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Flight Report: What We Up Front Are Thinking And Doing While Our Passengers Are Thinking: "What Are THEY Thinking up front"?

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It is day two of a three-day trip. We are on our fourth and last flight of the day en route from Chicago Midway (MDW) to Long Island MacArthur (ISP). Weather observations for ISP are good, and the forecast is also fine. My partner, Bernie, and I are talking about what dinner options the hotel in Islip offers as he pulls up the ISP weather. Big surprise! The visibility has gone down as unforecast fog rolled in and the field is now below minimums. In other words, the visibility is below what we as Pilots need to legally start an instrument approach. I advise my passengers of the issue and tell them we have plenty of gas to go to our alternate of Providence, but we are in discussion with Mother (Southwest Dispatch) about whether that will be our actual course of action.

As the passengers look outside, the last faint red glow of the setting sun is lighting up clouds to the south of us over New Jersey. Our "good weather"? alternate is Providence (PVD), but the prospect of stranding 110 people in a city which has no direct service to ISP is not looking like the best option, so I call Mother. The discussion goes kind of like this: Pilot: "ISP is below minimums. Any forecasts for it to come up or is this a showstopper for the rest of the night?" Dispatch: "No new forecasts now." (Since ISP isn’t equipped with a CAT III–more on this later–approach, one option has been eliminated.) Dispatch: "I think we will change your alternate to Baltimore/Washington (BWI). Let me run your fuel usage real quick." (After two or three minutes) Dispatch: "Your new destination is now BWI with an alternate of Dulles (IAD). Proceed." Pilot: "Roger, talk to you in BWI."

While I am talking to Mother, I give control of the plane to Bernie. Bernie is trying to work out a deal with Air Traffic Control (ATC) because we are quickly moving into New York airspace, pushed by a 90-mph tailwind. He slows to a crawl (in the air), while I work with Dispatch to figure out where we are going. We want to stay as high as possible to use the least amount of fuel because we don’t want to waste any that we’ll need for our divert to BWI. Once cleared by Dispatch, I signal by pointing across the dash with a thumbs up and saying the single word "Baltimore"?, Bernie confirms with ATC that we are now going to BWI, and ATC reads Bernie the routing we will fly from just south of Albany to BWI.

Once confirmed, Bernie types this routing into the navigation computer and gets the plane pointed that direction. I do some quick doodling to ensure the gas numbers are correct for the divert, plus the alternate, and they seem adequate.

Once back, Bernie gives me back the plane and sets about verifying the fuel numbers I have "wagged" in my head by using the navigation computer data and the Onboard Performance Computer. We engage "Otto," the autopilot and are finally on our way via the assigned routing. New York City is sliding by my window, and all I can see is the lights of the city under the low clouds of the fog. It is now almost completely dark. Once again, we have to resume descent and approach planning for a new city. We have to get the weather for BWI and figure landing data for the runway in use. While Bernie is crunching numbers in the computer after getting the BWI weather, I notice a city floating by my window. "Hmmmm…"? I think. "That place looks familiar?"? I look at the navigation screen moving map and the city I cannot quite name turns out to be Philadelphia. Half of it is being gobbled up by the fog monster that earlier ate Islip.

About that time, Bernie tosses the newly scribbled weather for BWI on the console and the news is not good: The Fog Monster is about to devour BWI as well. In fact, it is now below landing minimums for all but the most precise of instrument approaches, the nifty CAT III we wished ISP had had available earlier. Bernie finishes his landing data, and we brief the CAT III approach to Runway 10 at BWI. This approach is hand flown by the Captain by looking through the Heads Up Display (HUD). Unlike a regular ILS (Instrument Landing System) approach that takes you down to 200 feet above the ground before you make a decision to land, this approach allows us to fly to only 50 feet before making the decision to land or go-around. Fifty feet is less than half the length of a 737. This land/go around decision is made based on whether we can see the runway environment or not. We hope we will land out of this approach to BWI because if we can’t, we will have just enough gas to divert to Dulles and land with our desired cushion of "extra gas"? required by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). Knowing gas is now a concern, I text message Dispatch that we are a one-trick pony. One shot at BWI, and we must head to Dulles.

About then, I get a call from the Flight Attendants and the senior advises me that the people want to go to Dulles so they can ride the train to NYC and then out to ISP. I tell her to thank the passengers for their thoughtful input but the plan is BWI. (Later, we learn several aircraft have diverted into Dulles, and with only two gates, we might have been presented with a wait of an hour or more just to get to the gate and deplane the passengers. BWI proves to have been the better choice.)

