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Ode to the 767

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An American Airlines Boeing 767-300

January 10, 2019

MY FONDNESS for the 757, Boeing’s venerable, inimitable twin-jet, is well documented. But hey, how about a shout-out for its slightly bigger sibling, the 767?

The 767 is a twin-aisle, longish-haul airliner that first flew in 1981. With a seven abreast, 2-3-2 layout in economy, it’s a quasi-widebody with seats for around 210 passengers, depending on configuration. It was developed in conjunction with the single-aisle 757. Despite an obvious size difference, the planes have similar internal systems and virtually identical cockpits, allowing pilots to fly both models.

I hate saying it, but both jets are by most measures obsolete. They’re a rare sight elsewhere in the world, where carriers long ago sent them to pasture. But here in the U.S. it’s another story. The 757 and 767 fleets at the big three — American, United, and Delta — still number in the hundreds. The intensive maintenance overhauls and cabin refurbishments required to keep them in the game aren’t cheap, but neither is replacing them outright. Plus the damn things are so remarkably versatile. Short-haul or long-haul, domestic or international, these machines can turn a profit across the whole spectrum of stage lengths and markets. In the case of the 757, as I talked about before, there simply isn’t a newer plane that can match its combination of range, capacity, and efficiency.

I haven’t updated my logbook since who knows when, but I’ve got roughly the same number of hours split between the two models. I’ve been flying them for eleven years now on routes across five continents. While they’re both fun to fly — and my earlier raves for the 757 notwithstanding — if given the choice I will always pick the “seven six” over its smaller sister. The 767s at my carrier are, on average, newer than the 757s, which means the cockpits are cleaner (the filthiness of airliner cockpits is a subject for another time). They’re also roomier and, due to a differently designed recirculation fan, much quieter. (Funny how it’s the ergonomics and creature comforts that mean so much. You probably expected me to say something about speed or engine thrust.) Plus the plane is, well, bigger, and there’s that pilot ego thing. Flying in the U.S. I get to say, “heavy” after our radio call sign, which brings out the little kid in me.

Curiously, at almost twice the size, it’s the 767 that’s lighter and more twitchy on the controls. This is due mostly to a pair of inboard ailerons, which the 757 does not have, and which make the jet surprisingly sensitive on its roll axis (i.e. turns). It’s also quite light on the pitch axis (nose up and down). The 757 is recalcitrant and heavy, particularly on takeoff, requiring a good flex of the biceps to get the nose up. The 767, even at 400,000 pounds, can be flown with two fingers.

With respect to lift and power, both jets are pretty damn muscular. In my previous story I boasted about the 757’s fantastic performance on short runways. Well, the 767 can do it too. And then some…

Cockpit of a Boeing 767.

Departure

We’re at Boston-Logan. We’ve just called for push when the guy on clearance delivery asks if we can take runway 22R. The longer, parallel runway is closed for some reason. “Standby a second,” I tell him.

I look at the chart. “That’s only 7800 feet!” But we send for the data and it all looks fine.

“Yeah, we can do that.”

We’d already set up and briefed for runway 22L. So things get very busy for a few minutes. We have to review the new thrust and flap settings, input the revised takeoff data into the FMS, plus reload the departure procedure, reviewing all the associated turns and climbs and speed restrictions, which are different now. The taxi route, too, has changed and needs to be briefed. When that’s all done, we re-run the checklists. Then it’s time to start the engines and get moving. We’re blocking the alleyway and two inbound jets are waiting; the apron controllers are antsy for us to roll. Believe it or not it’s these first few minutes off the gate, long before you’re in the air, that are some of the busiest and most work-intensive minutes of a flight.

The short runway means a flaps 20 takeoff, which is somewhat unusual. Even so, the numbers say we can use reduced thrust all the way down to an assumed temperature of 45 degrees Celsius. That’s some monster performance on a plane this heavy, with two-hundred people and eight hours of fuel.

