Sunsets: Natural Art

Just a wee note to let you know that I’m still around and writing.  I made another successful ferry crossing back from the Emerald Isle although the return trip wasn’t quite as smooth.  There was a considerable amount of that rocking thing going on and I had to take a break from typing a letter to a good friend so I didn’t end up making a call on the big white telephone.

I can’t believe ground school starts in little over four weeks.  It’s a most exciting thought, to know that I’ll be moving ever closer towards a career as an airline pilot.  I’m a little nervous too, it has been a long time since I’ve been in full time studies.

I took some photos a few weeks back that I thought I’d share.  The picture of the robin was perfectly timed, I was walking along the path and it landed on a branch right in front of me.  Another one did that earlier but flew off before I could get my camera ready.

Across the Irish Sea

I’m back in Ireland again!  This time I made the journey on a water craft rather than an aircraft.  Why?  It was cheaper to drive and get the ferry rather than fly and rent.  It went surprisingly well considering I’ve never been responsible for catching a ferry before.  Instead of cruising at an altitude of 24,000 feet and 400 mph we were cruising at an altitude of 0 feet and about 40 mph.

I enjoyed the crossing, I wish I had taken something to read but I still managed to pass the time by eating, talking to the Welsh couple at my table and contemplating while admiring the view.  Even though the view was almost entirely grey there was a simple beauty to it.  Occasionally you’d go past a patch where the cloud was thinner than the rest and the sun would highlight the silvery grey water.

The poor light conditions and the dirty window managed to combine to make this a poor quality image.  It doesn’t do the view justice, believe me.  Upon arrival in Dublin I made my way straight to Galway and managed to go through three, no four, different toll booths.  One to go through the port tunnell (which I didn’t want to do but once I’d taken one wrong turn I was committed), one to go down the M50 and two on the M6.  Grumble.  When I finally made it to Galway, all tolled-out, I wasted no time in getting down to Salthill to watch the sun set across Galway bay.  The show was stunning, I hope I never get bored of sunsets.

At first I thought the black and white one was pointless since the best part of a sunset is the colour but I really like the effect.  I’d like to see how it comes out in print.

Airline Pilot of 43 Years

I had a cool surprise yesterday.  I was over in Preston with my Dad visiting some friends who were down from Scotland.  They had some friends with them who I’d never met before but as soon as I was introduced and they knew that I was starting at Oxford in April Mr. L told me that he had flown for forty three years.  I couldn’t believe my luck.  Most fortunately they were able to join us for dinner and I proceeded to ask him numerous questions about his flying career.

He first flew in his twenties and obtained his private pilots licence.  Shortly after he served in the military and flew off an aircraft carrier in Vietnam.  He described it as one of the most thrilling experiences of his life.  For the airlines he flew four engine propliners, the MD-11, A300 and the Boeing 747 to name a few.  I can’t remember all of them.  I have a great deal of respect for him and his skill.  Like all pilots of his age he said that airline flying isn’t what it used to be.  That’s not necessarily a bad thing, if we were really supposed to do the raw flying I’m sure we would have been born then.  Maybe in forty years time we’ll be amazed at the new technology available and tell the new pilots that airline flying isn’t what it used to be.

At one time in his career he flew to Taiwan fifty times in a year.  Fly out, stay two days and fly back.  He loved it.  He was such an interesting person to be around.  It was obvious that he enjoyed his career very much.  I asked him what his favourite part of the job was and he said that it was being able to do what he enjoys on a regular basis – fly.  I’m glad he said that.  During my travels across the mighty internet I’ve come across a few suggestions that some pilots don’t like their job.  That’s a real shame for a lot of reasons.  I’ve never personally met a pilot who didn’t like his job and I’ve read the blogs of various pilots who love it.  Maybe it’s the odd few that don’t.  As cool as it is though, don’t forget that it is work.

His wife was just as friendly, I asked how she coped with him being away and she simply said: “I got used to it.”  They were very kind to give of their time, they were celebrating their wedding anniversary.  I can’t remember how long it was but it was long.  It’s experiences like these that make me want to be a pilot more and more.  I’ll have to think back to this moment when I’m having a tough day in ground school.

