Following a good nights rest, I report for duty at 08.30 for a 10.00 0/c departure to Tel Aviv. The first officer is already there when I arrive busy preparing the flight plan and speaking to operations regarding the proposed flight level filed with air traffic control today.
As we are quite heavy due to a full passenger payload and additional freight we will need a new flight plan as we will be unable to make our final cruise level until we are about 3 hours into the flight. We have been operating this route at Jet2.com for almost 12 months and it has been very successful. Todays assigned aircraft is a 757/200W which has been modified with winglets which reduce fuel burn by up to 4% and also improve the climb and glide capability of the aircraft.
The Boeing 757 is an extremely nice aircraft to fly and operate in. Amongst the flying community it is well known as a pilots aircraft. To the non flyer this means that its handling characteristics with regard to control response and system functionality are pilot friendly.
The 757 employs an EICAS ” Engine Indication and Crew Alerting System” as a systems interface between the aircraft and crew which alerts you to any significant system malfunction. I started my airline career as a first officer on the lockheed electra, and later flew the Boeing 727 and Airbus 300 with Hunting cargo airlines. These aircraft are three crew aircraft that required a flight engineer to operate and monitor the aircraft systems. I always think of the EICAS as akin to a knowledgeable flight engineer over my shoulder keeping a watchful eye on the aircraft systems. I learned so much from in my early flying days.
Tel Aviv is a high security destination and the crew and passengers are required to pass through two security checkpoints. When the pilots are carrying out their external inspection of the aircraft they are accompanied by one of three security guards keeping a watchful eye on activities in the vicinity of the aircraft exterior. Your airport ID is checked on regular occasions by various security personnel. This is part and parcel of procedure and as a security pass holder it is also the pilots responsibility to check the identification of any suspicious non crew person you encounter accesing the aircraft.
Passengers on board, baggage and freight loaded we are cleared for push and start by air traffic ground control. Manchester airport can be a very busy airport depending on your time of departure. At present most of the early morning traffic has departed but we are still number seven for take off. As we taxi slowly towards the departing runway, the cabin crew are working hard in the cabin making sure all passengers are strapped in and that there are no loose articles in the cabin area. Once we have completed this final check they will report to the flight deck that the cabin is is secure. That this has been completed is one of our final checks on the comprehensive before take off sequence of checklists that the flight crew carry out before departure.
A short delay ensues while air traffic control sequence departures and arrivals from both runways Manchester and we are cleared to line up behind a landing Etihad 777. We are asked to expedite line up due to another landing aircraft at five miles on approach.
The take off phase of flight is probably the most concentrated event of any flight. The aircraft engines are working at almost 100% of their rated power setting and a malfunction of any sorts will require quick thinking and analysis combined with prompt actions in a rehearsed and methodical order from the pilots. The Boeing 757’s engines are very powerful pumping out over 42000lbs of rated thrust each at take off power. This equates to approximately 40,000 horsepower.
The aircraft accelerates at its usual awe inspiring rate towards our V1 decision speed of 147 knots and we smoothly rotate at 153kts towards a pitch attitude of 17degrees. We follow the standard instrument departure which joines up with our airway routing initially taking us towards a position on the east coast of England.
The radio workload with air traffic control is quite high during the initial stages of climb in UK airspace due to the high volume of traffic arriving and departing through different levels. The flight crew are endeavoring to reach their assigned cruising level asap to conserve as much fuel as possible and ATC while trying to assist the aircraft have to carefully co-ordinate between all the various ATC sectors and other aircraft to ensure your climb can be completed in a safe and efficient manner.
Conversation is kept to an absolute minimum during the initial stages of climb due to the need for strict adherence to Air traffic control instruction and the requirement to keep a close watch on the aircraft systems performance.
The workload reduces when you have reached your cruise flight level and the crew actions are concentrated on monitoring the progress regarding routing, fuel burn, en-route weather and general systems performance.
The Jetstream is our friend on the way to Tel Aviv today and contributes a 70kt tailwind to our efforts. The groundspeed indicates 507knotts /583Mph which will reduce our flight time in still air of 6 hrs 10 mins to 5 hrs and 25 mins on this leg outbound. The downside is on the return leg to Manchester which is predicted to be 6 hrs 42 mins due to the Jetstream on our nose for most of the way home.
A good view of the Greek islands,Turkey and Cyprus we are now briefing and preparing for the arrival into Tel Aviv.
We need to get clearance on a separate radio frequency from Israeli military before entering their airspace. Clearance received we are immediately asked to commence descent to flight level 350 to facilitate separation from crossing traffic.
The weather in Tel Aviv is forecasting towering cumulus clouds on arrival which can indicate possible thunderstorms. Good visibility and a northerly wind we expect to land on runway 30 which is a visual approach. We follow the standard arrival for our routing and make visual contact with the airfield at approximately 20 nautical miles.
The west bank and the Gaza strip on the right hand side.
Downwind abeam runway 30 Tel Aviv.
When landing on this runway you must not fly further than 4 nautical miles east of the airfield as there is high terrain in this area. When we are adeam the runway the first officer disconnects the autopilot and we configure for landing early as the descent from downwind is steep initially due to air traffic control keeping arriving aircraft at 4000ft in the downwind position.As we have both flown here on many occasions we are one step ahead of ATC instructions and expect a late descent clearance.
The 757 is a nice aircraft to land as it has a trailing link undercarriage. This helps to absorb some of the inertia at touchdown and Ian completes a very nice landing indeed to completion of a non eventful flight. We are twenty minutes early and hope to turn the aircraft around quickly.
We don’t manage to turn around quickly and we miss our slot from ATC due to late passengers and baggage loading delays. It’s going to be a long flight back to Manchester.
A smooth flight with a picturesque waning moon and crystal clear sky views we finally check out at operations in Manchester having completed our post flight paperwork at ten past midnight.
The aircraft will now be inspected for the next few hours by the company engineers and made ready for it’s early morning departure to Lanzarote at 7 am.