Question from Non-Pilot Novice

I was under the impression that generally, all flights between two airports fly the same or similar flight plans … and that this is generally dictated by weather/winds.

Looking at flights today (3/2/08) out of PBI destined for LGA. I notice that AA 1620 takes off towards the west and flies a land route, while Delta flights (both earlier and later than AA 1620) seem to take off same runway towards the east and take the “traditional” water route up to NC/VA coast. I’d be surprised if the winds changed so dramatically only temporarily.

Any suggestions as to why this might be the case?


Could be an equipment issue with the Delta aircraft that caused them to need a overland route. Life raft etc… Anyone?

It’s the AA flights that are using the overland route. It’s puzzling though because searching through AA 1620 over the past several days, it takes the exact same route (overland), while looking at the Delta flights, they all take the water route.

As trafly mentioned, it could be that the equipment (airplane/type) that AA is using is not overwater equipped. For the aircraft to be overwater equipped it must carry a sufficient number of liferafts and inflatable vests to accomodate capacity seating. All of that additional equipment adds alot of weight, which reduces payload and fuel efficiency. I’m guessing that it’s a matter of aircraft use flexibility and cost savings.

OK. Thanks. Interesting. So in this scenario, the FAA allows aircraft to take off potentially with the wind instead of against it?

I see your question regarding wind direction and actual departure runway now. From looking at the METARs for today, it appears that the airport would be conducting east departures on runway 9L. The flights you’re talking about most likely took off to the east. But after take off AA1620’s route had them make a left turn to TBIRD waypoint, which is NW of KPBI, then ORL (Orlando) and the rest of filed route over land. And if you look at the longitude positions in the Track Log you see that the second reporting position at 10:30 was east of its first point before it turned west. DAL1898’s route (for example) takes it NE out over water to BLUFI waypoint then rest of filed route overwater. AA1620 might have flown off shore for a little bit but not far enough to require overwater life saving equipment. The same scenario during east flow takes place at KFLL too.

Very interesting. Thank you very much for taking the time to answer.

Sure…Hopefully it makes some sense for you… :wink:

Yes, it does. It likely took off to the east and made a turn inland and likely cannot fly over water due to insufficient equipment. I have this flight on Tuesday, so I’ll know for sure then … and I will update if needed.

He took off at KPBI to the east and then made a 180 degree turn heading back over land and eventually turned northwards. What’s puzzling though, is at the beginning of the flight, the flight attendant made an announcement about finding floatation collars under the seats or using seats as flotation devices. So … there must be another reason why this flight always uses a land routing. But thanks!

Not necessarily… If an airline is “approved” by the FAA to operate “Extended overwater operations” the safety briefing must include the operation of the inflatable vest even if that aircraft is not equipped with them. (FAR 121.573) As example, Southwest has been approved for “Extended overwater operations” within the last couple of years and not all of their aircraft are so equipped…but you will still get the brief on how to don and inflate the vest.

FAR 121. 571 states that the preflight briefing must include “(t)he location and use of any required emergency flotation means.”

But probably more pertinent is 121.573:

Briefing passengers: Extended overwater operations.

(a) In addition to the oral briefing required by 121.571(a), each certificate holder operating an airplane in extended overwater operations shall ensure that all passengers are orally briefed by the appropriate crewmember on the location and operation of life preservers, liferafts, and other flotation means, including a demonstration of the method of donning and inflating a life preserver.

(b) The certificate holder shall describe in its manual the procedure to be followed in the briefing required by paragraph (a) of this section.

(c) If the airplane proceeds directly over water after takeoff, the briefing required by paragraph (a) of this section must be done before takeoff.

(d) If the airplane does not proceed directly over water after takeoff, no part of the briefing required by paragraph (a) of this section has to be given before takeoff, but the entire briefing must be given before reaching the overwater part of the flight.

Interesting. Thank you!

Not necessarily… If an airline is “approved” by the FAA to operate “Extended overwater operations” the safety briefing must include the operation of the inflatable vest even if that aircraft is not equipped with them. (FAR 121.573) As example, Southwest has been approved for “Extended overwater operations” within the last couple of years and not all of their aircraft are so equipped…but you will still get the brief on how to don and inflate the vest.

Are you sure you don’t mean life rafts? I’m pretty sure that Southwest is required to have life vests on board over water flights.

