Turboprop, again. Flying over the geographical south Bangalore, with multiple flight crew on a FAM (Familiarization) course, VT-JCM, an ATR-72-500, has been flying from the last few hours, performing around 15 touch-and-goes, and atleast one ILS approach for runway 27, VOBG.
JCM, the 4 year 3 month old leased airplane flying for Jet Airways, India, is part of a dwindling fleet of ATR 72-500s at Jet Airways. The once 20 strong fleet is now down to 18, with VT-JCF and VT-JCH having been sent back to the lessors.
Another 4 ATR 72-500s are on their way out, and this will bring the fleet down to 14 ATR 72-500. Why then would you have a FAM flight for first officers when the fleet is being downsized?
Because the 6 ATR-72-500s are being replaced by 6 ATR 72-600s from GECAS, possibly in November 2012.
The sad part is, that although ATR took great pains to ensure near identical cockpits for absolutely identical airplanes (the only significant difference is the cockpit, operationally speaking), the DGCA does not allow the cross-utilization of crew flying the two variants of the ATR 72. This will drive the turboprop crew to be further broken up into two sets.
As of today, only two examiners in the company have been trained (rated) on the ATR 72-600, one of whom is the Chief Pilot of the turboprop fleet.
So maybe, to cater to this new spilt of DGCA recognized “incompatible” crew, training flights are underway on the ATR 72-500 to make up for first officers who will be moved to the -600 fleet.
The Training Flight
Training flights are interesting. Today’s training flight was being conducted by a “very, very senior” Bangalore based examiner.
Typically, the airplane is topped up to 4 tonnes of fuel, and the duration of a FAM flight for each crew member is typically around 45 minutes, with about 10 minutes per visual circuit. Each circuit burns around 200 kgs of fuel.
Conditions (18th-Sept-2012, 2300 local): Winds 290/06kts, Runway 27, Visibility 8km, Clouds 1500ft Scattered 8000ft, Temperature 22°, Dew point 19°, Qnh 1014.
So how do you go about flying the airplane on a circuit?
The visual pattern is performed at 1500ft AGL, which is 4500ft in the case of Bangalore. After takeoff and cleaning up the aircraft (gear up, flaps retract from 15°), the aircraft power is reduced to maintain 170kts on the downwind. Abeam the threshold (touchdown threshold), extend flaps to 15°, take the gear down, and start the timer. When 45 seconds elapses on the timer (+/- 1 second for every kt of headwind), the aircraft is turned to base, descending at about 500ft/min. The Autopilot, if ON, is disconnected for the turn, and the crew checks the vertical situation of the airplane in relation to the airfield, and adjusts the descent rate based on either the glide slope indication or the PAPI. When turning for finals, flaps are extended to 30°, and the approach speed maintained at around 100kts for a light aircraft in nil winds. With the main landing gear touching down, the nose is gently lowered while the flaps are retracted to 15° by the pilot not flying (captain in the case of FAM flights), and the take off config button pressed. Due to the immense aerodynamic braking of the ATR 72’s 12 propeller blades even at flight-idle-blade-pitch, the drag causes the speed to descend to around or below 70 kts. If below 70 kts, the captain takes over via the nose wheel steering, applies take off power, and the first officer has controls at 70kts and above. Rotate, and repeat.
Airbus, DLR German Aerospace Centre, and Parker Aerospace are together studying the use of multifunctional fuel cell concept (MFFC) as a future replacement for today’s gas turbine based APUs.
A fuel cell essentially uses a constant flow of chemicals to produce electricity, heat, and gaseous by products. The gaseous by product is water, as the fuel is usually hydrogen and oxygen, and this makes fuel cells absolutely non-polluting.
A tank to contain liquid hydrogen (the non-freely available fuel component) and heat exchangers and associated fans to keep the generated heat from becoming excessive, are required. Airbus states, “Positioning of the fuel cell is planned in the cargo hold, while the system’s liquid hydrogen tank, heat exchangers and fans are to be located in the tail cone section.”
The MFFC produces about 100kW of electrical power. A 2001 paper lists that approximately 182 Wats of power may be derived per kg of a fuel cell. This should make the fuel cells alone weigh about 550kgs, and may not include the weight of the hydrogen tanks. In contrast, the popular Honeywell APU, 131-9[A] which powers all 737NGs and 60% of all A320s, weighs only 160kg. In addition, the APU also supplies pneumatic power, which is used for air conditioning and pressurization in the event of loss of one or all (2 in the case of the A320) engine bleed systems on board the airplane. Using ATF as the source of fuel, no separate fuel systems are required, unlike fuel cells.