The weather broadcast by the automatic weather reporting machines at each airport presents just a snapshot of the weather, usually taken just before the top of the hour. Mother Nature can change things quickly so, if necessary, the broadcast is changed to better reflect the latest weather observed at the airport. The very latest visibility, the key to being able to start an instrument approach, is handed off from the Tower to the Approach Controllers who then pass that information on to the Pilots who make the ultimate decision on whether the landing is allowed based on a myriad of factors such as approach minimums for the aircraft type, crew certification, runway conditions and the like. Most runways at large airports have a device, which precisely measures the runway visual range (RVR) at the runway surface and that machine is called the RVR "transmissiometer."? It provides an RVR number which represents the distance a Pilot can expect to accurately see a runway light. (Notice I didn’t say the "runway"? but rather a runway "light."?) A Cat III certified runway requires three of these machines, spaced along the runway edge, accurately operating above minimum values before we can land. In the case of RWY 10, we need "7-7-reporting"? or better to land. Each reported value represents visibility in hundreds of feet and in the last number, the roll-out portion of the runway is merely an advisory number. When we check in on final approach frequency we are advised the RVR is now 7-8-6. The visibility is about as low as we can go and be legal to start the approach.

In only a couple of minutes, we are vectored onto the beam of energy that represents an extension of the runway centerline. Another beam representing the angle we need to fly to safely reach the end of the runway tells us when to start down. Once safely on these beams, Approach sends us to Tower, and we are on our own flying instruments in search of the runway that we know is somewhere out there, coming at us out of the fog at 130 mph. As the Captain, I hand fly the plane watching guidance cues displayed on my HUD and nothing else. I am focused on this piece of glass a foot in front of my nose and the instrument data it portrays. Once on both beams (localizer and glideslope), I have Bernie select AIII mode which takes the sensitivity of my guidance information to a new and higher level. This mode directs me to maneuver the plane with extreme precision both laterally in relation to the runway and up and down in relation to the three-degree glideslope. Get even a tiny bit out of tolerance with either position or speed and Bernie will see a bright red light illuminate telling him we have to execute a go-around. If I don’t immediately respond, Bernie will push my hands off the throttles and take the aircraft and execute a swift go-around. At 50 feet and 130 mph there is no time to chat. At 1,000 feet above the ground I make my last routine call: "1,000 feet, airspeed 130, sink rate 700."? The next comment Bernie will hear from me will be 950 feet lower, indicating we are "LANDING"? or he will hear me calling out my go-around decision with "GO AROUND THRUST."?

For the next minute, I fly and Bernie calls off the altitude, starting at 500 feet above the ground. "500…"? "400…"? "300…"? "200…"? "Approaching minimums…."? I see the burgeoning whiteness of the approach lights appear before me through the HUD, where before there was only darkness. The lights used on a CAT III runway are actually in the surface of the runway so at 50 feet, the lights I see are actually the runway before me. "LANDING."? I unmistakably declare my intentions to Bernie.

Still unable to see detail of the runway ahead, I continue my descent based on runway location and guidance cues in the HUD and the lights I see through the clear glass of the HUD. "MINIMUMS,"? Bernie announces. This whole approach, he has maintained a watch over the instruments before him and has served as "Quality Control Officer"? for my performance thus far. If anything looked suspect, Bernie was charged with taking the airplane and going around.

With my "LANDING"? call, he is now absolved of any possible flying duties because I have indicated my decision to land with the runway in sight. He remains on instruments never looking outside, just in case he has to take over, and continues with his call-outs… "30…"? "10…"? We touch down amid a dizzying array of runway lights. I can now see the actual runway itself and make out details like pavement lines and runway stripes. The visibility on the runway is as the RVR portrays, about 7-800 feet.

We exit the runway and the fun begins. As challenging as the approach is, at least you have guidance. On the taxiways, you have a map and a few signs but that is it. We slowly taxi to our gate checking and double-checking our location along the way and shutdown at Gate A-8. As the adrenaline in my body winds down along with our engines, I remember there are 100 people in back who are just starting their adventure. I call for Customer Service personnel and am advised that about eight planes preceded us in their diversions to Baltimore and Customer Service Employees will arrive and brief the passengers as soon as possible.

