Thursday Now, and Chaos Reins.
It’s only Thursday in the sense of a time-segment before days off: could be any named day of the week. But in the flight crew world, the calendar slips days like gears, the only important condition being that the drive train works, turns, moves: flies.
And it’s Thursday in the sense of past-mid work week tired; thousands of miles gone like pages turned, but the final chapter yet to be written, never mind the epilogue: you’re responsible for how the story turns out; lots of folks will be reading over your shoulder, commenting eventually. On time? Bumpy ride?
Nobody reads between the lines anyway–fuel burn, altitude, routing, navigation; pay no attention to the man behind that curtain. Just as well, though, because surgery is easier for the surgeon if the patient is completely out of the conscious realm. Leave the driving to us.
The day, like the trip, has broken in half and the better part of the light and heat slipped over the horizon, fickle as tomorrow, leaving dusk like a sigh that slowly dies, restless, then dark.
Freak! Coward. Regardless, gone is the day and with it, distance and depth, at least ahead and below. Still in hand, though, the reins of chaos: 50,000 pounds of thrust and 3,000 psi of hydraulics moving ailerons and rudders on demand. The sea is dark and the reins tight and make no mistake: we’re cruising the fire in the dark.
We’re on the downside of a northern arc when the eastbound fireflies cross our nose; below, mostly, having just left the west coast headed east. We’re lighter, waypoints beyond and a few thousand feet above their path, surfing the jetstream east. The burst of wingtip strobes, pinpoints, then the permanent geometry of running lights–green passes nearest on the starboard wingtip slicing along eastbound; the captain’s side, the red tip, harder to spot but like ships running through the fog, you know which way they’re headed by the configuration of lights.
And in their cockpit, a temple of dark silence like yours, someone’s manning the fires, someone’s got the reins, both beat back the chaos only inches away of a -50 degrees freeze-dry you in seconds outside air temp too cold to even form ice; the 500 mile per hour gale that would shred the conglomeration of bodies and bones and stuff and wires and metal over three states if the reins slip loose; the air half again as thin as the top of Everest, turning you blue before you could lose consciousness a heartbeat later.
Steady, a steady hand, a steady head watching the geometry of time, distance and altitude shrink–hold the reins, adjust accordingly. It’s a step-down of epic proportions, energy paid out, energy dissipated on a gradual, bone-saving scale. Got to serve the numbers to keep the geometry safe, flat and eventually, at a complete stop. And it’s only Thursday, pace yourself: another attempt at hotel sleep, food; watering like any draft horse needs because there’s another flight day tomorrow.
Taxi in, Thursday nearly done. Folks are now where they’d planned to be, never mind the reins, the chaos, the fireflies, the jetstream. That’s your world. That’s the flight crew world, where tomorrow at last the clock strikes Friday–and home.
This week, on Jethead Live:
We go one-on-one with airline analyst
concerning the future of air travel . . .