22 December 2010

IMC Practice

Dispatching can be a challenge. Even on good days. But when weather sets in, it's a whole new dynamic.
On the 15th of Dec, This is what The North Pacific Surface Analysis was looking like. A long Low Pressure System extending from around Midway Island in the Pacific Northwest all the way across the Central Pacific and over into CONUS.

This is what the weather normally looks like around here, but as shown in the SA above, things were about to get wetter!
On Sunday morning the 19th of Dec this is what we came to work to. The beginning of 48 hours of weather to contend with (Our shift in dispatch is 9 hours). I myself actually look forward to days like this, it's because we rarely get them. Heavy rains mainly over Kauai to the west, Oahu and Western Molokai in the east. This shot of Doppler from weatherunderground.com show the cells in the area and intensity of moisture in the clouds. Upper level winds were light, but movement was from the WSW (West Southwest) direction.

On the ramp, rain gear is the uniform of the day as the weather makes the early morning preflights for the crews a fun one. Winds with the associated system was light and variable, so this caused having with visibility and ceilings. The wind wasn't there to keep the moisture moving so everything just "sat" around.

Later in the morning, visibility dropped to as low as 1/4 mile with +SHRA (heavy rain showers)and alot of TS (thunderstorms) in EMBD CB's (Embedded Cumulonimbus Nimbus clouds) here in HNL. We held flights going into MKK due to visibility was nearly zero. And LNY was slowly losing it's battle with the weather. Myself and the other dispatcher kept on updating the weather as quickly as it was being amended by the National Weather Service (NWS) and kept the crew well informed.

Now we know it was bad when HNL goes down below and alternates are required for the flights to return. Fuel loads were all increased for all flight outbound from HNL and inbound. By some luck when our flights were legal to depart, they all made it into their destinations on the first shot. No missed approaches occurred.

Due to the instability of the atmosphere over the Hawaiian Islands, we are looking at more continued wet weather into the Christmas weekend as another front approaches from the west.

In the mean time, it's back to blue skies and sunny weather...

...for now!!!

20 November 2010

More Thunderbolts

These three A-10's "A" models are returning from a Maintenance check flight after being sidelined for a few days at Hickam AFB (PHIK)

These aircrafts are from the 25th Fighter Squadron based in Osan, Korea.

Looks like everything checked out


15 November 2010


Early Friday morning, I was given the opportunity to observe the dispatching of a group of A-10 Thunderbolt aircraft that were relocating from Korea to stateside.

The morning started early at 0030L at the ACC operations building at Hickam AFB. I was given a briefing by the Maj, Madson who showed me what essentially was a dispatch packet for the flight crews. the time spent on the packet was about 4 hours prep time. This included weather, fuels overflight notifications, clearances and coordination with tanker ops which was part of this package.

The flight called a "coronet" by flight planning, is estimated to take 9 hours with an arrival time of around 1535L time stateside. There was to be an initial uplift of 2000 lbs of fuel, and 4 scheduled air refueling en route. Weather for the package was excellent with some storm activity south of the islands and a line of clouds well north of the proposed flight route. The Tanker commander was also briefed. Their call sign for the flight would be "Adobe".

From Hawaii to the west coast of the U,.S. was actually very clear and dry. Refueling times were covered as well as aircraft lead and wingman formations, call sign for this flight is "Zesty". Communication "freqs" and take off procedures discussed. With this done, time to head out to the aircraft!

"Zesty's" A-10's were part of a group which is scheduled for an upgrade to the A-10C models with enhanced targeting and electronic link capabilities, so the squadron was relocating the aircraft back to the states for this. Originally this flight was for 7 aircraft, but due to various mechanical and technical problems, it was lowered to 4 aircraft (this would change once again closer to departure time).

I was allowed to head to the flight line but needed to remain in the mobile air ops van for safety reasons. As I got to the flight line, alot of activity was ensuing. Ground crews were shuttling between aircraft. Crews were dressed in their gear and seated in the aircraft performing pre-flight checks in the cockpit.

As the crews continued to prep, a call came over ground freq advising the AAC of a problem with one of the aircraft. Seems that there was a fuel quantity indicator which had an indifference of 500+ lbs. One of the pilot's requested from "Zesty's" flight leader, call sign "McGruff", to occupy the spare aircraft that was there. He was approved for the swap.

