Taipei and Frisco

This is a great YouTube video of a camera strapped to the back of the nosewheel of a 747 as they make a takeoff and landing. About halfway through the show, the pilots bring the nosewheel down and fly around a bit before lowering the rest of the gear. It makes for great cinema, but leaves me wondering how they brought just the nosewheel down by itself (normally it comes down along with all the other main gear). Enjoy.

I just got back from my electrifyingly long 11 day trip — the one that started the day I got back from vacation. It was long because I was able to do a local trip from Hong Kong to Taipei and back. It was scheduled as some recurrent training and I did well. From Hong Kong, Taipei is only about an hour flight and we left in the evening, stayed briefly overnight and then made the first flight back to Hong Kong in the morning. I had an awesome landing in TPE, but hey, even a broken watch is right twice a day. We were floating, floating, then rolling, rolling. When the sound of the speedbrake lever moving back under its auto function is the signal the main wheels are on the ground, it’s a good one.

I was originally scheduled to fly back to Anchorage and then New York, but I got a fortuitous roster change: Fly a passenger aircraft to San Francisco, spend 30 hours there, then deadhead to Anchorage to finish my trip to New York. It was a nice little bit of overtime for me, but it was also a chance to fly the passenger 747. Things are a little spartan when flying the freighter, but quite luxurious when moving passengers. We boarded from a nice jetway in Hong Kong, got to eat some smoked salmon and caviar from first class, got a four man crew (so our rest was longer on this 12 hour flight) and got to watch movies during my rest period (Green Zone and Family Guy). Normally I would be trying to sleep in the bunk during my rest period, but we flew during my circadian “day time” so my rest was spent in a business class seat eating fine food and watching movies. Upon returning to the flight deck, I told the captain that it sure was nice to be paid to watch movies while crossing the Pacific!

When we fly from Hong Kong to Anchorage, we follow the coast of Japan on our way up, and then glide along the Aleutians, before descending into Alaska, so there are always some airports that are within four or five hundred miles from us at all times. Crossing the Pacific to the West coast of the U.S. though, we often fly a flex track, that is just a bunch of lat/long points that take us about 2500 miles north of Honolulu. There were times where the nearest piece of concrete was 1500 miles away from us. That can get a little unnerving if you let it get to you. We always have enough fuel in case of an emergency, but if we catch fire, well, there aren’t many options. How long can you tread water?

I contacted San Francisco radio (Oakland’s oceanic air traffic control) maybe 1,000 miles East of the Philippines, with still over 3,000 miles to go. It’s crazy that on this 4,600 nautical mile trip (5,300 statute miles or normal highway miles), I was talking to someone literally on the other side of the world, thanks to the bouncing of HF radio signals across the ocean. We only talk on HF to establish contact as a backup to our CPDLC (controller pilot data link communications) which is a fancy word for e-mail between air traffic control and us. With CPDLC, we don’t have to listen to the static on the radio for hours like in the old days, we simply type a request into our computer, hit send, and then wait for ATC to “e-mail” us back our instructions. It’s great, for sure, and much better than HF because it preserves my hearing and sanity.

Once in SFO, I had thirty hours to kill, so I got some rest and then headed out for a trolly ride to the wharf down on the Embarcadero. This was a similar adventure to the one I had here while in training. Click the picture of Alcatraz to the left for more pictures from this trip. I realized that I don’t have to wait an hour in the line to get on the trolly like all the sheeple normally do. I just walk up a stop or two and then hop on — no waiting. Try this if you ever visit San Fran; never wait in the long line at the beginning of the trolly route. Also, don’t visit the bay area during the summer. Pull the kids out of screwl if you have to, but during the summer, the wharf and the trollies are PACKED. When I was there in December, I wore a light windbreaker, stayed plenty warm, and the trollies were empty.

Clam chowder in a sour dough bread bowl, a walk along the wharf, a view of Alcatraz and the Golden Gate, a view of some t-shirts that said: “Alcatraz swim team”, several trolly rides, some pictures of Lombard street, a snack in In-and-Out burger, and a really bad sunburn rounded out my visit of the city. 72 degrees and breezy meant I got lots of sun and didn’t realize it until I got back to my room looking like a lobster. Oh well . . . such is life as a Cathay Pacific 747 pilot!

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