Its "Holiday Time", today we will be flying from Manchester Airport (EGCC) in the North West of England to Orlando Sanford International (KSFB) in Central Florida USA. We will be flying with Air 2000 on their Boeing 767-38A(ER). This aircraft is not very old; in fact, its first flight was on the 27th April 2000 and was delivered 9th May 2000.
We set off for the airport to arrive there 3 hours before we are due to depart. We arrive at Terminal 2 where our flight will be departing from, and queue at the check in desk so we can book in and offload our luggage. After we have checked, in we check the departure board to make sure everything is on time.
Our projected flight time will be approximately 9½ hours and our flight number is AMM034.
We then make our way to the roof in Terminal 1 to have a look around the airport and see if we can see the plane we will be flying on. About 1½ hours before departure we make our way to the departure lounge to prepare for our flight.
When we get there, we hear over the Tannoy that the flight is delayed by approximately 2 hours. We don't allow this to put a damper on us, but use it as an excuse to do a bit of window shopping.
While we have been doing all this, our flight crew have been very busy.
They start the day by making sure our flight plan has been filed with Air traffic Control for their approval, and they then wait for that to come back, meanwhile the Captain and First Officer decide who is going to be the Flying Pilot and who will be the non-Flying Pilot. They cross check all the paperwork and calculations, cargo to be carried, number of passengers, aircraft details, fuel, weather conditions over the whole route, nominated diversion airports in the event of an emergency or bad weather at our destination.
Once a final weight figure has been calculated, the captain can work out how much aviation fuel he needs to have uploaded on the aircraft and the first officer will have cross checked the calculations making sure that both agree, after agreeing on the final loading details, and armed with the flight plan now approved by Air Traffic Control (ATC) they are all ready to walk out to the Aircraft.
In the meantime the Cabin crew discuss any operational issues, flight time, weather conditions and then the flight crew get on board the aircraft, whilst the cabin crew prepare the cabin to receive everyone which today will be around 326 passengers, the First Officer walks around the outside of the aircraft to do a visual inspection, checking the flying control surfaces (flaps), undercarriage, radio aerials, engines, noting anything irregular so as he can report to the captain on his return to the flight deck, whilst the First Officer is outside the Captain has been programming the Flight Computers with the route, passenger loadings and generally preparing everything for the flight.
About 45 minutes before we are due to depart the announcement is made that boarding will begin. This normally starts with passengers needing assistance and then passengers seated at the back first and then the rest towards the front of the plane.
Finally, after a delay of 2 hour's we are ready for go. With all crew members on the flight deck and the aircraft pre-flight checked passengers are all on board and the doors are just closing the Non flying pilot calls the control tower for permission to push the aircraft back and start engines whilst in the push (called Engine start and pushback) this is given and the Captain releases the brakes, a small powerful tug connected to the nose wheel of the Aircraft powers into life and the aircraft gently begins to move backwards away from the Terminal, the First Officer opens the fuel valves, the Captain starts No 1 engine and as fuel begins to flow the engine spools up to life and stabilises, this happens in sequence with the other engine, so by the time we have pushed back and lined up with the taxiway the Aircraft has both engines ticking over and the tug is disconnected and moved away, the ground engineer puts his thumbs up to signify all is in order and the ground equipment is all clear of the aircraft, the Captain then asks the First Officer to radio for taxi clearance to the main runway, permission is given with an exact route to the threshold or holding point, the Captain powers up the engines to a taxi speed, and we begin to move, meanwhile the cabin crew give the passengers a safety talk.
The Captain puts the flaps to about 15 or 20 degrees (depending on Airport weather conditions and length of runway) which increases the surface area of the wings to give more lift, in the early stages of take-off and flight, all moving controls are cross checked by the Flight deck crew whilst in the taxi and by the time we arrive at the runway threshold all final checks will have been carried out and the aircraft is in a state of readiness for the take-off.
Permission is given to 'line up and wait' that means to move onto the main runway which today is 24R, face the aircraft down the runway and wait for permission to take-off, this then will be in a westerly direction, the cabin crew will have been told to take their seats and the Pilots are ready for take-off.