The faces of the passenger who look at me as I open the cockpit door are distant and forlorn. Some are grimly chatting on cell phones as they exit. The majority of the few who look at me tell me by facial expression that I have failed in getting them to their destination. A couple passengers thank me, knowing it was not my decision to fog-in the northeastern seaboard. I feel for them all. As mundane and routine as modern air travel has become, Mother Nature still rules the skies. They will all make it home the next day, safe and sound, after an unplanned overnight in Baltimore.

42 Comments
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Captain Stark, thanks for creating such a brilliantly detailed description of what happens up there and the intensity of the situation.
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What prevented you from landing at JFK, LGA, HPN, EWR, PHL, or BDL? It seems like BWI was a long way to go.
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Thanks for opening a window into what goes on in the cockpit when there is "interesting" weather. It deepens my already high respect for the women and men who must make these decisions every day that they work.
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Captain Stark, that narrative was worthy of Ernest Gann, and I felt like I was in the cockpit next to you and Bernie. Thanks for sharing what goes on behind the closed door. Brian
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Best post this year:) Soon you'll be backing up Les Abend.
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I wanted to try to answer Chris, as I was on another flight in the exact same situation. Your first four choices, all NY area airports, don't have SWA service, personnel, or equipment. We simply don't have the ability to go there, unless it was an emergency, and although Customers may feel it so, weather isn't an emergency. ;-) The second part of the decision making process is "how do we accommodate our Customers when the weather lifts??" This is why PHL and BDL are out. They don't have scheduled service to ISP, so we'd end up stranding people in those airports, or flying them thru BWI, just to get them home to ISP. If it makes any difference, this is where SWA People really have to be up to the challenge, and we aren't always. We would ALWAYS rather take you where you want to go. Please know I worked my tail off trying to do the best for my flight and, based on the narrative, Ray certainly did, as well. Will Browne MDW F/A
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Absolutely fascinating blog post. Thank you for yet another peek behind the curtains!
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I was just curious...sometimes we tend to pass monuments or interesting sights...why doesn't the pilot mention those kinds of things more often?
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By the way, for those of you who don't know, Les Abend is an editor with Flying magazine.
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Kirk: I think the lack of landmark announcements is partly due to the fact that some people get annoyed by pilot announcements (and flight attendant humor). Their grumpiness has a chilling effect in my opinion.
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Captain Stark, Wow! What a brilliantly written piece! You should consider writing a book! 🙂 (I'm teasing, as I am currently working on reading one of my Christmas presents from my "wish list", a book entitled, "This is Your Captain Speaking", which is by an author with a name surprisingly similar to yours) Seriously, there are a lot of people who are very experienced and highly qualified in their field, but who cannot translate a technical job into readable English for us laymen. You do a masterful job of taking a highly technical profession and presenting it in a way that folks can understand. I've had a fair amount of exposure and education about the things that you've described above, but I really like the way you've explained them. Although it was on a much smaller scale, I had a similar experience to what you described above a few years ago on our own company plane. I was sitting in the third ("observation/FA") seat of our Falcon 50 with a few customers in the cabin enroute to an airport in Missouri to pick up five more passengers when our pilot did another check of the weather at our planned destination. He had told me when he picked me up in Dallas that things were not looking good for that part of Missouri (January snow storms are common) and that he would be monitoring the conditions more closely than usual. Sure enough, we were about 30 - 40 minutes out when the minimums at the airport disappeared and he announced that we could not safely land there. I watched and helped in the process between him and our co-pilot as an alternate airport was selected from our available options outside the range of the snow storm. In that particular case, fuel was not an issue, but we had the opposite problem that you had. You were carrying a bunch of passengers that weren't going to get to their planned destination. On that day, we had passengers waiting at an FBO at a small airport that we had to then contact and have them drive somewhere to meet us! As the senior management person onboard, I had to make the decision of where and how far we would ask our waiting passengers to drive and into what kind of weather conditions I would be directing them. Just because we could land somewhere didn't mean they'd have clear roads to drive to reach that place. After some deliberation of runway lengths, weather, distance and FBO facilities, we made our choice and called the waiting passengers. We wound up landing in about 15 minutes and then waiting almost 90 minutes for them to arrive, but everyone was safe and our trip continued after the detour and delay. So, I have a good appreciation of some of what you've talked about above and beyond the awareness that a "typical" passenger might who has never been on the other side of that cockpit door. And by the way, I'm one of those passengers who ALWAYS sticks his head in the cockpit at the end of the flight to thank the two well-trained professionals who have safely taken me from point A to point B, regardless of whether I originally wanted to go to that particular point B or not! Thanks so much! Kim 🙂
