Thursday, June 11, 2009

Frankfurt - London / Boeing 767-300ER (N715ML) / IFR

I must be getting back into practice with the 767, because this flight from Frankfurt-am-Main to Heathrow went very well.

There was one slight problem, though. Out of curiosity, while cruising over the continental coast approaching the English Channel, I tried to open a cabin door. On the real aircraft, this isn't possible, as the 767 has “plug” doors that are held tightly shut when the cabin is pressurized. To my surprise, though, the door opened on the sim. That didn't seem very realistic. But then I was even more surprised to hear an alarm in the cockpit that I hardly expected.

It seems that the sim doesn't prohibit you from opening a door (perhaps it simulates the Superman strength that would be required to open a door against five tons of force while in flight), but it accurately simulates the consequences. The alarm I heard was accompanied by the CABIN ALTITUDE annunciation. A quick check of the pressurization panel reveal that the aircraft had depressurized—which is to be expected if you open a door! Another annunciation told me that the oxygen masks had dropped in the cabin. These are not good signs.

However, with careless abandon, I strapped on my mask and continued on at cruise altitude, taking care to close the door. Normally depressurization requires rapid descent, but I didn't want to mess up my flight profile. I just closed the door, shut the outflow valves, set pressurization to max auto, and waited for the cabin to repressurize, which it did after five minutes or so. It was soon back to 10,000 feet and I could take off the mask, and shortly thereafter it was back to where it had originally been. However, I was unable to restow the oxygen masks, which had to wait for a maintenance crew on the ground.

Landing was very smooth and without incident, except for the cursing threats of passengers back in the cabin who intended to file virtual lawsuits against me for opening the door in flight. Oh, well … I'll have to be more careful about those doors in the future, eh?