• The Return Trip: Flight FCA37

    The Return Run: FCA37

    By Tom Wootton (5 March 2007)

    Hello again from Cancun! Joe, John, the cabin crew and I all enjoyed our flight over here last weekend (see here for the story) and we've had a great week relaxing here in Mexico. However, it's time to end the jollies and get back to work as we head out on our return flight to Manchester, England.

    Slightly saddened to have left our hotel, we arrived at the air-conditioned airport, and proceeded through to the general briefing office. John was the acting First Officer today, and we had decided that he would perform the takeoff and I would do the landing over at Manchester. He and I took a look at the weather and NOTAMs, and it looked like we should have a pretty smooth run all the way over, with possibly quite a nasty arrival into Manchester, with poor visibility, rain and a strong wind forecast. The weather for our alternate, Gatwick, was looking better than Manchester, and we would have to keep the option for a diversion fairly open. I then looked over the routing and checked that it all corresponded. The route was as follows:


    We then proceeded through security and out to the aircraft. It was the same ship we flew over the week before, G-OOAL. Joe went off to do the walk-around whilst John and I began preparing the aircraft for departure. Ground power was connected, so we didn't need the APU until just before passenger boarding (we would need it after that to start the engines during the pushback). I, as Pilot Monitoring (PM) for the departure, programmed the FMC with the route and performance data. Here is some of the performance data I derived from the loadsheets and the FMC:

    Number of passengers: 203

    Total cargo weight: 18433 KG (NB: I have been told that First Choice use kilograms as a unit of measurement rather than pounds. This was an omission in my previous article)

    V1 speed: 156
    Vr speed: 159
    V2 speed: 165


    With just shy of 56,000 KG of fuel, our total gross weight was 179,000 KG. Our MTGW (Maximum Takeoff Gross Weight) is 185,068 KG on the 767-300ER, so we would be well below that at takeoff.

    As Joe returned from his walk-around, John telephoned through to dispatch with our information and I started and monitored the APU. John then ran through the departure briefing with us. It would be a SAMED ONE ALPHA departure off runway 12, which involved a straight-out departure on runway heading until Cancun 8 DME, where we would then begin a Cancun 11 DME arc, intercepting the 013 radial outbound from Cancun VOR, to SAMED intersection which is Cancun 25 DME. After SAMED we were cleared direct to MISIS where we would intercept the UG765 airway and proceed on course from there. Our initial altitude would be 12000 feet as we had been cleared by ATC.

    Once the passenger boarding was complete I decided to do a short PA before our departure:

    "Ladies and gentlemen, a very good evening to you here in Cancun, this is your captain Tom Wootton speaking. I'd like to welcome you all on this First Choice 767-300 flight over to Manchester. Boarding's complete now and we expect to be closing the doors and getting underway in about 10 minutes' time. I'd like to introduce my First Officer to you, John Matterson, who is sitting on my right here. He's going to be flying the takeoff and climbout for us today. Also sitting behind me is the relief pilot Joe Wilkinson. Our departure from Cancun will be taking us off a south-easterly facing runway. We'll be climbing straight out for a while, before making a left turn to proceed on our course up to Manchester. We'll be climbing up to 31,000 feet initially, flying over Cuba and then over the Bahamas, then heading over to the coast of the USA, following that right up past Florida, New York and Boston, before heading into remote northern Canada. We'll be leaving Canada over Newfoundland to head over the Atlantic. Our Atlantic crossing will take us about 4 and a half hours, after which we will fly over Ireland, leaving Ireland at Dublin and then beginning our descent into Manchester over the Irish Sea. I hope you all enjoy your flight with First Choice, and I'll speak to you again once we're at our cruise altitude. Thank you."


    With that, I put the handset back and requested some IFR clearance:

    "Cancun, good evening, Jetset 37 ready for clearance to Manchester"

    "Jetset 37, hello, you're cleared to Manchester as filed. Departure is a SAMED 1 Alpha from runway 12. Climb to 8,000 feet initially. Squawk 1513, Cancun Departure is 120.40"

    "Jetset 37 cleared to Manchester as filed via a SAMED 1 Alpha off runway 12. Climb to 8,000 squawking 1513 and departure is 120.40"

    "Jetset 37, that's correct, call for pushback please"

    John set the altitude in the MCP window to 8,000 and the speed to V2 + 10 (NB: I have since found out that First Choice put the V2 speed in the SPD window rather than V2 + 10, because V2 is the best single-engine climb speed, however, pilots still maintain V2+10 or V2+15 for a normal departure) and turned on both flight directors.

