CRJ200 Airline Pilot

The personal experiences, thoughts of an CRJ captain

Posts Tagged ‘CRJ200’

5 Things To Do When A Flight Is Delayed

Posted by Jeffrey on October 27, 2008

The other day could have been a mess! During pushback we started the engines and when the electrical system switched power from the Auxiliary Power Unit (APU) to the Main Engine Generators there was a hiccup. Ding! A single-chime Master Caution and the associated caution message appeared on PFD1.

Other than canceling the alarm, what do you think was one of the first things that I did? If you guessed that I communicated with my first officer, talked to the passengers and the flight attendant, and then set to work fixing the problem, you would be right.

Communicating was my highest priority in a situation like that. All in all, it took about 20 minutes to sort the problem out and then we were on our way. In that time I made two announcements; one to tell my passengers explaining what the problem was and another to tell them we had sorted out the situation and update them our arrival time would be in LAX. Everyone was happy…happy enough anyway!

On another occasion, we pushed back from the gate in Cincinnati (CVG) and we were issued an EDCT time to Chicago (ORD). We parked the airplane on a taxiway and then waited…and waited…and waited. THEN, about the time we were going to start up our engines for departure, we were notified by ATC that our EDCT time was pushed back even further, so we decided to head back to the gate so that passengers could make other arrangements if they needed to. During this whole time, even when nothing had changed, I talked to my crew and the passengers often.

Again, although everyone was frustrated by the delay, they were appreciative for being kept informed.

Your Responsibility During a Delay

It is vitally important that the passengers know what is going on and it’s YOUR responsibility as the captain to tell them. Certainly some passengers aren’t going to care but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t tell them. Passengers these days expect everything to go seamlessly and hate being kept out of the loop when things don’t go right. And like it or not, we are in a service industry and customer service plays a BIGGER part in commercial aviation now more than ever before. So smile, even when it hurts!

If you will, think about a personal experience when you went somewhere that required service, like a restaurant or department store. How was the customer service? Did the waiter talk to you? If your food was running a little slow, did the waiter let you know? How did you feel during this “waiting” period? If you weren’t being kept informed, you were probably getting agitated and you stopped enjoying yourself. On the other hand, if you were being kept informed, you probably felt much more relaxed.

It’s all part of customer service and it affects either the positive or negative image that that passengers has of that particular flight and of your airline.

In a flight delay situations, it’s not just the captain’s responsibility to keep the passengers informed. You have a crew and communication with them is essential as well. By briefing your crew regarding what you want them to do if a flight is delayed keeps your team informed and empowers them to do a good customer service job as well.

How Do You Make An Announcement

“Mic Fright” is one of the scariest things in the world for a lot of people. When you talk on the PA do you sound like loser, hemming and hawing, using “uhs” and “ums” as you work your way through the announcement or do you display poise and confidence? Do you prepare your announcement before you start to speak? Right before I make my announcement, I turn of the flight deck speakers, take a deep breath and r-e-l-a-x. This allows me to focus on what I’m about to say. My goal is to come across in such a way that the passengers will listen to what I’m saying.

If you have to talk on the PA, first, do it quickly and decisively with a strong voice and the tone of authority. A wimpy sounding captain is like a wimpy handshake, no body likes them. Be succinct, precise, and empathetic when you make your announcements because it helps to calm your passengers. Now is not the time to sound exasperated by the situation, vent your frustrations, or put down the “system.”

And, if the opportunity presents itself, use the flight attendants PA and talk directly to the passengers. It’s amazing how responsive your passengers will be if you take this little extra step.

How Often Should You Make An Announcement

I believe PA announcements to passengers should be done about every 15 to 20 minutes, but obviously it depends on the situation. Sometimes I start out at 15 minutes, then my next announcement is at 20 minutes, and then my next announcement is at 25 minutes. I rarely stay on the taxiway for more than hour, so this works out fairly well. Too many announcements can be too much of a good thing.

