Thursday, October 30, 2008

Oakland - Reno / Boeing 737-800 (SWA1191) / IFR

This flight was just like my previous flight … except that I flew it by hand.

The Oakland - Reno route is only 28 minutes long in the air, so I figured it would be a good practice run for flying the 737 by hand (which I've never done before from start to finish). I flew offline just in case the flight might end in tragedy.

All went well for most of the flight. I spent most of my time staring at the crosshairs of the flight director on the PFD. It was tough to trim the aircraft—it seemed to be just as difficult to get it level as it is in the Cessna. The phugoid movements are slower but still just as pesky. I flew with both AP and autothrottle off, so I had to adjust everything. I wasn't very good at staying on top of my FMC speed bug, but I did okay with the lateral and vertical navigation.

The issues came up as I passed over Lake Tahoe on my descent. There's a lot of high terrain around Reno. Fortunately, I did occasionally look up from the PFD to take a peek out the windows, and on one occasion when I saw radio transmission towers directly in front of me, I realized that perhaps I should pay more attention to terrain. Throttles full forward and a bit of nose-up pitch keep me clear of tragedy. After I got past the mountains, the terrain was much lower on the runway centerline, and since I had the ILS tuned (which I had fixed yesterday—the default FS 2004 scenery doesn't include the relatively recent ILS for 34L), I started lining up on that. Somehow, I had come in well below the glide path, but other than that, my approach was stable, and in the clear weather I could easily remain clear of terrain just by looking out the window.

Unfortunately, I was consistently below the glide slope most of the way, although my descent rate was okay. I kept trying to ease myself up into the glide slope, taking care not to do anything drastic … slow and easy is safer with a big jet. Mostly I increased power (I already had full flaps and gear down) and eased the nose up just tiny bit as the airspeed increased. I did get my aircraft at Vref for the approach.

In the last few miles of the approach I was nicely stabilized and aligned, except for being somewhat below the glide slope. I slowed my descent and finally moved into the slope, only to drift below it again. But I had the runway in sight and I mostly used the runway PAPI to correct my glide slope.

The landing was just a tad long, but very smooth. However, I came within about six inches of a tail strike, as I had the nose too high during the flare. I flared a little bit too much, too soon. But the touchdown was great. Still, as you can see from my picture taken just after the wheels touched, I had some very aggressive nose-up pitch on landing. I'll have to work on that.

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