My alarm clock wakes me at 4 am. It is still dark outside and I hear the rain against the window. I would prefer a few more hours in bed but duty calls. Today I will be doing a flight to TFS (Tenerife South) which departs at 7 am. Because it only takes me 15 minutes to drive to the airport I have got a hour left to take a shower and enjoy my breakfast. At 5 am I get in my car and leave for the airport. At this time in the morning the roads are clear and fortunately it has stopped raining. I arrive at the office a good hour and a half before the flight is scheduled to leave. Most pilots don’t show up this early for a flight but personally I like to go through the paperwork in a good time while I am enjoying a cup of tea.
First of all I will collect all the information regarding this flight and with this information i will get the flight plan, Notams and weather out of the computer system. Staple everything together and review all the information to see if there is weather etc. which we have to keep in mind when making our fuel decision. The weather conditions today are good with smooth flying conditions expected during the flight. However due to some low cloud it can be a bit turbulent during the initial stages of the climb. Just when I finished reading all our weather etc. the captain arrives. While he gets a cup of coffee (no, this is not the F/O’s job) I give him a quick brief about the weather, routing and any special requirements. Today there are no special requirements and the fuel decision is quickly made. With some extra fuel on top of our flight plan fuel we decide to take 32 tons which is a little bit more than a quarter of the maximum fuel the aircraft (A330-200) can take. We also decide who is going to be the Pilot Flying (PF) and who is going to be the Pilot Non Flying (PNF). Today it is my turn to take the aircraft out to TFS.
When we arrive at the aircraft I get in my seat and prepare the flight deck and load the FMGS (Flight Management Guidance System). In the mean time the captain does the exterior inspection of the aircraft and he quickly joins me on the flight deck. Part of his duty as the PNF is to get the ATIS and get our ATC clearance. The ATC clearance is as expected and we have no delay and no slot time. The ATIS information is: wind 200/15, overcast 500 feet and a temperature of 5 degrees with a QNH of 1010. This means that during take-off we have a crosswind of approx. 11 knots which is nothing special. When the load sheet has arrived and all the figures are in the FMGS I give a departure brief to the captain. During this brief the purser walks in to inform us that all doors are closed. After I finished the brief and because we are fully ready for start and push I contact ground and request our push and start clearance. Fortunately today it is not that busy and we are cleared for push and start without delay. When both engines are started and all the necessary check list complete I request taxi clearance. We are cleared to taxi to the active runway.
At the time we arrived at the active runway I told tower that we where fully ready for departure. The tower controller cleared us to line up on the runway and hold position. During the time it took to line up we completed the last checks. Once aligned on the runway the captain handed control over to me. After approx. 30 seconds on the runway the tower controller cleared us for take-off.
I applied take-off power and started the rotation at Vr. The captain called positive climb and I asked him to raise the landing gear. When the gear was raised I asked him to engage the autopilot. Normally I prefer to hand fly the aircraft when possible but today’s departure (SID) is quite demanding and therefore I elected to fly the aircraft through the autopilot. Climbing through 8000 feet we spot some traffic on our TCAS which happens all the time. However this time it is different. Almost a minute after we spot the traffic the TCAS comes up with a Traffic Advisory (TA). A TA is not a reason for concern just to alert the pilots so they monitor the situation a bit closer. A good 10 seconds after the TA the warning changes to a Resolution Advisory (RA) and instruct us to descend. This RA is the highest warning given by the TCAS system and pilot intervention is required immediately. I disconnect the autopilot and ask the captain to switch off the flight directors. The TCAS system displays a green band on the vertical speed indicator in which the pilot has to keep the vertical speed indicator needle. So this is exactly what I am doing. In the mean time the captain informs ATC that we are in a TCAS instructed descend. After descending approx. 700 feet the TCAS system informs us that we are clear of conflict and we start a gentle climb back to our cleared flight level. Unfortunately this incident means a lot of paperwork to be filled in when we return.
Whilst we are established in the cruise (FL410) we receive a ECAM advisory that we are loosing oil pressure in our No.1 engine. When we call up the engine ECAM page we see that we are in the warning zone but at this moment it is still within limits to leave the engine running. After a quick discussion we decide that the best course of action is to divert to one of our diversion airfields. Because the engine is still running we give operations a call to discus with them where they want us to go to. Whilst the captain is on the radio with operations there is a ECAM warning ENG. 1 OIL LO PR. According to the ECAM checklist we have to shut down the engine which we do. So at this moment we can forget our discussion with operations because we need to go to the nearest suitable airport. With the weather reports in mind we decide to divert to BHX (Birmingham). When we shut down the engine we declared a MAYDAY and advised ATC about our intentions of diverting to BHX. ATC was really helpful and we cleared to descend at our discretion as long as we kept them informed about what we were doing. Initially we descended to FL100 and routed direct to BHX. The captain called the Purser to the flight deck while I looked after the aircraft and spoke with ATC.
Our purser was advised about our problem and intentions. She was also informed that she had approx. 15 minutes to get the cabin ready for landing. When she walked out of the flight deck the captain did gave a Passenger Address (PA) and informed our passengers about our problem and that we were going to divert to BHX. After this I informed the captain about our current position and situation and than gave him an arrival brief for runway 33 in BHX. Unfortunately just after the brief ATC informed us that the Localizer was currently off air due to a technical fault. We knew that the Glide Slope was off air due to ongoing construction work on the airport but that the Localizer was off air as well was a unpleasant surprise. The only other option was a NDB approach on runway 33 which was possible but the weather was on the limits for this approach. With all this in mind we decided to take the NDB RWY 33 and set up the aircraft accordingly. Because of the current weather we were required to do a monitored approach. This means that one pilot flies the approach while the other pilot does the landing if he is visual with the runway. Because I was flying the aircraft already we decided that it was better to let me fly the approach while the captain did the landing.
The approach was flown with use of the autopilot and when we were 100 feet above the decision altitude we still were not visual with the runway. Keeping the aircraft on the descend profile we reached our decision altitude and because the captain was not visible with the runway we needed to perform a go-around. With the autopilot still engaged this means that we only need to set take-off/go-around thrust and call for the flaps to be set one stage up. Next call is POSITIVE CLIMB when I request for the gear to be raised. When this is done the aircraft flies the published missed approach profile. Fortunately we asked ATC if in case of a go-around we could climb straight ahead to 3000 feet which they cleared us for. Normally the missed approach procedure of runway 33 in BHX is straight ahead and than a procedure turn back to the NDB to take up the hold. In our case we climbed straight ahead and whilst we were climbing we requested the latest BHX weather. Fortunately the weather had improved a little bit and therefore we decided to give it another go. (just for information. The tail wind component on runway 15 was out off limits for us to land on runway 15). After an uneventful NDB approach we touched down on runway 33. Because it was only a loss in oil pressure we taxied to the gate while the fire brigade followed us.
After arriving on our stand we completed our checklist and informed our engineer who is BHX based. Together with operations we decided to offload the passengers. With the passengers being looked after by our handling agent we went to our crew room in BHX for a debrief.
Arriving in the crew room our instructor informed us that we both had passed our 6 monthly base check. This was the second day off our simulator check and on the first day we had a slightly different scenario but that time the captain was PF.
After the instructor signed all the paperwork we went back to our hotel for a well deserved beer.
Hopefully you enjoyed this report. Every pilot has a base check every six months and this is performed in a simulator and with most company’s this check takes two days. On every day we spend 4 hours in the simulator and go through a sort of scenario as described above.
Apart from the 2 base check we also need to pass a line check each year. On a line check there will be a training captain on the jump seat observing our operating procedures during a normal line flight.