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Kirk, In answer to your question, I think that often pilots are pretty busy and don't spend as much time sightseeing as us passengers do. While we don't have much to do other than read the magazines, pester the FAs for more drinks or look out the window, the pilots are busy discussing their dinner options. (sorry, Captain Stark, I couldn't resist that one) Seriously, Drew is correct in that a surprisingly large number of people don't want to hear announcements because they are sleeping or just aren't interested. I, on the other hand, am fascinated by the scenery and enjoy picking out cities and landmarks that I recognize from the air. A fun book that you might like is one called "Window Seat" ( http://www.amazon.com/Window-Seat-Reading-Landscape-Air/dp/B00080W3H0/sr=1-3/qid=1167932931/ref=sr_1_3/104-6163979-8635924?ie=UTF8&s=books ). One of the wonderful features of my company's corporate jet is a computer program displayed on a couple of TV screens in our cabin that tell you which cities you are approaching and their distance relative to the plane along with current conditions such as airspeed, altitude, outside temperature and time to landing. I love studying cities from the air! As a humorous aside, I was on a Southwest flight one time that was heading across the area that included the Grand Canyon. The pilot made this announcement: "For those of you on the left side of the plane, if you'll lean over and look out the windows in about thirty seconds, you'll have a wonderful view of the Grand Canyon." After a brief pause, he then made a second announcement: "For those of you on the right side of the plane, if you'll look to your left, you'll see the rear ends of your fellow passengers." :-) Although it was funny, it does point out a disadvantage of the pilot identifying landmarks. In most cases, only half of the folks onboard will get to see the item and the other half may wind up being frustrated. If you're a serious observer, take a road map with you and calculate distance by the time traveled. If the pilot tells you before take-off that it will be a 58-minute flight to...then you can figure that you're halfway there around 29 - 30 minutes into the trip. Of course, planes don't fly a straight line between cities, but if you can start out by tracking an interstate highway out the window and following that on your map, it will give you a sense of what you're over. Happy flying! Kim
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Wow, Captain Stark! As I read this, I was right there with you, sitting on the edge of my seat. It's good to hear the other side (the hard-working side) of getting that plane someplace safely. Thanks for sharing! Vicki
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I couldn't tear away from the screen -- so very interesting! This was extremely well-written, and surprisingly easy to understand despite the level of detail and technical knowledge that show through. I aspire to write blog posts as good as this one is! Thanks so much, and keep at it Captain Stark! I love your stuff! ~Jen
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Talk about a stressful job. Sometimes we as customers do not realize the pressure that these pilots are put under.. Thanks for sharing your story.. Francisco
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Captain, Are there any future plans to put the RNP/GPS technology currently used by Alaska Airlines on WN metal. Alaska Airlines uses it up here in the back forty to fly in this mountainous terrain and often marginal wx I'm told the technology requires the flight deck see the runway lights from a minimal altitude of fifty feet to land. I guess by this time you are over the runway.
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Hi Ray! Thanks for another fascinating view from the sharp end... It is interesting to note that yet again, when a plan starts to change unexpectedly, murphy's law will have your alternate solutions degrade as well! hence why flying requires so much planning and pre-visualisation of the actions undertaken. It is important to note that whilst all modern aircraft have a Cat III capability (in technology terms), the ability to carry out a Cat III approach also depends on crew and airport qualification. Some airlines do not qualify their crew (as it requires initial and recurrent training, and a set number of approaches per yr), so it is to Southwest's credit that they do! The use of a Head Up Display (HUD) is also representative of the advances in technology. By displaying the required information, it saves the PF (Pilot Flying) from having to adjust his sight from a Head Down position (looking at the instrument panel) to a Head Up position (looking outside to identify the runway aids). Transitioning your sight at 50ft is something that is best avoided! also, as the HUD "overlays" information, the pilot also knows where to look to identify the runway aids/lighting. The future is also bringing us EVS (Enhanced Vision Systems), which will overlay the outside view