At Starbucks in Beirut, thinking about where I'd like us to go away holiday this year
The phone rings.....
"Can we leave today at 6pm for a flight to North Africa...."
"Of course, but I need to check the permits for being allowed to over fly, and also land at the destination"
"Ok find out and let me know"
This is how it goes for a Business jet pilot when you work for the owner of the aircraft.
Snapped back to reality from the thoughts of a quiet Greek island holiday in the autumn, the heart rate picks up and the planning begins.
Mental checklist, where's my uniform, (is it at the dry cleaners) is there any food in the fridge that will mutate if I disappear straight away.
I state to get information about the handling costs, I speak with the handling agents of our air craft to give them a heads up that we might be moving in a few hours.
With a jet of this size and performance, 45 tonnes and she's pretty thirsty so we're gonna need to work out the fuel load, find out if there is refuelling down route or if its cheaper to load her up for a return trip.
Its not like jumping in the car, turning the keys and heading out off of the driveway.
Ok its all looking good, the flight plan is pretty straight forward, the plane is all ready to go when we need her.
I'm sitting in the office getting the days plan in my mind and realising I won't be off to the gym this afternoon.
My phone rings and the news isn't good, "it's three days to get a permit to land there...."
"Ah, thats gonna be a problem then"
I head to see the boss and let him know we can't head there today as it takes 3 days to obtain the permit.
"Not to worry", is the response.
"We've changed our plan, we're going to Eastern Europe, tomorrow instead".
"We will leave at 2pm with 5 passengers."
"Ok, I will start the planning".
The ever changing world of a Private Jet pilot.
I will get to go to the gym after all.......
9am the next morning in the office, the flight is confirmed and the work begins on moving the 45 tonnes of airplane at 47,000ft and 600mph.
The new flight plan is filed.
The handling agents notified and the welcome party at the destination organised.
Off to the airport, fire up the APU and get the plane ready. We have a few new pieces of kit onboard for us which to simplify means that the plane can down load via satellite the flight plans, routing and all associated information. It hasn't worked so well up to date but today after the tweaks we made in the week it works like a dream and saves me lots of time loading up the onboard computer.
I still have to check it to make sure its all correct but the fact it works is great news.
Me and the Captain spend an hour or so readying everything , organising the electronic flight bag rather than having all of the bits of paper around the cockpit.
The passengers arrive after a bit of confusion over departure times and before long I am closing the doors, strapping in and requesting taxi clearance.
On this flight I am the pilot monitoring, running the radios, navigation and checklists.
Taxi Checks complete.
Ready for departure, runway 17.
Cleared for take off runway 17, wind calm, contact 119.3 after departure
Cleared for take runway 17......
"Cleared to fl180"
And we are off, heading north away from Asia, into Europe.
Negotiations begin with Greece and Turkey for passage and I get us a climb straight on up to 43,000ft.
A squeak of the tyres and we are on the ground, unlocking the doors and getting the bags off the plane and it dawns on me that I still have another flight to do.
Then a hire car late night drive to home down the M4 and M5........
The contrast between a lovely Bombardier Global Express private jet and the back row of an Eastern European 737 really brings me back to earth with a bump..........
But still I do love flying her and not many people get that chance.
Thoughts for the day:
- Its been a year today since one of my really good friends, Will Falck, passed away at a ridiculously young age, I miss my friend Will.
- Will was a pilot with a passion for flying, life, laughter and Aston Villa
- He had to have laughter and a sense of humour in him being a fellow follower of Aston Villa
- I think he'd love the fact that I'm taking my wife to her first Villa game this weekend in the seats we used to share, a year after we lost him.
- I miss going to the football with my friend Will Falck #holteenderinthesky