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Boeing advertisement shows relative size of 757-200 and 757-300
I'm a big sports fan but I'm told that some athletes really excel at one thing while others are "all arounders".

I'd put the 757 in that "all around" category. I can't think of one area where it really stands out. It just very competently does whatever you ask of it. I know that's kind of boring, but in my profession I like boring. Boring is good.

So read on if you want to know more about this great airplane. I think Boeing really hit it out of the park with this one (that's enough sports for one day).

The 757 almost didn't come to be. Boeing originally wanted to go for the easy buck and build an improved version of the 727. The airlines were lukewarm to that idea. Fuel prices were on the way up and twin engine aircraft are inherently more efficient than tri-jets. Boeing did the smart thing and came up with a totally new design that took advantage of new (at the time) advancements in engines, materials, aerodynamics and avionics.

The end result was a twin engine narrow-body airliner with the engines pod mounted under the wing. The 727's T-tail was dropped in favor of a conventional tail. Flight controls were pure hydraulic. The two person cockpit (no flight engineer) used a mix of round dials and then-new CRT displays. In some ways we'd gone full circle back to the DC-3 days with two engines and two pilots.

They did one other smart thing. They developed the wide-body 767 at the same time, sharing as much of the design between the two planes as possible. The two share a common type-rating, so that if you're trained to fly one you can fly the other with some minor differences training. The airlines love that because training costs money and the less time you spend in training the more time you can be out making money for them.

First flight was in 1982 and Eastern Airlines (remember them?) started operating them later that year. Sales were never really what Boeing had hoped for. They sold just over 1000 of them over a production run that ended in 2004. That's enough to be profitable but less than the number of 727s produced (1800) and nowhere close to the 737 with 7,600 built (and still in production).

Some of it was just bad timing. By the 1980s fuel prices were coming down and most airlines didn't think they needed a 200-seat narrow body airliner. American for example preferred the 150-seat MD-80 which could be had for less money.

There are two major versions, the 757-200 and the -300. The '300s are stretched and mostly used on oceanic routes. A smaller -100 version was planned but never built due to lack of interest from the airlines. I've crossed "the pond" as a passenger on a 757-300 but I'd generally prefer something larger for an ocean crossing.

Delta 757-200 with Pratt & Whitney engines.
The engines come in two flavors, the Rolls Royce RB211 or the Pratt & Whitney P2000. I much prefer the Rolls Royce engines. Why? Because it's a Rolls Royce! Do I need another reason? Actually the Rolls engines are more powerful and start much more quickly. Being one of those people who can never have enough horsepower, I like the extra thrust of the RB211s. The Pratts are decent engines but they take a while to crank and the difference in thrust is enough to be noticeable.

So what's it like to fly? Overall it's great. It has a lot of strengths and very few quirks.

The systems are well thought out and are largely "set 'em and forget 'em". Unlike the A300 I don't get a lot of feedback on what the systems are doing. They either work or they don't. Fortunately they work pretty reliably. If something malfunctions, turning it off and back on seems to fix the problem 90% of the time. For the most part they just quietly do their thing and let me get on with my business of flying the plane. In typical fashion there's two or three backups for everything that's important.

Earlier 757 cockpit with a mix of round-dials and CRT displays.
The cockpit, like most narrow-bodies, is a little cramped. Once you're in the seat it's fairly comfortable, at least for a few hours. Visibility over the nose is quite good. Our cockpits have been upgraded flat-screen displays instead of the original steam-gauges.
757 upgraded to all glass cockpit.
If I were to redesign it I would put the fuel indications somewhere other than up on the overhead. I think something that important should be right in front of my face. Otherwise my only gripe is the proliferation of dimmer switches (I lost count at 16) for all the various cockpit lights.

The flight controls are a touch on the heavy side but not excessively so. I actually prefer it that way. The A300 flight controls were so light it was easy to over-control it.

I'm told that the 767, despite being much larger, is actually more responsive. Probably due to it having an extra set of ailerons and spoilers for roll control.

Takeoffs are uneventful. The rudder is very effective, so much so that I almost have to lock my feet in place to keep from wiggling the nose back and forth. You don't want to yank it off the runway because it's a long airplane and a tail-strike is possible. Make a smooth rotation and it's not an issue.

This looks like a 757-300. Note the Rolls Royce engines which are much skinnier than the Pratts.
The Rolls Royce engines climb out nicely. In fact we normally use reduced climb thrust to save wear on the engines. With a light load and full thrust it's a rocket.

Cruise speed is right around .80 mach. You can get .84 mach out of it but that's it. The wing is designed for efficiency, not speed.

It does like to go high, which is a plus when there's weather. Unless you're really heavy it will happily go up to FL400 and FL420 is possible. It gives you plenty of airspeed margin to work with even up high.

The ride is pretty decent for a narrow-body airliner. I think the 727 rode better due to its higher wing loading. Get the 757 into turbulence and that long, skinny fuselage will shimmy from side to side. For a long flight I'd rather be in a wide-body but the 757 isn't too bad.

Fuel economy is where it really shines. At cruise it burns between 6,000 to 8,000 pounds per hour. It's roughly 40% more efficient than its predecessor. If you let the FMS (Flight Management System) do its thing it will figure out the most fuel efficient climb and descent profiles to use.

You may be wondering why some of the planes pictured are sporting winglets and some aren't. It depends on the type of trips you're going to operate. If you're going to use them on long distance flights the aerodynamic efficiency of the winglets will save you gas (and money). However, on a short flight you won't be at cruise altitude long enough for the winglets to pay off, plus you'll pay a fuel penalty for the extra weight of the winglets.

Of everything I've flown it's the easiest to land consistently well. It's rare that I have a rough landing in one of these. Approach speeds are very slow, I've seen 110 knots with a very light aircraft. The rudder is very effective so crosswinds are no problem. It's practically in a landing attitude already as it comes down final so very little flare is required. The only thing you have to watch for is the nose wants to slam down on its own after the mains touch.

757 Freighter Conversion
Note the nose-high approach attitude
The auto-brakes work exceedingly well. You've got twice the brakes of a 737-800 and not that much more airplane. Even after very aggressive braking I've never seen the brakes overheat on this airplane.

I only have a couple of nitpicks. The FMS is a generation or so behind what newer airliners have. It works well enough but the processor is pretty slow. If you throw too many changes in it can "go stupid" for a while as it churns through the calculations.

The big one is - this plane simply will not go down and slow down at the same time. You can have one or the other, you pick. It has a skinny fuselage, a very efficient wing and engines that produce a fair bit of thrust even in idle.

Fortunately, unlike some older Boeing products, the speed brakes can be used with the flaps extended.  If Approach Control gives you a clearance like "maintain 180 knots to the marker" it can be a real struggle to get slowed down to approach speed in time to meet our "stable approach" criteria.

Safety wise it has a very good record. Pretty much all the hull losses have been due to human factors. I don't know of any that have been lost due to a flaw in the design.

Otherwise I can't praise it enough. It's got all the glass cockpit bells and whistles but you can still shut all the automation off and fly it the old fashioned way. It's not as much fun as the 727 was but as a tool for doing my job it's tough to beat.

So if it's that good, why don't you see more of them? It's simple. Pilots love the 757 but management and accounting types like the 737. Guess who usually wins.

1:53 PM PT: Updated to fix typos.


Originally posted to Kossack Air Force on Sun Oct 20, 2013 at 12:29 PM PDT.

Also republished by Central Ohio Kossacks, Aviation & Pilots, and Community Spotlight.

