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.