Tag Archives: Flying

Silent Sunday: Flying License. And Other Fishy Stuff.

royal tern mom and child Sand Key Beach Florida
Oh, there he is again. So handsome.
His wings are so strong…and he’s looking at me…
royal tern mom and juvenile Sand Key Beach Florida
Mom, can I go out with him?
Mom and juvenile royal tern Sand Key Beach Florida
No Sweetie, you’ve just fledged. You still need to get your flying license….. But I know how to fly, mom! You know I do!
royal tern flying Sand Key Beach Florida
There he’s flying! I bet he’s a good fisherman…
royal tern mom and juvenile Sand Key Beach Florida
Mom, you’re such a relic…I’ll need to exercise my wings anyway! And he’s so cute…Pleeease!
royal tern mom and juvenile Sand Key Beach Florida
You promised ..WOW…he’s coming back with a fish…
royal tern has a fish Sand Key Beach Florida
…and it’s a big one! Mom, look at him!
royal tern mom and juvenile Sand Key Beach Florida
Okay Sweetie, maybe you can go fly with him soon. But first you have to get your flying license. And show me you can fly safely without distractions. You just go take your bath now!

Royal tern swimming

Congested Airspace. Papa Osprey in the Control Tower.

Yesterday was the liveliest air traffic day in the nature reserve so far this year. Everybody was flying somewhere. At whatever altitude. Papa Osprey perched on the corner of his nest and watched the skies, much like an air traffic controller.

papa osprey alarmed watching the skies
Papa osprey watches the skies…

He was busy shouting instructions on when and where to land. And, in some cases, not to land at all. He was very clear about that. And loud. Landing permit denied.

papa ospey's warning calls
Papa Osprey controls his airspace…

The two gentlemen in question were ospreys. He saw these guys zooming into his airspace like fighter jets, one chasing the other.

two ospreys flying
Two ospreys zoom in…

The pursuer also had some questionable cargo. A half eaten fish was dangling from his talons.

other osprey or who
One osprey has become the hunted…he flies towards the ocean
another osprey with half fish flying
Another osprey with his meal in tow…is chasing the first one.

Papa Osprey must have concluded that something fishy was going down. Maybe the hunted, who strongly resembled the other guy hanging around the area, had tried to steal the cargo. And now had to flee to avoid punishment.

the cause for alarm the other osprey
Full circle, now flying towards the bay…
osprey with half fish
The pursuer doesn’t let up the chase…

They flew a couple of rounds above the nature reserve. You know, as in circling the airport. But got no permit to land from Papa Osprey. So off they went to settle their dispute on the bay-side. I could see Papa Osprey relax just a bit. But the congested traffic pattern continued. A Great Egret was taxing out and took off at the other end of the salt marsh.

Egret flying
A Great Egret jets by…

She reached her cruising altitude in no time and was shooting away like a small jet in the general direction of the bay.

egret landed
A Snowy Egret lands in the high grass…

In another part of the salt marsh, a Snowy Egret had a rough landing on a small island. She missed the airstrip and landed in high grass. Almost simultaneously, a Roseate Spoonbill landed on the neighboring island. Dangerously close to an Ibis waiting on the taxiway. But so far so good. No accidents to report.

A Roseate Spoonbill lands on a neighboring island...
A Roseate Spoonbill lands on a neighboring island…

In the meantime, the island hopper, a Great Blue Heron, took off from the runway closest to the ocean.

great blue heron bird taking off
A Great Blue Heron takes off…

He flew extremely low. Like trying to fly stealth under the radar.

blueheron flying 826
…and flies over the water, under the radar…

I’m sure Papa Osprey detected him anyway. But he let it be.  It was a short domestic flight from one island to another.  Soon the heron landed safely at his destination.

Blue Heron landed safely
The Blue Heron lands safely…

After that a pelican passed over the salt marsh at an unusually high cruising altitude. I guessed he was going on a fishing trip in the ocean as the landing gear was still up.

pelicAN IN FLIGHT

Then the traffic finally calmed down. The skies were empty and peaceful again. Well ahead of the Labor Day weekend. Papa Osprey took a well deserved break.

papa osprey says hi 826

Be well now…and if you’re going somewhere for the long weekend, please stay safe in air, on the road and in the water.  ❤ Tiny

 

My Shopping Mall in the Skies

On my recent trip to Northern Europe, I was shopping on all six flights. I like shopping in the skies as the “merchandise” on each flight is unique. And it’s completely free, I just put it in my basket and enjoy.

The mall in the sky offers a beautiful variety of landscapes. Most landscapes I shop for include some water views. Or cloud formations.