Five Things to Consider

Here is my list of five things you can do if you experience a delay and need to make an announcement:

  1. Communicate with your crew and passengers in a timely manner
  2. Use an authoritative voice absent of frustration
  3. Take a moment to mentally prepare your announcement in your head, then, take a deep breath right before you start
  4. Be succinct, precise, and empathetic as you say your announcement remembering who your audience is and what they are going through
  5. Cut out the the hemming and hawing and “uhs” and “ums,” they are very distracting

As always this is a my list and I’m sure you can add a few more important items. I would like to hear your suggestions.

One final thought. Remember, as the captain you are responsible for your airplane, crew, and passengers. This includes more than flying profile and conserving fuel, it includes making sure that your passengers have a good experience during their flight and one way to do that is to make sure you communicate with them in a timely manner if something doesn’t goes as planned.

As always, I’d love to hear any thoughts you may have on this or any of the topics. Till next time…

P.S. As always I like to include one book to help you become a better captain. This book, Crucial Conversations: Tools for Talking When Stakes are High is easy to read and has some very useful ideas that you may not have thought about before when you are dealing with passengers. Pick it up today so you can start benefiting from the insights presented in this book.

Other articles you might be interested in:

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Wingtip Vortices and Wake Turbulence Explained

Posted by Jeffrey on October 24, 2008

The other night we were flying the CRJ700 into Chicago O’hare (KORD). It was a clear night with a beautiful view of downtown. About 30 miles from final approach, as we were gradually descending to intercept the final approach course, air traffic control advised us that we were 10 miles in trail of a Boeing 777.

“Oh…great!” was my comment.

The whole flight had been relatively smooth, so what was about to happen was going to be a big surprise to me, my crew, and my passengers.

This video shows how wingtip vortices generate. It is simple and to the point:

Now here is a little history about wingtip vortices. If you aren’t familiar with the wake turbulence of a Boeing 777, it generates more wake turbulance than almost all airplanes except for some military airplanes. It is a big, heavy airplane and therefore, generates a lot of lift.

But how is lift generated?

Think about a time when you were taking a shower in a tub with a shower curtain. Has the pesky shower curtain ever kept coming into your leg? You think, “what the heck, is the door open?”

Free Pilots Tip of the Week from PilotWorkshops.com

Well that’s not the problem. The problem is that the “pressure” inside the shower curtain is actually lower than the pressure on the outside of the shower curtain. This happens because the water coming out of the showerhead accelerates the air thus decreasing the pressure in the tub. Therefore, it seems like there is something pushing on the shower curtain from the outside, when it is actually the higher pressure air.

In the 1700’s, Daniel Bernoulli formulated the equation that explains how this happens, but that goes way beyond this blog entry. If you would like to read more about the Bernoulli equation, click here.

But that’s only half the story. Have you ever watched water flowing down a stream with a big boulder in the way? If the boulder is perfectly round, the water “splits” when it hits the rock and some of the water goes to the left of the rock and some of the water goes to the right meeting up on the other side. What we don’t see is that the water accelerates for a few seconds as it goes around the rock because it has to meet up with it’s other half on the other side which also accelerated. And when the water accelerates, the pressure per se, decreases.

Now take a wing.

The bottom of a wing, for all practical purposes and for this discussion, we will say it is flat. The top of the wing will have a bend in it or a camber. As the wind hits the wingtip, some of the air goes over the top and some goes underneath. Since the air mass that was split has to meet at the back of the wing at the same time, the airflow over the top has to accelerate to meet up with the same air mass going under the wing. The accelerated air over the top, because it has been accelerated, has to give something up, and that would be pressure. The result is lower pressure over the top of the  wing and higher pressure under the wing, hence lift. Ta Da!

Wingtip Vortices

Wingtip Vortices

Now this explanation is VERY general in nature. And you should get a good book on aviation that discusses all the aspects of wings and lift to have a thorough understanding of these principles.

