Thursday, June 11, 2009

Phoenix - San Diego / Boeing 747-4AA / VFR (!)

Today I had a hankering to try an experiment: Flying a 747 VFR from Phoenix to San Diego, by pilotage at 4500 feet (as one might fly a small Cessna). Mission accomplished!

I flew this offline because I had to bend some regulations in order to do the flight (the main one being flight over 250 KIAS below 10,000 feet). I flew practically the entire flight by hand, except for a few stretches where I let ALT HOLD and HDG HOLD modes take over to let me relax a bit. I followed the highways, at just 4500 feet and 320 KIAS. I followed Interstate 10 out to the “bend in the road” above Highway 85, then followed the latter down to Gila Bend, then picked up Interstate 8 out to San Diego. It went pretty quickly at 320 KIAS. As I approached the mountains east of KSAN, I climbed briefly to 6500 feet. Then it was back down, then south to intercept the centerline of runway 27 at KSAN (I didn't use the ILS), then on in to the airport. I stabilized the approach for a brief period with the autopilot, then shut everything off and took over manually. The landing was very smooth, I'm happy to say. The nose-up pitch in the flare was a tad excessive, but no tail strike. I guesstimated all the speeds based on past experience.

The experiment was a success. It proves that low-altitude VFR flights by pilotage can be done in a 747, although it's not very practical, very legal (at least with the exceptions I made), or very efficient.