WorldFlight 2006. By Terry McGee.
I seldom need an excuse to travel, so when Greg Coyle asked for a crew to help fly his B737NG Simulator in Washington for WorldFlight 2006, it didn't take Michael Collins and I long to decide to participate. Daryl Reilly and John Coughlan (PC Pilots Ireland and VATeir members) also decided to travel over, which made it an all-Irish crew. Michael and I had no experience of using an FMC (we both use FSNavigator), and I had little experience of flying a home built cockpit with a Flight Yoke and Rudder Pedals, so it was going to be an interesting experience for me.
Our journey started on Friday 3rd November 2006 on EI-133 (A330-300) from Dublin to Boston via Shannon and then on American Airlines AA4775 to Washington National. At Shannon we had to go through US Immigration, which took one hour and then continue our journey to Boston. At Boston we collected our luggage and then brought them to the Aer Lingus connecting flights desk, and we headed off on the Shuttle Bus to Terminal B to find American Airlines for our connecting flight. We found American Airlines but were told that it was American Eagle we needed, which was further down the terminal, which we found and checked in for the flight. At this stage we were running late for the flight but still had to get through the security checks. When we finally got to the gate, the flight had already pushed back. However, we were put on the next flight 1.5 hour wait), which was on an Embraer Regional Jet and took 1.5 hours flying time. Ronald Regan Washington National Airport (it's full title) is a very nice airport but it has the baggage collection area in the strangest place - on the ground floor, directly opposite the exit/entrance doors, in an open area, without any security - at least we didnít see any. To add to missing our flight, Michael's case didn't arrive and American Eagle could not track it because they don't have the facility to do so. After a 40-minute drive on the Blue Shuttle Bus, we arrived at our Hotel, the Crowne Plaza, Dulles Airport (which is not at the airport) at around 23.00 (local). Michael's case arrived unannounced four days later, after he had bought some new clothes. On Saturday morning Greg collected us and brought us to Hertz at Dulles Airport to collect a hire car, which had a SatNav system, which is a necessity when in a strange city. After collecting the car, we went to Greg's house, were introduced to this wife Anna, and three young daughters, after which we had an a few practise landings on his B737 Cockpit.
Daryl and John travelled over together via Heathrow to Dulles International (near Greg's house) on a Virgin A340. They arrived on Sunday and stayed in Greg's house for the week. On Sunday, Michael and I took the opportunity to visit some of the sights in Washington (Arlington Cemetery and some of the Monuments) but we had to get back in time for the first flight, which was departing at 19.00 local (00.00 zulu).
Greg's Cockpit Sim has a main network of three PCs, he uses FS2004, PMDG B737-700, Project Magenta Boeing Glass Cockpit (PFD/ND/FMS/EICAS), Flightdeck Solutions Panels, a throttle quadrant, GoFlight Rudder Pedals and Modules, CH Flight Yokes, Mode Control/EFIS/Nav/Com/ADF/Transponder panels by CP Flight, and a Back-Projection system for the outside views. Also on the network was a Laptop running SquawkBox 3 with external speakers and headsets for the PIC and FO, and another Laptop was used for ServInfo, ActiveSky and printing the Charts. All were networked and ran flawlessly for the duration but were shut down on occasions between legs in order to let them cool down.
The cockpit is in the basement of Greg's 3-storey house. The basement has the same large area as the other floors and has a door leading up to his back garden (or 'Yard' as they say in the US). The cockpit was in one corner, partitioned off on one side and was open at the back. The operations desk was beside it, giving easy access to the Laptop with Servinfo and the printing of any required charts. There was also a 'rest area' with two couches, which were frequently used for catching up on one's sleep.
The route consisted of flying 46 legs over 7 days, starting and ending at Sydney, Australia, with a turnaround of between 40 and 60 minutes between each leg, during which the crew had to print the departure and destination charts, set the fuel, input the route in the FMC, check the en-route weather, file the Flight Plan, get ATC clearance and review the departure. All flights were flown on the VATSIM Network with ATC supplied by local VATSIM Controllers, or by the Australian ATC Team in Sydney when there was no local ATC available, which ensured we had ATC at all times. Each team received a CD with all the required Jeppesen Airport, ILS, SID, STAR and Route charts in pdf format, which were organised for each leg.
On Sunday 5th the crew were fully prepared for the first leg before we logged onto VATSIM. The flight from Sydney to Nadi, Fiji was 1,740 nm and was estimated to take 4.5 hours. Michael was Captain (PIC) and I was First Officer (FO), we received our clearance and 'Shamrock 224' led the WorldFlight Teams out of Sydney, departing one minute early at 23.59 Zulu. A flight report was normally written by the FO after each flight, which was posted on the 'Operations' page of the WF USA website (www.shamrock224.com). Sydney to Nadi report: 'Weather was good all the way with a good tailwind helping to make good time for our arrival. We were in luck for our arrival as ATC cleared us straight in with no delay. There's no DME on ILS 02 but Michael took it all in his stride and made a perfect landing. We parked on stand 15 minutes ahead of time and ahead of the 9+ aircraft following us.'