Sir, do you know how to operate an emergency exit?

On Wednesday I blasted off runway 14 at EGNM headed for EIDW (Dublin International).  I was heading to Ireland just for the day with my sister.  We couldn’t pass the opportunity by at £16 return.  I was able to meet up with some good friends and visit one of my favourite restaurants.  As you can see the weather was overcast in Leeds, it was the same in Dublin.  It took the Ryanair 737-800 about twenty minutes to get on top of all the cloud and haze – we reached 24000ft and about 400mph, stayed there for a few minutes and then started the decent.  The flight is barely forty minutes.  When we did finally get to those clear skies, it was fantastic.  Not far above us there was a magnificent layer of cirrus clouds, it looked wafer thin from where we were.

I could really get used to seeing views like this on a daily basis.  Even though I had flown in December I’d forgotten just how thrilling takeoff was.  We lined up on the runway and moments later you could hear the engines spool up, stabilize, and then roar into takeoff thrust.  The acceleration was phenomenal, seconds later the ground was getting further and further away.  I enjoyed pointing out all the places I could recognise from the air and made the most of it as we would be arriving back in the hours of darkness.

My favourite place to eat in Dublin is Eddie Rocket’s – an American style diner.  There are a few in Dublin, Galway and Cork and even a couple in the UK.  I had the ‘cheese please’ burger with a chocolate malt and it was well worth the wait, the quality was fabulous.  I could have really done with a nap afterwards but there are few places to sleep at the Dundrum Shopping Centre.

While we waited for a friend to get out of work we just browsed the shops.  I found a stunning new tie in M&S – it’s most colourful.  It was getting colder by the minute on the outside so we were staying put.  My good friend finally got out of work and we went up to the tram station to meet her.  If you know much about court reporting you’ll know how much she has on her plate.  I was grateful she took the time out to visit with us.  Being absolutely frozen and having a liking for fine hot chocolate, we went to Butlers Chocolate Cafe for the best hot chocolate money can buy.  I love it when they serve it at drinking temperature, it’s too good to wait for it to cool down if it’s not.  It was so good to chat and catch up about the events of the past nine months.  As it usually does after a reunion with a friend or family member, the time in between seemed to disappear and it feels like you were never apart.

All good (and bad) things come to an end.  In what seemed like a few minutes (it was over an hour) we were back on the tram heading to O’Connell street to pick up the 747 express to the airport.  The journey back was as swift as ever – sailed through security without delay, a quick look at the shops and a short wait at the gate.

When we boarded we were fortunate enough to get an emergency exit seat over the right wing.  The leg room was excellent.  I forgot that you can’t put your hand luggage under the seat in front of you at emergency exits and the flight attendant promptly reminded me of this.  She then went round each of the eight or so passengers at the emergency exits and specifically asked them if they would be willing to assist in the event of an emergency – a legal requirement.

She asked a man in front if he knew how to operate an emergency exit and he told her that he did.  She wasn’t convinced and said: “Are you sure you know how to operate the exit?”  He was a little annoyed at this and informed her that he was a frequent flyer and that he was sure he could manage the emergency exit.  I was quickly trying to think of what to say incase she asked me if I was sure if I knew how to operate the exit.  The only thing I could think of was a little cheeky – ‘I know how to read and follow instructions.’  She does have somewhat of a point though, you could read all the instructions and look at all the diagrams you want and still have no experience of opening aircraft emergency exits.  I’m sure no-one wants experience in this regard.

The flight home was very much the same as the one out, only darker.  I love it when they turn off the cabin lights, the view is so much better.  I’d have them out the whole flight if I could.  Even though it was dark, on approach to runway 14 we flew down the gorgeous Wharfe Valley we could pick out landmarks such as the Cow & Calf and the park in Menston village.  All in all it was a fantastic trip.  Number one highlight being catching up with my friends accompanied by my sister, number two being the flying – then the food etc…