Permission comes through from the Tower "Climb level 50 to Wallasey VOR, clear take-off" this is giving the Captain permission to take-off toward Wallasey navigation beacon and to climb to 5000 ft, the engines are spooled up to the take-off power setting by the Captain and First Officer (this is NOT always full power as it is better to run at lower power to conserve engine life) whilst the first Officer monitors the aircraft systems, the aircraft lurches forward and everyone is gently but firmly pressed into the backs of their seats by the thrust of the jet engines. We power down the runway to about 160 to 180 MPH the First Officer calls V1-----------V2 lift off, positive climb (V2 + 10 knots) the captain calls gear up and the aircraft settles into a safe climb out of Manchester runway 24R toward Wallasey below to the right we can see the M56 motorway and soon we'll be crossing over the M6 with the River Mersey on our right. The time is 1:16pm GMT that's 8:16am EST (Florida Time)
As we gain our climb speed passengers with a view over the wings will notice that very quickly but in stages the leading and trailing edges of the wings are withdrawn into the wings, as more lift is generated with the speed of the aircraft, and the engines are powered back to a gentle hum, once airborne we don't need as much engine power to maintain flight, further permission to climb is soon given to altitude 1900 (19000 ft) and we change course at Wallasey to head over the Isle of Man and on to Belfast.
Orlando Sanford International by this time is already showing our expected arrival time. And are making appropriate preparations for our arrival.
Just after Belfast we are cleared to 28,000 ft, and we continue to make our way across Northern Ireland and upon reaching the western coast line of Eire, Shanwick (that's the control centre based in Prestwick Airport that controls all Transatlantic Traffic) gives us our Oceanic clearance. Today we get the track we wanted and are cleared to 33,000 ft our cruising altitude for the Atlantic, we fly out over the Atlantic towards St Johns Point in Canada some 3 hours away. In the meantime, our cabin crew are serving breakfast, today its Orange Juice, Frosties, Toast and Coffee, and to top it off a Muffin. Our first film has started and everybody is settled, the cabin crew are incredibly busy making sure our passengers are happy.
After about 1¾ hour's we are 569 miles west of Belfast cruising at 538 mph, and all we see is the Atlantic Ocean. This is a good time to try and get some sleep if you can.
After about 2½ hour's we are 947 miles west of Belfast cruising at 562 mph, and again all we see is the Atlantic Ocean. Around now the cabin crew will be selling Duty Free.
After about 3 hour's we are 1628 miles East North East of Portland in Maine, cruising at 551 mph, still all we see is the Atlantic Ocean.
After about 3¾ hour's we are 1274 miles East North East of Portland in Maine, cruising at 534 mph, still all we see is the Atlantic Ocean but there are things to be done. The main passenger will now be asked to fill in visa waiver forms, a white one, which the head of the family fills in, and a long green one, which each member fills in. EDIT: This is no longer required see ESTA:
Upon reaching the Canadian Coast we turn South to fly down the Eastern Seaboard of the USA and are given further clearance to ascend to 35,000 ft, with almost half the journey done we are well on our way to Florida.
We have now been in the air nearly six hours, and forgive the pun but it has really flown. We have now entered US air space and will probably be enjoying our second blockbuster movie and partaking in a couple of beverages.
Now its chance to look out of the window and figure out landmarks you may be fortunate to see.
People on the right may be lucky enough to see New York off in the distance as we fly over Long Island.
OK we're cruising at 33,000 about 50 miles off the Eastern Seaboard of the USA flying down past the Carolinas around the Southern point of South Carolina heading for Georgia State Boundary. Our air speed is Mach .84 (84% of the speed of sound) and with about 1 Hour from landing at Orlando Sanford International.
The Cabin crew are serving the final snack of the flight a hot drink and sandwich, meanwhile on the flight deck the captain gives an arrival/ approach briefing to the First Officer.
The Captain is asking the First Officer to monitor the engines through all stages of the descent and approach into Orlando Sanford International and to monitor the radio instructions from Air traffic Control (ATC). The Captain says that he expects to be given a Runway 27R arrival at KSFB (Orlando Sanford International) and that means that we will be making our approach in the vicinity of Ormond Beach near Daytona Beach.