with an enhanced Infrared/Thermal view. In effect, the pilot will thus be able to "see" through fog, rain and snow. Fog at an airport cause aircraft to remain longer on the runway. Ray points out that once landed, he is still left with the challenge of identifying where he is on the runway, turning off on the correct exit, and navigating back to the terminal! In heavy fog, pilots will remain on the runway till the opposite end (where there is another high intensity ramp of lights). Having identified the runway end, they will then exit on the last taxiway, confident of their ground position. Increased time on runway means that less aircraft can land in a given time frame, reducing the overall capacity at an aiport, in some cases by a factor of 2 to 3! Aircraft manufacturers are now working on a number of systems to help the pilot maintain his spatial awareness on the ground, and help him navigate to the gate. Flying will still remain a challenge, but pilots will in the future be even better equipped to handle what mother nature throws at them! :o)
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In response to Dale: Alaska Airlines were pioneers in the development and implementation of RNP (Required Navigation Performance), and in particular RNP SAAAR (Special Aircraft And Aircrew Requirements). The RNP concept is a way of guaranteeing an aircraft's position in space to a defined value. Using GPS and fixed reference points on the ground (navigation aids), pilots are able to determine 3D position much more accurately. An RNP value is also a guarantee to maintain a certain position in space including failures (for example engine failure, etc). In effect, for example at RNP0.3, the aircraft will be 0.3 Nm from track at maximum 99.95% of the time (including failures), and will never be more than 0.6 Nm (twice the value) 99.999% of the time. Also, whereas the further away from a radionavigation aid you are the more imprecise it becomes, RNP values don't change as long as you have the required constellation of satellites required within your horizon, as the system is no longer fully dependant on ground based aids. RNP is particularly useful to Alaska Airlines in order to maintain a precise flight profile through terrain in IMC (Instrument Meteorological Conditions - bad weather!). This notably reduces decision altitudes on some airfields. In Ray's case, the below minima conditions he encountered at destination were due to the category of equipment on the runway, rather than obstacle-related, hence RNP would not have helped. Outside of terrain constraints, RNP is also used to maintain precise complex approach paths in constrained airspace (a typical example is Washington Reagan National, where the north approach requires an aircraft to maintain a track over the Potomac. within easy flight distance are the White House, Washington Monument and the Pentagon, and any deviation from track has some spectacular results). It also enables curved approaches at low altitude to intercept runway final at shorter distances than usual. Better aircraft positioning also allows more aircraft in the same volume of airspace, as seperations can sometimes be reduced. RNP capability is available on Boeing and Airbus aircraft, and being developed on smaller regional type aircraft. The FAA are keen to push the concept, as it does not require additional ground based navigation aids, which are expensive to set up and maintain. :o)
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Someone should tell your passengers who wanted to go to Dulles so they could ride "the train" to NYC that there are no trains at Dulles. BWI was a much better choice for that!
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As usual, great answers to the questions -by the informed bloggereaders! A couple of comments I might add.... As for pilots who do not point landmarks, that is purely a personal preference. Balancing those who want to hear a non-stop narration as we fly along vs. those who want us to shut up and fly, I try to point out a few things an hour. Much of that depends on what area of the country you are flying over. Except for a few big cities, from Ohio to the Front Range of the Rockies is one green farm after another. Getting further west, you get some nice terrain features to point out. For those who are not really fond of flying, reasonably frequent PA's serve to assure the nail biters the pilots are "still alive." A new instrument has arrived and may someday find its way into the SWA cockpit: Infrared TV. This system is just now being installed on large bizjets and may eventually be certified for use in airliners. It allows the pilots in low visibility or nightime operations to see what is in front of them by looking through a TV display. I have seen a video of an approach into Aspen during the dark of night and the infrared video looks like daylight, showing all the terrain and other important features. Stay tuned for further developments! Happy Flying! Ray
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For any of you looking for landmarks, I just ask the flight attendant. I've flown Southwest twice (Nashville to Ontario and Ontario to Nashville; they were the best flights of my life). I asked the flight attendant what city were were over, and she called the pilot. I was sitting on one of the back rows, and I heard her laughing a lot while she was speaking with the pilot. By the way, I was flying Continental (I know, it's a crime. I had a bad experience with them. But I live 293 miles from the nearest Southwest destination [Nashville]. Just fly to Knoxville and then we'll fix that.) from Houston, TX (IAH), to Asheville, NC (AVL). After we had been in the air for just over an hour, I noticed a large city coming up. I asked the pilot if it was Birmingham, and he said it was Memphis. Why would he fly over Memphis? That seems rather out of the way to me.
