|Sitting in line for takeoff in Atlanta this morning|
We landed in Atlanta last night after dark with ceilings reported at 200 feet and visibility expressed in feet, not miles. The approach to Atlanta was an interesting one, the ILS/PRM (Simultaneous Close Parallel) approach to runway 10. The procedure is a standard ILS approach with localizer and glideslope indications except that it is too close to a parallel runway (9R in this case) to be flown using normal procedures. The pilot’s must be specially trained to fly such an approach and there is a page long explanation that must be read and reviewed before executing the approach. The procedures call for the pilots to monitor a second tower frequency during the approach to guard against blocked transmissions and the pilots must be alert and ready to immediately follow break out instructions from the tower controller in case another aircraft “blunders” into your airspace. You might find some humor in the word blunder, I know I did, but that is the actual word used in the FAA explanation for this approach. Here’s the actual wording…
“pilots, when directed by ATC to break off an approach, must assume that an aircraft is blundering toward their course and a breakout must be initiated immediately”
I do think it’s important to have a good laugh every now and then and I laughed out loud when I read that line approaching Atlanta last night.
|Ice forming on a heated window|
By 9am, DFW had one of it’s seven runways open and that runway was only being used for arrivals. It was another two hours before a second runway was open for use by departing aircraft. The airlines, which had preemptively cancelled hundreds of flights continued to cancel even more as the day went on. In contrast, Dallas Love Field, just miles away was unable to open all day forcing Southwest, Delta and Continental Airlines to cancel every flight out of the airport all day.
Back at the gate in Atlanta and ready to depart, our flight was held on the ground while we waited for word on the condition of the runway. At the time the gate agent finished boarding, the runways at DFW were still closed, but were expected to be open by the time we landed. An hour after our scheduled departure time, we elected to takeoff in hopes that the runways would in fact be open when we arrived. Of course, we had an alternate airport planned in case the runways were still closed when we arrived, but we certainly hoped we wouldn’t need it.
We departed Atlanta where the visibility was still hovering around CATII minimums and headed toward DFW. Just as we leveled off at FL340, we received word that one runway was open at DFW and we would be able to land. The runway was covered in ice and snow, but a short time later we were informed that several company jets had landed and reported braking action good.
Our flight plans have a column indicating forecast ride conditions. The ride forecast comes from a combination of actual reports from other aircraft and the professional opinion of a meteorologist. The forecast is expressed as a number between 0 and 5...0 being a perfectly smooth ride and 5 being something like the inside of an F5 tornado. Our ride prediction for today’s flight was a 3...not good. The ride in was terrible with moderate chop and turbulence for most of the flight. We tried various altitudes, high and low, to find a smooth ride, but it just didn’t happen. The flight attendants stayed in their seats and I kept the cabin as cool as possible without freezing people out in an effort to prevent a chain reaction of air sickness.
The landing at DFW was actually a little anti-climactic. By the time we arrived, the precipitation had ended and the airport had successfully opened two runways. We landed on runway 31R while 31L was being utilized for takeoff operations only. The runway was completely covered in ice and snow, but the braking action reports were all good and although the wind, still peaking at 40+ knots was strong, it also meant that when we touched down, we were just that much closer to taxi speed which of course just shortens our landing distance.
The biggest problem I had was getting home. My car was literally frozen to the pavement in the employee lot and the drive home that usually takes 20 minutes on a good day and 25 minutes in the heat of rush hour traffic took an hour and a half. The rest of my trip was canceled and scheduling put me on reserve beginning at 3am in the morning. I really hope they don’t call…not sure if I could get to the airport anyway. We’ll see.