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Captain Kevin

A Test Gone Awry

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It all started late last night at the Chicago O'Hare International Airport. I had picked this airport given the weather conditions at the time, and our aircraft was the Boeing 747-400ERF. Given that it was a test flight, we were light and empty with 20,000 pounds of fuel on board. Weather conditions were quite foggy with some thunderstorms in the area, a good time to test the weather radar out. With the plane lined up on runway 28 right, we went full power and were off the ground in eleven seconds. After being airborne for a while and confirming the functions of the weather radar, it was time to land. BUT....there was a slight problem. I hadn't actually programmed anything into the FMC, and without wishing to use the autopilot, I certainly didn't have the hands to dial anything in. My only reference was the VOR for O'Hare showing up on the navigation display, so I aimed for it at a 320 heading hoping I'd hit runway 32 left. Of course, I had completely forgotten about the fog, and as I approached the VOR, I was close enough to the ground to realize I was somewhere above the airport rather than a runway. Banked a hard left, got a runway in sight, and started to land. As soon as I touched down, I realized I was at the other end of runway 14 right already. Full power, and back in the air. A right turn, followed by another left, and we'd try to hit 32 left again. Estimating the position of the runway relative to the VOR, I was making a guess as to where the runway was. Eventually found the runway and almost touched down before realizing that I was at the other end of runway 32 left. Back in the air, making another 180, and I was going to try for 32 left again. A few left turns, and I happened to find another runway to land on. Lined up somewhere over that runway, looked like I had enough room, and made my landing. It wasn't long before I found myself at the end of 28 right. Good thing I had autobrakes on max, huh.

 

Lesson of the day: Program the FMC BEFORE you depart. Of course, it was past 01:24 AM when I did this, so I wasn't thinking clearly when I decided that this was going to be a good idea.

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Thanks for sharing - I live about 20 miles straight west of that airport.  32L used to be my favorite runway to land atin FS, but I believe if you look at a modern plate for the airport, they don't allow landings on 32L anymore, has a big 'ol "X" at the end of the runway.

 

While many on the forum are sticklers for procedures, there is something to be said for the occasional "gun it and go flying" approach, rife with all the fun challenges that pop up.  The 747 hand flies incredibly well and is a real joy. 

 

Mark Trainer

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