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"We are the protagonists of our stories called life, and there is no limit to how high we can fly."

Type rated on A330, B747-400, B747, B757, B767, B737, B727. International Airline Pilot / Author / Speaker. Dedicated to giving the gift of wings to anyone following their dreams. Supporting Aviation Safety through training, writing, and inspiration.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

A330: Managing the Mass

Managing the Princess on approach continues to be a challenge for those new to the airplane.

We're often vectored in fast, and slowing down early is not an option. There are too many planes in the sky competing to land at the same airports. Besides with the price of fuel, flying fast and getting on the ground is the most efficient. The problem is, the A330 doesn't like to go down and slow down. And she sure doesn't like to descend on the glideslope at 180 knots. She will accelerate unless you do something.

I've noticed we're required to keep our speed up to 180 knots more times than not. And we're often vectored in high. How do we manage the approach in this case?

Don't activate the approach speed until you're on the glideslope and ready to slow. If you attempt to slow this plane then think you're going to capture the glideslope, it won't happen.

Fly the plane to the glideslope first, then slow down. That's the only way you'll get on profile and make a stabilized approach. Once capturing the glideslope extend flaps, gear, and or speedbrakes to allow her follow the glideslope while maintaining the requested speed. The speed, and distance you capture the glideslope, will determine your configuration.

There are also some tricks of the trade the long-term bus pilots use, that we can stick in our toolkits too. As great fortune would have it, I had the opportunity to fly with a check airman performing Captain Operating Experience on my last trip. He had a great gouge:

"170 knots with Flaps 3 gives you the best rate of descent." In Narita they want you to put the gear down over the shoreline. In this event, Flaps 2, Gear Down and fly at 170 knots is the option.

Remember... unlike the Boeing, this the Airbus can use speedbrakes with the gear and flaps extended. More to come on that tomorrow.

Now... off to the airport. Short call in Detroit is in my immediate future.

~Enjoy the Journey~




  1. So if I understand correct

    Intercept glidslope ---> Gear down, Flaps 3 and maintain speed and GS with pitch and speedbrakes?

    Or did I read your story wrong? :)

  2. I read with interest your comments here, and earlier about the approach at AMS, where they keep you high and fast. This caused an accident with fatalities when a Turkish B737 crew descended onto the GS at idle thrust, forgot to increase to approach thrust when established, stalled and went down in a field. Has anything changed since then? Does the Princess have any protection against this kind of event? Is the Princess also called "Fi-Fi" like her smaller cousins?

  3. BTW, some more titles ideas for your novel series:

    Non-Flying Pilot
    Unstable Approach
    Wake Turbulence
    State your Intentions
    Traffic Alert!

    Good Luck!

  4. Ooo I like "Unstable Approach"! Thanks for sharing your Airbus tips!

  5. Rick, It all depends on the situation. But Yes... get down and intercept the glideslope first, then slow. You should already be at flaps 2. Maybe 3 depending upon the speed.

    When you intercept the glideslope at a given speed, you'll have to do something to increase drag to descend on the glideslope.

    Should you use more flaps, speed brakes, or gear? Depends how far out you're intercepting the glideslope and your speed. If you're way out you may want to delay putting down the gear.

    A dot above the glideslope... Flaps 3, intercept the glideslope, gear down. When it's time to slow... 1800 feet... Activate managed speed, and flaps full. If you're going too fast, you may need speed brakes to help slow her down.

    She does well flying fast. The goal is to get her to where you want her to be, then use the tools you have to help her descend on the glideslope and slow as necessary.

    Thanks for the great question!

  6. Paul, Thanks for the comment. Without listening to the Turkish tapes, I won't second guess what they did. But on the surface, we know that idle thrust and crashing on the field is not a good thing. If they had captured the glideslope and were flying it down, but were too fast and used the idle power in attempt to slow, then that would explain everything.

    One benefit the Airbus has over the Boeing is the ability to use speedbrakes, with gear and flaps extended, to slow. So with the Airbus you can fly down with faster speeds and have greater ability to slow up while on the glideslope.

