Flying Stories
May 23, 2013

“Go direct GRITY.  Keep the speed at 250 for as long as possible.  Let me know when you slow… you’re leading the pack.”

FedEx and UPS were closing in quickly from behind.  At 5:30am following red-eyes, pilots just want to land and go to the hotel.

We were cleared for the visual to 4R after we called the field “in-sight.”  As we slowed, the gear and flaps came out on script.  At 1000′, we were treated to a surreal view: the sky was bright orange behind the Freedom Tower and the rest of the iconic skyline.  A glance below at the heavy New Jersey Turnpike traffic snapped me back to reality.

I’d just returned to Newark for the first time in four years.

ILS 4R at Newark

ILS 4R at Newark

New York was my first base when I started with United.  The base was officially named JFK, but included flying that originated out of LGA and EWR.  As a reservist, it was challenging.  I had a crash-pad in Queens and rode the subway and bus whenever I was called for a Newark trip.  Once I held a line on the 727 engineer seat, it became easier to plan.  I bid mostly Newark trips since I found the commute easier and more reasonable hotels near the airport.  Even as I moved on from the base, I continued to fly into Newark with both the airline and the fractional during my first furlough.

Newark is a very busy airport.  Although red-eye flying isn’t optimum, it was nice to skip the extended downwind for landing.  I was also a little amused when the tower controller said, “Taxi to the ramp on this frequency… good morning.”  A blank check taxi clearance from a runway exit that far from our gate?  I knew we wouldn’t be so lucky that evening.

Kudos to our hotel committee for selecting a nice hotel.  When stuck between the tangled web of interstates, billboards and smokestacks, the hotel room becomes a bit of an oasis.  The shades were pulled shut and I slept for a full eight hours.

The evening flight back to LAX started just as I’d predicted.  After pushing a  little late due to a belt-loader malfunction, we began our slow crawl towards the departure runway.  At first, we were told to hold short of “November” while the very busy ground controller optimized the departure sequence.  Then came the official word: “At ‘November,’ follow the United 777.  You are number twenty five for departure.”  I had not counted how many aircraft departed between the time we pushed and received those instructions.

Our taxi route... at least number 25 for departure.

Our taxi route… at least number 25 for departure.

After what seemed like an eternity, I pushed the thrust levers up to the FLEX position for takeoff.  Once in the air, I commenced the typical Newark departure: first, straight… then, right… then, back hard left… climb quickly for TEB at 2,500′ but level at 3,000′. (Given the choice, I’d rather be over TEB than operating out of it.)

Thankfully, there were unusually low headwinds heading west.  Even after landing on the south complex at LAX, we arrived at our gate only five minutes late.

I then walked through the parking garage back to the south complex to catch my flight home to Nashville.

I’m going to have to be a little more selective how I bid trips.

It is important for our airline to serve the Newark Airport.  However, it is equally important to me that I’m not the one flying it.

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You may have seen my tweet that I finally have time to write a little more on this blog.

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About author

Renewed Pilot

I've endured a roller coaster career in the U.S. Aviation Industry. Currently flying the 737 on my third try with the same legacy carrier, I have also flown for a regional, fractional and start-up carrier. My piloting experience includes the 737, A320, 727, Citation Excel, Citation Bravo, Saab 340 and many light singles and twin engine aircraft. I reside in the suburbs of Nashville, Tennessee.

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There are 2 comments

  • Dan D says:

    Follow you on Twitter Brian but just now looking through your blog after seeing Brad’s latest post about pausing his blog for a while.

    Planning to read through your whole story in the coming weeks/months but have read a few of your entries so far. As a meteorologist, the de-icing post really captured my attention.

    Having lived in NJ for the first 22 years of my life (sans college at Penn State), I must have flown out of Newark a good 40 or 50 times. As a passenger, I vividly remember the 15-25 plane lines for departure with crying babies in the row behind me and now that you mention it, remember that strange departure route. My house in central NJ also is very close to the approach to 22L or 22R I believe (not a pilot, just my best guess.)

    As an aviation enthusiast, who’s aunt was in the Air Force for 20 years, I look forward to reading your blog. I’ve always toyed with the idea of becoming a pilot or doing something with aviation. Right now it’s just meteorology for me though. Thanks for all the informative posts!

    • Hi Dan…

      Thanks for your comment and kind words about the blog. I’ve been back to Newark several times since I wrote this post. The northeast airports are very consistent… over the years, they haven’t changed a bit.

      If you ever have any questions about becoming a pilot, don’t hesitate to ask.

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