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Old 1st Mar 2011, 17:08
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Join Date: Mar 2011
Location: Gabba
Age: 38
Posts: 9
SO Guide. Part 3. Taxi, cruise and landing

Taxi, Takeoff and Climb

If you’re sitting in the middle seat, it’s expected that you open the Jepps and follow what is going on via a third set of charts. This, of course, would require you to actually know what departure they’re going to fly and what speeds have been briefed. Unfortunately, you were probably tucking in the sheets on the Captains bunk during that part of the briefing. But normally, reclining in the seat behind the captain, just try to keep your eyes open while reminding yourself why you’re even there in the first place.

The last task which may be assigned to you prior to takeoff will be obtaining a new RTOW if any significant weather changes have occurred since they entered the takeoff data at the gate. Now you’ve got to mobilize yourself from complete apathy to vigorous engagement in a matter of seconds, finding the latest ATIS, remembering how the ACARS actually works, and re-enter the data which you haven’t entered since, well - Never. Because the change was not given until just before takeoff, we don’t have a lot of time and the RQ FO steps in to save the day. New thrust figures are subsequently derived, the V speeds fall out and are rapidly reentered, and seconds later the jet rumbles down the runway. As the centerline lights turn from white to alternating reds the aircraft is rotated and the sandwich tray you’ve heroically been trying to finish launches off the back of the desk and hits the wall in a loud crash, while the padding for the escape hatch (744) falls to the floor resulting in a significant rise in cockpit noise during the critical phase of flight. At this point, shrug your shoulders to the RQ and hope that the skipper didn’t have a(nother) heart-attack.

After the takeoff has been completed, it’s not unusual to hear the DEFO ask for flaps up during a turn while accelerating through the clean speed. As a result, expect either strong buffeting or a strong reprimand. The latter is more enjoyable, rest assured.

Once clean (and out of the buffet), ask for the clipboard and start doing the arithmetic of modern aviation. After you’ve added together all the individual leg segments to the departure time, you should be presented with an expected arrival time. Once complete, you’re once again free to relax and enjoy the tranquility of the modern flight deck.


At top of climb, you either hit the bunk or climb into the seat for the next X monotonous hours. Once you’re in the seat, you’ll probably be performing the function of PM as you’re getting the worst rest (SO, remember?), and with the captain taking the good rest the only guy left for you to fly with is the poor guy who’s been nominated as RQ. He can only perform RQ from the right, and since you’re not allowed to “fly” the aircraft from the left the only possible outcome entails you doing all the paperwork, radio work, and staying-awake work. Touching the heading bug or pressing the "level change" button is years beyond your qualification level, even though the guy sitting next to you (who only joined about 6 months ago) is "relief command qualified" and should theoretically be capable of protecting you from your own incapable self.

Once you’ve got the seat and pedals adjusted, it’s time to start the paperwork. But not before missing a radio call because you can’t find the microphone since you’ve never actually been in the seat without a headset on. Even if you did, you still don't have a clue as to what the Chinese controller is saying. But not to worry, most don't. Reply “Roger. Maintain FL[XXX]m, report [next FIR border waypoint], estimating [FIR border waypoint] at [xxxx]. That should safely get you through most of China, Mongolia and Russia.

Now, start the paperwork by doing a fuel check, noting the difference between the totalizer/calculated totals and the expected total on the CFP for a certain waypoint. Note the difference on the CFP, and compare this figure to the takeoff fuel. Once every hour, you’ll do a new one. It might be a good idea to mark these off on the CFP so that you don’t forget amongst all the other important things you’ll be doing, but we're confident you'll figure that out all by yourself.

When you’ve managed to ascertain that we’re not going to run out of fuel just yet, it’s time to “put the steps in.” By itself, the FMC will calculate the optimum FL based on the aircrafts current weight and speed, and subsequently display this figure on the VNAV cruise page. However, the “optimum” flight levels stipulated on the CFP are based on aircraft weight, aircraft speed and forecasted winds along the routes. It may not always be smart to step up into a 50kt headwind to save a few kilograms of fuel due to weight. Therefore, you must manually enter the steps as found in the CFP into the FMC. This should update your arrival time to a more correct figure, which is further improved once you’ve entered the expected STAR and approach into the FMC. When the ISM calls up and asks you for the expected arrival time, you’ll hopefully have finished this and be able to provide her with an accurate ETA. Keep in mind that the service schedule onboard is built backwards from the arrival time; screw this up and you’ll be drinking coffee sweetened with saliva and cyanide.

With the initial fuel check being completed, the steps entered and the expected arrival set up, you’re now looking forward to several hours of complete and utter boredom. You are, as a matter of historical tradition, expected to know where the hell you are, for which the Jeppesen enroute charts do wonders. If you ever actually manage to locate yourself on one, get a highlighter and mark the spot, because the chances of doing that twice are next to none. Your best bet for maintaining situational awareness is to print the maps off the route briefing pages on IntraCX, and keep track of the airports listed in the NOTAM list as you progress. Along with the magnitude of information available to you in the AERADs, this should be plenty to keep yourself oriented as you cross Continents and Oceans.

Apart from updating the CFP, there is really nothing else to do. Your trusty RQ will fly the aircraft single-pilot, get all the weather, and make any decisions which may or may not need deciding. You are truly being groomed for the responsibilities that lie ahead. With nobody expecting anything from you, there is no need to deliver.

About halfway through the flight, wake the guys up and creep into a nice, warm bunk.

Descent and Landing

Expect to be awoken from the bunk either by someone shaking your foot at TOD or by your own eardrums popping as the cabin equalizes during the final descent. Exiting the soothing comfort of the dark bunk, you’ll stumble down the stairs into bright daylight still wearing your pyjamas and earplugs. The guys are all wearing sunglasses and configuring for landing as you notice the toiletries have been removed from the bathroom and you can’t find your toothbrush. So you put on your uniform, run water through your face and pop a piece of gum before taking your seat and strapping yourself in as we descend on the glideslope and drop the landing gear. You’ve probably never been to the airport before at this stage, but what does it matter? After touchdown the airplane makes its way off the runway and taxis among all the other jumbos on its way to the gate. You’re still wondering where we are as the aircraft docks and the PF cuts the engines and turns off the seatbelts. Time to work.

“Pass the Charts, Gentlement” is your statement at this stage. Taking over the charts and the mini-jepp, you meticulously place them back in the binder in numerical order, making the extra effort not to put them back into the departure airport. You then unlock the cockpit door before removing all the garbage, magazines, newspapers and water bottles and placing them outside the cockpit. Retrieving your jacket and hat, you exit the cockpit and comb the upper deck for earplugs, toothbrushes and socks to take home as presents for your girlfriend. Once the real pilots have shut down and secured the aircraft, everyonel exits the aircraft in an orderly fashion, making sure to thank all the girls you can’t remember the names of.

Now, get on the bus, check into the hotel and get some sleep, watch some porno and drink plenty of beer before doing it all over again on the way home.

Do this for 4 years straight and you just might become suitable to move into a window seat.
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