This morning, Global Flight Operations called the hotel room early. It was very late in Fairbanks, so I excused the faux pas, and grumbled my acceptance of the flight. Robert Everts had decided that the Red Bull folks needed some engine parts delivered, and asked for volunteers. My hand had shot up while I was still thinking about it, don’t really know why…
Anyway, after a steaming shower, I went down to the lobby where the coffee was hot, the Strudel delicious and after gathering the rest of the team we were headed to Vienna Airport in the shuttle. A couple of stops for Security and Customs, and the van deposited us in front of our aeroplane. We had parked at the corner of NE Cargo, out of the way of the 747 and 777 Freighters, and she was buttoned up tight for the night, and a lovely sight as we rounded the corner on the apron.
We soon were met by some fine folks from Red Bull who had brought out some ground equipment and wanted to see us off. We were glad for their assistance, and truth be told, so was Wien Technik as they hadn’t handled a DC-6 since 1950 something. We soon had Ground Power established, and were fueling for Innsbruck. It would be a shame to have come so far and miss that, wouldn’t it?
Looking at our flight plan, and after a myriad of discussions with Wien Radar, we had decided to depart on Runway 16 on the SNU 4B (which was usable for non RNAV aircraft- hey, what’s RNAV anyway?). That would get us pointed towards the Sollenau VOR, after which we were assured we could go to LINZ as soon as it was pointing. Again, after much discussion about terrain clearance, we decided on FL130 which was just about the minimums we could get away with. The route was as follows
LOWW Rwy 16 SNU 4B DCT LNZ DCT SBG DCT GSB DCT RTT after which it would be the LOC DME EAST procedure to circle visually for Rwy08 at INN.
After a lengthy phone conference with Robert (who can be a nervous Nelly with his aeroplanes) I was finally authorized to fly the procedure. The winds were VRB at 3kts, and if at all possible I was going to talk Wien Radar into allowing a Rwy 08 arrival.
The Flight plan required 6000lbs of AvGas which had to be converted to Kilos for the order. Remembering the Gimli Glider, I double checked my maths. We had offloaded the engine equipment in Wien, as Red Bull had their transport equipment standing by on our arrival yesterday, and so we were light today. It was just Armen, Jason Chris and Chris in the back (Henning had by far the most suitcases) and Vin, Henning and I up front. Robert was still admonishing me via text message, about bringing his aeroplane back in one piece, back in Fairbanks.
With Ground Power and Floods Established we pre-tuned the radios, and tidied up the cockpit before calling Delivery. When in an unfamiliar environment, I like being as prepared as possible so that there is less to trip up on (as there is always something just ahead). The eagle eyed amongst you will see I had also tuned the LINZ ADF. This is important when moving 1950s Transports in modern airspace. There will be times you will need to turn towards a waypoint, however, your needle will not be pointing. The ADF at Linz is a little closer to our flight path than the VOR is…
One last walk around to make sure everything was buttoned up, a few hugs for our new friends from Red Bull (alas Julian was busy and could not come visit) and we were ready to make some noise. Looking around it was amazing how many rampies and maintenance personnel had somehow found time to wander North to the cargo ramp to watch us start up. There’s just something about a Douglas Transport from the 50’s that touches souls in a much more visceral fashion than the latest offerings from Seattle or Toulouse.
The start of each flight in the DC-6 is one of my very favorite parts… there is something about awakening 72 fairly large cylinders, their accompanying pistons, connecting rods, cranks, and accessories. Rather than the sterile motoring of an RB-211, this is an exercise in coaxing, cajoling, prodding and hoping. We began with #3. The start sequence is simple- Double check the Cowls are full open. Then select the Fuel Boost Pump for #3 to Low, prime #3 for six seconds, then close the Safety and Start switches. Wait for Henning to count 3 blades, select coil boost on, when Henning gets to six blades flip the #3 Magnetos to both, wait for the engine to fire off around 12 blades, reach down and move the mixture to full auto rich. Toggle Prime if needed to keep the engine running. Let it settle down just below 1000RPM and then do it 3 more times- see, SIMPLE.
The details are for Douglas aficionados. If you are new to this aeroplane, please don’t fret- the Artificial Flight Engineer will hold your hand through managing this awesome mechanical wonder. Later, once you are ahead of the aeroplane you can choose to rely on him less and less.