I joined Etihad Virtual early in January this year this year as a Pilot. I obtained a staff role as Senior Advisor and have very recently been promoted to the Chief Operating Officer (COO). Thinking back, when I first joined Etihad Virtual, I naturally expected to be logging short, medium and long-haul flights; maybe even the occasional ultra-long haul flight. I did not, however, expect to be completing a flight of 22 hours and 22 minutes alongside the CEO of the airline – Amaar Viqar.
Late on Saturday evening around 2200Z, Amaar and I were discussing some of the general day-to-day operational duties of the airline alongside some general chitchat and as per usual, a little normal “banter” and eventually we began to discuss and debate our usual “overnighter”. Having recently introduced some new codeshare agreements (and also having decided to imminently let others go), we thought it would be amicable to fly a past codeshare flight to say farewell or to fly in a fresh and new codeshare livery to officially welcome it to the airline. We thought we’d try something new, so we decided on the fresh and sophisticated Air France livery.
For over an hour beforehand we were trying to decide on exactly which route we would fly, going back and forth with ideas between previous and new codeshares.
Nope… that wasn’t quite long enough, so we pondered it for a little longer… and then this happened:
Although not an official route, we thought “ why not just fly for an evening ” into Paris’ largest airport – Charles De Gaulle – to do something a little memorable in a new livery.
The route took much forethought and meticulous planning but eventually we had a suitable flight plan (and needless to say – a fuel tank full to the brim ) and pushed back from Auckland, New Zealand’s busiest airport at around 0025Z with a STRICT climb profile and stringent flight parameters.
So, at 0031Z, it was gear up with a strict eye on the specifics of our climb profile to ensure our fuel was used as efficiently as possible:
Upon reaching cruise, it was time for a bit of a breather and most importantly it was time to take a look at the fuel burn, with a distance remaining of 9978nm .
We completed the first step climb to FL340 at a conservative 500ft/m, our first sight of land was New Caledonia. This was shortly before passing over Vanuatu with the Solomon Islands and Papua New Guinea to the west of our aircraft. Our next sight of land was to be Japan. Whilst traversing Japanese airspace, just South-East of Narita International with 59% fuel remaining, we faced 135kts of side winds that only got worse as time passed by. We decided to let the situation play out and see where we stood when the aircraft load reduced a little more.
After passing over Japan, the vast majority of our flight took place through Russia.
Then, after maintaining FL360 for a further four hours, it was time to climb further up to FL360 which took place over Khabarovsk Krai. This was to be maintained until the next step climb over the Kara sea between Varnek and Yuzhny Island – not too far from our first sight of Finland, our first sighting of Europe on our long voyage. It was here that we started to become a little concerned, with extensive variable headwinds, we were seriously reconsidering a diversion due to potential low fuel, in the end we decided to continue.
We later had a little discussion, and we decided to abort the climb to FL400 and maintained FL380 over Sweden and Denmark and Germany before long, we were prepared to start thinking about our descent.
A little while later after passing The Netherlands and Belgium, it was finally time to begin our descent, for which we decided on an alternative profile.
Shortly before descent, we filed a new flight plan due to a change in winds and change in active runways. Amaar decided to take 8R whilst I (who managed to get in front) decided on taking 8L.
With no active ATC and our Slack communication between each other on hold whilst we concentrated on intercepting and maintaining the glideslope and localiser it was every plane for themselves. But eventually… I made it!!!
All that was left was for Amaar to land safely, and before I knew it, look who’s clear of all runways!!! We did it!!!
My total flight time was 22:22!!! We’d travelled over 10,100nm!!
AMAZING flight overall… and my device welcomed a much-deserved cool down period… however, we have now decided to do a further TWO more, something a little longer to try and push ourselves (and the aircraft) a little more. Let’s see how we get on next time…