I love flaps 20, because the V-speeds are so tame and you’re off the ground in under twenty seconds. V1 today is a measly 144 knots — about twenty less than it’d be at the standard flaps 5. This will give us low (safer) tire speeds and a nice, gentlemanly rotation with tons of runway remaining.

It’s my turn at the controls, and we are in the air by the time we’re abeam the old TWA gates at terminal C. I see the control tower to my right, zipping past out of the corner of my eye, and the old 16th floor observation deck where as a young teenager I spent so many afternoons.

How fun is this? We didn’t use even two-thirds of that runway, and we’re climbing at four thousand feet a minute! No way could a 737 have done this. They’d be skimming into the harbor at 170 knots.

Also it’s Christmas, and I’m wearing one of the Santa hats that Ray, our relief pilot tonight, brought along for everyone.


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Arrival

It’s just after dawn and the visibility at Charles de Gaulle is fluctuating between a thousand and fifteen-hundred meters. Fog, drizzle — typical Paris morning. That’s a little tight, but plenty good for a Category 1 ILS.

Everything is set up: the arrival, the transition, the approach and the checklists. We’ve briefed the ILS right down to the type of approach lights to expect, and gone over the expected taxi route to the gate — CDG’s spaghetti snarl of taxiways being one of the most daunting in Europe, requiring you to flip back and forth between four different charts and diagrams. Paris won’t assign you a runway until fairly late in the descent, so there’s a lot of talking and button-pushing in the last fifteen or so minutes of the flight.

We’re eight or so miles out on a long final to 26R. Approach control gives us a speed of 170 knots and hands us off to de Gaulle tower.

“Bonjour,” says the tower controller, asking us to slow to 160 knots. We’re following an Etihad A380, he tells us. We can see him on the TCAS screen. Even as we decelerate it looks like the distance between us is shrinking. It’s busy this time of the morning, and controllers are doing their best to get everyone in. Etihad and us are just two of several jets lined up for the runway. The winds, I notice, have dropped about 25 knots in the last thousand feet of altitude. Shifts like that can mess with the spacing.

“Reduce to minimum speed, please,” says the tower. That means about 150 knots for us, with everything out. The flaps are at 25, the gear is down and the landing checklist is complete.

That’s pretty slow. But the A380, just over the numbers now, is apparently slower.

“Go around,” says the tower. Yup, we had a feeling this might happen.

With my left thumb I activate the TOGA switches attached to the thrust levers. The levers slide forward and the engines roar — that grinding, deep-throated lion’s roar that only high-bypass turbofans can make. I loved that noise when I was a kid, and I love it now, making it happen. The jet immediately pitches up to the command bars; the acceleration and climb are instant. The power and acceleration, kicking up through the seat of your pants, is more than just encouraging — it’s something fierce.

“Go around engaged,” says the captain.

“Flaps 20,” I say.

“Positive rate,” he says.

“Gear up.”

There’s so much thrust that the climb feels almost effortless, as if the plane is floating, levitating upwards. Wow, I’m thinking. Has this thing got some juice.

Back in the cabin, half the passengers at this point are probably whispering goodbyes to their loved ones. Go-arounds have a way of scaring the bejeezus out of people. They’re abrupt, loud, and disorienting: the sudden change of pitch, the power increasing, the gear clunk-clunking back into the wells, and so forth. “We were coming down, and then all of a sudden it was up, up up!” It’s not the most sensory-friendly thing for customers, I admit. But for an airplane, that transition from descent to climb is perfectly natural. For the crew, it’s a busy maneuver, but a routine one just the same. If anything, let all that racket assure you that the pilots and their plane are doing exactly what they need to.

“When we level at three,” I say, “Let’s do 200 knots and flaps 5.”

The missed approach altitude is only 3,000 feet. So now, only a minute or so into the climb, the thrust levers come hauling back. The engines wind down nearly to idle and the nose falls back to the horizon. Again this is all perfectly natural, but likely a bit alarming to the vacationers back there.