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  •  Tip Jar (155+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    chicago minx, Joy of Fishes, owlbear1, badscience, DeadHead, Azazello, Otteray Scribe, tampaedski, BRog, john07801, Sorta Randle, ERTBen, wilderness voice, kevinpdx, sturunner, jakedog42, Medium Head Boy, petulans, Bronx59, pdknz, skepticalcitizen, emeraldmaiden, BlackSheep1, SixSixSix, myrmecia gulosa, Hatrax, aseth, Farugia, rodentrancher, Margouillat, mconvente, ruleoflaw, bobwilk, Bisbonian, NoMoJoe, david78209, IndieGuy, Lacy LaPlante, VTCC73, sawgrass727, xaxnar, itzadryheat, lotac, peterj911, alain2112, peregrine kate, blue91, nhox42, SMWalt, KenBee, Powell, barbwires, VelvetElvis, Independent Musings, Lost Left Coaster, cactusgal, Simplify, LeftyAce, Richard Cranium, Bonsai66, blueyedace2, AdamR510, rbird, Habitat Vic, eyesoars, Rhysling, Via Chicago, out of left field, Buckeye54, Mad Season, 2liberal, golem, Bud Fields, Sparhawk, annieli, bonefish, Dingodude, Slaw, GainesT1958, reddog1, midnight lurker, markdd, subtropolis, ER Doc, YellerDog, prfb, stretchslr53, Knucklehead, WakeUpNeo, Jay C, jck, Regina in a Sears Kit House, la urracca, TheDuckManCometh, Texknight, joeschmeaux, mujr, eeff, jwinIL14, JimWilson, shortfinals, riverlover, terrypinder, fba1a, MadGeorgiaDem, JLan, citizen dan, PeterHug, wheeldog, vtjim, boatjones, Pilotshark, Great Cthulhu, MusicFarmer, LillithMc, CPT Doom, MKinTN, orson, ArchTeryx, Shadowmage36, not4morewars, bartcopfan, elfling, SCFrog, No one gets out alive, windje, nom de plume, Geenius at Wrok, hnichols, flowerfarmer, raines, PrahaPartizan, JayBat, TomFromNJ, Tod, ipsos, shanikka, fluffy, RAST, Moody Loner, Ohiodem1, flygrrl, foresterbob, Risen Tree, Ian S, VolvoDrivingLiberal, miscanthus, Trotskyrepublican, sphealey, MrCornfed, Mr Robert, Turbonerd, here4tehbeer, RiveroftheWest, FarWestGirl

    If the pilot's good, see, I mean if he's reeeally sharp, he can barrel that baby in so low... oh you oughta see it sometime. It's a sight. A big plane like a '52... varrrooom! Its jet exhaust... frying chickens in the barnyard!

    by Major Kong on Sun Oct 20, 2013 at 12:29:23 PM PDT

  •  thanks for this! (12+ / 0-)

    educational and fun to read at the same time.

    You do know you need to turn these into a book?

    LBJ, Van Cliburn, Ike, Wendy Davis, Lady Bird, Ann Richards, Barbara Jordan, Molly Ivins, Sully Sullenburger, Drew Brees: Texas is NO Bush League!

    by BlackSheep1 on Sun Oct 20, 2013 at 02:09:30 PM PDT

  •  Power of a 757 is obvious from the cheap seats (10+ / 0-)

    Agree about the disadvantages of being a narrow-body passenger across the Atlantic, but my annoyance has always been the amount of time it takes to line up behind 200 other people and get off of a 757.  

    I know it sounds strange, but I think I remember a mid-cabin lavatory on early 757s.  Is that right?

  •  I know pilots love 'em; (12+ / 0-)

    as a passenger I really dislike them.  Regardless where you sit, you feel cramped, especially on flights of more than about four hours.  Was stuck on one from Honolulu to Minneapolis one time.  Dreadful, made worse by surly NWA cabin crew.  I'll take an A330 or even an old 747-100 any day over one of the blasted things.  

    -7.13 / -6.97 "The people never give up their liberties but under some delusion." -- Edmund Burke

    by GulfExpat on Sun Oct 20, 2013 at 02:33:29 PM PDT

    •  My first time as a passenger on a -300 (11+ / 0-)

      I was all the way in the back. It took 20 minutes from the time the cabin door opened for me to exit. It would have been less time had they used door 2 but not much. Three hours of the tail swishing around was more than enough. Other than the tight cabin, small overhead bins, and tail sway it is a nice jet but flying it is far better than being in the cabin.

      Time makes more converts than reason. Thomas Paine, Common Sense

      by VTCC73 on Sun Oct 20, 2013 at 04:30:26 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  and that, in a nutshell,is the state of commercial (11+ / 0-)

        airlines these days.

        What was once a luxurious experience has become a Kafkaesque nightmare.  

        It begins with being screened by TSA agents that are one misdemeanor away from the State Penitentiary.  And it ends with...well, it never really ends.  Just take your shoes off, shut up and move along.

        All they really need are cattle prods and bullwhips.  Air travel has become the most demeaning service industry in America.

        Through early morning fog I see visions of the things to be the pains that are withheld for me I realize and I can see...

        by Keith930 on Sun Oct 20, 2013 at 06:56:53 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  While I sympathize with your points (9+ / 0-)

          I also understand the factors that have created the environment. The biggest driver of what you describe as degraded service is cost. The number one factor that people use to select an airline ticket is price. A very distant factor is departure date and time. All of the others are so far down the list as to be inconsequential. So what do you think an airline management is going to try to do most to get your business?

          If you say give you the lowest price you would be right. The result is an industry that operates on a 1-3% profit margin. Name one other multi-billion dollar industry vital to the economy of the world with profit margins that low. Or one that has several year stretches of negative, largely negative, profits and a high percentage of company failures.

          Don't get me wrong, I agree with most complaints about accommodation, service, pricing/fees, and idiot business plans that define the US airlines but unless you and everyone else is willing to pay more it ain't ever going to get better. Security complaints? Well above my pay grade.

          Time makes more converts than reason. Thomas Paine, Common Sense

          by VTCC73 on Sun Oct 20, 2013 at 09:35:52 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •   why airlines, like banks, should be nationalized (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            mkor7, Geenius at Wrok
            The result is an industry that operates on a 1-3% profit margin. Name one other multi-billion dollar industry vital to the economy of the world with profit margins that low.
            They are already, for all intents and purposes, public utilities--virtually everyone needs their services in one form or another. Just like highways.

            So they should be owned and run publicly, as nonprofit public utilities.

            •  On the other hand (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              PrahaPartizan

              such low prices and profit margins could be seen as a success of the airline market. Big banks, in contrast, offer negative public utility at high prices and profits. For that we should have a public option.

              Government and laws are the agreement we all make to secure everyone's freedom.

              by Simplify on Mon Oct 21, 2013 at 09:48:45 AM PDT

              [ Parent ]

            •  Alfred Kahn's work convinced the government (4+ / 0-)

              to deregulate and remove subsidies from the airline industry in 1978. What you see today is the result. There are a lot of wealthy people who made fortunes from deregulation while companies disappeared, employees lives were ruined, and service went to a widely detested market basis. Of course, fares dramatically decreased (they are nearly the same as they were in 1978 un corrected for inflation!) and the average person can afford to fly. Costs and benefits that will be judged differently by nearly everyone but I wish you good luck with a nationalization argument and campaign. People are vocal in their displeasure but have found air travel's benefits greater than their griping. You might find some traction for nationalization when they stop flying.

              Time makes more converts than reason. Thomas Paine, Common Sense

              by VTCC73 on Mon Oct 21, 2013 at 10:31:10 AM PDT

              [ Parent ]

            •  Or just repeal deregulation (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              Bronx59

              And, while we're at it, provide actual alternatives to air travel such as a real passenger-rail system.

              Yes, trips would take longer, but if I had room to move around, and somewhere to work (i.e. power/Internet) during the trip, it may well be worth the trade-off.

              "If you are still playing for Team Republican and want to have any honor whatsoever, you need to leave the Republican Party now, apologize to America, and work to remove it from our political system." - Brad DeLong

              by radabush on Mon Oct 21, 2013 at 05:47:32 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

          •  The grocery industry (3+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Simplify, elfling, Bronx59

            operates on about a 1% profit margin and, I would say, is vital to the economy of the world.

            As one grocery executive says, a bottle of ketchup dropped and broken on the floor in an aisle can wipe out the profit margin on a whole cart full of groceries going through the checkout line.

