How Far Can You Go?
I did a couple of trips last week as a "hired gun" first officer for a local company. These are fun, and the pay is pretty good. They only let me fly the empty legs, which seems fair, but the head of their flight department respects my experience and encourages me to do some instruction. I usually find something worth discussing, so am comfortable logging the time as "dual given." Some regulation junkie will probably find a way to say that this amounts to padding my logbook; he or she is entitled to that opinion. But when the pilot involved knows more at the end of the flight than at the beginning, I say that instruction has been received.
The big surprise this week was a flight plan to the midwest. I hesitate to call it a plan: there were only two fixes, the departure airport and the destination airport. This has been a topic for friendly debate between me and this company's pilots. They contend that this kind of planning tells Air Traffic Control (ATC) that it is OK to send the airplane wherever works best. But you know what? ATC will send the airplane wherever works best anyway. So there is no advantage.
What advantage do I see? Imagine a trip of 1000 nautical miles. This is almost 5% of the Earth's radius, so the big picture really comes into play.
The thing is that if it appears that you will be short of fuel, and you have a solid forecast of a decreasing headwing/increasing tailwind, then you are not short of fuel. If it appears that you are short of fuel, and the forecast is less than solid or the headwind is forecast to increase, then you are really short of fuel.
We had a pleasant trip, except for dodging a few thunderstorms. We talked about some of these issues. On the way back the captain put a few waypoints onto his flight log.