Monday, January 28, 2008

Cleared to Solo

I’m a bit behind. Here’s the catch-up. I flew a 4-day IOE trip with a Brit named Rory Kay, a very fine gentleman. IOE means Initial Operating Experience. Rory is an LCA, or Line Check Airman. His job was to fly as my first officer (co-pilot) for the first three days, honing my knowledge of the 767/757 and polishing me up for the fourth day, which was a checkride.

Rory proved to be an outstanding instructor as well as an affable travel companion. We made friends immediately, but that didn’t hold him back from giving me the constructive criticism I needed. He was very patient in correcting my “Guppyisms.” Those are habits carried over from the 737 that are not applicable to the bigger jets. He flew the first leg from Dulles to Chicago and that was a 767. I flew the second leg, a 757 to Kansas City. I had been warned that the 767, the much bigger jet, handles like a fighter, meaning it is very light and touchy on the controls because it has four ailerons instead of the usual two. That gave me a false expectation that the 757 was heavy on the controls. I found that, compared to the 737, the 757 is very light and nimble. 

Only on the last day was I to get a crack at flying the 67. It handled exactly as they said. What a great performer! Very powerful engines, too. I found the landings on both the 757 and 767 to be easy and was amazed at how quickly those big engines stop you in reverse thrust. Brakes are hardly needed except at heavy weights.

The trip included overnights at Kansas City, Boston, and San Francisco (SFO). In SFO we enjoyed an evening at an Irish Pub down the street from the hotel and I listened to Rory’s bloody fine British humor and great stories about his experience in the 757/767 fleet.

Our last day, the checkride, was supposed to be a 767 leg from SFO to Dulles, but it didn’t materialize. Rory called me and told me to sleep in. Our plane, which had been scheduled to come up from Sao Paulo, Brazil that evening, had made an emergency landing with an overheated engine and a passenger riot. Yes, you read that right—a riot.

Because our trip was a top priority (the company wanted me to get qualified so they can put me to use) Rory had authority to commandeer any 767/757 flight he wanted. He found one going to Chicago on a 757 and the other from there to Dulles on a 67. He wanted me to get my final check on the 67. Of course the pilots on those two flights were delighted because, being “displaced,” they got to go home with pay.

After a perfect 757 landing in Chicago, Rory said, “Hell, I’m signing you off now. Just don’t screw up the last leg and make me do all this paperwork over again!” So, I flew the last leg as a fully qualified 767 captain, even though that was my first time at the controls of a 767. Cool beans, huh?

And so, you’re wondering about the riot on the plane I was supposed to fly but got cancelled. Well, I’m giving you a link to a video site called LiveLeak where you can view the ugly incident yourself. Someone got it on tape and posted it. It was initially on YouTube but got pulled, so it may not be on.

This video does not reflect well on United Airlines, but keep in mind that the crew landed that plane without hurting a single person. The people got mad, but people tend to take air transportation for granted, believing that a trouble free flight is a guaranteed birthright. Little do they realize the complexity involved in getting their soft butts half way around the earth in a few hours safely and at an affordable price.

Anyway, here’s the link. You’ll notice the fire department wetting down the hot brakes. The plane landed at an extremely heavy weight.

Check out this cool pick of wake vortices behind a landing 767.

The Heart of the Matter?