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PHD. MBA. MHS. Type rated on A350, A330, B777, B747-400, B747-200, 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. Fighting for Aviation Safety and Airline Employee Advocacy. Safety Culture and SMS change agent.

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

A330: Intercepting a Course

Study Time!

I will be visiting the simulator for my recurrent training starting Friday, so it's time to put the very cool airplanes on the back burner, and open the Airbus manuals. 


This will be an emotional weekend for many reasons. Not only will I will miss SeaFair weekend, but this visit to Minneapolis will be the last time I go to NATCO, NWA Training Center. The simulators are moving South, and the building is going away. 

Now... getting my head into A330 stuff.

In the simulator pilots get to see a radar vector with a request to intercept a radial in or out of a fix during their training/checking event---something we don't normally do on the line. But the "how to" becomes a challenge because we lose what we don't use. Not to mention course confusion can muddy the waters.

ATC clears you on a heading of 190 to intercept and fly inbound on the 217 degree radial to the waypoint DUDIS. How do you do this?

Step one... use the heading select knob and fly the plane on the initial heading, then program the MCDU.

The best way to eliminate confusion is to ask a “good” questions. How to start begins with the first question: What do you want to do?
You want to go direct to a point in space that will intercept the 217 radial to DUDIS. What we really want to do is go to DUDIS, the 316 is just the path. How do you go to DUDIS?
Select the DIR key then type DUDIS into the scratch pad (or in this case it's part of your flight plan you can select it) and select 1L (One Left). If we were going direct, we would select 1L again. But our clearance was to intercept a radial to DUDIS.
Note: Radial IN and OUT are on the right side. The selections are both "radials" and not courses.

I think the confusion lies in the fact that we as aviators know that radials are "out" and courses "in" and in our mind we're thinking this is a radial, and we need to create the opposite of the radial to fly the course inbound. Confused yet? You shouldn't be. 

Airbus made it simple. They view everything as a radial. 360 of them radiating away from or "to" any fix. All the pilot needs to know is whether they are flying to the station, or away from the station.

In this example we are flying "to" the station. We place 217 on the RADIAL IN ... into DUDIS... on 1R. But we're not done yet. We need to put it in the flight plan by selecting 1R a second time.  

The second part is what everyone forgets: Pressing 1R twice. Remember, the first selection is inputting the data into the computer. The second selection is adding the data to your route of flight. 

Sounds simple? It is if you don't over think it. 

Enjoy the Journey!

XO Karlene

Flight For Safety coming soon: 78,425 words 


  1. Sounds like using the Garmin 430W to select an approach. First you have to have the destination airport selected, then you have to select the approach, and how you will enter the approach (an initial fix or vectors). Then the bit you forget once (and NEVER again) - you have to activate the approach. Ask me how I know... :)

    1. Those who have, or those who will. We're all capable. Guess what happens when you don't activate the approach in the A330? You can't slow down. Power runs up and airplane speeds up to 250 knots. Scary stuff, and will be in the next novel. Where fiction mirrors truth.

  2. Take a last picture of NATCO, sob, for me!! And have fun!

  3. Please take pictures of the world that will be soon no longer NWA NATCO. cherish those moments. That place was a part of you and many. Give it a big hug from me. Lol.

    Now onto radials.. What are special circumstances to which you would be vectored into such a situation? I know this question is a no brainer but one never knows... Also plugging it in to the scratchpad shows the simplicity of the Airbus FMS. Even though it was simulator based, I actually had a dickens of a time getting used to and using simultaneously both FMS and FMC at first for Airbus and Boeing. Looking forward to the real life stuff. More to come as I am working on my simulator article now. 700 words and more to come.. Thank you so much for a great and informative post, Karlene!

    1. I will give it a hug for you.

      Now... the circumstances? There is a reason that we don't do this often on the line. However, with that said... on my OE they did just this. Gave us a heading to intercept a radial into a VOR and then on the new course. So, it can happen. Usually just in the simulator.

      I do know your pain with the FMS and FMC...MCDU... MCP...etc. Too bad they didn't play better together (Boeing and Airbus) while building their planes.

      Write on... 700 words will flow!!

      Thanks for your comment.

  4. NATCO is a ghost-town these days...
    I remember when I was riding side-saddle on the 727 the OLD NWO Sim training bay that had the 'model rail road' terrain mounted on the wall with the 'camera' we flew to the runway...and the buildings attached with velcro to knock off and the 60' insect on the active (camera would magnify the wayward insects and project it in the sim windows).

    Then there is the motion sickness when the instructor resets the sim but fails to sut-off the display...going backwards at 200mph messes with you.

    Practice, practice, practice. Knowing the FMC/FMS backwards & fwd will save your tail-section-more than once I have watched FO's fumble through the process-letting them go far enough where they are truly wondering...or they wise up and ask. Either way I am an instructor.

    What is the old joke...."I may not be the smoothest on the yoke but I can now type 75 words per minute...".

    Enjoy Minne-no-place, just a hop, skip from OSH.

    Tim 8DME_W_ORD (TDY to Big Sky Country)

    1. Tim... so true on knowing it front and back. Me... I ask. Because that is the woman in me. (we ask for directions) No time to dink around trying to figure out something while you're barreling through the sky. If I don't know, you'll know I don't know, and then I'll learn it for next time.

      There was a day, in the good old days, that Captains were the instructors. Keep on teaching my friend!

      I'll say by to Minne for you too.

  5. what is a maintenance release document? does it get sent via ACARS?

    1. A maintenance release is done in the log book. Not that it couldn't be sent via the ACARS for a pilot to input. All depends upon the company procedures.

  6. at your airline is the maintenance release sent via ACARS?

    1. I'm not at liberty to discuss how my airline's procedures are operated. Why do you ask?

  7. why intercept heading is 190?

    1. Because that is what ATC decided they wanted to pilots to fly. No other reason. They may have had reason, but I don't know what that might be.


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