a missed approach and proceed to their Alternate with statutory reserves intact. This message is not a train smash – but it’s an indication that fuel consumption has been in excess of what was planned, and combined with poor weather could lead to a diversion.

However if this message is coming up based on a falsely low Calculated value – in comparison to the higher Totalizer value – then this is a concern. I should mention that like all airlines there’s an active fuel monitoring program in place which utilizes extensive onboard recorded data to ensure that the aircraft is consuming fuel as it should, resulting in performance decrements that are maintained in both the flight planning system and the aircraft to enable accurate fuel consumption prediction.

Before I go much further, I’d better recap on the systems for those who are still catching up …

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Temperature Inversions and Takeoff Performance Calculation

A while ago I scheduled a temperature inversion in a simulator session in preparation for our operation to Abu Dhabi’s summer. For further reflections see Performance Limited Takeoff and High Temperature Departure Abu Dhabi.

The issue of temperature inversions and the implications for takeoff performance calculation raised so many issues that I ended up having to remove the sequence from the session. I set about reviewing what the industry had in this area – particularly as relates to practice and procedure for dealing with reported temperature inversions.

There ain’t much. The theory is all there of course, covering the various mechanisms under which LLTIs (Low Level Temperature Inversions) are formed; their association with Windshear; the likely effect on performance. But when it comes to dealing with them practically …

Note : All of the following information is the collation of research from various sources. Specific references to values and performance impacts, and any procedural or practical recommendations are personal opinion only and in no way reflect policy or practice of any airline or flight department. Caveat Emptor.


Low Level Temperature Inversions (LLTI)

4300155_origIn the International Standard Atmosphere (ISA) the outside air temperature (OAT) decreases at a rate of 2 degrees per 1000 ft. In fact it’s not quite that simple, since the dry adiabatic lapse rate (DALR) is nearer 3?degrees/1000 and the saturated adiabatic lapse rate (SALR) nearer 1.5?degrees, so moist air rises less rapidly than dry, hence clouds that continue to build vertically while there’s high moisture content, hence the planet on which we live replete with clouds and rain and trees and forests and oceans and … but I digress.

On top of this, weather characteristics and the geographical environment may affect the lower layer of the atmosphere to produce an increase in ambient temperature with ascent, rather than the expected (various degrees of) decrease. This is called a temperature inversion and down low, abbreviated as an LLTI.

The wikipedia entry is decent. For our purposes the basis of formation isn’t necessarily relevant, but we can look at two types for our purposes – Known and Unknown. The unknown kind can be half expected (based on local experience) but is rarely accounted for – it just comes as an annoyance on performance as your all-engines operating aircraft encounters it. The likelihood of an LLTI occurring at the exact same time as a critical engine failure with an obstacle constrained flightpath is so statistically remote that we can ignore it.

Or is that what we say about ATC and mid air collisions?

But when planning a takeoff with a known LLTI – usually reported by ATIS after pilot observation “Pilot reported Low Level Temperature Inversion of 15 degrees at 1000 ft” – you’re now planning on the loss of an engine when you hit this thing, which makes it somewhat more serious.

An LLTI for our purposes occurs at low level and rarely penetrates 2000 ft AGL. A 10 degree temperature inversion is considered quite significant and will usually be reported on the ATIS. Dubai is a prime location for LLTI’s where the ambient temperature is relatively high during the day but the ground cools quickly and significantly at night, setting up the conditions for a morning LLTI. I’ve flown through LLTI’s of 20 degrees (all engines operating) and the effect is noticeable – generally a marginal but detectable loss of performance. The fact that it usually hits just as you reduce to climb thrust, commence 3rd segment acceleration and occasionally as you reduce flap doesn’t help. But two engine performance is not the issue here and a LLTI will never be anywhere near the impact of actually losing an engine – just to keep things in perspective …

Performance Impact

All performance is based on density altitude and temperature is a key factor. The higher the temperature the higher the density altitude, the thinner the air and the less performance from your engines (and wings, etc). The key performance factor we’re interested in here is thrust from the engines, and since we’re usually talking about higher temperatures, it means we’re usually operating beyond the flat rating temperature of your engine. So we’d better start with that and talk about Flat Rating and Tref.

Flat Rating and Tref

TempInv3For certification purposes – turbine engines are required to be able to produce a minimum fixed thrust throughout their operating life. This predictable thrust level is constant up to a certain ambient temperature – above this temperature the thrust produced by the engine is scaled back as OAT increases. The point at which thrust starts to reduce is known as the Engine Flat Rated Temperature (or Tref in Airbus speak) and is usually defined as an ISA deviation. For the GE90-115B engine the flat rating temperature is 30 degrees C at Sea Level (or ISA+15 degrees).

There should always be a margin between the thrust an engine is capable of producing and that required of it by scheduled takeoff performance. Below Tref this is defined by a pressure limit on the engine. Above Tref, it’s defined by a temperature margin, and can be loosely associated with the difference between the EGT achieved during the takeoff roll and the EGT the engine is limited to at Takeoff Thrust. The GE90-11B’s are unlimited at an EGT of 1050 degrees C and below (N1/N2 limits apply also), or with a 5/10 minute All Engine/Engine Out limit of up to 1090 degrees .

TempInv2Both above and below Tref – this translates broadly speaking to a margin below a critical exhaust gas temperature (EGT). In essence under ISA conditions a new engine will produce “maximum thrust” at a lower EGT than an engine at the end of it’s operating life.

For both of these engines, that “maximum thrust” is a pre-determined figure that your performance calculator has to be able to rely on. For a takeoff in excess of Tref, your performance computer counts on less and less thrust from the engine. A general rule of thumb is a loss of 0.75% thrust for each degree of temperature increase above Tref.

FADEC Thrust Setting

Another factor to bear in mind as we draw inexorably closer to actually discussing dealing with LLTI’s is thrust setting during takeoff. An engine with Full Authority Digital Engine Control (FADEC) continues to “tweak” the thrust set during the takeoff roll. Typically allowing for the increase in inlet pressure as the aircraft accelerates – in fact the N1 or EPR will be adjusted for a series of factors during the takeoff roll to produce a command parameter (N1/EPR) that results in the required thrust. When the ambient temperature increases on takeoff (instead of decreasing) it can be seen that the impact on thrust produced can be different depending on whether you’re above or below the Tref.

Watch the N1 during takeoff sometime – you’ll see it continue to change as the aircraft accelerates, even though the thrust levers are de-clutched in “HOLD”.

TempInv9N1 : Is not actually a parameter used directly for engine thrust management. N1 is corrected internally in the Electronic Engine Control (EEC) as a function of the TAT (depending on aircraft speed). This corrected N1 (referred to here on as N1-K) bears a direct relationship to thrust.

As temperature increases but remains below Tref, N1-K is constant with the thrust produced even as as N1 increases. In essence as the temperature decreases it requires more and more N1 to produce a constant thrust (N1-K). Unfortunately – we see N1, so I’ll keep N1 as a primary parameter for our discussion.

Ignoring the affects of increasing airspeed for a moment …

  • Below Tref – as temperature increases, N1 increases to maintain a constant Thrust (N1-K)
  • Above Tref – N1 will decrease with increasing temperature, as will Thrust (N1-K)

TempInv10EGT is a little different. Power management is essentially established to maintain a constant EGT (in relation to a critical maximum EGT) above Tref. So below Tref, EGT will increase as OAT increases until OAT is at Tref, after which EGT will essentially remain constant with further OAT increases even as thrust decreases.

Ok, so we now have enough information to start looking at LLTI’s. If you’ve followed so far, you can see how we might choose to plan for a LLTI depends on the relationship between ambient OAT and Tref – remembering the B777-300ER’s GE90-11b engines are flat rated to 30 degrees C (or ISA+15).

During takeoff the EEC’s continuously compute N1 based on the current ambient temperature as sensed by the TAT probe at the top of the Engine Nacelle. Thus the effect of a LLTI on takeoff performance will depend on the type of takeoff being performed and on the magnitude of the temperature increase.

TempInv11LLTI; Maximum (or Fixed Derate) Thrust; Ambient below Tref

If you’re conducting a Maximum (or TO 1/2 derate) thrust takeoff with the ambient OAT below the flat rating temperature and a temperature increase occurs such that the ambient remains below Tref – the EEC’s will increase the N1 to maintain thrust required (N1-K constant) for the higher temperature. The EGT will increase but remain below maximum EGT.

Because this all takes place below Tref – there’s little impact on thrust. You may well still notice aerodynamic effects – but thrust loss is not one of them.

TempInv12LLTI; Maximum Thrust; Ambient above Tref

If your conducting a Maximum (or TO 1/2 derate) thrust takeoff and an OAT increase occurs that takes the ambient above Tref – the EEC’s will reduce N1 to maintain power management requirements rather than thrust required. This is the engine protecting itself to avoid an EGT exceedance. Thrust levels will reduce (compared to a “normal” takeoff) to maintain a constant EGT. The higher the OAT above Tref, the greater the reduction of thrust.

As a general rule, a temperature inversion of 10 degrees will result in a thrust reduction of about 10% (anywhere from 8% to 12% depending on the engine). However the loss of thrust applies at the maximum magnitude of the temperature inversion. Typically the temperature increase in an LLTI is uniform; thus the thrust reduction associated should also be uniform through the atmospheric LLTI.

LLTI; Assumed Temperature Takeoff

If you’re using assumed temperature with a temperature inversion, the following two cases have to be considered:

  • TempInv13If the OAT increase stays below the Assumed Temperature, then no effect on thrust will occur. The EEC’s will detect temperature and regulate thrust accordingly and not be limited by the Assumed value. Thrust will therefore remain constant compared to the standard atmosphere takeoff. You’ll see an increase in EGT due to the higher ambient; again you may notice aerodynamic effects – but thrust loss isn’t one of them.

 

 

  • TempInv14If the temperature increase goes above the Assumed Temperature – then the assumed temperature solution is dropped by the FMC. The thrust solution reverts to maximum thrust (or max TO1 / TO2 thrust) and the implications are similar to the previous two situations – LLTI with Max Thrust above/below Tref. This scenario is less likely since it requires an already higher temperature on ground with a limited amount of reduced thrust and a temperature inversion higher than the difference between the OAT and the Assumed Temperature. Or is it?

That said, the situation in Abu Dhabi is actually quite close to what is being described here. A limiting takeoff where some derate (not much) is still available, where the ambient temperature is above the engine flat rating temperature – coupled with a report LLTI of 10 degrees or more. This sounds like a vintage Middle East morning departure.

Before we move on – it’s important to note that a temperature inversion during takeoff has little effect on engine performance when it occurs during Maximum/Derated/Assumed Thrust takeoff where the OAT is below Tref.

TempInv8Effect of an LLTI on Aircraft Performance

It should be clear now that for an LLTI to be a consideration on takeoff performance, the aircraft needs to be in the following scenario:

  • Ambient temperature at or above Tref (30 degrees / ISA+15); or Ambient temperature plus LLTI temperature change in excess of Tref.
  • Maximum Thrust (TO) or Max Thrust plus Assumed (TO-nn);
  • Engine failure at V1; with an Obstacle constrained flight path (the runway will be behind you before you enter the LLTI);
  • LLTI is such that it results in a regulatory net flight path margin cancellation and leads to compromised obstacle clearance.

In all other cases, even if performance is affected the result is a detrimental flight path lower than the nominal one, but clear of obstacles and minimum net flight paths.

It’s worth nothing that FAR/JAR Part 25 rules introduced conservatism to account for inaccuracies of the data used for performance calculation, and although not specifically mentioned, the case could be made that LLTI’s are part of in that consideration. There is however no specific documentation to state or imply this.

Module7-013The minimum climb gradient commencing at 35 ft above the runway for the second segment is 2.4% for a twin engine aircraft. Beyond this is a 0.8% margin between net and gross calculations. Typically a 10 degree LLTI over 1500 ft will halve the gross gradient between the planned/actual and net flight path if all else is equal. This implies that even with the LLTI the aircraft will remain clear of obstacles.

However the LLTI affected flight path is a curve, with performance continuing to degrade the higher and further the aircraft goes until it reaches a point where the aircraft will be below the net flight path. However LLTI’s are usually relatively shallow in nature, with a more normal atmosphere prevailing above which would restore climb performance to the aircraft.

What To Do?

If you don’t expect the engine to fail – LLTI’s are not a consideration. The combination of an engine failure with an LLTI of more than 10 degrees is extremely remote, which is perhaps why regulatory authorities have never addressed this issue. Hence we tend to ignore the possibility of unknown LLTI’s.

It’s somewhat different when you’re the Captain, and the ATIS says you have an LLTI over the airport, that probability has just been increased to 100% – now you’re back catering for an exceedingly unlikely engine failure into a known LLTI.

It should be clear now that when the ambient is below Tref; when there a healthy derate (assumed or otherwise); when there are no obstacles on departure – the LLTI is a consideration, but not a limiting one, or one that would result in a change in takeoff performance calculation.

Note that the use of TO1 or TO2 implies that if needed you can advance the thrust to full TO in the event of degraded performance. You’ll want to make sure you’re not operating in the low weight/low speeds part of the envelope where control can be compromised by full thrust in respect of VMCA/V2.

inversionTherefore let’s address the specific scenario of concern as follows and suggest a recommendation.

  • Ambient temperature at or above Tref (30 degrees); or Ambient temperature plus LLTI temperature gradient in excess of Tref.
  • Maximum Thrust (TO) or Max Thrust plus Assumed (TO-nn);
  • Obstacle constrained flight path;
  • LLTI is such that it’s likely to result in a regulatory net flight path margin cancellation leading to compromised obstacle clearance (at least 10 degrees)

If this is your scenario one possibility is to add the temperature inversion value to your OAT in order to correct the temperature used in performance calculations. For older engines that are EGT limited at higher thrust settings – this will recover some of your lost margin against EGT redline. If you’re using assumed thrust – you can still do this as long as the inversion does not exceed the assumed temperature value.

As with all such recommendations – this is only a real decision when it comes to a payload limited departure. It’s the Captain’s decision on the day to offload cargo and/or passengers and bags against the possibility of an engine failure combined with a reported LLTI and an obstacle critical flightpath. It’s worth emphasizing again that there’s no regulatory basis/requirement for this, even though there is no doubt that temperature inversions have a direct effect one engine and aircraft performance during climb.

Hi Temperature Departure Abu Dhabi

After a debacle in Abu Dhabi – and another occurrence involving offload and a 4 hour delay – I was asked to prepare some specific advice for Captains operating out of Abu Dhabi.

Background

AUH Temperature Chart

Due to high temperatures, most Abu Dhabi departures during mid-Summer experience a potential performance penalty for departure; in most cases resulting in loss of revenue payload, possible departure delays due offload and in the severest of cases the offload of all Cargo, Standby Passengers/Bags and Revenue Passenger Bags to enable departure.

At this time of year the midday temperatures in OMAA are in the mid 40’s. When contrasted with the average load carrying capability for our 777’s in these temperatures; and the high loads of passengers and freight departing Abu Dhabi during Summer – it’s clear that crew will be required to plan for a performance limitation on takeoff.

Note : The data provided here is for information only and not for operational use. Any statements of rules of thumb; values of temperatures and winds; preferred runway selections; performance limit weight changes due ambient conditions such as Temperature, Wind, Runway Selection, APU-PACK usage etc are informational only – all takeoff performance estimates must be verified and calculated by the crew in the actual operating environment of the day.

AUHHiTemps2Effect of Temperature

From the charted data – it can be seen that increasing temperature has a significant impact on the load carrying capability of the aircraft. Once below the Certified Takeoff Weight, each degree increase reduces the takeoff performance limit by at least 3 Tons – often more.

Assuming a full load of passengers and crew – at planning temperatures of 40 and less, some revenue cargo can be carried for the departure.

However as the temperature increases, the performance limiting condition reaches a point where revenue cargo cannot be carried. In a highly subjective calculation – this is indicated by the yellow/bold sections of this sample chart. Your mileage may vary.

Effect of Wind

It can be seen that an increasing headwind component helps increase load carrying capacity by an average of 300 Kg/Knot. However this rule of thumb is far from reliable because there are points at which headwind helps with a specific performance limit and the increase in permitted takeoff weight is higher (900 Kg in some cases for 1 knot increase in wind). Crew must examine various contingencies of the wind before deciding on a planned set of departure conditions.

Departure Time

Our departure time of 11:00 am leads up towards the peak heat of the day. This has two operational impacts. Temperatures are high and therefore our capacity to fill the aircraft is compromised. Additionally any significant delay to the departure – such as to offload cargo/standby passengers in order to comply with a weight restriction – takes the aircraft into even higher operating temperatures. Once into this peak temperature regime (about 14:00 Local) it can be up to 4 hours after scheduled ETD before temperatures reduce.

