WorldFlight 2008. By Terry McGee.
This is my third time to participate in Worldflight as a crew member of the Worldflight USA Team. Greg Coyle has his B737-700NG Sim in the basement of his house in Washington. Last year he put it in a cockpit shell, which made a huge difference to having it in an open room. This year, the Irish crew members consisted of, myself, John Coughlan (VATeir), Shane O’Connor (VATeir), James O’Graidaigh (VATeir) and of course our host Greg. John and Shane would not arrive until Sunday afternoon and James would not arrive until Wednesday. We were accommodated in Greg’s house, which is essential, as we are rostered for flights at all hours of the day and night.
Worldflight is a charity event, where a number of Teams (7 this year) fly around the virtual world, non-stop 24 hours a day for 7 days. The route, flight times, charts (Jeppesen), sceneries, and ATC are all supplied by the Australian organisers, who do a fantastic job. Obviously each team had their own Crew roster, in our case, we had 8 crew members, but not all were present for the whole week.
On Friday 31st October I travelled from Dublin to Washington Dulles with Aer Lingus on EI-119. It was my first time to see the new Terminal D, which is spacious with glass walls, and a far nicer place than the other terminals. There are ample Toilet facilities, a number of coffee shops, a Bar, a Bookshop and a great view of the aprons. I had seat 12H on the A330-200, which is on the second row on the right (starboard) side, but I changed to the free seat in front as it was an Exit row. This aircraft was one of the older models, which had the drop-down monitors, or in my case, mounted on the wall in front of me. When I wanted to use the headphones, I couldn’t get it into the slot, so I asked one of the cabin crew, who tried and decided that it was broken and that I should use the one in the seat next to me, which was empty. The same thing happened on the return flight. After the meal, I went to stretch my legs and realised that the flight was only two thirds full. There were plenty of free seats and rows down the back. Due to the winds, we landed early and after being transferred from our gate, it took me an hour to get through immigration, where they take your photo and all your finger prints. Greg collected me at the airport and off we went to his house, where we helped his three daughters decorate the outside of the house in preparation for Halloween.
Over the next two days, there was work to be done on the Cockpit before the Worldflight stared on Sunday at 18.00. Greg had received a new 737NG Yoke that day, which had to be fitted. He had also mounted two additional Projectors for use on the Matrox TrippleHead2Go, which had to be tested. Another projector had to mounted for the Web Cam screen in the ‘Pilot’s rest area’ and after all that, the Sim itself had to tested. The 737 Yoke was replacing the CH Yoke on the Captain’s side, so this was his first priority. The Yoke is 37.5 inches high and has a large base, which would not fit properly in front of the large CH Rudder Pedals. So Greg had to cut a piece off the base of the CH Pedals to get it into the proper position and then screw the Yoke to the floor. Ideally the Yoke should have been sunk into the floor of the Cockpit, as it was too high, but there was a joist in the way and it would involve too much work in the time available. The Yoke connects via a USB cable and was easily configured via FSUIPC. However, we then discovered that only one part of the Trim switch worked – you could only trim up. So Greg had to allocate the Push to Talk button on the left handle as the trim down button. The Yoke does not have a Point of View (POV) Hat Switch, so when the PF (Pilot Flying) wanted to see out either side, the PNF (Pilot Not Flying) used the POV on his CH Yoke. This may sound a problem, but it wasn’t at all. This Yoke really adds more reality to your flying, it is heavy to use and has a realistic resistance to your inputs that puts the Saitek and CH Yokes into a games category. I got so used to the Yoke that when I came home, I almost pulled my Saitek Yoke off the desk the first time I used it!
Next were the projectors on the Matrox TrippleHead2Go, which adds peripheral views. Unfortunately, now matter what he tried, Greg could not get the side views to merge properly with the front view. This was due to the left side of the cockpit being beside a wall, which meant that one projector could not be used for back projection, as the others are. The projector for the Web Cam view was mounted on the ceiling in the Pilot’s rest area, which is outside the cockpit. This is connected to a PC in the Pilot’s rest area, which also runs Active Sky and is used for Servinfo, printing the En Route Weather, Flight Plans, and Internet use. By the time John and Shane arrived on Sunday afternoon, the cockpit had been tested, the Pilot’s rest area and cockpit had been cleaned and almost everything was ready. Greg’s wife Anna had the task of printing the charts, which she did at work over two sessions as there were a hell of a lot of charts. There were plastic pouches left over from last year (thanks to Richard), so Shane took on the task of sorting the charts and putting them into the pouches in flight order, so when the crew arrived for their flight, they picked the next pouch, which had all their required charts.