    I checked the latest ATIS. The METAR read:

    MMUN 122150Z 12005KT 7SM SCT015 25/24 A2993

    Decoded, this means:

    Weather read on the 12th of the month at 2150 Zulu (GMT or UTC) time. Surface wind is 120 at 5 knots, visibility is 7 statute miles, clouds are scattered at 1,500 feet, temperature is 25 degrees, dewpoint is 24 degrees and the altimeter pressure setting is 2993 inches of mercury.

    So, the weather looked OK for the departure. The fact that the temperature and the dewpoint were so close together gave air with a reasonably high relative humidity (the amount of moisture in the air compared to the amount it can hold). This meant that the visibility was likely to be quite poor for quite some time, which was confirmed by the 7 statute miles reading.


    Liz came into the cockpit and confirmed the number of passengers with us, locking the door on her way out. We decided to request pushback:

    "Ground, hello again, Jetset 37 is ready for pushback"

    "Jetset 37, cleared to push and call for taxi please"

    "Cleared to push, call for taxi, Jetset 37"

    I spoke to ground and announced that we were ready. They ran their checks and then began the pushback after we had released the brakes. They cleared us to start engines 2 then 1, and John began the starting procedure. I monitored the start and continued talking to ground.

    One the pushback was complete and we had two good starts, ground told us that they would wave us off on the right. They disconnected and John and I ran the before taxi checklist, closing the isolation valve and switching off the APU. We set the flaps to 15 for the takeoff. Once we were satisfied that the aircraft was ready to go and John had waved off to ground, I requested taxi clearance:

    "Jetset 37 ready for taxi"

    "Jetset 37, taxi runway 12 and call when ready"

    "Taxi runway 12 and will call when we're ready, Jetset 37"

    John clicked off the brakes, we both checked that our areas were clear and he broke her away with some power. We checked the controls as we began the taxi, with me checking the rudders and then John checking the elevators and ailerons.

    As we approached the runway John and I ran the before takeoff checklist down to the line, and I called for the cabin crew to be seated over the PA and announced to ATC that we were ready.

    "Jetset 36, wind is 124 at 6, cleared for takeoff runway 12, 120.40 after departure, goodbye"

    "Cleared for takeoff runway 12, 120.40, Jetset 36, goodbye sir"


    I switched on the strobes and landing lights, and the transponder and weather radar. We ran the before takeoff checklist below the line as John lined us up on the runway. He brought her to a soft halt on the centerline. We confirmed that everyone was ready to go. John increased the thrust to around 70% N1, confirmed that the engines were stable and then pressed the "N1/EPR" button on the MCP to bring the throttles up to takeoff power. We heard the familiar power noise from behind, and the aircraft began to accelerate away. I called out at 80 knots, monitoring the engines and systems carefully so that John could concentrate on the takeoff itself. At 156 knots I called V1, and John took his hand away from the throttles - we were going flying. At 159 I called "Rotate," and John smoothly lifted the nose into the air. The rattling and bumping stopped, and that familiar sinking feeling came as the air got underneath us. I called "positive climb" and John called for the gear to be raised, which I did and confirmed. He maintained V2 + 10 and at 500 feet asked for LNAV to be engaged. I did so and, still hand flying, he followed the flight director cues. VNAV came at 1000 feet. As the speed increased he called for the flaps to be raised incrementally. I contacted departure:

    "Cancun departure, Jetset 37 through 2,300 for 12000 on the SAMED 1 Alpha"

    "Jetset 37, hello there, continue on the SAMED 1 Alpha, climb 8,000"

    "Continue on the SAMED 1 Alpha, climbing 8,000, Jetset 37"

    As the flaps locked away I completed the after takeoff checklist and released the cabin crew, with John then engaging the autopilot. We sat back and relaxed a little and let the aircraft climb itself away.

    At 10,000 feet we were absolved of the 250 knot rule, so the aircraft pitched down slightly to accelerate to best climb speed. I turned off the landing lights, checked the pressurisation, made sure the fuel was feeding from the center tank and checked the cabin temperatures, while John moved the bank limiting switch to the left.


