Commercial Aviation Video Review
Just Planes “Air Canada 777 Polar” versus “Swiss A340 Atlantic”
|Description:||Impressive Blu-ray presentation of Polar- and Trans Atlantic flights|
|Reviewed by:||Angelique van Campen|
|Published:||June 3rd, 2012|
Computer / Software Specifications
|Computer System:||- iMac 27″ 3.4Ghz Mid 2011
- Intel i7 3.4Ghz / 3.8Ghz during Boost Mode
- ATI/AMD Radeon HD6970 2GB
- 256Gb Intel SSD and 2Tb 7200RPM HDD
- Saitek Pro Flight System
|Software:||- Windows 7 x64 Ultimate (BootCamp) / Mac OS X 10.7.4
- Flight Simulator X Acceleration
- X-Plane 9
|Overall Time:||- Overall Watching Video 15 hours|
This Just Planes Blu-ray review covers a Polar versus Atlantic flight impression. With these 2 Blu-rays, Just planes gives you a “behind the scenes look” at how a flight begins, well before the flight crew has entered the flight deck.
Once Flight Operations has informed the flight crew, and you too, actual airplane flight deck preparations begin. After consulting with Just Planes, I’ve chosen two totally different type of flights …. Polar (North Pole) versus the Atlantic. On the first two stretches, I invite you to join me with Air Canada Polar flights AC015/AC016.
These are the outbound and inbound flights from Toronto, Canada (YYZ) to Hong Kong (HKG) and via versa. Let’s see what Just Planes has to say about this Blu-ray impression.
According to Just Planes, “This third 777 Air Canada program is hosted by the airline’s Senior Director of Flight Operations Captain Rick Allen who takes you on Air Canada’s nonstop service from Toronto to Hong Kong and back becoming the longest route in the World Air Routes series! For almost 4 and a half hours you will be informed as to all aspects of the Polar Operation from the planning stages by the dispatcher building the flight plan to all the details the crew needs to execute this trip before and during the 15hour flight. Enjoy this latest Flight in the Cockpit.”
There is, of course, much more to tell about these outbound and inbound Polar flights. For these features, visit the dedicated Just Planes Air Canada web page.
During the second set of stretches, I invite you to the Swiss Atlantic flights LX038/LX039 from Zurich, Switzerland (ZRH) to San Francisco, USA (SFO) and back to Zurich.
According to Just Planes “This time we’ll fly the A340-300 to North America and you’re in for a fantastic flight packed with information and great views and ending with a spectacular scenic arrival into San Francisco! Captain Covolan and his crew will inform you about all of the aspects and details of this Trans Atlantic flight beginning with the crews first arrival at the Swiss Operations Desk to the shutdown in Zurich after the return flight. Enjoy this great opportunity of flying Swiss International.”
At the dedicated Just Planes web page we can see that to produce such an impressive effect, six camera’s are needed to complete the overall flight. Pretty effective! And while you’re at the dedicated Swiss web page, have a quick look at all the features.
Now it’s up to me to find out if the movie offers a nice balance between flight operations, flight deck information, and route information as well as external scenery views. Packing a movie into a story with screenshots is almost impossible.
Instead, I tried to offer you as far as possible, a complete story of what each stretch offers including some screenshots of each part of the flight. I ended up with a lot of screenshots, but it should give you a complete overview of these terrific Blu-ray flight impressions.
Stretch I – Air Canada AC015 777-200LR Polar Operations YYZ-HKG
This Air Canada flight starts with the stretch from Toronto to Hong Kong. You’re invited to Flight Operations where you’re informed about Air Canada’s Flight Dispatch Operations in respect to Polar flights.
During this session, which takes around 20-25 minutes, you get all kind of background information needed for pilots to perform a safe Polar flight. Right after this, the Air Canada pilots are seen at Flight Planning. Here they receive all the papers for the flight, including what kind of weather they can expect on the route etc. It seems, in the beginning, boring.
But I can tell you, it’s very interesting since it covers all “background” information that is a part of the flight. For everybody who flies for business or pleasure, our flight starts the moment you enter the aircraft, but you don’t want to know what work has been done before all of this.