FAR 125.209(a)(1) says a life preserver must be available for each occupant of an aircraft in over water operations. FAR 125.209(a)(2) deals with life vests. An operator may get a deviation from (2) but not (1). See (click on the word “spreadsheet”).

125.209 Emergency equipment: Extended overwater operations.

(a) No person may operate an airplane in extended overwater operations unless it carries, installed in conspicuously marked locations easily accessible to the occupants if a ditching occurs, the following equipment:

(1) An approved life preserver equipped with an approved survivor locator light, or an approved flotation means, for each occupant of the aircraft. The life preserver or other flotation means must be easily accessible to each seated occupant. If a flotation means other than a life preserver is used, it must be readily removable from the airplane.

(2) Enough approved life rafts (with proper buoyancy) to carry all occupants of the airplane, and at least the following equipment for each raft clearly marked for easy identification

(i) One canopy (for sail, sunshade, or rain catcher);

(ii) One radar reflector (or similar device);

(iii) One life raft repair kit;

(iv) One bailing bucket;

(v) One signaling mirror;

(vi) One police whistle;

(vii) One raft knife;

(viii) One CO2bottle for emergency inflation;

(ix) One inflation pump;

(x) Two oars;

(xi) One 75-foot retaining line;

(xii) One magnetic compass;

(xiii) One dye marker;

(xiv) One flashlight having at least two size D cells or equivalent;

(xv) At least one approved pyrotechnic signaling device;

(xvi) A 2-day supply of emergency food rations supplying at least 1,000 calories a day for each person;

(xvii) One sea water desalting kit for each two persons that raft is rated to carry, or two pints of water for each person the raft is rated to carry;

(xviii) One fishing kit; and

(xix) One book on survival appropriate for the area in which the airplane is operated.

(b) No person may operate an airplane in extended overwater operations unless there is attached to one of the life rafts required by paragraph (a) of this section, an approved survival type emergency locator transmitter. Batteries used in this transmitter must be replaced (or recharged, if the batteries are rechargeable) when the transmitter has been in use for more than one cumulative hour, or, when 50 percent of their useful life (or for rechargeable batteries, 50 percent of their useful life of charge) has expired, as established by the transmitter manufacturer under its approval. The new expiration date for replacing (or recharging) the battery must be legibly marked on the outside of the transmitter. The battery useful life (or useful life of charge) requirements of this paragraph do not apply to batteries (such as water-activated batteries) that are essentially unaffected during probable storage intervals.

125.3 Deviation authority.

(a) The Administrator may, upon consideration of the circumstances of a particular operation, issue deviation authority providing relief from specified sections of part 125. This deviation authority will be issued as a Letter of Deviation Authority.

(b) A Letter of Deviation Authority may be terminated or amended at any time by the Administrator.

(c) A request for deviation authority must be submitted to the nearest Flight Standards District Office, not less than 60 days prior to the date of intended operations. A request for deviation authority must contain a complete statement of the circumstances and justification for the deviation requested.

:confused: They only have to have vests aboard those aircraft that are to be operated over water. Not all SW aircraft are so equipped or used for those operations. However, because SW as an operator is approved for such ops, they do the brief whether the aircraft is equipped/operated over water or not. Even though an airline may be approved for Extended Overwater Operations, not all of that operator’s aircraft are equipped so. If a certain number of aircraft are used primarily overland there is no reason to incur the costs of having/maintaining/carrying the additional equipment.

P.S. Part 125 doesn’t apply here…Scheduled air carriers operate under Part 121.

In the unlikely event of a water landing, your seat cushion may be used as a flotation device. Please refer to the attached saftey card…

Here’s another:


Doesn’t that mean that Southwest should actually have vests on all aircraft just for operational efficiency. I would venture a guess that many Southwest flights go over water. They do arriving and departing OAK, LAX, etc. There are also many flights, as the original poster alluded to, that go over water between Florida and the Northeast. Even flights in the upper Midwest (e.g. MDW) go over a big lake.

I think it’s all about extended operation over water and distance from shore. If I fly a commuter to Seattle, we will likely fly over some water. But not for very long. If the flight has to divert or make an emergency landing it’s going to be done on land at an airport. The chances of a total flame out or failure resulting in water ditching, even on approach to OAK is slim to none. When was the last time something like this happened?