August 2012

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Flight Plans: 3rd Edition

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This blog is authored in Boston, Massachusetts. When this post was first imagined, the weather was miserable. A high of 48 degrees with a mix of sleet and rain. This went on for far too long for April weather. Spring has finally arrived here in Boston, yet during the foul weather of last week, I felt inspired to feature a flight that would take me out of that gross weather.

This week's featured flight plan is a leg of United 3, a three airport tour from Chicago O'Hare to Kahului, HI and then to Kona, HI, then back to Chicago O'Hare. United 3 is flown with a Boeing 777-200. The Chicago trip is about 8 hours long, however, the Kahului-Kona leg is a mere 18 minutes.

For the sake of full disclosure, this writer has a distinct interest in ultra-short haul flights flown by heavy aircraft. This post is an indulgence in this interest.

The flight from Kahului to Kona is an extraordinary tour of the two largest Hawaiian Island, Hawaii and Maui. The departure off of runway 2 or 20 (6995 ft.) has the 777 crossing over the OGG (Maui) VOR at northern end of the airport, joining the 030 radial and climbing to 2000 feet. Once at 2000 feet the Triple 7 makes a right turn to 100 towards the 069 radial of OGG, continuing a climb to 4400. When crossing 4400 feet the United flight turns to intercept the 069 OGG radial.

The climb continues to 7000 feet towards the OPANA intersection. During this climb, the passengers on the right side of the aircraft are treated to an extraordinary view of Opana Point and Haleakala National Park and a volcano that peaks 3000 feet above the climbing 777. After crossing OPANA, the aircraft turns back to 100 and flies to intercept the 085 radial and then direct to BARBY.

When crossing BARBY, the 777 then begins the VECKI6 arrival into PHKO. The 777 captures the 351 radial to the IAI (Kona) VOR, turning right to a heading of 171. After flying for 39 nm on the 351 radial over intersections ALONE and KAYLI and decending through 9000 to 3000, the localizer is captured on the Runway 17 ILS approach. The decending heavy slightly adjusts its heading to 171 and continues toward PHKO.

With gear down and locked, the passengers on the left side of the aircraft are treated to a visual feast of Kawaihae Bay, Mauna Kea and Mauna Loa in the distance. The 18 minute flight ends as the 777-200 touches the runway at Kona to pick up more passengers before returning to the less tropical windy city of Chicago.


Editor's Note: It has taken longer to write this post than the duration of UAL003.

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