            When atlatls are outlawed, only outlaws will have atlatls.

            by wheeldog on Mon Oct 21, 2013 at 06:51:12 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  Interesting that you chose groceries (2+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              Geenius at Wrok, ipsos

              as your example. Airlines have some characteristics in common with grocers. Spoilage is a drag on grocer's revenue but is a tiny fraction of spoilage in a passenger airline. Every time an airliner leaves the gate that is one seat that is lost forever, revenue never to be recaptured. It happens on an amazingly high percentage of flights and varies with the travel season. Summer load factor, percentage of seats filled, is usually high. I saw my airline have near 90% load factors in really good summer months and in the mid to high 70% range in the winter. Imagine a grocer losing 30+% of his product. How high would his profits be then? How long would he stay in business?

              Crowded airplanes and terminals are common complaints among air travelers. Yet, they are a direct result of intense, long term struggles by airline managements to increase yields per seat and to increase load factors. Parallel but on the other side of the equation is the fight to cut seat mile costs, the cost to fly one seat one mile.

              Grocers are indirectly subsidized by farm subsidies but were never regulated like the airlines were. Airlines bid for routes and frequencies between city pairs and the fares they could charge were controlled by a government agency before deregulation. Profits were guaranteed in low yielding markets. There was little to no incentive to be efficient and load factors in the 50% range were generally profitable. Now, low 80% load factors are break even points.

              Airlines make larger profits in the third quarter, large in the fourth, so-so to none in the third, and often lose money in the first quarter of the year. Yield management, doing a better job filling airplanes, and severe cost controls have paid big for airlines in recent years. They appear to have abandoned the race to the bottom business strategies of the mid-2000s and have been solidly profitable in weak economic times. That is a first for an industry well known for boom and bust cycles that track economic cycles closely.

              Their success comes at a cost to their customers in the form of a mass transportation experience in mass transportation rather than a subsidized genteel experience of the privileged. I also think euphoric recall is playing a part in dreams of pre-deregulation air travel. The airplanes were slower, noisy, much less reliable, and crashed, a lot. Fares were high, schedules infrequent, and on time performance sketchy. Air travel, as in many things modern, is a mixed bag judged differently by different people with different interests.

              Time makes more converts than reason. Thomas Paine, Common Sense

              by VTCC73 on Mon Oct 21, 2013 at 11:21:44 AM PDT

              [ Parent ]

            •  uh-oh (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              Mr Robert
              a bottle of ketchup dropped and broken on the floor in an aisle can wipe out the profit margin on a whole cart full of groceries going through the checkout line.
              I dropped and broke a large bottle of moderately priced olive oil last week.  I'll expect that particular Kroger to file for bankruptcy any day now.

              Next month will mark 19 years since I flew my last trip (lost my medical -- now I'm trying to get a 3rd class medical so I can bore holes in the sky recreationally).  Talking to friends who continue to fly, many report the industry has turned into a job rather than the passion it was for them when they started.  Bean-counting managers lead the list of problems cited.

              These days I spend whatever time I'm on an airliner doing recreational travel that's generally planned well in advance, I make sure I get a seat close enough to the exit that I don't have to wait 20 minutes to get off the aircraft (forward of the overwing exits seems to work).  I feel sorry for those who don't have that luxury.

              TEA PARTIES: Something little girls do with their imaginary friends.
              (-6.75 -6.51)

              by flygrrl on Mon Oct 21, 2013 at 07:25:43 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

        •  Sad but true (4+ / 0-)

          That's why if it's less than a 6 hour drive I don't even think about getting on an airliner.

          If the pilot's good, see, I mean if he's reeeally sharp, he can barrel that baby in so low... oh you oughta see it sometime. It's a sight. A big plane like a '52... varrrooom! Its jet exhaust... frying chickens in the barnyard!

          by Major Kong on Mon Oct 21, 2013 at 05:02:57 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

        •  I really hate commercial flying (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Geenius at Wrok, TriSec

          I love being ON the plane . . .  it's the whole big production required to GET on the plane that annoys the shit out of me.

          That's why I Greyhound whenever I can.  Yeah, it takes longer to get there (which I really don't mind), but I can arrive five minutes before the bus leaves with all the bags I want, and I don't get treated like an Al Qaeda suspect beforehand.

    •  IIUC... (4+ / 0-)

      seat size and spacing (esp. fore/aft spacing) is generally up to the airline.

    •  I totally agree (0+ / 0-)

      As a frequent traveler I HATE the 757 with a passion. The plane is so long and narrow it ends up feeling more cramped event than smaller planes, the aisle under-seat storage is pitiful, even by Boeing standards (aside: why is it that Airbus manages to make the under-seat storage about the same size for all seats, but Boeing can't?) and the plane takes forever to off-load when you get to your destination.

      Boycott Russian vodka, Russian caviar and all things Russian. LGBT oppression cannot be allowed to stand.

      by CPT Doom on Mon Oct 21, 2013 at 09:10:23 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  This is only slightly OT (10+ / 0-)

    I was wondering if you have a favorite airplane?  And if so, what is it and why?

    I wrote a diary about my favorite airplane some time back, but since then I have been giving it even more thought.  I branched out to planes I have not flown. So, what have you not flown that you have on your bucket list?

    Rudeness is a weak imitation of strength. - Eric Hoffer

    by Otteray Scribe on Sun Oct 20, 2013 at 03:24:38 PM PDT

  •  Service ceiling (10+ / 0-)

    Is FL420 a general airframe limitation or does it vary by company?

    The reason I ask, is I'm fairly certain I worked 75s at FL430 (back before RVSM—reduced vertical separation minimum for the onlookers—under which I never controlled traffic). I've been gone for sixteen years, so maybe some synapses are no longer firing, but before RVSM it was a big deal.

    When I started in ZJX (1968) only Lears flew at FL410 (and the pressure suit airplanes, but just twice—on the way up through it and on the way down through it). Air carrier flights in our facility flew principally between FL240 (National typically flew low) and FL 350 (Northeast flew their BOS-MIA segments at that height). Only once per day did we see a Delta trip from DTW-MIA come over SPA at FL370.

    When I got to ZAU, I was astounded to find 72s and 8s inbound from the west coast in the block FL410-430 (back before RVSM FL420 was not a usable altititude). No air carrier bird was capable of operating at FL430 as I recall. When I got back from sabbatical, the 75s and 76s were in the system and we saw 41 and 43 just as regularly as we used to see 37 and 39. A new world.

    Another advantage of the 75 over the 76 is it can get in and out of MDW.

    LRod—UID 238035
    ZJX, ORD, ZAU retired
    My ATC site
    My Norm's Tools site

    by exatc on Sun Oct 20, 2013 at 03:57:38 PM PDT

    •  It may be by company (10+ / 0-)

      I'm not really sure.

      The VNAV "Vertical Navigation" feature of the FMS gives us a recommended altitude based on winds and other factors as well as a maximum altitude based on aircraft weight.

      I've never seen the maximum altitude above FL420.

      If the pilot's good, see, I mean if he's reeeally sharp, he can barrel that baby in so low... oh you oughta see it sometime. It's a sight. A big plane like a '52... varrrooom! Its jet exhaust... frying chickens in the barnyard!

      by Major Kong on Sun Oct 20, 2013 at 04:10:36 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  On the 737, it's dictated by the cabin pressure (9+ / 0-)

      controller.  -200s could go to 350, -300s (and -400, -500, same generation) can go to 370, and the -7 and -800s can go to 410.  Theoretically.  An -800 would have to be practically empty to get there.

      "Time flies like an arrow. Fruit flies like a banana." --Townes Van Zandt

      by Bisbonian on Sun Oct 20, 2013 at 04:15:10 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  The old cigar tube engine 73s… (4+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Rhysling, ER Doc, Powell, raines

        …especially the three man cockpit ones that UA flew couldn't even do 35, as I recall. This was back in the early '70s.

        One may question why controllers would even have a clue about this stuff, but there were frequently situations and solutions that were influenced by aircraft characteristics and performance.

        I shocked some fellow ZAU guys (where we had very few military flights) when I smoked a C-141 departing ORD right on up to FL350 at a spot and with traffic where a prudent initial climb would have been to 26 or 28 with a 7oh or a 72. I had worked zillions of them in ZJX and knew what kind of climb they were capable of.

        A 73 at 39? Now you're just being silly…my how times change.

