Type Rated for 2 Years
It’s now 2 years since I completed my Boeing 737 300-900 type rating at OAA, Stockholm, and the time has gone by fast! I completed and passed my LST (line skills test) on 11 August 2009. Since then I have gained almost 1500 hours of experience on type and I am aiming to unfreeze my fATPL soon. At the end of this month, it will have been 3 years since I graduated from flight school – so this month is full of anniversaries!
I had the opportunity of being a safety pilot again this week, for a new cadet. We flew to Alicante, and it was a rather blustery day, at Liverpool and Alicante! He landed on both sectors and did quite well. There wasn’t much that I had to do since the cadet was at a rather good standard already. By the time I had arrived at the crew room, he was already there and had all the paperwork ready – he was there almost an hour and 15 minutes ahead of the report time! I politely asked him if he needed any help and then read over, checked and signed the paperwork. I let the Training Captain brief the cadet, as I quietly listened, in order to give the cadet some space! The day was quite uneventful, and the cadet did quite well, and I helped out where I could with tasks such as getting the weather, helping with re-fueling supervising and walkarounds.
As much as I enjoy being a safety pilot, as it also gives me an opportunity to watch and learn, I much prefer to fly the aircraft myself! So I was glad to be back in the right-hand seat the next day, flying to Palma de Mallorca. We flew over France, which was cloudy in parts, and as soon as we crossed over the Pyrenees, it was completely clear. It was amazing to see how the mountain range forms a barrier against the clouds.
Palma’s always an interesting and busy airport and we have to be quite careful because they do sometimes sequence you in tightly behind other aircraft. Furthermore, we always include a slightly more comprehensive briefing before decent and talk about a possible side-step maneuver that ATC may impose on us without much notice, so that we are prepared in the event. A side-step maneuver is when you approach one runway and then visually maneuver to a parallel runway and land on the parallel runway. It was 26C and rather humid when we got there. We had beautiful views of Barcelona and the coastline on the way there and out of Palma. It’s a rather large city, and I managed to spot Barcelona airport from the window on my side.
Yesterday, I flew to Murcia and we landed there just before sunset. The routing took us through France and the Pyrenees again and during our descent we passed over Alicante. En route the weather was smooth and only during climb did we experience some windshear and turbulence. As we climbed above 30,000ft we gained a tailwind of around 100kts and it then stabilised around 85kts as we passed 35,000ft and then suddenly just after 37,500ft it suddenly dropped to just under 50kts. This gave the aircraft a sudden input of energy, giving us a higher than usual climb rate. We made sure to decrease the climb rate to avoid any TCAS alerts or warnings and to smooth the shear. TCAS is a traffic collision and avoidance system that we have on board the aircraft and it uses the equipment on board to look for other aircraft in the vicinity and alert us if we are too close to them or on a collision course. It gives us alerts, warnings and guidance on how to maneuver the aircraft in the event of an imminent collision. High climb rates can sometimes set the system off, since in RVSM airspace, the vertical separation between aircraft may only be 1000ft. We had initially requested 39,000ft for our cruise altitude, however after considering the drop in the tailwind, we elected to go back down to 37,000ft to take advantage of the higher tailwind, giving us a more economical fuel burn.
The weather in Murcia was fantastic, so we chose to fly a visual approach. Once the airfield was in sight, we took a turn to take us downwind of Runway 05R, partly over the sea and then turned back in towards the runway once we were configured and had slowed down. It was a lovely day to do a visual, and I really enjoyed it.