May 3, 2017

Something Wonderful: Vuelo Nocturno or Night Flight

Today's flight across the Atlantic Ocean to South America.
Our flight is packed and some 340 passengers are settling in for a long night flight. Its my turn to be at the flightdeck for the first part of the journey, as my other co-pilot gets the chance to rest in the crew bunk above the passenger cabin. We are heading our westbound, along the clearly visible Alps to our left. Just before reaching Geneva and the western tip of Switzerland we are making a shallow left turn to join the Rhone valley leading us to Marseille and onward onto the Mediterranean Sea. Our routing will bring us towards Algeria and on across the northwestern part of the vast Sahara. We will be flying past Dakar in Senegal where we will be heading out onto the Atlantic Ocean. Our south-westerly course will get us across the wide blue – in fact it was pitch-black during the night – to the north eastern shore of Brazil. Landfall is expected just north of Rio de Janeiro and the remaining few hundred miles will get us straight towards Sao Paolo. Our landing is expected around 6am local time, still before the sun will rise.   The chatter of the French and Spanish ATC accompanies us for another hour, we get changed over to Algiers and past the bright city light of the capital of Algeria towards the Sahara. Tonight will be a special night, since its one of the few nights every August where countless shooting stars will be seen all over the night sky. Deriving from constellation of Perseus, these meteor showers will guide us through the night.   Just as the bright city lights are vanishing behind us, the Milky way starts to become clearly visible up ahead. Its now us, pacing at almost the speed of sound along the invisible highway and the pitch-black night sky above this surreal landscape. Ahead of us are another eight hours flight time, but we already stopped counting the shooting stars. Vuelo nocturno – The magic of flying at night - Beyond The Clouds - An Airline pilot's journey
Posted by gerardvanderleun at May 3, 2017 6:52 PM
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"It is impossible to speak in such a way that you cannot be misunderstood." -- Karl Popper N.B.: Comments are moderated and may not appear immediately. Comments that exceed the obscenity or stupidity limits will be either edited or expunged.


Posted by: Leslie at May 3, 2017 11:03 PM

Stunning, simply stunning.

Posted by: Donald Sensing at May 4, 2017 6:33 AM

Well, I spent many, many nights crossing the north Atlantic, albeit 60 years ago in Constellations, which went a lot lower, were a lot slower, and didn't go as far as whatever this guy's flying. If it ever was romantic, it didn't stay that way long. It was drudgery. Fairly well paid drudgery, but still drudgery. I don't recall ever looking forward to a trip.

Posted by: billH at May 4, 2017 7:19 AM

Into the Abyss - A Passenger's Journey

Our flight is packed and some 114 passengers are settling in for a 4-hour flight to Chicago. Beside me is the asshole and her husband who stuffed the overhead compartment above our seats so full that there's no room for another suitcase and I end up having to stow mine in an overhead compartment all the way at the back of the plane---which should make life interesting when we finally land. (Later, I discover it was the asshole and his wife three rows ahead of us who'd stuffed our overhead compartment with their luggage because another asshole three rows ahead of them--- You get the picture. I'd be prepared to forgive the asshole sitting next to me, but she's taking up more than her 17.3" of seat width, and I'm starting to lose all sensation in my right leg.)

Evidently, a three-year-old boy is sitting behind me on his mother's lap, for he starts screaming at the top of his lungs as we taxi to the runway. And kicking; he's kicking the back of my seat with both feet. No one consulted him about flying to Gramma's, and he is expressing his complete indifference to the idea. (Okay, I get that; I was an infant once myself. How long can he keep shrieking? With the amount of energy he's consuming, he's sure to fall asleep soon.) Almost immediately he is joined by his twin brother, sitting directly across the aisle in father's lap. No one consulted him about the trip, either, and he is in full agreement with his twin. Maybe just Skype-ing Gramma would have been a better idea
after all.

Our landing is expected around 6PM local time. At least, that's what it says on the boarding pass, which I have by now ripped in two and stuffed in my ears. Surely Mother and Father have planned for such a contingency. Surely the possibility has crossed their minds that, at some point, shrieking might occur. Surely they have binkys, books, cookies, a comforting thumb---a roll of duct tape---something, something to keep these kids quiet during the flight. Finally, over Flagstaff Arizona, I turn around to speak to the mother who, until now, has been completely oblivious to her kids' behavior. She's miffed and sullenly shifts the one in her lap around so he can start kicking the elderly lady sitting next to her. He won't stop screaming. Maybe she and her husband are wearing ear plugs.

How long can two three year-olds keep shrieking without pausing to take a breath? From the time a plane takes off from LAX at noon, through a long diversion to Rockford IL because of severe weather at ORD, through a long wait for refueling and two longer waits to take off and land in Chicago at--finally---11PM. That's how long.

Fuck airline pilots.

Posted by: ahem at May 4, 2017 7:57 AM

Man, I'd pay $10k to sit in the front seat on that flight.

ahem's comment is, in part, why I will never again sit in a back seat.

This, and countless other reasons are why I can barely tolerate anyone.

My next novel:
"The Human Virus"
--gs, 2099

Posted by: ghostsniper at May 4, 2017 8:28 AM

Left front seat, ghost. I've worked both left and right and stood behind both as an examiner, and believe me, left front is the only good seat on a transport, regardless of type.

Posted by: billH at May 4, 2017 9:31 AM

@billh, your first comment above, unfortunately that's what happens when you turn a hobby into a job, it becomes boring.

There is no workaround when you're employed by someone.

The only solution is to work for yourself, then you can vary the parameters, daily if you want, to your liking.

Having been self employed at something I enjoy since 1986, and after doing the same thing as an employee for 14 years prior, I know this to be true.

I will never work "FOR" anyone ever again but I expect to work "WITH" many people for the rest of my life. There's a huge diff all the way around between those 2 words.

One is subservient and the other is dominant.
The first makes you sad but the second makes you glad.

But overall you have to do stuff you truly enjoy, a lot!

Posted by: ghostsniper at May 4, 2017 9:50 AM

It's difficult to say how much I miss Captain Dave and Flight Level 390. Sadness.

Posted by: BobK at May 4, 2017 1:07 PM

Welcome Earthlings to our shared skies. We laugh and love your grouchy grumbling, exasperated moans and groans.
We meteorites wish you well as we flash one last time on our demise.

Posted by: Howard Nelson at May 4, 2017 1:24 PM

Ahem, it's likely the kid was suffering ear ache.

My kid did on a thankfully short flight and we made damn sure to dose him with antibotics before any flight for the next couple of yesr.

Posted by: Bill Jones at May 4, 2017 4:17 PM

Oh my...Mr billH,you were a Connie pilot? An elegant bird,that one. Quite beautiful,really. I can well understand the boring sameness of any repetitive route,but the experience of piston-driven mechanical flight is rare for us dirt dwellers. Across the North Atlantic? At night? Wow. Just wow. Night flights are the best,it's the closest to spaceflight most of us will know. Over water adds a creepiness not visible in daylight. Kudos to you,sir.

Posted by: Nori at May 4, 2017 9:57 PM