        LRod—UID 238035
        ZJX, ORD, ZAU retired
        My ATC site
        My Norm's Tools site

        by exatc on Sun Oct 20, 2013 at 05:37:32 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

    •  42,000 is not a service ceiling. (9+ / 0-)

      It will certainly go higher but is limited by a FAA mandated maximum altitude predicated on a maximum time to perform a rapid descent to 10,000' MSL in the event of a cabin pressurization failure. There may also be an unofficial limit of cabin altitudes above 8,000' too. I know every airliner I've ever flown had cabin altitudes below 8,000' at maximum certificated cruise altitude. That may also be a coincidence. At maximum certificated gross weight our PW powered 757s had recommended cruise altitudes of around 37,000'. Lighter weights and a few hours of fuel burn would generate cruise altitude recommendations higher than 42,000' if the FMS was not programmed to ensure compliance with the mandated max.

      The best part of flying the 757 was the power. I've been airborne before the 900' displaced threshold at San Diego ended and level at 10,000' within three miles of the field. We were very light with less than 15 passengers and only 10,000# of fuel going to LAX. I also have taken off at Minneapolis going to Detroit on a very cold winter day and climbed to 41,000' in 14 minutes. The closest I came in any other airliner was 15 minutes to 40,000' in a very light A330-300. I never thought to time it but I suspect the 747-400 came close on the few times I flew it on short segments with very light loads too. The advantage of power was always apparent in the 757 while the other two seldom flew at weights low enough to compete.

      Time makes more converts than reason. Thomas Paine, Common Sense

      by VTCC73 on Sun Oct 20, 2013 at 04:58:54 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Is "That was boring" always a compliment to pilots (16+ / 0-)

        On a flight about a year ago the captain warned we were likely to get some rough weather.  We hardly had a bump.  Getting off the plane, I said to the pilot, "That was boring."  
         He answered "That's the way we like it!"  
         I'd intended the comment as a compliment, and I think the pilot took it that way.  Would a commercial airline pilot ever think "That was boring" was an insult?

    We're all pretty strange one way or another; some of us just hide it better. "Normal" is a dryer setting.

    by david78209 on Sun Oct 20, 2013 at 04:22:24 PM PDT

  •  Promotion is due (8+ / 0-)

    I get a real kick out of your aviation diaries. Well written and fun to read. I'd recommend a promotion to Colonel! Thanks.

  •  Are the aerodynamic limits to how much larger you (5+ / 0-)

    can design an aircraft?  Or fuel efficiency limitations?  Is there a "Sweet Spot" in terms of both aerodynamics and fuel efficiency in terms of design/size?

    Through early morning fog I see visions of the things to be the pains that are withheld for me I realize and I can see...

    by Keith930 on Sun Oct 20, 2013 at 04:52:55 PM PDT

    •  As much as anything, it seems to be market limits (8+ / 0-)

      There are only so many people who want to fly from one place to another at a given time. Evacuation times and existing ground infrastructure also limit plane size.

      As for the largest planes, the Airbus A380 seems to be a niche passenger aircraft, and the 747 and A340 are both struggling. In both cases, it is hard to separate the business effects of aircraft size from the increased fuel economy of two engines (777/787/A330) vs. four.

      As for us Americans, unless you get on a domestic leg of an overseas flight, widebody domestic flying seems to be a thing of the past. :(

      •  I'll meet your frown, and raise you two (8+ / 0-)

        :(  :(

        As I said downstream, the L1011 was unparalleled in comfort.

        Through early morning fog I see visions of the things to be the pains that are withheld for me I realize and I can see...

        by Keith930 on Sun Oct 20, 2013 at 06:09:47 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  Are two really optimal for fuel economy? (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Bronx59

        I thought that the requirement for engine-out takeoff meant that twins were overpowered relative to four-engined planes. Also thought the theory in the early 1970s was that three engines were optimal given that four meant more maintenance costs etc., hence the three-holers of the era. (Lockheed seriously considered two engines on one wing and one on the other for the L1011. Passenger acceptance might've been the biggest hurdle on that one! Anyways, maintenance access on that tail engine was just too much of a pain, and duct drag cut into the efficiency advantage.)

        Government and laws are the agreement we all make to secure everyone's freedom.

        by Simplify on Sun Oct 20, 2013 at 11:42:04 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Yes they are (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          TomFromNJ, Bronx59

          There is a price to be paid in fuel usage just for the privilege of carrying the extra engine(s) around.

          Factor in the maintenance costs and the twin definitely comes out ahead. That's why we're replacing MD-11s with 777s on our oceanic routes.

          If the pilot's good, see, I mean if he's reeeally sharp, he can barrel that baby in so low... oh you oughta see it sometime. It's a sight. A big plane like a '52... varrrooom! Its jet exhaust... frying chickens in the barnyard!

          by Major Kong on Mon Oct 21, 2013 at 05:01:47 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  An airplane that big (0+ / 0-)

            with that many people on board (especially when I'm one of them), flying over the ocean,  and only two engines makes me nervous.

            I'd prefer 3 or 4--or 7 or 8 if I could get them.  

            When atlatls are outlawed, only outlaws will have atlatls.

            by wheeldog on Mon Oct 21, 2013 at 06:55:47 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  an interesting study could be made of (2+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              PrahaPartizan, Bronx59

              the attitude of airline passengers (and those who refuse to BE passengers) about "risk assessment".

              We actually have a very much higher risk of being killed on the drive to the airport than we do of dying in a plane crash, just as we have a very much higher risk of being killed by lightning than we do of dying in a terrorist attack----yet most of us still pee our pants at the much-less-likely prospect than the much-more-likely . . . .

              Humans are interesting animals.

              •  My rational brain knows all that stuff. (1+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                mkor7

                Flying is safer than driving, lightning vs. terrorist attack, more people killed by bee stings than dog bites, etc etc.

                But my lizard brain looks out the airplane window, sees only two engines with nothing but ocean water for miles in any direction and demands, at minimum, that I request a parachute from the cabin attendant.

                Go figure.  

                When atlatls are outlawed, only outlaws will have atlatls.

                by wheeldog on Mon Oct 21, 2013 at 09:20:47 AM PDT

                [ Parent ]

              •  As a smartass college student (0+ / 0-)

                ...being dropped off at the airport for a transatlantic trip, I once told my mother this:

                We actually have a very much higher risk of being killed on the drive to the airport than we do of dying in a plane crash
                She was not impressed.
            •  I'm with you (3+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              SCFrog, TomFromNJ, Bronx59

              I liked having 8.

              Losing one was a non-event: "Somebody wake me up if we lose a couple more".

              If the pilot's good, see, I mean if he's reeeally sharp, he can barrel that baby in so low... oh you oughta see it sometime. It's a sight. A big plane like a '52... varrrooom! Its jet exhaust... frying chickens in the barnyard!

              by Major Kong on Mon Oct 21, 2013 at 10:05:29 AM PDT

              [ Parent ]

            •  Keep in mind (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              Bronx59

              that in 30 years of flying I have never actually had to shut an engine down in flight.

              Engine failures today are exceedingly rare and if it happens it will most likely be at takeoff when the engine is under the most stress.

              Those engines are monitored very closely and maintenance looks for problems long before they would develop into something serious.

              Mostly for safety but also because those engines cost a lot of money and we're not in the business of burning them up.

              If the pilot's good, see, I mean if he's reeeally sharp, he can barrel that baby in so low... oh you oughta see it sometime. It's a sight. A big plane like a '52... varrrooom! Its jet exhaust... frying chickens in the barnyard!

              by Major Kong on Mon Oct 21, 2013 at 10:12:56 AM PDT

              [ Parent ]

              •  Thanks for the reassurance. (0+ / 0-)

                Where did you say those parachutes are stowed......?

                When atlatls are outlawed, only outlaws will have atlatls.

                by wheeldog on Mon Oct 21, 2013 at 11:00:38 AM PDT

                [ Parent ]

              •  Same here. 37 years 23k hours. (2+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                Bronx59, Simplify

                The closest was one I operated in idle due to a fluctuating low oil pressure indication but the engine was usable if I needed it. I also was dead heading in a 727 that had one quit not long after leaving Seattle. No drama, the crew restarted it and returned to SEA for maintenance.