Preferably both water and cloud formations. But no birds. Please don’t get me wrong: I love birds, but prefer to enjoy them when they are the only ones flying.

When the evening comes in the skies, the sun is sending god flight wishes in splendid colors. Mine to enjoy for free, and yours too.

After the sunset there might or might not be something more to shop. One of my flights met the dim light of dusk over the Big City. I just had to shop for this look. So deceptively peaceful.

In another country, the following day, there was fog and low-lying clouds. Only a token brave tower reached its head above the clouds. It looked pretty funny, I think. Like  saying “hello there stranger”. Had to put it in my basket.

Then, after flying a short night when going East, one suddenly meets the first light of the new day. Far too soon – the body says it’s only just an hour or so after midnight. But of course that doesn’t count.

At first there are just faint colors signaling that the sun is waking up. Then, in only a few minutes, it raises its head above the sleepy horizon, coloring the clouds, the sea and the tiny islands. Very pretty.

And then the shopping trip in the skies was over. I had arrived with my basket full of free gods, courtesy of Mother Nature.

Sit Back and Enjoy the Ride

I love eventless flying.  Just simply transferring from point A to point B. And at times further to point C and D and E.  The more I have to fly, the more I want it to be…well, just plain travel, with no trials or tribulations to spice up the journey. You know, when everyone is there on time, including the flight crew, and the plane actually leaves the gate at about the promised time. When the taxi way is not crowded with 15 planes to take off before ours, and no last-minute thunderstorm makes us return to the gate, wait 3 hours and then get cancelled. Go nowhere. I mean, I love it when it all works. Plain and simple. And most often, luckily, that’s just what it is. But those of us, who need to travel places or have to commute to work by plane (that’s a different story), know that sooner or later we’re going to experience some bumps on the road, not necessarily on the way to the airport. Like many of us, I have my list of memorable flights from the most amazing to the scariest. This story is about a few of them. I’ll start from the scariest end of the spectrum to put some perspective on the fact that over 99% of my flights have been there in the middle somewhere, eventless and effective in taking me from here to there, and that we’re talking about the less than 1%. Airplanes My scariest flight was on a calm Friday night when I was going from Washington D.C. to Europe on vacation on a major European airline. We left Dulles almost on time. I sat in coach towards the back of the plane, happy to finally be on my way. We were ascending, already close to our cruising altitude, when suddenly a loud explosion shook the plane. Since I sat in the back of the 747, I immediately saw what was happening. One of the four engines was on fire. It was already dark and the fire lit up the air and the whole left side of the plane. People closest to the window started screaming and crying. Close to panic. I saw the flames and could hear them too, but somehow I just remained completely calm. Don’t ask me why or how, but in my gut I just knew nothing terrible was going to happen. Not my time. I started calming the young couple next to me. Said everything would be fine. After a little while, the fire was extinguished. And shortly after that the captain announced that we now had three engines. And while we technically could fly on those three, he didn’t think it was a good idea. I’m sure most of us agreed, I did. So we would go to JFK after dumping enough fuel to be able to land safely. We circled for quite a while and then went down for an emergency landing.

Airplane engine fire
Airplane engine fire

The welcome committee was definitely there. We could see two rows of emergency vehicles lined up next to the runway, lights flashing. No other traffic coming or going. We were the only ones around in the air. And of course it all went pretty well, considering the other options. Four hours later about half of us boarded another plane, lots of space now, and had a completely eventless flight to London. Little shaken and probably listening to the engine sounds little more attentively, most of us didn’t get much sleep. The connecting flight to my final destination was peacefully eventless and I slept the whole two hours. My bumpiest flight was on a beautiful, breezy summer day from Joburg, South Africa to Lesotho’s capital Maseru on one of the two planes of that small country’s airline. I’m told this flight is almost never completely smooth due to the mountainous geography and wind conditions, but my flight was rough. From start to end. It was like being in a shaker, up and down, from side to side, constantly without a break. Many of us got to get familiar with the little white bag in the seat pocket. And had it continued for another 15 minutes, I would’ve too. I was pale and unsteady on my feet for hours after the jumpy landing. And very happy to be on solid ground.

My luggage tags from the Air Lesotho flight
My luggage tags from the Air Lesotho flight

My most spectacular flight was from Harare to Nairobi on a reputable African airline. It was a brilliant sunny day and the ride was smooth. After about half an hour into the flight the first officer announced that the flight would be about twenty minutes longer. We had to go around a large storm front. Look to your right and you will see it, he said. And we did! I sat at the right window and saw the spectacular sight. The cloud was formed like a cylinder.  I could see its shape from  the side, its “bottom” and its ”top” as we slowly circled its left side. The most spectacular light show I had ever seen was in progress inside the cylinder. Thousands of lightning strikes in many colors were going in all directions simultaneously, blinking and coloring the different parts of the cloud – bright, white, purple, yellow, red, pink and blue. All of us on the right side of the plane were transfixed on the display, with our heads pressed against the window. That was a stunning spectacle high in the sky!