    Once we reached our cruise altitude of 31,000 feet, I decided to do a quick PA:

    "Ladies and gentlemen, hello again from the flight deck, it's your captain speaking. We've just levelled off at our cruise altitude of 31,000 feet now, and we're currently over the Bahamas. We're going to head over to northern Florida, then head in a north-westerly direction along the US coast. You should see New York and Boston on the left side of the aircraft. After that, we'll be heading into the remote areas of Newfoundland in Canada. We'll cross the North Atlantic for around 4 and a half hours and then coast into Ireland. I hope you enjoy the rest of the flight with First Choice, and I'll let you get some sleep now, I'll probably talk to you again just before we begin our descent. Thank you"

    All three of us settled down and loosened our seatbelts, when the meal came through from the cabin. This evening we were enjoying steak and vegetables, cheese and biscuits and a chocolate dessert, complete with orange juice and a coffee. After we'd consumed our meals, Joe decided to go back and take his crew rest. He disappeared and it was just John and I left to make small talk, monitor the systems and make ATC calls for a couple of hours.

    Two hours later, Joe sidled back into the cockpit to replace John who was now off on his rest. He settled himself in and I updated him on the flight's progress. By this time we were reaching northern USA, just past Boston. We prepared the charts for the Atlantic crossing, and checked the weather, which mentioned that there could be a little moderate turbulence possibly worthy of seatbelt enforcement as we pass overhead some thunderstorms.

    Elizabeth, the senior cabin crew member on board, brought us some drinks and a few biscuits to keep us going, which were much appreciated. We also let her know of the flight's progress and possible turbulence.

    After what seemed like an age of monotonous engine tones and blackness, John returned from his crew rest and replaced me in the left seat. I headed back into the first class cabin and settled myself down for a couple of hours.


    I awoke of my own accord this time, which is somewhat unusual. I went and splashed some water over my face to refresh myself, and then headed back to the flight deck. The flight was progressing very nicely indeed, and the turbulence we expected seemed to have fizzled out. Joe asked if either of us minded if he went and took another quick nap before the arrival, and of course we didn't, so he headed back and it was just John and I up front again. A few minutes later, Elizabeth brought us our breakfast, and we gladly began gulping it down.

    Somewhat suddenly we came across a severe patch of Clear Air Turbulence (CAT). Being CAT, it didn't show up on the weather radar, so naturally I conceded a large coffee stain down my jacket! I reached up and flicked on the seatbelt signs and we quickly stowed our half-eaten breakfasts behind us and tightened our own harnesses, ensuring the area around us was secure. We then simply sat back and rode it out. A few minutes later it evened out a little and I decided to put a PA through.

    "Ladies and gentlemen, it's your captain speaking. As you'll have noticed it's just got pretty bumpy up here, so we've turned the seat belt signs on for your safety. Unfortunately this kind of turbulence doesn't show up on our radar, so we have little warning about it. It seems to be evening out now and by its nature we think it will be smooth again in a few minutes' time, but for now please sit tight and keep your seatbelts fastened until we turn the signs off again. Thanks."

    Joe turned up again, muttering something about not being able to sleep in this, and took up position in the jumpseat behind John.

    Around an hour later it had smoothed out a lot, and we realised that we had made up a fair bit of time on the journey due to stronger than expected tailwinds. I checked the weather again for Manchester and the forecast had improved, so it looked like we were going to be landing in the dark. By now we were about to coast in over Ireland, so I put out an announcement.

    "Ladies and gentlemen, hello again from the flight deck, it's your captain speaking. We're going to be beginning our descent down into Manchester in around 20 minutes. The weather's looking pretty horrible there at the moment, with fairly poor visibility, low cloud, showers and a strong wind, so it could be a fairly bumpy arrival, but nothing too bad. I hope you've all enjoyed your flight with First Choice and thanks for choosing us. Thanks very much and I wish you a safe onward journey."


    I ran the approach briefing with Joe, and, on a closer look at the weather, we had a slight crosswind from the right at 21 knots gusting to 33. It was probably going to be pretty bumpy.

    As we fast approach the top of descent point as calculated by the FMC, John keyed up and requested descent:

    "Jetset 37, requesting descent please"

    "Jetset 37, descend Flight Level 190"

    "Descend Flight Level 190, Jetset 37, thank you"

    I dialled 19,000 into the ALT window and activated VNAV. We began a gradual descent onto the final leg of our long journey. We all strapped ourselves in and after a while turned on the fasten seatbelt signs as we began feeling the bumps.

