Home at last! After ten days I was finally back home after visiting many different places in the USA and Latin America. It has been a great, but also tiring experience. Here is what happened on the last days of “An American journey”
Day 10 of “An American journey”
On the way from out hotel in Addison (Northern Dallas) to DFW Dallas-Ft. Worth International Airport I got to know our crew bus driver a bit better – a great guy that has been inspired by Lufthansa Cargo pilots to start flying! Within three years he made it from taking his first flying lesson to being an instructor and getting an aerobatics rating. It all started with a pleasure flight on a small Cessna with some of my colleagues and now he is taking LH Cargo pilots on tours through Texas and neighbouring states by plane. An inspiring story and I will surely go flying with him on my next stay in Dallas!
Due to the length of the upcoming flight to Manchester and the fact that it was mostly operated at night, we were three pilots in the cockpit. The captain would be operating the flight, the Senior First Officer occupy the copilot’s seat as pilot monitoring and I would be playing the part of the safety and cruise-reflief pilot. Many airlines employ second officers for long-distance flights that never get to take-off and land, but it is different in Lufthansa. Despite the captain who acts as pilot in command and is seated in the left seat for take-off and landing in any case there are two first officers of which at least one is a so-called “Senior First Officer” (SFO). The SFO is rated to land the aircraft from the captain’s seat and also sits there when the captain is taking a break to get some rest during the flight. However, there is no rule that describes which of the pilots does the take-off and landing as pilot flying.
Our ground staff in Dallas was great as always and we left earlier than scheduled. We took off from runway 17R on a left turn towards the north. With the help of ATC we had to deviate a row of big thunderstorm cells and then proceeded towards Memphis, Lexington and Pittsburg. Our flight route then took us straight to Albany and along the coast of Maine to the Canadian province of New Brunswick. We were able to see Nova Scotia and the town of Halifax (sadly remembered by the Swissair MD-11 accident in 1998). We continued smoothly towards Gander on Newfoundland – from there we had only water ahead of us. Should we have encountered any problems within the next two hours, our only option would have been to return to Gander.
We received our Oceanic clearance 45 minutes before entering oceanic airspace. We were once again on a random route north of the North Atlantic Track system. In the old days you would have to report your position via HF voice communications to air traffic controllers at every 10 degrees of longitude (at 50°West, at 40°, 30°…), but nowadays this happens automatically via satellite communication. Despite the initial contact (“Lufthansa Cargo 8203, FL370, CPDLC, Shanwick next, request SELCAL) there is not much talking anymore. Only the SELCAL check is being performed. The SELCAL in short is a function that allows the controllers to ring us pilots in the cockpit.
At 40° West it was my turn to take a break, just after the sun rose on the horizon. Every pilot got a 2h20 rest from his flight duties were he would be laying down in the back of the aircraft, trying to get some sleep. When I was woken up again we were already in contact Scottish Control and starting our descend to Manchester. The approach to runway 23R was uneventful and after the landing I did a bit of waving to the crowd at the fence. I have only found one photo on twitter of our flight so far – let me know if there are more!
Cargo had to be unloaded in Manchester. People often has me what we carry on board and sometimes I do know. Flowers from Quito or Nairobi are a classic and the smell of fresh strawberries on a flight from Cairo makes it obvious what kind of cargo we loaded. But on this flight? Look at the pallets below and you will understand that I have no idea what we have in the back (except for the list of dangerous cargo that is being handed to captain before every flight):
The next flight from Manchester to Frankfurt was operated by another crew. However, we could stay on board to get home as quickly as possible. After arriving at Germany’s biggest airport I had to run to catch my flight back home to Dresden – 20 hours after leaving the hotel in Dallas and 10 days after departing home, I was eventually back.