Data collected during the journey - equivalent to a Dubai-Los Angeles flight - will provide Emirates with information to be used in planning its future trans-Atlantic services. The chilly route was also a routine Airbus delivery into a full-scale evaluation for the launch of the long-range services on air routes through the Polar regions.
It all began when the airline's latest Airbus A330, set a course for Dubai via the North Pole, and notched up a list of firsts for the airline, Airbus and the UAE.
After leaving the Airbus factory at Toulouse, it flew over Amsterdam, Trondheim, Svarlbard, Spitzbergen and on to the North Pole, where it made a 30-minute circuit to study the behaviour of its navigation systems.
The flight crew included UAE national First Officer Khalid Namat, possibly the country's first commercial pilot to see the North Pole from the air. The evaluation flight was the airline's first in Russian airspace and the first to exchange information with air traffic control via automated data links instead of voice radio. It also tested new navigation technology.
The mission also studied crew rest requirements for long-haul flights of up to 22 hours. Captain Paul Ridley, who commanded the flight, said, "It has shown us how many new areas we need to address as we transform ourselves into a global airline.
"For example, Russian airspace is is divided into many regions, which creates complex additional airways, increasing flight times and fuel consumption. We hope to work with the Russians to obtain shorter, more direct routes, reduce flight times and so be able to carry more passengers and cargo."
The flight also provided information on long-haul flight planning, overflight clearances, aeromedical issues, fuel behaviour at low temperatures, new navigational procedures and systems, flight deck task-sharing and the use of the Medlink "radio doctor" service.
Captain Mike O'Grady, Emirates General Manager of Flight Operations (technical) said, "Where possible, we use simulators to assess new procedures and technologies before introducing them on flights carrying customers.
Capt.Picard From , joined Dec 1969, posts, RR: Reply 3, posted (12 years 7 months 1 day 11 hours ago) and read 7701 times:
I suppose you have a point there, as regards present Atlantic ETOPS routes; unfortunately, it seems that it takes an accident to happen, before anyone starts doing anything! (as with most things in life....)
AirCanadaMan From Canada, joined Feb 2000, 465 posts, RR: 0 Reply 4, posted (12 years 7 months 1 day 11 hours ago) and read 7687 times:
Although not at the north pole, my hometown (Yellowknife) has seen its fair share of emergency landings, and we have dealt with them. We have several flights that fly over us going from the eastern seabord to Asia or from Europe to the west coast.
A UA777 landed 2 years ago due to an ill passenger, we needed a crane and a fire truck to get a stretcher off the plane (the biggest plane we get is a 737-200). When a Martinair 767 blew its engine, it landed and all passengers were evacuated they were all housed in a hangar until an other plane was flown up to pick them up. At the same time they managed to change the engine up here.
Yellowknife isnt the north pole (62*N) but is shows that the Canadian north can handle emergency prcedures. Take Iqaluit for example, its a back up for the Space Shuttle.
-24 is hardly anything to worry about, temperatures can plummit to -50C plus the windchill factor.
The slides should fonction in those temperatures and passengers would probably be moved to a hangar. Proper arrangements would be made once a plane called in, to have buses etc. waiting immediatley for the passengers, (as in both cases) Back in the old days passengers were given Polar suits, in case of northern emergencies, those days however are long gone.
On the Russian side however I have no clue on airport procedures for unexpected aircraft.
PhilB From Ireland, joined May 1999, 2915 posts, RR: 14 Reply 6, posted (12 years 7 months 1 day 5 hours ago) and read 7621 times:
First off, thanks for the very interesting article.
I'm not surprised Emirates did this as their input into the ATC conferences I ran was always innovative and involved and the ideas they put forward often lead the discussions into new territory (especially with regard to FANS and use of airspace).
As to ETOPS diversion, it would not be the cold that would worry me, though that would be bad enough, but the actual availability of the airfields in Iceland, Greenland and Labrador which, may be OK at the commencement of the time envelope for diversion, but are renowned for rapid deterioration of visibility and runway braking (always more difficult with an engine out) when the weather closes down as it often does in winter.
Since the coming of the 180 minutes rule, I suppose this isn't as crucial as when the rule was 90 or 120 minutes, but it may become so again if true trans polar routes are widely adopted.
Ryu2 From Taiwan, joined Aug 2002, 475 posts, RR: 0 Reply 7, posted (12 years 7 months 1 day 5 hours ago) and read 7604 times:
Boeing themselves partially subsidizes small airports like Midway, etc. in the Pacific so that they can remain open for ETOPS diversions (and therefore allow use of their twin-engined planes on routes where it would otherwise be prohibited)
One of the main arguments against higher ETOPS rules is that it might lead to more closings of airfields. In the event of an engine fire, medical problem, etc, you want to land ASAP, regardless of how many engines you have or what ETOPS rules you are flying under. If something like that, happens when you are flying over the North Pole, things will get hairy!
So I do wonder what will happen to those airfields once polar flights become more common, and who will foot the cost.
Capt.Picard From , joined Dec 1969, posts, RR: Reply 8, posted (12 years 7 months 1 day 4 hours ago) and read 7598 times:
Thanks for your input everyone; I think this is a very interesting & pertinent issue;
You mentioned that Boeing footed the bill, in order to allow certain ETOPS airfields to remain open; perhaps with the advent of Polar flights/extended ETOPS, the airlines flying said routes & the goverments of those airlines (and perhaps even the a/c manufacturers) might pool together their financial resources (form a group, willing to invest in maintenance of remote airfields).
More comments/suggestions welcomed.
P.S. Which a/c & airlines are already operating polar routes? I can think of United, CX, CO & AA (I think!)
P.P.S. Has anyone read the Polar flights article in this month's Airways? I don't buy the magazine, but it might be worth getting, if anyone else thinks it is an interesting article.
PhilB From Ireland, joined May 1999, 2915 posts, RR: 14 Reply 9, posted (12 years 7 months 1 day 4 hours ago) and read 7594 times:
The big issues on Polar routes at the moment are perceived as being:
1. Availability of Russian/Chinese/North Korean airspace and the procedures to ensure all clearances are real - especially after a cock up between Delta and the Russian authorities a month or so ago that saw a Delta flight from Atlanta to, I think Tokyo, refused permission upon entry, to continue through Russian airspace and the crew elected to divert to SFO!! The permission had been applied for but Delta screwed some of the details and the Russians didn't recognise the flight as that for which the request was made.
2. The efficacy of Russian and Chinese ATC
3. The workings of instruments at high polar latitude and standby navigation procedures in case of aberrant operation - particularly in two crew cockpits.
Diversion airfields have been studied and are listed but there seems to be a complacency based on the undoubted efficiency of the current power plants and no great emphasis is being placed on the provision of facilities, once the aircraft has landed - which in some of the more remote areas of Kamchatka, Siberia and Northern China might just pose the odd logistical problem for a harrassed official or two!
PhilB From Ireland, joined May 1999, 2915 posts, RR: 14 Reply 11, posted (12 years 7 months 1 day 4 hours ago) and read 7575 times:
Flying over Greenland and the Canadian wastes are my favourite routes.
Iceberg spotting in the early Spring off Labrador and watching the ice sheet thin towards the US- Canada border in winter is pretty good too, but the best is to fly over Greenland in mid winter on a night which at that time of year could be anything but the very middle of the day, with the full moon high in the sky.
The mountains show up in stark relief and look totally unworldly.