"Rotate." An Aviation Blog Image by Owen Zupp.

Owen Zupp - Sunday, March 11, 2012

       

 

"Rotate!"

  

"Hit the Ground Running." An Aviation Blog Image by Owen Zupp.

Owen Zupp - Friday, March 09, 2012

 

"Hit the Ground Running."

 

An Australian Army 'Blackhawk' delivers its troops on a training exercise.

Another Day in Paradise. An Aviation Blog by Owen Zupp.

Owen Zupp - Friday, March 09, 2012

"Another Day in Paradise."

 

It’s 3am and the rain is pelting down. Actually, to be more accurate it is thrashing the walls of my house, driven horizontally by howling winds. It’s another half an hour before I have to throw my legs over the side of the bed and make my way to work, so I just lie there and listen to Mother Nature flexing her muscles. It’s an awesome sound.

 

It’s a sound that has meant many different things to me over the years. As a young student pilot, each rain-drop carried a sting of disappointment as I knew that the lesson the next day was sure to be cancelled. The cloud base would be too low for stalling, or the crosswind too strong for circuits, either way it would be another frustrating day on Terra Firma. Even when the bonds of the circuit and training area had been broken, low pressure systems and developing troughs would destroy any chance of cross-country flying. If the weather was marginal, I would still venture out to the airfield and loiter around the briefing office reading the latest forecasts and bothering the ‘Met Man’ as if he could actually control the weather. Sometimes I would be there for hours waiting for the weather to lift, only to travel home tired and disappointed. If only I’d really listened to that rain on the roof the night before.

 

Even the day of my Commercial Licence flight test got underway five hours late because of the weather and in retrospect I was weary before the propeller ever turned. Still it was a great day that I’ll never forget. Yet even when armed with a brand new CPL, the rain was still there to spoil the fun in other ways. Those early mornings, traipsing across sodden ground in the dark, up to my ankles in water as fresh drops ran down the back of my neck. Pre-flighting the outside amidst waves of falling water, only to take half the sea inside when I opened the cockpit door. I would then slide onto a wet seat with sodden socks and the peak of my cap dripping onto my already soaked flight plan and charts. Yelling “Clear Prop” at the top of my voice to make sure no-one else was stupid enough to be out in this weather and highlight the fact that I was. With the engines started, there was a chance that the de-mister might actually clear the windscreen, even if it only really served to turn my wet socks into ice.

 

When I was fortunate enough to fly, I was then either dodging thunderstorms in Australia’s vast north-west, or seeing flight lessons cancelled once again, but now as the instructor. An instrument rating brought some solace, but still no certainty. There would be days flying in that thin corridor between the lowest safe altitude and the freezing level, which always seemed to get very narrow over the Great Dividing Range. Or the nights when the rain came by stealth in the form of ice, insidiously creeping along the wings and only exposed by the beam of my torch reaching beyond the cockpit. Some of those nights I was wishing that I was lying in bed listening to the rain thrash against the walls rather than buffeting me about the skies.

 

Even at the journeys end, the cloud maintained its mystery; how far down did it really extend? Would I be lucky tonight and see the ground first time? The lights of the land below would teasingly glow through thin breaks in the cloud before....yes...a glimpse...no...yes....that’s it....definitely yes... the runway. VISUAL!!!! And still the rain would have its last words against the windscreen while the wind seemingly pulled the world sidewards. I would then do battle with the weather one more time to tie the aeroplane down and put her to bed.

 

Believe it or not, I still look back on those dark wet nights with real joy and a sense of appreciation for the lessons that I learned.

 

Today, the world is a little different. There are two experienced pilots in air-conditioned comfort flying an aircraft with in-built redundancies of everything you can imagine. Turbines have replaced pistons and anti-icing systems that are far more effective than a torch. There are ‘Head-Up Displays’, flight management systems, RNP approaches and autopilots that actually work. Every few months there is simulator training to prepare you for the worst case scenario and every day wonderful cabin crew that feed you when their workload permits. The rain and weather are still there, but these days experience, training and technology has provided me with the best set of defences that I can hope for. Regardless of whether it’s a Beechcraft or a Boeing, it is still up to the pilot to recognise the variables that the weather inevitably brings and cater for them in the safest possible way.

