Yesterday I flew a six leg session with Kristin, my Captain for the day. Carol was the FA who I’d flown with before. These two ended up being fun to fly with. I enjoyed the experience.
The first leg was mine to fly, out of SBY to PHL. Kristin gave me the choice, so I asked for the two legs into and out of LaGuardia (LGA). I let her know I was still ‘high-mins’ and that this would be my first time into LGA. She was just fine with it, and did a fabulous job supporting me through my weak points.
Kristin flew the next two legs from PHL to Richmond, Va and back. I’d never been there either, but it is quiet and straight forward. By this time I’d only been off a week, but the affect of the days off were obvious to me. My flows were not as smooth and I missed some things that either Kristin caught or the checklist covered.
Flying out of Philly now, the next two legs are mine. I’m trying to emulate Kristin’s take-off rotation. Very slow and easy right up to the flight director pitch bar. No oscillation. I only managed an improved version of my own technique – pull up until the noses rises slightly too high, and then oscillate around my target. I’m getting better, but the guy all the way in the back row has to wonder what the heck I’m doing.
LGA is only 30 minutes up the road, so things happen fast. The weather is very light or calm winds at the surface and visibility of about a billion miles. Very clear and vibrant day at the office. We are 8000′ coming into the LGA area, and I point out the generating plant that was the target of an energy trading reconnaissance mission I flew once.
Descending down to 4000′, we were directed to fly to the Verranzano bridge; followed by a turn up the Hudson. Kristin is spoon feeding me what will happen and in what order; and it plays out just like she described. I am learning.
Reaching 4000′, I turn off the autopilot and hand-fly up the Hudson. I just can’t pass up that opportunity to do what I’d done just before 9/11 in a private airplane. What a thrill to be doing this!
The beautiful view out the window demands my attention; but not as much as making sure I hold altitude and fly professionally. Still – I steal as many glances as I dare; verbalizing what I’m doing so that Kristin keeps a closer eye on me.
The Statue of Liberty slides under the left wing and I think about the ‘Miracle on the Hudson’ that played out right in front of me. Looking up the east river, I think about Cory Lidle in his errant Cirrus, and what a waste that was. Traffic is significant and the radio is busy. Back to the task at hand.
Once again I try to paste on a professional and seasoned aviator face, but my excitement burns through and the little boys face takes over. I am thrilled to be here and simple amazed at the view out the window. I am hand-flying a Dash-8 100 up the Hudson with 37 people aboard – and going into one of the busiest airports in the area. Me!
We descended to about 3000′ now and fly along the east bank of the Hudson where the world trade centers used to be. Central park was next – oh my the view outside is so stunning and clear. Not much further north we turned east for a right base to RW22 in LGA. Kristin, the Captain, had the runway in sight long before I did. I followed the tail of the airbus ahead, while she pointed out landmarks to keep me oriented.
Once I had the runway, Rikers Island came into view, and we mentioned Law and Order as we came down final. Touchdown was smooth – at least for me – so I was happy.
The activity on the ground was intense. I admitted sensory overload from what I’d just seen; and was not able to quickly recall what Kristin had pre-loaded in my brain. She was very cool about it, and asked me to listen in while she did the ground work too. I learned from that and will get another shot at it today (when I return with a different captain).
The most difficult piece of all this is understanding what the New Yorker ramp and operations folks are saying. Even though Kristin briefed me on what they’d say, I couldn’t understand a word of it through the thick accents. This job is not all that easy at times, but Kristin got us through.
Our departure was the LaGuardia four – Flushing transition. Easy to fly. My leg again, and with the sun setting, we were treated to another stunning view.
Thirty minutes later, we were set up for a night landing to runway 35. With none of the visual cues I was used to, I relied on Kristin to give me the landmarks that pulled out the runway 35 end lights from the dark landscape. Once acquired, I used my judgement to get the glidepath right. It worked out just fine, so I was pleased with it. Wish my SOE Captain had seen this one, since I don’t think I ever made him happy with my landings (particularly on this runway).
Last leg was Kristin’s – up to Ithaca. There were no approaches available tonight, but the weather was clear. We could see the outline of the mountains by the absence of lights – so I was extra careful to back her up on altitude. She didn’t need the help, and we had a nice landing to end the long day.
— Fly safe.