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Pilot Chronicles: Catching up on delays before the weekend starts.

Take a peek behind the scenes of airline pilot life. In “Pilot Chronicles”, we let our instructors, who are all airline pilots, give you some insight in their daily life as a pilot. This time, we hop onto the Embraer E190 of instructor Tim for a busy day with 3 flights, starting in Billund, going to Amsterdam and then flying to Helsinki and back. Tim also shares a little secret about how he makes a fresh cup of good coffee in the air.

Go Home Day
Billund, 0930am. Even though it is Wednesday, my weekend should begin tonight, as my four day trip will come to an end in Amsterdam. I woke up before my alarm went off, giving me a chance to have breakfast in the hotel. Since we arrived here ten hours ago, I did not want to get up earlier than strictly necessary, but now I have time. Shower – uniform – breakfast and meet up with the crew for van-time.

The driver takes us to the airport while the weather changes from gloomy at best to a downpour. I update the iPad with the latest weather, NOTAMS and routing information and see if there’s anything particular about our flight to Amsterdam. We are scheduled to operate a Helsinki and back afterwards, but there will be time to look at that later.

Airbus A320 Airplane
Delay recovery speed

After arrival at the airport the check-in agent warns us that the airplane will be delayed, a quick glance at Flightradar shows us that this is true but not worse than ten minutes. While that’s not a lot, it’s still problematic because roughly 70% of our passengers have connecting flights. The company can plan these connections with as little as 40 minutes of ground time, so even ten minutes could mean they miss it. The Embraer 190 eventually shows up at the gate and the Danish weather won’t budge, this will be a wet preflight inspection. As far as I can tell, all bits and pieces are still attached to the airplane, so I join my captain for a session of “button mashing” to prepare for departure.

Sweden landscape
Next destination: Helsinki

Next up, Helsinki! There’s just 45 minutes before our next flight, so no point in leaving the airplane. After some chitchat we strap back in for the 2,5 hours towards the Finnish capital. It might seem like another short flight, but by Embraer standards, this is the equivalent of going to Mars and back. During cruise, I have the opportunity to take my favourite piece of equipment out of my flight bag: a hand-pumped espresso maker. The coffee on board is of the “instant type” so it’s a great improvement over what we usually drink. We arrive in Helsinki early and hope to go home early as well to start our weekend a bit earlier…

Coffee and a biscuit

Departure slot back to Amsterdam

… But the dreaded flightdeck printer starts buzzing and spews out a slot. This means we can’t leave before or after a certain time. Luckily, it is on schedule, so no need to stress too much about it. The good news is it’s my turn to fly the airplane. I take it up to the flight levels, accelerate to climb speed above FL100 and ask for the autopilot. By now, it’s dinnertime. Catering services provides us with crew meals but alas, the quality is kind of hit or miss. I did not have time to get anything else, so it is what it is. Schiphol approach vectors us for runway 36R, which is not that far from our parking spot. On base, I disengage autopilot and auto throttle, configure the airplane and make a landing I would personally rate 7/10, but feel free to call me biased. The Embraer comes with autobrakes, but they do an average job at best, so I brake manually for the first exit. Another early arrival and it’s time for some days off!

Airbus Navigation Display
Pilot in cockpit
Tim Berger

Flight Instructor and airline pilot.

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