 

It’s now 4am and I’m driving along the freeway with the wipers sweeping across my windscreen as fast as they will go. The wind is rocking the car and the steering wheel intermittently twists in my hand as the wheels strike a patch of standing water. I sit well below the speed limit and readily concede that this is the most dangerous part of my day as another numb-skull overtakes me at Mach Two. Then my memory trips back to another wet night and I’m just a boy lying in my single bed in our little fibro home in Sydney. It’s 2am and the phone has startled me from my sleep before I hear my Dad’s lowered voice. There’s the unmistakable rustling of his uniform shirt with its wings and ID card and the steps of his undoubtedly highly polished boots. He has been called out on this foul night to guide the 'Air Ambulance' to some remote township to help a stranger in need.

 

As the front door clicks shut, I hear him scamper through the rain to open our front gate. The rain is pelting down upon the roof and the wind is shaking the screen upon my window, but if I listen really closely, there’s another sound. It’s my father and he’s whistling. It’s 2am, it’s pouring rain, he’s about to launch into the night....and he’s whistling. My head sinks back into my pillow and I think about my Dad whistling. And then I think about his job. There must be something to this pilot stuff. I might have to give it a go one day.   

Goodnight.

 

"Boeing 737. The Next Generation." (Part Two) An Aviation Blog by Owen Zupp.

Owen Zupp - Wednesday, March 07, 2012

"Boeing 737. The Next Generation." (Part Two)

 CLICK HERE for Part One.

 

 The Next Genration Development. (continued)

......The 737NG is a great all-rounder. In the context of a comparison with the Classic, there are distinct differences from a pilot’s perspective. From handling characteristics and performance to “two cup holders instead of one”, there are a myriad of differences in the newest steed from the 737 stable. Some are subtle, some are distinct, but the vast majority are improvements for the better while still meeting the ‘common type’ constraints.

The majority of pilot’s speak of the NG with admiration. Much of this stems from the re-designed wing and winglets which provides enhanced speed, range and performance. The wing is also a major player from a handling viewpoint. The NG could be described as a “straight line aeroplane” when compared to the Classic. More like its bigger brothers, the increased weight and enhanced wing of the 737NG translates to higher energy that, in turn, calls for greater planning and anticipation when decelerating. On descent the NG can easily accelerate to its upper speed limit of the ‘Barber’s Pole’ and whilst the Classic was quite at home being wheeled around the circling area and washing off speed, the NG is a more ‘slippery’ candidate and needs to be handled on descent accordingly. In terms of turbulence penetration, the Classic possesses a seemingly more rigid wing that tends to “punch through turbulence”, whilst the NGs wing is more “giving” and tends to ride the turbulence better. Again, this is a feature the NG seems to have in common with the larger aircraft from Boeing.

The enhanced performance of the NG also received high praise. In the 737-300, the 1700 nm into wind sector between Australia’s coastal capitals of Sydney and Perth was not possible whereas such sectors are not a problem for the higher powered -800. Additionally, the capability to climb directly to 41,000 feet can prove an operational bonus when performance permits, allowing that extra 4,000 feet to get above more of the weather.

Whilst cockpit ergonomics seemed to have changed little, particularly with reference to the overhead panel, the accuracy of the GPS navigation system is a significant improvement for those up the sharp end. Constantly updated, there is no tendency for the map display to ‘drift’. The outside world is reflected with precision on the cockpit presentation, which assists greatly in visual manoeuvres such as circling off the bottom of an approach. This was not the case with the older IRS driven maps.

 

 

                       

                                              Looking through the 'Head Up Display' (HUD) of the Boeing 737-800 (S.Ruttley)

 

The longer fuselage of the -800 offers a potentially limiting geometry on take-off, making a ‘tail strike’ a real possibility if the rotation is too fast. Landing the newer variant is also notably different aside from the longer landing distance that is required. With the shorter winged ‘Classic’, a few knots above reference speed in the flare did not seem to alter the touchdown point significantly. Once its mind is made up to land, the spot is fairly fixed. However, the carriage of excess speed, or flaring too early in the NG can result in the wastage of significant amounts of precious runway. The enhanced wing of the NG means that the aircraft wants to keep flying and will happily float as it slowly decelerates in ground effect. For pilots flying the dual variants it is always worth self briefing this point on approach when hopping from type to type.