Sea Breeze

During the morning temperatures build and OMAA general experiences southerly (crosswind) to easterly (HWC RW 13) winds of up to 10 knots. That said – usually the breeze is less than 5 knots and of variable direction.

Between late morning and early afternoon a wind change is usually experienced (RW13 -> RW31) and winds of up to 10 knots can result. Once the sea breeze is established it’s normal for temperatures to commence a slow decrease through the rest of the afternoon.

AUHHiTemps3Choice of Runway

All runways in Abu Dhabi are of equal length and approximately equal slopes (actually 0.05% up to North/West). There are obstacles in the database off the end of all runways, and RW13 L&R have an EOP. It is this last factor which determines that generally RW31 gives better takeoff performance than RW13. However this advantage is generally less than 1 Ton and is quickly negated by wind.

APU to PACK

APU to PACK will generally provide a takeoff performance increase of about 3.5 Tons. Crew should familiarise themselves with the APU to PACK procedure from the FCOM SP during pre-flight; and consider reviewing the APU to PACK detail in the D5 OPT Guide prior to flight operations in Abu Dhabi.

APU To PACK in Abu Dhabi forces some additional operational considerations. Due to high on ground temperatures – with a full load the cabin temperature towards the back of the aircraft will be in the high twenties prior to engine start. As such the requirement to run two Packs out to the runway for passenger comfort is almost a certainty. Recommended technique is:

  • Use conventional data entry procedures to enter all takeoff data as planned for the departure – even if you’re not sure those figures will be used for takeoff. Select APU in the Assumed Temperature line, verifying small font APU on the Upper EICAS.
  • After engine start verify large font APU on Upper EICAS and Single Pack APU operation.
  • If deemed necessary delete the APU entry in the Assumed Temperature line of the CDU THR LIM page and verify dual pack operation to the cabin. This action will delete the takeoff speeds from the FMC.
  • Delay the Takeoff Review and Before Takeoff Checklist until final takeoff performance entries are complete
  • Plan to position near the runway such that a short delay will be acceptable to ATC. When ready, perform the FMC Final Performance Entry procedure in full and re-enter takeoff performance data while the aircraft is halted with both operational crew involved as scripted.
  • Complete Takeoff Review and the Before Takeoff Checklist when ready.
  • If APU to Pack should fail – Turn the Packs OFF (refer to SP) nearing the runway (note 30 seconds minimum before thrust advancement) in place of APU to Pack.

Over Fuelling

When planned at 40 OAT – the flight can include 10-15 tons of cargo with a full load of passengers, based on a re-dispatched OFP fuel load. However if temperatures increase and a subsequent offload (or non-load) of Cargo is undertaken – even with 3 ton below refuelling the aircraft can be left with too much fuel to even depart with minimum passenger load.

If an over fuel situation develops, De-Fuelling is almost always NOT an option. One option to consider is pushback and taxi to hold near the runway – to wait for fuel reduction (minimum 2.0 tons per hour during taxi) or improved ambient conditions (post peak temperature, wind change, sea breeze).

Flight Planning

The Flight Plan will be prepared to a forecast temperature at the time of departure plus (based on recent operational experience) a margin. In all likelihood it will include some capacity for revenue freight.

If the flight is planned with cargo, captains should consider the following plan of action:

  1. Obtain an estimate of the ZFW required for Revenue Pax/Bags and Standby Pax/Bags from the AUH Ramp Dispatcher.
  2. Obtain a minimum fuel OFP from Nav Services for this ZFW.
  3. Refuel the aircraft to this minimum fuel (instead of originally planned OFP less 3 tons)

This will enable the crew to decide to offload/not load cargo (and potentially standby passengers/bags) – and be left with just the fuel required to complete the mission, giving the minimum takeoff weight available for departure and therefore the greatest margin to the performance limited takeoff weight. Although the correction figures could be considered to correct for freight offload – the magnitude of values involved are beyond the accuracy of the LAND/RAMP correction figures.

PushBack, Taxi, Departure – Performance Entry

Pre-Flight : can be characterised by finger-flying calculations on the OPT; multiple sources of ambient conditions (Tower, ATIS, Aircraft OAT); changing ambient conditions; different ZFW/TOW figures provided from different sources. Captains must proactively manage these conditions and decide early on a plan to minimise the risks associated. The integrity of the Final OPT Calculation and the Data Entry Procedure is paramount.

Decision Time : There may come a point where the Captain will have to make a decision on a ZFW that can be accepted based on a conservative use of the OPT and expected temperatures/conditions. The decision to take on cargo and the fuel to carry it must be balanced against the possibility of increasing temperatures that could force a cargo offload – and a delay into even higher ambient temperatures for the departure.

Performance Data Entry : Captains may well find themselves having to enter critical performance data during taxi. It is strongly suggested this should be done in full compliance of the Final FMC Pre-Flight entry procedure after a full cross check of the final OPT solution (from scratch) involving both operational crew members while the aircraft is halted near the departure runway. Takeoff Review and Before Takeoff Checklist is delayed until the completion of the Performance Entry Procedure.

Excel FIFO Calculator

After 6 years on the outskirts of Parramatta, our simulator is moving to Brisbane airport. For our small fleet of 5 aircraft and 150 pilots, it’s a big change. As part of the process I had a look at the simulator slot timings, especially since we would be moving to 24×7 operation for a disparate workforce spread mostly up and down the East Coast. Coupled with this is the implication of Fly In And/Or Fly Out for single simulator sessions, which we do quite a lot of. I freely admit the project got away from me somewhat – the spreadsheet attached is the result.


FIFO Analysis Spreadsheet

The premise of the sheet was to analyse various simulator session start times and determine how many domestic sectors a start time for a particular session facilitates for either (a) fly in before the session; (b) fly out after the session; or (c) fly in and out for a single session in a day. Early sessions don’t facilitate fly in (unless they’re “very” early and you’re talking about flying in late the night before); similarly late (or early) finishing sessions don’t facilitate fly out, other than sessions that finished before the first departures of the day from BNE. Broadly speaking the east coast domestic network is an 18 hour a day pattern, with a dearth of flights between eleven pm and six am. Not that anyone really wants to be doing sim that late at night anyway.

Sim Slot Timings

A simulator session is a four hour block of time, preceded by a 90 minute briefing period and followed by a 30 minute debrief, which are fixed. In terms of FIFO, place before this a minimum period of transit between arriving in from a flight and signing on (basically airport transfer time); and follow it with another minimum transit period after the session to catch a flight home. Note that while there’s a minimum transit time between flight arrival and the briefing period – there’s also a reasonable maximum value – you can’t have crew arriving in to the airport 4 hours before they’re due to present for training.

Between each simulator session is a gap period (nominally 10 minutes) which gives the engineers time to service the simulator (software resets, oxygen mask replacement, etc) and allows some handover time for the crews. These vary from 15 minutes, 10 minutes, to nothing at all in some operations. I settled on 10 minutes, which we are using at the moment and a couple of the other BNE simulators are also using.

Our simulator will have the company of 5 other simulators in BNE and this introduces an additional constraint. Ideally we want to avoid having the 10 minute break between sessions at the same time as occurs for the other simulators. While there’s more than one team of engineers on duty at any time – overlapping handovers places a strain on everyone involved. At least two of the existing simulators have the same slot schedule already …

FIFO1

 

 

 

 

 

It can be seen that the basic simulator slot time, with the brief/debrief and transit periods, the flight themselves and the EBA sign on/off periods outside the flights, sets up a basic pattern. While it certainly makes for a long day (Sign On, Flight to BNE, Airport Transit, Brief, Sim, DeBrief, Transit, Flight Home, Sign Off) – it’s certainly feasible with the right flight connections – or the right sim slot timings to meet the existing east coast flight schedule. By the way this is of course all impacted by the change of Daylight Savings – or more accurately the lack of change in Queensland …

FIFO2Finally, the use of 4 hour simulator slots with 10 minute breaks means you lose the use of the full 6 simulator slots per day. Basically you end up with a 3 hour break somewhere along the line. Engineering require a period of two hours a day anyway (not always to be used) for regular maintenance and complete power down / power up cycles. Typically this takes place in the middle of the night when the sim is not being used.

Flight Schedule

I wanted the sheet to automatically select from a flight schedule for SYD/BNE/SYD and MEL/BNE/MEL when different sim slot timings were selected. I cast around for some kind of data set I could use but there really wasn’t anything readily to hand. I ended up simply entering into a sheet all the flights for a particular (weekday) in late October after daylights savings started in (most of) the east coast states. Strategic updates to schedule would need to be done to continue to use the sheet, But I determined this wasn’t necessary for my purposes. I had a quick look at the weekend flights as well, but rather than code in day based schedules, I included the basic weekday pattern (MTWTFSS) in the data so that it was clear when certain flights didn’t operate.

FIFO3Variables

I wanted the sheet to be able to account for certain variables. Quite apart from simulator slot start time, I wanted the user to be able to change sim slot gap, Sign On/Off periods, Min/Max Transit times and limitations on Duty Period.

Changing these variables in the spreadsheet changes the flights that appear to the Left (Fly In) and Right (Fly Out) of the simulator sessions.

Counting Flights

At this point I now had a sheet that responded to changes in variables, selecting available flights based on the constraints in the variables. Flights that arrived too early for the Max Transit before a simulator slot would not show. Flights that arrived too late for the Min Transit after a simulator slot would not show. Flights that exceeded the parameterised Min Transit, Max Duty, etc – are either hidden or flagged in the sheet, depending on how bad they exceed.

FIFO5At this stage the sheet can be used to tweak the parameters to match the work rules, then try a range of first session simulator start times to see the sheet update the slots (and the breaks) and see how the flights propagate across the simulator slots. At this point I added columns on the right to count how may fly-in and fly-out and fly-in-out simulator slot/flights there were. These numbers are not a true measure of the specific availability of a simulator slot for Fi/Fo – but it facilitates a metric across which different sim slot patterns can be measured.

The various lines are summed at the top of each SYD/BNE/SYD and MEL/BNE/MEL section, then summed at the top of the sheet into an overall FIFO Table to show a summary of numbers. Once again, these specific numbers aren’t necessarily valid in terms of the number of crew flying in and out – but taken overall allow you to see how the sim slot times compete with each other. Except …

FIFO6Except that I’d now built a one shot system which allowed you to evaluate different sim slot times, but not really facilitating the comparison of multiple scenarios. I played with the What-If feature and the Excel Scenario Manager for a while (never been a big fan of these, but they have their uses) – before deciding to move onto something more ambitious. By this time I’d played with a number of simulator slot start times all through the day and had realised the results were not quite as I’d expected.

Automation

I decided to automate the sheet. This consisted of constructing an Analysis Table to track the results across various time slots. I decided since the basic gap is usually no less than 10 minutes – working through all of a?24 hour period. Then some automation code to make Excel increase the first simulator slot session start time by 10 minutes, then copy the results of the FIFO table into the Analysis Table.

FIFO7Graphing The Numbers

Having got the table sorted, I then set about graphing the result. The graph is a combined line/area graph differentiating between Fly In, Fly Out and Fly-In-And-Fly-Out across MEL/BNE/MEL and SYD/BNE/SYD. The colored areas indicate FIFO for MEL, SYD and Both. The lines indicate FI or FO for MEL, SYD and Both. Depending on what your focus is – you can see that certain simulator slot start times – remembering the simulator slot start time at the bottom is that of the FIRST session – different levels of FIFO are facilitated.

The Analysis

The analysis indicated that in fact the peak Fi/Fo simulator start time is late afternoon. This is because when you start the simulator at this time – the back of the clock sessions (which as it turns out are the best for facilitating flight access for FIFO) – are available. Meanwhile the maintenance period takes place mid morning, when it’s difficult to fly in for the simulator because of the 18 hour a day nature of Australian East Coast services.

Of course regularly scheduling back of the clock simulator training has some other considerations. Quite apart from the crappy nature of these slots for training and particularly checking – Engineer maintenance shifts are already focussed on the early morning period for down time maintenance (not that they would mind shifting, I suspect).

Video-Coolness

At one point I ended up with the sheet open twice, clicking the run button, and watching the spreadsheet populate and repopulate with the changing simulator slot times, building the graph as it made it’s way across as each simulator slot start time – which was pretty cool. The two vidoes here show (most of) the analysis sheet and graph during automation, and then just the graph.

Now, back to work.


The Result

As it turns out, practicalities override the analysis. The maintenance period needs to be back of the clock; and one of the highest productive sessions (in terms of Fi/Fo) is back of the clock and undesirable for training. That just left me with about a 90 minute window to finesse the start time to ensure maximum flights. Still, it was an interesting exercise … Now all we need is a simulator!

Sim2?Sim3?Sim1

Using the Post Office as a Service … Not.

LocationHistorySo this week is another exploration of the domestic network with three days in Brisbane; Two days in Sydney; Five meetings; Safety & Emergency Procedures Training (SEP); an inspection of the Simulator Center at Silverwater; Dinner with Shae and Breakfast with Henry. Three sectors, two hotels, one car hire, a number of taxi’s and hotel transports. Pretty standard week really.

Except I left my Meds at home Monday morning …

After my “mild cardiac event” in December I’m on a veritable cornucopia (as far as I’m concerned) of medications morning and night. Well, a couple of pills anyway.

ExpressPostMonday morning commenced with a 4am alarm and I recall downing the morning meds before I drove the hour to Melbourne Airport. Having landed in Brisbane four and a half hours after the wakeup, the first text message was Meg asking me if the pills on the bench were important. Oops – they’re the ones I’m supposed to take each morning. Having come away without not only my pills but the spare copy of my prescription – my senior administrative assistant (and master financial control) dispatched them up to me using something called “Platinum Overnight Express”. This was sent at lunchtime Monday, after Meg had called the hotel in Brisbane to confirm the delivery address and otherwise tie up all the possible loose ends of what might go wrong. go wrong. go wrong …

Tuesday evening after work I got to the Hotel in Brisbane at about 19:30. I had pre-warned them that morning that I was expecting an important delivery – and I asked about the parcel. After a brief verbal tussle with the desk clerk, he assured me it would be delivered to my room shortly. I was now 12 hours late for the pill popping, but not terribly concerned.

NonDeliveryAfter 30 minutes I eventually confirmed that not only was the parcel not coming up to my room – it had never been delivered. I logged onto Australia Post and sure enough delivery was “attempted” and my all important medical was “carded” somewhere else. Except that having carelessly refused my parcel the hotel didn’t even have the card to facilitate me claiming my parcel the next day. My immediate problem however was to secure some replacement meds.

After several Google crawls and phone calls – I was off to a Pharmacy that closed in about 15 minutes. This despite the Hotel Concierges kind offer to call me a Doctor to the hotel who could issue me a new prescription (but not the meds) for the bargain price of $200.

It turns out the pharmacy could issue me three pills based on a scan of my prescription provided by my senior administrative assistant (thanks again, Meg!). Three Pills. Enough to get me to Thursday, but not to Friday and home to Melbourne. Just Three. Don’t ask. Clearly these pills have far more potential for wider distribution to the seedier community than the pedestrian use I’d been making of them – taking them.

It also turns out there’s a Doctor service in Brisbane who will come to your hotel for a consultation and will bulk bill. But that’s another story.

By the next morning, the Australia Post web site was telling me that my parcel had arrived finally at “Brisbane East LPO”. They opened at 9am; but they don’t start answering the phone until 1pm. Ask me how I know this.

Eventually I got onto them and having confirmed they had my parcel, headed their way with scan of the paperwork Meg had from her dispatch (and again, thanks Meg). All told I would estimate it cost me $90 to achieve the non-delivery of my parcel – not that Australia Post see it that way.

ThePointMeanwhile I got onto Australia Post and fought my way through customer complaints/service (not a lot of service there, actually) and got a very logical, clear understanding of what had occurred. I could see now how reasonably the non-delivery of the “Platinum Service” overnight express parcel. At one point the customer service representative tried to convince me that having got the parcel to the “State” (or Queensland) – Australia Post had essentially delivered on their requirements.

In essence, the delivery guy is not allowed to leave his bike and enter the hotel to drop the parcel off. By the same logic, he can’t go in and leave a non-delivery card with them either. So they don’t. This might be slightly less ludicrous were the staff inside the hotel not about 2 meters away from the entrance where the “bike” would be parked. Literally he could drive his bike to the front door, have the automatic doors open – and call out to the Hotel Staff.

That’s what you get for using Australia Post as a Service.

 

Tax Time : Crew Allowances 2013/2014

It’s Tax Time again 2013/2014 and as since I’m one of those lazy people who does all the work at the end, instead of keeping up with it as it goes along – the first thing I need to do is update my Allowance calculator spreadsheet. I’m posting a copy of the sheet here for you guys to download because each year more and more crew ask for a copy and I can’t remember who’s asked for it and who hasn’t. This years’s ATO Taxation Determination is here.