                The engines used for long range over water operations on two engine airliners are subject to additional very stringent maintenance procedures and reliability tracking. An airline that has too many engine problems on an ETOPS aircraft type will have it's ETOPS certificate suspended pending corrective action. That's expensive and a great incentive to do things right. Yea regulations that work!

                I've been out of it long enough to not know if ETOPS beyond 180 minutes is being used by US flag carriers. I flew 180 minute ETOPS for 8 1/2 years over the Atlantic and Pacific before retiring with no problems ever. The most extreme example of an ETOPS airplane shutting down an engine then diverting used to be a 777 on 180 ETOPS that due to head winds was airborne over 210 minutes IIRC. There have been no hull losses attributed to multiple engine failures on ETOPS routes and (maybe) ETOPS certified aircraft. None I'm aware of anyway. By now that is probably several million hours of ETOPS operations. Now I'm curious and will have to dig into it to find out.

                Time makes more converts than reason. Thomas Paine, Common Sense

                by VTCC73 on Mon Oct 21, 2013 at 11:40:54 AM PDT

                [ Parent ]

                •  Again, all very reassuring. (0+ / 0-)

                  Thanks for the info.

                  Lizard brain still wants parachute.

                  When atlatls are outlawed, only outlaws will have atlatls.

                  by wheeldog on Mon Oct 21, 2013 at 12:22:13 PM PDT

                  [ Parent ]

                  •  If you understood (2+ / 0-)
                    Recommended by:
                    raines, Bronx59

                    how dangerous it would be trying to exit an airliner as they are configured you likely would change your mind.  Thinking about how normal due planing goes, consider a dire emergency that justified abandoning an airliner in flight. Rational thought can help overcome the fear of lack of control. Powerlessness is more a fact than most of us are willing to contemplate but knowledge and rational thinking leading to acceptance can relieve the anxiety. You win by giving in to the reality.

                    Time makes more converts than reason. Thomas Paine, Common Sense

                    by VTCC73 on Mon Oct 21, 2013 at 01:45:27 PM PDT

                    [ Parent ]

                  •  mammal brain remembers a joke (4+ / 0-)
                    Recommended by:
                    TomFromNJ, Bronx59, VTCC73, Simplify

                    ETOPS = engines turn or passengers swim.

                    What did lizard brain say?

                    “Vote for the party closest to you, but work for the movement you love.” ~ Thom Hartmann 6/12/13

                    by ozsea1 on Mon Oct 21, 2013 at 03:04:26 PM PDT

                    [ Parent ]

      •  A340 Struggling? (3+ / 0-)

        The A340 is done.  They quit building them.  The 777 killed it off.  The next victim of the 777 will be the 747.  When the 777-9 gets out there the economics of flying a large twin will eat into the 747's business case.

        Regarding the A380, Boeing was apparently quite correct in that it would be a niche airplane.  I suspect Boeing is using the 747-8 to suppress A380 pricing.

      •  Widebody shuttle (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Bronx59, miscanthus

        In 1984 I was on a 250 mile shuttle flight that used a 747 set up as all 'tourist' class.   Very strange.    This was ANA from Tokyo to Osaka.   The shinkansen would have been more comfortable, and probably just as fast.

        The live TV camera view of the landing from the point of view of the nose gear was pretty cool though.

  •  Thanks for the diary, M. K. (7+ / 0-)

    I'm wondering whether it was a 757-300 I was on for my only could-be-catastrophic flight (which turned out fine in the end).
    I think the interior had two aisles, but at this temporal distance I can't be sure.
    My daughter and I were flying nonstop from Detroit Metro to Heathrow in 1996. Right after takeoff an engine flared out completely. The pilot told us we had to circle back for an emergency landing, but first we'd dump fuel in Lake Erie.
    It probably took only 15 minutes to get back, if that, but that was an incredibly tense time. We were told to get into crash position for landing. The cabin was surprisingly quiet.
    As it happened, the landing was perfect, one of the smoothest I've ever experienced. The passengers clapped.
    I always thank the crew when disembarking. That one was especially heartfelt.
    That night, the story of the close call was on the local news. I am sure that there was no real problem, but flying with one engine is I suspect nerve-wracking for the crew. It certainly was for us.

    Support Small Business: Shop Kos Katalogue If you'd like to join the Motor City Kossacks, send me a Kosmail.

    by peregrine kate on Sun Oct 20, 2013 at 04:53:08 PM PDT

  •  the 757/767 were a pain to maintain (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    ER Doc, Knucklehead, sawgrass727, Powell

    real tall landing gear,  the engines needed to be fixed
    on cherry pickers or big platforms,
    real cost driver for the ground crew.

  •  I love the one with winglets. (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    ER Doc, Knucklehead, sawgrass727, Powell

    Why SWA went with the 737 instead of these I'll never understand.

    •  737s (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      ER Doc, Knucklehead, chipoliwog, Powell

      ....are cheaper and will always be cheaper than the 757 ever could be.  When the 737-900 came to be that was the kiss of death for the 757.  It is a much cheaper airplane with the same speed and passenger capacity.  All it needs is enough runway to get in the air.

    •  There are tons of factors in airframe selection. (5+ / 0-)

      SWA has always used 737s. The newest generation 737 is still a common type rating that requires a few days training to learn the differences. Adding a new type more than doubles your training costs. It greatly increases the size and costs of maintenance programs and parts for the new type as well. The longer range, speed, and lift capabilities of the -800 & -900 are competitive with the 757 in direct operating costs while enabling SWA to right size the airplane to the market. Using a long range jet capable of flying coast to coast with a 180+ passenger capacity in markets that will only support 100-120 passengers on 40 minute makes little sense. SWA serves markets that range from short haul/low density to high density/ long haul. The introduction of the newest 737 covers that entire range with a jet with low training, parts, and maintenance costs. It is a business model that has been very successful and has grown alongside the 737 on which it was built.

      Time makes more converts than reason. Thomas Paine, Common Sense

      by VTCC73 on Sun Oct 20, 2013 at 09:16:56 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Of course (0+ / 0-)

        then SWA went and bought AirTran and their 717s.

        If the pilot's good, see, I mean if he's reeeally sharp, he can barrel that baby in so low... oh you oughta see it sometime. It's a sight. A big plane like a '52... varrrooom! Its jet exhaust... frying chickens in the barnyard!

        by Major Kong on Mon Oct 21, 2013 at 04:59:22 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  And sold the 717s to Delta. (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Simplify, Bronx59

          They began entering service in September. SWA needed the capacity and could not just dump the jets without replacements. It takes time to train the crews and maintenance people who were former Air Tran in the 737. Of course the pilot seniority issue had to be resolved which can, but didn't, take years.

          Time makes more converts than reason. Thomas Paine, Common Sense

          by VTCC73 on Mon Oct 21, 2013 at 10:11:13 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

  •  I don't know jack about flying, but as a passenger (6+ / 0-)

    my favorite plane to fly on was the old MD-11.  I enjoyed the wide body and dual aisles.  I think it was roomier, to, from a passenger point of view.  More commodious.  As a guy who is 6'3", with most of that coming in the form of legs, I have found air travel to be less and less comfortable over the past 30 years.

    Through early morning fog I see visions of the things to be the pains that are withheld for me I realize and I can see...

    by Keith930 on Sun Oct 20, 2013 at 05:05:47 PM PDT

  •  Great diary, as always. (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    ER Doc, Knucklehead
    ... The big one is - this plane simply will not go down and slow down at the same time. ...

    Fortunately, unlike some older Boeing products, the speed brakes can be used with the flaps extended. ...

    Heard a story long ago about a memo to all pilots from NWA's chief pilot, a man named Nelson. The gist of the memo was that the use of speed brakes and/or flaps for descent management indicated poor airmanship and was to be avoided.

    Ever after, use of the SB alone was known as a half nelson. The SB and flaps together were a full nelson.

    I have to echo the bad reviews for the passenger experience on long flights. Abominable. I have always avoided, if I can.

    It sure is a beautiful thing to look at, though -- but not, IMO, as beautiful as Boeing's best-looking airplane ever, the 727.

