The following was written by myself aimed at new Captains to the Boeing 747-400. It might be of interest to those who think that when we are on the ground.....we have nothing to do!
NOT ALL POTENTIAL CAPTAINS UNDER TRAINING HAVE BEEN LARGE JET AIRCRAFT CAPTAINS BEFORE, AND LIKE ALL OF US NEED SOME POINTERS AND ADVICE.
I APOLGISE IF I AM BEING PEDANTIC OR STATING THE OBVIOUS, HOWEVER I HOPE THAT THIS ADVICE WILL BE EITHER OF USE OR INTERESTING!
THE FOLLOWING I OFFER AS ADVICE AND IS NOT ALL INCLUSIVE. EVERY INDIVIDUAL HAS HIS OWN MANAGEMENT STYLE AND TECHNIQUE. I SIMPLY OFFER THE FOLLOWING AS GUIDANCE AND POINTERS TOWARDS SUCCESSFULLY MANAGING OPERATIONS PRIOR TO BECOMING AIRBORNE.
PLEASE ADVISE ME WHERE MY IDEAS CAN BE ADDED TO OR IMPROVED.
When there is engineering support available, speak to them before completing the external check, maybe there are DMIs being worked on or other engineering tasks being performed. Also check the technical log to see if there are any entries affecting the aircraft’s status prior to starting the external check. Ensure that no DMIs have expired and that previous crew’s entries have been actioned, again this will save time later. In the cockpit set the parking brake (allows a check of the brake wear pins) and turn on the navigation lights. Now you can start the external check. A thorough external check should take about ten minutes and will be covered during line training. Remember the B747-400 should not have chocks on the nose-wheel as this will affect the aircraft’s internal weight and balance system. (Once cargo loading has been completed it is prudent to again check the area around the cargo holds for any damage. You can always delegate tasks…..but ultimately you as captain are responsible….never forget this!)
If de-icing is anticipated (know the clean wing concept) advise operations and engineering as this will save time later.
A check of the cargo should also be undertaken, if dangerous goods are carried check their location and that they are correctly loaded/secured. Ensure that all visible locks are correctly in place and that none of the cargo is touching the sidewalls. It is necessary to be able to access all cargo on the main-deck so make sure that access is not blocked.
In the cockpit if electrical power has not been established then remember that this should be accomplished using the supplementary procedure in the FCOM.
Again, once settled in the cockpit and when we have received the necessary flight documents, check that we have the Jeppesen airfield charts for our destination, alternates and en-route alternates as often with charter flights these are not available and valuable time can be wasted in chasing these up. It is also necessary to ensure that we have all the necessary manuals before leaving Baku, as often some of them could be missing. Replacement manuals can be sourced, possibly through ops, or during office hours through Elvira and/or Kamal, or maybe from another one of our aircraft which is departing later. Also check that the required licences/certificates are in the document folder. In the event of a SAFA inspection all documents, licences and manuals will be checked, therefore we need to ensure that we are legal. A list of what is required can be found in Ops Manual Part A.
Check the EICAS pages, see if engine oil needs to be uplifted and cross check with the technical log over the past series of flights if a particular engine is requiring frequent uplifts. Check that the Oxygen is above the minimum for despatch, changing oxygen bottles is not a simple and quick task.
You may have the correct amount of fuel onboard but ensure it is correctly loaded and balanced. Check the EICAS messages to see if there are any annunciated there that shouldn’t be, then clear them, and keep clearing them as they annunciate during the pre-flight chain of events to ensure that no important ones are hidden. Check the status messages if annunciated and remember that these can be cleared through the CMC if not a hard fault. Obviously seek maintenance action and/or advice if necessary.
A check of the flight paperwork should ideally be done together with the other flight crew members. Speak to the loadmaster to make sure that he has all the necessary cargo manifests and NOTOCs, as this will minimise any possible delays. Give the Loadmaster the station copy of the OFP with any changes to fuel load or trip fuel highlighted, as well as the security form. Make sure that there are also correct crew General Declarations onboard.
The Captain obviously is a manager, both of time and tasks prior to departure. If you find that you are not doing anything, think what you could be doing….there is always something!
It is the co-pilot’s task to set the overhead panel and the majority of the other switches correctly. However, check everything yourself too, this includes the maintenance switches on the rear ceiling panel. If maintenance has cleared the aircraft then ensure that all the CBs have been reset, especially the white collared ones.
The Captain needs to be constantly pro-active to ensure a timely departure. Liaise with the ground engineer about departure time to ensure that the pushback crew and equipment will be available.
Once the Captain has completed his panel scan/flow a thorough check of the FMC is required. It takes 5 minutes to input the winds, even on a long flight, have the co-pilot do this for you. Don’t accept any route discontinuities and ensure that the FMC distance from the progress page equates to that on the OFP, if it doesn’t find out why.
When completing the runway analysis performance calculation, don’t use the ATIS written by your colleague on the OFP, write it down yourself to ensure a cross check. This calculation can be started before receiving the load-sheet, after confirming with the loadmaster that the information on the OFP is correct. This will save time later and reduce any chance of mistakes if this task is completed in a rush.
With a complicated engine out procedure maybe draw a picture of it, refer to it with your colleague to ensure that a correct mental picture has been made of it…by both of you, covering lateral andvertical navigation as well as aircraft speeds and configurations and final safe altitude, this will assist in a complete understanding by all of the emergency briefing.
When happy that your office is being managed correctly, ask for the Pre-flight Checklist. When completed have your flight-plan confirmed by ATC as being available and advise them of your expected departure time if different to the scheduled departure time…again this will save delays later.