Note : My accountant is now saying that after discussions with the ATO, he is not recommending claiming more than the Company pays in allowances without receipts. Therefore while I’ve still prepared the calculator I’m waiting for a discussion with Geoff before I move on it …

Note that this article is a follow on from the original article which covers the basics of the relevant legislation – and more importantly, how to use the spreadsheet.

LNAV for a Localizer Approach

LLZ1I was recently asked whether we could still use LNAV to fly a Localizer Instrument Approach, and whether that was the preferred mode. This question was asked during a briefing on PBN which has caused some confusion.

Recently we’ve seen some changes in the way we do aircraft Navigation, or at least in the way we regulate it. PBN (Position Based Navigation) is here and exists in parallel with our existing Primary Means Navigation approval. We’ve moved away from the archaic limitations and practices of the specifics of manually and/or automatically referenced individual means of navigation sources and instead benefit from a system that encompasess and accounts for the limitations of all the individual available equipment and provides the best navigation information possible at any time.

Or we’ve just finally embraced GPS. It depends on how you look at it.

LNAV for Localizer Approaches

Localizer approaches are something of an oddity as far as they go. Basically it’s half a conventional ILS approach, where the glide slope (vertical path) component has failed, but we can still fly the approach using the Localizer (lateral path) albeit to higher minima and visibility requirements.

LLZ3Officially classed as an NPA – at the same time a localizer approach meets the recency need for an ILS precision approach (CAO 40.2.1-11.4); meanwhile our GPS Primary Instrument specifically excludes LLZ approaches (A1 15.5); even as PBN procedures make no reference. Finally the 777 Airplane Flight Manual references the (non) use of the FMC for the purposes of a Localizer Approach, but this is actually miss-leading …

CAO 40.2.1 Instrument Ratings
11. Recent experience requirements
11.4 The holder of a command instrument rating shall not carry out an ILS or LLZ approach in IMC as pilot in command of an aircraft unless, within the preceding 35 days, that person has performed in flight, or in a synthetic flight trainer approved for the purpose, either one of those approaches.

B777 AFM; Normal Procedures; Flight Management Computer System (FMCS)
The FMCS has been shown to meet the requirements of FAA AC 20-130A for a multi-sensor area navigation system when operated with radio or Global Position System (GPS) updating. When operated in this configuration, the FMCS may be used for enroute, terminal area operations and instrument approach navigation (excluding ILS, LOC, LOC-BC, LDA, SDF, and MLS approach procedures). The FMCS may be used to fly a RNAV approach procedure that overlays an ILS, LOC, LOC-BC, LDA, SDF, or MLS approach procedure when the localizer facility is inoperative subject to appropriate operational considerations, procedures, constraints, and authorizations.

CASA Instrument 187/13 GNSS Primary Means Navigation
4. Application
This instrument applies to the conduct of NPA procedures (excluding LLZ approaches) by … in B777-300ER aircraft with an RNP-capable RNAV system.

So what’s going here? Cutting to the chase …

The use of LNAV on a Localiser approach is fine as long as you have a valid Localiser signal and you remain within tolerance. When you use LNAV for this, your means of maintaining the centreline of the approach is the GPS / FMC / LNAV. But the means of validating your location on the centreline must continue to be the Localizer signal itself.

Thus the use of LNAV on Localizer approaches is acceptable with the same constraints as the use of the Autopilot/Flight Director LOC mode on a localizer approach – the engaged mode must keep the aircraft within navigational tolerance (half scale localiser deflection in either mode) at all times. There is no reason why LNAV shouldn’t achieve this to the same (or better) level of accuracy as the localizer signal; and both modes demand similar levels of situational awareness from the crew to ensure this. As long as you are monitoring the localizer on approach (and not just the flight director) – LNAV is a good choice.

As an aside – I like the use of LNAV to intercept the localizer for any ILS based approach, particularly when an overshoot (as scheduled by LOC capture) could infringe the approach of a parallel runway. However this does demand a higher level of SA from the crew than APP mode, since it delays arming glideslope capture until LNAV has sorted out the turn to final.

Additional Notes – Paper QRH

AddnInfo1Boeing have begun incorporating an “Additional Information” section at the end of some NNM checklists. Presently on the 777 this feature exists for the Ice Crystal Icing, Airspeed Unreliable, and Fuel Leak checklists.

It is interesting to note that despite the location of this information at the end of the checklist, the information is clearly aimed at providing more background to assist in identifying the problem and the correctness of the checklist selection – information more suited to the front of the checklist. Those of us who have laboured through the old Fuel Imbalance checklist with it’s line after line belabouring the obvious (but necessary) can appreciate the economy of moving this information to the end …

So you won’t see this information when you first open the checklist (paper or electronic). Strictly speaking since this information could be important to (a) identifying the need for the checklist; and (b) confirming that you have opened the correct checklist – you could easily be forgiven to skipping straight to the end to read the “Additional Information” once you’ve opened the checklist.

AddnInfo2While it could be easy to miss – the Electronic Checklist (ECL) being the clever beast that is it, doesn’t let you. Even should you take an action that completes the checklist halfway through (see below for the Airspeed Unreliable checklist) – since the Additional Information is a “white” item in the checklist, this page (or pages) of notes remain at the end of the checklist, and you have to page through them. ECL has you covered.

But what about Paper QRH?

Being children of the Magenta Line, or in the case of ECL, the White, Green and Cyan checklist items – it’s easy to foget that there may come a day (quelle horreur!) when you might have to Dispatch Without ECL. In this case – what happens with the Additional Information section?

Airspeed Unreliable

AddnInfo3The current case in point is the new Airspeed Unreliable checklist. This checklist has essentially come about from the Air France 447 tragedy and reflects a total revision of the Airspeed Unreliable exercise – which has always been challenging, particularly to pilots of modern aircraft where perhaps not enough manual reversion is emphasised in training and full manual reversion almost almost never occurs, voluntarily or otherwise.

I am writing a separate post on this new checklist and will place a reference to it here shortly.

AddnInfo5Basically you open the Airspeed Unreliable checklist and begin with the condition statement that apart from anything else – indicates that there is an Additional Information section. Moving through the checklist, you are eventually asked if a “Reliable airspeed indication can be determined.” If one can be – whether a Primary (PFD) or standby (ISFD) – the checklist ends.

At this point you would be forgiven for thinking that the checklist is over – and indeed technically it is. However while the ECL takes you through this additional information (which is quite extensive) – with the Paper QRH you have to know to skip to the end and review it. I guess with the checklist over and the problem supposedly addressed, you could be forgiven for assuming you don’t need to read the additional information … but that’s another for post.

AddnInfo4In any case it can be seen that the Additional Information section for Airspeed Unreliable contains a treasure trove of information as to what you might already have and what you might expect to further occur as you carry the NNM to the runway.

The lesson from all this is to be aware of the Additional Information prompt at the beginning of the NNM paper checklist, and ensure you get to read that section even if the checklist completes early.

 

 

 

 

Carlos, from Apple Care

apple-logoSo those who know me well, fully appreciate that I am not an Apple Fan Boy. I’ve written obliquely and directly on this issue.

My experience of the iPad over the past 12 months has certainly not endeared me (as a previously committed android tablet aficionado) to Apple, continually frustrated by a device and an operating system that tries hard, and continually falls short of expectation.

Neither has the events of the past 4 days endeared me to the hardware, or the software. But yet again – dropped firmly in the sh!te by the Apple “system” and perhaps my own efforts to do things my own way – I have subsequently been subject to a phone line support experience truly unparalleled in the annals of computer technical support. Let me start now as I will finish – Carlos, of Apple-Care (and the other two people I spoke at length to over the past 4 days) – I salute you.

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Merry Christmas 2013

Seasons Greetings, All.

Well, it’s that time of year again. I had taken leave this year over Christmas and New Years, but owing to personal circumstances, I’m now going to be off flying for quite some time. Quite frankly, it’s good to be seeing the end of 2013 – here’s to a better year next year for all.

I hope you have a safe Christmas with your family and wish everyone all the best for 2014.

Regards, Ken

P.S. Since it would seem the next time I step into an aircraft, I’ll be using these charts – I thought the following was appropriate …

northpolechart_Page_1

northpolechart_Page_3

northpolechart_Page_2

northpolechart_Page_4

 

Lord of the Rungs

I recently watched Lord Of The Rings again with my family (Meg and Ruby hadn’t seen it). I was reminded of a heckling article I read at the time – and the follow up – which I dug out of my archives. I offer it up for a chuckle and a bit of history – not seeking to give any offence to my kiwi friends who are incredibly welcoming when we visit, and I’m sure will partake in right of reply …

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Are you ready to Close Doors, Captain?

Many moons ago I was a Second Officer on Boeing 747-400’s for a large Hong Kong based international airline, which I remember fondly. This story revolves around a flight from Hong Kong to Melbourne about a year after I had checked out, late 1993. This was a three crew operation, Captain, First Officer and myself. The Captain on this flight was asked this question about whether we were ready to go; He answered in the affirmative – and probably shouldn’t have. I can only speculate to this of course – because I wasn’t on the flight deck at the time … or the aeroplane.

CloseDoorsFrom my Practices and Techniques document – there are two very loaded questions a Captain or Pilot Flying can be asked. The second of these is “Are you ready for the Approach?” and is more applicable to the simulator.

But the first is this question from the Purser/Flight Manager “Are you ready to close doors, Captain?” and is a loaded question indeed. Essentially it sums up the entire (often out of) sequence of frenetic activity that can occur before you push and start the aircraft. Get this question wrong and you may have to open the door again – which seems straight forward, but that means having someone there to open it; an aerobridge connection or stairs to step out onto, and ground personnel there to assist – all of which may well have headed off to their next aircraft. It also means ensuring the door is dis-armed (evacuation slides) before the door is opened …

As a new Captain I identified this issue early on in my line training (the hard way) and made myself a little clipboard checklist. Over time of course I used this less and less. But every now and then (particularly since coming to my latest airline) when the sh!te has hit the fan and pre-flight has been a Shiva-esque display of multiple hands going everywhere dealing with everything – when confronted with the Flight Manager (no, that’s not me) wanting to close doors – my first reaction is “No!” (internally)?and I flip over my clipboard to see what we’ve missed. The answer is often illuminating.

Do you notice what’s missing from this list? It’s “All Crew On Board.

Refuelling Problem

B744 EICAS Fuel SynopticOn all flights, at some point the refueller (after being given the final fuel load, based on the anticipated final weight of the aircraft) calls up from the nose of the aircraft via headset/intercom to confirm that the flight crew are satisfied with the fuel load, and the fuel bowser/truck can be disconnected. This check by the flight crew consists of reviewing the total fuel on board, as well as the distribution across the various tanks, against the fuel required figure from the flight plan. Having received clearance to disconnect – the refueller does so, then comes up to the flight deck and starts the paperwork. No job is over until …

On this particular departure the refueller rang but when we looked at the EICAS to determine fuel on board – it was blank. Further examination revealed that the inner right wing tank was not showing a fuel quantity. With a tank indication missing – the total fuel on board could not be determined by the FQIS (Fuel Quantity Indication System). The Captain asked the refueller to come to the flight deck.

Meanwhile we examined the MEL (Minimum Equipment List) to determine if dispatch was possible – or were we looking at a delay while Engineering fixed the system? As it turned out – we could go, but first were required (unsurprisingly) to accurately determine the actual fuel on board. The Captain, Refueller and Engineer discussed it – and the Refueller and Engineer went off to “Dip” the tank. I must have looked intrigued at this point because the Captain asked me if I’d seen this done before – I had not – and instructed me to go with the Engineer to observe, and bring the paperwork back when I came up. Pleased with the Captain’s interest in my professional development – I headed off with the Engineer.

KaiTakApronI must explain at this point that this was Hong Kong’s Kai Tak airport – before the days of the mega-airport that is the current Hong Kong. It was also late evening and nearing the time of peak departures with flights queueing up to depart to Europe. Those who have experienced that time and place will remember it clearly – it was a small, congested apron with spaces for just a few aircraft at the terminal and far many more aircraft parked “remote” requiring busses and stairs to get passengers up to the doors. There were ground vehicles of all descriptions going in all directions, with flashing amber lights projecting the importance of their particular task. Literally hundreds of such vehicles, across the (small) expanse of the apron areas of Kai Tak. It was a magical place for a young pilot who yesterday stepped out of a Cheyenne, today into a 747.

Since we were remote it was down the stairs to the outside of the aircraft. The Engineer explained to me that we didn’t have to actually “dip” the tanks (much to my disappointment) – there were small devices built into the underside of each wing. These projected upwards into the fuel tank. You unscrewed them and pulled them down and a measurement strip along the side gave you a number to look up on a chart and determine the quantity of the tank. Quite elegant, I thought.

FuelStickOf course the practicalities of this meant a high lifter to get to the underside of the wing. The Engineer positioned the high lifter and up we went. He unscrewed the “dip stick” took a measurement, and wrote down a figure. As I looked around I could see there were measuring sticks everywhere, all numbered. I asked why there were so many, given there were only two tanks in the wing? ?The answer was that depending on how much fuel was in the tank – you used a different stick. Ha, I thought – “How do you know you have the right one?” I asked. He showed me on a chart that you start with the anticipated fuel quantity in the tank (nearly full in this case) and that took you to a particular stick. So since we believed we had XX.X tons in this tank, so we should be at stick number … not this one. Oops.

So down again in the highlifter, a bit of a re-position and up we go again. Measurements taken in silence this time without the meddling influence of the junior pilot (so junior he’s clearly not even required on the flight deck at this point) – and we’re done. High lifter down and driven away, paperwork completed and handed over, and I’m headed back to the stairs to the L2 Door.

Or at least that was the plan. I step away from the refueller/engineer to find … the door is shut; the stairs are gone; Engine #4 has been started in concert with another Engineer talking to the flight deck from the nosewheel. Oops I’ve been left behind.

What has to happen next is clear to me. Engine #4 must be shut down. ATC will need to be advised, with possibly a new start/push/airways clearance sought. Stairs must be found and brought to the aircraft. The door opened and the errant Second Officer re-admitted to the aircraft (if not the flight deck …). The process has to be reversed to regain a departure once more. All this will mean a significant delay in an airline that is very OTP (On Time Performance) conscious. All because of a junior crew member who seems to have forgotten that his place on the aircraft when it’s leaving is on the inside ..

I manfully resist the urge to hitch a lift back to the terminal and go home – or just head for the nearest fence and jump it (after all, if I was really required for this flight, wouldn’t they have waited for me?) – and head over to the Engineer on headseat at the nosewheel. He looks at me in surprise and hands me the headset (Chicken!) and I advise the Captain of my predicament.

Me : “Skipper – it’s Ken.
Captain : ” Ken? Ken who?
Me : “Um, Ken the Second Officer.
Captain : “Oh, of course. Where are you?
Me : “At the nosewheel. I have the refuelling paperwork for you, if you still want it.
Captain : “What? Good Lord! OK, standby …

It was perhaps 20 minutes to get stairs after the engine was shut down and secured. Once in place I headed up the stairs, past the some quizzical cabin crew and disinterested upper deck business class passengers, and I tail-between-my-leg’d my way into the flight deck. Paperwork handed over and I sat at the very very back (or tried to) and stayed as quiet as possible.

Start ValveWith the doors closed (again) and the stairs removed (again) and clearance from Tower and Nosewheel Engineer (again) – Captain starts Engine #4. Or tries to. Whether it’s a second start issue or a judgement from the Aviation Gods – it won’t start. The start valve (which releases air from the APU to the motor used to turn the engine for start) won’t open. This means a manual override engine start, and a further delay while engineering get that process into action. Eventually we get all four engines started and we commence taxi.

My role on this flight deck now is clear. I remain diligent in my monitoring and paperwork roles, and above all, quiet. No-one says anything about what happened at departure until well after top of climb, at which point the First Officer draws out the aircraft log book and says with deliberate … deliberance “What do you want to put the delay down to, Captain?

Skipper leans his seat back at this point and asks of the flight deck (and the universe in general) – “Hmmm. What was the LAST thing to go wrong on that departure …?

First Officer says “Well, that would be the start valve on Engine #4?

Captain adjudicates “Right – delay is clearly down to Engineering then.

No further comment was passed on my absence, or of anyone’s role in our departure adventures, and we sailed on through the night across the China Sea towards Australia.

Upon reflection, maybe I need to update my checklist …

Tax Time : Crew Allowances 2012/2013

It’s Tax Time again 2012/2013 and as since I’m one of those lazy people who does all the work at the end, instead of keeping up with it as it goes along – the first thing I need to do is update my Allowance calculator spreadsheet. I’m posting a copy of the sheet here for?you guys to download because each year more and more crew ask for a copy and I can’t remember who’s asked for it and who hasn’t. Note the Taxation Determination for FY2013-14 can be found here.

