Hello everyone,

Hope you’ve had a wonderful week and are enjoying the bank holiday weekend?  I can’t believe its the last one before Christmas.  If you’re heading away for a few days remember the roads will be very busy, especially on Monday.

I have an idea guys, why not fly with me instead?  I’ll be in Berlin, Frankfurt and Paris! I absolutely love travelling to all three cities and in fact used to live in one of them.

What have I been up to this week?  Well, it began at my favourite place for brunch @thelidocafe.  Its a great location for me to have a swim and recharge my batteries.  As always, the food was just too good and I ate more than I’d planned, so afterwards I made sure to squeeze in a run. Flying around Europe means long hours which can take their toll and I always try to stay as fit as possible.

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Scrambled eggs and avocado on toast. My favourite start to the day.

So, after a few days R&R it was time to pack my bags, brush off my hat and head to work for a two-day trip.

I was off to Stavanger, one of Norway’s oldest cities, officially founded in 1125.  Flight time is just over 1 hr. Our route will cease in October so I hope to spend a couple more days there before it does.  I read that Stavanger’s Old Town is preserved as a historical monument and is  home to hundreds of 18th and 19th century white timber properties. The area is car free and includes restaurants, an open-air market, and small fishing boats along the harbour selling freshly caught shrimp, crab and lobsters. Yum!

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‘Pulpit Rock’ ~ photo by Brice Portolano

The lady that meets the aircraft in Stavanger told us we must also visit the ‘Pulpit rock’, very popular with base jumpers apparently.  It looks amazing and definitely on my to-do list.  Sadly, not enough time on this trip.

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Our view from the cockpit departing south from Stavanger, gorgeous beaches. 19 degrees, warm enough?!

Arriving back at LHR and after a quick turnaround (normally in the region of 50 mins), we were heading to Paris for the night with no idea quite how the weather would affect our plans later in the week. More of that in a moment…

Its just a quick hop to Paris, flight time in the region of 40 mins, straight into Charles De Gaulle on the Easterly Runway, 09L.

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On our way to Paris. Fabulous views to the west as the sun dipped beneath the clouds into the Atlantic.

But, a lengthy taxi almost doubles the journey time onto stand and makes for quite a conversation with ATC.

Speedbird 322 the first left, right, left, left, contact apron on frequency 121.930. 

Speedbird 322 hold at N1 then right, left, giveway to the Airbus 380 before first left and left again, standby for stand number‘…

You get the idea.

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We stay in the centre of town and it was pretty late when we arrived so after a quick change into civvies we went straight out for some local vin rouge and an entrecote.

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Dining with the Crew by the Champs Elysees 🇫🇷 🍷

 

The following morning I had an early run to take in some of the famous sites.  More of that in a future blog.  I’m still desperate to have dinner at the Jules Verne restaurant at the top of the Eiffel Tower.  Who wants to come?

Back to the hotel for a quick shower and we were soon heading home again.

I’m constantly travelling and so don’t spend as much time at home as I would like.  The flip side of course is that I have a birds-eye view of Europe and after just enough time to unpack and repack my carry-on I was returning to work. This time a 3 day trip!

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If you’re travelling through an airport and you see a first officer with a skateboard, it’s probably me!

We started with a quick trip up to Newcastle and back, or at least that was the plan. Sadly, the weather had other ideas.

As I’m sure you know, LHR is a very busy airport and our air traffic control operators are superbly efficient at making sure we all get on our way in good time.  However, you can imagine the chaos it creates as soon as aircraft can’t take off or land for only a few mins. Bad weather can cause havoc with our schedules.

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Captain Neil and I waiting and waiting and waiting our turn for pushback.

A couple of weather cells passed west to east over the airport and after many changes in a slot restriction we spent three hours on the stand before being able to push back and join the queue for departure.  There was more challenging weather to the north which contributed to our delay as northerly departures were now being limited to one every 10 mins.  We were 10th in line.  Colleagues in nearby aircraft were 16 & 17 in the queue…

To help pass the time for passengers we invited those onboard to visit the cockpit and say hello as we gave them regular updates on the delays.  Passengers and crew frustrated, all in the same boat.  With the weather as it was we felt like we needed one!   After as lengthy a delay as I can remember, we were finally on our way and up to NCL.

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On the approach into NCL

The weather was much calmer at NCL and after an uber-quick refuel we were soon back at LHR for an aircraft switch and then off to Spain 🇪🇸 , Barcelona to be precise.

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      Italy has great food and Barcelona has great energy

                                                                                                                               – Stefon Harris

I love Barcelona, but this trip was tinged with sadness as we arrived the day after the terror attack on Las Ramblas.  I took some time the following morning to visit the thoroughfare and was delighted to see locals and tourists alike determined not to be bowed by terrorism.  It was bustling with activity and I even managed to catch up with the amazing Emily Deeker, a senior producer at Sky News who was broadcasting live with her team.

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Now, I know that many of you have this rather glamorous image of an airline pilot and it is a great job, but it doesn’t always go as smoothly as planned!  Apart from the weather challenges this week we were also slightly delayed by a toilet blockage…

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Although a small inconvenience… the problem was quickly resolved and after loading the aircraft with food and fuel we were once again taxi-ing for take-off.

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Operation in full swing at LHR to prepare the aircraft for our trip to Dusseldorf.

Arriving in Dusseldorf we wanted to dine at a local Italian restaurant – when in Rome – but it was closed.  So instead we took advice and indulged in a highly recommended kebab, washed down with a local beer.  I have to say it was excellent but with one more day of this trip left it was early to bed.

Day 3 had us heading to LHR and up to Aberdeen where it was blowing a hoolie and horizontal rain with it. Not the best weather certainly, but I always LOVE spending time in Scotland so I really don’t mind what weather greets us.

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…especially when I’m working with such a fantastic team.  There was just time for a quick selfie on the airbridge before heading home and some well-deserved rest days.

My rota is incredibly busy this month and I was gutted I couldn’t make it over to Madras in Oregon for the ‘Jaffa cake’ eclipse, who remembers that famous ad?

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Still, I could watch it all unfold on Sky News. As day turned to night-time, Kay B did what she does best.

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It was almost like being there. Almost.  I loved her phrase centuries: in the making, decades in the planning, minutes in its magnificence!

Even the President and the rest of the First family took time to head out onto the Truman balcony and look up.

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NASA had chaser planes in the air and scientists on the ground across the whole path of the total eclipse, some 2,500 miles, as it cast a shadow from Oregon to South Carolina racing at speeds of 3,400 miles an hour.  That puts our A320 top speed into perspective!

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I was inspired to learn more and a quick Google search brought up this photo from more than 40 years ago. Wow.

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Concorde backlit by a total eclipse – photo Arthur Gibson, 1973

That’s it, I’m definitely making plans to see the next one in person.  South America 2019, here I come.

Right, that’s about it. Hope you enjoyed flying around Europe with me.  Just before go I thought I would end this week’s blog with a new feature.

Selfie of week…

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Maybe you next week?  If you see me on my travels do please come and say hello.

Until next time…