    The key to a safe approach is a stabilized approach.

    Is the Airbus protected from idle thrust on approach? No. One thing A330 pilots must remember is, if you go high on the glideslope during the approach, and push the nose over and attempt to fly back to it, Fi-Fi will know that by pushing the nose over that your speed will increase. To compensate for this, she will reduce the thrust to idle.

    If you're low to the ground, she will not have enough altitude and time for the engines to spool up when power is needed, and you'll hit hard.

    These jets are not designed to approach with power off. They're not gliders.

    Now the question of Fi-Fi... Oh yeah.
    I actually blogged about her name. Check this out:

    Thanks for the great comment, and for the additional names for my novel series.

  7. Unstable approach is very good! Thanks Victoria. I like that one too.

  8. Really interesting post, Karlene. As a non-pilot, I love visualizing how all this works. Capturing the glideslope is such a great, descriptive phrase.

  9. Thanks Linda... we have so many descriptive phrases in aviation. I should find a name in one of them. :)


    "A preliminary investigation found that the crash was caused primarily by the engine's automated reaction which was triggered by a faulty radio altimeter, which had failed twice in the previous 25 hours. This caused the autothrottle to decrease the engine power to idle during approach and the crew noticed this too late to take appropriate action to increase the throttle and recover the aircraft before it stalled and crashed. Boeing has since issued a bulletin to remind pilots of all 737 series and BBJ aircraft of the importance of monitoring airspeed and altitude, advising against the use of autopilot or autothrottle while landing in cases of radio altimeter discrepancies."

  11. Paul...AH! That was the accident. I did know about this. And, it's in my novel. Names changed to protect the guilty~ Did you know that the thrust was to "idle" for "90" seconds? That was more than enough time...ample time... to save that plane. We will always have faulty equipment, things breaking. I've seen faulty flags many times. The key is to pay attention and know what your plane is doing. So many pilots flying automated aircraft become complacent. Unfortunately this time many died.
    Moral of that story... Don't follow your plane. If the automation is on you babysit it and make sure it's doing what it's supposed to do.

    Thanks for the update on this!

  12. Thanks for sharing your knowledge. It is very interesting to understand how everything works, and I am so glad I have just started on my very own journey in Florida.

  13. Thanks for the comment Cecilie! I'm looking forward to hearing all about your journey too. Fly safe!

  14. during cruise, do pilots have to conduct hourly ECAM systems display checks?

  15. Anonymous, That would be a company specific procedure. We don't. But it would give us something to do.

  16. if you are intercepting the glideslope from above, then would you use the speedbrakes to increase the descent rate?

  17. If you are intercepting from above, you would push the nose over, or increase the rate of descent. Thus increasing speed. Speed brakes will help slow you down. Would you use them if you were high and fast? Definitely.

  18. if you are intercepting the glideslope from above, would you use open descent mode or vertical speed?

  19. It depends. But... I'm going to say vertical speed. Open descent gives you idle thrust. I don't want to go to idle close to the ground. Vertical speed gives you control of how quickly you will capture it.
    Thanks for for a great question

  20. If you intercept the glideslope and don't increase drag, will the aircraft go above or below the glideslope?

    1. That's a trick question. Because... where are you intercepting from? What if you intercept on the profile and everything (gear and flaps ie. drag) is out already?

      And... you can do either: Pull up... go above. Push down go below.

      Need a better question.

  21. i am meant if you are intercepting from above and the flaps and gear are already out.

    1. Okay... if you are intercepting a glideslope above, and everything is out, if you keep the same downward trajectory and don't do anything when you catch it, of course you'll fly through it. (going below) If you pitch to the proper path to stay on the glideslope, you'll probably be too fast.

      Chances are, if you are high, and flying her down to the glideslope (airbus won't capture from above) you will be fast too. If gear and flaps are already out, you'll need to do something to get rid of your excess speed. So once you're on the glideslope you'll pull out some speed brakes to slow down.

      Maybe the confusion is the intercepting from above. She won't do it on her own. You have to fly down.


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