However, the APU is a device with moving mechanical components, and reliability is always impacted when something moves. The MTBUR, or the Mean Time Between Unscheduled Removals, is 8500 hrs. A fuel cell’s reliability is much, much higher, significantly improving dispatch reliability.
With the move towards more-electric architectures, such as the 787, there will no longer be any need for pneumatic air from the APU, but all systems, running off electric power, will pose a greater demand on the electric source, meaning more weight.
But there are hidden advantages. The gaseous by product, water vapour and a oxygen less air, has good uses: Fuel tank inerting. The water may be used to meet part of the 200 litre potable water tank on board the A320.
With the possibility of engine-less electric taxiA, fuel cells may be the future, but the question is: when will the weight of the unit be low enough for it to be a viable replacement? We’ll know in 2015, when Airbus may test it on an A320.
500, ACCEL Altitude, Aircraft C.G., Aircraft configuration, ATR 72, Autobrake, Block Fuel, Climb Profile, CRZ FL, CRZ IAS, Descent Profile, ILS Approach, Landing Flaps, NTOP, Passengers, reversers, Scheduled Descent, SID, STAR, STAR Vectors, T.O. Flaps, Take Off Weight, Taxi Fuel, THR RED Altitude, Torque, Transistion Altitude, transition FL, Trim units, Trip Fuel, Trip Time, VT-KAD
I was rummaging through my “precious” stuff, when I found two “in-flight forms” that I had prepared for the flight crew operating my flights. I knew the crew well, so it wasn’t an issue back then. Today, the story is different: requesting for technical information in-flight may not be taken in the right light, and those responsible for airport security may be waiting for you at your destination!
But if done carefully, you may be in for a technical treat! Below is the scan from an ATR 72-500 flight from Bangalore (VOBL) to Hyderabad (VOHS), via airway W57N, which was flown sometime in 2011. I got the F/O to fill the form for me, which he did with a nice smile!
[Background Information: W57N is a unidirectional airway that originates at BIA (VOR, Bangalore International), and terminates at HIA (VOR, Hyderabad International), as follows:
BIA(N13° 12.4 E077° 43.9) – LATID (BIA/012°/77NM) – VIRAM (LATID/011°/54NM) – HIA (VIRAM/011°/113NM)]
[787 production video at the end of article]
The 21st 787 to be delivered, and the first of 27 Dreamliners destined for Air India, VT-ANH was delivered yesterday to the ailing national flag carrier in a low key ceremony at Boeing’s South Carolina delivery centre. Scheduled to be ferried to Delhi today (Friday, 07 September 2012), the dreamliner is expected to touch down at Indira Gandhi International Airport (IATA: DEL, ICAO: VIDP) on the morning of Saturday, 08 September 2012.
The Dream-liner has actually been quite a nightmare for Air India. A four year production delay, and the antics of the Indian Government, and “pure-blood” Air India pilots, have made things quite distasteful. Air India pilots not wanting pre-merger Indian Airlines’ pilots to get rated on the 787, The Indian government (through Air India) demanding greater compensation from Boeing, and the 28th July un-contained GEnX-1B engine failure during high speed taxi trials on a 787 destined for Air India have culminated in making the 787 appear (literally) like an blood smeared dagger responsible for an aviation bloodbath.
VT-ANH is Line number 35, and the manufacturer’s serial number 36276; its first flight having been conducted on the 25th of January, 2012. Of the other 787s produced / in production, VT-AND (Line 29) and VT-ANI (Line 46) are ready for delivery, while VT-ANA/B/C/E/G are in storage and undergoing rework. VT-ANJ (line 54) and VT-ANK (Line 60) are undergoing pre-flight preparations, while line numbers 65 and 72 (unregistered) are undergoing final assembly. Line Number 90, to be assembled in Everett, is also destined for Air India.
Rework is underway on the earlier line numbers (25, 26, 28,30, 32), possibly to fix the 10 – 15% reduced range (6900NM as against the promised 7700 – 8200NM) due to the 8% overweight airplane.
How does this airplane compare to the existing twin engine widebodies flying for Air India?
All technical information have been sourced from Airbus and Boeing published documents
AATD, Aviation, aviation flight, Bangalore, BATD, Bendix King, Cessna 172, flight simulator, Flying Training, G1000, general aviation, Honeywell, India, Instrument Flying, KAP 140, Practice, Recency, transportation
A 5 month sabbatical from my website (I continued to write for my print magazine, Airbuz) was well spent. I engaged myself in the design and development of a General Aviation Flight Simulator. Either click HERE to know more, or visit my section, “Projects”.
I must thank my readers who were both patient and concerned. I hope you like the simulator!
And yes, I’m back!