Note : My accountant is now saying that after discussions with the ATO, he is not recommending claiming more than the Company pays in allowances?without receipts. Therefore while I’ve still prepared

Note that this article is a follow on from the original article which covers the basics of the relevant legislation – and more importantly, how to use the spreadsheet.

Clean, CON then …VNAV ENG OUT -> EXECute.

VNAV ENGOUT 1A not-so recent amendment to the B777 FCTM (followed by a more recent update to the FCOM and QRH) instigated a procedure where ENG OUT mode of the FMC VNAV page is selected (confirmed) and EXECuted once CONtinuous thrust has been set after takeoff. While this sounds logical and orderly – as usual the devil is in the details and the specifics of actioning this needs to be understood and considered by the PF/PM should they find themselves in this situation.

Specifically – executing ENG OUT at this point in time of the departure removes the VNAV climb page speed/altitude restrictions. Typically this means the loss of 250/10000 on most initial climbs – but also any other coded or entered VNAV Climb Page speed/altitude restrictions. At our typical operating weights (in excess of 320 tons) this usually means an ENG OUT climb speed of about 285 knots.

Interestingly, any LEGS page restrictions on climb speed remains in spite going to ENG OUT mode.

Is there really anything wrong with this? You could safely assume that in the event of a non normal such as an engine failure (whether MAYDAY or PAN PAN PAN) , you’re no longer subject to the 250/10K restriction. And you’d probably be right. But it’s best keeping everyone in the picture and asking/advising ATC before doing so.

Perhaps the biggest alarm bell that goes off for me when I see this is that when the aircraft accelerates after the execute – it takes the crew by surprise. Since this procedure is new and therefore most crew haven’t seen it done – they’ve never seen the removal of this restriction before either, so should I be surprised?

Except that they have seen it. Immediately between the “VNAV Engine Out … Confirm?” from the PM and the PF’s “Execute“, the FMC VNAV Climb page shows you the future – Maximum Altitude with Engine Out; Cruise Altitude, reset as required for single engine service ceiling; Engine Out Climb Speed … and no 250/10,000 speed restriction. But no-one spots it. The PM doesn’t call it; the PF doesn’t see it during the (peremptory) cross check required before the “Execute“. I agree that it’s easier to see things that appear and things that are marked inverse because they’ve changed; but our job description is not to only notice the obvious when making FMC changes.

What should you do in this situation? If your SA is high, you’ll notice the change in target speed, the control column input as a nose down input is applied, and the change in pitch attitude on the PFD. Assuming you weren’t aware of the coming change, I would expect you to speed intervene and maintain current airspeed, whether UP speed or 250 knots. The next time round, the solution would be to speed intervene before executing ENG OUT. Anything else is too fiddly with the CDU while at a high workload period of flight.

All of this tells me we still have a way to go before we reach a gold standard of understanding what the FMC is telling us during these Confirm … Execute exchanges; and that VNAV is still (at times) damn confusing. Well, that last part I definitely knew.

 

 

 

Non Normal Management Model – ANC AAM

Some time ago I wrote about a review of a Decision Making Model (FORDEC). During that article I clarified that there is a clear difference between a Decision Making Model versus a Non Normal Management Model. Usually you have to deal with the NNM first before you get as far into the flight as having to make real decisions with conflicting information and requirements. I’m using ANC AAM – Aviate Navigate CommunicateAssess Action Manage.

Please note that :

(a) Diagrams are NOT my forte; and
(b) I’m NOT doing anything new here.

Non Normal Management Model – ANC AAM

Many pilots, in most situations, have no need of a non-normal management model to follow. Their training, practice and experience combined with SOPs and the support of a good PM/PF to take them through most NNM events to a good result without incident.

However outside of these beneficial influences, pilots at the beginning of their careers; pilots who don’t benefit from a common structure that promotes functioning as part of a team on the flight deck; pilots new to type, to a set of SOPs, to a Company; pilots experiencing a NNM the like of which they haven’t been directly trained for – in all of these situations a common management model framework brings direction and control to a NNM event. Encouraging both process and flow through the procedures while emphasising the importance of the basics – Blue Side Up; Power + Attitude = Performance; Who’s Flying The Plane?; and all that good stuff.

It must be appreciated that ANC (most particularly Aviate) underpins all NNM management. At no point should the instructor be able to lean forward and ask that terrible question – “So … Who’s Flying The Plane?

ANCAAM

Aviate Navigate Communicate (ANC)

ANC is an axiomatic industry standard to assist crew in task prioritisation at any stage of flight – not just during NNMs.

  • Aviate emphasises aircraft flight path and control – both PF controlling flight path; PM monitoring both flight path and the PF.
  • Navigate is a priority with the inherent aspects of Terrain Clearance; awareness of Weather and other wider navigation goals – including ATC compliance.
  • Communicate follows once aircraft flight path is assured and short term navigation has been agreed and implemented by the crew.

Assess Action Manage?(AAM)

AAM structures the less immediate non-normal handling sequences for the crew. When a NNM presents (after ANC) AAM inputs flow and process to the next crew response to the NNM event.

  • An Assessment phase requires crew to slow down, review indications and think prior to selecting the …
  • Action which can range from Memory Items, NNM checklist, or just the agreement that an immediate response is not required. After that …
  • Management of the NNM at the end of AAM release the crew into more traditional handling aspects of decisions relating to Return/Diversion; Weather and Terrain assessment; Aircraft Configuration Impact; Passenger Needs; Aircraft Performance Impact – and how these impact back on the Return/Diversion decision.

Note that at either the Assessment or Management phase the crew may well be required to utilise a Decision Making Model when the correct resolution is not clear to all involved – or especially if there’s conflicting views on the best (that is, safest) way forward.

Change (not as good as a Holiday)

Should the scenario change (such as a change to the NNM; an additional NNM; change to the conditions of weather/fuel/passengers, etc) – the pilot may well be required to abandon the current process (whether in the midst of Navigate/Communicate or Assess/Action/Manage) – and return to AviateFly The Plane.

Sample Scenario : Engine Failure After Takeoff (EFATO)

During takeoff, an engine malfunction (severe damage) results in a failed engine with the additional loss of a hydraulic system. Apart from thrust loss, the primary means of flap retraction has also failed. The PF has dealt with the initial yaw response of the failure and safely delivered the aircraft to 400 ft, where the memory items associated with any applicable NNM checklist would normally be commenced. What do the crew do now?

EFATO ANCAAM

Aviate Navigation CommunicateAssess Action Manage

Aviate : Flight path always remains the highest calling for both the PF and the PM. Power, Attitude and Performance are the active task of the PF; monitoring remains the primary task of the PM to keep the aircraft safe.

Navigate : In this specific NNM – the PF/PM must consider the requirement for any Engine Out Procedure (EOP) to keep the aircraft clear of terrain. The EOP takes priority over everything else other than Aviate. Note that while navigation has come in at 400 ft during this narrative – it’s entirely possible that a turn may have been required earlier to comply with an EOP that keeps the aircraft clear of obstacles close in on the takeoff flightpath.

Communicate : Communications can be a priority for several reasons – whether to advise the intention to deviate from clearance to satisfy the requirements of the EOP; or to ensure that ATC are in the picture to be able to offer assistance when it becomes required. Of course, Aviate/Navigate remains a priority over Communicate.

Assess : Having ensured ANC, the crew now need to assess the required response to the NNM. In this situation, this is a formalised assessment of the EICAS and engine failure indications as well as any immediate requirements of a hydraulic system loss (this is a 777 – there aren’t any). In this situation – it’s a formalised assessment of EICAS commencing with an EICAS message Review (noting both Engine and Hydraulic failure indications) as well as assessing airframe vibration indications. In this case – checklist memory items will be required.

Action : The PF now calls for the action phase, “Engine Severe Damage Separation Left Memory Items“. Both crew are involved in actioning the checklist memory items. As always – ANC remains paramount with both PF and PM required to ensure/monitor flight path and compliance with the EOP during the Action phase.

Manage : Management commences after the required Assess/Action responses to the NNM are complete. By this time the aircraft is clean, clear of terrain and any relevant NNM and NM checklists are complete. Management at this point necessitates Decision Making – in which FORDEC may be required. The aircraft is damaged, with a landing performance impact from both the engine and hydraulic failures. These and other Facts?such as weather and terrain will require the crew to determine and evaluate the available Options?and the?Risk/Benefit to flight those options present, before agreeing on a Decision as to a course of action. Once a decision is reached the crew will Execute the decision along with all the necessary communication of intent that implies. Any good decision making process requires follow up and at some point the crew must implement a positive?Check that the outcomes are as expected.

ANCAAM2

ANC AAM – Circles within Circles

ANC and AAM do not exist in isolation. ANC overrides any sequence of events from the beginning to the end of the flight. AAM is continually in use during various phases of flight in response to stimuli external to the crew – for example:

  • During acceleration and cleanup after takeoff, the failed hydraulic system results in the EICAS alert [] FLAPS PRIMARY. The crew response? First response is always ANC – Fly The Aircraft. The crew will Assess the failure, understanding that the FLAPS PRIMARY alert indicates that the flaps are attempting (and succeeding) to retract using the secondary (electric) system. As such, the only Action required is perhaps to monitor airspeed as flap retraction will be slow and speed intervention may be required to keep clear of the flap limit speed. The flap system failure will involve itself later in the Management phase as a Fact when deciding the final disposition of the flight.
  • Having completed the acceleration and flap retraction phase of the takeoff – the crew have to decide what to do next. ANC requires that the crew ensure continued safe flight path, and suggests the requirement to make a short term Navigation decision. This navigation decision is typically between continuing away from the departure airfield; holding in the area; or diverting to a takeoff alternate. Much of this decision making is often made on the ground as part of the departure brief.

The 777 EICAS incorporates AAM principles as part of the EICAS Review / Memory Items / Checklist / Notes /Non-Normal before Normal methodology. During the above scenario, EICAS prompts crew during the takeoff (within the bounds of takeoff inhibits) with a series of alert messages (Warning, Caution, _Advisory) – some of which have checklists, some of those checklists require early completion of memory items. ANC requires that crew ignore these during the first critical phase of flight to 400 ft (unless Aviate is compromised). At 400 ft with ANC established the crew Assess the need for a response and Action the required memory items.

 

iCloud for Outlook/Windows – Does Apple Think I’m STUPID?

Recently I began Living The Dream. Yes that’s right – I have an iPad without giving any money to Apple. Not counting the Apps, anyway. Recently my company became perhaps the last airline in the country to equip it’s pilots with iPads, and so the choice not to choose Apple was removed from me.

As a consequence I have tried to do my best and jump in with both feet and embrace it. Apart from configuring it for the Company Systems (MDM, E-mail, App Store, Citrix, RSA SecurID, Intranet, etc, etc); I also found Touchdown for iPad (which quite frankly is nothing like as good as it is on Android); and Pocket Informant for iPad – which is actually pretty good. I picked up a Zagg Profolio keyboard/case which while having many great features, I mainly love because it makes Halpin jealous.

Then I decided I wanted Outlook to sync with iCloud. Two weeks later, I’m still recovering from that foolish flight of fancy.

The download and install seemed straight forward. I configured for my specific folders in Outlook for Calendar, Contact, Tasks. After the obligatory reboot I let it run a sync, then had the ipad sync, and Presto! Tasks, Calendar and Contacts on the iPad – and syncing as well. Magic.

I was actually singing Apple’s praises for at least 14 hours. In order to synch Outlook to Google, I eventually had to purchase third party software (I recommend Fieldstone software’s gSynchit) as Google have progressively wound back their syncing services. Getting something from Apple that actually works was a refreshing change.

I might add at this point that EVERYTHING is in my Outlook. Calendar going back almost 15 years; Tasks covering everything from calling scheduling next week about a trip, to passport renewals, car registration,vaccinations, you name it. My Calendar is both a diary and a planner and the items in it are categorised between Personal; Company; Family; etc. My logbook is in there; records of meetings; on and on. Yes – I have backup (in fact a backup history).

It was about this time that I noticed that suddenly I had no contacts, calendar or tasks on my Android phone and Tablet. It had the usual Google+, Facebook, Linkedin, etc contacts – but everything that was MINE was missing. I logged into Google Calander – all calendars (I have 4 mapped across using categories from Outlook) empty; contacts missing; tasks gone. Then I checked gSynchIt; that seemed to be working fine. Then I looked into Outlook.

At this point you need to know that while you look ultimately at a folder structure in Outlook (which contains specific folder types for Calendar, Tasks, Contacts, Notes, etc – as well as custom folders) – everything is ultimately inside a single PST file on your hard drive. This is both a convenience and a curse for backup – making backup simple, but historical backup very difficult – My PST can grow to 2GB+ at times.

So I go looking to see what is happening inside Outlook and then I discover what iCloud has done. Not only has it created an entirely new PST file (which is not of course (as an aside) in my backup path), but it has created new folders for Calendar, Tasks and Contacts in it – then bloody well MOVED (not copied) all my calendar, contacts and task items across to the new PST file. But since I synch to Google from the main folders (now empty) this deleted everything off Google Calendar, Contacts, Tasks.

Recovery was not simple either – I spent some time reading help articles (not on Apple’s web site) on recovery and even after I took backups and moved everything back, restoring the synch relationships and finally un-installing iCloud – I then found that the history of typed e-mail addresses pointed to contacts that no longer existed. I had to delete this history in total, building it up again over time. Even now when I type in Halpin it refuses to resolve the name into a default e-mail address, forcing me to manually resolve and select each time. Clearly this is Paul’s fault – I just haven’t worked out how yet.

Naturally it was only after I’d done extensive research on how to recover from iCloud that I read all the posts raging against how Apple have decided to implement synch between Outlook and iCloud. After 15 years of mobile device syncing with Outlook (starting with Activesync and Windows CE 1.0 through PocketPC, iPhone (briefly); and many versions of Android – the unmitigated gall of Apple still amazes me. Although I know it shouldn’t.

As bad as all this is; it could be worse; I could be trying to do it through iTunes. God Forbid.

FMC Scratchpad Messages

There has been some discussion recently around FMC scratchpad messages, their role in flight deck alerting, and an appropriate crew response. Most particularly around the habit that some crew develop – usually during transition simulator training when many spurious messages are generated and often cleared without real understanding of their meaning). We areseeing this in the sim and in the aircraft – occaisionally to the detriment of the operation of the aircraft.

FMC (Flight Management Computer) scratchpad messages are generated at the bottom of the screen built into the FMC CDU (Computer Display Unit). It is a one line display that the FMC uses in order to pass a message onto the crew. They are not (directly) a part of Boeing’s design intent for the alerting system of the aircraft – that said, some of them do come with an EICAS alert FMC MESSAGE – many do not though.

The scratchpad itself is the incongruous name given to the bottom line of the CDU. Any text entered in via the keyboard or line selected down from the higher lines of the CDU end up in the scratchpad. From here they can be either cleared or line selected up into one of the lines of the CDU display above. As an example, you can use the keyboard to enter the name of a waypoint “YOW” and enter it into the LEGS page to change aircraft navigation.

The scratchpad is also where the FMC places messages. These messages cover many purposes – data entry errors; a requirement for additional information; details of uplink/downlink COM status, and more. Apart from the messages themselves, the FMC CDU also has CDU Annunciator lights on the front used to communicate as well (DSPY – Display; OFST – Offset; MSG – Message; and EXEC – Execute) – do you know (exactly) what they all mean?

Scratchpad messages are classified as follows, and come with the following annunciations:

  • FMS Alerting Messages (Scratchpad Message, EICAS FMC MESSAGE alert; CDU MSG light)
  • FMC Communication Messages (Scratchpad Message, EICAS COM Message (FMC) annunciation; CDU MSG light; Aural High-Low Chime)
  • FMS Advisory Messages (Scratchpad Message, CDU MSG light)
  • FMS Entry Error Messages (Scratchpad Message; CDU MSG light)

The use of the same space for data entry and to communicate messages would seem to be somewhat fraught – but not when you realise that there are actually two display lines in this area, one over the other, with the scratchpad data entry line having priority over the scratchpad message line. It is this feature that allows you to retain a scratchpad message while you correct the situation that prompted it – which is in keeping with the way we are trained to deal with most error messages on the flight deck. For example …

You were/are off track (due weather) and now that you are in the clear, decide to head back towards track and return to FMC LNAV navigation. You turn the track bug and the aircraft follows. You’re pointing towards the next waypoint, and select LNAV on the MCP. At this point LNAV appears in white on the FMA indicating that LNAV mode engagement is armed; but an FMC scratchpad message annunciates “NOT ON INTERCEPT HEADING“. According to the FMC Pilots Guide “LNAV is selected on the MCP and the airplane is not within the capture criteria of the active leg, or the current heading does not intercept the active leg.

