Apr 9, 2007

A Day in the Life (15) - De-ice is nice

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. (check left hand column for series index).

Log Entry 2003 - A320 Capt - CYUL - Taxiing

Elapsed Time: plus ten minutes… and counting…

While I taxi the aircraft, FO Paula has some extra work to do. We've noticed aircraft leaving the deicing bay and heading over to runway 06R. This is a change since our preparations at the gate. She types out the request and the Data link soon responds with updated information. The runway change is confirmed.

Approaching taxiway Delta FO Paula flips the radio to Montreal ground control. There’s someone else already talking so I slow to a crawl, hoping Paula can obtain our clearance across runway ten before we come to a full stop. If we lose momentum it takes more power to get rolling again.

The frequency clears up and FO Paula jumps in. “GooseAir One Eleven holding short at Delta.”

“GooseAir One Eleven, cleared to cross runway one zero. On taxiway Kilo, call Deice.”

Just in time. I add a small blast of power to get us around the corner and accelerating. We look carefully left and right before crossing the runway.

Now FO Paula is busily sparring with MCDU calling up load and performance numbers for the new runway. Then she flips the number two radio from company frequency to Deice control and reports on their frequency. We receive our clearance into deicing bay four.

I follow the yellow lines and electronic signals, watching carefully on both sides to ensure the deicing trucks are parked behind the yellow lines where they will be safe from collision and jet blast.

Pulling into a crowded deicing bay is a good reason to stop all other chores and keep our eyes peeled. As I ease up to the correct spot, the iceman shows us the red light. I stop a couple feet short of the yellow line to avoid dropping our nosewheel directly onto a drain depression in the tarmac. That would make it harder to get rolling again. This way we’ll roll down the slope and gain some momentum when it’s time to leave.

“Checklist,” I call as I set the parking brake. FO Paula takes up the QRH and reads us through the configuration changes. Basically we’re closing up holes in the airplane where deicing fluid might get in. If we ingest any into the air conditioning system it can produce fumes or even white smoke in the cabin. Disconcerting.

“Brakes set, configured for spray.” I advise the de-ice crew. We've pre-ordered a type 1 spray to take the light snow and frost accumulation off the wings. He confirms the instructions again as he reports that spraying is underway and gives me the official time.

I write it down, but it’s not a critical issue today. In snow or freezing rain conditions we'd refer to a set of tables to determine how long the protection should last. These tables provide guidelines under specific conditions. If we go over the guideline time or have any reason to doubt the conditions of the wings, then a visual inspection is required.

While the crews are busy outside, we’ve also got things to do. FO Paula continues poking away at MCDU to enter our new numbers in the appropriate pages of the flight guidance system. There are revisions to the departure route. This requires some modifications as well, and I pull out a different twenty-five cent chart to confirm that the electronic genies are all playing nice this morning.

FO Paula updates her pre-departure briefing while I listen carefully for any discrepancies. We just get finished as the Deice coordinator calls us. “De-Icing complete.” He assures me the trucks are safely parked clear of the aircraft and we peer out the side windows to make sure. I run the windshield wipers in a vain attempt to clear off the greasy de-ice fluid. If we leave it too long it bakes onto the heated glass and then it’s even harder to get off.

We continue with the QRH checklist to re-configurethe airplane for taxi.

As FO Paula negotiates the clearances to leave the deicing center I’m planning ahead. There are a couple of “got-ya’s” I need to be aware of. The first is that our taxi-way will cut through the approach end of runway 28 at an unexpected point and we must not taxi past it without proper ATC clearance.

The second is that our route will take us through several ATC jurisdictions between the ground controller, the tower controller and the ramp controller. It’s a nuisance and I can’t help but think that there must be an easier way. But I suppose making it easier for us would complicate the procedure for someone else. For today and the forseeable future we just have to deal with it. I taxi a little slower than usual to allow time for our checklist and the necessary ATC calls.

There’s potentially a third complication. If snow was falling heavily I would keep our flaps retracted until just before entering the takeoff runway. But today I’ll stay with our normal operation and extend them right now. One less thing to miss later.

As we’re leaving the deice bay we have time to start the checklist, so I call for it.

“Flight Controls,” FO Paula begins and we launch into our drill. The Airbus requires a unique procedure to check the functions of both pilot’s control sticks as well as the monitoring systems which should detect deficiencies. As we move our controls FO Paula monitors the appropriate ECAM page. She's employing the most important deficiency detector anyway - the human eyeball securely wired to a functioning, carbon-based computational unit, hopefully primed with a suitable blend of caffeine as required to ensure alertness.

We juggle our way through the rest of the checklist without missing any ATC calls and without stopping anywhere along the way. It’s a smooth flow of activity and quickly, we're in the holding bay of runway 06R, the checklist is up-to-date and our flight attendants have been warned in time to secure the cabin. FO Paula reports ready on the tower frequency. I take one last glance around to ensure the performance and flight management screens have been updated to the new runway.

“GooseAir One Eleven, Montreal, cleared for take-off, runway 06 right. Contact Departure airborne, good day.” FO Paula responds, and clears up the last item on the list while I reach up to flip on our landing lights. Which sounds strange for a take-off. But we’re using them for increased visibility for other aircraft and birds. Terminology does get complicated sometimes.

“Whenever you’re ready, you have control.”

“I have control,” she responds. She makes a smooth turn onto the centerline. Taking the airplane a little early like this means she transitions into a “rolling take-off” without any confusion over who’s pushing on what.

FO Paula reviews aloud the V-speeds one more time as well as the initial altitude we’re cleared to on this SID. then she slides the power levers to the TOGA detent. This is it… We’re going.

Elapsed Time: Pushback plus thirty minutes…


Lori said...

Hi, I was just reading this and wondered about something; if a pilot was moving away from the gate towards the runway and hadn't gone to de-ice, but a flight attendant called it to the attention of the flight deck, how would that go over with the pilots? In other words, are the extra eyes of value or would pilots prefer not to hear from the "peanut gallery"? Love your blog by the way.

Aluwings said...

There are times when the aircraft may takeoff with loose dry snow on the wing and the pilot is certain that it will blow off at the beginning of the take-off run.

Having said that, any sane pilot would be very happy for the extra information regarding a build-up of snow and ice on the wing. There are times when flight attendants and even passengers can have information the pilots are unaware of.

Heres a link to the Canadian regulations (all jurisdictions will have similar rules.)
De incing regs