You can think of aircraft maintenance, crew planning, the different airlines departments involved in a flight etc.
Anyway, jumping into the cockpit is not a good idea, so therefore we first need to inspect the external aircraft. This is done differently than ground engineers inspections, but still many items are shown and explained. After this, it’s time head to the 777s flight deck.
All the previous flight deck preparations and checklist items are already finished and thus we jump in at the moment AC015 gets the pushback.
You’re well informed about the engine start and some additional information is given during their taxi to the runway, which is – logically – followed by the takeoff, climb etc. Then, it becomes interesting … the EFB (Electronic Flight Bag) is completely explained.
OK, not every button and all EFB the pages, but the majority is discussed and this handy tool gives a great overview. While the flight continues, Just Planes added some nice external ground shots as well.
This makes the overall movie very interesting since, with the help of the weather conditions, Atlantic Canada and Greenland are clearly visible as well as the North Pole although there’s not a mark that tells you “this” is the Pole.
Now, we’re back on the flight deck where, in the meantime, a fresh crew has taken their places.
More information is given relating to the EFIS instruments, FMC CDUs and Lower EICAS DU. Charts are explained and much more. And as I said before, the many external Greenland views give you a wonderful impression what’s out there. As always, the cruise and ends and starts with the descent, approach, final approach and landing.
This flight is no different, but it all depends what kind of information is given. And I can tell you, there’s a nice balance between what information is interesting to know and what’s not needed right now.
Nice shots of the flight instruments are integrated in the movie while making the descent and approach. The final approach itself is completely from the flight deck instruments, with a mix of different filmed angles. This means, during the actual final approach, you don’t see ground textures, not even the runway.
In other words, you’re focused during this part of the flight phase in the flight deck and the pilot who’s flying. However, after touchdown there’s a surprise for you. The actual final approach is again shown to you, but this time thru the First Officers windshield panel.
It gives you a nice external landing view with the runway in sight.
And yes, you’re right if you think you’ve missed views like the cabin, complete cockpit preparation etc. Don’t worry! I’ll take you on the inbound flight to Toronto and, yes, all these “missing” items will be shown.
Stretch II – Air Canada AC016 777-200LR Polar Operations HKG-YYZ
Our inbound flight starts on the flight deck where the crew has just taken their seats. In other words, the complete cockpit preparation is filmed and where needed, the Captain takes some time to explain things.
As always, when all this is done, it’s time for the pushback, engine starts, taxi – with some nice airport impressions – followed by the takeoff. During the climb, the Captain explains something on the EFB about the Hong Kong apron with taxi and runways.
See it as an explanation as to how they taxied from the gate to the runway. And now it’s time to get a feeling of the the First Class seats. Let’s relax and enjoy the Canadian hospitality. Via the cabin crew you’re informed about how things are accomplished in the cabin.
It’s a tour where dinner is served just before sleeping time.
Now, we’re back in the flight deck.
It’s dark inside with dimmed instrument panel lights, EFIS and EICAS DU’s dimmed as well and not to forget the EFB. Oh yes, EFB. Captain Rick Allen explains in this EFB edition, other sections of the EFB. One of them is the expected approach to Toronto, but also landing data is shown as well.
The EFB is without doubt a wonderful tool with endless possibilities and information. On long flights like these, the 777 offer a first class Crew Rest Room. To me it looks more like a luxury hotel room, which is situated inside the Boeing 777.
The Crew area in the AC 777 is located in the rear of the aircraft and positioned above the passengers. This means it’s a small, but convenient area to relax and, if possible, to sleep. The area offers nice luxury with full declinable seats, two beds, video- and music entertainment and you can even have your meals here.
As mentioned before, the crew rest area is a good place for crew members to relax on long intercontinental flights. Although our flight to Toronto isn’t yet finished, with nice Alaskan Mountains and Whitehorse views, we know in one way or another that the end of our flight is coming.