The most common response to this is to clear the scrathpad message and adjust the track of the aircraft so that it intercepts the active leg. However if instead the message was left in the scratchpad, while you turn the aircraft to intercept the active leg, the FMC would re-evaluate the intercept and remove the message by itself – validating the action of the Pilot Flying. From a CRM/NTS/Error Management point of view – this is a far more satisfying solution.

But wait, there’s more …

I mentioned that in fact there are two scratchpads – and there are. It is possible to interact with the CDU scratchpad, either entering data via the keypad or line selecting data down from the CDU screen into the scratchpad, while retaining the scratchpad message in memory. Any use of the scratchpad by the pilot will hide the message, but retain it (if it’s not cleared first). Once you have used the scratchpad and cleared it of your entries – the scratchpad message will be displayed.

Note that although it may seem clumsy, it’s impossible line select a scratchpad message into a CDU LSK position – but still, it seems like a lot of bother, doesn’t it.

But consider the case of a runway change on departure. A new runway is selected and the FMC generates “TAKEOFF SPEEDS DELETED”. It’s telling you something important – “New performance data is entered after the VSPEEDS have been entered on the TAKEOFF REF page, a takeoff thrust selection change is entered after the VSPEEDS have been entered, or pilot-entered values do not comply with the relative takeoff speed check. The crew must reselect proper VSPEEDS.”

Normally the pilot manipulating the FMC will clear this message (hopefully with the acknowledgement of the other pilot) and then ideally deal with the missing speeds straight away. However it is entirely possible to retain this message right through a takeoff speeds entry process until the speeds are re-entered, at which point the message will self clear. Which of these two process is less prone to error – less prone to forgetting to re-enter your speeds?

In any event, our discussions did resolve one thing – we are going to introduce an SOP whereby a pilot who intends to clear a scratchpad message is required to confirm that action with the other pilot. For the most part – this should be happening anyway, but taking this action raises the visibility of a good habit – and give Check Captains something to look for as well.

Practices & Techniques : The FMC is trying to tell you something – why aren’t you listening?

The CDU scratch pad is the FMC’s prime method of trying to tell you something. Messages like “UNABLE HOLD AIRSPACE” or “TAKEOFF SPEEDS DELETED” or “ROUTE DISCONTINUITY” are the FMC’s way of communicating a problem to the crew – a problem that is valid, even if the crew don’t understand the message. It’s not uncommon to see crew clear those messages with minimal acknowledgement, a habit that unfortunately commences during simulator training.

CDU Scratchpad messages need to be dealt with like any other annunciation in the flight deck. Noticed, Called, Analysed, Acted Upon. Some of the more common(ly ignored) FMC messages are listed here.

VAI SOP Standard Calls require the CM1/CM2/PF/PM to confirm a scratchpad message with the other pilot prior to clearing a message. This requirement commences once the pre-flight initial CM2 setup / CM1 cross check is complete.

While there are scratchpad messages which are all but inconsequential to flight (STANDBY ONE or INVALID ENTRY) and there are messages which are commonly understood and occur routinely (INSUFFICIENT FUEL [during route changes]; UNABLE HOLD AIRSPACE; DRAG REQUIRED or UNABLE RTA) there are also messages which can have a significant impact of flight path and flight safety (DISCONTIUITY; INSUFFICIENT FUEL; RW/ILS FREQ/CRS ERROR; or TAKEOFF SPEEDS DELETED).

Finally, a smart pilot may not choose to clear an FMC CDU Scratchpad Message – but instead retain the message in the scratchpad until the underlying cause has been corrected. The CDU is fully functional while a scratchpad message is displayed with any data entered into the scratchpad line replacing the message until that data is either line selected into the CDU or cleared, at which point the message is returned – if it’s still valid. An example of this could include “NOT ON INTERCEPT HEADING” when LNAV has been armed but the aircraft is not tracking towards an active leg – correcting the aircraft track will clear the scratchpad message.

Standard Calls : FMC Scratchpad Messages

The FMC CDU communicates with pilots through data entered and calculation results on the CDU itself, four CDU Annunciators (DSPY, OFST, MSG and EXEC) and CDU Scratchpad Messages. These messages are categorised into Alerting, Communication, Advisory and Entry Error messages.

Anytime a CDU scratchpad message is generated after the initial pre-flight CM1/CM2 data entry/cross check procedure is complete – the CM1/CM2/PM/PF is required to check awareness in the other pilot prior to clearing the message. This is required whether the EICAS FMS MESSAGE is generated or not.

PM : “FMC TAKEOFF SPEEDS DELETED
PF :   “CHECK

For a conservative NTS operation – consideration should be given to not clearing certain scratchpad messages, but instead dealing with the underlying cause behind the messages. Once the cause has been dealt with, the scratchpad message will be removed by the system. D5 Practices and Techniques refers.

The Boeing 787 – Evolutionary and Revolutionary

The Boeing 787 is certainly a revolutionary step from anything Boeing has done recently – and from anything else Boeing seems to have planned in the future it would seem, judging by the 737-Max.

From what I can glean on the web, the 737 Max while incorporating some revolutionary technologies in the engines and airframe – is essentially a 737NG on the flight deck, and certainly several steps behind the 777 – which entered service 17+ years ago in 1995. South West being the launch customer for the 737 probably has something to do with that, as well as minimising the training for all the 737 pilots in the world – you’ve gotta love legacy equipment … but I digress.

I was recently in Singapore viewing the new Boeing Training Facility, their 777 simulator and other facilities. Purpose built, the facility was impressive and a clear sign of Boeing’s commitment to the growth of Asian airlines and their orders for lots of Boeings.

Of particular interest to me are the procedural trainers that Boeing have in place. It’s easy to see how these wonderful devices can be used to supplement and replace fixed base simulator sessions in the transition syllabus. Flows can be practised and with the addition of in depth system displays that respond to panel selections and programmed systems failures – this brings a low cost alternative to the use of a very expensive full flight simulator, without the distraction of motion and visual. I should think will in the very least provide equal training value (you’re always pressure for time in a Simulator) with the potential to produce better outcomes given good instruction. Students transitioning onto the aircraft can sit with their partner and review the lessons ahead of time, maximising the potential learning benefit when they do enter the full flight simulator.

The picture on the far right is a screen short of an overhead panel segment with a live systems display that responds to switch selections and other system related events. What a fabulous addition to a training center.

While the 777 simulator was familiar, and the 777 ground trainer a pleasant surprise … I was there for a promised ride in the 787 … which we eventually got to.

B787 Sim Ride

There’s no end of detailed reviews and videos on the 787 on the web – I wasn’t in the sim long enough to compete with those, and having not done any training on the aircraft – we didn’t even see a non-normal – I wouldn’t even try. This is just a touch and feel write up.

I suspect we were all looking forward to the 787 sim. I’ve done quite a bit of reading about the aircraft, and have several friends who are either flying it already or are instructors/test/delivery pilots on the aircraft. Jetstar and Qantas are getting them this year (we saw some JSQ pilots in Singapore on conversion courses for the 787) and there’s a remote possibility Virgin may eschew the A350 and order B787’s as well (although I’m not holding out much hope personally).

The flight deck was pretty much as I’d expected to see, with the exception of the HUD ( Heads Up Display ) – I’d completely forgotten about it. Stu has flown and trained on the HUD before but I haven’t encountered one. To be honest I approached it with trepidation and in fact kept putting it away. I was focussed on getting the most of the 787 as a 777 pilot – seeing what came of those skills thrown into the 787 as it were. I wasn’t disappointed but used the HUD for my last circuit.

The Displays

As a 777 pilot – the displays were simply a joy to behold. Pure Boeing with nothing of that half-finished look Airbus screens all seem to inherit. The central EICAS screen has gone and been replaced by two large PFD/ND screens in front of the pilots. Half of the ND is taken by the pilot who has the EICAS display up – nominally the PF although I suspect this will come down to an airline determination for the most part. As the PF I wanted EICAS over on the PM side so I had that enormous Nav Display – until I was asked to look for something on it, at which point I could see the benefit of the PF not having to stretch across to look.

For the Boeing pilot – the screens are purely evolutionary here – a clear, thoughtful developmental process onwards from the 777 displays. Some of the features were a joy to behold, such as the RNP envelope indication on the ND and the vertical profile display. Our 777’s don’t have this (even as our 737’s on the domestic fleets do, for the most part) and the vertical situational awareness benefits it brings are immediately apparent.

Handling

I can’t speak much to the handling, I just didn’t see enough of the envelope. Being only Boeing’s second fly by wire commercial aircraft (?) (unless you count the 777 several times – 100, 200A, 200B, 300, 300ER, 200LR, 200LRF, etc) I would not have expected much variation from the 777 and didn’t find any. Ground handling (as much as it can be in a sim) was conventional. Acceleration on the runway was impressive (as it always in in an empty aircraft) and I managed the first rotation without to much “staging”. Everything after that was entirely conventional and once again, like slipping on the 777 glove. As always I’m sure there were hundreds (thousands!) of little bits of software code working away to make the flight easy – and it was. Paul or Stu thought it was a bit touchy in pitch – I can’t speak to that. It was lovely to fly.

The HUD

I flew my first circuit without the display. I just wanted to enjoy basic flight without the gadgets (Ha! No gadgets in a 787 – Sure!) However downwind I lowered it into place and started exploring. As someone who flies with glasses on, I initially found the HUD something of a challenge. Apart from focussing issues (which were mostly in my mind, in retrospect), I had difficulty in obtaining the exact seating position that revealed the entire HUD. I kept finding that either the FMA at the top or part of the compass rose at the bottom went missing. On one of the videos below, I moved the camera around to give you an idea of what I was initially experiencing. As an instructor who has “debriefed”a vast number of pilots for seating position in the 777 over the last 10 years , the irony was not lost on me. 

Eventually I found my spot. Should I ever end up instructing in the 787, I’m clearly never going to have to discuss seating position with the pilots I train. If they can see the HUD, they’re in the right position. If they can’t – they’re going to have to get into the right position, and that’s the end of it.

Paul flew his entire first circuit (radar vectored ILS) on HUD alone and did not find it challenging. By all means we would get more from it having done a HUD training package first – I was still finding additional prompts and information highlights in the HUD late on final. I was fortunate enough to be given some time in the e-Jet sim last year and there were thrust and speed assistance mechanisms on the e-Jet PFD that are strongly reminiscent in the HUD. It’s a great bit of kit – my last approach was in Cat 2 weather with a manual landing at the bottom and the HUD certainly comes into it’s own in this environment.

I took a couple of videos of the HUD during Paul and Stu’s flight. If you’re interested – there are far better videos on YouTube and I suggest you go look at those.

Unfortunately there wasn’t time for much more than that – we’d spent too much time (as far as I was concerned!) reviewing the Boeing facilities – the reason we were there! – but I’m certainly looking forward to my next encounter with the 787.

Ken 


An Ode to Joy

My Nanna Joy (my Father’s Mother) passed away on the 11th February, 2013 at the age of 89. She was a grand lady with whom I spent a great deal of time with during my formative years. I was asked to speak at her service – here is what I said.

[Read more…]

Android Apps

Here is a collector post where I’ll review and update the software I use and recommend on my Android phone. I’m now on my third android phone, through at least 4 major operating system upgrades and a host of minor ones. I use my phone for work and pleasure, to tell me where I’m supposed to be, listen to music, watch movies from my home server, navigate in the car, on the footpath and on the bus/train – and tell me where I parked my car.

– – –      – – –      – – –      – – –      – – –      – – –      – – –      – – –      – – –      – – –      – – –      – – –

ezPDF Reader

There are no end of PDF readers on Android – including Adobe’s Acrobat Reader – but I’ve found ezPDF reader to be the best. I use it on my phone as well as tablet. I do a LOT of PDF reading. To get an idea of it’s capabilities – have a look at the user guide. It uses finger gestures for interaction and includes extensive markup and highlighting features. You can also add bookmarks to PDF documents to expedite navigation of large documents.

TeslaLED

Small but useful, it’s handy to be able to turn on the LED light built into your smartphone flash. There are dozens of apps around that do this, but I find TeslaLED to be a good one. It has a strobe feature and the ability to flash Morse code – not something I use everyday … It comes with a widget that you can place on your desktop and flick your LED on and Off.

Swype

Swype is one of the most poorly kept secrets on Android. I call it a secret because it’s not available on the Android Market – you have to sign up for the beta to get it. That said, it’s now coming as the default input keyboard on some Android phones.

The install technique is a little unusual in that it requires you to download an installer, then find and install the installer, which downloads the program, which then installs swype. Got that? Also along the way you have to register for the beta, then enter your details into the downloaded installer downloader.

But oh man is it worth it.

Many years ago, when I was very much into my Crappy Windows Mobile Phone, I used a keyboard called Fitaly. This was back in the days when you punched away at your pda with a plastic pen and typing on it was real bastard. Fitaly was a non-qwerty keyboard which was mathematically designed such that something like 80% of the most common keys were right in the middle of the keyboard. I eventually got myself up to something like 80 words a minute on this thing – it makes you cry when you look at today’s iPhone chicken scratch keyboard.

Anyway – since coming to Android I’ve discovered Swype. Let me say right now – it’s not available on iPhone. Did you get that? It’s not available on iPhone. Just in case …  IT’S NOT AVAILABLE ON iPHONE. So There. How do I make that blink with WordPress?

Swype is built on the same concept as predictive text input on non-qwerty keyboard mobile phones. Basically instead of chicken scratching your way across the keyboard, you swype your way along, pausing briefly (or not) at the letters you want typed. From the pattern you draw, Swype works out what is the most likely word. If there’s only one – it enters it. If there are several but the most likely one is very much the most likely – it enters it. Otherwise you get a list of possibilities, with the most likely being at the top and the default word if you continue swyping.

You can get VERY fast with Swype, and very accurate. I strongly suggest reviewing the tutorials and videos before you get too far into it  – it will save you a lot of frustration and lost productivity. Ask me how I know this.

ADW Launcher

I’ve never been one for replacing the standard operating system front end with something custom developed. My experience is that they’re at times buggy and often suffer when the operating system itself is updated. I’m not convinced of the productivity improvements claimed and quite frankly if I was buying something for the eye candy value, I’d probably have an Apple device, except perhaps the iPad – what the hell is the story with the tiny little icons with all that space in between them? Hello?

Then I was forced to use ADW Launcher.

I say forced, because the XDA crew decided to make it the default in Cyanogen – which I ran on my Nexus One for eight months or so. And since it was integrated with the operating system itself, I figured it would be plenty stable, which it was.

Then when I upgraded to the Nexus S and was forced to stay with the stock Android 2.3/4 operating system (still haven’t worked out how to root it) – I missed ADW so much that I bought it.

Apart from a suite of additional interface settings, I find on the fly manipulation of widgets to be extremely useful. I read about being able to re-size widgets in Honeycomb – I’m doing that now with Gingerbread and ADW. I have an extra column and row of icons on my screen, with everything sized down accordingly and spaced a little tighter. It’s an awesome bit of kit.

Juice Defender Ultimate

You won’t be using your new shiny smartphone for very long when you come to realise your battery life is crap. Gone are the days when you charge your phone every couple of days and when the battery is starting to look low you know you have until at least that night before you have to charge it.

Between these lovely big bright screens, ‘N’ wifi, 3g connectivity, GPS, Bluetooth, etc – you need a battery bigger than the phone itself to get a decent life out of it. Just one of the reasons I’m Android is because I can carry a spare battery and throw it in if I need to – try that on an iPhone.

Juice Defender give you Time of Day /  Location / Data throughput / Application aware control of the high consumers of power such as screen/wifi/3g as well as controlling application access and sync. Let me explain.

I’m in the hotel foyer in LA. I pull out my phone and turn it on. Because I’ve been there before, JD turns on the wifi and logs onto the hotel network. Depending on how long since the last one, Google Sync is started – checking mail, twitter, facebook, etc. Before this completes, I turn my phone off. In my pocket, as the data finishes downloading and the data throughput reduces below a nominated threshold, JD turns off the Wifi.

I leave the hotel. Every 15 minutes or so (you choose), JD turns on the 3g and another sync is activated. JD turns it off again shortly afterwards.

I approach “It’s a Grind” the coffee shop I frequent which has free wifi. JD knows where I am (cell towers) and turns on the wifi as I enter the shop. It attempts to log on but the Cafe has changed their password (again). The lack of data throughput is a trigger and JD turns off the Wifi again.

Juice Defender is indeed Ultimate.

