Jan 15, 2008

Routine ORD Ops...

It's not unusual to have to deal with last minute changes when departing Chicago's O'Hare airport, especially during difficult weather. You never know if you'll end up sitting in line for half-an-hour or more, or blasting right out. These are my notes from one such event:

(Note that the entire time frame for this departure is less than 15 minutes during which we are going through several radio communications with ramp control, ground control, company ops, tower, departure control, did I forget anyone? And our radio is continually busy with controllers and other pilots. Through all this it is considered a cardinal "sin" to miss any calls the ORD controller has for our particular aircraft, so we must never stop listening out while dealing with our flight deck issues... all part of the fun.)

Log Entry - A319 Capt - KORD - At the Gate - Departing - lines of heavy thunderstorms in the area...

•Thunderstorms and rainshowers affecting arrival/departures. Nothing drastic
happening on the airport itself besides intermittant light rain and wet runways due
to a heavier shower in the past hour.

•ATIS gives a northeast wind approx 15 kts, good ceiling and vis. Runways 4L, 9L
and 32L from T10, for departure.

•We program 4L in the primary navigation page with 9L in secondary. We pull up the chart for 32L@T10 and check the numbers for this runway also.

•Flight planned to Montreal (YUL) at flight level 370 with YMX alternate. Alternate requirement is in ‘the gray zone’, but due to amended forecasts, it’s nice to have the 400 extra. Plan also includes 800 ATC/WX fuel for ground delays and enroute diversions.

•I decide to start 2 engines on pushback due to ramp congestion in the gate area
as well as the need to expeditiosly get ‘over the hump’ at the top of the alleyway
(taxi weight about 59,000 kg.). APU kept running for later engine shutdown/restart once
we get onto the taxiways and assess the length of delays.

•While at top of alleyway waiting for ground control to assign our taxi routing, ‘*PACK 2 OVERHEAT’ ECAM warning comes on. ECAM action -- pack switch OFF until temp returns to normal...

(*note: we have 2 'Packs' which supply compressed air for pressurization and air conditioning).

• (warning - more tech talk:) The presentation is confusing at first because the pack outlet temp is high, but green. I’m expecting an amber temperature indication. I notice later that the small line leading out of the pack is amber and so this must be an Air
Cycle Machine overheat type of ‘trip’ -- ah takes me back to my B727 S/O days.

•We are assigned to runway 4L for departure - with significant delays - all
southbound departures are on ground stop. Turn LEFT along Alpha to Alpha 12
then double back on Bravo to join the lineup for 4L. Go! Go now! I jump us forward into the flow of airplanes along Alpha...

•Meanwhile the pack warning is taking a long time to go away. I wonder if shutting
down the engine will ‘mask’ the problem only to have it reappear just as we restart
the engine when we are at the front of the lineup and no time left to fix things... I
decide that this probably isn’t an issue, but should be prepared anyways for such
an eventuality.

•We shutdown engine 2 while taxyying. I hand control of aircraft to FO so I can haul
out the gigantic MEL manual (we should have a crane installed!), and set it on the
floor where he can reach it and ask him to see ‘what if’ the pack
overheat doesn’t go away.

•I make a quick ‘takeoff delay’ type PA for the Passengers and Flight Attendants.

•I take back control of the airplane and the FO checks the MEL messsage list to confirm it is NOT a NOGO item, then checks for any RTG (return to gate) requirement. The max. flight level is 315 with one pack and RTG applies only if more fuel is required.

•We enter FL290 (direction of flight) into the Prog page and confirm that the extra
fuel is adequate if the need arises.

•ORD ATC advises that they will have a re-route for us to send us further northward with a
departure off 32L@T10. We are cleared to turn left at Alpha 9 over to Tango and
hold short of T10. Contact ORD tower at frequency xxxxx for full re-route.

•This means we are suddenly number 1 for departure on 32L as I see no other
aircraft lined up on Tango! I advise that we have a ‘technical issue’ we’re
working on and offer to pull out of the traffic until it’s cleared. The
controller says “no, don’t do that or you’ll be stuck here for much longer -- better to
get the re-route and then coordinate the ‘issue’ with the tower" -- ya gotta love those ORD

•We set aside the MEL for a minute to concentrate on the re-route clearance. We
are given a departure over PETTY - Muskeegan - Peck - YXU - MSS - Cedar arrival
YUL. Happily the FO had this similar reroute last month so he knows how to
‘spell’ Muskeegan (that is it's coded database name: MKG). Otherwise I would have asked the controller for the spelling. One advantage of the FMGC system is that when we know the actual ident codes for the stations, it is much easier to handle last minute re-routes without having to pull out clumsy navigation charts and frantically search for unfamiliar waypoints.

•We reprogram the departure runway for 32 left from the Tango 10 intersection and the new route and recheck the fuel requirements. Extra is still good (I love the ease of fuel checks on the FMGC as well).

•Finally the pack overheat goes out and we reset the pack. It stays normal.

•We start Engine 2; shutdown APU and get going on the Before TakeOff checklist.

•Quick PA to Passengers and Flight Attendants.

•We are number one at the 32L@T10 and as fast as we can get ready the controller
sends us to position and gives us our takeoff clearance with a right turn to 010
heading -- right towards the west end of a rainshower area. The radar returns on
the 40 mile scale are only amber so we accept it and ‘roll’. I hand control over to the FO as it's "his leg."

•The runway is dried out enough that the FO uses FLEX (reduced) takeoff power.

•At 100 knots when the ‘wind arrow’ starts to show up on the ND I notice that we
actually have a slight tailwind. I consider pushing the power up to TOGA (full), but the
319 is accelerating so well and the runway is still plenty long, so I decide not to
‘rock the boat’.

•At 400 feet we make the turn to 010 and contact Departure. We are heading straight
towards the rain now and he immediately provides a PIREP - flight ahead reports a
smooth ride with just moderate rain. Did I say I LOVE those ORD controllers!? We get a very
acceptable ride on climbout with level-offs for a few moments at 5,000 and 13,000.

•I advise Flight Dispatch of our new route, fill out the logbook regarding the pack overheat,
enter the USA security sweep info in the book as well, and of course check the
pack temps a couple of times to ensure that all is well. We climb up to 370 as

• The flight to YUL is routine...


Dan said...

Good God, and I thought I had a busy day today...

It's nice to see more frequent posting these days. Please, keep 'em coming!

Aluwings said...

Thanks Dan. I should also say that being able to accomplish all these tasks smoothly in a very short time frame depends on having a great First Officer. With a newbie on board, we would probably have had to take that option of pulling out of the flow to get things done and so end up with a much longer delay.

Len Morgan, who used to write for Flying Magazine, once commented about flight deck teamwork: "A good Captain and First Officer go hand-in-hand -- but not through the terminal building".