From Alaska we will be crossing Canada heading for Toronto. A couple of hours to go! The last portion of this movie shows you the descent, approach, final approach and landing, but before this starts, Captain Rick Allen gives you a short history what Air Canada has done in the past as well as how he has become a 777 captain. And, in between all of this, you’re invited to see some nice external views of the Canadian Rockies and then the Rockies are replaced by the Toronto area.
The approach and final approach as well as taxi to the gate, is not only nice, but of educational use too.
Once at the gate, Captain Rick Allen and his other flight crew members as well as the cabin crew thank you for flying with them.
I, as reviewer, can only say that the movie shows you a well balanced view of an outbound and inbound flight to/from Toronto to Hong Kong. Well balanced because of the mixed views – flight deck, ground and external flight views and the cabin – that gives you the feeling “that you’re constantly sitting on the first row”!
Swiss stretch I – LX038 Airbus A340-300 Atlantic Ocean ZRH- SFO
You could expect that this Trans Atlantic flight would be, more or less, the same movie, but that’s not entirely the reality. For a Polar flight the crew needs a lot of flight information, but not so different from a Trans Atlantic flight like this one. Also interesting are the sections in which the movies differ from each other.
OK, it’s time to join me on a Swiss flight from Zurich, Switzerland (ZRH) to San Francisco, USA (SFO). The Swiss movie starts with a presentation of the current Swiss fleet.
The Swiss fleet shown consists of the Airbus A330, A340, A320 Family fleet excluding the A318, and a nice shot of the Avro RJ100 in different liveries. Then, there’s a nice and relaxing introduction for a complicated flight to the USA West coast.
But before our Swiss crew, on behalf of Captain Luciano Covolan, reaches the A340, he and his other flight crew members first need to visit Flight Operations.
Here they get the same as his Air Canada colleagues. All kinds of flight information such as weather, wind, and routes to fly, load sheet, fuel calculations and much more. But then it’s time for them to make the necessary flight deck preparations and the walk-around check.
Although the Swiss maintenance crew did this already, pilots always do this themselves as well. In this edition, Captain Covolan is doing the walk-around inspection and while walking around the Airbus A340, he also explains the things to look for or those components that are interesting to highlight.
In the mean time, the two First Officers are doing the flight deck checks, FMGC (Flight Management Guidance Computer) MCDU programming and check list items. On the 777 I’ve seen a built-in EFB (Electronic Flight Bag) while the Airbus A340 has, on each side of the sidewalls, remote and movable Airbus style EFBs.
Basically they do the same thing, but having said that, the Airbus EFB is movable via a connected cable while the 777 EFB is fixed and mounted in the flight deck sidewall. Due to the walk-around check, you’ll miss the actual flight deck preparations, which means that when you enter the flight deck, the A340 is ready for it’s pushback, engine starts and taxi to the active and assigned runway.
In between, you’ll have a quick view of how it looks on the ECAM DU’s when the flight crew is doing the “FLT CTL” checks.
Interesting to realize is the fact that this A340 is the NextGen version. NextGen means that it comes with TFT EFIS and ECAM DU’s instead of the old-fashioned CRT DU’s. Take off isn’t filmed for this stretch to San Francisco, but instead there’s a lot more to see and as narrated by the flight crew, listen how a Trans Atlantic flight works in respect to calculations and communication.
Captain Covolan explains how a Trans Atlantic flight works, how to interpret all the data they got from Swiss Operations. In between these talks, you’ll have also a nice external view of what’s down there. And not always down there on the ground, but also other airliners flying near you! Yes, during this stretch, you’ll have a nice view of a Lufthansa Airbus A330, and a Boeing 747-400 of British Airways.
Regarding those external views, you’ll see parts of Greenland, the famous Canadian “Athabasca Highway”, Edmonton Municipal- and International Airports and the south side of Mount St. Helens. With not much time to go, the flight crew prepares themselves for the descent, approach, final approach and landing at San Francisco International Airport.
The ground map of KSFO is studied on paper, although the airbus EFB shows it as well. A good example for most of us … reading from paper is easier then via a screen! During their descent, another Boeing 747, flying at a lower altitude, is passing the Swiss A340.