OK, now back to wingtip vortices. In a perfect wing, the air flows from the front of the wing to the back of the wing. But we now know that there is low pressure air on top of the wing and high pressure air on the bottom. Well the high pressure air needs somewhere to go because it just can’t meet up with the low pressure air and go on it’s way. The high pressure air travels to where the low pressure air is and vice versa and thus creates the (wingtip) vortices.

So back to my flying story.

There were were, flying along minding our own business. The wind was calm and all of a sudden, a little shudder here, then a big upset there and before we knew it the airplane had lurched more than 20° noseup and banked 30° laterally. The autopilot kicked off and as fast as it came it was gone and once the airplane was stabilized we re-engaged the autopilot and I talked to the passengers and let them know what happened. THEN, five minutes later, IT HAPPENED AGAIN! Not my day! I ended up hand-flying the rest of the flight.

Note: One of the most fatal results on record of wake turbulence that resulted in a crash was American Airlines flight 587 on November 12, 2001. To read more about this accident, click on the NTSB report here. See if you can figure out what actually went wrong.

Now, when landing or departing, a similar thing can happen but worse. The airplane in front is slow, heavy, and at a large angle-of-attack and this is when an airplane generates its most lift. It is important to remember that in calm air, vortices tend to move outward from the aircraft. So if you are behind a departing aircraft, the vortex from the right wing will tend to move to the right and the vortex from the left wing will tend to move to the left.

If we have a crosswind, the wind will tend to influence the movement of the vortices. A crosswind of about 3 knots will hold the upwind vortex pretty much in place at the runway where it was created, while the downwind vortex will rapidly move away from the runway. Therefore, light crosswinds require the most caution during takeoff and landing. 

Wingtip Vortices with Crosswind from the right
Wingtip Vortices with Crosswind from the right

However, crosswinds greater than approximately 5 knots will tend to break up the vortices. So stronger crosswinds are a good thing, as far as vortices are concerned.

One Final Note

During landing behind a heavy airplane, a lot of pilots will fly abovethe glideslope in order to avoid any possible wake turbulence created by the preceding airplane. To me, there are two things wrong with this: 1) you may land long, which, in a Land and Hold Short (LAHSO) operation may cause you problems and 2) you are not flying your normal procedure and the possibility of a missed approach is possible. I’ve never seen pilots who fly above the glideslope not fair well during landing.

Consider this, wake turbulence falls typically about 500 feet per minute, so even in ORD on a no wind day with 2.5 miles separation, that wake turbulence is most likely already gone by the time you get to where that airplane was in front of you. Also, if you consider the wind for that day, the wake turbulence has probably blown clear of the runway as well. With that said, there is always the chance it is right along your path of flight.

But, it is your call. Just fly safe and use good judgement and consider all the variables.

Till next time…

Jeffrey

Jeffrey is a captain at a regional airline and flies the CRJ200, CRJ700, and the CRJ900. He has over 4000 hrs of flying experience in many different airplanes and is a Gold Seal flight instructor to his credit. He has recently written “The CRJ200 Quicknote Study Guide” that simplifies the systems of the CRJ200 into a downloadable eBook. Click here to get your copy today!

P.S. Encountering wake turbulence should be considered an emergency. Knowing what to do and when to do it is as important as knowing how to avoid it because most in-flight emergencies can be safely resolved if the pilot has the proper training and mental attitude. If you want to brush up on your emergency procedures (and all good pilots should), I want to recommend this book: Handling In-Flight Emergencies or sign-up for a f.r.e.e. audio on “Emergency Landing: In-Flight Engine Failure” and newsletter from PilotWorkshops.com .

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Focusing on Your Dream!

Posted by Jeffrey on October 20, 2008

Piper Cub

Piper Cub

Are You Ready to Make Your Flying Dream Come True?

Now I have been an airplane lover since I was eight years old when my grandpa took me up in a Piper Cub. My love affair with aviation started that day and though I have had a lot of detours in my life, as you know, I ended up a captain at a regional airline flying the CRJ200.