Remember that you can always use SATCOM to call Cargolux, or dial operations telephone number.
Ideally load the performance data into the FMC once you have the load-sheet. However, it is acceptable to complete the departure briefing first…..make it interactive, ask your colleague what his actions are, confirm that he is happy with all you are briefing (e.g. the noise abatement procedure for your airport, details on this can be found in the Jeppesen book).
With the performance data correctly loaded into the FMC the emergency briefing can be completed too. It is better to complete all briefings now and not whilst taxiing, although a review of the briefing could be done whilst taxiing, ask your colleague to do this whilst you concentrate on keeping the aircraft on the taxi way.
Now that all pre-flight procedures are completed, loading completed and if time permits, all you need is 5 minutes, quickly check the areas around the cargo doors and quickly walk through the main-deck cargo compartment, looking for any leakages, smells or smoke.
In the cockpit, if it is not running, ensure that the APU is started and then have the external power disconnected. With all doors closed and pre-departure procedures completed check that all the gear pins, except for the steering bypass pin, if being pushed-back, are removed and that you are clear to pressurise the hydraulic systems.
Now ask your colleague for the Before Start Procedure and checklist; obviously with you checking all switch movements.
With push-back and engine start clearance obtained from ATC, advise the ground-crew and always be sure that they know exactly the configuration of the parking brake and push-back routing…we don’t all speak perfect English.
Think about the ramp conditions, engine start sequence (temperature and pressure altitude) performance of the tug on pushing back a heavy aircraft with ninety degree turns being required. There is no hurry to start engines!
If supplementary procedures need to be used due to cross bleed start or de-icing requirements, refer to the FCOM and complete them whilst the parking brake is SET.
With engine start successfully completed and no unexpected EICAS messages annunciated, have the ground-crew disconnect and confirm where you will see them for the wave-off with the steering pin. Do not move the aircraft until this wave-off has been received, groundstaff have been killed as a result of this. Ask your colleague for the Before Taxi Procedure and with the tug disconnected and steering pin confirmed removed, then complete the flight control check, do this with your colleague monitoring.
Have your colleague follow through with the rudder pedal movements this will ensure that he has correctly set his rudder pedals….better to find out now, than during the take-off roll.
Now ask for the Before Taxi checklist, ensure that the aircraft is clear, and follow this up with taxi clearance from ATC. Do not move the aircraft until you are both sure of the exact taxi route cleared, as it could be different to that which you have briefed.
Dependant on aircraft weight and the possibility of FOD to the outboard engines, use sufficient thrust to start taxiing (remember maximum 40%N1). Think about which engines are ‘best’ to be used to start this movement.
Have your colleague switch on the lights which you require and remember there is no immediate hurry to set take-off flaps, assess the environmental and taxi route conditions first.
With the aircraft correctly configured and at a suitable time during taxi, call for the Before Take-off checklist and maybe also have your colleague review the departure instructions and/or engine out routing….All good CRM.
Without being distracted it would be a good idea just to check your FMAs on your PFD.
Remember that the MEL applies up to the setting of take-off power, so any EICAS advisory or caution messages need to be dealt with by the QRH and then the MEL to ensure that departure can be continued. Also consider returning to stand for maintenance rectification, even if the MEL allows for dispatch, as there could be knock on effects at destination. Status messages do not generally require MEL guidance after push-back has been completed, but understand what they are telling you and how a subsequent failure could affect the operation….again plan ahead.
IF a 10 second engine run-up is required advise ATC before lining up.
With clearance to line-up on the runway ask for the ‘line-up items’, check the final approach is clear both visually and on TCAS….especially in poor weather and line up on the runway centreline, checking the runway heading.
If you have a mental model that all take-offs will lead to an RTO (the same for all approaches will lead to a Go-Around…..unless a safe landing can be completed) then you will always be prepared. Know what you will reject the take-off for and at what stage during the take-off roll. Try to minimise as many surprises as possible and always project yourself ahead of the aircraft….be prepared and plan ahead.
With take-off clearance obtained, assess the wind direction for both crosswind take-off technique and engine fire considerations as well as A/T availability in a strong headwind.
When happy……and only when both of you are happy…..advance the thrust levers and off you go.
Now that we are airborne, the hard work is over! Management of ground operations is probably the hardest task for us during normal operations…ie when no non-normal situations arise. Our SOPs allow for a logical flow and sequence of events…..use them!
REMEMBER YOU ARE IN CONTROL OF THE AIRCRAFT, AND NOT THE AIRCRAFT IN CONTROL OF YOU.
ALWAYS HAVE A PLAN, IT MIGHT NOT BE THE MOST ACCURATE ONE…OR AT THE END OF THE DAY…THE BEST ONE FOR THE SITUATION/CIRCUMSTANCES…BUT ALWAYS HAVE A PLAN AND BE CONFIDENT THAT YOU KNOW WHAT YOU WILL DO, NOT ONLY WHEN THINGS GO SMOOTHLY…BUT WHEN THINGS GO WRONG.
THE AUTOMATICS ARE THERE TO ASSIST YOU IN KEEPING THE AIRCRAFT UNDER CONTROL AND ON THE CORRECT FLIGHT PATH….USE THEM.
ON CIVILIAN AIRCRAFT THERE ARE NO HEROES, SHOULD BE NO EGOES!
USE YOUR COLLEAGUES, ALL OF THEM. HANDING OVER CONTROL WHEN TRYING TO ASSESS A SITUATION OR FORMULATE A PLAN IS GOOD AIRMANSHIP AND CRM.
HAVE A SAFE FLIGHT!