Last year I had the fantastic opportunity to fly in a Swiss MD-83 flight from Geneva to Barcelona and back in the jumpseat. I cannot begin this report without writing a little about the person who gave me the chance to be not only in the cockpit but living an entire day in the life of a pilot! My friend "Volaille" (as I use to call him) was F/O for Swiss at that time, actually he was an ex-Crossair F/O and this particular flight was his last for Swiss. Our friendship comes from our other big passion: the music. We play in the same band together, he plays slide trombone and I play bass guitar. Since years my friend wanted to give me the opportunity to fly jumpseat with him. One day he called me on my cellphone and asked me : "Guess what Al, I have a gift for you !" and I said : "Oh thanks that’s great ! What is it? New strings for my bass guitar perhaps?", he said "Noooo! Come to my house and I will talk you about it ". As soon as I stepped onto his house he said "You know what my friend? I finally managed to have a jumpseat ticket for you in the MD83!!", I was in heaven, he told me something I was dreaming about all my life: to have a jumpseat during an entire flight in an airliner, take-off, flight and especially landing! What a great news it was! I said "when?" and he said "in two days!... and we go to Barcelona!" Spain!! Fantastic!! Can’t wait!
He came to my house and picked me up with his car.
Volaille in his car driving to the airport.
As I live very near the airport it took us only two minutes to arrive to the airport. "Damn! I wish I could live next to the airport as you man!" he said, and I said "I better wish to have a job like yours !" we laugh together!
We passed our way through the airport police and before heading to the Swiss quarters in the main building he showed me the NOTAM’s and the weather for today’s flight. I have to emphasized that normally when you have a jumpseat ticket like mine you must go to the airplane taking the usual way with all the passengers using the usual gates for normal travellers, but my friend told me that he wanted me to show me all the pre-flight preparations and everything in the Swiss crew quarters in GVA, Exciting! We met all the crew there. Volaille introduced me to everyone of them. The only thing I could not assist was the pre-flight briefing, I was waiting in a room with large leather seats, a television and plenty of magazine to read.
After they finished with the pre-flight briefing we took an elevator to go down to the tarmac. While in the elevator, every crew members asked to each other "What are you going to do after?". The reality is that all these crew members were ex-crossair and with the Swissair fiasco the future for them was uncertain, sad but that was the reality. We stepped into the bus and finally get into the airplane.
This a/c was once painted with the McDonald's special scheme.
Ground staff talking with the pilots.
The captain told me "You can sit down on my seat while I’m doing my walkaround" "Oh! Thanks !" I said. The F/A’s prepared the cabin then Volaille showed me his "office".
The cockpit of the MD-83 HB-IUH
Smiling Volaille as he prepares the flight.
I took some pictures and make some comic-video showing him presenting today’s flight Video 1 - Presentation of the flight, we had a good laugh Then he said "Ok, now I need some calm to prepare the cockpit, while I’m doing this you can make some pictures if you want" and I thought: Ok this is serious stuff now I’ll shut my mouth and let him prepare the flight.
Another one with the preparation for the flight to BCN
Again a serious Volaille.
Central and F/O panel.
Among the preparation he programmed the FMS Video 2 - Programming the FMS, today we will take-off from runway 05 and head to St-Prex VOR, then we will turn to the right heading to Marseille and then to Barcelona for a flight of 1 hour and 10 minutes. The captain returned from his walkaround and said "This aircraft is OK, now we need to ask for some more fuel", he managed all this with the overhead panel, transferring fuel with the pumps from one wing tank to another and so on. Once this was completed, I left him his seat and I took place in the jumpseat, I put the headset to hear ATC. At that moment the passengers began to board.
Soon all the passengers were on board and the doors closed. The captain asked clearance for pushback and it was approved, the truck began to push. While pushing back the engines were started and Volaille told me to give attention to the noise when the fuel is coming in the engine, and indeed, when the fuel came in the engine 1 a sound like a soft boom was heard coming from behind the fuselage, then soon the same noise for engine 2. Both engines stabilised, the truck was removed from the nosewheel then the captain pushed the thrust levers a bit and said "Ok c’est parti !" with his swiss-german accent and we began to taxi towards holding point of runway 05. Video 3 - take-off briefing
After waiting for a moment while some a/c landed we were cleared for take-off. While lining-up the captain asked "we will do a rolling?" and Volaille said "Yes !" power was applied and the MD-83 began his roll. We soon reached V1 and VR, while rotating I noticed two things that surprised me: the first one was a weird and pretty loud noise that seems to came from around the cockpit itself but I didn’t ask as both pilots were obviously busy. The second thing is after the sounds of bumps and noise during the rolling onto the runway the cockpit became very quiet after take-off, the only noise seemed to come only from the air. I heard barely the noise of the engines!
The tower asked to contact departure, and after a while ATC asked to turn left (and not right as previously planned), we turned left and we passed over St-cergue proceeding to Passery VOR and then we headed as previously planned to Marseille climbing to our cruising altitude of FL310.
The flight was very smooth and nice. Volaille talked into the PA to inform the passenger about the progressing of the flight in french, english, spanish and german. As good Swiss-french we can’t really speak in german and I was near to laugh loud when he made this annoucement.
We decided to eat during the flight back to Geneva.
Captain with approach charts of BCN rwy25.
Captain adjusting the altimeter.
Volaille the F/O reading the airport charts of BCN.
