Resident pilot 121pilot, a captain for a major U.S. airline, authors a new column on Live and Let’s Fly called Ask Your Captain. His mission: demystify the flight deck and an answer any question you may have on the topic of flying.
Q: How different is it to fly a narrowbody versus widebody airplane? Do you enjoy one more than the other?
A: I’ve never flown a wide body so I can’t speak from personal experience but in talking with fellow pilots who have flown widebodies the biggest difference is the weight and momentum of the aircraft. Bigger and heavier aircraft generally require more advance planning as they can be slower to change direction, accelerate or slow down. But that aside the basics of flying an airliner remain the same. It’s worth noting that while their flying characteristics are far from identical the 757/767 share a common type rating allowing pilots to fly both models at the same time.
Q: I hark back to the days of flying in aircraft like the 727. I remember well that, compared to new aircraft, there was a unique difference during take off. In the 727 there was always a momentary (10 second) period where the plane would lower its climb rate very shortly after take off before continuing a more typical one. Usually right after wheels up. I would witness this both as a passenger and watching from the ground. I always assumed it was to gain additional speed to climb faster but have never been certain.
A: I’ve never flown the 727 so its hard for me to answer that but I did some digging and found an article in the February 2000 edition of Flying Magazine written by Len Morgan who actually had a good deal of time in the jet. In it, he describes how the normal procedure if you took off with flaps 25 was to retract them to flaps 15 at 400 foot. The rest of the flap retraction was then begun at 1,000 feet. In all the airplanes I’ve flown, flap retraction was normally done at 1000 feet. Now while Len doesn’t mention it that flap retraction in the 727 at 400 feet was likely accompanied by a bit of a pause in the climb. So my best guess is that’s what you saw and experienced with the 727.
Have a question for the captain? E-mail him at ask121pilot at yahoo dot com and you may see your question appear in a future column!