Walking around the NG, there seems to be only subtle visible changes to the 737 beyond the prominent winglets. It is longer, wider and with a higher fin than the Classic, but unless it is side by side with its ‘parent’ these differences are all matters of scale. However, the aircraft does sit higher than its Classic forerunner and consequently allows greater clearance for the CFM56-7 engines that are slung beneath the wings. The trademark flat-bottomed cowlings of the ‘dash 3’ CFMs are not quite so flat and lean towards more conventional round cowlings. Additionally, since January 2005, Boeing has been rolling out the 737NG without the now familiar ‘eyebrow’ windows above the crew’s main windows.

 

The Next Generation?

 

2012 sees the Boeing 737 turning 45. Even so, it is still a design seeking more efficient ways to achieve its designed tasks. This year Boeing announced improvements to engine and airframe that will equate to around 2% in fuel savings. For the passengers, Boeing have looked to the 787 and given the 737 a facelift with the ‘Boeing Sky’ interior with newer sidewalls, LED lighting and bigger overhead lockers.

The 737 also has a proven track record that defies time as all marques of this Boeing are still gracing the sky. With such a bloodline it is not surprising that the 737 Next Generation has enjoyed success in the same vein as its predecessors. With ER (Extended Range) versions giving the type even longer legs; there are very few tasks that the 737NG can’t handle.

Forged from the legacy of another tremendous domestic stalwart, the Classic, it has built upon its strengths and alleviated most of the perceived shortcomings. And with the 737 Max now looming on the horizon, It finds that irrepressible the NG family has captured that quality of so many Boeing aircraft; a workhorse for the airline and a loved stallion by its crews.

 

                                                   

"Boeing 737. The Next Generation." (Part One) An Aviation Blog by Owen Zupp.

Owen Zupp - Sunday, March 04, 2012

         

             "Boeing 737. The Next Generation." (Part One)

 

Somewhere across the globe a Boeing 737 takes off or lands every 5 seconds and over 1200 of their compatriots are aloft at any given time. With the 7000th aircraft rolled out in December 2011, the 737 has truly brought the term ‘prolific’ to airliner production and considering the maiden flight of the 737-100 took place in 1967, it is quite appropriate that the latest metamorphism be dubbed the “Next Generation”.
 
With its title clipped to the more easily handled, “NG”, the ‘next generation’ covers the -600 through to the -900 series of the 737. Of Boeing’s latest offering the 700 and larger 800s have gone on to dominate the skies, while the ‘Max’ is still yet to come. The NGs predecessors, the -200, -300 and -400 had provided the backbone of short haul travel in a very similar way. Whilst the number of earlier models is ever dwindling, they have gone on to be referred to as ‘The Classics’ as they reflect a last bridge between the analogue and digital flight deck. Whilst a highly visible transition, the clocks and dials are but one area of many in which the Classic has been superseded.

737 Next Generation Development:
 
The 737NG program was launched in 1993 under the title of 737-X. Boeing recognized the time-tested qualities of the type, but needed to bring the efficiency of new technology and systems to its most enduring machine. Fundamentally, the 737-X was to fly higher, farther, faster and more fuel efficiently than its predecessor without evolving into a new machine requiring a new designator and certification. A challenging task to say the least.
 
Much of the efficiency revolved around the redesigned wing. With 25% more total surface area and potentially 30% more fuel capacity, the new wing has much to offer. Boasting a higher span than the Classic, the new wing is a more swept with a constant angle of sweep and double-slotted continuous span flaps. Gone is the double swept leading edge and characteristic ‘kink’ of the earlier wing. Similarly, there have been changes to the leading and trailing edge flaps that have resulted in weight saving as well as aerodynamic efficiency. For all of the improvements to the aerofoil and lift augmentation devices, the most visible change to the wing and the aircraft generally, is the emergence of blended winglets on the 737.
 
