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Start ::  SPA Regular Hubs ::  Minneapolis Hub Notices ::  MSP Hint of the Month for November 2011
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MSP Hint of the Month for November 2011

Westcoast Posted: 14.11.2011, 23:13

Westcoast

registered: Jan. 2006
Posts: 945

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Flying the New Cat VII MSP Flights. First of all, let’s ask ourselves why anybody would want to fly one of these long flights over the Pacific. After all, they are very long (some over 12 hours) and it only takes about 20 minutes to get tired of looking out the windscreen at the Pacific. I understand and share that point of view. I do a fair amount of bush and GA simming myself. However, there is an answer and it’s not that these flights are a great way to stack up the hours (although that’s true too). The answer is because you want to learn how it is done. That works for me. If that kind of thing doesn’t float your boat, not to worry. After all, you are a Cat VII pilot and you can fly anything you want.

If you are still reading this, it might be because you want to know what you might learn in becoming proficient at this kind of heavy metal flying. There are lots of reasons, but I can think of four off hand.

1)Heavy Aircraft Operations. You should be able to do these flights with the standard SPA Cat VII aircraft, although some are too long for the B777 and will require either the B747 or the A340. However, this level of flying is your opportunity to break into one of the more realistic payware aircraft like the Level D 767-300ER or the PMDG 747-400. These aircraft are a world all their own and I can’t begin to do the subject justice here. I will take this subject on in pieces in future “Hints”.

2)Route Planning. I like to make my flight planning as realistic as possible. So, I subscribe to Navigraph and download the most recent AIRAC every month to make sure both my flight planning program (FSCommander) and the computers in my FMC equipped payware aircraft are loaded with the most recent navigational data. In addition to realistic routes, I make use of current SIDs and STARs. I also go to www.flightaware.com to obtain the most recent IFR routes filed between the city pair of my flight. However, if you try that for a flight from Minneapolis to Tokyo, you’re in for a surprise: Flightaware doesn’t cover international flights. So what to do? The answer is not “GPS Direct”, nor even the great circle route you will get from most flight planning programs, although that comes closer. Instead, try this. Within the continental U.S., use the high altitude airways. Then, over the Pacific hook up with the PACOTS (Pacific Organized Track System). There’s a great tutorial on PACOTS here: http://zak.vatusa.net/tutor/pacots_tutorial.htm, although the government link in the tutorial is broken. You can get the current PACOTS here: https://pilotweb.nas.faa.gov/PilotWeb/noticesAction.do?queryType=PACIFICTRACKS&formatType=ICAO
These routes take into account current upper atmosphere winds, so they might work pretty well with real time weather programs, but that’s a subject that might make for some interesting research.

3)Fuel Planning. This is the critical element for these long flights. Of course, you might just load 100% and head down the runway. However, there are several problems with this. First of all, even SPA can’t afford to haul empty seats across the Pacific. With current jet fuel prices, we can’t make a profit unless most of the seats and most of the cargo bay are full. So you need to start with a realistic payload, both passengers and cargo. Then you can load fuel until you hit the MTOW (Maximum Take Off Weight) for your aircraft. Will that be enough? You can’t know without a good fuel planner. You’ll need fuel for taxi, climb, the destination, and the alternate, plus the mandated reserves and you’ll need to take forecast headwinds into account. You’ll need a fuel planner that tells you all those things. Many payware aircraft are bundled with a fuel planner. If you don’t have one, you’ll need to find one for your aircraft. Here’s a start: http://fuel.aerotexas.com/

4)Runway Length. So you’re all tanked up at the gate at SFO ready to depart for Tokyo. The SFO tower gives you runway 01R, which is 8648’ long. Will you get off safely in that runway length ? Maybe, maybe not. What if you have to abort the takeoff at V1? It probably isn’t going to work. Can you get Rwy 10L (11,870’) ? Is that runway long enough? You need a tool to tell you what you can do. It depends on the winds, and the temperature and the gross weight of your aircraft. It even depends on which engines you have on your aircraft. I only know of one tool that can do all of that for you, a payware program called “Topcat” (http://www.topcatsim.com/) (thanks Jerry). There may be some freeware, but I haven’t found it. The same issues exist for your landing runway, particularly if you have to divert enroute to a smaller airport. Topcat will do that for you too.

So, you are going to find that most of the work will be done before you push off the gate. Then, the flight will be a process of watching it all unfold in accordance with your plan. If you have an aircraft equipped with a working flight management computer (aka FMC), you will be able to get frequently updated estimates of the arrival time at your destination and of the fuel you will have when you land. If one of those things goes south on you, you will need to do two things: a) work out and execute a diversion and b) figure out what you did wrong in your flight planning. On the other hand, if it all goes according to plan, you will find a lot of satisfaction in intercepting the localizer and riding down the glide slope to a smooth landing on schedule with adequate fuel reserves on arrival.

Mike


Westcoast
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Edwardm9350 Posted: 18.12.2011, 19:29

Edwardm9350

registered: Jul. 2009
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last visit: 24.08.14
Not looking forward to getting rump sprung in a 747 but the challenge is there. I WILL be conferring with my Base Manager when I'm qualified for overseas runs
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RoBear Posted: 19.12.2011, 07:16



registered: Jul. 2011
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Mike, a very enjoyable and informative post. Another good source for pilots is http://www.aopa.org/ (Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association)

For US members, a $45 membership per year will get you a complete online experience that will cover almost all of the above, beside helping further flying as a whole. This includes various flight planning tools, current information as to what is happening policitally to affect pilots, etc.

[img]http://i44.servimg.com/u/f44/11/94/76/91/robear12.jpg[/img]
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airhogg Posted: 19.12.2011, 23:58



registered: Feb. 2010
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thank god I fly in the Virtual World Mike, by reading your hint of the month post, I can see all the stuff that I don`t do, but would have to do in the real world. but then, it wouldn`t be fun.....
would it? but for those who do, I applaud you.
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Westcoast Posted: 21.12.2011, 17:06

Westcoast

registered: Jan. 2006
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Yup, it's a lot of work to do it "right" and I don't much of the time. I enjoy jumping in the Kodiak or Bush Hawk and flying by the seat of my pants, or taking the Cessna 310R over familiar territory near home. In those cases there isn't much doubt about the fuel load or runway length and the Victor airways are fine for an IFR flight. But for the really long flights- the Cat VI/Cat VII stuff - it's a good investment. I don't get a good feeling when I take out the fence at the end of the runway or run out of gas on a go-around at Narita after I've got 8 hours in the flight. The good thing is that it's up to you.

Westcoast
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Biggles Posted: 22.01.2012, 02:00

Biggles

registered: Mar. 2010
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Mike, my compliments on a very good article.
I am glad to see someone else using FMC. I had always felt it was a bit like cheating.
Biggles.
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Westcoast Posted: 22.01.2012, 13:44

Westcoast

registered: Jan. 2006
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It certainly is different than using the native GPS in FSX, but I find it a fascinating challenge - maunly because that's how it's really done.

Mike

Westcoast
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Edwardm9350 Posted: 11.02.2012, 14:58

Edwardm9350

registered: Jul. 2009
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Great summary Mike. I have printed your comments and added them to my Cat VII notebook. Still struggling with the FMC in PMDG 747-400.
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