As we were only a crew of 5, we shared the PIC (Pilot In Command) and FO (First Officer) seats with each other, which was organised by Greg's roster. As the flights were non-stop, someone had to do the overnight flights. These were all done by Greg, Daryl and John (they deserve all the credit for this), while Michael and I would arrive in the morning and head off again that night. On the long flights, after departure with the aircraft on Autopilot, we could get up from the cockpit and sit around in the rest area chatting - we could hear if ATC called us. There were occasions when I had a sleep on the couch during a long 3-4 hour flight, while the other Pilot kept an eye and ear on things. In areas where there was no Radar coverage (e.g. over Oceans), ATC would call for a position report from each aircraft, the FO would report our current position, e.g. overhead a waypoint, our Flight Level and the estimated time of arrival at our next waypoint, all this information was on the FMC.
There's bound to be some incident on an event like this and it happened while I was PIC and Michael was FO on the flight from Curacao to Bermuda. Past the halfway mark, I noticed that the FMC progress page showed that we would run out of fuel before our destination, so I began to freak out J. This was caused by strong headwinds, some at 95kts. Daryl and John joined us as we tried to overcome the situation - there was no way we were going to ditch on my watch. Here's a summary of the situation on Michael's Trip Report: Following clearance from tower, we departed Curacao for Bermuda at 20:31 in good weather. Climbing to FL350 all looked good. No further ATC service until Curacao Centre came on line at Bexer. Little over half way to Bermuda, increasing head winds started to give concern about the fuel. At one point the head winds increased to 95kts. With 300nm DME Bermuda, the FMC was recording that fuel would run out with 80nm remaining. We climbed to FL370, which reduced the head wind and gave lower fuel consumption but with no significant improvement. We declared a fuel emergency with 180nm to go with Squawk set to 7700. We commenced a managed descent at 120 dme with the throttles set at idle. The speed was maintained at 250kts by varying the descent rate between 1600 and 2800 fpm. At 20 DME a "direct in" visual approach to Runway 12 was requested and granted by ATC, who were extremely helpful. "Cleared to land, number one". A sharp right at 5dme and the runway came into sight. Maintained 140kts to the outer marker, cleared the threshold and landed at 23:40z. There was 1% fuel load remaining. We taxied direct to the refuelling station Brilliant work by Daryl Reilly and John Coughlan who helped the crew to get to the airfield and prevent another chapter in the Triangle story. Don't try this at home.....
John and Daryl had the controls for a pre-arranged deviated flight from Portugal to Cork (instead of Gatwick). Again, the Trip report by FO Daryl says it all: Despite it being 4.30am in the morning, the crew were in great form as we left for Cork. Being an all-Irish crew, instead of routing to Gatwick, we took a deviated route to Ireland. A straight out departure set us on our way northwards towards the Emerald Isle. Having been through Brest Control, we were finally handed off to Cork Approach. We descended through the broken cloud above Cork, and were vectored on a right downwind for runway 17. Captain Langer (Coughlan) took command of the aircraft, plunging her down the ILS towards the shortest runway of the event. Thankfully, the pressure of making a good landing on home turf wasn't visible in Johns landing; perfectly down the centreline and on the markers. After using all runway length available, we back-tracked runway 17 and taxied to the stand. The Langer was finally home... The next leg was Cork to Dublin and was summarised by FO John's Trip Report: 'The flight was as short and exciting as this trip report...'
Two legs were cancelled (WF606 and WF611) to give the crew a rest and on Greg's suggestion (there was no opposition), we took a break on the Wednesday night and went out for a meal to an Irish Pub, where we feasted on Irish style cuisine and Greg and myself enjoyed a few pints of Guinness. But the crew for the next flight, were on duty again at 06.30 (local) for a 06.50 departure from Djibouti to Entebbe. During the rest of the event, we experienced different time zones and all types of weather - high head and tail winds, sever thunderstorms, fabulous Sunsets and Sunrises, and great cloud formations. I also saw some great 'hands-on' flying approaches by the guys - if only they were recorded.
Unfortunately, Michael had to return home on the Friday due to business commitments, while I stayed until Sunday. Saturday, my last day, was busy with a crew of four sharing the roster. I left Greg, Daryl and John late that night and wished them well for the final legs, including the return to Sydney, which was scheduled to land at 04.30 local. ATC had a surprise in store at Sydney, in that all the WorldFlight aircraft flew 'under' the Sydney Bridge, then did a touch-and-go at Bankstown and then landed at Sydney, with Shamrock 224 being the first to land, followed by the other teams, marking the end of WorldFlight 2006.
As you can imagine, the effort in organising this event must have been tremendous. Apart from organising the ATC, working out the complete route and each leg, and then having to prepare each flightplan, must have taken some time and effort. The Aussies did a great job in organising the event. Personally, I learned a lot and enjoyed every minute of it and I'm grateful to my other four team-mates for making the trip worthwhile.
See the Worldflight 2006 USA Team Videos on YouTube
BACK TO REVIEWS PAGE