Thursday, November 29, 2012

Flashback: Leaving Florida

What you're about to read below are some spontaneous notes I took on my way back to Istanbul, my home town as well as my base in a couple of months. I flew a connecting flight from Orlando to New York with JetBlue in an Airbus 320 then to Istanbul with Turkish Airlines' Boeing 777. The captain of the 777 was so kind to accept me to the jump seat. After months of staying abroad without a single holiday trip to my country, I finally made back home with my training succesfully finished. I will always be missing Melbourne and Florida though.

14th Nov, 2012

18:10 EST - Just passed over KJAX. Feels exciting to fly over an airport I used to fly by myself with Warriors and Cessnas, in an A320, as a passenger. Feels even more exciting than being on the way back home after a solid... well, maybe i should better not say how long 8) Yet, the couple of VFR memories in which I got "cleared to land number 2" with N61somethingFT after the same aircraft i'm currently seated at made me unable to keep from smiling...

18:20 EST - Here comes Savannah with its cross-shaped airport, Hilton Head. The small entertainment screen in front of me, which occasionally shows our location (for a break to endless commercials) now pointed me that we're flying over the furthest northbound point of my training so far. It took a mere 20 minute's time to reach there, contrary to my 2 hr 30+ mins in Warrior or the shortest still being a whole hour in a Seminole. Should this make me reconsider about even calling myself just a "pilot", set aside a fancy-sounding one like "instrument rated commercial multi"? Maybe not; just loud (loud?!) thinking though.

<Gulp! That water felt good...>

18:41 EST - Hereby I'm congratulating myself for my choice of windowside seat. I'm currently watching the sunset on my left, accompanied by the white-blue A320's left engine and its fenced left wing. Without any cloud "ceiling" beneath us, i can see South Carolina as well. On top of it, a dark blue sky is separated with a degraded-orange colored sunset. Still don't see any mountains, as i never could in my whole training, thanks to flat Florida!

The windowside choice was a last minute one, since this is my first ticket as an airline employee ever. These pass tickets given by the airlines to their employees on duty are, as i experienced today, look like what they call the "stand by" ones, which do not have a seat numbers printed on. They, however, occupy confirmed seats so the owner (in this case the employee) do not have to wait until the next flight if the aircraft is full. So after the boarding began and the regular passengers got in line, i got called by my name to have my ticket assigned to a certain seat. I even had the luxury of choosing between window or aisle; but the real fun part is I'm now flying with three first officers i can chat with 8)

Having a brief chat with one of those JetBlue pilots, Brian, i felt like talking with an instructor from my flight school. No, not in the way he switched into teaching mode or anything, just because the willingness of him to answer my rookie questions. Almost all airline pilots in US work as flight instructors before applying to airlines. This is primarily because the airline companies ask for certain flight hours for hiring jet pilot applicants. Instead of paying thousands of dolars for timebuilding flights, these people take a flight instructor course after their multi engine license and start working as instructors. Obviously, getting paid instead of paying is far more economic on the way to the "real" job. The down side of this, on the other hand, is the profession of flight instructing being degraded by many instructors to a temporary job. Even though there still are instructors solely concentrated in their jobs, Students do sometimes suffer from unprofessional people in that attitude.

19:28 EST - Captain announced that we are descending for approach to KNYC. Time to turn this thing off...

22:00 EST - KJFK. My last hour in USA. Handed off my luggage, fueled up with a sandwich and a big ass 777 waiting for me, I'm good to go.

Right after stepping out of the airtrain, I started to notice my compatriots. Kind of a smooth transition. Looking for something to eat; I even saw gozleme, one of the most simple, traditional and delicious bakeries of Turkish cuisine. Anyway, I obviously saw the "Turkish Food" sign when i looked up. Confident about the cashier guy to be Turkish too, I spoke in my native language to him... or did the mistake of doing that. He gave me a freezing look and said "huh?!". I switched to english, gave my order and couldn't help asking where he was from. He replied "Ankara", in an apperent effort to americanize his pronounciation.

Wait a second, that's my freaking birthplace! I switched back to Turkish and got my answer right away: Huh?!! Honestly, it took me a while to figure out he was just denying to speak anything other than English. I respect to that and that's exactly what I said to him before he finally smiled. Well, he surely had a veird attitude; but the idea behind it was something i admired.

01:52 EST - Such a fun trip; spent last two hours in the cockpit. It was my first time, actually. Captain was friendly and encouraging to ask questions. I had the chance to listen the radios too; happily saw that the ones in the USA were just as the same I'd been doing for the entire training. I left the cockpit to have my dinner, just before they contacted the "oceanic", the international air traffic control center for the aircraft flying over the Atlantic ocean.

I have learned two things in our conversation with captain:

Contrary to the airway system which uses fixed navaid intersections or points called "fixes" to navigate in IFR, oceanic system is using temporary airways which are determined daily, according to the most favorable wind conditions to have the aircraft spend least time over the sea. In order to arrange navigation, the controlling agency publish the coordinates of each point which each "temporary airway" consists of.

The second thing is, that all air traffic over the ocean fly to the west in mornings and to the east in the evenings. That is why, in turn, all Atlantic departures from the US coasts are flown in the evening and the arrivals in the morning. Seems like the murder of crows happen in Europe...

My notes end here. After a couple of hours' nap, I went back to my place at the jumpseat to observe the huge widebody's Istanbul (LTBA) approach. Everything was fine and both the captain and the first officer were so much friendly and encouraging about becoming their colleauges. Having inside a soup of feelings made of excitement of meeting my family, missing my peaceful life in Melbourne, a bit of victory and a little pride; I finally took a step on my big city. The hardest and the largest part of my path to being an airline pilot was done. Now I'm looking forward to fly again.


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