Sunday, 22 January 2012


I was going to post a video of the approach and take-off from Nice, but the camera decided to focus on the windshield wiper instead of the greater world so the best I can manage is this rather stunning view of the coast from Nice to Monaco, taken a few minutes after takeoff.

I haven't tampered with the colours at all, what you see is exactly what I saw... I never tire of views like these.

Wednesday, 11 January 2012

New Year, New start

Or something like that...

Lots of exciting things expected to happen in the next 12 months and having taken a suitably refreshing break from writing I thought I'd give it another go.

Let's start with a picture, one of many more to come.

Sunrise over the English Channel, on a (very) early morning departure to Greece. We left a cold, overcast, somewhat wet London for 4 hours of clear blue skies and a generous tailwind...

Tuesday, 20 September 2011

Nine months later

It's been 9 months since my last post, 9 months since the dream went sour and I became despaerate for a way out.

In that time I moved back to Europe, got a job with a respectable airline, knuckled down and got on with it. Even if I didn't like my job I could make something out of the rest of my life, living in a culture I knew, going home 2-3 times a month and getting a decent selection of days off.

Seven weeks ago I got transferred to London. Home. Finally. And I got even more days off. It took a while, but slowly the tingle of take off, the thrill of landing, the wonderment at the amazing beauty of the planet below came back.

I won't go as far as saying I'm in love again, yet, but we can live together in peace.

Clear skies,


Friday, 21 January 2011

Falling out of love

I still remember my first flight, my first landing. It was the 18th of October 2003. A clear, crisp day with only a few clouds in the sky. I was flying the little nose-cone-less Cessna 150 with no transponder, nav radio or heating but I had one of the best instructors I have ever had the privilege of flying with sitting beside me.
We took off, fooled around a bit turning, climbing and descending, then came back to land on CYYG's runway 21. I flew the PAPI on the 3 mile final and controlled the plane all the way to the landing which I remember was flapless and quite good considering... I had fallen in love with one of the most beautiful things a human can do: fly.

Fast forward 7-and-a-bit years. I'm sitting by the Indian Ocean, in the sweltering heat with clouds of mosquitos all around me suffering from my now monthly sinus infection. I have been flying what I believe is one of the most beautiful, agile, amazing commercial aeroplanes in operation for 2 years now and I have been in exile for 2 years as well. I have met many amazing people, made good friends and I don't regret most of it ... but I'm still in exile, living for work.

People tell me I'm so lucky to be living my dream of being a pilot.. Dream yes, but is it a good dream? The exhilarating tingle I used to feel whenever we took off is gone, the enjoyment of flying a perfect path approach is gone, the wonder of looking outside and seeing earth as only few can see it is gone. All I can think of now is getting the wretched paperwork over with as soon as possible so I can get back to my book and try not to fall asleep. Even the sunrises and sunsets - my once ultimate drug - all seem somewhat drab.

I may be living a dream but it's certainly not my dream anymore... I seem to have fallen out of love with flying.


Saturday, 15 January 2011

How not to plan a roster

My last cycle has been:

Day 1 - Leave home 2330, fly 1:30 to Male, fly 1:30 back, get home at 0530 (on day 2).

Day 3 - Leave home at 0550, fly 1:30 to Male, fly 1:30 back, get home 1145.

Day 4 - Leave home at 1120, fly 3:30 to Karachi, fly 3:20 back, get home 2145.

Day 5 - Leave home at 2230, fly 2:20 to Bombay, fly 2:20 back, get home at 0700 (on day 6).

That's about 24h "rest" between duties, which makes resting difficult. Going to work at bed time and adjusting your body clock 12h every day is effectively impossible.


Friday, 31 December 2010

A New Year

If 2009 felt like a wasted year, stolen from me, 2010 was exactly the opposite and I have trouble believing so much could have happened in 12 months.

I started the year doing an after-landing checklist in Kota Kinabalu, worked like a mad man for 4 months, got stranded by a volcano 6000 miles away, got homesick, worked more, went home, worked again, visited Hong Kong on the first proper family vacation in longer than I can remember, worked some more, went home, got a new job, sat around doing very little missing my old job, got a shock, got a surprise and caught a cold.

Put like that it doesn't seem like much but there is more to it, friends, happy memories, special moments, unpleasant moments, hardship... 2010 wasn't an easy year - far from it - but it doesn't feel wasted. It's not exactly ending on a high note but my new year resolution is to always stay positive and look at the bright side of life... and it can't hurt to start early.

