As we progressed through the en route phase, Rich demonstrated good situational awareness skills. In addition to safely deviating around numerous thunderstorm areas with unfamiliar airborne radar equipment, he had begun the planning stages of his descent and arrival into Miami.
Miami approach control descended us quickly toward the airport at high altitude and vectored us toward the runway via a tight traffic pattern. Despite some fumbling with the autopilot and the mode control panel, Rich kept ahead of the airplane. Much to his credit, flare height was begun at the proper time, at approximately 50 feet. I always prepare for a former Super 80 pilot to fly the wheels into the runway. Sometimes intervention is necessary. Other times I am simply provided with entertainment.
The touchdown itself was accomplished as though Rich had made the same performance a thousand times prior. The only issue was that a 757 nose behaves like a Twin Comanche's. It wants to be on the ground immediately, especially after the automatic speedbrakes deploy. The secret to success becomes a balancing act of maintaining enough back pressure on the yoke to prevent the inevitable crash but at the same time not allowing the airplane to pitch up enough to strike the tail. Unfortunately, the crash arrived on schedule, much to Rich's dismay. I had warned him, but it has to be experienced before it can be believed.
En route, our ACARS paperwork had indicated a gate change. Instead of conveniently using the same airplane for our return to LaGuardia as we had expected, our equipment was now located in a part of the terminal that had a different ZIP code. In the interest of adding physical exercise to the IOE, I elected not to follow the advice that I had offered our flight attendants. I failed to confirm our gate with the display monitors. It wasn't until we were within spitting distance of the new gate assignment that I had the revelation to check the video screens. Our second gate change was now in close proximity to where we had just parked the airplane. Great.
After we retraced our jog, I sent Rich on his way to begin the preflight while I obtained the flight-plan paperwork. But for some unknown reason, our dispatcher hadn't released the data. A phone call revealed that maintenance problems were the culprit. Two items were missing from the airplane. One involved a fairing behind the right, main gear door. The other involved a static wick on the very top of the vertical stabilizer.
Both items were allowed by our FAA-approved CDL (Configuration Deviation List), but they required review in order to determine whether crew action was required. The missing fairing imposed a weight penalty. It wouldn't be a factor for our flight. The CDL was stored on my laptop computer in the form of an FAA-approved EFB (Electronic Flight Bag). Once I entered the cockpit and retrieved my laptop, it would be only a matter of pressing the start button and waiting for the Windows operating system to come alive. If only I had a Mac …
I looked at my watch. Twenty minutes prior to departure time. Passengers were beginning to board. I rolled my bags toward the escalator and the jet bridge. The pace would get lively.
The airplane was equipped with the older-model FMC computers and ACARS. Rich was doing his best, but he was struggling. No problem. This was part of the original IOE script. I distributed my bags to the appropriate places near my seat and began to assist my copilot with the nuances of different computer-entry procedures.
Knowing that Rich would need time for cockpit preparation regardless of the computer type, I had told him earlier that I would perform the walk-around inspection. I did as promised. Unfortunately, departure time was rapidly approaching.
During the walk-around, I explained the delay to the ground crew. When I mentioned that training was in progress, I got a wide grin and a fist bump. Cool.
Despite our obstacles, we departed only 30 minutes late and arrived at LaGuardia tardy by only 15 minutes. I was pleased with Rich's above-average performance. I shook his hand and welcomed him to the new fleet and the new fraternity. It was a successful IOE.
And, of course, neither one of us had any doubts about the experience. It was all about making it real.