Xiamen and Shanghai

5:45 in the morning and this is our view of the sunrise over the South China Sea as we climb out of Hong Kong bound for Xiamen, China. After doing so many long flights, this one was a hurried and cramped hour that left both me and the captain feeling a bit rushed. At least the view was great. We delivered aircraft parts to Xiamen, as there are lots of aircraft maintenance facilities there and our own passenger-to-freighter conversions of the 747 are done there as well.

A nice breakfast meal onboard and an hour later, it was off to Shanghai to drop off the rest of our load and pick up more to bring back to Hong Kong. I flew the sector from Xiamen to Shanghai and it proved to be a little bit of a challenge on landing because of our weight. I used to assume that if an airplane was light, it would be easier to control and land, and if it was heavy, or near the top of its landing weight limit, it would be harder to land. The contrary is actually true. The heavier we are for landing, the more stable the aircraft becomes and the harder it is to displace it from it’s path. We were very light for landing in Shanghai which means that any movement my hand makes to the controls is transmitted to the aircraft and it moves in perfect obedience. With a heavy landing, the inputs are dampened out for a much more controlled path and touchdown.

My touchdown worked out to be very smooth today, but hey, a broken watch is right twice a day too. I say we were light on landing, but that’s relative. Crossing the airport fence we weighed 215 metric tonnes, or 474,000 lbs. For some perspective, max landing weight for our freighter 747 is 302 tonnes, or 665,000 lbs. The last aircraft I flew, the Embraer 145, never weighed more than 48,500 lbs — quite a change for sure.

Once we shut down at the gate in Shanghai, our job was finished as another crew climbed aboard to fly us back down to Hong Kong while my captain and I relaxed in the back. When I do these local regional flights out of Hong Kong it means I’ll be away from home longer than if I just came straight back to the U.S. but seeing this part of the world is quite an experience in and of itself. With sunrises like these, it’s hard not to like flying around Asia!

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