Here's to 2011 - I hope it brings happiness and good fortune and you have a great night tonight with loved ones. I have to fly to Male in the morning, and my loved ones are all far away, so it will be a normal quiet early night for me.


Thursday, 23 December 2010

Happy Holidays

Haven't posted much because I haven't flown much this month. I passed the check, then flew to Delhi and back, then flew to Abu Dhabi and back, caught a cold, flew home to London (in the jumpseat), started suffering from the cold ... and I'm still suffering. I should have been back in work last week but the drugs I'm on aren't compatible with flying so I'm stuck at home for Christmas this year, which is a pleasant surprise despite the agonising headaches.

Here is my Christmas card for the year, once again appropriate to my position and mood. Happy Christmas wherever you are and whatever you're doing.


Thursday, 2 December 2010

That glow

Sometimes I forget why I love flying ... then suddenly I'm reminded again.

Flew to Karachi yesterday, up along the west coast of India. The view of the Indus river delta approaching the city was quite spectacular - I had no idea it was so huge, and brown. Gradually the sand banks turn into islands and some houses and roads start appearing, then some more roads and traffic and finally it's a city. As I landed on runway 25L I really could feel that I was somewhere different.

The flight back was really spectacular though, the sun was just setting as we took off and I was the privileged witness of one of the most glorious sunsets in recent memory. There wasn't a cloud in the sky, just blue above and grey below and this stunningly bright band of orange in the middle gradually getting smaller and darker until eventually it was all black and we were alone in the universe. Unfortunately the camera I brought couldn't cope with the colours so I can't share the palette that unfolded infront of me.

I was also cleared for the final check which will take place in about 10 hours on the athletic 30 minute sector to Trivandrum. After that I will be, once again, an anonymous qualified pilot... Looking forwards to seeing the end of training now.


Tuesday, 30 November 2010

It flies!

I knew I was forgetting something....

First flight in two months happened last Friday, a quick 50 minute flight to a tiny Indian airstrip called Trivandrum (actually it's called Thiruvananthapuram now because of some pathetic patriotic movement, but nobody calls it that). I flew there and I flew back and I didn't break anything or injure anyone so I think the day can be classed as a success.

Flying with the radically different SOPs was a bit disconcerting ... being away for a while dulls the senses, but then coming back to a different way of working is even more confusing, especially when the checklist is called for. Thankfully the training captain had a sense of humour and saw through the procedural errors.

The next flight was a long slog to Delhi and back. Delhi is anything but a tiny airstrip, and the new airport is quite impressive, especially the taxi routes which get rattled off at top speed. Indian radio etiquette is equally impressive, but for completely different reasons, never have I ever heard so many people step on each other so often, even in the H U G E Manilla sectors. Quite sad really.

Third day was the night flight to Bombay. A thrilling airport as every carrier from everywhere in the world is there, but also the arguably the biggest dump to pass as an international airport. The place deserves it's own post...

That will have to do for now, will write some more in the coming days probably once line training ends. 6 down, 4 to go, should be done by the end of the week.


Sunday, 14 November 2010


I'm half way through my stay in Dubai. The seemingly interminable stream of (...) which was ground training ended last weekend and I jetted into the desert on Sunday evening, then spent the better part of last week practising every failure known to Airbus between 3 and 9 in the morning.
The sim check took place Saturday and went well, the usual programme which I have posted about many times before. The recipe this time called for a rapid decompression, flap failure, engine fire on take-off and a few approaches with various systems inoperative.

Dubai itself is surreal. I think the best way to describe it would be to think of Paris at the turn of the last century. This place has everything that's modern but 10 times bigger and shiner than anywhere else, and it's obviously brand new. Some may call it a bit ridiculous, but then Paris at the 1900 expo was ridiculous too.
What makes me smile is that there are still people in this world who have dreams and have the power and money to make these dreams come true no matter what. Cost cutting, public consultations and feasibility studies don't exist here for better or for worse.
There are many things that utterly revolt me about this place too, but they are best left unsaid...

I have 4 more days in Dubai, and 2 sim sessions: An ETOPS (engines-turn-or-passengers-swim) scenario and some low visibility approaches. After this I return to the paperwork nightmare of the local CAA (committee against aviation). I will finally be reunited with the right seat of a real aeroplane on the 26th of November, not a day too soon.