By the time the the pilot had switched aircraft, his "McGruff's" aircraft had too developed problems, so the flight lead bumped the other pilot out of the spare and took it for himself. So one of the crew had an extra day in Hawaii. This now brought the package down to 3 aircraft.

Because of the swap, the flight was delayed an additional 30 min beyond estimated departure time and this was relayed to the tanker commander. But within 20 minutes, the flight was ready to depart Hickam. Time now as 0300L (1300Z). With the A-10's leading and the tanker following minutes behind them, "Zesty" launched from HNL on a clear night via runway 8R heading stateside. Followed 9 minutes later by "Adobe", the KC-10 tanker aircraft.

Thanks to Maj. Madson, call sign "Maddog" and the ACC as well as the flightcrew members of 25th Fighter Squadron for allowing me to "tag" along and observe the operation. PILSUNG!

11 November 2010

Selfless sacrifices for our country...

To all of our country's veterans, past and present...
Thanks for all you do for us!
I appreciate the sacrifices that you and your families have made for me, my family and the rest of the U.S.A.
May God continue to bless you all !

03 November 2010

Finishing Up the Heavy Check

So with the heavy check almost completed, maintnenace puts a new set of props on the aircraft #1 engine.
This aircraft is scheduled to return to service on 04 Nov. The #2 engine in the back awaits her new engine and set of props as well. After this, time for a run up and check out. 

04 October 2010

ZeRo G!!! WHEEEEE!!!!

A few lucky individuals had the thrill of a lifetime when a charted Amerijet  "ZERO G" B727-200 took about 10 people up for a few hours of weightlessness! The ZERO G plane, tail number N794AJ, was up for about an hour to give its guest the experience what it's like to be in space. This same aircraft took Hawaii math and science teachers up for an hour the next day as part of of an ongoing program with the Northrup Grumman Foundation.
According to their website, aboard their specially modified Boeing 727, G-FORCE ONE, weightlessness is achieved by doing aerobatic maneuvers known as parabolas. Specially trained pilots perform these aerobatic maneuvers which are not simulated in any way. ZERO-G’s passengers experience true weightlessness. 

Before starting a parabola, G-FORCE ONE flies level to the horizon at an altitude of 24,000 feet. The pilots then begins to pull up, gradually increasing the angle of the aircraft to about 45° to the horizon reaching an altitude of 34,000 feet. During this pull-up, passengers will feel the pull of 1.8 Gs. Next the plane is “pushed over” to create the zero gravity segment of the parabola. For the next 20-30 seconds everything in the plane is weightless. Next a gentle pull-out is started which allows the flyers to stabilize on the aircraft floor. This maneuver is repeated 12-15 times, each taking about ten miles of airspace to perform.
After the plane landed and taxied to parking, I walked over an saw each individual come off the aft airstairs and celebrate their flight. Both the captain and another crewmember greeted them at the bottom and took a photo and turned their flight name tags right side up indicating they completed their 15 parabolas. Most looked like they were fine. On person, looked a little worn about the experienced, but beamed a big smile when cheered by his fellow teammates. One person even kissed the ground upon deplaning!


Looking Back

So I'm sitting here in the dispatch office on day 1 of a 5 day work week. Been here since 1315Z and between our crews reporting for duty and briefings, I started thinking about my 20+ years here in the commercial aviation industry. I can't believe that starting off as a ramper, I'd end up as an aircraft dispatcher. I mean, I was happy just being next to these "beast" on the ramp rather than looking at the aircraft thru a window like some "animal in a zoo".

Growing up, flying interisland in Hawaii was a way of life. Everyone has family on the neighbor islands and you gotta fly to visit. I had no inclination that this is what I'd end up doing as a career. But what the hell, I'm glad that I'm in it. Once you work in aviation, they say, it's in your blood. You always want to return to it.

One of the things that I love about this industry is, and "NO!", it's not about the flying benefits, but the camaraderie that you develop with your co-workers. The other is all the interesting stories that you collect either thru personal experiences or that of your co-workers. I can think of numerous times that I have had something funny, sad, heart touching or any one of a dozen emotions that effect a human. I know, all of us in this industry could write a book on these topics.

There's a blog site called http://www.airlinenightmare.com/ . If you get a chance, check them out. The stories and experiences that they have on their blog are just downright hilarious. Other's just get you pissed! Either way, these are either the personal experiences or opinions by the blogs moderators and contributors. It's a great site if you want to read about the everyday going on's within the aviation industry.

