Friday, October 16, 2020

Back in business: the New Normal

October 2020

It's been a tough year for me. Not because of the novel coronavirus, though. It all started with a serious injury, way before the pandemic was globally known. The pandemic only made my recovery more difficult, but fortunately I made it and I haven't lost anyone dear because of the virus.

Yet, I still got emotional and on the verge of crying when my crew bus approached the beautiful Airbus A330neo for my first flight in a 9-month gap. When many crew members are packing up their uniforms to return them to their airlines and face unemployment, I was lucky enough to take the opposite direction, lucky enough to still have my job.

For me it would be a very different flight since it was an instruction flight. I lost my A330 qualification and I had to repeate the entire syllabus again. Starting a month earlier, ground school was just as easy for me as in other moments of my career. After all, the big advantage of having an aerospace engineering degree is that nothing else is rocket science for me anymore.

But for the instruction flight I had to make a very serious preparation. In normal circumstances, a 9-month gap is enough for many things to change in my job. Add a coronavirus context to it and a whole new world, a whole new normal was waiting for me. And I must be honest: I hate it. I'm thankful I still have my job, but I hate this new normal.

Our mission was a repatriation flight out of Caracas/Venezuela, although about 80 passengers were booked to Venezuela: we had passengers both ways.

As much as I am an aviation geek, I admit I was happy to stay at home for such a long time. I kept my mind busy all the time - I never read so many books in my life, I never watched so many Netflix series and listened to several podcasts, I never took so many strolls in the enjoyable neighbourhood I live. After I recovered from my injury I never took so many bike rides, which I love to do. And more important: I completely caught up on lost sleep accumulated over a decade of flying. I'm finally waking up even before my daily alarm rings. I'm financially stable and not so dependant on the variable part of my usual income. With so much chaos reshaping the face of our planet, I embraced my home and my neighbourhood as a safe and comfortable haven.

But finally it was time to return to my old job. It was time to finally embrace the A330neo as much I used to hate it before this gap. This aircraft is a delight for passengers due to its level of comfort but for those who work on it, it is a nightmare because of the options that were taken in terms of equipment and working conditions. But, it's what we have now and we must get used to it. Not to be neglected, it has beautiful and huge Rolls-Royce engines which remind me of my wonderful L-1011 days. And they are way more silent than the previous generation of engines powering the A330ceo's.

The outbound flight was smooth and without the trouble we faced dealing with a full load of passengers on the return flight and trying to comply with all the new COVID-19 rules...

On a personal side, after a 9-month absence I was comfortable enough with my duties and responsibilites on both flights, so the instruction flight was a success for me: I got my A330 qualification back.

Let's hope things will improve from now on and that aviation will be back on track after being decimated by this anoying virus.

Some photos while approaching the Caribbean Sea...

... we've been told this was Los Roques archipelago:

And finally we landed at Maiquetía Airport.

It was a very short stay at Catia La Mar and I didn't venture outside the hotel.

Sunday, April 29, 2018

Hotel Style & Decoration in Boston

May 2017

Boston is still such a lovely layover and this time I could enjoy really hot weather and sunny days.

Icelandair at Logan Intl Airport

Vintage SATA A310 that went tech

Boston Common Park is always a must visit place for me. And what a contrast without snow and with flowers blooming everywhere in the middle of the splendid green!

Another thing that amazed me was this chair in our new hotel. Strange but captivating form of art.

See you soon again, Boston! It's always a pleasure to visit you.

Thursday, April 26, 2018

Caracas: enjoying the pool at the hotel

October 2016

This was my first time flying to Venezuela. By that time we still had layovers in Caracas before the political situation worsened.

Still in Lisbon, our Airbus A330 was parked in the ramp area in front of Terminal 2, an unusual location since the T2 became a low cost terminal a few years ago.

Parked at LIS - T2

And then we arrived at Simón Bolívar Airport in Maiquetía.

During our taxi-in to the gate I could spot several classic/vintage aircraft like the DC-9 and the Boeing 737-200.

We were advised not to go beyond the hotel perimeter so my stay was basically enjoying the pool and the sun while reading a book (The Martian) and hearing to some of that noisy and vintage air traffic taking off - our hotel was was strategically located nearby the airport.

 Soon it was time to return back home...

Strong beliefs...

The passengers' terminal of Símon Bolívar Airport seems like it is frozen in the 70/80s. Before our departure I could spot the majestic Jumbo of Air Pullmantur (now Wamos Air) which was operating for Conviasa by that time.

I don't know if I will ever return to Venezuela again. Our flights are now being operated by a third party airline. But if I am to go back one day to Caracas I hope things have improved in order to explore more of this city.

Across the pond...

Sunday, April 15, 2018

Flying for the first time to Bucharest

March 2018

It seems like I'm only assigned for medium haul during the months partially covered with holidays. I'm quite sure I'll be moving to the intercontinental fleet soon, leaving the current mixed fleet regime.
So, it is with no surprise, that despite TAP having launched flights to Bucharest first in 2012 (until 2016) and then in 2017, Otopeni Airport was still missing in my logbook.

Being a round trip flight all night long, you might suspect it is not very popular among the crews. And because Bucharest is located more to the east, it means that the return flight is flown already in the daylight.

Anyway, it's always nice to fly for the first time to a new airport. At least I had some curiosity. Otopeni Airport is named after Henri Coandă, an aerodynamics pioneer which is well known among Aerospace Engineers because of the Coandă effect. It really took me back to my old engineering student days...