FlightBoard, by Mobiata

Flight board is a really simple concept. Pick an airport, choose departures or arrivals, see the equivalent flight board. As someone who travels all the time this really simple app is excellent and serves me well.

Yes you can Facebook or Twitter about your flight and all of that shite, yes you can shoot a flight over to FlightTrack (slightly more useful). You can access delay data etc. The point is, at any stage during your travel journey, you can look and see if the flight is delayed, if there’s a gate assigned, if flights just before or after yours have been cancelled.

TeamViewer

I got out of the hardware sales/support business years ago, for good reasons. However I am doomed to support my immediate (and extended) family’s computer needs for the foreseeable future, and as such this is easiest accomplished through remote control. I enabled this for years through the paid tool GotoMyPc, but a while ago I finally went free with TeamViewer. It offers all of the functionality I need (Remote control, File transfer, VPN, Chat, etc) and not only has Android support – but has it in a way that is actually usable on a smart phone (something GotoMyPC has yet to do, even badly).

Skype

Skype pretty much sucks. That goes for the PC experience as well. I’ve used a dozen different VOIP solutions over the past 12 years or so, all mostly as a means of avoiding Skype – to make cheap calls also – but mainly to avoid Skype.

Whether it be the bloatware that Skype is on your machine, the restrictive private protocol that offends my open source sensibility, or just the fact that when you agree to install Skype you agree to potentially become a Skype supernode, routing calls to and from people you’ve never heard of, chewing up your bandwidth, Skype pisses me off.

But there are so many people on Skype, we’re now so far beyond the point where I can choose not to use it.

Skype is now beyond early days on Android and it shows. Finally we have Video. It took them long enough (ages after the iPhone). Finally you can also exit Skype and not have it running in the background. It’s still a confusing interface for what is essentially a simple need – but it works.  Damn it.

Volume Ace

One of the great features of Android is it’s flexibility. It’s clear from extended use that a great deal of thought went into the development of the back end. And the operating system is a documented open source development which allows apps to take full advantage to deliver a better (educated) user experience.

But it does make things complicated at times. Take volume.

It sounds pretty simple, doesn’t it. In fact there’s two buttons on the side – volume up, volume down – what could be simpler that. But which volume?

When your phone is ringing – these buttons control (and leave set) ring tone volume. When you’re talking with the handset against your head, they control that volume. When you use the speaker phone, they control that volume. When you’re listening to music, they control that volume. When you’re being told what to do by turn by turn voice navigation, they control that volume. And so on. At last count I was up to 9 different volume settings. If you want overall management of all these volumes – if you want profile management of them depending on where and when you are – how do you manage it all? Volume Ace.

Apart from giving you fine detail control of these volumes – Volume Ace lets you save configurations as pre-sets (Quite, Night, Loud, Meeting etc) controlling both volumes and vibrate, and you can access these presets with two clicks off a widget on the desktop.

Car Locator

Edward Kim has made a fortune out of Car Locator and it’s easy to see why. As someone who arrives back from a week away in Sydney/Los Angeles to a large staff car park with no markings whatsoever (goddam I hate Melbourne Airport non-Management) – remembering with my fatigue addled brain where I parked my car is a real hassle.

This little gem lets me press a button when I park; then when I return, I run it again and it leads me to my car. The sonar mode (it “boops” faster and faster as I draw closer) is a little kitch, but you can turn it off.

There’s lots of other tricksy bits built in but essentially it does very well what I need it to do – locate my car.

K9 Mail

Ok, so the built in gMail app on the Android operating system is awesome. Since Google insist on updating it regularly, there’s just no reason whatsoever to look for any alternative. Then there’s the built in app for your other POP3, iMap and Exchange mail … therein lies a different story.

So after a short, dissatisfying play with the provided software, I went hunting for something else. I swear it was not my penchant for Dr Who that lead me to settle on K9. It does POP3, iMap, Exchange (although not in a way supported by my company – but that solution is below). It’s open source, supports PGP – and most importantly handles multiple e-mail accounts – at last count I’m watching 11 e-mail accounts on my phone – brilliantly – using K9. Push mail, notifications, a breeze. Enjoy.

Touchdown Exchange Mail for Android

Ok, first a warning. This app is not your typical $4.99 app – you’re up for about AUD $20. The trap with this software is that you get 30 days to evaluate it, after which you’ve found you can’t live without it – and you’ll have to pay the $20.

If your company allows exchange sync through their firewall, I recommend this app. Although exchange sync is native to android, I couldn’t wear the draconian imposition of a security policy on my phone. Sure – secure the app; but the phone? What if I don’t want a full password on my phone, changed regularly, the ability for the company to delete stuff off my phone, etc. Stuff that.

Touchdown does email, calendar, tasks, contacts, global address book, etc. Push notification (or not) etc. Very clean interface, updated regularly.

Winamp

I should firstly point out that I HATE iTunes. There, that’s said.

Winamp is a full circle kind of thing for me. I suspect that I was the last person on earth to actually pay for Winamp just before they started distributing free about 10 years ago. They’ve since gone Pro, but I never forgave them back then for taking my money and then turning around and making Winamp free. I wrote to them and asked if I could have the current Pro version free, but unfortunately not – the company who sells it now is about three companies down the road since back then. Can’t hurt to try.

The reason I’ve come back to Winamp is that the pro version on my desktop – apart from managing about 2 terra-bytes of music – allows me to sync playlists and artists/albums wirelessly through my home network to my android phone. Did I mention it was wireless? The Winamp player on my Nexus works well and is pretty enough. The lock screen took me a while to figure out and letting it take over my headset occasionally gets me in trouble. But it’s wireless. Enough said.

Handy Sh!t : (HandyConversionsHandyCurrencyHandyCalc)

Ok, so you’ve got to have three things on your phone. Something to do Conversions. Something to do Currency. And a Calculator. I managed to find all three from the same source.

I have to say, there’s something seriously cool about these apps. Something mesmerizing. I can’t quite put my finger on it. The Conversions and Currency work well enough – the currencies update and you can add your own conversions if you’re trying to work not just in Bhat, Pounds and Euro’s but also Galactic Credits. They’re clean and pretty to look and the the interface is easy to work with.

But the calculator is seriously weird. It has some very cool stuff in it – graphing, solving quadratic equations, fractions, Algebra, you name it. I was once a real maths student with a  real calculator at Uni – a HP48 that I loved and knew backwards. When I came to Android I was pleased to be able to install a HP48 emulator for a while – at least until HandyCalc came along. At some point, I’ll learn to use it properly. Then watch me go.

 

Missed Approach Acceleration

I’ve recently been contacted by a friend from a previous airline who now works for another Middle Eastern carrier, flying 777’s. Interestingly enough – he’s chasing down information on Missed Approach Acceleration – an issue I also encountered when I arrived here at V in 2008.

Essentially at that time the initial training for the 777 Type Rating was provided in our own 777 Flight Simulator by Alteon, which is now a Boeing Company. While the contract required that our in house developed SOPs (based primarily on Boeing FCOM/FCTM documentation) were to be taught to our transitioning pilots – we encountered a number of stumbling blocks. One of these was Missed Approach Acceleration.

Note : This post has been updated to include some analysis on turn radius and potentially compromising the calculated splay by accelerating prior to MAA/MSA.

Background

At the bottom of an instrument approach, if visual reference is not established the crew are required to execute the Go-Around procedure and commence a Missed Approach. Initially configured for landing – the undercarriage is raised and some of the landing flap is retracted in the go-around procedure as the aircraft transitions from the descent to a climb.

This is the beginning of the Missed Approach Procedure. While the procedure may involve lateral manoeuvring (turns) – what I’m primarily concerned with here is the vertical component.

From an initial climb speed of essentially the final approach speed, at some point the aircraft will need to accelerate, retract flap and reduce thrust from the go around (typically maximum) thrust setting to something like Climb/Max Continuous and establish level flight at a safe altitude. The bone of contention is when that acceleration phase commences. When I arrived, our students we being taught to accelerate at 1000 ft AAL in the missed approach, in common with the take off profile.

However a missed approach often does not follow the same departure track as a take off, and while intermediate acceleration for engine out departure profiles is assessed – this is not the case for engine out missed approach climb.

Boeing References

There area  number of Boeing FCOM and FCTM references in this area.

FCOM NP 21.40 “Go-Around and Missed Approach Procedure”

The FCOM normal procedures reference specifies acceleration at “acceleration height”.  This term is not defined elsewhere in the FCOM or FCTM.

 — — — — — —

FCTM 5.64 “Go-Around and Missed Approach – All Approaches”

The go-around profile diagram in the FCTM again refers to “Acceleration height” without further defining this term.

 — — — — — —

FCTM 5.58 “Go-Around and Missed Approach – All Engines Operating”

This section covers in detail the acceleration and flap retraction segment of the missed approach in more detail.

Go-Around and Missed Approach – All Engines Operating

The minimum altitude for flap retraction during a normal takeoff is not normally applicable to a missed approach procedure. However, obstacles in the missed approach flight path must be taken into consideration. During training, use 1,000 feet AGL to initiate acceleration for flap retraction, as during the takeoff procedure.

If initial manoeuvring is required during the missed approach, do the missed approach procedure through gear up before initiating the turn. Delay further flap retraction until initial manoeuvring is complete and a safe altitude and appropriate speed are attained.

Command speed should not be increased until a safe altitude and acceleration height is attained. Accelerate to flap retraction speed by repositioning the command speed to the manoeuvre speed for the desired flap setting. Retract flaps on the normal flap/speed schedule. When the flaps are retracted to the desired position and the airspeed approaches manoeuvre speed, select FLCH or VNAV and ensure CLB thrust is set. Verify the airplane levels off at selected altitude and proper speed is maintained.

Acceleration subsequent to a Go-Around should not be commenced until:

  • Initial manoeuvring is complete.
  • A safe altitude (or flap retraction altitude) and appropriate speed have been obtained.
  • Obstacles in the missed approach flight path must be taken into consideration.
  • During Training, 1000 ft AGL may be used to initial acceleration for flap retracting, based on the procedure used during Take Off.
FCTM 5.60 “Go-Around and Missed Approach – One Engine Inoperative”

The FCTM does not differentiate the acceleration and flap retraction stage of a go‑around for engine out operation. In fact the recommendation is that the same procedure is to be used.

Go-Around and Missed Approach – One Engine Inoperative
The missed approach with an engine inoperative should be accomplished in the same manner as a normal missed approach except use flaps 5 for the go-around flap setting for a flaps 20 approach or use flaps 20 as the go-around flap setting for a flaps 25 or 30 approach. After TO/GA is engaged, the AFDS commands a speed that is normally between command speed and command speed + 15 knots. The rudder is automatically positioned by the TAC to compensate for differential thrust with minimal input required from the pilot. Select maximum continuous thrust when flaps are retracted to the desired flap setting.

This implies that acceleration and flap retraction during an engine out go-around:

  • Should not be commenced until the same criteria has been met as for a normal go-around;
  • That the same procedure is advisable for both All Engine and Engine Out manoeuvres;
  • That 1000 ft AGL should be used during Training.

The Problem – Missed Approach Acceleration at 1000 ft AAL

This is the crux of our problem. Owing to the references in the FCTM to acceleration at 1000 ft AAL “During Training” – Boeing/Alteon teach their/our students that Missed Approach Acceleration (both All Engine and Engine Out) requires acceleration to be commenced at 1000 ft in the missed approach. This is actioned by increasing the speed on the MCP – and it’s wrong.

As we’ll see below – ICAO PANS OPS has no concept of acceleration and clean up in the middle of a missed approach. While it’s true that there is a concept of initial, intermediate and final missed approach segments, these refer to climb profile (initial missed approach finishes as the aircraft reaches positive climb in the missed approach manoeuvre) and terrain clearance – there’s an increased terrain clearance requirement in the final missed approach segment.

The primary reference document here for us is the ICAO document 8168-OPS/611 (volumes 1 and 2).

PANS OPS Missed Approach Procedure Acceleration

An instrument approach requires a maximum nominal gradient of 2.5% from the commencement of the intermediate missed approach segment, to the completion of the final missed approach segment.

Terrain at certain airports may require gradients in excess of this in which case this is documented on the relevant approach plate.

The missed approach path is segmented into Initial, Intermediate and Final – with associated limiting speeds (Cat D aircraft) of Intermediate 345 kph (186 knots) and Final 490 kph (264 Knots). The delimiter between the intermediate and final missed approach segments is the obstacle clearance achievable.

As such, while the speed limit associated with the missed approach construction should allow acceleration to Vref 30+80 after a go-around, the missed approach path construction itself does not include any allowance for an acceleration segment. This does not mean intermediate acceleration cannot be undertaken – but no terrain clearance allowance is made. The aircraft must clear 2.5% from the MAP (Missed Approach Point) to the MAA (Missed Approach Altitude).

As primarily a JAR-OPS airline, a detailed examination of the FAA United States Standard for Terminal Instrument Procedures (TERPS) documentation has not been completed for this issue. However it is know that an intermediate acceleration segment is not part of the American regulations, and minimum gradients of anywhere from 2.1% to 3.3% are in use, terrain notwithstanding.

Procedural Commonality – All Engine vs Engine Out

Because of the excess thrust available during a two engine missed approach, an intermediate acceleration segment could potentially be scheduled during a two engine missed approach and still allow the aircraft to remain clear of terrain. However this would mean documenting, training and relying on the recall of two different procedures for the missed approach, depending on whether this is flown with one engine inoperative or not. Most airlines reach the conclusion that this carries an unacceptable safety risk against an acceptable loss of potential engine wear and tear and extra fuel usage for the relatively few two engine go-arounds that are encountered in normal line operations.

Many crew have enough difficulty scheduling a 1000 ft acceleration during an all engine missed approach, without having to remember not to do it during an engine out missed approach.

Engine Thrust Limits

Extending the missed approach segment to the MAA has the potential to infringe on the 5 minute limit on engine thrust in excess of Maximum Continuous Thrust (all engine) or the 10 minute limit on engine out thrust in excess of CON thrust.

However the risk of an exceedence of the 5 minute all engine limit is low, owing to the excess thrust available when two engines are operational. In any case, during a normal all engine missed approach a setting significantly less than TOGA thrust is scheduled (enough for 2000 fpm) unless required by the performance of the aircraft – in which case it’s … required.

Our crew are trained to be aware of these limitations and in the event of a 5 minute or 10 minute exceedence, manual selection of CON thrust is available to the crew through the CLB/CON switch on the MCP, terrain clearance permitting.

It should be noted that the 5 or 10 minute limit exceedence is likely only when a high MAA is involved. A high MAA is almost certainly the result of significant terrain in the missed approach path, which is exactly the situation where an intermediate acceleration and flap retraction would most put the aircraft at risk.

Acceleration : Airspeed, Turn Radius – and Splay

One point commonly made in defence of delaying acceleration is that by increasing speed, you increase your turn radius, and therefore potentially compromise the calculated splay. This has some validity to a point, but not as much as you might think. Engine out flight paths are calculated based on a maximum of 15 degrees angle of bank until the aircraft has begun accelerating. Once airspeed increases – this limit is thrown out the window both by certification and the autopilot/flight director system. At clean speed the aircraft should schedule at least a 25 degree angle of bank turn.

Based on the 777=300ER – the potential range of initial missed approach speeds ranges from a light weight 130kts out to Max Landing Weight Vref Flap 20 (Engine Out) of about 169 knots. In either case the aircraft would clean up to Up Speed (Min Clean, or Green Dot speed on the Airbus) of about 229 knots. So – making the numbers simple:

  • Turn radius assuming no acceleration would be based on a speed range of 130 … 170 kts; turn radius calculated using 15 degrees AOB.
  • If acceleration is commenced early – a maximum speed of 230 kts and a maximum bank of not less than 25 degrees.
Therefore you can compare the calculated 15 degree turn radius of the non-accelerating aircraft at 170 kts with the accelerated (up to 230 kts) aircraft at 25 degrees angle of bank. The result looks something like this:
And in graphical form …
What this tells us is that essentially the accelerated aircraft turning at 25 degrees bank will have a smaller turn radius than the maximum speed unaccelerated aircraft, out to almost (but not quite) the clean speed of the aircraft. It’s really only in a very small corner of the envelope that your terrain clearance is at risk – from the point of view of turn radius.

 — — — — — —

In Summary : SOP Missed Approach – All Engine & Engine Out

We train our crew using the standard Boeing FCOM NP’s, with an additional document (SOP Guide : NPs) to clarify interpretation and any procedural differences.

Both All Engine and Engine Out missed approaches are flown to the Missed Approach Altitude, without acceleration. PF/Capt may elect to accelerate early if above MSA and confident of remaining so to the completion of the Missed Approach flight path.

Crew are training in this procedure through documentation, in the simulator and during line training. Boeing/Alteon notwithstanding.

