Chapter two of my ´a Pilots Diary´ I am so happy I started writing this series that allows me to take you with me on a normal working week as an airline pilot. I hope you enjoy reading it and if you have any questions don´t hesitate to leave them below or as a comment on my Instagram @pilotmaria
Day 1 It’s always impossible to go to bed before the first day of ‘earlies’ and it usually results in lying in bed tossing and turning before finally falling asleep and an alarm that is waking me up at 4:00 AM. On the positive side, there is never any problems falling asleep on day two, the secret is to not take an afternoon nap and go to bed at eight the next day, and you’re in phase for earlies.
When I say “earlies” I mean early shifts ´mornings´ the company that I work for have a working pattern of five days early shift followed by four days off (free) and then five days working ´late´evening shift, it never changes, it kees this pattern all year.
I tried to change my day one to fly with my friend Mark, Mark had a simple two-sector day Porto in Portugal and back, I had a not as attractive four sector day and with a two hours earlier check-in, hours that are in the early morning gold worth. It was worth a try but as expected Marks first officer was not as keen to swap this day and kindly declined my request.
So instead of Porto, I flew a four sector day, Bydgoszcz in Poland, back to London and then to Lodz also in Poland, although it was a long day, it went relatively quick. Poland is one of my favorite countries to fly to, everything works, people are super friendly and I am still impressed by how fast they can turn a 737 with 189 passengers to disembark and as many to embark in less than half an hour and after all flight deck preparations were done, checklists and briefings done, off we go.
Day 2 Fuerteventura and taste of being a long-haul pilot. It was an early departure, 6:30 AM and a flight time to Fuerteventura of 4:15, four hours fifteen minutes, 25 minutes turn around, best we can, usually around 40 minutes, and 3:45 flight time back to Stansted having some tailwind pushing our ground speed faster. Flying to the Canary Islands is a long day, almost nine hours in total and that being only the flight time alone, paperwork before departure and paperwork after landing. Considering it takes less than eight hours to fly London to New York this could easily have been a cross Atlantic flight. I would choose long two sector days over short four sector days any day!
Leaving Europe and fly in Casablanca airspace the radios goes silent, it´s not as busy and fewer calls, this is my favorite part of the route, we normally get a direct point that enters Canary Islands airspace and we just need to do a ´Radio Check´ after every 30 minutes with Casablanca. This is the time when you can relax, read the papers, eat your lunch (or in this case breakfast) and enjoy the view.
Day 3 I was scheduled to fly to Lanzarote and you know that I love the long two sector days. My GoPro brother @jose_bodyboard lives in Lanzarote and I was looking forward to sending him a picture landing on his island. But they changed my duty to Rzeszow in Poland and back, a much shorter day which for most would have been a happy surprise, I was looking forward to fly to Lanzarote. The Captin to Rzeszow was nice and I ended up having a great day! He´s famous for his PA´s to the passengers that he does through the front galley Cabin Attendant intercom, who else, as a passenger would prefer the pilots to do their ´Welcome Onboard´ PA´s so that everyone can see? I´m sure this must have a calming effect on nervous flyers, right?
Day 4 New destination pin for my log book, I’ve been many times to Italy but never to Ancona and it made me miss Italy. I’ve always loved Italian ATC and how they always try to give you shortcuts, today was no different and as soon as we checked in to Ancona on the frequency they cleared us direct to a ten miles final runway 22. The latest weather showed us that we would have approximately 7 knots tailwind for runway 22, the runway is 2900 meters but we planned for a flaps 40 landing, we were tankering fuel so landing with some extra fuel in our tanks added for a longer landing distance. You might ask why we choose to land runway 22 and not runway 04? 04 has no published approach due to terrain so what we then do if we have to land runway 04 is a so-called circle to land, you may remember this from last week’s post flying into Genoa? Circle to land is a well-practiced maneuver but it´s rare that we actually have to fly it on the line. We practice it every sixth month in the simulator and I’ve flown it a couple of times in the 737, in Carcassonne, Pisa and Palermo.
Day 5 Go home today! I flew with a Captain I knew from a simulator check years back, we are always paired together as a crew when we do our checks, Captain and First Officer (me). It was a long day to Murcia in Spain and a flight time of about 2 hours 20 minutes one way and then to Kerry in Ireland and back, started at 05:40 in the morning and ended at 17:05 – and that is me done for the week! It may seem like a long day but we have regulations telling us how many hours we are allowed to work and fly, generally we can´t work more than 12 hours a day (there are some exception, but that would take way to long for me to explain, for the curious one, read more here, link) I used to work double shifts, 18 hours when I worked as a waitress and even if that job was more physically demanding, constantly being on my feet, flying somehow takes more energy, perhaps that because we are actually sitting down all day long and that we work on a pressure altitude equivalent of what you find at 8000 feet, or that you by the end of your day have to be the most focused, on landing. I don´t know, share your stories, what do you do, what is your job or are you a student, what do you study, or maybe a job seeker, comment below or on my Instagram @pilotmaria Begin your comment by letting me know that you’ve read this blog post.
Routs flown this week:
STN – Stansted, UK
BZG – Bydgoszcz, Poland
LCJ – Lodz, Poland
FUE – Fuerteventura, Canary Islands
RZE – Rzeszow, Poland
AOI – Ancona, Italy
EGC – Bergerac, France
MJV – Murcia, Spain
KIR – Kerry, Ireland
Circling: An approach flow to the reciprocal runway and visually ´circled´ to land on the other.
ATC: Air Traffic Controller (the ones giving us clearances and instructions on the radio)
Tankering: Taking extra fuel with us, normally done if the fuel is cheaper at one place.