May 15, 2007

A Day in the Life (19) Top of Climb

A description of a typical day's flight from Montreal to Vancouver and back - as a backdrop for a detailed, non-technical description of what an airline pilot does. (check left hand column for series index).

Log Entry 2003 - A320 Capt - Top of Climb

Elapsed Time: Take-Off plus thirty and counting

Flying in haze is disorienting. There’s always a sense that you are about to burst out into clear air but you never do. The world remains hidden, mysterious, a rumor hinted at by the dots and lines on the navigation displays.

We’re riding in mainly smooth air right now, but an occasional ripple runs through the plane every few minutes at irregular intervals. Like a veiled threat. There’s more where that came from.

I finish scanning the flight deck panels and checking the extra items as we do once a day on the first flight. Test the radar and set the antenna for the best picture at our current altitude. Pull down the standby compass and check all the heading displays for agreement. Finally tick off the “First Flight of the Day” checkbox in the journey log so subsequent crews will know it’s been done.

The morning rush is now officially over. I slide my chair back a few inches and prop a foot up onto the comfortable Airbus-designed footrests. (Thank you to the Airbus engineers who actually considered the needs for pilots sitting during the long hours on the flight deck.)

I have some amendments and other paperwork to catch up on, and I just begin browsing through this when a loud alarm ruptures the white-noise “quiet” of the flight deck. I flinch at the sudden interruption, recognizing the flight attendant call horn. For some reason it’s the noisiest alarm on the aircraft and resembles the screech of fingernails on a blackboard.

I grab the handset. “Goood moooorning…”

“Captain, we have your crew breakfasts ready. Would you like to eat?”

I nod to FO Paula. “You hungry? Breakfast is served.” She indicates yes and I convey the message. A few seconds later there’s ring at the security panel and I go through the procedure to ensure that breakfast isn’t really a terrorist ploy to take over the airplane and crash us into the Big Oh-Oh (Olympic Stadium in Montreal).

I might “say” that with a touch of levity - or sad irony. But 9-11 is never forgotten nor the price paid by our comrades for inadequate training in the face of a new breed of terror. And our world will never be the same. I tell my friends and neighbors that outside of my fellow-pilots, I'm the only one I know who works behind a locked, bullet-proof door and has a body-guard. I don’t carry a gun, but I’ve thought about it.

So, once we’re sure it's safe, Connie brings in our morning’s servings of ‘Green eggs and Ham.” Just as the turbulence starts up.

Elapsed Time: Vancouver Arrival minus 5 hours or so…

1 comment:

Aviatrix said...

Considering what they serve you, have you ever considered that breakfast just might BE a terrorist ploy? That would explain a lot of crew meals.