    •  I Work for an Airframe Manufacturer in Flight Test (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      ER Doc, Knucklehead, Powell

      When our pilots want to go down fast, it's speed brakes and landing gear. The meat in the back (us) is being paid to be there and don't count as much as paying passengers comfort wise.

    •  Anyone who says that, I call BS (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Powell
      Heard a story long ago about a memo to all pilots from NWA's chief pilot, a man named Nelson. The gist of the memo was that the use of speed brakes and/or flaps for descent management indicated poor airmanship and was to be avoided.
      Nelson's obvious management material. Flying the line you use all the tools the manufacturer provides. When I can control my descent I'll avoid popping the boards because it rumbles and grumbles a lot back aft, and can cause uncomfortable pitch changes if they all go out too fast. But to say "don't use them" just reeks of Teh Stoopid.

      Controllers will frequently screw up my descent planning, and then using speed brakes lets me make my crossing/speed restrictions. I'd much rather do a "carpet dance" with my ALPA rep in the Chief Pilots office than be getting violated by the Feds for busting said restriction.

      A celibate clergy is an especially good idea, because it tends to suppress any hereditary propensity toward fanaticism. -Carl Sagan

      by jo fish on Mon Oct 21, 2013 at 05:11:25 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Capt. Don F. Nelson. It is a true story. (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Bronx59, Powell

      Eventually became the VP of Flight Operations. He was a terrific stick and rudder pilot which was seldom a chief pilot trait at NWA. There was an old saying that a guy had to ding a wingtip and/or be a scab before being considered for a chief pilot position at NWA. It was only half joking. Fortunately things changed over the later years of the company's existence before being lobotomized by Delta. Otherwise being known as the Jetsons being bought out by the Clampets.

      The memo reflected Don's one blind spot, an inability to adjust to new ways of doing things or thinking. The 757, like almost every airliner designed in the 1980s and later, is nearly impossible to complete a descent without using the speed brakes. This is due to the same factors Major Kong mentioned and ATC requirements. Don was a reluctant 757 pilot. He loved flying brand new jets but the technology was too much and he was known for always turning it all off when he flew the airplane.

      One correction to the story however. Half speed brakes is a half Nelson and full boards is a full Nelson. NWA pilots always had a penchant for naming corrective procedures after the guy whose screw up initiated the new procedure. The most famous came from a series of over water course deviation in the late 1980s saw a new waypoint crossing procedure that included plotting an INS fix on the plotting chart ad comparing it to the cleared track. This was called doing a "TK Roe" after the poor captain whose crew was the straw that broke the camel's back. One other knuckle head tried to back his 747 classic out of a blind alley he'd mistakenly taxiied into using reverse thrust. He became known as the Six Million Dollar Man for the humongous cost of rebuilding all four over temped engines. Every new hire learned quickly that a great career required being unknown to the chief pilot and not having a procedure named after you.

      Time makes more converts than reason. Thomas Paine, Common Sense

      by VTCC73 on Mon Oct 21, 2013 at 05:07:09 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Good to know I had the Nelson story half right. (0+ / 0-)

        I've heard of the "TK Roe" as well.

        It's cool how these things become part of the culture, even across airlines.

        Every new hire learned quickly that a great career required being unknown to the chief pilot and not having a procedure named after you.
        I once worked at a company where there was a gilded toilet seat on the wall at Check-in, used as a photo frame.

        You hoped never to see your picture thus framed.

  •  757 was easiest airplane to land well (14+ / 0-)

    with any consistency. My airline landed our PW powered 757s using 25 degree flaps instead of the last notch 30 degree. We had several tail strikes early in the 757's service and it was decided by the fleet head honchos that 25 flaps would limit landing tail strikes. Plus the airplane handled much better and didn't wallow around on final or tend to just stop flying and sit down right away when you pulled the power in the flare. They claimed fuel savings and a noise reduction as well. Anyway I have to say I found it to fit my style very well and I learned to land it very well, very quickly.

    There is a down side to doing things well. The captains I flew with didn't like being shown up. One month I flew with a very nice guy from Spokane, John. Great guy, somewhat new to the 757, and a fine aviator and captain. We flew together the whole month in those days.

    He must have hated to come to work that month. I can say with little exaggeration that half the time I knew I was on the runway because the speed brakes deployed. They were that good. I was completely unconscious for a whole month. The best part? The better my landings got, the worse John's got. He was talking to himself by the last trip of the month and doing everything he could to jinx me. Nothing worked for him but he didn't have to work at it so hard. I helped.

    We were down to one last turn to Orlando to finish the month. Sitting number one to go to MCO an Eastern 727 stuck the landing as badly as I have ever witnessed. Richter scale stuck. I said ,"Ouch!" over tower freq as John told me I'd just jinxed myself. I laughed at him and we were on our way.

    John did a fine recreation of the Eastern 727 landing at MCO. Poor bugger. An hour or so later we're on our way back to the home drome with me flying and a VIP in back, Gallagher. Mr. Sledge-O-matic himself. He's holding court in first class. We could hear people roaring with laughter through the cockpit door and over the rather loud air noise in the cockpit. Gallagher is back there killing them.

    It is a beautiful flying day back home although being hub time it is a little busy. The field has three parallel runways and I'm set up on the far right one with everything perfect. The a DC-9 that has been cleared for takeoff on our runway says he has a problem and won't be rolling. I'm just outside 3 miles at about 1000' AGL when tower asks if we can take the middle runway. John looks at me and I said sure. What could I say we both had close connections to commute home.

    This isn't a tough problem for a professional airline puke but it has a few potential traps. I have to side step about 3000' to a runway about half a mile further down track. The problem is that I have more flight path track to lose the same amount of altitude and I have to maintain stabilized approach criteria doing it. I'm going to have to cut my descent rate drastically and make an aggressive bid to the left and quickly turn back to nail the lineup or I'll have to go around. There's a lot riding on it because I'll never hear the end of it if I go around and we miss our flights. No worries.

    I nail the speed, the turns, but am just a bit late starting down to the no ILS glide path, no VASI runway. So in close I'm a bit steep on a shortish runway (can't afford to land long)  but at least I'm slow. There's nothing left when I go to flare. Thump! stuck it. I'd have been fine if I'd have pulled the power a bit later than normal but I also wouldn't have a Gallagher story to tell.

    Sure enough I gave John his prize and I'd just made the worst landing of my career. John is ecstatic. The only thing I have to say is, "Have you forgotten who is back in first class John?"

    The celebration comes to a swift end with, "Oh fuck. He's gonna crucify us."

    As we do our shutdown flows at the gate I say to John, "I'm not opening the door until I don't see any more people get off, OK?" John thinks it's great idea.

    Several minutes later I haven't seen any more people pass the windows and start to get up to check the door. Bam! Bam! Bam! on the door.

    "Come on out I know you're in there! Come on out and take it like a man!" It's Gallagher. At the door.

    John opens the door and in he comes saying,"Which one of you shoe clerks did that?"

    I point to John and said, "He's been doing that all crap month." John turns red, thank you John, and glares at me as Gallagher whips out two center stage front row tickets to his show that night.

    "Here. Be there." and he turns and walks out.

    John and I say, "No fucking way!" at the same time and start laughing like a couple of fools.

    John gave the tickets to one of his friends we saw in the terminal who had just commuted in for a trip the next morning. I've never seen John since or heard how the show turned out. A pity.

    I swear every word of that is true to the best of my recollection.

    Time makes more converts than reason. Thomas Paine, Common Sense

    by VTCC73 on Sun Oct 20, 2013 at 06:00:35 PM PDT

  •  Major Kong...there have been countless Hollywood (6+ / 0-)

    movies that use the plot device of a pilot who becomes disabled and/or dies, and the plane must be landed by some passenger.

    Think Air Con, or Snakes on Planes, or even Airplane.

    Is that entire concept pure Hollywood bullshit?  Or could it actually happen?  Has it actually happened before?  Could a lay person get behind the controls of a 757, and just by carefully listening to and following the directions from the air tower, safely land a commercial aircraft?