We will expect descent instructions shortly from ATC (which is usually about 150 - 200 miles away from the airfield) descent will be at around 1000ft a minute unless instructed otherwise by ATC, and our approach to Orlando Sanford International this afternoon will be via Ormond Beach crossing the coast line at 9000 ft continuing to descend to 2000 ft over Ormond Beach airfield turning onto the ILS beacon (Instrument Landing system used by aircraft to make an auto landing or approach onto the runway centre line).
The Radio crackles into life Air 2000 034 descend to flight level 210 (21000 ft) the First Officer responds to the instruction and the captain adjusts the altitude and speed control knob on the flight management system and the autopilot eases back on the engine throttles and puts the aircraft into a shallow descent the engines ease back in tone and the aircraft settles into a barely noticeable slow descent from 37000 ft to 21000 ft which will take about 15 minutes at a descent rate of 1000 ft per minute.
The Florida coast line is now visible ahead in the distance to those folk on the right hand side of the aircraft, we have descended in stages to 15,000 ft the Radio crackles into life again Air 2000 034 descend to flight level 90 (9000 ft) to be level by Ormond Beach navigational Beacon, The First Officer acknowledges the instruction back to the ATC and once again the aircraft is eased into a shallow descent towards the navigational beacon just north of Daytona Beach, the Captain has programmed the Flight management computer to make sure the descent is enough to ensure that the aircraft is flying level over the beacon at 9000 ft.
Upon arrival at the Ormond Beach Beacon ATC give us speed restrictions and vector routings to guide us towards Orlando Sanford International Airport for Runway 27R, the captain instructs the First Officer to select the wing flaps in degrees of 1, 5, 10, 15, 20, 25, 30 and 40 degrees these stages happen at certain points on the Flying Pilots command, so as the speed of the aircraft is reduced and at the appropriate indicated speeds the flying pilot will ask for the flaps to be extended to the next flap setting in the sequence until we are almost at the threshold of the runway when the final flap setting will be called for, so if you are sitting along-side the leading or trailing edges of the wings you can see the edges of the wings moving outwards and downwards as the flap settings are increased, doing this increases the surface area of the wings creates more lift and allows the aircraft to fly much more slowly and safely for the final approach to the runway and landing we are given permission to descend to flight level 30 (3,000 ft) and to be level by the time we reach the easterly beacon, so upon reaching the beacon we are turned onto a right hand turn to fly towards the outer marker and eventually intercept the runway 27R ILS.
Things occasionally tend get a little bumpy as we descend through the various cloud layers, we are now lined up in the general direction of the runway at Orlando Sanford International and have just been given permission to descend with the ILS when we've captured the radio signal, that means when we have intercepted the radio signal and are following a glide path down the runway centre line to the runway threshold and a safe touch down, safely lined up with the ILS captured the Captain asks for gear down, the First officer pulls the gear down lever and a rumbling noise can be heard as the landing gear lowers and locks into place, as we approach the runway we are handed over to the approach controller and he gives us permission to land.
Just 1000 ft above the runway approach we are on full flaps, gear is down, and the Captain is now flying manually, he pulls back slightly on the control column and the nose of the aircraft begins to flare up (rise slightly) further slowing the aircraft and allowing the main wheels to touch the runway first, the nose wheel will touch down last, as this happens the Captain selects reverse Idle (thrust), this is not really a reverse mode, what actually happens is that flaps or buckets built into each engine casing is moved into the jet thrust thus blocking the forward push and deflects the thrust slightly forward, this helps in slowing down the aircraft, in conjunction with the auto brakes, spoilers which kill the lift on the wings also pop up on touch down (these are the little flaps on the top surface of the wings) they are also sometimes used as airbrakes in flight to slow the aircraft down or when starting a descent.
So, we are at the end of the runway, and have been given a route to take on the taxiways to our allocated stand number at the terminal. You are down to earth, a voice comes over the speakers "Air 2000 and all the crew hope you have enjoyed your flight to Orlando and we look forward to serving you again on your return home"
On leaving the plane we make our way to baggage collection then through customs and then pick up our car and have a great vacation.
Flying is still statistically the safest form of travelling.