Before we knew it, it was time to prepare for the first leg of Worldflight 2008. We started our flight preparations 40 minutes before the departure time of 18.00 local (23.00 UTC). Flight preparations consist of, getting your charts, printing off the Flight Plan, importing the Flight Plan into Active Sky and printing off the enroute weather. These were done by the PNF on the PC in the Pilots rest area. Then the crew would enter the cockpit, turn on the APU, the PF would enter the route into the FMC, while the PNF received clearance from ATC and advised the PF of the active runway and departure, which were entered into the FMC. Checklists were used at all stages of the flight.
I had the pleasure of being PF on the first flight with Mariano as PNF, from Sydney, Australia to Apia, Western Samoa, with an estimated flight time of 5 hours 40 minutes. Between queuing for departure and being vectored in sequence for arrival, the flight took approx. 6 hours. It was my first time to use the new control yoke, which certainly helped keep the concentration, particularly on the approach. Thankfully, I landed safely. It was bed time for me as Greg and John flew the next leg from Apia to Kailua, Hawaii, which was another long flight of 5 hours and 40 minutes. I was back in the left seat again with Shane in the right seat for the next flight from Kailua to San Francisco. Our preparations started at 06.20 for the departure time of 07.00 and an estimated flight time of 5 hours and 10 minutes. After that flight, it was back to bed to catch up on some much needed sleep. The first three flights were the longest, the next longest was from Georgetown, Ascension Island to Luanda, Angola at 4 hours 10 minutes, which Shane and John flew on Wednesday. The remaining flight times ranged from 3 hours 40 minutes to 1 hour 45 minutes. I have to admit that after two days, I could not remember where I was flying from or to. I checked the roster, noted the departure time and was down preparing for my flights about 30 – 40 minutes before the departure time. Up until Wednesday, the crew consisted of myself, Greg, John and Shane, with Mariano doing his flights after work. So it was a very busy schedule but it was hugely enjoyable, I enjoyed being kept busy and I loved the challenge that each flight brought. You may think that we would be bored on the long flights, but when you’re in a cockpit, monitoring the fuel, the route, the weather, descending or climbing at the request of ATC (sometimes to allow a faster aircraft pass us) and giving position reports to ATC, time passes quickly enough. During the cruise we did of course take turns at leaving the cockpit for a break, but there was always one of the crew in the cockpit monitoring the systems and ATC. And after a long time in the cruise, there’s the excitement of the arrival, with ATC vectoring you among all the other arrivals.
John was really looking forward to flying the Panama to Quito leg, which was early on Tuesday morning, so after I flew the previous leg from San Salvador to Panama with Shane, I retired to bed at about 03.50 and left John and Shane to fly to Panama. I was on the next flight at 07.10 from Quito to Lima, so when I arrived down at 6.30, I was surprised to find John and Shane sitting idly around and not a sound from the cockpit. The cockpit had been shut down after the previous flight (this was done as often as possible), but when it was restarted, despite all their efforts, not all the systems would start, which meant they couldn’t do the flight. Greg was awakened from his well earned sleep to get the cockpit up and running, which he did and then myself and Shane quickly got underway for the 1 hour 45 minute flight from Quito to Lima. We also did the next flight, with a turn around of 25 minutes as we had to catch up with the other teams.
There was an example of a Controller not being familiar with the surrounding terrain or the MSA (Minimum Safety Altitude), when due to traffic, Shane (PF) and I (PNF) were vectored off our approach into Monterrey, Mexico. He sent us miles away and almost into Mountains on more than one occasion. Thankfully it was daylight and we could see the mountains and took the appropriate action. This was Shane’s first flight as PF.
Justin (USA), who is a friend of Greg’s, joined Greg and then myself in the cockpit for a few flights over the next two days. On Wednesday afternoon James arrived from Ireland. James was PF on his first flight from Zanzibar to Kampala, which was eventful for him because he literally got his landing clearance over the threshold. The previous aircraft was slow in vacating the runway and we were all expecting James to call ‘Go Around’ but he waited and it paid off.