    Also...I remember the tragic story from several years back when golfer Payne Stewart was a passenger onboard a Lear Jet that lost cabin pressure and asphyxiated all on the plane.  The plane continued to fly unattended for several hours before running out of fuel, as I remember, and crashing somewhere in South Dakota.  

    Could you write something about auto pilot systems, how they work, and whether technology either exists or is around the corner that would enable people from the ground to take over controls of a disabled plane and land it safely without any flight crew?  Or is that science fiction?

    Through early morning fog I see visions of the things to be the pains that are withheld for me I realize and I can see...

    by Keith930 on Sun Oct 20, 2013 at 06:01:53 PM PDT

    •  Mythbusters answered this . . . . :) (10+ / 0-)

      http://dsc.discovery.com/...

      Though the coach wasn't inside the simulator with Jamie and Adam, he was able to point out the gauges and controls and how to use them to correctly maneuver the plane. After being talked through how to steer and land step-by-step, Jamie and Adam each brought their imaginary planes safely to the ground, leading the MythBusters to rule this one "plausible" for someone actually flying the friendly skies.
    •  If somone talked you through it (11+ / 0-)

      you might be able to set the plane up to autoland.

      The autoland on the 757 works quite well. You'd still need to actuate the gear and flaps but with some coaching it wouldn't be a problem.

      If the pilot's good, see, I mean if he's reeeally sharp, he can barrel that baby in so low... oh you oughta see it sometime. It's a sight. A big plane like a '52... varrrooom! Its jet exhaust... frying chickens in the barnyard!

      by Major Kong on Sun Oct 20, 2013 at 07:18:53 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Pretty sure autopilot can land modern jets (5+ / 0-)

      automatically. Lenny mentioned the Mythbusters, and IIRC one of the main points after they spent time in the simulator was that it would never need to happen because of autopilot.

      I don't know that we'd ever get to the point where it could be controlled from the ground. There's not a technical barrier to it - look at drones - but security, you don't want someone hacking into the system and flying them into the ground.

      "How come when it’s us, it’s an abortion, and when it’s a chicken, it’s an omelette?" - George Carlin

      by yg17 on Sun Oct 20, 2013 at 07:20:22 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  I read an article not too long ago that said that (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        sawgrass727, Powell

        freighters like FedEx and UPS are looking into drone technology as a means to fly packages to and fro sans pilots....so the technology must surely exist.  It's just awaiting someone to actually make use of it.

        Through early morning fog I see visions of the things to be the pains that are withheld for me I realize and I can see...

        by Keith930 on Sun Oct 20, 2013 at 09:27:26 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  They're looking into it.....but (0+ / 0-)

          There are some drawbacks. I realize I'm biased, but:

          1. The communications infrastructure would be very expensive.

          2. The security issues are huge.

          3. Drones crash. A lot.

          Not a big deal when it's a million-dollar Predator but when it's something like a Global Hawk it's a very big deal. That's why the Air Force is discontinuing the Global Hawk and sticking with the tried and true U2.

          There may not be any passengers on it, but a 300,000 freighter crashing into your neighborhood would still make a heck of a mess.

          If the pilot's good, see, I mean if he's reeeally sharp, he can barrel that baby in so low... oh you oughta see it sometime. It's a sight. A big plane like a '52... varrrooom! Its jet exhaust... frying chickens in the barnyard!

          by Major Kong on Mon Oct 21, 2013 at 04:58:19 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

        •  autoland has limits (0+ / 0-)

          Regarding maximum crosswind and such

      •  Smith's Autoland has been around a LONG time... (0+ / 0-)

        ....

        http://www.flightglobal.com/...

        I remember the first trials with it on the Trident.

        'Per Ardua Ad Astra'

        by shortfinals on Mon Oct 21, 2013 at 04:05:45 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  I'm glad it is a good plane from the pilot's (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    ER Doc, prfb, Knucklehead, Powell

    perspective but I have to say that from a passengers point of view it's really pretty poor. The narrow body and typical seat configuration (designed by evil accountants) made it very uncomfortable. It must be a nightmare for the non pilot crew as well. That single skinny aisle makes it difficult to maneuver the service carts up and down. There are other narrow body planes but for some reason the 757 seems to be the worst in this regard.

    Man I hope Boeing gets their s**t together with respect to the 787. I'm tired of reading about glitches and unexpected landings.

  •  How do you manage the fuel? (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Knucklehead, Powell, Simplify

    If my crayon is working correctly, you are burning about 1030 gph of fuel, or 17 gallons a minute. That's a car tank full per minute. That's a lot of weight, leaving the aircraft 7,000 pounds lighter per hour in some tank or other. How do you balance this out? Is it computerized completely?

    •  Modern airliners, designs since the 1980s, (8+ / 0-)

      have fuel systems that are mostly computer controlled according to a schedule designed to maintain center of gravity within limits. Additionally, the fuel tank are placed where there is available open space, wings, horizontal tail, and mid-wing fuselage, and to minimize CG changes as fuel is used. The more modern designs actively manage fuel by transferring it to produce an optimal CG to minimize drag and increase fuel efficiency. Moving fuel to the horizontal stabilizer tanks once airborne to move the CG aft is the most used strategy to reduce drag and increase range.

      Older designs placed the responsibility on the crew to change which tank fuel was being used according to a schedule based on individual tank quantities. It is the same game except a crew member has to ensure the proper pumps are running and the proper tanks are selected. Fuel management was a big awareness item in the older generation jets. I don't know anyone who didn't have at least one tale about a monumental screw up on the fuel panel. Humans are poor monitors while computers seem to love the job.

      Time makes more converts than reason. Thomas Paine, Common Sense

      by VTCC73 on Sun Oct 20, 2013 at 09:02:00 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  It has a very simple fuel system (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      B52D, VTCC73, Bronx59

      Each wing has a fuel tank and there is a center tank in the fuselage.

      The center tank has more powerful pumps, so it empties first and then each wing tank feeds its respective engine. The center tank pumps shut of automatically when they sense low pressure.

      If one wing gets out of balance with the other we can cross-feed to even them out but it's rare that we'd have to.

      Here's a link to my diary telling you more than you ever wanted to know about fuel systems:

      Fuel Systems

      If the pilot's good, see, I mean if he's reeeally sharp, he can barrel that baby in so low... oh you oughta see it sometime. It's a sight. A big plane like a '52... varrrooom! Its jet exhaust... frying chickens in the barnyard!

      by Major Kong on Mon Oct 21, 2013 at 04:54:24 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Two Other Reasons for Burning Center First (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Simplify

        In the event of a pump failure you cannot suction feed from the center tank.

        Also when you burn wing fuel before center, the fuel in center counts against your OEW for structural loading limits (which means something to us flight testing types when yanking and banking a transport).

  •  Good work Kong (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Knucklehead, Powell

    thanks for sharing.  I can't recall more than one or 2 flights on 757, must have been pretty uneventful.

    OTOH, I can recall several miserable flights on DC-9/MD-88/ 717 and Airbus A319.

    “that our civil rights have no dependence on our religious opinions, any more than our opinions in physics or geometry.” Thomas Jefferson

    by markdd on Sun Oct 20, 2013 at 08:34:54 PM PDT

  •  Major Kong (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Powell, shortfinals, terrypinder

    As usual, another great diary.
    I love all your presentations & the experiences recounted by your readers.
    Here`s my father in law flying one of his planes. He just sent this one to me this past week.

    I believe it`s an RV 8

    Father-in-law`s plane

    I`m already against the next war.

    by Knucklehead on Sun Oct 20, 2013 at 09:39:11 PM PDT

  •  Your descripive diraries are so appreciated. (0+ / 0-)

    Kind thanks MK.

    Living the austerity dream.

    by jwinIL14 on Mon Oct 21, 2013 at 01:54:17 AM PDT

  •  I miss the L1011 (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Bronx59

    we used to fly Eastern between PHL and MIA. In the 80s, we more or less had coach to ourselves, which my parents loved as they had 3 kids under the age of 6.