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As a private pilot, multi-engine rated, with a few hundred hours of flight time and part way to an instrument rating, I can only say that I have total respect for the professionals who can fly what you fly in conditions like that. When I fly commercial, I am in awe of the skill and experience required to get everyone back on the ground safely.
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Phil, Thanks. It's training. Feed a monkey enough banannas... Training and experience... My daughter is in the middle of a super training program. She has 200 hours flying Cessna singles and Piper twins. She is feeling pretty conficent in her abilities yet she marvels at how little she knew in high school when she got her private rating. I will log my 20,000th hour sometime this year. Like her, I am amazed at what I didn't know back then. With a military background I did all my training in jets. At 65 hours I was sent out solo in a supersonic T-38. Like every other graduate of the military pipeline, I look back amazed that I made it out in one piece. The training was excellent and that is largely why I am here today. (By the way, one of my first instructors in the T-41 at Hondo, TX had 45,000 hours! This guy was flying B-17's over Germany at 22 years of age.) Training only goes so far. Being in the hotseat and having to make those tough decisions over and over is what seasons a pilot. Like a surgeon who has to make calls on the fly, we learn a little every time we face a new obstacle. As pilots we are first and foremost decision makers. Some decisions are good, some could be better. Good pilots are those who learn from both good and bad calls. I told my daughter when she started her private training years ago, the training process is a thousand ways how not to hurt yourself. Aviation has gotten better because we all learn from mistakes. With time that becomes readily apparent to those of us immersed in the profession. Flying can be hectic and hassled filled at times. Still, I have to stop and enjoy the rush. I am the same kid I was 45 years ago with my nose pressed upon the window. Ray
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Micah, Captain Stark gives a good explanation of some of the routing foibles used by the FAA to get planes to the right places in his excellent book, "This is Your Captain Speaking" ( http://www.amazon.com/This-Your-Captain-Speaking-Stark/dp/0970562101/sr=1-1/qid=1168456344/ref=pd_bbs_sr_1/104-6163979-8635924?ie=UTF8&s=books -- that's a free plug for Captain Ray!) I've noticed many times on both SW flights and in our company's plane that a straight line between two cities is not always the flight path given. Sometimes it is, but oftentimes, not. Planes are routed along navaids, or navigational aids, that are like signposts in the sky. The ATC folks will tell the plane to fly from City A to Navaid X, then Navaid Y, and then Navaid Z, and then straight to City B. So, it depends on where the navaid is, what other traffic is in the sky in that area and where you're heading. In some cases, it is not a zig-zag pattern, but the pilot is allowed to "cut the corners" off of some of the legs of that route, slightly straightening out the flight path. Some of the times that I'm sitting in the cockpit of our plane, I'll listen to the ATC radio traffic and follow along with our pilots as they dial in new headings to correspond to the instructions given. Watching this on a route map can seem crazy, but it avoids having everyone flying along the same path! That is what makes identifying cities below you so challenging -- you may not be where you expect you'd be! Happy flying, Kim 🙂
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You want to know exactly where you are, take a GPS and suction cup it to the window and you will know exactly. I was amazed that there out that window are plenty of satellites for it to lock onto. It tells you how high you are, how fast you are going and exactly where you are in the world. I found it interesting that my GPS even puts a dotted line down where you have been. Going home joined back on that dotted line about 2/3 the way home. My GPS is for driving in a car so it says we are "driving" West and keeps track of speed, direction, altitude, etc. in a log. When I got to my destination and let my grandson play with it in the car on the way from the airport, he said Pop Pop, when did YOU drive 500 MPH?.........
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Very interesting-but it sounds like there was constant concern about fuel-I know there are rules on how much must be carried but suppose BWI closed and so were Philly Dulles etc-at what point do you land on a runway whichis below standards rather than search for another-and had you landed at a station where SW did not fly how would you have refuled etc?
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"Pop, when did YOU drive 500 MPH?Ã
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My buddy Blog Boy has pointed out to me that there is another link to get to Captain Ray Stark's excellent book, and that would be through his excellent website! http://www.thisisyourcaptainspeaking.com/ I think the fine Captain is too humble to point that out himself here in the blog! Check out his book -- it is GREAT! Kim P. S. Yes, I'm in sales, but no, I don't get a percentage for helping to peddle his book; I just enjoy sharing things that I know people will like! P. P. S. However, Captain, if you have extra money to dispose of and want a part-time agent, drop me a note... LOL 🙂
