Line Check or not?

What a day! As I was supposed to have a Line Check today, I already got to Frankfurt yesterday. After spending a few hours in a hotel bed, I set out to the airport at 06.30 am this morning, to be at the briefing room just in time for my check ride. A Line Check is just like a regular flight with any other captain, however there is an additional check captain observing us. There are normally no questions and he just watches us to find out, if we do everything the way it should be done.
As the official check-in time was already passed, my captain to fly with me was missing! Our crew scheduling department called him and soon found out that he was still at home, as he was not supposed to fly today – somewhere, somebody made a mistake and I had to suffer for it! Without the regular captain, we could not conduct the check ride and it has to be repeated again on another day!

The check captain and I went out to the aircraft after doing the briefing to fly to Cairo and back. I would do the first flight and take over the radios on the way back. The sun just rose in the east and it was a lovely day for flying! Our journey was smooth until we hit Egyptian airspace. Everybody was talking at the same time, not waiting for the others to get an answer or to pass their message to the controller. It was complete chaos! We stayed calm and did our best getting in contact with the air traffic controller and after a short time-frame we were in the descend to Cairo. The approach took us past the mighty Pyramids of Gizeh – a really majestic sight! The air was 35°C hot and there was a lot of turbulence, but somehow I managed to fight the aircraft down to the ground and the landing was actually quite smooth. We hit the brakes do get to our parking stand quickly, but there weren’t any people there waiting for us.

The worst was, that there was no Ground Power Unit or air-conditioning, as our APU (Auxiliary Power Unit in the back of the aircraft, our on-board generator) was broken. We had to leave one engine running at idle power, still consuming around 600 kg of fuel per hour. The ground staff (KLM engineer and local handling) managed to get the necessary equipment after 15 minutes, but there was no flight plan. In the end it all worked out by using some rules of thumb and making a few phone calls to our head-quarter in Frankfurt.

Having survived the radio-chaos after departure (we had a climb-rate of 4000-5000 ft, with an initial altitude of 3500 ft…) we set out over the Mediterranean Sea, passing the Greek islands and later on Belgrade and Austria, before starting our descend near Munich. The captain made another perfect approach into Frankfurt and in the end we where even five minutes early at home! As quick talk to crew scheduling revealed that nothing has been done yet, to arrange for a new flight and I am curious to see what will happen next…

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5 Responses to Line Check or not?

  1. Bogdan M. September 11, 2012 at 4:37 pm #

    I keep hearing from pilots that every flight is different. This particular flight must have been way different for you. Anyway, do you pass the check ride? What a question, ofcorse you did!

    BTW: How is it possible that they let you fly with a defect APU to that region? You guys at LH Cargo are like pioneers, experiencing lots of adventures!

  2. Felix Gottwald September 11, 2012 at 7:43 pm #

    We could not complete the check-ride, which is why I have to do it again next month…
    Flying without an APU is legal and should not be a problem at any of our regular destinations. The guys in Cairo simply didn’t read their mails properly – it happens.

  3. Bogdan M. September 11, 2012 at 8:30 pm #

    Ok. And how do you start the engines? With an air supply unit? Or is the MD-11 capable of starting the engines without bleed air from the APU ?

  4. Felix Gottwald September 11, 2012 at 8:32 pm #

    We had to use an air starter that is basically a big compressor, which pumps air into the aircraft’s bleed system to help start the engines. However just one engine is started and then the ground air source and ground power removed, before we start push-back and the other engines.

  5. Bogdan M. September 11, 2012 at 8:37 pm #

    Ok, that’s what I thought. Thank you for the fast reply and explanation!

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