Decision Making Models

We are reviewing Decision Making Models at the moment. On the 777, we’ve used FORDEC, which is very close to the European model, except we’ve replaced “Check” with “Communicate”, which may or may not have been a good thing. Other fleets in our airline are using GRADE or NMATE.

There are several reasons why Decision Making Models are in use. The popular notion is that there are some pilots who can’t make decisions, and need a model; just as there is a popular notion that some pilots are natural “decision makers” and no matter how complex the decision, they never need a model; the truth is perhaps somewhere in the middle.

Modern aircraft are both very complex and highly simplified. Information presentation systems, coupled with alerting and electronic checklists take what could be a very complex system and reduce it to essences that pilots can pretty easily deal with. There are a couple of problems with this though.

One of these is the Non Technical Skills requirement. Even after the Captain (or First/Second/Relief Officer) has reached a good decision based on complex information after risk analysis and implementation review – this has to be communicated to (and agreed to by) everyone else – this is better achieved when everyone is along for the ride, rather than told when you’ve reached the destination. Or at least, ideally it should. Some of the natural decision makers out there who aren’t necessarily thinking these things through methodically (consciously) but still coming up time and time again with the right decision – may not be the greatest of communicators.

Finally – there’s the QF32 factor. Where the problem is really bad and the information is so complex, so changing and so overwhelming, that a reasoned decision taking all factors into account allow the situation to develop fully to avoid impulsively rushing in – may not be possible. It’s get the aircraft on the ground time.

In any event – with a few models on the table (in the Group) – we’ve been trying to reach a consensus …

F O R – D E C

Facts

  • What is the full extent of the problem?
  • Gather all relevant Facts.
  • A problem which has been well defined at best usually suggests its own solution and at worst prevents the crew from going down the wrong path.
  • It is important to stay focused on defining and understanding the problem rather than rush to the solution.
  • There will often be more than just the one problem requiring a solution and they will all need to be carefully considered and then dealt with in order of priority.

Options

  • What options are available?
  • Define the different options you have, considering that there may be several possible options to facilitate a safe outcome.
  • Time can be considered as; critical, available and required. There are very few problems that require immediate action. In the vast majority of cases a considered and well developed plan is going to lead to a safe optimised resolution.
  • The use of open questions can assist in staying problem centred. “What do you think …?”

Risk/Benefit

  • What are the risks and benefits associated with each option?
  • With the given situation, what are the assessed risks in pursuing a course of action weighted against the perceived benefit?
  • With the given situation, do we return for an immediate landing overweight or do we take up the hold and jettison fuel?
  • With the given problem, do we land on the longer runway with a crosswind or the shorter runway with a headwind?

Decision

  • Which option have you decided on?
  • After spending an appropriate amount of time on the first three steps, the commander must eventually make a decision.
  • This is the step that many people instinctively leap to, however correct application of a management model will lead to a process driven solution that will have initially focused on accurately defining the problem, analysing the options before finally deciding on the solution.

Execute

  • Execute the selected option. Once the decision has been made, the plan must be put into action

Communicate

  • Communicate your intentions.
  • Once the plan has been executed, the commander must ensure that his intentions are communicated to all interested parties.
  • This will include the cabin crew and passengers within the aircraft, along with relevant agencies on the ground.

Irrelevantly, one special moment in all this has been finding out the various models that are around and in use. It’s been fascinating – here’s a sample. All models have their good and bad elements. Many share common ideals and drivers – since the problems all the models are trying to address are substantially similar.

DODAR (British Airways)
D – Diagnose
O – Options
D – Decide
A – Assign
R – Review

DECIDE (US FAA)
D – Detect
E – Estimate
C – Choose
I – Identify
D – Do
E – Evaluate

NMATE (Boeing)N – Navigate
M – Manage
A – Alternatives
T – Take Action
E – Evaluate

SAFE
S – State the Problem
A -Analyse the Problem
F – Fix the Problem
E – Evaluate the Result

GRADE
G – Gather Information
R – Review the Information
A – Analyse the (you guessed it) Information
D – Decide
E – Evaluate the Course of Action

FATE
F – Fly the Aircraft
A – Analyse the Alternatives
T – Take Action
E – Evaluate

RAISE
R – Review the problem
A – Analyse
I – Identify solutions
S – Select an Option
E – Evaluate

ADFP
A – Aircraft (Consider the Problem)
D – Destination (Appropriate)
F – Fuel (Sufficient)
P – People, Pax, ATC, Company etc.

3P’s
P – Perceive
P – Process
P – Perform

OODA
O – Observation
O – Orientation
D – Decision
A – Action

CLEAR
C – Clarify the problem
L – Look for data and share information
E – Evaluate different solutions
A – Act on your decisions
R – Review performance

PILOT
(this has to be the best one surely?)
P – Pool the facts
I – Identify the problem
L – Look for Solutions
O – Operate
T – Take Stock
(perhaps not)

SADIE (Emirates in the 90’s)
S – Share Information
A – Analyse Information
D – Develop the Best Solution
I – Implement your decision
E – Evaluate the Outcome

RCCSDAD
R – Recognise
C – Control the aircraft
C – Contain the emergency
S – Safe Flight
D – Decide
A – Act
D – Divert?

SOCS
S – Situation, define
O – Options
C – Consequences of actions
S – Select (an Action)

DESIDE
D – Detect
E – Estimate
S – Set Safety Objectives
I – Identify
D – Do
E – Evaluate

During the discussion the following models were advanced by the “Managers” I work with. I must admit I got at least halfway down them until I realised they were pulling my chain. Some of these require inside knowledge – next time you have Paul or Stu on the other end of a Beer, ask them.

A ssess the problem
P erform the correct memory item
P erform the correct checklist
L et ATC know what you are up to
E xecute the diversion

I nterrogate
P robe
A ssess
D ecide

B elt sign ON
E xamine the problem
S ound the alarm
T ell the cabin
P riorities
R isk assessment
A ction plan
C hecklist complete
T hreat and error management
I ndicate intent
C onsider the options
E xecute the plan

K now the problem
E xecute the diversion
N otify ATC
S ecure the aircraft
C hecklist complete
H old if required
A irport for diversion
I nform passengers
R eview the risk

What model does your airline use?

 

ENG OIL PRESS – A Simulator Scenario

This failure seems simple enough – one of the engines is low on oil pressure; the checklist reduces thrust and shuts down the affected engine. Then there’s the reality of dealing with an engine NNM under various conditions of high altitude and high thrust settings.

This failure has something of a history in 777 simulator training. As candidates (and instructors) encounter the failure after the first instance, there’s a tendency to “over think” and become somewhat inventive in how it’s handled. Let me explain.

In the simulator this failure is typically given at high altitude to add the complication of the requirement for an engine out drift down. Thus the PF needs to decide between running the checklist, or commencing a drift down in anticipation of the thrust loss – or both. The determining factor is usually the margin above minimum manoeuvring speed – it’s a judgement call by the PF/Captain.

Alternatively it’s given during climb with high thrust set on both engines. This reduces significantly the time before the onset of engine failure indications including further limit exceedences, engine/airframe vibration and more severe damage. You can’t run an engine for very long without oil pressure and the more thrust you ask of it, the shorter that time period is.  It should be noted that in this circumstance one of the Engine Failure checklists (along with the associated memory items) is usually a more appropriate response to the failure than the annunciated ENG OIL PRESS checklist.

In the simulator, the time between the EICAS message and the onset of engine damage is pretty dependent on thrust on the engine and is essentially formulaic – driven by simulator programming. If the failure occurs in the climb and climb thrust remains set – engine failure with the potential for engine damage comes soon(er). Once the engine indicates the conditions for Limit/Surge/Stall or Severe Damage/Separation, the PF should commence an Analysis (P&T 7.13 Engine Failure Analysis) and commence any applicable memory items. Don’t forget the Fly The Plane.

It’s not unusual for the crew when first given this failure to be slow in actioning the checklist, and the engine fails with associated limit exceedence / damage indications. The crew’s reaction to this experience, combined with some (perhaps) inappropriate debriefing by the instructor leads to some inventive responses from both trainees and instructors alike during follow up encounters. This usually takes the form of:

  • Calling for the Engine Limit/Surge/Stall checklist memory items in response the low oil pressure indication. Since low engine oil pressure shows a limit exceedence, this would seem a logical response. Having run the memory items – the appropriate follow on would be the Engine Limit/Surge/Stall checklist rather than the annunciated Oil Pressure checklist (although attempting a re-start of the engine may not be advisable.) Note however that these memory items only reduce thrust on the engine and it’s the checklist that actually shuts it down precluding further damage. Thus the memory items will only delay the onset of engine damage. Therefore a follow action often seen in the simulator is …
  • Calling by memory for the Fuel Control Switch … Cutoff. Some instructors will frown upon this action, but it’s a legitimate call by the Captain of the day to make. This combination of Engine Limit/Surge/Stall and Fuel Control Switch secures the engine and prevents (further) engine damage when for some reason responding directly to the ENG OIL PRESS is not possible (why not?).

The above is however a fairly complex response to a simple loss of oil pressure. It’s hopefully fair enough to say that the simplest response is probably to (a) fly the aircraft; and (b) run the checklist. If the aircraft is in a high thrust situation this can often be relieved quickly by the PF through levelling off and slowing down – without the need for running checklist memory items or checklist items by memory. Levelling off and slowing down (where possible) usually achieves the aim of reducing thrust on the affected engine enough to give you time to complete the ENG OIL PRESS checklist (at least to Fuel Control Switch … Cutoff) prior to engine damage.

 

Jetlag

At parties, one of the first questions I’m asked, once we’ve done the profession swapping business-card handshake, is “How do you get used to the Jet Lag?

I wrote this blog a while ago, but was reminded of it when I came across this document recently. It’s fascinating treatise on today’s airline pilot’s lifestyle. 42% of pilots in major airlines in the Uk would not recommend a career in aviation to their kids. Doesn’t that say it all?

They’re looking for the magic bullet which I of course must know and my answer is of course, you don’t, because you can’t. My airline is a new start up international operation, a subsidiary of an established domestic carrier. As such, while we commenced operations with a core group of instructors and pilots with international long haul experience – subsequent pilots are drawn from the domestic parent airline. These pilots have come from a short haul operation where most nights they were home in their own beds. Although there are long days – no-one disputes a claim that you’re working hard when doing four sectors with minimum turnaround times betweens flights, over the course of a 12 hour day – I remember from my own experience of this life that you’d fall into bed after a long day, sleep well and wake the next day without further consequences of your previous day’s work.

Initially during the start up phase of V Australia many of these pilots found themselves trained, then cast off into long series of days off and standby with very little flying. Now as the work builds and the aircraft and pilot numbers stabilise – the monthly workload is increasing and the unpleasant impact of long haul international flights is starting to hit.

While we mentioned it during training, it was information without personal relevance. Now it gives me a wry smile to hear discussed around the bar in LA how a pilot will get home after a 5 day trip to a trip to at least 3 or 4 days off before having to go back to work again – only to find that it takes them at least that long to recover their sleep pattern and other biorhythmic aspects of their lives (I’m staying away from personal bodily function references here), just in time to head off and screw them up again.

Your immunity is lower, you sleep poorly and more often, irritability affects your family life, it all takes its toll. Layovers in LA become periods of white noise listlessness where you attempt little and achieve even less. Hard to believe, but you even begin to watch re-runs of NCIS. That’s an early warning sign, by the way.

Now were coming in from Los Angeles and heading out to Abu Dhabi and back. Then our pilots new to long haul know what it’s really all about – east to west back to back is a real pain. Eventually you get to the point when you’ve been doing it for years, and you find it takes three weeks of leave just to start feeling like a human being again. Getting your kids to like you again takes a lot longer than that.

Sleep for a long haul pilot is like my bank account. I can accumulate sleep debt, but it’s physiologically impossible to gain a sleep credit. When discussing this at a party, at some point I’m asked how I stay awake on long flights. Once I reveal that in fact our operation is an augmented one, with two complete sets of pilots and rest facilities which include flat sleeping bunks, my sympathiser’s eyes glaze over and disinterest in the issues of my work environment waft into the conversation. They pay you to sleep in a bed at work? They think of their own experiences of sitting in economy for 12 hours last holidays, surrounded by their kids, and conclude I have it easy.

I could point out that I’m doing this slightly more often than their annual holiday – say 4 to 8 times a month. That any form of rest in an environment of perhaps 8% humidity can scarcely be called rest at all. That the bunk I sleep in is contained in a walled tube fifty centimetres tall, seventy centimetres across, 2 meters long, (I deliberately avoid the word “coffin” in these conversations, it seems an unfair emotional ploy, but aesthetically and structurally, that’s what it is – although more difficult that Dracula’s because I have to crawl in from one end).

Oh and did I mention by bed is thirty six thousand feet into often turbulent air? That often I’m trying to rest when my body clock says Go Go Go, or work/fly when it’s saying No No No? Trying to switch off while I’m technically still in charge of and responsible for the safe operation of the aircraft by crew I may never have flown with before, in areas of suspect weather or over significant terrain (I never ever took rest over the Himalayas – not even worth trying). Crappy low cost pillow, damned hard cheap mattress – never confuse Crew Rest with Actual Sleep.

Of course I’m still Captain of a $250 million dollar plane, with 350 passengers behind me, flying to glamorous destinations (did I mention we stay in Long Beach?), surrounded by a dozen or so attractive 20 something women & men – it’s not Catch Me If You Can (did you love that movie or what? – I tried to convince my wife that’s how it’s supposed to be, but in hindsight had I succeeded I would have been in serious trouble), but occasionally it’s lots of fun.

I like to think I have the respect of most of my peers, and fortunately for me all of them have mine. I guess I’m well paid (my problem tends to be my outgo, rather than my income, the exigencies of working for a Low Cost Carrier notwithstanding – that’s another story). I should be happy with my lot.

Every now and then I depart from an airfield with a solid cloud top cover, and if I’m lucky I’m flying manually and well clear of the ground choosing to accelerate to 600 kph at just the right altitude to skim 50 feet above the tops of a sea of white cloud in a burgeoning glorious blue sky for a few minutes in my 350 ton flying machine. Then I remember how I got to be here. I’ve seen some amazing sights from the flight deck – and photographed a few of them.

The irregularity of working a “planned” roster and the bizarrely torturous nature of time zone afflicted shift work has taken almost all the fun out of flying. In truth, my choice of career all those years ago considered none the factors of family, lifestyle, compensation or constipation. I just wanted to fly.

But it could be worse, I could work for HR. In this company, they’re called the People Department (seriously) and as my boss says – if you don’t like people, you work in the People Department …

The risks of the ExPat Lifestyle.

Reuters reported a while ago the arrest of two Emirates Cabin Crew in Dubai for the exchange of illicit text messages. There’s more depth to this story, as it comes on the back of divorce proceedings (a year earlier) and insinuations that the two texters had been in a relationship while the junior cabin crew member was still married, etc, etc. Pretty standard stuff really in the hot house of an Airline expatriate community.

The story is told in the context of similar incidents in Dubai, touching briefly on a British Couple who face jail in Dubai for kissing in public, and several other incidents of public lewd behavior by British tourists in Dubai (Ed: What is it about the British on tour – how come they get all the fun?)

Living and Working Expatriate.

There are two aspects of this that interest me. It again raises that old chestnut of the trade off’s of leaving your home country for a career – particularly an aviation career – which involves faster promotion, more money, affluent lifestyle, faster planes, faster women …

My partner and I got married, pregnant, had a baby and moved to Hong Kong – all in a year. With the aviation market in Australia stagnating in the years after the 89 Pilot’s dispute, coupled with the issues I was having seeking employment as the son of a dispute pilot, a position with Cathay Pacific on B747-400’s seemed like a dream come true. In a few ways it was, but as much research as you may choose to do (and we didn’t do much) – nothing prepares you for life overseas. The stories we could tell – we moved to Hong Kong just as the first paramedic trained ambulance driver had saved his first life (in 1992!) and went from community service advertisements in Australia against drink ‘n drive to Honk Kong government service announcements recommending against the discard of used large white goods (Washers, Dryers, Refrigerators) out the upper story windows of large apartment blocks. You think some of our TAC ads are too explicit …

Four years later when we moved to Dubai for me to take up a position with Emirates, we felt we were far wiser and more aware of what we were getting ourselves into. We had no idea. In the the 13 years in Dubai, we saw first hand events and experiences (to ourselves and others) that would curl your ears and probably keep you in your un-rewarding, career stagnating 60K a year airline job. Another time …

This article is an indication of just one of the intangibles that are sacrificed to the altar of career and income when you go expatriate. Civil Liberties in countries such as the UAE are regularly sacrificed on the altar of political and religious expediency. And I’m not talking about fornicating on the front lawn of the Dubai Courts, but often momentary lapses of judgement that would incur no penalty at all in most parts of the world, but can be life and career changing in the Middle East (and elsewhere).