    Dawkins is to atheism as Rand is to personal responsibility- mperiousRex.

    by terrypinder on Mon Oct 21, 2013 at 04:54:40 AM PDT

  •  As a passenger (0+ / 0-)

    As a passenger, the 757 can be a great plane to fly on.  I'd avoid it for international routes, but it also shows up on a number of transcons (especially on UA).  The seating arrangements can be a pain if you're in coach, because you've got a lot of seats and only 3 bathrooms, but UA's old PS configuration (not as much the new one) made that a breeze, too- 34" seat pitch throughout coach, and fewer seats/bathroom than pretty much every other plane out there.  The new PS configuration is OK, but not nearly as pleasant.  And I love the feeling of taking off in a rocket- that's definitely present for the passengers, as well.

    I prefer the newest 737 configuration (with the new interiors), but the 757 is a great, if aging, plane.

    •  That's why we have them now (0+ / 0-)

      because they're aging.

      We're buying them up and converting them to freighters as fast as the passenger airlines sell them.

      We screwed up a few years back when Boeing offered us a sweetheart deal on brand new 757s so that they could keep the production line open.

      We didn't make the same mistake when they offered us the same deal on brand new 767s, so at least we're learning.

      If the pilot's good, see, I mean if he's reeeally sharp, he can barrel that baby in so low... oh you oughta see it sometime. It's a sight. A big plane like a '52... varrrooom! Its jet exhaust... frying chickens in the barnyard!

      by Major Kong on Mon Oct 21, 2013 at 05:31:11 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Enjoyed the diary but despise the 757 (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    VTCC73, Bronx59

    I'm glad it's fun to fly and up to a point it's okay as a passenger. But as an aircraft to cross the Atlantic, let me count the ways it's a misery. In coach it's far too cramped, both in terms of elbow to elbow room and leg room.

    What applies to the pond also applies to long transcontinental flights including NYC to Vegas. Someone will cite the seat width as being only a fraction of an. Inch less than the 767 etc,  possibly true ,  but width from our perspective included arm rests, etc., and then there's that long tunnel walk to the loo.

    The 757 is just part of the reason we've largely given up United Airlines. For about15 years on Continental we enjoyed 777s and then 767s NYC to Paris etc, west coast etc. then United, once our preferred airline took over and our perspective is that the worst of United took over. The 757 took over the Paris run as well as too many western flights.

    That the 757 is a fine plane to fly, I don't doubt, but we've had delays of more than two hours due to mechanical failure. In one case it was reverse thrusters and perhaps something else. I had no seat in my seat when I boarded, I.e. The padded part had to be found while I stood. The plane did not have enough cups and virtually no alcohol. No food -and a very unhappy crew, not bad, just frustrated with something that happens too often. The overall passenger experience after 8-10 hours in a 757 cattle car is cattle car. Seat electronis so far all different generation.

    These are not pilot problems, but the comment about older systems are when they extend to the seat. On a long flight broken tables, malfunctioning video, etc are too common. My complaint is not the crews , but pisspoor management. We've largely given up on United and try to schedule  AB 380 premium economy. Upgrade rules are easier without having to deal with section flyers.

    None of this is the pilot's fault, but going places isn't the fun it used to be - although we've taken care of that by choosing different airlines.

    •  I feel your pain (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      VTCC73, PrahaPartizan, Bronx59

      Try flying domestic sometime. Odds are you'll be crammed into a 70-seat regional jet that I think is smaller than some of the missiles I used to carry.

      Bearable on a 1-hour hop but American stuffed me into an E-145 all the way from Miami to Columbus OH (4 hours).

      If the pilot's good, see, I mean if he's reeeally sharp, he can barrel that baby in so low... oh you oughta see it sometime. It's a sight. A big plane like a '52... varrrooom! Its jet exhaust... frying chickens in the barnyard!

      by Major Kong on Mon Oct 21, 2013 at 09:16:52 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Ouch (0+ / 0-)

        I have dents in my skull from the 145.
        I recently flew on the ERJ-170 however and really enjoyed it. Enough room to stand up and comfortable seats that had more space to put dogs under than in a 737.

        Enjoyed your diary, thanks.

  •  Thanks (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    TomFromNJ

    Always know its a good read, enjoyable and learn a little as well.

  •  Another Great Diary (0+ / 0-)

    I always look forward to these.

  •  Tell me more about the RB-211 (0+ / 0-)

    Hi Major Kong.

    The RB-211 is just about my favorite jet engine because of the sound.  But it's particular to a single mount - the ol' Lockheed Tristar.

    IMHO, there's no better spoolup sound, that deep basso rumble, then the characteristic buzzsaw when it gets to takeoff thrust.

    I'm happy that the B757 flies the same engine, but it doesn't sound the same.

    Why would that be?  Does nacelle design, engine placement, or who-knows-what affect the audible that much?

    Anyway...keep em' flying!

    I prefer to remain an enigma.

    by TriSec on Mon Oct 21, 2013 at 01:17:16 PM PDT

    •  The RB-211 (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Bronx59

      Is a 3-spool turbofan, while most others only have two.

      That means it has a low, medium and high-pressure compressor all running on 3 concentric shafts.

      That's how they were able to pack so much into a relatively skinny package.

      The distinct sound of the L1011 may have been due to the S-duct that fed the middle engine. Hard to say.

      If the pilot's good, see, I mean if he's reeeally sharp, he can barrel that baby in so low... oh you oughta see it sometime. It's a sight. A big plane like a '52... varrrooom! Its jet exhaust... frying chickens in the barnyard!

      by Major Kong on Mon Oct 21, 2013 at 04:57:24 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Brought back memories. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Bronx59

    I was a Boeing Flight Test electrician on the first 757s at the Renton plant. Exciting times. I quit a couple of years later for no good reason. Wish I would have stayed. Thanks for the write-up.

  •  Loved the early 757s (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    miscanthus, Bronx59

    I flew way too much back in 85-87, almost all of it on United and much of it on 757s. The crews seemed to also love the plane. Many great experiences. One sticks out in particular. I was in KC going home to EWR. Thunderstorms were severe, and we sat on the plane on the pad. We were told we had to get to EWR by 0130, when the airport shut down for the night  (they did that back then).  The Captain finally  said we had a hole to get out in and we'd  try  as no one wanted to spend the night in KC.  He also said we were cleared for a full power takeoff and a direct climb to FL31, and btw would the flight attendants please stay seated and belted until he said it was OK to get up.

    So we took a quick taxi to the runoff and turned on to runway as I guess he went to full power. This was -200 with alight passenger load.. We lifted off remarkably quickly and pointed way up. And we just just going going up. It was a remarkable experience, pressed way back into your seat. Finally he  leveled off and released the cabin crew. Made it into EWR with about 15 minutes to spare. Amazing flight, amazing plane.

    The only UA planes I enjoyed flying on more were the DC-8, where I was always able to sit in a very spacious 1st, and the 747-SPs where I always sat in seat 6A upstairs. :)

  •  Thanks! (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Bronx59

    Thanks so much for the very interesting diary.  I am not a pilot, but I love reading about aviation.  This is truly fascinating to me.

    Personally, I like flying in the Boeing 757, although I am probably in the minority.  When the plane is lightly loaded, it feels like a rocket taking off to me.  Of course, I have only flown in the 757 domestically - I can't imagine it would be nearly as comfortable of a ride on a transoceanic route.

    I have also read that there are a couple of other distinct advantages to the 757:

    - It supposedly has excellent short field performance, even better than the 737 in some cases.  As you mentioned, this probably mostly owes to the extra braking available on the 757.  The 757 is the largest airplane that can operate out of Toncontin International Airport in Honduras, one of the world's most dangerous airports.  (Look up Toncontin on Youtube for some fascinating, yet terrifying videos of planes landing at that airport!)

    - It also has better "hot and high" performance, especially compared to the 737-900.  I have heard this is an important reason that some airlines are loath to get rid of their 757s.  Supposedly, the comparably-sized 737-900 is a real dog in places like Mexico City.  However, the 737-900 is a good replacement for at least 2/3 of the missions that the 757 operates on.

    Thanks again - keep up the excellent work!

  •  Thanks for another great diary! n/t (0+ / 0-)

    The only trouble with retirement is...I never get a day off!

    by Mr Robert on Tue Oct 22, 2013 at 03:00:51 PM PDT

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