I’ve got my eye on the airspeed, because I don’t want to overspeed the flaps or slats as they transition to the 5 setting. But the jet handles the level-off just fine — as smoothly and safely as you could hope for.

Then it’s another big series of turns, descents, speed adjustments and checklists as ATC brings us around. I’m flying while the captain is talking to the controllers, eyeing the fuel gauges and setting up the FMS again. Ray, in the jumpseat between us, makes a PA and talks to the flight attendants. I can’t hear what he’s saying, but hopefully he’s not too cavalier with the microphone; this is one of those instances where passengers go home with some hair-raising story about a “near-miss.” We were nowhere remotely close to colliding with that A380, but phrases like “a little too close to another plane” play to people’s fears.

I’m just hoping they don’t switch runways on us, because that would require loading the new approach, verifying all the points and altitudes, and another briefing.

Fortunately they keep us on 26R.

So, what do you think the odds are for two go-arounds? Don’t laugh, it’s actually happened to me. Once about eight years ago, in a 757 at La Guardia, and another time in 1992, in a Beech 99 at Hyannis.

No, not today. This time we’re first in line for the runway, and the rest is all just kinda boring.


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The 767 has existed in three basic variants. The original, short-bodied -200 model is all but extinct, while the -400 was a sort of orphan project that sold only a few dozen examples. The -300, particularly the -300ER (extended range), is the one you see most commonly today. In fact this plane remains in production. It’s been years since a passenger model was sold, but Boeing continues to roll out brand new 767-300 freighters, FedEx being the biggest customer. These have a redesigned, 777-style cockpit. A military tanker, called the KC-46, is also based on this airframe.

 

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FAREWELL DOUGLAS. TWO CLASSIC JETLINERS ARE PUT TO PASTURE.
IT LOOKS LIKE THE FUTURE. UP CLOSE & PERSONAL WITH THE 787.

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mburch42
16 hours ago
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Airwolf Pretty Much Shaped My Life And It Turns 35 Years Old Today

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For some of us military technology and aviation obsessed souls, it wasn't Top Gun or Iron Eagle that most influenced us during our formative years, it was a show about a secret super-helicopter that was flown by an emotionally damaged and reclusive veteran helicopter pilot, his few aviation nerd friends, and a mysterious quasi-governmental espionage and intelligence agency known simply as The Firm. Airwolf literally came in hot on January 22nd, 1984, cannons and a synth-heavy soundtrack blazing, capturing imaginations and leaving a select number of us begging for more.

The truth is that most people wouldn't fall in love with the show until it was already deep in production hell towards the end of its run, or even after it was canceled, as reruns aired regularly on the then-popular USA cable network. So TV Guide was essential intel for planning to immerse yourself in the cold, violent, and at times somewhat cheesy, but intriguing world of Airwolf.

The show was similar to other hour-long action shows of the era, like the A-Team, Knight Rider, or Magnum PI, in its series format. Each week a new plot would be introduced and concluded, with some overarching themes playing lighter throughout its run. But where Airwolf differed greatly was in its tone. It was an action drama, not an action show laden with comedy, and it was violent in the final sense.

People died, lots of them. Bullets didn't stun the enemy. Major personal loss and deep pain were major plot pieces, and the overall tone of the show was far colder than its counterparts that aimed for a far broader audience. That doesn't mean it didn't have its lighter episodes, but those rarely paid off like their counterparts.

Jan Michael Vincent as Stringfellow Hawke and Ernest Borgnine as Dominic Santini.

Case in point, the main character Stringfellow Hawke, played by then Hollywood hunk Jan Michael Vincent was increasingly loaded on set as the series progressed across its three core seasons. 'String' was a recluse that lived in a cabin on a picturesque lake among monumental landforms and was known to bust out his cello to string a heartbreaking dirge on his dock at sunset as bald eagles screamed overhead. Oh, and the source of his sadness? The tragic death of his parents at a young age, the loss of pretty much any women he loved, and above all else, not knowing the fate of his brother, Sinjin, who had gone Missing In Action in Vietnam.