And … Context.

To finish, another fascinating aspect of this article for me is the context. If you note carefully, it’s filed under “Oddly Enough” where you’ll also find articles on a Female Porn Movie Director who is running for Parliament in the UK and a NZ woman who ran over her husband … Twice. This trivialisation of a jail sentence of two expats who were in a relationship and sent themselves explicit text messages is an interesting feature of Expatriate life.

Your friends and to some extent your family will abandon you while you are overseas. You are living the high life, benefiting from immoral regimes and spurning the country of your birth – you deserve what you get. That’s not something they tell you at the airline interview …

To Go or Not To Go.

Your career is stagnating, and between the meager salary and taxation, you’re struggling to make ends meet. Positions with Emirates, Qatar, Etihad, Korean, Asiana, Vietname – all are beckoning. All promise high salaries and low taxation, some promise of career progression and excellent lifestyles as well. How can you resist? Well …

Managing the Mass (B777)

Passing by In and Out on the way to KLAX

Friend and fellow podcaster Karlene Pettit recently blogged on managing the A330 speed/configuration during approach. I thought it might be interesting to explore the topic on the 777.

The point of Karlene’s article is that often the manfacturer’s profile doesn’t comply with the ATC environment we find ourselves in, and the performance characteristics of the aircraft we fly are such that conforming to ATC speeds on approach can lead to a requirement for exploring the flight envelope a little in terms of configuration and speed down final approach.

Any discussion about speed and configuration on final – especially when diverging from the manufacturer’s documented profiles – needs to commence with a review of the Stabilised Approach concept.

Stabilised Approach Criteria

B777 Stabilisation CriteriaBehind any discussion of speed and configuration on approach is the Stabilised Approach criteria. The specifics vary from airline to aircraft type, but the essential concept is the same. The stabilised approach concept has distant origins but was developed and promulgated by Flight Safety’s Approach and Landing Accident Reduction program. A clear decision point on the approach – typically a height above the runway – by which the aircraft must meet the stabilisation criteria documented by the airline. The criteria typically requires landing configuration, final approach speed, minimal required lateral and vertical divergence from the published approach path – essentially in position to land. It may even require the completion of the Landing Checklist.

Know your company stabilisation criteria and remember that not only must you meet the requirement by the decision point or go around – if at any point during the approach you realise you won’t be able to meet the requirement – you should go round then and not wait until the stabilisation point. My airlines’s requirements are pretty standard and the stabilisation altitude is 1000 ft.

Having established in our mind the stablised approach concept, optimising the approach prior to that point requires a clear understanding of how the Boeing FCTM promulgates the instrument approach.

Boeing 777 FCTM

The Boeing FCTM covers the 777-200/ER/LR/LRF/300 and 300ER, which means a variety of approach speeds. Apart from the documented aircraft variations, the FCTM is also aimed at a wide range of pilot skills and backgrounds, providing a clear, conservative baseline of operations which professional aviators must use as a basis from which to expand and extend to suit the operational environment.

A quick glance at the pictured profile shows quite a reasonable profile for an aircraft vectored in for a 2000 ft ILS with minimum run in to the FAF – but this is patently unsuitable for operations into many capital city airports – such as Los Angeles KLAX, or Melbourne YMML – where glideslope intercepts well above 3000 ft AAL are common. Flying that approach with gear down, flap 20 at glideslope alive and landing configuration at glideslope intercept won’t endear you to the approach controller. You’ll also chew through a several hundred kilos of your reserve fuel that might come in handy should you need to head for your alternate.

Delayed Flap

The FCTM documents a delayed flap concept for Noise Abatement or under “adverse conditions” (surely that describes ATC at KLAX?) which essentially flies you down the ILS with Gear Down, Flap 20, delaying landing flap selection until approaching 1000 ft AAL. At reasonable weights the 777-300ER Flap 20 speed is around 160 knots, which is still a little slow for final approach sequencing, and once again you’re basically dragging the aircraft in with lots of gear and flap.

Flap 5, Flap 5 Speed down the Glide Slope

Assuming for a moment glideslope intercept at altitudes AAL of 2500 upwards, experience has shown us that the 777’s (all of them) can be flown into a 3 degree slope with Flap 5, Flap 5 speed.

Note you need both of these – if you call for Flap 5 as you capture the slope, the aircraft will usually refuse to slow to Flap 5 speed – indeed at idle thrust it will often accelerate.

If you like living on the edge you can fly clean, level, at Up speed as the glideslope comes alive, calling for Flap 1 and 5 in turn, reducing speed and you’ll typically be at Flap 5/Speed as the glide slope captures – as long as you aren’t distracted by a radio call or the deceleration isn’t degraded by turbulence.

From that point what happens next depends on a range of factors including the specific aircraft type, the landing weight and therefore approach speed, ambient conditions, glideslope angle, etc. But in essence you’ll get one of three results.

  1. The aircraft will maintain Flap 5 speed, with minor use of thrust on the way down (light aircraft, smooth air).
  2. The aircraft will keep Flap 5 speed, but the thrust remains at idle and you might well get some creeping increase in the speed.
  3. The aircraft will begin a slow acceleration down the slope, with the engines at idle thrust.

The first two are acceptable, the second requiring monitoring. The third possibility is typical in the heavy 777-300ER or even lighter aircraft when ambient temperature is high and thermal activity tends to de-stabilise your approach speed. At this point – this is where Flap 15 comes in.

Flap 15 on Approach?

I was taught for many years that Flap 15 (and Flap 25 for that matter) is a takeoff flap setting and therefore has no place during approach (lots of verbal flight deck hand slapping at this point). It took me a few years in the left seat (including training under a regime that for a time enforced this) and not a few progressive check/training captains to unhook my thinking in this regard. Flap 15 is a flap setting and nothing more. It uses the same minimum speed as Flap 20 (Vref30 + 20 knots) but carries less drag. While there are no limitations or issues using Flap 15 on approach, the FCTM does describe Flap 15 as a “manoeuvre” flap setting. It’s intended use is outbound / turning inbound on the approach, rather than down final … but …

Flap 15 is perfect when you’ve intercepted the glideslope at Flap 5/Flap 5 speed and find yourself in a speed-unstable configuration. If the thrust remains at idle and the speed (typically at 180 knots for Flap 5, perfect for ATC separation requirements) begins to increase, Flap 15 adds enough drag to recover your speed control. You can retain your 180 knots without the drag of Flap 20 and continue down the slope. Until …

The Flap 5/15 ILS continues to a point at which the end of … Gear Down (Speed Brake Armed) -> Flap 20 (Checklist Up) -> Speed Reduction -> Flap 30 -> Landing Checklist Complete … meets the stabilisation point of typically 1000 ft AAL. This sequence typically takes about 800 ft if done without interruption – a more conservative value of 1000 ft covers range of operating environments. So as you approach 2000 ft AAL, you should be thinking of establishing the landing configuration having optimised your approach to this point quite well indeed.

Thoughts?

Assessing System Status/Performance

Sometimes something as simple in the aircraft as looking and assessing the indications in front of you can be far more complex that it first seems. I was reminded of this in the simulator recently as several crews were required to assess aircraft pressurisation performance during a door unlocked indication failure in flight. First, some background.

Our current phase training includes a DOOR FWD CARGO unlocked indication shortly after takeoff. Apart from satisfying a matrix requirement and giving crew experience of this non-normal, the overt intent of this failure in the simulator profile is to give crew a reason to divert to the nearest suitable airport.

The DOOR FWD CARGO checklist itself requires that the aircraft be de-pressurised to ensure that if the door was to come off, less damage would be done than if the aircraft were fully pressurised. At this point the crew are at 8,000 ft and de-pressurised. Continuing to Los Angeles seems unlikely.

That said in a previous simulator we had two similar failures like this. The first was Door Forward Cargo indicating not locked in flight; the second was Door Forward Cargo – door comes off the fuselage out into the airflow and on it’s way down the side of the aircraft, takes out the right engine along with two hydraulic systems. As the instructor it was easy to confuse the two failures in the IOS – well, it was easy to confuse them once. Being pressurised/unpressurised never seemed to make much impact on the amount of damage that forward cargo door did as it embedded itself in the right engine – but I digress.

Anyway – so I was supposed to program a Door Forward Cargo indication failure on takeoff. I did this through the gear lever so I wouldn’t have to hit the button on the failure myself. I programmed the simulator so that when the lever was selected UP, the failure became active – and sat back to watch.

At least that was my intention – so far it hasn’t been successful. The Sim Instructor Operator Station (IOS) indicated the failure was active – but there was no indication to the crew, even after the takeoff inhibit ended. Oops. As it turned out later – this failure is only written by CAE to work on the ground. We’re still trying to find out why, but even knowing that isn’t going to change the fact that the failure doesn’t work airborne.

As such I was forced to improvise on the spot – often not a great recipe for training fidelity …

Sticking with the theme – I failed one of the other cargo doors instead. The problem now is that the simulator is VH-VPD which was our first owned aircraft, and it has the small version of the main cargo door aft of the wing. The size distinction is important in this failure. All doors on the aircraft (Cargo, Cabin, E/E Bay, etc) are “Plug” type doors – a Boeing innovation where essentially the door is bigger than the hole it fills and therefore the higher the pressurisation differential between inside/outside the aircraft, the less likely the door will come open. Don’t ask me how a door that’s bigger than the hole opens outwards to let the passengers and cargo in – that’s just magic as far as I’m concerned.

Despite being a plug type door, when not indicating locked the Forward Cargo Door checklist requires the aircraft de-pressurise. We have always presumed this is related to the size of the door. The smaller Aft Cargo door does not require de-pressurisation and diversion – as long as the cabin is pressurising normally. Thus despite the failure the crew would assess and continue on to Los Angeles, extending the sim session from 2 hours to 14. Since I needed them to divert (no coffee or toilet in the sim) the next obvious choice was … you guessed it, pressurisation failure.

Because I knew the small door failure wouldn’t cut it, I programmed them simultaneously. Rather than the instantaneous heart-rate-raising big bang failure, I used slow de-pressurisation. Essentially the aircraft would fail to pressurise because the aforementioned small door was not only unlocked, but not properly closed. Hence the crew would assess pressurisation, realise the problem, and return. At least, that was the plan.

This statement seems pretty clear, doesn’t it?

Note: The aft lower cargo door is in a safe configuration 
as long as cabin pressurization is normal. Positive cabin
differential pressure ensures the door stays in place.

That shouldn’t be too hard to work out, should it? Pressurisation at this point is assessed via the AIR Synoptic page. Apart from showing good bleed air from the engines to the air-conditioning packs, the AIR synoptic also shows values such as Cabin Altitude and Rate of Climb, Differential Pressure and Forwad/Aft Outflow value positions.

A good crew would typically see the picture shown here during climb after takeoff. By “good” I mean a crew who would initially see the failure, think about it, then ignore it. They’d have QRH familiarity and know that this checklist doesn’t come with memory items, but they’d also know what the most likely outcome of this checklist was. They’d follow Boeing doctrine and delay running it until the critical take off phase was over, the aircraft was clean (gear and flaps retracted) and usually wait until the aircraft had cleared any terrain issues associated with the departure airport. Thus typically the aircraft would be climbing through about 7,000 ft by the time they finished the checklist and had a look at the AIR synoptic to assess pressurisation.

A quick glance shows you – Cabin Altitude below aircraft (as it should be); Cabin Altitude Rate climbing (normal, so is the aircraft); Outflow Valves Closed; duct pressure adequate, differential pressure positive. The problem here is … the quick glance. Like me – you’re looking to confirm the normal, rather than seeking what’s abnormal and looking for indications against the normal bias – looking to confirm a problem. Now let’s look again.

  • Cabin Altitude – 5,500 is quite high. The cabin altitude is controlled in part by the selected cruise altitude. High takeoff weights (and therefore lower initial crusing altitudes) combined with the high cabin differential pressure capability of the 777 (9+ PSI), initial cabin altitudes in the 3000-4000 feet range are normal. This one is at 5,500 because the door is slightly ajar and the pressurisation system is unable to maintain the required lower altitude as the aircraft is climbing. It’s doing it’s best – I’ve been seeing cabin altitudes up to 2000 ft below the aircraft in the climb with this failure – but still to high for an initial cabin altitude.
  • Cabin Rate – 800 fpm is not extreme, but again given the high diff of the 777 and the typically lower initial cruise altitudes, you see less than this typically.
  • Cabin Differential Pressure – a Delta P of 1.2 is way too low. In cruise it would be well over 8. The 1.2 here is because the hole in the aircraft is not quite big enough to equalise the pressure – the Bleed Air/Packs are working hard. But 1.2 is far too low for this altitude when the pressurisation is working “normally”. Speaking of holes in the aircraft …
  • Outflow Valves – The basic operating premise of an aircraft pressurisation system is that air flows in at a faster rate than it flows out – but it does flow out. It is only during Non-Normal events that you see fully closed outflow valves. Closed outflow valves are an indication that the Bleed Air/Packs are unable to provide adequate airflow – a pressurisation problem.

It’s very easy as the instructor to sit at the back and judge the errors of your students in front of you. It’s slightly more difficult to divorce yourself from the insider knowledge you have as an instructor and assess realistically. In this case, the signs are subtle – but they’re there. I could certainly not state with my hand over my heart that confronted with the same situation the first time, I would have picked up on these indications. For me though, the outflow valves are definitive. The only time they’re both closed airborne is when something is wrong.

The discussion point here is the concept of assessing a system on the aircraft. With EICAS Warning/Caution/Alert messages – we are no longer used to looking at gauges and indicators and assessing the performance of a system. We are also separated from the normal operation of the aircraft by automatics and self monitoring systems and synoptics pages that were looked at during initial training, but now remain hidden away until they’re required by an unusual situation. We’ve become quite reliant on the alerting system to diagnose failures and provide clear, simple indications of what the problem is and what we have to do next.

So far most crew have missed the pressurisation problem that I programmed in concert with the door failure. Once the aircraft climbs above 10,000 ft (and the cabin above 8,000 ft) the pressurisation failure becomes clear and the crew act accordingly. For myself, serendipitously this experience has taught me to take simple checklist words such as “cabin pressurisation is normal” more carefully.

Paired Oceanic Transition Waypoints

A while ago I wrote about issues we were having with inserting an arrival and approach into LAX prior to exiting Oceanic Airspace across the Pacific. Essentially during the 500 mile run into our exit point (such as ELKEY) our FANS system would send a CPDLC report every 12 minutes or so announcing to the world that the pilots on board the aircraft had been playing with the waypoints in the FMC after the exit point. Automated alarms and queries from ATC – and we’d have to remove our carefully built arrival until we were out of Oceanic Airspace and approaching descent into LA.

After a discussion with Oakland Oceanic while on the ground in LA, I worked out that the solution was to flight plan out by the two paired oceanic points, thus denying ATC the option of sneaking a peak at our flight plan after the last Oceanic waypoint.

Well, today we tried it and it wasn’t a problem. Our exit point was ELKEY and so Nav Services planned us via EDTOO->ELKEY->KLAX. I had the arrival and approach inserted and briefed shortly after I came back from rest with nary a peep from San Francisco.

One complication is that since we use effectively a random routing of lat/lon waypoints across the Pacific, and often don’t follow any of the established airways into the Oceanic exit waypoints, the additional waypoint may add a few track miles to our route. Nav Services has reviewed our most commonly used routes and decided on a standard set of paired waypoints for the exit. We should start seeing these paired waypoints on our flight plans, solving the problem of delayed FMC preparation for the arrival into LAX.

Crew need to understand the need behind these two paired waypoints, particularly in the event of a bit of a kink over the leader waypoint prior to the exit – and not ask for a direct to the Oceanic exit.

Oceanic Arrival Transition and CPDLC Position Reporting

For the past several months I’ve been experiencing a CPDLC anomaly approaching the west coast of the US. Essentially I’ll come back from crew rest and begin preparation for the arrival into LAX. At this point the FMC will reflect the basic OFP route of:

Lat/Long -> ELKEY -> LAX

… where EKLEY is the end of the Oceanic area and LAX is of course the VOR at Los Angeles airport.

The problem comes about as I commence my customary preparation for the arrival, which includes selecting a STAR (Standard Terminal Arrival), Approach and Runway. This changes the route and sets off an alarm with Oakland Oceanic Control. An automated system advises the relevant controller that my FMC no longer matches our notified flight plan and eventually this results in a warning message to me on board the aircraft. It’s difficult negotiating/explaining the situation over a CPDLC link – and so essentially I return the FMC back to match the flight plan.

I prepared everything else I could for the arrival &