Thunder cloud in the sky
Thunder cloud in the sky

My most surprising flight was in Europe on a small charter airline, which is no longer in operation. It was the week before Christmas and I was in a hurry to get home after a long business trip to four countries. I was driven to the airport in Skopje, Macedonia by a nice driver from our office. He asked where he would drop me off, what airline I was taking. I told him. He was quiet for a moment and I thought he was doing the cross sign before speaking.  No one flies on that airline. Are you sure? I looked at my ticket and said I was, and asked him why was that. He pretended not to hear my question and quietly dropped me off wishing me a safe trip. Walking into the plane I started to feel I would soon find out. I was entering a very old Tupolev, probably retired from Aeroflot several years earlier. All signs were in Russian and I could observe the old age of the plane everywhere. The ceiling and the inside panels were repaired God knows how many times, and the vinyl covered seats were torn and really worn out. I could see some of the screws and nails sticking out. Were they loose? The cockpit door was open but no sight of the pilots. Unmanned aircraft? Oh, there was one male steward in the plane. I didn’t run away…simply because the only way to get home was to catch my flight from Zürich that same afternoon. I sat down and quietly studied the Russian signs.

An old Tupolev aircraft
An old Tupolev aircraft

Around the departure time the pilot appeared. A pilot, not in plural. He was a short older man with long white hair reaching to his shoulders. He wore jeans and a bomber jacket. He swiftly sat down in the captain’s seat and revved up the engines. The cockpit was dimly lit, lights blinking. I could see it all from my second row aisle seat, all the way to Zürich. At take off, I scrutinized the insides. Everything was vibrating, shaking and making noise. But up we came. The guy in the bomber jacket knew what he was doing, had done it many years, that was obvious. The trip progressed absolutely fine and the steward served coffee. Finally we started descending. I looked out and saw huge snow flakes flying hard against the side window, full snow storm. Now what? I had hardly finished that thought when the plane dove steeply…seemed like for several minutes. I held onto my chair. And then the old Tupolev planed again… and we had landed!  Soft and smooth. Walking out at Zürich airport I looked at the monitors and saw that all other traffic had been rerouted elsewhere due to the severe snow storm. I had been on the only flight that had landed! And the only one to land in the next hour or so. The old fighter pilot had done the trick and I’m sure it was not his first time. I caught my flight home, many others didn’t. There are many other memorable flights, such as my air safaris or my trips on the super jumbo, A380, but I have to end my story by telling you about my most luxurious flight. Just because there are pleasant surprises as well.  This was a fairly recent flight from Switzerland to the States on a well-known European airline. I was coming home after three days of 24/7 work in Europe and was happily surprised to have been upgraded to First. I could use some rest. When I entered the first class lounge, the Associate asked me to give her my boarding pass and my immigration documents. Now go sit down and enjoy the food, we’ll get you when it’s time to board, she said. Ok, I did as told and enjoyed the modern, stylish environment and sampled the lighter fare among the great food offerings.

First class cabin on AF Airbus 380
First class cabin on AF Airbus 380

I got a bit concerned when I noticed that the time was 20 minutes before departure, knowing that the formalities on US-bound flights were extensive. Had they forgotten me? So I went to ask. She smiled, not yet time, go back and relax. More strong coffee and then, about 10 minutes before the departure time, she came for me. With her was a younger woman dressed in a yellow airport outfit with V. I. P. printed in black letters across the back of her coat. She took my carry-on, follow me, she said. And we walked a short while, not towards the boarding area, but to an elevator that took us directly down to the tarmac! A black Mercedes was waiting outside the elevator doors. My carry-on was lifted into the trunk, I got my documents and the door was opened for me. The car took off and…stopped at the plane. I was taken through small stairs directly to the jetway next to the airplane door and further to my seat, or rather to my suite. Bon voyage! And so it was! I watched films from my private library on the 24″ TV and enjoyed the exquisite food…and drink, I must admit. When I got tired, a comfortable bed was made for me and my privacy screen was deployed. Sweat dreams…. On one out of 100 flights, it’s good to be pampered, to feel like they appreciate your business. I hope you agree.

In the air
In the air

So we continue to take the shortest route to our destinations despite the occasional trials and tribulations… like an old Finnish saying goes “By flying you would be there already”. Safe travels, sit back and enjoy the ride!