People often ask me what's so special about flying? Why would someone want to be an airline pilot?
There are so many different aspects that it is just impossible to cover them all.
Let me just try to put some words on what it feels like to break through a cloud layer when the sun is setting.
Seating on the runway and waiting for our take-off clearance, the good old Lycoming O-360 engines are rolling over at idle thrust waiting for my hand to push the two thrust levers forward.
The whole city is stuck under a dark grey menacing-looking cloud layer.
Being cleared for take-off, I bring the mighty Duchess to life, all vibrating under the combined 360 horsepower which, all of a sudden, tear the silent evening.
Moments later, I raise the nose by about 5°, announce "Positive rate of climb, Gear up" while lifting the gear lever and pitching up to our climb attitude of 8°. The ground flows under our wings. It's all dark out there, looks like it's going to rain any time soon. Our plane is set in the cruise climb, all systems are in the green, passing 1000ft I bank her gently left on a South-Easterly heading to intercept BIA's 161° bearing.
As climb continues, I loose sight of the horizon and the plane starts bouncing a bit more as we enter clouds. 161 is coming, drift applied and I'm now tracking outbound towards THRED, a waypoint off the shore.
And just before I enter the airway, we punch through the cloud layer into a scene of incredible beauty. The sun is cracking the horizon above a sea of clouds...
An intense golden light is illuminating our faces, my smile is now clearly spreading ... It is one of those moments.
Southampton's VOR 206 radial is coming up as I reach 30nm DME, and turning right I'm now flying down the airway towards ORTAC.
Cruise check done, established at Flight Level 60, I've now got 33 miles to run before reaching ORTAC to enjoy this truely magical moment. This is where our mind focuses for a few seconds on the souls below, probably enjoying some rain right now.
That leaves me speechless.
Does it get any better?
I left behind the VFR charts as the visual flying part is over, it's all about accurately tracking towards and from beacons now, we've got a handful lot of work to do in the simulators but the joy of learning how to actually fly an airliner is truely exciting.
In just a few hours, Steve and I have been learning a lot about NDB holds with and without wind, ILS/DME approaches, IFR navigation, etc ...
We're in the hands of the excellent Steve Y. , our flight instructor, who's constantly monitoring every little movement we make. He possesses excellent airmanship skills and really knows how to pass them onto his fellow students. I can only be greatful to be seating there today.
I remember a few years ago, classmates, flightmates, relatives and other know-it-all kind of people looking down at me and telling me very seriously "don't be ridiculous, pilots are people with incredible mathematical ability, they're the best of the best, this is just not for you".
Looking back at those memories, all I can think of now is compassion for those people, most of which are stuck in traffic jams every morning on their way to some boring work, each day looking similar. Still a long way to go on my side, but I do believe I'll eventually make it to the airline, and whatever happens in between, I won't regret a thing. I gave my life a huge turn, moved abroad, and acted to make things happen. I didn't ask anyone any help nor any money, and like many people did before me, I turned my back to those who like to spread gloom and doom, left them behind, and walked ahead to some promising future.
I'm looking forwards to more and more flights, more and more skills to take onboard, and more magic from the incredible sight above the clouds.
Airborne life continues...