Another MEL item involved one channel of the EEC (engine electronic control) on the right engine. The EEC is similar to a fadec system on GA airplanes. The system prevents engine-limit exceedance. One of the two channels that provide a signal to the EEC for that engine was deemed inoperative. Only one is required for normal operation. If the second channel were to fail, engine limits would have to be monitored manually.
The last major MEL item involved the inoperative electric function of a seat in the business cabin. Our airplane was full. One passenger would have to suffer the indignities of adjusting the seat manually.
All of these discrepancies required various degrees of attention. My multitasking skills turned into an art form when I combined the MEL items with the normal routine: Checklists. Takeoff briefing. Route verification. Clearance. Flight management computer button-pushing. Ground crew requests for electrical power removal. Flight attendant beverage requests and miscellaneous boarding issues. Cockpit banter. Fueler confirmation of proper fuel load and distribution. International documentation signatures and verification. Maintenance ETOPS (extended operations) inspections. Company ramp-control inquiries on our departure status. Gate agent requests.
The frantic pace just before our pushback paled in comparison with the most difficult task — I was departing from JFK in broad daylight. Months had passed since I had tested the limits of my day-flying abilities … well, on the 777 at least.
My successful launch from Runway 22R was proof that my skills were not impaired, despite the non-vampire hour. And I was rewarded with a rare treat: I hadn’t realized that the Greki Three departure brought me almost directly over our home. It had been many years since I had viewed the area from the perspective of 23,000 feet.
I stared out the cockpit windows and scanned our lake. It seemed tranquil. I verified that the blue moon hadn’t submerged itself into the darkness of the water. In a few hours I would discover that the moon had traveled elsewhere. Traveling eastward, the sky fades to black. And, once again, on the same day, the same moon greeted me as I traveled toward it at Mach .84 and Flight Level 390.
My other trips seem to time our arrival such that the rising sun aligns itself with my eyes and Heathrow’s Runway 27R. It was with great pleasure that the only glare experienced on this occasion came from the approach lighting system. The added bonus for our night operation was the taxi to the gate. The controller’s instructions were simply, “Follow the greens.” Idiot lights don’t get much better than that for an airline pilot.
A short bus ride and a few minutes later, the entire crew met in the layover hotel briefing room. Conveniently, the briefing room shared the same space as the beverage lounge.
Soon, the crisis of the trip was discussed. The crisis had been the ham-and-cheese croissant sandwiches served in the coach cabin. The sandwiches had thawed to the consistency of a hockey puck, despite the best innovative efforts of the flight attendants. Apparently, this was a common occurrence. A few shoulder shrugs later, no definitive solutions were forthcoming.
On the flight home the following afternoon, I discovered the only disadvantage to the trip: Sun visors, sunglasses and squinting are mandatory. Westbound, the sun never sets … at least not until about an hour from touchdown.
The only proverbial bump in the road was our hand-off to New York Tracon. Because of volume, we were given holding instructions at the Calverton VOR. The instructions were issued 6.5 miles from the fix as we screamed toward it at 270 knots. Despite radio fumbling on my part, Steve and Tom were the epitome of crew coordination. The hold was executed with time to spare.
Fifteen minutes later, Steve kissed Runway 22L with a flawless touchdown. I taxied us back toward the terminal. As we approached the ramp area, I smiled. The moon had repositioned itself just for my benefit. It hung just above the jet bridge.
Two-day London trip? I’m hoping that my application will be approved for a full-time club membership.