I was PF with James, flying from Kathmandu (elevation 4386 feet) to Mandalay. This was one of the tightest departures I had to do. We used up the whole runway on the takeoff, which is a bit unnerving as there are high mountains dead ahead. We just about made it off the ground, followed by a sharp left turn after takeoff, which takes you back over the airport and then over the mountains.
We were also joined by another friend of Greg’s, Paul (USA), who I flew with from Tashkent, Uzbekistan to Lahore, Pakistan. Paul does fly a King Air but he had never flown Greg’s cockpit before. He flew the whole flight by hand – he never used any autopilot function at any time for the 2 hours and 10 minute flight. I put our assigned Flight Level, Heading, Speed in the MCP purely as a reference for him.
On one occasion while lined up on the runway for departure, one of the other Worldflight Teams decided to take off without clearance. They came from behind, passed right through us and took off. The controller was not pleased and he let them know it.
I think it was in Tashkent that a local Pilot asked for clearance in his own language. The controller informed him that he didn’t speak Russian and would he please repeat it in English. The Pilot replied in very broken English something in the vain of that we were in his country and they use their language. He then continued to repeat his request for clearance in his own language, again and again between the other Pilots receiving their clearance. The controller finally gave up asking him to speak in English and had to ignore him.
On the Porto to Dublin leg, I was PF with Shane. Just before we took off I read the departure chart but read the wrong SID, despite having entered the correct one in the FMC and briefed each other on it. When airborne, I was manual flying and watching the DME for the ‘turn’. I asked Shane to put a heading of 160 in the heading bug, he paused and asked why because the SID was straight ahead on the runway heading – this is another reason why there are two Pilots. The approach into Irish airspace was first with Shannon and then with Dublin Control. John was upstairs in Greg’s house covering Dublin Control. We about one-third in the pack and had a smooth approach and landing on runway 10. But for not so for those who followed, because Shannon Centre suddenly closed without warning to any Aircraft or Controllers. This caused problems for the remaining controllers who had to vector them in using both runways 10 and 16. John was mentally burned out, so James took over followed by Shane – I watched them controlling and saw just how busy it was keeping the aircraft separated and getting them down safely using the two runways.
I was PNF with Chris (USA), who joined us for two flights (this was a memorable flight). At our destination we had to do a go around, during which, the whole system locked up. We didn’t get to land but thankfully it happened at our destination. On another arrival, with Chris PF and Shane PNF, I sat in the jump for the landing. Chris over applied right rudder for the landing, sending the aircraft off the runway and landing on the taxiway.
John finally got his ‘Quito’ landing in. The approach was a VOR DME through high mountains. I wasn’t there for the approach but he showed me the approach charts before he did the flight, he called it his ‘Quito’.
Unfortunately Greg had to travel to a week long business Conference on Friday morning, which meant that he would miss the last days of Worldflight.
On the second last flight into Brisbane with James, I was checking the chart for the arrival and noticed the names of the waypoints ‘LEAKY’, ‘BOATS’, ‘SINNK’, ‘PLUGG’ – only in Australia J.
John and Shane had the pleasure of doing the final leg from Brisbane to Sydney. But before they landed at Sydney, all the Worldflight Teams would land at Williamstown RAAF, line up and take off in formation, fly down the coast at 3000ft, descend to 500 ft, fly under the Sydney bridge, do a double-roll and then climb to 4000 ft and be vectored to Sydney Kingsford Smith for the final landing. After 45 Flights, 39,294 Nautical Miles, Worldflight 2008 ended on early on Sunday morning at approx. 06.00. There was no official chart for this so, one of the Aussie controllers’ daughters drew a chart.
Later that day myself, John, Shane, James, Anna and the three Girls celebrated with an enjoyable meal in O’Faolains Restaurant and Pub. The following day, Monday we went to visit the National Airspace Museum (Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Centre) at Dulles Airport. John and I had been there before but Shane and James had not. There was one new arrival, a Pan AM Connie (above). I headed home that evening on EI-118, which departed at 19.45. I had two window seats to myself, so I slept for a while. The weather was clear at Dublin and I was treated to a fantastic view of the Dublin city lights on the approach and around Howth Head for the landing on runway 28 at 07.00.