Austrian has been flying to Los Angeles again since May 20. We interviewed the cockpit crew of the first flight to the City of Angels. Be curious!
Hello, my name is Christoph Bräuer. I started with Lauda Air in 1992 as a co-pilot on the Boeing 737, then Boeing 767. In 1996 I was upgraded to Captain CRJ, and in 1998 to B767. Since 2002 I have been flying on the Boeing 777, on which I have also been working as a flight instructor since 2004. Along the way, I got a taste of the executive segment, flying Learjets and Falcon Jets. I have always enjoyed special assignments: I was loaned to Royal Air Nepal in Kathmandu and Air Atlantic Icelandic with the aircraft, and I helped AeroLogic get started with the Austrian team and flew there as well. After that, my team and I trained the first B777 pilots of SWISS and Lufthansa Cargo at Austrian.
Other highlights included a 21-day Around the World flight, a Vienna - Rio de Janeiro - Ushuaia flight, and the two longest Austrian flights: from Phoenix/Arizona to Hong Kong and non-stop from Vienna to Sydney. I was also involved in organizing all these events and a part in the flotation of three B777s.
Everything is a special pleasure when it works as planned.
Hi, my name is Maurice Herzog, and I have been with the company since the end of 2006. I started as a co-pilot on CRJ, and after 2.5 years, I was retrained on Fokker 70/100. In May 2012, I flew Airbus 320, and in 2016 I went on the Boeing 777. After a short time, I have already done further training to become a Relief PIC (standing in for the captain in flight while he is on break), as well as a SFI (Synthetic Flight Instructor), and in this function, I support the team of instructors of the Boeing 777 fleet at Austrian. In addition, I currently hold the position of "Fleet Officer B777", and in this capacity, I support our Fleet Chief, Chief Flight Instructor, and Technical Pilots in the daily agendas. Route preparations, e.g., for first and special flights, are also part of my job.
So far, some of my highlights were: the first flight to Cape Town, acceptance flights, and transfer of our sixth B777 OE-LPF from the Arizona desert non-stop over the Pacific to Hong Kong and a special flight from Rio de Janeiro to Ushuaia.
Hello, my name is Rainer Männer. I have been with the company since 2007. I started as a co-pilot on Dash 8/300 and Dash 8/400. 2014 followed a change as co-pilot to the Airbus 320 fleet. In 2016, I switched to the long-haul fleet again: a co-pilot on the Boeing 777. I completed the type training for this at the German cargo airline "Aerologic", as the internal training capacities were exhausted. A few months after returning to Austrian, I then completed training as a relief pilot. Since 2019, I still hold the additional function of a SFI, i.e., that of a flight instructor for the aircraft type B777.
I've always enjoyed missions that are a bit more specialized and require a certain amount of out-of-the-box thinking.
This started, for example, on the Dash-8 with flights to and from Bolzano - a very challenging approach to a short runway in a narrow valley. On the Airbus fleet, of course, this passion continued, where flights to Madeira/Funchal or to Erbil in Iraq were among the special moments. In recent years, I count a repatriation flight from Mexico City via Cancún back to Vienna and numerous relief flights during the pandemic among my major highlights.
What special preparations do you make for a first flight?
First of all, this is not the first flight to L.A. for us in the true sense of the word, but a resumption of a destination we last flew to in 2019. This has the advantage that we can already draw on a wealth of experience. Of course, every flight requires in-depth preparation, but there is actually more to do on a first flight. Here, it's not just about the target destination itself but also the route. In the case of L.A., this route takes us - believe it or not - very far north, close to the polar region. This fact requires some attention, as some navigational rules change fundamentally in high geographical latitudes. Furthermore, this flight is one of the longest flights in our network. Due to the amount of fuel required, we are traveling with an extremely high total weight of the aircraft. This fact, in turn, places special demands on all flight performance calculations. All these things are, of course, worked out safely and thoroughly in advance.
How do the routes differ? What are the general preparations?
Our staff, mainly Maurice from the B777 fleet office, starts preparing training materials well in advance of planned first flights, in which all the specifics of the new route are clearly summarized. These provided materials facilitate the complex flight preparation immensely. This is also the big difference to "routine flights": You work through all the relevant documentation for such flights once. As soon as you have gained more experience on a route, the focus is more on what special features need to be observed on the day.
Is there training on the simulator for a new route?
That depends on how "special" the new route is. For the flight to LAX, you cross the so-called NAT-HLA (North Atlantic - High-Level Airspace). Since the procedures in NAT-HLA are very special, it also requires its own training, including simulator, exercise, and training flights. Fortunately, all long-haul pilots are NAT-HLA qualified due to our many regular, North American flights. Whether simulator training is required for the newly approached airport itself depends on how special and "difficult" that airport is classified. For this, there is a classification from "A" like "All Standard", over "B" like "Partially Special" to "C" like "Very Special". LAX is classified as category "A" and does not require customized SIM training.
Mauritius airport would be an example of a category "B" airport: this is where we conduct simulator training. Category "C" airports, by the way, are not currently served on long-haul routes. One of the most prominent representatives of this class in this country is LOWI-INN-Innsbruck.
Is the atmosphere different or unique for a first flight or a revival?
Taking on new routes is one of the most extraordinary and enjoyable moments for crew and guests. There is a certain vibe of departure, new discovery, and further development. Also, especially for new route launches, the entire flight is presented as a genuinely unique event even for the passengers, from check-in, boarding, special onboard service, and catering to press escort and coverage. All passengers and crews of a first flight will remember it all their lives if they were there!
Do you have plans in L.A.?
Of course, one thing must never be missing after landing at LAX: a walk on the beach followed by a sundowner. Since we only have about 24 hours in L.A., there are no big plans. Otherwise, depending on the length of stay, there is, of course, an incredible amount to discover: immerse yourself in the hustle and bustle of the big city, a session of volleyball on the beach in Malibu, or cruising in a Ford Mustang in the Hollywood Hills and Beverly Hills - there is undoubtedly something for everyone.
Good to know
To ensure that the crew of the first return flight is well-rested and refreshed, they will arrive well before the return flight with a partner airline.
Discover Los Angeles with Austrian
Dear Christoph, Rainer, and Maurice, thank you very much for your time and the exciting insights! Have you also caught the travel bug? Then book your next trip to the city of angels right now, or if you want to learn more about L.A., check out our blog.