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I was wondering if SWA has been taking steps to get improved landing equipment at ISP (Long Island Macarthur). Quite often lately, ISP has experienced hours of visibility below landing or take-off minimums preventing approved operations because ISP only has CAT I landing equipment. This period of inclement weather causes lost revenue to SWA and inconvenience to hundreds of travels going into and out of the airport. Since the FAA and Town of Islip, N.Y. is responsible for the maintenance, operation and up keep of the airport; they should be looking for meanings of federal funding to install ALSF-2 approach lights, centerline and touchdown zone lights and CAT III landing equipment. Since SWA has a substantial operation at ISP now, they should be lobbying both agencies for the funding and installation of this improved equipment.
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Ray, As one of the folks at Southwest Dispatch, thanks for penning such a detailed and accurate description of the process. The media and movies have promulgated so many erroneous myths over the years (and "Diehard-2" about takes the cake) about this process and others, that it's important for passengers to see the true story, and to know (with absolute certainty) that pilots and dispatchers are working as a team to enure flight safety, just as all employees are.
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Tony, I am sure we would like to see some of the great expense SWA pays in landing fees going toward improvements. The problem is that going form CAT I to CAT III runway certification is a multi-million dollar effort. The ALSF II runway lighting system alone probably runs upward of a half million dollars. The you have to make FAA approval and get the TERPS engineers to make sure that the whole system could be engineered for that location. It only takes money -and time. Hopefully, with the substantial growth in ISP, the airport authority will look at making these improvements, if they haven't already. A CAT III runway not only positively affects efficiency but greatly enhances safety as well. I am sure someone at SWA is talking with them about just such a change. Mark, Thanks mom! Ray
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I have no clue what everyone what is going through the minds of Southwest employees. I just love the idea of knowing some else is taking care of business and its fun!!!! However, I would like to participate in being one of those Southwest employees.....but you all will not hire me; no matter how many times I tell you that I am ready to go and become a flight attendant. So tell me what is in their heads and what is going on so I can be in the loop also. See ya real soon. Hoping for the wings.
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A thoroughly enjoyable read...been on a couple of similar flights over the years. Ex-RCAF, '40-'45...Wireless Op-Air Gunner, Beauforts and Hampdens.
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Great post Captain Stark, very informative. I was on a flight from OAK to SAN a few years ago and they weren't sure we could land because of fog in SAN. Tthe passengers started to get upset when they told us we might be routed to LAX but nothing the captain could do, it was weather and safety.. We did end up making up safely into SAN, but we were the last plane for the night to land.
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You all updated your web site and now I can't get it to open up for my ancient browser. So, I can't book flights. Guys, you must realize that those of us who value true value don't necessarily upgrade our computers all that fast -- we need still to be able to access the web site, even with our old Internet Explorer 5.1 on my Power Mac. thank you. M.
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I have been commuting weekly from RDU to the NY area for nine months. Usually came home via ISP on the direct flight through Baltimore (1467). I was at ISP the night it got fogged in. As my LIRR train pulled in to Ronkonkoma Station I couldn't see the cars at the far end of the parking lot. They told me at the station not to bother to go to the airport. I didn't really want to fly in that pea soup but now I have read Captain's Stark's excellent account of what goes on in the cockpit I have no regrets. Even with all the new landing technology it sounded pretty tense in the cockpit. Great piece of writing. By the way, there is an Amtrak station in BWI airport. Why did the passengers want to go to Dulles? I would trek out to ISP instead of taking flights from the city airports because SW was more fun to fly, ISP was empty in teh evenings and the flights were always on time (unlike a certain blue airline flying out of Kennedy). Yesterday (2/13) was my last day commuting to NY. I decided to fly SW out of Philadelphia. Well you know the rest. I ended up driving home. But I still like SW. K
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Unbelievable account of your landing! Thanks for sharing. It was a fascinating read - I hope you write more like it!
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I am always impressed that an airline called 'Southwest' has managed to tackle the worst weather that the 'northeast' has to offer. In a book I co-wrote, called 'Manchester's Airport: Flying Through Time," we have a whole chapter of the 400+ page book devoted to Southwest Airlines. In it we talk about just how excellent Southwest is at flying through and into our region. When other airlines give up and divert elsewhere, Southwest routinely gets into and out of MHT. We're proud to have them here!