Heavy Check!

Growing up I thought that that an aircraft lasted "forever". As a member of the traveling public, some of us think that a plane is like the family car. Check the oil, the tires and change/add fluid as necessary. On occasion, we do a monthly check on the car and get our inspections done yearly. But with an aircraft, maintenance on these winged beauties are an on going process. Currently, one of our Dash-8-100's, N805WP, is in ourhanger for a "C" Check or a heavy inspection.

N805WP "Holomua"  in the hanger

The check is very extensive. Every portion of the aircraft is scrutinized. From Nose to tail. Nothing is overlooked. Rivets that hold the skin flaps are inspected. Aircraft interiors are taken out. Items needing repair or replacement are addressed. Avionics inspects and test all the instruments

#1 engine removed. Leading edge boots removed. Her seats on the hanger floor, 805's heavy check in progress

In a rarely seen area are the control cables that are linked to the control column in the cockpit. When a pilot turns the the controls one direction or another or pushes or pulls back, these cables respond by moving the control surfaces of the aircraft in relation to the input

 The cables run the length of the aircraft. Most aircraft have this type of configuration. The exception would be those aircraft that are "fly-by-wire" where electronic signals control the movements of the control surfaces

Looking thru the #1 engine mounting

Panels to the aircraft's rudder actuators are open and the elevator boots are missing

Looking thru the open cargo door, we can see the exposed pressure bulkhead and ducts.
The black marks on the wall to the left are from the constant scrapes of bags being placed in the hold

looking forward from the cargo door we see the cabin side panels removed for cleaning and inspection
Overhead cargo bins are still in place with the rest of the cabin covered and taped. Side panel installation is clearly visible as is the ceiling. The large opening is the under wing emergency exit

Here's another view of the cabin looking from the front to the rear cargo door area. Still alot of work to be done

 Main cabin door area with the galley covered. This aircraft is st to come out of the hanger on 01 Nov. Still alot more to be done. I look forward to dispatching this aircraft again when she is done with the check. 805 is one of my favorite aircraft's

19 September 2010


Okay, so this kind of stuff happens on occasion. Areas like MKK and JHM are prone to having their fair share, perhaps more, of birds in and around the vicinity of the airport. Flying into these birds does happen. Most of the times when it does, it really a non event. Meaning that the bird takes a glancing blow either off the aircraft body or at times strikes the props and gets turned into a "flash of crimson".
 But today was a little different. During the crew walk around after landing in MKK they discovered this:

The F/O was looking in the intake and found the feathers and a small blood trail leading into the intake.

So they checked the engine intake bypass and found this

So, we got a birds carcass in the intake, but did ANY portion of the bird get sucked into the engine? Well, now we in dispatch pretty much ground the aircraft on MKK and get maintenance control to send an mechanic and inspector out to the aircraft on the next available flight to check. FOD or Foreign Object Damage is a serious matter and is treated that way at EVERY AIRLINE!

Two hours later...after a thorough inspection, the aircraft is released by maintenance and we can now re-dispatch the aircraft from MKK back to HNL to finish the remainder of the line, albeit 2 hrs delayed!

As for our feathered friend, well this is all that maintenance found of him...

Not much left. Not even a cat would want this as a snack!

The best thing was that no one was hurt. The plane landed safely and we didn't have to replace an engine. Even after this happened, the station's customer service was already rebooking passengers and trying to minimize the delay they would experience.

Unfortunately these things do occur and the crews are capable of handling it and the maintenance staff is capable of getting the aircraft back flight ready.

14 September 2010

Aloha Air Cargo Engine Fire

Early Sunday morning, Aloha Air Cargo's B-737-100 had an engine fire. The crew was returning to HNL when it loss the engine. Here's CFR from station 2 "rolling out" after the plane touched down on 4R in HNL.

24 August 2010

The March of the 737's

There are many completed 737's transiting HNL on there way to Asia and Beyond. Here are some that I took but I have not posted on HNL RareBirds.

Here's a Malaysian 800 series taxing out to the reef runway (8R/26L). Many of these 737's have been purchased a while ago from Boeing, but only now are the airlines taking delivery of the aircraft.

Here comes a Lion Air 737-900ER series. Lion AIr, Indonesia's larget private airline is the launch customer for the 900ER series. They will be taking delivery of 30 of this type of aircraft and have the option for 30 more. These are to replace the older 737-300 and 400 series already in service with them.

