Friday, July 13, 2012

Before flying..

As requested by one of the comments and in line with the theme of the last post, here is a normal entrance and start of my working day, once beyond the gates of security, once i have bought a large take away flat white coffee, and once i'm past the entrance of the crew room.

Sign on to my work is 1 hour before the scheduled departure.

As i enter the crew room, the very first thing i do is head over to the flight planning computers and sign on through our 'crewnet' system. This will let operations know i am at work at the right time, and it will also let me print off my day duties, the captain i'm flying with, the planes i am using and also the cabin crew that i will be working with. It also has the scheduled departure times, arrival times, and any other relevant items specific to the duty. Such things include if it's an overnight and what hotel we are staying at, or if we have a jumpseat rider on the flight.

Usually the captain will be there already or arriving at a similar time. I am familiar with 99% of the captains that i fly with on the Dash8-200/300 fleet, so usually one of us will move over the computer that we are working at/signed on at, say "g'day" and work from there.

First things first, we need a few important documents to start it off. One of us will get the actual company flight plans, and usually print off a FOSO. A FOSO is a company issued document that tells us relevant things we need to know. I guess it's a company NOTAM. An example is changes with the gradients and runway distances at the aerodromes we fly too, and letting us know if we need amended RTOW charts or to continue using the same charts. (RTOW is the regulated take off weight, and are charts that tell us the maximum weight permitted for the runway, and if we can reduce the amount of take-off torque required if we are light, or require full power if we are heavy)

Flight plans!

The next thing we will do is open the flight planning software and enter our login details which will automatically bring up the flights, the plane registration we are flying and the flight planned routes. This will also generate a weather package for us which we can load and then print out. Usually one of us will read it on the computer and the other will read the printed version. We will compare the weather and any NOTAMS, and work out the associated winds aloft to figure out a fuel figures required for the flight we are doing.

Flight planning!

From here we will enter the fuel figure into the flight planning software, and it will auto generate the rest of the figure we need, such as variable reserve, fixed reserve. We will enter the standard holding fuel required for Sydney, we will also put in any weather holding if it is required, or if the weather is bad, put in the alternate and the fuel required for it.

From here will enter the fuel we need for the flight out and the return flight. The general fuel policy is to tanker fuel (ie carry the return trip fuel) and usually give ourselves a margin of around 20 - 30 minutes fat. This is for any mishaps or unexpected things happening such as extra taxiing time, extra holding, traffic when arriving at an outport, using the APU on the ground etc. This will then generate the weight of the aeroplane, the weight of the fuel, passenger loads, catering etc, and give us the estimated take-off weight. We will then goto the RTOW tables and figure out the maximum take-off available with the highest forecast temperature, on the most limiting runway with no wind, using a standing start (that means we apply full power the brakes on and release them once take-off power has been applied).

Once this figure has been entered, we can see whether the fuel load is good for the flight, or maybe we need to sharpen the pencil and take less if it is say a hot day and we are fully loaded, or maybe we can take more fuel if it's the overnight sector just in case we get hit with extra holding delays in the morning. We will usually have a discussion and why or what we think, which is usually stamped with a mark of approval of both saying "yup, happy with that." All done.. We submit the flight plans, we submit the fuel figures to operations so they can organise the fuel truck, and print a copy for ourselves. A quick staple and usually the first officer is delegated to carry the all important paperwork.

At this point, we are about 15 - 20 minutes in, and have 40 minutes to departure. Company policy is we arrive at the aeroplane 30 minutes beforehand, and the cabin crew 25. Boarding commences 15 - 20 before our departure time. So i usually get 'dressed' (put on the epaulettes, wings and tie) get my flight bag, and wait till we both walk to the plane.

Our crew room is located near the gates that we use to park the planes, and usually walking to the gate is out of a separate door and walking on the tarmac and using dedicated walkways to get to our aeroplane, unlike other airlines which usually walk through the terminal to their specific gate. One of the weird things with the airline i fly for is that our crew room and operations is located in terminal 3 in Sydney, yet we depart all our flights (except Canberra flights) through terminal 2.

From here we arrive, and both do a walk around. If it's hot, we will put on the APU for bleed air, and sometimes ground power if we don't have a power cart. I get in and usually the plane is already set up for where we are going, but sometimes it isn't. we have a before start drill for the first officer (7 items) while the captain has around 50 :)

I check the circuit breakers, i reset the clock, i set the navaids, and radios, check my flight instruments, power levers flight idle, and condition levers at fuel off, and last but not least write a take off data card, get the ATIS and fill in the paperwork for the flight....

"Call ready for boarding.."


  1. Interesting post, lots of work you guys have to do to get ready for takeoff!...again, good reading, thanks..Whick

  2. Cheers Whick.. hope you enjoy it.

    There is a lot of work, but i guess the main this is that mostly it doesn't change, and we more or less look at whats not the ordinary, which makes it easier.

    Thanks for reading!

  3. Thanks for an awesome post Michael! It's a side of flying that us perhaps the most important but never really talked about much. Look forward to more blogs in the future

    Cheers mate!
    Andrew G

  4. Another awesome post Mike! I definitely enjoy these posts detailing "a day in the life of!" If you do get stuck for ideas, I'd be interested in reading about your initial training and how you got your first job!

    Keep up the great work!

  5. Loving the blogs!

    Any chance you could get a picture of the flightplan/OFP which is released and printed out after entering the numerous fuel figures etc.

    Also, interesting to know QLink uses online NAIPS aswell :P