Coandă effect

During the turnaround time I took a few photos. The landscape in the vicinity of the airport was all covered with snow and I always find it so beautiful!

I was looking out for some TAROM traffic (the flag carrier of Romania) but I was only able to spot one movement after we closed doors to initiate the return flight to Lisbon.

Wizz Air A321 wit hsharklets

After a very smooth flight, we had a morning arrival in Lisbon and a last view of our beautiful Airbus A319 "Camilo Castelo Branco" which was still bearing the old "TAP Portugal" designation on both sides of the tail fin.

A319 tail number CS-TTN

Saturday, September 23, 2017

I just can't get enough of this city

August 2017

New York... of course! The city that never sleeps. Today's journey commenced with a dead head flight to Porto, flying in one of those tiny but comfortable ATR 72 operated by White Airways for TAP Express.

I spent the 1-hour flight reading this book : Skygods - The Fall of Pan Am.


Pan Am was one of the biggest and greatest airlines ever. At some point of its existence Pan Am and Commercial Aviation, as we know today, were synonyms. It was due to their visionary and historic leader Juan Trippe that Boeing built the Boeing 707 and 747: "if you build it, I'll buy it". After all these years, it's still shocking that such a great airline was allowed to go "Tango Uniform". Pan Am had its headquarters precisely in New York/Manhattan. So I thought it was a good option for this trip.

Soon we would be on board of our mighty and sleek Airbus A330 heading towards Newark Liberty Airport. As we were flying out of Porto, the scheduled time of arrival was considerably later than I'm used to when departing from Lisbon. So I didn't even consider going to Manhattan on the first day. Instead, I joined my crew and went for the first time to Seabra's Marisqueira in Newark which is a portuguese restaurant very popular among the crews. Even if I was not too hungry (I had dinner on board) I enjoyed a wonderful seafood soup.

Seabra's Marisqueira mat

The next day it was time to discover Manhattan one more time. I had a short to do list including buying a music CD that I couldn't find anywhere in Portugal. But the first thing of the list was to spot a NY cab with a top advertisement of "Portugal Stopover" program by TAP Air Portugal. I was really curious because they already had the slightly modified logo of the airline that, to my delight, decided to readopt the old trade name of the 80s instead of the short "TAP Portugal" that never made sense to me. I love the current and more colorful monagram but I was never too fond of the associated trade name. The name TAP Air Portugal also reinforces the statute of TAP as a legacy carrier.

TAP Air Portugal

Portugal Stopover

To my surprise I didn't have to wait too long. As soon as I arrived in Lower Manhattan/WTC I found one... and then another one... plenty of them! Wow! A small airline of a small country being on the spotlight in one of the greatest cities of the world - really amazing this campaign. A total of four countries among our network, with a stopover in Portugal, were publicized: France, Italy, Morocco and Spain. In fact, a total of 400 taxis were circulating with TAP Air Portugal's ads.

Portugal Stopover: France

Portugal Stopover: Italy

Portugal Stopover: Morocco

Portugal Stopover: Spain

Enough of taxis! New York has, as always, so much to offer. My final item in the to do list was to search for the CD I mentioned. I walked in the uptown direction towards Union Square where there is a Barnes & Noble store (later I found there is another one in the 5th Avenue). I was lucky enough to get the last example available of the CD I was looking for!

Barnes & Noble at Union Square

Because I was alone, I decided to have a fast lunch in a McDonald's at Union Square and save time to explore the city.

Empire State Building

Chelsea Market

My first stop was Chelsea Market, a food hall I wanted to visit and then I proceeded to the High Line.

Chelsea Market main Entrance

Indoor fountain

From an aesthetic point of view I found it interesting but I have some doubts I will ever consider it as an option of a place to have a meal if I'm alone. Too many people and tourists...

High Line

It was only in December 2014 that I first heard about the High Line which opened to the public in 2009. The High Line is an elevated linear park/rail trail created in 2009. I made the entire 2.3 km trail running from Gansevoort St to W 34th St in March 2016 but most of the vegetation was still showing signs of winter burn, so I felt it was worth to explore the High Line again.


Art at High Line

"Hidden" track

Times Square

I've seen it so many times before but I always feel compelled by the big electronic/digital billboards.

Alitalia filed for bankruptcy a few days before my visit to New York but they still had money for some impressive advertisement.

Marriott Marquis where I used to stay when landing at JFK Airport:

Yellow cabs!

MetLife Building
Grand Central Terminal

MetLife Building was once the headquarters of the "World's Most Experienced Airline" Pan Am that went bankrupt in 1991. Many New Yorkers still refer to it as the Pan Am Building. The brutalism style and its visual impact is controversial.

Metlife Building was built adjacent to the Grand Central Terminal - an impressive train station serving New York. Both buildings lie in the middle of Park Avenue.

Grand Central Terminal & Metlife Building

Pershing Square Plaza

Park Avenue

Empire State Building

But my all-time favorite is indeed the Empire State Building with its setback architecture style!

Soon it was time to start thinking about returning to the hotel. I would catch the PATH train back to Newark from the WTC Transportation Hub, dubbed Oculus.

Silverstein Family Park (7 WTC)

WTC Transportation Hub

Designed by Calatrava (everyone would guess it...) the Oculus is for sure a stunning structure.

I think there was some ongoing Fire Alarm System testing while I waited for my train...

New York... never disappoints me! I just can't get enough of it.