My first week back started with relatively calm weather and the approach to Palermo (one of my favourites) was absolutely gorgeous. “Nice and easy”, I thought, but it was not to stay this way! The wind was blowing quite strongly from the North for the rest of the week, and as it was passing through mountainous terrain, it caused quite a bit of turbulence. During take off the first couple of hundred feet above the ground was okay but as we got higher, the aircraft got caught in the rough air. We decided to climb a little faster by delaying acceleration, for the safety and benefit of our passengers and crew. Once we were a few thousand feet above the mountainous terrain, the air smoothed out, though with occasional bumps reminding us of the rough air below. My roster this week took me to a mixture of flights to the UK and Italy.
“This was my first max-crosswind landing from the left seat…”
The weather in Sicily in the middle of the week was not particularly good – heavy rain and crosswinds approaching our limits! The problem down the line is that the crosswind limit for take off is more stringent. This makes it possible to land at a destination, but then unable to take off till the wind dies down. This was my first max-crosswind landing from the left seat, and though I felt confident, it was still a good challenge. My muscle memory has now established itself. As a First Officer, I flew from the right-hand seat and my left hand was used to operating the thrust levers, whilst my right hand was controlling the yoke. Now that I’m a Captain, and I’m seated on the left, it’s the opposite way around! So it takes a bit of getting used to!
I was pleasantly surprised at how appreciative our passengers were this week, and some even came into the flight deck to visit us and shake our hands! We don’t always get face-to-face contact with passengers, so it’s nice to see them come in and thank us, or even to have a look to satisfy their curiosity to see what goes on in the front! Although we don’t get much time during a turnaround, I’m still interested to see and ‘people-watch’ and even occasionally be a bit nosy and ask passengers about their travels. I find the best opportunity for this is usually either if I’m positioning (i.e. sitting in the cabin en-route to the airport I will be operating from), when passengers visit us in the flight deck, or when I’m coming back onto the aircraft after doing the walk-around. I don’t do this all the time, however, when I do, there’s always an interesting story to be heard!
Children are of course the most entertaining passengers and always welcome to visit us – especially when they have produced a drawing for the crew!