Birds and Planes
A short fanfic dedicated to all the Birds of Rio and the Pilots that fly there…
Antonio Carlos International Airport, Rio de Janeiro. The sun is slowly rising on the east on the second busiest airport in the country in terms of international traffic. The airport serves as a gateway to Rio de Janeiro, known famously for its tourist attractions and festivals. About twelve million passengers used this airport in 2010 alone, equivalent to 123,000 aircraft operations.
28 passenger airlines and 6 cargo airlines use this airport, one of them, British Cargo Flight 275.
"Lovely day for a fly, eh." Captain Moody asked.
"I couldn't ask for anything more." First Officer Harding replied.
"Alright. Start-up checklist procedures."
Flight 275 has daily flights from Heathrow in London to Antonio Carlos International Airport in Rio. The routine 14-hour flight to London usually occurs in the morning. The flight will be handled by Captain Moody and First Officer Harding. Captain Moody has been working for a decade for British Cargo with 10000 hours flying experience. His first officer is more novice. Only 1000 hours. Despite this, the crew have flown with each other at least a dozen times. The reason for this is that British Cargo has a not so significant presence in the country. The cargo airline had been expanding to many destinations, but it was halted during the financial crisis in 2008. This resulted in cost cutting measures; one of them was to reduce the number of crew operating the route.
"Rio Tower, Big Charlie 275, ready for taxi."
"Big Charlie 275. Roger. Taxi to runway 33."
Captain Moody had a puzzled look in his face. "Tower, confirm that you said Runway 33."
"That's right. Is there a problem Big Charlie 275?"
"Uhm… yeah. We initially planned for departure from Runway 10."
"Uh, yeah. The runway is undergoing maintenance. All flights using the runway are being diverted to the other runway. We're really sorry for the trouble."
"Roger that tower. Thanks."
The two pilots looked at each other. "Looks like I spoke too soon." Captain Moody replied.
Runway 10 was supposed to be there predetermined runway. It has a direct path that would take them to London. Runway 33 would require a right turn in mid-flight before getting on course, an increase in workload for the pilots. All the reason why there was a fuzz in the cockpit. Apparently, Runway 10 was closed due to an issue with the ILS. The ILS, also known as Instrument Landing System, is a guidance system that uses radiowaves to automatically guide the aircraft into a glide slope. In this case, the localizer of the ILS was in repair. The localizer guides the aircraft so that it stays in the centreline of the glide slope all the way until the runway.
"Taxi checklist complete." Moody finished.
"At least that's over." Harding replied. Before them was a long line of aircrafts just waiting to take-off. They were about the 7th on queue. "You wanna go over the checklist again?"
"God damn it, Harding. We've done it like three times already."
With one of the two runways out, the airport struggles to get planes in and out of their airspace. Delays are starting to mount up. Passenger planes are being prioritized. As a result, British Cargo 275 gets delayed by thirty more minutes.
Finally, British Cargo 275 is next for take-off.
"Big Charlie 275. Traffic is clear. Continue to Runway 33."
"Continuing, Big Charlie 275." Moody replied. He looked to his first officer, who was now asleep on his chair.
"Wuh… How long was I out?"
The aircraft is Boeing 757-200F, popular with medium-scale and regional cargo carriers. It has two General Electric power plants (engines) capable of a maximum operating range of around 6000 km, well short of the trip, which is why there is a quick stopover in the Canary Islands.
"Tower, this is Big Charlie275. Request ATC Clearance for take-off runway 33."
"Copy that Big Charlie 275. You have the runway."
Moody and Harding reach for the thrust levers. Together, they throttle up the plane, accelerating from 0 to 80 in a few seconds.
Finally, at around 8:30 a.m., the plane was now in sustained flight.
"Positive rate. Gear up."