Well today I was given I treat that I wouldn’t have expected if you told me it would happen. We landed in LAX on 25R, after nearly taking out a taxi light clearing the runway, which I didn’t, thank you very much, we started our taxi to the south complex. As we are approaching taxiway ‘C,’ we notice a lot of cars, people, and a helicopter hovering overhead. We thought someone had gotten hurt or something of that nature. Well, as we turned the corner, there sits the Quantas Airbus A380 which had just landed. Wow! — What an airplane! — This thing is HUGE! (Oh, and by the way, that is a SkyWest Brasilia in the background.)

We taxi by slowly so that we can get a good look and my first officer makes an announcement of the PA about what is out the left side of the window because you don’t see this airplane everyday.

We continue to the gate and deplane. Several passengers thank us for pointing the airplane out and then they are gone. After our “chores” are done, my first officer and I start talking about how do you get to the point in your life that you are the captain on a such a revolutionary, exciting airplane as the Airbus A380.

Airbus A380 Cockpit

Airbus A380 Cockpit

We basically conclude that it is a little bit of luck but that it is mostly dedication, perseverance, and a desire to achieve that level of flying. No doubt there is a tremendous amount of sacrifice as well.

I have found that people that fly airplanes for a living got there because they focused intently on achieving it. If you read my “About Me” page, you will see that I loved flying for a long time but circumstances pulled me away from it for a long time too. Then one day fate pushed me back into it and I never looked back. Once I made the decision to fly, I was totally focused on achieving that goal. All or nothing as I remember it.

But how do you get there?

Well unless you have a parent or relative that has flown for the airlines, it can be as confusing as any other endeavor. A mentor or someone that has gone through the process is always helpful, but, as in my case, I had to search out the information and then act on it and that is what I did. I bought the book,
Professional Pilot Career Guide, which is a goldmine of practical tips on career opportunities, training, building flight time, and hiring practices. Another great resource, once you have your hours is Job Hunting for Pilots.

But I think the most important ingredient is “desire.” You have to stay focused, like a laser on want you want and then go after it!

So follow your dream and become a pilot, whether it is a recreational pilot or a professional pilot, but don’t stop till you get the certificate that you want. Pick up the books I mentioned then plot your course!

Till next time…

P.S. Visit MyPilotStore for other great deals on aviation products!

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How To Speak on the Radio!

Posted by Jeffrey on October 19, 2008

Learn Good Radio Communications

As I was flying around California today, I cringed listening to some of the radio communications I heard from both general aviation pilots and professional pilots, including my own first officer.

Now I don’t claim to be the end-all-be-all of radio communications but I do strive to communicate properly, as should you. Due to the nature of flying, radio transmissions need to be succinct, precise, and to the point because there are often several pilots trying to communicate with air traffic control (ATC) at any one time and sometimes there is a lot to be said. Furthermore, ATC hates to have to repeat themselves! So you better be sure and listen close the first time.

If you ever listen to ground communications in the busy airports like Chicago O’hare (ORD) or Dallas-Fort Worth (DFW) or Los Angeles International (LAX), you will hear some of the most rapid-fire communications in the world. In ORD, you have to pay attention and respond when given an instruction because…if you don’t…you will be singled out…and that is always embarrassing. ORD is a little different too because the “normal” radio communication procedures often go out the window. On occasion I’ve heard Ground give instructions to ten airplanes at once in rapid succession. So forget about giving a read back.

Now today, we departed San Diego (KSAN) and landed on 25L in Los Angeles (KLAX).  Upon landing, we were cleared to cross 25R and turn right on taxi way Bravo. My first officer simply replied, “Cleared to cross, turn right on Bravo.”

What is wrong with this? If you guessed that he didn’t say which runway, i.e., 25R, the runway we were cleared to cross, you are right. Now it was obvious which runway we were cleared to cross but that doesn’t mean it is alright to not include it in the transmission. The FAA’s number one “call to action” right now is to reduce runway incursion.  You can read more about it here.

