Sunday, March 30, 2014

Downtime on the island (My sky-high life)

Who’s in the mood for a getaway? Flight attendant Kristina Roder reports in her latest SWISS Blog article about the custom among crew members of sharing good travel tips. We want to let you in on a current tip, too.

by Kristina Roder, Cabin crew member

We flight attendants sometimes behave like herd animals. Not only on board but also during a layover. If an attractive rooftop terrace, excellent steakhouse or a funky market is discovered to be near our hotel, word of the tip spreads like wildfire and entire crews soon show up there.

I enjoy going to such popular crew spots, too, especially if I am in a city for the first time and don’t know my way around or have any specific plans. After you have been to the same place a few times, however, it becomes boring. Then I look for something new: in travel guides, on the Internet or by asking friends.
Sometimes the crew finds a real gem in or near a big city, as happened in Dar es Salaam.

At the moment our hotel is a bit outside the city centre, but the beach and the pool aren’t quite enough. But not far from the hotel, paradise has been found, specifically on a small island that is also a marine reserve. The price for the ferry transport, food and admission are always negotiated anew. After an explanation has been given for the sudden increase in price, negotiations for a discount start. But that’s just part of the experience. Just like the white beach covered in shells, the turquoise water, platters of fresh fruit, and freshly caught fish served with French fries.

Does that sound enticing, heavenly and gorgeous? Yes indeed! And for precisely this reason one has to almost force oneself to see something of the pulsating city and discover something new there. Recently I was at a fish market in the city. The colourful activity and the warmth of the people compensated for passing up the opportunity to go to the beach. For once, anyway.

The next time I’m in Dar es Salaam, I’m sure to be found on the island, enjoying the tranquillity and recharging my batteries for the night flight back to reality.

Photo: Daniel Klaus

Photo: Daniel Klaus

Photo: Daniel Klaus

Photo: Daniel Klaus

Best regards, Kristina

My blog: A cocktail a day

Friday, March 21, 2014

The challenge of the cold

Photo: Anthony Lascaugiraud
Between December and March, SWISS and Edelweiss fly two charters a week to Kittilä in Northern Finland. The services, which are being provided for Falcontravel and Kontiki Reisen, pose quite an operational challenge for flight and ground crews alike. 

By Markus Guler, SWISS Business Analyst & Project Leader Expert, and Christian Galliker, Airbus First Officer A320. 

The Northern Finnish resort of Kittilä is a popular destination for snowsports fans and seekers of gentler vacations as well. For our crews, too, it’s a welcome change from the usual rotations. But it does offer its own operational and turnaround peculiarities – as we experienced in our rotation on 18 January. 

“Eco-fuelling” saves money
To take one example, the aircraft operating these Kittilä flights are fully fuelled in Zurich whenever possible, to ensure that they only have to uplift the minimum extra fuel needed for the return flight when on the ground in Kittilä. The reason: kerosene is more expensive there. In view of the low temperatures it experiences, Kittilä Airport can also require special approach provisions. Generally, the airport is approached with a decision height of 870 feet above sea level (or 220 feet above the ground). But in extreme cold – such as on the day of our flight – 870 feet would be too low for a go-around decision, because of the denser air. As a result, our decision height was raised 45 feet to 915 feet above sea level.

Special snow warnings
Kittilä Airport’s Runway 34 has a few surprises, too. Owing to the local topography, it requires an ILS approach of 3.4°, steeper than the usual 3.0°. At 2,500 metres, the runway is about the same length as Zurich’s Runway 10/28. With a favourable weather forecast and the SNOWTAMs* reporting “braking action good”, we were able to perform our landing with little restriction or concern. Only the apron seemed to have any snow or ice on it, and was described as having “braking action poor” in the same reports. With services to and from the airport few and far between, the Kittilä ground staff do not issue loadsheets. So it’s up to the cockpit crew to use the information available (on containers, passengers per zone etc.) and make their own weight and trim calculations. These manual procedures are something of a rarity nowadays, but naturally pose no major problem to the crews concerned.

De-icing at the limit
De-icing operations, too, are pushed to the limits when the temperatures are as cold as this. Every type of de-icing fluid has its own lowest operational use temperature or “LOUT”, which is based on its freezing point plus a suitable safety margin. For the fluid used in Kittilä, it’s -33°C. On the day of our flight the local temperature was -36°C. Luckily, no de-icing was required. If it had been, we’d have experienced a nightstop in Northern Finland, too!

*SNOWTAM = Snow Warning To Airmen, used by Scandinavian operations, is a notification describing the conditions of the runway, taxiway and apron status at an aerodrome with respect to snow, ice and standing water.

The Flight Management System (FMS) provides the cockpit crew with the key data for arrival in Kittilä. Photo: Christian Galliker

“Cleared to land on runway 34”: On approach to the only runway at Kittilä. Photo: Anthony Lascaugiraud

Minus 36 degrees: Ramp agents seem immune to the biting cold. Photo: Christian Galliker

First Officer Christian Galliker enjoys the opportunity to work this rare rotation. Photo: Markus Guler

First Officer Christian Galliker prepares for return flight to Zurich. Photo: Markus Guler

Without a load planner at their disposal in Kittilä, the cockpit crew makes weight and trim calculations on the basis of available information about containers and the number of passengers per zone. Photo: Markus Guler

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Airline Glossary - CAT


What does “CAT” mean, we asked you on our Facebook page. Here’s the answer:

Clear air turbulence (CAT) refers to the sudden occurrence of turbulence without any visible cloud activity.

It is commonly referred to as an “air pocket” even though this type of turbulence is not the result of a sudden drop in air pressure or the presence of an air vacuum. The cause is rather a rapid change in the speed and direction of air movement. CAT occurs when masses of air moving at differing speeds collide. The altitude at which this is most likely to happen is between 7,000 and 12,000 metres in the jetstream zone or at lower altitudes near mountain ranges.