The smooth, upward sweeping fairings at the tips stand a prodigious 2.4 metres and increase the span by a metre and a half. Simply put, the winglets benefit the aircraft through the reduction of induced drag and consequently improved operational and economic performance. Whilst yielding an impressive 4% saving in mission block fuel, the winglets also increase the 800s range by over 100nm. (Source: Boeing) Improved performance out of ‘hot, high and humid’ airfields is another advantage of the blended winglet. In fact, this aerodynamic device has proved so successful that it is now being retrofitted to 757s as well as 737s.

 

                                       

                                                          The Flight Deck of the Boeing 737-800.

 
The NG also sees the introduction of GPS to the 737 navigation system. Previously only equipped with dual Inertial Reference Systems (IRSs), the system relied upon ‘updates’ from ground based VORs and DMEs to continually refine the aircraft’s present position. Without such updates, the pictorial presentation on the map display could be inaccurate requiring the crew to heavily rely on ‘raw data’ from conventional radio navigation aids. GPS provides a far more consistently accurate map display for the crew and allows for more integration of the aircraft’s Lateral Navigation (LNAV) and Vertical Navigation (VNAV) systems. Additionally, the NG is equipped with a Predictive Windshear Warning and Enhanced Ground Proximity Warning System (EGPWS). This ‘forward-looking’ form of the original GPWS provides improved terrain clearance by such mechanisms as Terrain Clearance Floor, Look Ahead and Runway Clearance Floor algorythms.
 
Efficiency and costs savings can also be achieved on the ground. Production line improvements saw the final assembly of a 737NG in a record-breaking 11 days in 2005. On the maintenance side, the NG was developed with an eye to reducing airframe maintenance costs by 15%. Comprised of significantly less parts than the Classic, the NG was also designed with far more ‘ease of access’ for maintenance crews. Redesigned leading edges, landing gear, electronics, APU and the 15% more efficient CFM56-7 engines all contributed to the bottom line. In conjunction with improved maintenance documents, corrosion prevention and extended scheduled maintenance intervals, the 737NG has won the battle of the dollar over its forerunner.

On the flight deck, the 737NG strongly resembles its twin-engined big brother, the Boeing 777. The panel is dominated by the presence of 6 LCD panels arranged side by side, replacing the combination of EFIS and analogue that was found on the Classic. For the pilots, this means a degree of modification of their instrument scan from the vertical to the horizontal. The flight deck was designed in response to the demand by operators that a new type endorsement not be needed. As a consequence, the overhead panel closely resembles the Classic with its array of toggle switches and dials, though the operation of the system behind the switch may well be different.

 

          

                     A QANTAS Boeing 737-800 awaits its take-off clearance as another 737NG comes 'over the fence'.

 
As for achieving higher, faster, farther and more fuel efficient performance; Boeing delivered. The NG possesses greater range by more than 400nm over the earlier model, whilst topping out at FL410 (41,000 feet) as opposed to the Classic ceiling of FL370 (37,000 feet). With a typical cruise speed of 0.78M and a sprint capability to 0.82M, the NG draws away from the Classic’s average cruise of 0.745M, whilst all the while burning less fuel. Furthermore, depending on the cabin configuration, the -800 can achieve all of this while carrying around 40 more passengers than its predecessor. From humble beginnings as the 737-100 nearly 40 years ago, the 737 has kept pace with the times through ongoing development and improvement. The 737NG is no exception.
 
Technologically, some 737 NGs can be equipped with a ‘Head-Up Guidance System’ or ‘HGS’. The HGS 4000 system features a transparent drop-down screen in front of the Captain on which is projected an array of flight information, allowing the pilot to operate in lower visibility situations than would otherwise be possible. Head-Up Display (HUD) technology has been available for years on military aircraft and Alaska Airlines started flying HUD on their 727s back in the mid-80s and all of their 737-400s are equipped with the technology.
 
Some airlines have opted for the Vertical Situation Display (VSD) on their aircraft. The VSD displays the current and predicted flight path of the aircraft and indicates potential conflicts with terrain. The VSD is designed to enhance situational awareness on the flight deck and is yet another way in which the Next Generation is offering advances over its predecessor......

 

Check back later this week for the conclusion to "Boeing 737. The Next Generation."

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