One of the many perks of my job, is I’m required to fly 5 hours every year in the cockpit of the airplanes I dispatch. The other day I had to fulfill this requirement and it was an experience! I’ve flown the simulator of the A320 and rode up front once already. My company allows us to pick whichever flights we want to do to meet this requirement and I chose to do two round trips, one to San Diego and one to Las Vegas.
The first flight was at 10am, so not too early. I parked at work at took the shuttle over to the airport. Signed in with the gate agent and introduced myself since I had to print off paperwork and be up in his business. After almost everyone else was boarded is when I headed down.
The first crew were great guys! Of course, aviation is a small world and I knew people the captain knew from other companies and bonded over that. Flights are much more boring then you think. Sure, taxi, take off, and landing. But cruise there’s not much to do except change radio frequencies every so often. That’s the time we catch up on company rumors and I bugged them with questions.
San Diego is a rare airport since it’s one of the few commercial airports with only one runway. I picked it because of that. We did a visual approach into the airport and pass so close to the buildings in downtown San Diego. I wish I had time to stay and visit, that’s another day.
Quick turn, I got off the aircraft because I had to let the gate agents I’d be riding up front on the way back. Our gate agents are pretty good. Sometimes I find gate agents can be mean, but every single set was nice and we chatted.
Ride back was pretty similar. Another pilot rode up front as well, since there are two jumpseats. Apparently him and his FO were cursing my name since they were commuting and I kicked one off. Oh well! That’s why you always give yourself a few flights to commute (which they did).
SFO wasn’t foggy so a visual approach. There was an A380 coming in. Definitely the easiest traffic to spot since it’s MASSIVE! We landed behind it, but far enough away not to experience wake turbulence and ended up taxiing next to it. I so want to fly on one soon!
Those flights were less than 3 hours, so I had to do another turn. I just sucked it up and did another round trip to LAS this time since the next flight was in less than an hour, but I’m such a homebody and wanted to go home. I went over to the gate to sign up. There was the gate agent from earlier! I told him apparently I hadn’t had enough yet.
A new crew, these were younger guys and nice. Not as big talkers as the first set. I saw the approach into LAS which is interesting with the mountains coming from the west. During the quick layover, I went into the terminal and played some slots since why not? I’m cheap and only put in 2 bucks, but came out with $5. On our taxi back to the runway, we saw the British Airways plane that caught fire there. The engine was removed and it didn’t look so damaged. The departure was interesting again because of the mountains, but it’s not like the aircraft struggles to get over them.
The real interesting part was the approach into SFO. The sun was beginning to set, and fog was rolling in which looked beautiful. SFO utilizes SOIA (Simultaneous Offset Instrument Approaches) which means when the weather is good enough planes land side by side with less than 1000ft between them. I had my headset on and heard the pilots were looking for our traffic which would be landing next to us. They saw him, but for some reason I couldn’t. Maybe it was the sun, but I kept looking. We were below 1000ft and I was looking at the runway and the first officer got my attention and pointed to the left. I looked over and saw a United airplane right next to us! It was so cool. After we landed, we talked about how the first time you see it that it’s just crazy. I’m not sure if I’d ever get over that!
It was a tiring day even just sitting. Jake told me it’s just like a regular day for a pilot. It’s surprisingly boring and tiring. But I had fun, and I love the perk of riding up front!