Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Sunsets, storms and other.

I have done some interesting flying recently, including some Melbourne to Sydney ferry flights, which was fun flying the dash and near empty weights. There was a lot of weather on the way as well, and since we were empty we decided diverting 100nm to get around it wasn't as important. Plus, it was Friday afternoon!

We managed to weave around the worst of it at 23000ft, but it was still a fairly bumpy ride which involved being pushed up and down around 500ft and a lot of ice accumulation on the airframe. We had our crew dinners on the front seat of the plane, which were loaded there before we closed the door. Neither of us elected to eat it, mainly due to it being around 5PM, and we both had a much nicer dinner waiting at home. Im pretty sure they ended up somewhere on the floor, but we both actually forgot to check what happened to them through the bumps. Did i mention it was Friday afternoon?

Anyhoo, we got through around 80nm of solid muck and bumps, into the most random smooth and clear evening into Sydney i had seen in a while, so there was no excuse for a bad landing, which i'm pretty sure, wasn't one of my best. But i blame the captain, he put the pressure on :)

Nothing like jet envy! That was a 767 from Melbourne to Sydney. We saw about 3 other jets overtake us. Gotta love turboprops!!

Crew meals. Not sure what happened to them!

The engine from i think row 3?

Getting a beverage from the galley down the back. They had no water on board weirdly, so the order was 2 coke zero's.

The storms and weather that lay ahead. Didn't look to bad or as big from this point, but it made the next 80nm go quite quick.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Sydney's epic storms last week, was probably the worst flying conditions i have ever encountered. We were doing the late Moree in the Dash-200, and as we departed we could see a big line of storms forming to the west towards Dubbo and western NSW. That didn't really bother us, with a light 200, best rate of climb through the build up, and a few early turns to the north and we were able to have a smooth, clear flight the entire 280nm to Moree.

After a quick turn around we departed to Sydney. Enroute almost instantly in the last remaining daylight we were able to visually, what looked like a cell, but wasn't showing up on the weather radar. After a 30nm diversion to the east, we saw a lot of lightning coming out of it and were pretty happy with our decision to avoid it. As we approached closer and closer to Sydney, we could see more and more cells appearing on the radar. At range 100nm, and showing no ground returns, when you see orange and red being painted so far away, you know its going to be bad. Sydney was also approx 100nm on the DME distance.

I couldn't get a good shot as we got closer for the main reason, as we had a high workload, talking to approach and working out our plan of attack. Also the bumps were so bad i couldn't get a clear shot, as you can see in the second photo.

Most of the jets were going into 34L, and we were for 34R into Sydney. I think we were the only plane to the east of the field and our instructions were basically, manoeuvre as required to get in. We were cleared to 2000ft, and eventually a radar lowest safe altitude of 1500ft. The weather radar was basically painting magenta coloured cells about 5nm in length and thickness with just small gaps in between them. There was so much lightning around us, rain, bumps and cloud it was fairly disorientating.

Somehow, we were able to get a short but direct visual path to the airport, where we intercepted an abbreviated ILS to finals from about 5nm. We saw about 5 planes waiting for takeoff on that runway as we landed. However due to the storms around Sydney, it's airport policy that the ground guys do not work when there is lighting. So we also sat on the ground for around 58 minutes waiting for ground power, and ground marshalling to the gate. The weather was bad enough that were letting planes turn any direction from the parallel runways.

Truely, i cannot say i learnt a whole lot from the experience, other than that myself and the crew worked very well together over the whole situation. We were aware of what was going on around us and how to organise ourselves to avoid the weather and operate safely in the conditions. It was challenging flying though, which is satisfying once on the ground.