The path would take them to an initial flight level of 12000 ft. before continuing to an altitude of 32000 ft. The pitch of the plane was rather shallow, with an angle of 10 degrees. Initially, there were reports at the airport tower information system that there was some moderate headwinds on take-off. There are four forces that affect flight; thrust, lift, weight and drag. If the pilots increase their rate of climb, they would lose the lift necessary to achieve flight. A steep angle would make an aircraft more susceptible to stalling. The pilots counter this by lowering the pitch. They are in no need to hurry after all. Little did they know that this was just the beginning of their ordeal. Little did they know that the series of events that led them to this path would result to grave consequences.
"Did you hear something Harding?"
"No, it's just you."
"Right." Moody looked out of the window, seeing the outskirts of Rio de Janeiro. "Magical city. Nothing quite like it."
"You said it." At 1500 ft., they traversed about 20 km. They were a little too close for comfort as the ground elevation was continuing to rise with the rising terrain. Harding activates the autothrottle and sets the NAV switch to GPS. This switch allows the plane to follow a predetermined flight path by following waypoints on the GPS. And after gaining some speed, it was time for the plane to increase its rate of climb.
"And that's that."
"Yeah. Now, we can relax a little." Moody replied, easing a bit after finishing the last of the checklist. There was now just aircraft monitoring.
They were now 2500 ft. Roughly 40 km in the journey. Suddenly, all hell breaks loose.
"What was that!" Moody asked.
"I don't know."
The pilots look at their glass instruments. What they see was disturbing. "Captain, surge. Engine 1 and 2."
The banging sound continued in a synchronized manner. There were two bangs for every second, but the bangs sound close together before going to another interval and it continued about 60 times. The pilots decided to level at their altitude. Then, their worst fears are realized. The engine readings at the instruments were going down. This only meant one thing.
"Both engines flame out." Harding replied.
"Captain, we've lost both engines."
"Hang on. I'll contact ATC. Start the engine shutdown procedure." At the same time, Harding disengages the autopilot and turns on the APU. The APU or Auxiliary Power Unit is a small propeller device that powers basic instruments in the cockpit such as the altimeter, attitude indicator and speedometer.
"Mayday Mayday Mayday, this is Big Charlie 275, we've lost both engines and would like to divert to the nearest airport."
"Copy that, Big Charlie 275. The nearest airport is Antonio Carlos International."
"Thanks tower, Big Charlie 275." Captain Moody was now in control of the plane. He slowly maneuvers the plane back to the airport, but the move itself has a small cost. Turning decreases lift and increases drag. Rotating a plane takes a lot of energy. A certain bank angle will lead to loss of speed, which may also lead to an increase of rate of descent. They were losing altitude fast. Moody now was not sure if they could make.
"Harding, I don't think we'll make it."
"I don't think we'll make it either. We have to find a nearer airport."
"Tower. This Big Charlie 275. I don't think we can make the journey. Is there another nearby airport?"
"Big Charlie 275. Antonio Carlos is the closest airport within your vicinity. Nothing else."
"Tower, I don't think we'll make it. Maybe there's an area we could land on."
"Big Charlie 275. Hold on a while."
"Roger. I don't think we have that long though."
"Alright Big Charlie 275. I just talked to my colleagues about your predicament. It would seem that there is a closer airfield than Antonio Carlos."
"Great, can we get a heading?"
"Negative. The air field is a private property and it's not in our database. We have no jurisdiction over them. You need to find it. Hopefully, it won't be so hard to spot. Good luck."
"Captain, did tower just tell us to go f- ourselves?"
"Yeah. Just keep an eye for an airfield Harding."
"I'll get the landing gear ready."
After a few very short minutes, they had no luck finding the airport. They scanned their windows hoping to get a visual on the airfield. It was hard to spot though. Then suddenly, Harding yelled at what seemed to be hope. "Sir, I see it." He said, pointing toward a thin unconcretized strip. With the airfield visible, it was now up to Moody to align to the runway and land. It was a short strip. Hopefully, it will be long enough for the 757.
"Here we go."