Soon the ATC asked us to begin our descent towards Barcelona. During the approach Volaille told me "We have a 757 in front of us", meaning that he has to be careful of the turbulence of this bird, once he told me that he called the 757 a killer Video 5 - Approach and interception of the LOC. The AP captured the loc of runway 25 and we soon found ourselves perfectly aligned with the runway.
The old landing contest between captain and F/O. The landing will be the contest, who is gonna make the best landing of the day? Volaille was the concurrent number one at Barcelona and the captain will be the concurrent number two at Geneva.
Final approach to rwy 25. Note the 757 that was in front of us vacating the rwy.
Let's do a nice landing now !
Volaille performed very well on runway 25 at Barcelona, the landing was very smooth and he raised the level of the contest very high from the very start.
We vacated the runway and we saw the "follow me" car just in front of us, the captain then said "I don’t make confidence to these guys very much!". Anyway we found ourselves just in front of the right gate. The engines were shutdown and the doors opened. "Do you want to say good bye to the passengers?" asked Volaille to the captain, "No no, that’s ok" he replied. We felt the hot and humid air of Spain coming in from the windows and the doors. The beach is near the airport and we can feel that.
Arriving at the gate in BCN.
I called my wife and took a distinguished tone to say "mmmh, sweet honey don’t wait for me for dinner, I’m in Barcelona right now and I’ll be back in less than one hour". During our short stay in Barcelona we relaxed and had good laughs with the F/A’s. Volaille also showed me some features of the aircraft like the cockpit alarms while the captain was on duty performing… his walkaround again. Video 6 - Alarms in the cockpit
They prepared the aircraft for the flight back to GVA.
Preparation of the flight back to GVA.
FMS departure route from BCN.
Artificial Horizon close-up.
F/O "Volaille" with SID chart of BCN.
This time it was a night flight, very interesting thought to be in the cockpit. The captain was the pilot flying and we taxied towards the runway 20 for take-off. We were flight number 1947 and the captain said "huh that’s my birth year!".
Taxiing to rwy 20.
Sorry for the quality, but I thought it would be interesting to see the terminal area of BCN.
Blurry one, but I think it shows well the atmosphere of the cockpit in the night.
Once aligned on the runway 20 we waited the ATC clearance for take-off.
We are ready, and waiting for the take-off clearance.
ATC cleared us then the captain turned on the landing lights, power was set to the engines and the MD-83 was rolling on the runway. The same strange loud noise during rotation was heard like in GVA (I forgot to ask what it was); anyway the flight back was nice.
When we reached our cruise altitude the F/A kindly brought us a business meal and enjoyed eating passing near Marseille, the lights of this city was clearly visible. The highlight of this particular flight was the amazing view as we passed near the Mont-Blanc Mountain that tops at 4810 meters (15780 feets) pretty impressive!
We then began our descent towards GVA.
Last shot of the cockpit.
The active was still runway 05 and we therefore aligned via Passery VOR for a beautiful night landing. The captain was flying and the contest of the best landing of the day was still open between the two pilots. Landing in GVA rwy 05 is perhaps more difficult than that in rwy 25 in BCN. The characteristic of the runway 05 in GVA is the bump at the beginning of the runway, if the pilot misses to touchdown on this large bump or right after it, the touchdown will take place further hence the length of the landing is increased, also the landing itself can be more hard. The pilots use to pass under the glide on short final to avoid a long decelerating distance. We passed over the "route de Meyrin" where I spotted so many times in my life, I thought to myself : Wouah ! That’s really great, amazing, finally I see what is to be in an airliner here! I tried to shot a movie clip of the landing but unfortunately I did not get the touchdown. I can say that it was more bumpy than the one in BCN and right after it, both pilots were laughing about their contest, but as I said before I didn’t get this in my movie , that’s a shame because it was so fun !
We vacated the runway and headed to the gate at one of the satellite. The engines were shutdown and this great day came to an end. "No problem, this bird flies perfectly" said the captain to the ground staff. Then before going out of the a/c Volaille and the rest of the crew offered me a Champaign bottle to celebrate with them… it was exceptional day for me!
We then found ourselves at the entrance of the tarmac below the control tower, say good bye to each other and with Volaille we took his car to go back home.
This was on 17th april 2003 and my dream came true! Thanks to my true friend "Volaille" and all the crew for this unforgettable day!!
I hope you have enjoyed, feel free to let some comments.
Ndebele From Germany, joined Apr 2001, 2897 posts, RR: 24 Reply 8, posted (9 years 4 months 5 days 11 hours ago) and read 3001 times:
great opportunity to join your friend on that trip - although it was probably a sad flight for him given the fact that it was his last flight for Swiss.
Great pictures and videos! One question, was GVA-BCN-GVA the whole working day for the crew, or did they have other flights that day? Sounds quite short to me, is that usual, or was it just because there were simply no more Swiss MD-80 flights that day from GVA?
Thanks for a great report about an exciting trip, I enjoyed reading / watching!
Alphafloor From Chile, joined Jun 2004, 1277 posts, RR: 43 Reply 9, posted (9 years 4 months 4 days 9 hours ago) and read 2880 times:
Yes it was a little sad indeed. Nevertheless we had a lot of fun in this flight, it was quit special for us to be finally together in "his" cockpit, and after all it was a great moment, we still have excitement and fun when we talk about it and he is confident for his future as a pilot.
And yes, the GVA-BCN-GVA was the whole working day for the crew and I don't know if it was the only Swiss MD83 flight that day (as far as I know another crew came from Basel the same day...). In fact this flight was normally operated by the Swiss A320 but for some reason that day they used the MD83. The flying crew also worked the day before.