Feb 23, 2007

A Day in the Life (10) - Before Start Checklist...

A description of a typical day's flight from Montreal to Vancouver and back - as a backdrop for a detailed, non-technical description of what an airline pilot does.

Log Entry 2003 - A320 Capt - CYUL - Departure Gate

Departure Time: minus one minute

We need a de-icing spray this morning and we have a supplemental checklist for this. So FO Paula quickly skims the Quick Reference Handbook and confirms that the next item says: "Normal Before Start Checklist --- Accomplish."

"Okay," I say. "Before Start Checklist." It seems redundant to repeat what she just read, but it's funny how not saying it would throw off the normal flow we've fallen into. And as we accomplish this check it really does flow. Each challenge item follows closely on the heels of the previous response item and a procedure that took us hours of study and memorization to learn, happens in just a few seconds. When it goes well it is almost like poetry. But when it gets interrupted and we start stumbling and talking on top of one another, it can suddenly become very awkward. She begins reading and I respond as I check each item or carry out any necessary step:

FUEL "Checked"
NOSE WHEEL STEERING "Disconnected and OFF"
CABIN ... I pause and turn in my seat to look down the main aisle, just as the head flight attendant enters, still writing on the passenger count form. She hurriedly hands it to FO Paula and reports; "Cabin Secure." I can hear the main cabin door close behind me with a distinctive thump.

On the center pedestal the printer springs to life and pumps out our weight and balance numbers. At the same instant my headset registers the background noises from the ramp as the lead calls up; "Ready for pushback, Captain."

"Standby." I reply.

FO Paula glances at the count form, quickly compares it to the printout and signals that the numbers match. The flight attendant departs, slamming our security door on the way out and we're locked in for the next six hours.

"Cabin Secure," I call and Paula reaches up to close the checklist item.

The sound of the purser rises in my headset as she begins the passenger briefing; "Good morning ladies and gentlemen, welcome aboard GooseAir flight One Eleven to Vancouver..." I quickly reach down and select my PA monitor off. Her voice drops to become barely audible through the back wall.

I nod to FO Paula, "Push back clearance," while adjusting my radio volume.

She flicks her microphone on. "Montreal ramp, GooseAir One Eleven at gate five alpha is ready to push."

As she releases her microphone button we hear the tell-tale screech in our headsets indicating that another aircraft has been calling at the same time. The other pilot jumps immediately back on the frequency and gets his clearance.

Then the controller calls; "Other aircraft calling for pushback, go ahead..."

FO Paula repeats her transmission.

"GooseAir One Eleven pushback, nose east" comes the reply.

"Finish the checklist."

WINDOWS & DOORS (we each check our sliding windows as well as the ECAM indicator.) "Closed/Closed"

YELLOW PUMP & CROSS BLEED (We'll be needing both engines to taxi so it's,) "Not Required"
THRUST LEVERS (I reach down and ensure the levers are pulled right back) "Idle"

FO Paula: "Before Start Checklist Complete"

I flip the parking brake OFF, which causes the onboard computers to register our departure time.

I click the mic button; "Tractor from flight deck. Brakes Off - we're ready for pushback facing east."

The clock says:
Departure Time: minus zero...


Splendor said...

Just a note to say how much I enjoy your 'day in the life' series.
It's very informative for a low-timer such as myself who's still dreaming of the day he'll get to say "Flight Level" on the radio.

My only comment would be about the ATC phraseology, it's not exactly by-the-book ;)


moe darbandi said...

I must admit I love this series as well. Once finished I'd love to see it all compiled. Heck you can make a pretty awesome, informative short story or artcile out of it. It'll surely get run on all the Flying magazines :)

Aluwings said...

Thanks for the encouraging notes. Re. the ATC phraseology - can you point out an example? I'd like my 'ATC' to ring true, while remaining understandable to a wider audience.

Likewise the checklists and so on where I purposely will change a phrase to remove some jargon that would be distracting and would require elaboration.

When I re-read my postings I often find things that need some tweaking. For example I realized one day while re-reading my IFR clearance that I'd forgotten to include a SID! That was funny.

I really do appreciate it when people point out these things so I can improve them. Also in my recent "Day in the Life" I wonder if it's clear that sometimes I say "ground" when I'm referring to the push-back tractor crewman, and other times it's the Montreal ATC ramp coordinator.

Thanks again for taking time to pass on your comments!

Splendor said...

I'd be happy to 'proof-read' the radio comms for you. I'll re-read your entries and e-mail you my comments.