Here is another example…and I hear this a lot in ORD. ATC will say, “<Airline> 123…fly heading 140, maintain 5000 till established, cleared ILS approach 10, 180 knots to the marker, contact tower 120.75 at the marker.” This is what <airline> 123 says, “We will do all that.” I hear this from major and regional airline pilots all the time. And there are several problems with this kind of response.

  1. Did you really get ALL the instructions? Even though you may have done this thousands of time, can you really be sure that you heard exactly what the controller said.
  2. It lacks professionalism.
  3. It shows a lack of respect for the process which is to ensure a successful arrival.

Here is one more example.

When holding short, a pilot will call tower and say something like, “LAX Tower, <airline> 123, holding short 25R, ready for takeoff.” Now this may seem innocuous enough but it is wrong. When you say “Takeoff,” you are stating a action command. Tower is the only one that can issue a takeoff clearance. By saying “takeoff,” a pilot could basically misunderstand the clearance. Hard to imagine, but it happens. When holding short of a runway, it is important that you say, “LAX Tower, <airline> 123, holding short 25R, ready for departure.” Now this may seem trivial, but as a professional, it is up to you to communicate professionally. It comes with the job.

So what can you do. As a future professional pilot, you can prepare yourself by practicing with your instructor or if you are already a pilot, review your knowledge on proper communication etiquette.

Here are a few options to consider:

So, don’t be one of those pilots with bad radio communication procedures. Pick up one of these tools so that you can communicate like the professional pilot you want to be. 

Till next time…

Here are some related entries you might want to read:

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CRJ200 – Aircraft Dimensions

Posted by Jeffrey on October 12, 2008

CRJ200 Aircraft Dimensions

CRJ200 Aircraft Dimensions

The CRJ200 is not a big airplane but then it’s not a small airplane either.

With a max takeoff weight of 53,000 lbs and a max landing weight of 47,000 lbs, I’d say it is still a good size airplane. And for those of you who are transitioning from small multi-engine airplanes, you are going to be busy for awhile as you learn how to control the automatic flight control system (AFCS) and how to fly the airplane.

To get a jumpstart on learning the CRJ200, pick up the Bombardier CRJ 200 Cockpit Poster with EFIS & EICAS Displays. Super high quality and a great learning tool.

The CRJ200 is fast and covers a lot of ground very quickly and if you aren’t on top of it, you might be hanging off the tail during the whole flight just trying to catch up.

As for the aircraft dimensions, it’s ironic, but as much as things change, they tend to remain the same.

If you are just stepping up to the CRJ200, you will be thinking to yourself, “I made it!” You might be thinking as well that now you don’t have to learn those minute details that you had to learn about the Cessna or the Baron you flew. But…surprise…surprise…right after you finish indoc, what is the first thing you learn? That’s right, the dimensions of the airplane you will fly. And for good reason. In order to fly the airplane, you have to first be safe on the ground and that requires knowing the length , width, and height of the airplane you are flying.

Unlike the smaller airplane you were flying, where you could see the wing tips, on the CRJ200, you almost have to physically turn in your seat just to see the wing tip.

Also, learning the CRJ200 aircraft dimensions is also a “right-of-passage” and the logical beginning to learning about any airplane and will be the first question asked when you go to upgrade.

The CRJ200 Basic Aircraft Dimensions:

  • Wingtip to wingtip – Approx. 21′
  • Top of tail to bottom of tires – Approx. 19′
  • Nose to back of tail – Approx. 87′

So you can see, it is a fairly big airplane. Respect its size and drive with caution on the ground and you will keep you, your passengers, and your airplane safe. Always clear turns visually, check for moving vehicles and be vigilant about your surroundings. When the weather gets worse, be even more diligent about your surroundings during ground movement.

Till next time…

P.S. If there is something you would like me to write about, just send me an email, cospilot at gmail.com. And don’t forget to subscribe to my feed or get email updates. The link is in the top left corner of this page.

Recommended book: The Turbine Pilot’s Flight Manual – Everything a pilot is expected to know when transitioning to turbine-powered aircraft. Includes bonus CD-ROM.

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