Following the flight path, ordered by KSFO ATC, there’s a nice mixture between flight deck operations and external lower altitude San Francisco views. After a successful landing and taxi, the Swiss flight LX038 ends at gate 100.
Time for relaxation!
Relaxation for the Swiss crew I mean … Welcome to San Francisco!
Based on my own ground engineer’s experience, flying in the Airbus A310 cockpit to foreign destinations, I guess that this crew relaxes for approximately 2 days in San Francisco. That said, for about 15 minutes, the movie shows you the ins and outs of downtown San Francisco, the Golden Gate Bridge and other tourist spots.
Swiss stretch II – LX039 Airbus A340-300 Atlantic Ocean SFO-ZRH
It all ends, also for the Swiss crew. It’s no longer relaxation. It’s time to fly a different Airbus A340 back home.
Different because this is a model with the old-fashioned rounded CRT (Cathode Ray Tube) EFIS and ECAM (Electronic Centralized Aircraft Monitoring) DU’s. So, what to expect on the return flight?
The overall content is not much different from the outbound flight, but some parts are reduced in time while others are introduced. Let’s see what to expect. At Flight Operations they are informed about the possible NATs (North Atlantic Track) to fly, the load sheet and fuel calculations are cross-checked, wind or overall weather conditions are discussed etc.
Since you were too late for the Zurich flight deck preparations, this time, Just planes takes you to the flight deck and shows you all the flight and system preparations, mostly with the help of the airbus EFB.
But time is running out and that means when is everything done, it’s time for pushback and engine start. Although our Swiss Captain Covolan is busy, he still takes the time to explain what and where on the ECAM displays you can see details of the engine starts.
Time flies and that means it’s dark outside and illuminated or dimmed in the flight deck. Taxi to the assigned runway is nice, but you don’t see too much except many varieties of lights.
When Swiss LX039 is cleared for takeoff, every minute of this including the initial climb, is filmed and followed by an introduction to the First Class Cabin. The food looks good, as well as the overall environment. Since it’s an evening flight with a little more time avaialble to explain things, Captain Covolan explains more about the EFIS DU’s, PFD and ND.
But that’s not all.
He continues with the ECAM DU’s and the overhead panel. It could be that he missed a sub panel, but it’s worth listening to his explanation. The remainder of the flight towards Guernsey is using one of the NATs.
One of the First Officers takes the time to explain what NAT is, the mostly available jet stream to follow and thus having a tail wind. After passing Guernsey, it’s time for some external pictures of the ground below them. You’ll have nice ground shots of Jersey, the French Coast, Mont St. Michel and Paris.
From this moment, the flight deck crew double checks the landing data, and possible runway. This means, not much is explained to you, but instead you get a nice mix of external ground views and flight deck operation. And finally, there’s Switzerland and Zurich International Airport.
What can I say … awesome!
Although two totally different airplane types – Boeing versus Airbus – or if you wish Polar versus Atlantic, each movie had it’s own charm. The way each movie was filmed, but above all, the way it was put together, makes it already worth every penny or Euro cent. and makes it a pleasure to look at and gives you a real view behind the scenes.
With the Blu-ray quality, showing on a large LED screen, it sometimes gives you the feeling you’re on the third seat in either flight deck. This time the movies also give you a good idea how a Boeing and Airbus flight deck looks.
Although each manufacture has it’s own way to organize switches, knobs, panels etc., the big noticeable difference is the panel color. On the 777s Boeing uses a brown color while Airbus uses a mix between grey/blue.
I leave the history of the brown color out of my summary and this review.
There’s also a need to inform you that the screenshots are made with a digital camera, then from the TV set and therefore they are of a much lower quality then the Blu-ray (more then logical!). The reason to do it this way, is that my iMac does have a build in CD/DVD player, but it doesn’t recognize Blu-rays.
Angelique van Campen
This review is written for Aerosoft News Service and published via the Aerosoft website.
While the reviewer has complete journalistic freedom, we ask the reader to keep in mind where the review is posted.