Month: June 2010

Flying through orange clouds…!

We’ve had some great weather the last couple of weeks, and I hope it continues!  It’s given me nice views of UK as I’ve been flying South towards my destinations during the day, which other than recently is often shrouded by clouds.  The sunsets have been amazing, with different colours in different layers of cloud and levels of the atmosphere.  Many times the views have resembled surreal paintings.

The Southern coast of England and the Isle of Wight in view.

Coming into Malaga was amazing as usual, and the sun was setting just as we were about to leave for UK. Malaga is the new Ryanair base, which opened just a few days ago.  A friend of mine was greeted by a welcome party with full festivities, musical instruments and the press on the day it opened – which was to their surprise, as they didn’t expect it!  As we were taxying towards the runway, we passed the 4 aircraft that are now based in Malaga parked on the stand.  Quite a few new bases have opened since I’ve joined, and the newest one is Barcelona El Prat – now we have 3 airports serving the Barcelona area.

The aircraft parked at the gate with the sun setting behind us.

I did my first SRA this week when returning from Palma –  to aid in controller training.  We were happy to do this, as we fully briefed it and we were fully visual as well, without a cloud in sight! A SRA (surveillance radar approach) is where the controller gives us headings, tells us when to start descending to the MDA (minimum descent altitude) and gives us advice on what altitude we should be at certain points of the approach.  I think if I were to do this in IMC conditions, I would be a little nervous as I’m putting faith into the controller whilst I am quite close to the ground on headings to steer and when to descend! Palma was unusually quiet again, and luckily we had no slots to delay us this time!  The views coming in are amazing, as we got closer, the cliffs and mountains on the northern side of the island began to materialise.  Once we passed them, we were given a right turn for a straight in ILS approach onto 24L – one of the westerly facing runways.  The view on departure is also amazing – we can see the resorts, the beautiful blue/turquoise lagoons and beaches….!

Sunset over the Alps.

The next day, we set off for Bergamo and we began descent just as the sun was setting over the Alps. Needless to say, but the view was just magical!  The clouds turned bright orange & pink and almost looked as if they were on fire.  I have never gone through an orange cloud before then!

About to go through an orange cloud as the sun sets over the Alps.

I’ve got another busy week next week involving destinations in Ireland, Northern Ireland, Poland & Portugal.

Visual Approach

The weather has been fantastic lately, and that brings on the opportunity of visual approaches.  This is an approach that is done with visual reference to the ground, keeping the runway and traffic in the vicinity, in sight.  I did my first one in Liverpool yesterday.  We flew downwind of RW27 and then turned onto a base leg and finally over the Runcorn Bridge for final.  Visuals are much more fun and save a bit of time, as we don’t have to go for a longer final that ATC may give you on an ILS.

My roster this month is quite busy, with only one standby.  This week I’ll be flying to Poznan (Poland), Malaga (Spain), Palma and Bergamo (Italy), Dublin & Cork.  I’m flying to Poland later on today – and I just read in the news that they will be holding their first polls since the air crash that killed the President Lech Kaczynski and other officials.

Safety Course & Cygnets

I was rostered to go on a safety course this week.  This is a refresher course that’s done once a year and it was similar to the initial one that I did just before my type rating commenced.  The day involves various presentations on security, safety and CRM topics.  We also had to hand in a SEP (security & emergency procedures) questionnaire that was done in are own time, which tested and refreshed are knowledge on topics such as what to do in the case of a rejected take off.  We worked in groups with cabin crew – they explained and demonstrated the use of various safety equipment in the cabin and where they are located, whilst we did the same for the equipment in the flight deck.  An aircraft visit allowed us to practice opening & closing the over-wing emergency exits, arming/disarming aircraft slides and opening/closing the doors and having a good wander around to familiarise ourselves with the location of the safety & emergency equipment.  The day was quite long and tiring, exacerbated by slot times delaying some incoming crew and finding a spare aircraft to have a nose around in!  I had a day to rest between the safety course and my flying duties, so it wasn’t any bother.

Another shot of the Alps - I never get tired at marvelling at such a wonderful sight.

I flew to Rome Ciampino, Nimes, Carcassone and Seville.  Some of the flights were delayed resulting from slot times due to a go-slow by French/Spanish controllers.  Nonetheless, we managed to arrive on time at our destinations thanks to favourable winds or accommodating controllers along the route.  Flying to Nimes & Carcassonne was a long 4 sector day, and the approach to Carcassonne involved a circle-to-land on RW28 which is only around 1900m in length and has a 4 degree glide path.  On my birthday, I flew to Seville, which was a real treat, as it’s an area where I did my ATPL training.  Whilst we were there, we saw a couple of Seneca aircraft practicing their circuits and I recognised the callsign of one of my instructors.  I’ve flown to Seville twice before – once on the jumpseat and once as pilot monitoring, and this was the first time as pilot flying.  The last time I came into land on RW27 was in a Seneca, so I felt quite nostalgic again as we were coming in to land!

A line of textbook CBs!

500 Hours on Type

I flew to Ibiza, Alicante, Murcia, Treviso (Venice) and Palma this week.  I’ve not visited Alicante for a while – at least not during daylight, so it was great experiencing the gorgeous views again .  I love the views coming into the Canaries and Malaga also, they’re amongst my favourites.  Flying over the Alps and Pyrenees always give fantastic views on clear days as well.

A blanket of cloud partially covering the mountain range.

It was my first time visiting Palma, which is an Island just off the coast of Spain, between Barcelona and Valencia.  It has a rather large airport with parallel runways and though it should be a busy time of the year with plentiful charter flights, the Captain remarked that it was unusually quiet.  Visiting Palma reminded me of my first few times in Dublin – feeling unfamiliar with the more complicated taxi routing and sifting through various arrivals and approaches to get to the relevant ones.  The Captain had visited Palma before, so he was able to save me time in the brief. I think it’s easy to overlook the notion that the Captain is also a resource and it’s good to ask for help when you need it – especially when you’re unfamiliar with a destination. Don’t be afraid to ask the Captain or any other part of the crew for help!  I learnt this lesson during line training when I spent a good deal of time wading through information and charts, all the while confusing myself, when I could have just asked the Captain for some guidance and saved time. We work in a team after all!

Flying to the moon - enjoying a "moon rise"

I love flying in the Summer – it does bring some amazing views due to the extended hours of daylight.  I haven’t seen a sunrise from the air recently, as it’s already light outside by the time I set off for work on the early shift (around 4am), if not then definitely by the time we’re pushing back from stand.  However, the sunsets are beautiful and whilst flying North, we can see that a part of the sky stays alight, and would do all night around this time of the year – almost as if the sun is clinging on just below the horizon.

Sunset at 37,000ft

I reached exactly 500 hours on type on 1st June. A year ago, I was packing my belongings, ready to move to the training centre to begin my type rating. The year before than in June 2008, I was busy preparing for my CPL & IR flight tests at FTE. In June 2007, I was getting ready to move to Spain for a 14 month, integrated flight training course without an idea that I would be flying a 737-800 for one of the largest airlines in Europe today.