Monday, November 03, 2008

I Blame Global Warming IV

Today, this popped up on my company's flight safety reporting system:
On R220, just west of NUZAN we received a fuel temp low. ANC fueled us with jet-A and I initialized the FMS accordingly. ANC via SATCOM confirmed that we were fueled with jet-A and that jet A-1 was not going to be used in ANC this winter. The flight was experiencing an extraordinary stream of polar air at FL330 out of the north at approximately 111kts, 80kts more than forecast with an OAT of -68C. Our fuel temperature dropped to -39C with a freezing temperature of -40C. We also were experiencing a lower cargo low temperature warning at this time, center lower cargo temporary 33 degrees. This additional warning in addition to the extremely cold OAT removed the thought of the possibility of a faulty fuel temperature sensor. I requested a descent to FL300 but control (PAZN) was unable to due to traffic ref: CPDLC request 2240Z. I then requested via CPDLC an emergency descent to FL280. They did not give me the descent but cleared me for a 180 to NUZAN. The flight was more than 500 miles closer to Narita than ANC; an air turn back was declined. I was finally able to get a southerly vector to R-580 and when established at Omotoa a descent to FL280. With the combination of the more southerly flight track and the lower FL we were able to stabilize the low fuel temp. Ultimately, the temperature was raised to the mid-20's and the lower center cargo temperature recovered. We climbed back up to FL300 and continued with our new routing to KIX. The GOC controller was quite helpful in calculating our new fuel burn and routing. Additionally, the GOC Controller was instrumental in establishing a SATCOM phone conference with ANC center. This conference made it possible to continue with a westbound clearance to KIX with the lower southern routing. We landed with approximately 28000 pounds.
To translate: Despite being early November, the transoceanic track not being all that far north (it runs just north of the Aleutians), and scarcely halfway into the flight, the Captain had to declare an emergency in order to get traffic priority so as to avoid wing fuel freezing and the subsequent flameout of the wing mounted engines. (The MD-11 also has a tail mounted engine.)

Notes to aid decoding:

  • Jet A-1 is a winter fuel formulation that lowers the freezing temp by about 6 degrees C.
  • OAT: Outside air temperature
  • FL xxx: Thousands of feet above sea level using standard air pressure
  • PAZN: Identifier for the western Anchorage Air Regional Control Center
  • CPDLC: Controller - Pilot Data Link Communication
  • R-220, R-580: established trans-Pacific routes
  • NUZAN, OMOTOA: fixes on the respective routes
  • GOC: Global Operations Control
  • KIX: Identifier for Osaka International

In related news, Anchorage temperatures this fall have followed the summer's pattern, only colder. Daily highs are scarcely above the average low temperatures.

I am guessing flight ops is going to rethink that whole Jet A-1 thing.

On account of Global Warming, of course.


Blogger BHUVAN CHAND said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

November 05, 2008 8:36 PM  
Blogger erp said...

Global warming science and naughty women. You don't see those words in the same sentence every day.

November 06, 2008 4:36 AM  
Blogger Hey Skipper said...

But wait, there's more.

Anchorage just had nearly the coldest October on record, following hard on the heels of nearly the coldest summer on record.

November, so far, is beating the same path.

November 07, 2008 12:44 PM  

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