We are getting our sixth Boeing 777, the “Papa Fox”! Captain Christoph Bräuer describes the exciting stages in the integration of the new aircraft into the Austrian Airlines fleet, as it makes the journey from the Arizona desert to Hong Kong.
“Introducing an aircraft to an airline is extremely costly,” says Captain Christoph Bräuer, who has accompanied the integration of this latest addition to the Austrian Airlines family from the very beginning. It has taken months of preparation, requiring numerous people from a wide range of different departments at the company to work seamlessly together. In today’s myAustrian Blog, Christoph Bräuer gives us an insight into the exciting days of “Operation Papa Fox”, the series of steps to integrate the new Boeing 777 into the Austrian Airlines fleet. During the operation, the aircraft and its crew flew 33,500 kilometres, spent 46 hours in the air, checked into five different hotels – and never once ate lunch at midday…
5 January 2018, the Arizona desert
The adventure begins! After months of preparation, the Delivery Team from Technical Services – Martin Neuhold and Christoph Gruber – arrived today. The next few days promise to be intense and exciting.
8 January 2018
The aircraft has passed its LPF Delivery Inspection and was transferred from the leasing company to Austrian this evening. We’ve got a sixth Boeing 777 – yahoo!
9 January 2018
Austro Control has issued all the necessary authorisations and documents. My colleague and I will be taking these on and making our way to Pinal with these today – because we’re only allowed to leave the ground with the original papers.
We had our first contact with the new aircraft today, and were able to clarify the procedures for the Verification Flight at the airport. There’s just one 2,000 metre-long taxiway, no tower and no customs out here in the desert, so once the Verification Flight is completed successfully, we’ll be flying the aircraft to Phoenix.
10 January 2018
That was a long day. Preparations for the maiden flight continue. Organisationally speaking, all the different points are now complete; technically we’re also on the final stretch. The highlight today was the visit by the Austrian trainee pilots, who are attending their courses in the town of Goodyear. The future pilots were also given the chance to take a detailed look around our new Boeing 777, which has been named “Papa Fox”. They had a hugely exciting and enjoyable time doing so!
11 January 2018
Things don’t always go quite as planned… Although the Austrian aircraft’s maiden flight was successful, there were a few problems too. The long-range communications system, so crucial for the transfer from Phoenix to Hong Kong, had some difficulties. Luckily, the spare parts were available, and the problems in question could be removed. The final member of our Delivery Team landed in Phoenix today, meaning the cockpit crew for the transfer to Hong Kong is now complete. I’m looking forward to it already!
12 January: we’re off to Phoenix!
We take off after a 30-minute delay. On the short flight to Phoenix last checks are carried out and after only half an hour we are at our parking position in Phoenix. Thanks a million to everyone over at Austrian Dispatch for providing us with the necessary flight plans every day and keeping a sharp eye on weather conditions over the Pacific to optimise tomorrow’s flight to Hong Kong.
We take advantage of our first free hour since leaving Vienna to take up an invitation from our pilot trainers in Goodyear. It turns out to be a very pleasant BBQ, complete with a tour of the flying school. Our future colleagues will be spending six months here while doing their training.
13 January, Phoenix, Arizona, shortly before 11.00 pm
We’ve just received the outstanding export release, meaning we can now transfer the aircraft from Phoenix to Hong Kong. This 13,200 kilometre-long route is one-third of the way around the world – making it the longest flight in Austrian’s history! With full fuel tanks, we could even be in the air for over 23 hours; fully laden with passengers and cargo, the maximum flight time is reduced to “only” 13 hours more.
We haven’t filled up with fuel completely, of course, because that would be uneconomical. We’re scheduled to land in Hong Kong at 8.00 am on 15 January. Since we’re flying across the International Date Line in a westerly direction, we’re actually “missing” the 14th of January completely. Flight time is 15 hours and 30 minutes.
15 January 2018, Hong Kong, China
We’ve done it – we’ve landed in Hong Kong! First things first, however: despite the fact that everything was organised, a few things didn’t work at the beginning. We weren’t picked up in Phoenix, there were no steps for us to board the aircraft, and “Papa Fox” wasn’t fully fuelled-up either. Despite this, we were able to taxi into position three minutes ahead of schedule.
From Phoenix, we first flew in the direction of Seattle, past Vancouver, and across the Gulf of Alaska to the Aleutian Islands. We then flew over the Bering Sea and Kamchatka, and across the Sea of Okhotsk towards mainland Russia. We entered Chinese airspace In the far north-east of China, before going on to reach Beijing north of North Korea. We couldn’t see anything at all of this fascinating part of the world, unfortunately – the nights are always incredibly long when you’re flying west, because of the Earth’s rotation. After 14 hours and 40 minutes’ flight time, the sun eventually rose. It’s an incredible moment! If you calculate in the time before departure from Phoenix as well, it’s been our longest night by a very – very – long way, at 21 hours and 40 minutes.
From Beijing onwards, we then arrived back in recognised airspace. We land in Hong Kong at 7.57 am, 13 minutes ahead of schedule. The first technicians arrive while we’re still getting off the aircraft. The Papa Fox will now get a completely new cabin, a “Crew Rest Compartment”, the very latest on-board computer, numerous modifications and new paintwork.
We can be rightly proud of “Operation Papa Fox” from the viewpoint of the airline, and happily say “mission accomplished”!
Thanks to all our colleagues in the departments of Austrian involved, who ensured they could be reached for days and nights on end, even from home, before and after office hours and at the weekend. Integrating an aircraft into the fleet is all about teamwork – and we were a great team!
The last leg from Hong Kong to Vienna is scheduled for early May and the first commercial flight will be later in May.