Apr 22, 2007

A Day in the Life (17) Up, Up and Away...

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 - Initial Climb

Elapsed Time: Take-Off plus ...

The excitement of taking off is followed by the intensity of the inital climbout. But the peak danger is past now as increasing speed and altitude translate into more options and greater safety.

At four hundred feet AGL we can make any turns required by the departure procedure. This morning it’s just a straight climbout. The flight director guide bars command the appropriate pitch angle to keep the speed hovering just above V2, our ideal climb speed.

The Altimeter tape scoots past sixteen hundred and twenty feet, which is fifteen hundred above the runway, so FO Paula reaches up and smoothly pulls the thrust levers back to the climb detent. This is Auto-Thrust’s signal to fully engage and reduce the engines to climb power. This mode change is announced across the top of our PFDs (Primary Flight Displays), and we hear the reduction in the noise around us.

FO Paula makes the callout, “Climb, Open Climb.”

Autothrust will keep the engines at climb setting while the vertical nav program varies the pitch attitude to maintain the proper speed profile. I notice my flight display agrees as I switch the VHF radio from tower frequency to the departure controller.

“Montreal Departure, GooseAir one-eleven is off zero-six right, out of one thousand eight hundred for five thousand.”

“Roger GooseAir one-eleven. After three thousand turn left heading three three zero, climb and maintain flight level two five zero..

I repeat the numbers and he confirms my readback with a quick “roger.”

This morning FO Paula has chosen to stick-handle the airplane for a while, so she calls out the new altitude and I set it in the auto-flight control window. As soon as we clear the three thousand foot noise abatement requirement she calls for the new heading and I set three hundred and thirty degrees into the heading command window. “Speed push,” she continues. I give the speed control knob a gentle nudge and watch as the flight director guide bars respond. FO Paula lowers the nose and banks the aircraft in response.

“Flaps Zero,” she calls as we accelerate past the magenta speed bug on the ASI tape. I move the lever out of the gate into the zero notch and glance at the flap and slat position indicators. They move normally. In a few seconds they indicate proper retraction.

“Flaps zero, Gear’s up,” I call and with that the initial climb phase is complete. "You're working me to death over hear," I tease. "Can I go back to sleep now?"

"Just a little longer and you can continue your beauty rest all the way to Vancouver," she assures me.

Thankfully the after take-off procedure is short and sweet. A quick scan of the MCDU and flight instruments. The landing lights remain to be retracted at ten thousand feet. The best check list is no check list. So simple.

Elapsed Time: Take-Off plus four minutes and counting...

A320 Take Off Pattern