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So, after about 48 hours travelling, I’ve made it to my accommodation in Phoenix. I’m staying at the Camelbackpackers Hostel and so far so good, a cool place with some cool people. From previous experience, hostels are the way to go if you’re on a low budget and more importantly, traveling on your own. I can’t think of anything more depressing, than been stuck in a tired and mildew ridding Motel, on your own!

LX-VCG lapping up the Luxembourg summer

LX-VCG lapping up the Luxembourg summer

Normally you would dread the thought of such a long trip. But, due to the fact that I was taking Cargolux, it actually proved to be a really interesting experience and a great insight into what’s involved in piloting a modern jet across the Atlantic. It’s definitely a great help for someone who’s planning on starting commercial pilot training in under two months. And, of course, it’s free of charge to any of the destinations Cargolux travel to. A massive perk of the job.

The crew perform their preflight - Checking the documents inserting the flight plan and going through their checklists

The crew perform their preflight duties.

I’ve flown several times with Cargolux and each time they’ve been more than happy for me to sit in the flight deck. The standard accommodation is also more than what you might expect from a freighter aircraft, as the upper deck is kitted out with business class seats for up to 6 passengers. There is also two crew rest bunks, which often the crews offer the use of if they don’t require them. I gratefully accepted an offer to use one on the outbound leg to Mexico while we were mid-Atlantic.

The departure from Luxembourg was smooth and into the lovely clear skies over Luxembourg. The aircraft was quite close to the maximum take-off weight for the 747-8, which is 448tonnes. Very noticeable, in that it used a large chunk of the 4000m runway available in Luxembourg.

The arrival to Mexico is a tricky one at the best of times. We were landing runway 5R which has a sharp turn onto a short final. This is due to a terrain of over 17,000ft, which is to the West of the airport, giving a MSA of 19000ft. The airport is at a significant altitude itself, at 7316ft. There was also a heavy rain shower touching the south of the field and the runway was noticeably wet, although tower reported braking action to be good. Combine all this with an aircraft that wasn’t far off maximum landing weight and it was a significant bit of airmanship to get the aircraft down safely. Good job by the F/O in this case, a firm touchdown, but exactly what was required in the situation. You certainly haven’t the room to float down the runway just to achieve a greaser.

As we taxied in, the rain really started to come down, which eventually slowed the off-loading process and probably led to a small delay, but we weren’t much longer than an hour before we were taxiing out again.

Here’s a short video of the departure from Mexico.

The flight to LAX proved to be somewhat of a show laid on by mother nature. There was thunder storms all over Mexico putting on amazing fire work displays. We had no major problems though, a few offset tracks to dodge anything significant that got in our way led to a smooth flight.

We arrived over Los Angeles to busy Friday evening at LAX, which led to turns for spacing, but without creating a major delay. It’s a credit to SoCal approach that they keep everyone apart. There’s four runways at LAX, 2 being used for landing and two for takeoff. While taxiing back to the freight terminal you get a great view of 3 aircraft in a line on finals with another on base, on each runway!!

So then! So far so good, the last time I made it to LA without any problems as well. However, I only made it about another 20 minutes before loosing my laptop and the bag I was carrying it in. So needless to say I was not keen on repeating this stunt. After clearing security, visa checks, the hire car shuttle bus and the slowest hire car receptionist in the world, I was on the road and I’m glad to report with all my bags.

About week ago I made the mistake of thinking that the flight from Luxembourg was actually going to go on time. With this in mind I booked a hotel in Palm Springs, about a two hour drive from LAX. However the flight ended up being delayed by approximately 4 hours which made a big difference in how shattered I was by the time I was on the road. It also shelved any plans of having a bit of a night out in Palm Springs as it was 2am local by the time I rocked in. It did make for a relatively short drive to Phoenix this morning of just 4 hours. All’s well, that ends well I guess.

Finally, a quick trip out to the flight school to confirm a 0730 check flight with the instructor and to pick up a Phoenix Sectional/TAC to review before coming to the hostel.

Boom, flying tomorrow. 🙂

Oh and is Phoenix hot you ask?? Hell yeah(picking up the colloquialisms already) the best I seen on the car gauge was 116degF, that’s over 46degC to you or me!! It’s a very dry heat however, sure 30degC in Ireland would be worse. 🙂

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