Bluegrass Airlines, February 2004
“Come Fly with Me”
by Kevin Johnson, BGAS005
BGA’s Flight Simulator tribute to 100 years of flight.
I have no idea whether Pan Am or any other major airlines had scheduled flights from O’Hare to Acapulco utilizing the DC8-33s as the equipment, but in the spirit of the early jet age and thanks to flight simulator, we can still capture some of the romance and fun from this great era in aviation history.
So sit back, relax, and I hope you enjoy this fictitious account of Pan Am flight 833 from Chicago O’Hare to Acapulco Mexico sometime in the early 1960s...”Come fly with me, let’s fly, let’s fly away…”
It is a typical winter day in the Midwest. A bitter subzero wind is blowing a potential blizzard in off Lake Michigan. O’Hare is currently experiencing a 3000’ overcast with 3 miles visibility in blowing snow. The weather is forecast to continue to deteriorate, so this could be one of the last flights out before O’Hare is closed on account of the impending winter storms. The bird is packed with nearly 130 winter weary would be jet-setters who are looking for a break form the snow and cold.
The flight engineer hands up the requested fuel load, passenger manifest and other paper work to be reviewed. The flight will take approximately four hours and will require 50,000 lbs of jet fuel. The take off weight will be around 230,000 lbs. This is a far cry from just twenty years ago, when DC3s were the mainstay of commercial aviation! But this is the jet-age and the speeds, flight altitudes and weights are astronomical! Not to mention the number of passengers being carried. Twenty years ago, this flight would have taken 16 hours, five stops and six DC3s to accomplish what one of our DC8s can do in an afternoon! At this rate, we will be carrying passengers to vacation spots on the moon by 1983! Man, what a great time to be alive. Hey, did anybody catch, “I Dream of Genie” the other night?
“No, don’t call Crash and Rescue, she’s not on fire. That’s just the result of the normal start up sequence for the four P&W JT4A-11 engines.”
“Ladies and Gentlemen, welcome aboard Pan Am flight 833, providing non-stop jet-clipper service to sunny Acapulco Mexico. We’ll be cruising at an altitude of 34,000’ today in our newest and fastest jet-clipper, courtesy of the Douglas Aircraft Corporation. As we skim along at our cruising altitude, we will be well above any significant weather, so we’re expecting a very smooth flight. Also, up in that thin air, we’ll be setting the pace for everyone else to catch as we cruise at jet speeds nearing 500 mph! Now, sit back, relax and enjoy the view form the stratosphere. Oh, and with an estimated flight time of just under four hours, don’t worry, we’ll be touching down in Acapulco in time for cocktail hour.”
Taxi, Take Off and Climb Out:
“Well folks, we just beat the storm out. We have also been informed that O’Hare has been closed because of the severe weather. But the weather in Acapulco is forecast for a balmy 83 and sunny at our arrival time. We are now on our way to a cruising at 34,000 feet. Thanks to the 70,000 lbs of thrust our jet engines produce, it will only take us ten minutes to get up there. We are estimating our arrival in Acapulco to be on time at 4:00 p.m. - Mexico–loco time. So sit back and enjoy our first-class beverage and meal service while our lovely hostesses pamper you a bit.”
“4000 fpm up to Flight Level 240! This baby’s a sky-rocket!”
“Come fly with me let’s take off in the blue.
Once I get you up there where the air is rarified, we’ll just glide starry eyed.
Once I get you up there, I’ll be holding you so near, you will hear, all the angels cheering because we’re together…”
“Weather wise its such a lovely day, just say the words and we’ll beat the birds down to Acapulco bay.”
Listening to the radio, you can hear ATC talking to the low, slow guys down below us at 16,000! “Have fun down there in all that weather boys! We’ll have a cold one waiting for you when you finally arrive.”
“This is your captain speaking. If you take a look outside, you’ll see that we’re just about to cross the border into Mexico and officially make this an international flight. Oh, and don’t worry folks, that white stuff you see coming from the engines isn’t smoke, there’s no problem. It’s just the jet’s hot exhaust gas cooling in the cold air at this high altitude and creating what’s called “contrail.” Also, if anyone would like to make the trip up to the flight station, our first officer, Del Computato, will be more than happy to answer any questions you might have about our aircraft and it’s amazing performance.”
The enroute portion of the flight was entirely uneventful. Not even the usual cranky passenger. Everyone just seemed happy to be leaving the snow and their normal routines behind.
Note: Make sure you go to flight idle in the descent or else you are going to over-speed the aircraft. Mexico Center keeps harping at us to expedite our descent. So, we push the nose down to the maximum recommended by the Douglas company and approved by management – 2000 fpm. We are falling like a rock, and as the runway comes into sight for our visual approach, it becomes painfully obvious why Center was needling us to expedite our descent – they started us down too late and our final approach altitude is still way too high.
No problem however, we are given one three sixty in the holding pattern as we continue to descend at a more reasonable 1000 fpm, gets us down to 2300 feet at 8 miles. That’s more like it. We are configured for landing with flaps at 30, gear down and locked and Vref of 136 for our weight of 185,000 pounds, which is 5000 pounds below our max landing weight.
Approach and Landing:
We are lined up nicely on the approach and smoothly settling in when the controller announces, “Pan Am 833, you are cleared for the visual approach to runway 28, number 2 for landing, follow the DC6 on final.” Well, we are on short final at 500 feet and ready to continue to the touch down, but where is the traffic? I give Del the order to “clean” us up for the go-around just as Approach tells us to knock it off, confirming that the situation is not good. We must have slipped in front of the DC6 with our faster approach speed when we did our hold! He must not be used to working with the big jets. At least by the time we are vectored back around for our next stab at getting on the ground, the traffic has cleared out and we have no trouble landing.
As we taxi in, we see that the ramp is full. A TWA 707 is unloading passengers as we pull into the terminal area. A Western DC6 is just pulling out as two American DC6s wait patiently for their next load of tourists going back to the states.
“Sorry for the inconvenience coming in today folks. At least we got a little extra sight seeing from the air done. The beaches and the clubs look like they are ready and waiting! We hope you had a great flight and we look forward to providing jet service for you again on your return home.”
As for us, we leave the airplane for the next crew and we are on our way to the hotel ourselves. Adios Amigos. Hey, was that Elvis I just saw leave the plane?
If you aren’t currently flying the “big iron,” I hope this whets your appetite to try something bigger and faster.
Acknowledgements and Thanks:
Thanks to all the developers and designers who have made flight simulation a fantastically rewarding and entertaining hobby.
But a special thanks to the Historic Jetliners Group for their outstanding aircraft, sounds, panels and other technical information, including tips for flying the DC8.
Finally, thanks to all the real pilots, crews, maintenance personnel, airline employees and Air Traffic Controllers who are true professionals and who have made commercial aviation the safest form of travel for decades!