DALLAS — Airways is back again with airBaltic (BT) and its lime-green jets, but this time with a little twist — a flight from Riga (RIX) to Amsterdam (AMS) onboard the airline’s A220 cockpit.
Flight details: BT619 | Aircraft: Airbus A220-300 | Registration: YL-CSH | RIX 17:00 – AMS 18:20 LT | Flight time 02:20 hrs.
We were welcomed by Captain Chris van Rossum, Deputy Chief Pilot at BT, who took us through the flight. Here’s the full footage for you to enjoy.
Captain Rossum also gave us an insight into the flight operations side of the A220 for BT in specific and how younger generation pilots make the move onto this jet.
SG: I presume you’ve flown several aircraft types (you could list them), how’s the A220 for you?
CR: So far, I have flown four different aircraft types in my career, all of them in airBaltic. I started as a First Officer on the Boeing 737-300/500. After two years, I had the opportunity to continue as a First Officer on the Boeing 757 and I flew that also for two years.
For the next 12 years, I flew the DHC8-400 (Q400) where I became a Captain, instructor, and Type Chief Pilot. The current aircraft I am flying is the A220. On this aircraft, I also fly as a Captain and instructor. In addition to that, I hold the position of Deputy Chief Pilot.
The A220 is a wonderful aircraft to fly. It has a very pilot-friendly cockpit environment, the ergonomics are good and there are a lot of support systems in place to help us to perform each flight as safely and efficiently as possible. The five big screens in the cockpit provide us with a huge amount of detailed data, enabling us to follow up on the progress of the flight and monitor all the important systems on board.
With this aircraft, we operate short flights of 30 minutes and also longer ones to Dubai and Tenerife that are more than six hours one way. Whatever the day brings, once back on the ground there is no feeling of tiredness due to the lower cabin altitude and a higher level of humidity maintained inside. Every day of flying on this aircraft is simply great!
Were you a key member in the initial decision-making time when Air Baltic placed the first A220 order?
At the time when the company decided to go for the A220, I was active on the Q400 and fully focused on that. I was therefore not involved in decision-making about the A220 at this point in time.
What were some of the reasons Air Baltic chose the aircraft, back then it could have been a gamble since the aircraft had barely flown in the market.
The airline had many different reasons for choosing this specific aircraft type. Amongst others, consideration was given to the aircraft range, its seat capacity, fuel/emission costs, production slot availability, and what level of passenger service it would be able to deliver. One might say that there was a certain level of risk in opting to be the launch customer of an aircraft that has not flown yet.
However, there has at no point been any doubt whether the Bombardier (now Airbus) team would be able to deliver the aircraft as expected. On the contrary, we have always had full confidence in them and the program. We have been closely involved with the final stages of the development and were able to provide our input as well.
It is safe to say that the decision back then is now a key element in BT’s recovery after Covid-19.
What are the opinions of the newly graduated first officers on it given its high level of automation?
The newly graduated pilots that we employ all come from our own Pilot Academy. For a big part, they have been trained by our own pilots, thus ensuring that the transition from the theory and practice in the Pilot Academy until they join the airline on the A220 is a smooth one.
In addition to that, the Pilot Academy uses the most modern aircraft available to train the pilots, namely the Diamond 40 and 42. Flying these aircraft is helping our pilots to understand and know what it is like to operate a very sophisticated aircraft. This makes their transition to the A220 easier.
Having said that, any pilot joining an airline for the first Commercial pilot job will come to realize that there is a difference between flying in the Pilot Academy and flying for an airline. The aircraft is bigger and faster, energy management is more challenging and the systems are more complex.
The newly graduated pilots are mostly young guys and girls who grew up using all sorts of digital tools in their daily life. While understanding automation is challenging at first, without exception all graduates joining the airline have shown that they can master it well after completing a thorough type of specific training provided by our own pilots.
They quickly become good First Officers for the airline with a bright prospect of moving to the left seat after some years.
Perhaps you’d be able to tell us what exactly happened on that very rare instance of a dual engine shutdown to one of your A220s back in 2021?
This is an unfortunate event that has happened on an airBaltic aircraft. As mentioned before, we have to keep in mind that we are the launch customer of a brand new aircraft.
As with any new product coming onto the market, let alone a product as complex as an aircraft, there is a chance for some small issues to pop up that quickly need to be solved. This event was no different from that.
Once on the ground, the aircraft determined that due to a loss of system performance, the safest course of action was to shut down both of the engines. There was no actual issue with the engines. The authorities have investigated the case and come up with their recommendations.
Airbus provides the operators with regular updates; hence, this was also swiftly solved ensuring that a similar case will not reoccur again. This has been a one-off that was well-handled by our crew after landing.
Featured image: Siddharth Ganesh/Airways