As this monster taxis past my office, its wings actually go over the fence line. Minutes later a second one lands and both are parked next to each other during their one hour tech stop for fuel and food before procceding on to Majuro (MAJ).

2 down and 28 more to come for Lion !

Not only are the Indonesians and Malysians purchasing aircraft, the Chinese too are purchasing new aircraft for many startup's around the country. Here a Shandong Airlines 800 series taxi to a hardstand out on the south ramp.

Many more deliveries are coming thru HNL in the coming months. And this dosen't even count those that stop on the neighbor islands, like Virgin Blue that usually stops on LIH on there way down under.

For more info and other pics, visit http://www.hnlrarebirds.blogspot.com/

15 July 2010

A Surprise Visitor

With RIMPAC (Rim Of The Pacific) military exercise going on here in Hawaii, it was a surprise to see this aircraft flying over head. I first heard a diffrent engine noise and when I went outside my office to take a look, I saw this flying overhead...

It happened to be the latest version of the U-2

By the time I got outside, the aircraft must have been at about 2500 feet overhead heading east and still climbing.

12 July 2010

Heading Home with a side of Lanai

After a short and quick 15 minute turn in JHM/PHJH, we depart for HNL/PHNL.

We reach our cruising altitude for the 32 minute flight back. Nothing to look at during this flight because of the clouds below us at FL050. On this flight, we fly in the channel north of the island of Lanai (LNY/PHNY) and south of Molokai. Normally it's a great flight to see the middle islands, not today.

At 30 miles out we call the field as we are cleared down to FL025. The clouds around Honolulu are now mainly over the mountains with some high broken to overcast over the south shore. HNL tower clears us for the visual on the "channel approach" which is we fly towards the entrance to Pearl Harbor then make a visual right turn from base to runway 8L. This approach is favored by all the interisland pilots because of its close proximity to the taxiways that lead to the interisland ramp.

We start our turn to final for 8L. Since HNL is a shared field with Hickam/Pearl Harbor Air Base (combined field now for the military), it affords some great views of Pearl with the Arizona Memorial and the USS Missouri in the distance and the Hickam flight line.

Showers again over Keehi Lagoon 2 miles away but noticeably HNL had some rain as to the sheen of water on 8L as we continue our landing.

After the landing, we get nailed by the rain that we saw as we taxied in to the gate.
20 minutes later were on the go again heading back to MKK and LNY.

WOW! what a difference 20 minutes make. The sun is now shining over the south shore of Honolulu. The tourist are getting their money's worth now that the rain has passed and the beaches are sunny. Ala Moana Beach Park is visible as the long stretch of sandy beach in the foreground with famous Diamond Head in the distance.

This leg goes to Molokai first, and since I covered that in Part one of this blog, I'm skipping to Lanai.

The approach to the airport starts on the south side of the island. The first thing you notice is the cliffs on the south shore. Rising 500 feet above the sea, it's both beautiful and imposing.

LNY was originally owned by the Dole Company and was nicknamed for many years "The Pineapple Island". That's because of most of the flat level land from the south shore cliffs to the town of Lanai was covered with Pineapple fields. A good portion of the pineapples that were shipped around the world came from Lanai. With changing times, labor cost for growing pineapples became more expensive, so after the fields had grown their last crop, they were left vacant. David Murdoch purchased the island from Dole and now his company, Castle & Cooke, runs the island and has developed two world class resorts to replace agriculture as the sole source of island income for its residents who were left without jobs when Dole pulled out of the island.

On glideslope...Lanai is one of those fields that you can have strong winds to low ceiling and visibility in a rather short time. The airport sits about 600 feet ASL and because of the mountains in the north, east and west sides, can cause clouds to "sit" in what we refer to as "the bowl".

Welcome to bright and sunny Lanai!

We depart Lanai and within a short 30 minute flight were back in Honolulu. This is the approach to 4R which takes us over 8R/26L better known as the "Reef Runway".

After landing we taxi to via "Bravo" taxiway to cross 8L/26R at "Golf". We wait while an American Airlines 757 lands. just behind the tail taxing up to the interisland terminal is Hawaiian Airlines new Airbus. Just one more round trip and I'm done for the day.

Hope you enjoyed this little series. Thanks for reading!