    We continued our descent, and let the cabin know of the imminent sterile cockpit period and turned on the landing lights as we approached FL100. The lights lit up the rain and darkness ahead as we bumped our way over Liverpool and Manchester. We caught sight of the brightly-lit airport as we passed downwind before it disappeared behind a cloud again. The constantly-altering whine of the engines and creaking of the cabin were very apparent as we otherwise silently glided through the air. We heard nothing coming from the cabin, and the air was slightly tense as we hit a particularly stubborn section of cloud and the turbulence increased. The aircraft turned onto a base leg as I set the speed to 200 knots. As we turned again to make an interception angle with the localiser, John set the flaps to 1 and then 5. The glideslope and then localiser came alive, APP mode engaged and John called ATC that we were established. We were then cleared for the ILS approach, and John read it back and contacted tower. I asked for gear down, and flaps 15. As we approached 6 miles out, I found the runway and disconnected the autopilot. John received the landing clearance and called for the cabin crew to take their seats. I settled myself in with the aircraft and fought to keep her right on the dots. John had completed the landing checklist and at 4 miles out I went visual. The radio altimeter counted us down, and I powered back and flared at 20 feet. With a kick of the left pedal to get the nose straight and a small flick of right aileron to counteract the now-induced drift, the aircraft settled firmly and I confirmed speed brake deployment whilst pulling the thrust levers to idle reverse. The nose wheel met the concrete and John confirmed the autobrakes were doing their job.

    As we reached 60 knots I smoothly stowed the reverse levers and took over wheel braking, bringing the aircraft down to around 10 knots to take a right exit off the runway.

    John turned off the landing and strobe lights and turned the taxi lights on, selected flaps to up and reset the elevator trim. He then contacted ground and asked them for taxi in. He wrote down the instructions and I turned the aircraft right onto Taxiway Bravo. It was quite an eerie sight, with the aircraft seemingly gliding along the ground, the bright lights of the airport lying straight ahead, darkness all around everywhere else and the rain beating hard on the windscreen. The silence was broken for a second by a Cathay 747 letting the tower know he was on an 8-mile final. As we approached the gate, John started up the APU and I caught sight of the ground equipment, ready to receive our aircraft and its goods. I turned us in, slowly crawling along the guideline. I watched the docking system until it showed "STOP," and I applied the brakes and brought the aircraft smoothly to a halt for the final time that day.

    After the engines were shut down, John and I ran the shutdown checklist together, and I began entering items into the flight log. The aircraft was due out again in a short while, so electrical power remained from a ground power unit.

    Once all the passengers were off, it was time for us to leave the aircraft. We all gathered up our equipment and headed out the door with one last glance down the cabin. As we reached the arrivals part of the gate area, I took one final glance out the huge windows to our aircraft that had just transported us thousands of miles across a huge ocean. Quite amazing when you think about it.


    Mantex 2

    For the arrival of FCA37 into Manchester, I used a small piece of software called Mantex 2. This is a modification of the original UK2000 scenery Part 6 Manchester textures, created by a talented man named Dave Chapman. These textures give a whole new realistic look to the airfield. Current UK2000 Part 6 owners will be able to see from the screen shots here that the already excellent scenery has been modified to give a fantastically realistic and immersive environment. Those who have visited Manchester Airport before will know that there is a definite atmosphere about the airport, and this atmosphere is captured superbly in this "add-on to an add-on."

    I particularly enjoyed the new night textures, which this flight gives an excellent example of. The ground is now lit with a distinctive orange glow, which gives a very warm, welcoming feel to the airport, as in real life. Textures of real-world buildings such as the Radisson SAS hotel have been much improved, and the Manchester bridge linking the terminals now has the very distinctive blue fluorescent glow about it.

    Another surprise that the scenery holds is new taxiway lines. All the UK2000 scenery packages simply have yellow taxiway lines by default. However, in real life, the taxiway lines at Manchester have thick black edgings to them. This small change sounds very simple and insignificant, however, in the daytime, it makes the world of difference, adding an extra piece of realism.

    What I like about Mantex 2:

    • Adds a fantastic amount of realism to an already excellent scenery
    • Only a measly £10!
    • No FPS hit whatsoever - in fact, on my machine, my FPS improved when I had installed these textures

    What I don't like about Mantex 2:

    • Nothing. You can't lose with this add-on, it's definitely worth getting, especially for enthusiasts who know and love Manchester Airport.

    Like the sound/look of Mantex 2? It's available here.


    I extend a big thanks to the following people:

    Dave Chapman - For creating and providing Mantex 2 and enhancing the realism of the sim a great deal.

    Alex Buszard, for lots of help with real-world airline procedures.

    Tom Wootton
    [email protected]

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