So yeah, this is not Templeton Peck or B.A. Baracus we are talking about here.

Heavy themes of a government that couldn't be trusted, one that was often at war with itself and would go to illegal lengths to do what it deemed necessary were also part of the show's plot fabric. The on-again, off-again semi-ally, The Firm, was run out of a secret ultra-modern office complex at the hands of an eyepatch-wearing man named Archangel who wore all white suits and was driven around in a white limousine by beautiful bodyguards draped in white designer fashions. It was as absurd as it was enthralling.

Then there was the real star of the show, an experimental graphite-colored stealth helicopter called Airwolf officially, but 'The Lady' by Hawke and his crew, that was loaded with all kinds of tactical tricks. It had everything, from supersonic dash capabilities via afterburners, to a big selection of weaponry that was otherwise kept concealed when not in use, to the most advanced targeting and reconnaissance capabilities of any helicopter in the world. It was equal parts brawn and brain, with the ability to use guile and information over brute force when needed to accomplish its objectives. Oh, and everyone, and I mean everyone, wanted to steal it.

In reality, the aircraft used in the show was a dressed-up Bell 222A, but the thing is Bell's creation was so futuristic and impressive looking—appearing both muscular and elegant at the same time—that Airwolf didn't need all that much modification to make it look the part.

Watching the show today, it is kinda amazing all the concepts they worked in that seemed totally science fiction then, but are all established capabilities today. And back then, available information on sensors and weapons concepts was not what it is today, not even close. Keep in mind, when Airwolf premiered, the AH-64 Apache still hadn't even entered into operational service.

Some great stunt flying was executed for the show and the snippets were always the highlight of each episode. In fact, when most of us think of Airworlf, an image of a black Bell 222 dumping the nose over while staring straight at us and the sound of the show's iconic soundtrack is what immediately comes to mind.

All these elements, including the great character Domonique Santini, who would now be an AARP icon, played by the late and great Ernest Borgnine, were greater than the sum of their parts. While the overall plot of Airwolf sounds like a someone's mid-1980s cocaine-addled fever dream, it worked more than it didn't. And even though it had plenty of cheesy moments and some really uneven acting, just like most shows of the era, it really did take you to another place that not many shows of the time went. One steeped in espionage, secret bases, special operations raids, super weaponry, rogue intel agencies, a thankless government, terrorism, Cold War intrigue, and mercenaries. And yes, aircraft, lots of cool aircraft and exciting flying, all on a relatively minuscule budget by today's standards.

With all this in mind, it's abundantly clear how this show influenced my interests so heavily growing up. My curiosity in regards to these topics never died and spurred me to write about them in-depth later in life. As such, Airwolf is partially to thank, or to blame depending on your perspective, for this site. And I am not alone. I know many people, from pilots to engineers, who were also really influenced by this show.

????

So, although it may just be a stupid short-run action show that is too cheesy to watch now for many, for others it was much more than that or just shallow nostalgia. It was oddly inspirational and left us wanting to know and experience more. In retrospect, that is as a good a measure of success for a TV show than Nielson ratings or good critical reviews.

Happy Birthday to The Lady, 35 years old today.

Contact the author: Tyler@thedrive.com

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mburch42
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Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal - Cultured Meat

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Click here to go see the bonus panel!

Hovertext:
I continue to think that food is the least beneficial aspect of cell-based meat.


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mburch42
2 days ago
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skorgu
2 days ago
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I am ... not unwilling...

#1450; The Alpha Reader

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Can't wait for the audiobook version read by the author.

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mburch42
3 days ago
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1 Second A Day | 2018

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1 Second A Day | 2018
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mburch42
4 days ago
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#1449; In which Nothing is amiss

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let the people who get PAID to figure out what's going on do the work! I volunteer enough at the soup kitchen.

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mburch42
7 days ago
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This is exactly like the time Mary casually asked "can I borrow your biggest hammer"
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