When you have the love of flying in your core, every flight, whether or not your hands are on the controls, is an amazing adventure. I love being able to use my iPad and the Live ATC and Foreflight apps to track my flights on the commercial carriers while I sit back and dream of one day commanding a plane of this size. And I just can’t seem to stop myself form taking pictures of the amazing view that are all around.
I have also found that I have become quite the cloud geek, closely watching clouds develop and transform right before our eyes and then to anticipate the changes in the flight conditions. On approach into Edmonton, I could clearly see that we were going to have an exciting approach as we were literally leading a storm front with strong down drafts. Once established on the approach, I could hear the engines roar to life as the captain needed to increase his airspeed to maintain the glide-slope.
On the return flight to Phoenix, we quickly climbed above the cloud layers offering again some amazing views of scattered and stratiform sharply contrasted with the bright blue sky. Shortly after reaching the cruising altitude of 39,000 ft, the flight attendants made a call over the PA that there was a passenger onboard who was needing medical attention and the mood on the plane got pretty tense and clearly they were also dialoguing closely with the pilots on the flight deck and I immediately jumped on Foreflight to review the charts to start identifying possible airports for an emergency landing. Thankfully it never came to that and the passenger was able to be attended to by a nurse on board however, it did appear that we descended to a lower altitude much earlier than I would have thought for a normal approach into Phoenix and I wondered if they were doing so to get priority sequencing into the Phoenix airspace.
Once on the ground, paramedics quickly boarded the flight and removed the passenger before the rest of the plane could leave, but it was again handled very smoothly and professionally. All in all, the experience further solidified for me the need for the flight crew to maintain their calm demeanor throughout an incident or emergency and that there really is no time to panic. You just follow your checklists, protocol, training to control the situation to the best of your abilities and work with your colleagues to care for the passengers in your trust.