The Aerophilic Tendency

I’ve wanted to fly since I was 4

As a child of a Mum who’s been flying with the airlines since 1992, and a Dad that always encouraged his four kids that the sky was the limit, I found that the love and sheer passion to follow the footsteps and tread the skies was inevitable. I’m now 21, and have never been so sure that a career in commercial aviation is what I hope, and work toward to achieve one day.

Every kid wanted to fly, and although the idea of flying through the air with nothing but faith, trust and pixie dust was quite mesmerising, I was definitely more captivated at the idea at the why and how a 400 tonne 747-400 widebody jet was able to lift itself. At that point, I knew very little.

  • My mum wears red, and is a flight attendant
  • Flight attendants were pretty.
  • two golden bar-clad dudes fly upfront with Australian accents
  • I was sat in 46A, and although the sight of a sunset upon the view of a winglet was nice, I occasionally questioned why I couldn’t take the front seat instead

As a child, the ideas of aerodynamics and physics weren’t any more interesting than how my inflight dumplings tasted, or whether the personal tv my seat had played Harry Potter in half-decent quality. Comfort didn’t seem like a bother, and landing  luxury class seats didn’t intrigue me much. The idea was, well, I was in the air, with 399 other people on the same aircraft made of a thousand individual moving parts. That in itself, was fascinating.

A conversation with a stranger about Aviation is typically met with the stereotypical range of responses composed of Top Gun references, how Tom Hanks was brilliant in Sully, and how their mum’s cousin’s uncle flew on one of those fancy double-deckers that had a layover in Dubai. In similar fashion I’ve developed replies incredibly scripted I almost say it with a blank smile (you know, one of those faces where you carry a smile but your eyes are just dead). My trigger point however, is at the discussion, of the all so controversial ‘auto-pilot’.

“You pilots are spoilt sick, compensated ridiculous amounts, given so much prestige for a job that involves babysitting a computer pushing buttons as the hunk-o-junk flies itself” – a condescending stranger on a layover in Sydney.

For starters, we aren’t spoilt, the shortage of pilots along the Asia-Pacific is so severe most cockpit crew survive on minimum rest requirements, sent on a red-eye to Jakarta on a whim, and counting time spent in a country not by days, but by hours. I know a dozen working mates who’d love to kiss the 9 to 5 in favour of a career in aviation, only to face the need of immense mental discipline, sleep-scheduling, and a desperate need for exercise cause their monthly rostering was apparently chicken-feed. Spoilt is hardly what I’d call a constant master-lock grapple fight against fatigue.

Compensation? It’s commensurate. Auto-pilot is aimed not replace the pilot, but to mitigate the workload involving 101 other things. Weather, traffic, physical wear and tear, passenger health and comfort, a gargantuan amount of risks exist in flight, all of which are exponentially amplified at 35,000 feet. It is a pilot’s job to make monitor these systems, apply necessary correction for a smooth and hitchless operation, and most of all, become the impregnable last line of defense in any emergency, making sure that everyone on that aeroplane stays on the right side of the line between life and death, all while trying their best to keep that fancy business class passenger’s martini secure on their tray table. Don’t even get me started on costs of flight training, the dreadful amount of zeros freed ever-so-slowly like an IV-drip as a new-joiner salary tries to stay 8 miles ahead of that bloody wake.

When Richard DeCrespigny took control of Qantas Flight 32, with a gaping hole on his left wing, a punctured hydraulics system leading to barely responsive flight controls, the seasoned Captain, with full delegation and cooperation with his entire team, essentially had to re-rate the aircraft, and somehow land the plane at a speed just brimming by a stall, with damaged flaps. Impossible? No! 4th of November 2010 was the fateful day he proved that the superjumbo A380 with only 60% of controls can be landed with no flaps. DeCrespigny was hailed a hero, but claimed one thing, that he was a man just doing his job. Compensation? Commensurate.

I suppose at this point you’re wondering, why on Earth do pilots still do what they do, and why do I want in on such a volatile job. Passion.

To be able to take control of a wide-body jet, manipulate the physics around it all to create lift, changing that attitude to bring altitude (fellow aviators, do I get brownie points for this pun?), brings no less than the biggest satisfaction there is. To be in clockwork chemistry with a likeminded team tackling one hitch on the ECAM after another, to bring loyalty and prestige to a company that provided an opportunity. That’s the dream. and best of all, I get to be part of people’s lives, their adventures, their stories, from teary goodbyes to heartwarming reunions.

How on Earth can you not love this job?