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A Day in the Life of an Airline Captain
by Rand K Peck
|ALL PHOTOS BY RAND K PECK|
0600 - Hutch and I leaving the LAX Airport Hilton.
On an early Monday morning FO Tom Hutchinson and I showed up for an 0600 van to Los Angeles International Airport (LAX). We were assigned to fly to Minneapolis/St Paul (MSP) then continue to New York-LaGuardia (LGA) for a long downtown layover. Coast-to-coast with lunch in Minneapolis after spending the previous day on Venice Beach—that was interesting. We drove past familiar historic landmarks, the Theme Building (Airways, August 2006) and LAX Tower, arriving at the airplane at 0615 to meet our friendly LAX-based flight attendants.
By 0630 we were down in Flight Ops, looking over our paperwork and checking our dispatchers’ work. As usual, it was perfectly done and required no intervention on our part, just my signature. I went back upstairs to the Boeing 757 while Hutch completed his walk-around inspection and made some new friends on the ramp (he makes new friends wherever he goes).
|0645 - Preflight checks, load computer. LAX-MSP: 1,363nm, flight time 2:59, |
T/O Wt 238,000#, fuel 41,100#, destination alternate RST, Flight level 350,
LOOP 4 departure, SKETR 3 arrival.
At 0645, with my first cup of coffee of the day (Hutch was way ahead of me), we pre-flighted the cockpit and loaded the computers. Let’s see: LAX-MSP, 1,363 nautical miles (2,524km); flight time 2hr 59min; 41,100lb (18,650kg) of fuel; cruise at 35,000 feet; T/O weight 238,000lb (107,955kg); LOOP 4 SID, SKETR 3 STAR; alternate airport KRST (Rochester International); cruise and descent winds entered. Plenty of oil, oxygen, and hydraulic fluid, now brief the flight attendants. That should about do it, “Preflight Checklist.” At 0650 the agent checks to coordinate for boarding and at 0720, right on schedule… “Hutch, get us a pushback clearance.”
|0650 - Agent checks to coordinate boarding. |
|0720 - Pushback and wave goodbye to ground crew.|
0725: Pushback complete, engines running. “Before Taxi Check complete, Hutch get us a taxi clearance.” Follow Southwest to Runway 24L. 0730: earlier than we’d anticipated, we’re climbing off 24L on the LOOP 4, Daggett transition awaiting a left turn direct to the LAX VORTAC. It’s a beautiful morning out here, the ride is smooth, the coffee is good, but the weather starts to deteriorate as we fly east at Mach .080.
|0725 - Follow SWA to runway 24L.|
|0730 - Depart 24L, LOOP 4 departure.|
|1210 - Made a few modifications to flight plan, wind not as strong as forecasted: 3hr 00min en route, fuel burn on schedule.|
At 1210 we’ve descended on the SKETR 3 and are being vectored for an ILS to Runway 30R. The weather is 500ft overcast, 1 mile (1,600m) in snow, and the engine and wing anti-ice are on. Hutch is flying and calls for the flaps and gear as airspeed and position dictate. “Two hundred to touchdown” I call out. “One hundred to touchdown” soon follows and Hutch skillfully lands our 757, monitors the autobrakes, and spoilers and pulls the two Pratt & Whitney PW2037 fans into reverse. “Flaps up, after landing check,” is my call, as we clear the runway and pull into gate F-12 at precisely 1230, many minutes early. Just another on time arrival, as I wonder who flies all the late ones.
|1230 - Arrive MSP, ILS 30R. Weather 500 overcast, 1 mile, snow.|
|1250 - No more crew meals, so off to Starbucks for coffee and a sandwich.||1320 - Quick check of the news, note the WSJ! |
We don’t have a lot of time, nor do we enjoy crew meals any longer (Airways, April 2006), so we pack up, grab our bags and dash off to Starbucks at 1250 for a sandwich and MORE coffee. The staff at Starbucks is now Hutch’s new best friends. We hustle halfway across the airport to the next airplane at 1320 to eat and read the paper. Well, kind of. At 1415 the agents re-board the airplane, add some of that incredibly expensive fuel that we didn’t purchase futures contracts for, and then hang out our windows to clean our own windshields. We’ve furloughed so many employees, there just aren’t enough people left to get things done. I can see the workman’s comp claim as I fall out and ‘splat’ onto the tarmac.
At 1430 Hutch is gazing out of his window. I jokingly tell him he won’t see New York, reminding him that we have a FMS (Flight Management System). A few more checklists to verify such things as these instruments and then it’s off to wait in line for departure from Runway 12R. I enjoy taxiing the airplane, however, and watching others land. At 1440 we’re airborne into a dismal gray sky, cleared direct to DELLS—somewhere in Wisconsin—and climb up above the weather for a nice ride to the East Coast. The aroma from first class dinners wafts into the cockpit, but alas… not for us.
|1440 - Takeoff for LGA, runway 12R. |
|En route above the weather. Well, most of it.|
1743: we’ve descended to 10,000 feet, slowed to 250 knots and turned left over the Veranzanno Narrows Bridge. This is my favorite segment of today’s flying. Before me lies New York Harbor, bursting with activity, Manhattan, the Hudson and East Rivers, the Brooklyn Bridge, the Statue of Liberty, Ellis Island, the Empire State Building, Yankee Stadium, museums, including the USS Intrepid and Concorde at Pier 86, great book stores, bagels, and NY-style pizza. And I’m a Bostonian! We fly low and slow up the East River, configuring as we go along for a straight in visual to Runway 4R. The view of upper Manhattan to my left is spectacular, as we pass over Grand Central Parkway, abeam of the historic Marine Air Terminal, and land at 1755.
| ||1755 - Fly over the Verrenzano Narrows Bridge, up the East River, past Manhatten and land on Runway 4 at LGA. I love arriving in NY, it's so interesting. |
Ground control, with a pronounced NY accent, clears us off Runway 4, via Golf, Alpha, and Zulu taxiways to our terminal. I love flying here; the ATC guys do a great job under a lot of pressure, surrounded by JFK, Teterboro, and Newark airports.
|1757 - Taxi via taxiway Alpha to the terminal building. LGA Flight Ops has everything under control. |
At exactly 1800, yet early again, we shut the engines down, receive a chock signal, release the brakes, and pack up our gear. At 1810, Hutch and I are out the door heading for Madison and 46th for a long NY layover.
Tomorrow evening, after exploring New York City, we return to LAX and do it all over again. I know that there are other ways to make a living, but what could be more fun than flying a jet airliner?
|1810 - Leave the jet and head for the hotel. Rest up for a day then do it all over again.|
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