Wednesday, December 21, 2016

It was only a kiss!

I am writing this as I hold Jack in my hand. Jack who brings the warm and the calm back to me, Jack my saviour. Jack who cost me a load of pennies at the bar. For Jack's sake, no, he is not my boyfriend and neither he is my nephew. Jack is a drink, a hot whisky of sorts, a welcome alternative to your average Glühwein available on the Christmas market.

Just, why did I need to meet Jack so desperately then? Put it all down to a kiss. I had a ride on this yellow big little something we call tramway, just slightly out of town towards the shopping mall. Casually stood in the alley (as I am meant to be for another 30 years for sure), I surely did not expect what was coming our way. A soft braking action towards my stop turned into something nastier. The pilot up front seemed to have gone the way of full reverse thrust and blown tyres in my book.

At the back, the pedestrian self-loading cargo was starting to shift slightly towards the front. Half a millisecond after the braking got stiffer, I held on the handrails a bit tighter. Only to let go another millisecond later, assuming that if not, my wrist or my arm could soon point into a slighty uncomfortable direction. Just as I kind of regained control, the lady to my right came closer and closer and … oh, well, lucky enough she did not hit me at full tilt. Nothing against a fair lady on top of yours truly, but let it be another one. Please!

The yellow 40-metre chariot turned awkwardly silent, with the entire population of this microcosmos waiting for things to happen, the tram to make the last ten metres to the station. Things probably lasted five minutes, but in proper football terms, this rather felt like 45. It may have been six or seven minutes even, given the necessity for people to start calling their close ones. Not feeling that need just yet, I tried to have a look outside, where somewhere up front I saw a van in an unconventional position, right on the opposite direction tracks.

Said van soon retreated and the driver swiftly got called over for an open-air meeting over paperwork. Not much bad blood ma'am, but if you are smart enough to put yourself and your van into the tram hit zone, you pretty much deserve a good shellacking out in the breeze. She might argue that her front numberplate got headbutted by that yellow monster that had just eaten 150 humans before. Lucky enough, apart from that, nothing of note happened. As far as the tram and the van are concerned, it was only a kiss.

Thursday, December 08, 2016

Fifty shades of grey

While others are just sailing the seven seas of booze and visiting places that make my heart (yes, I do have one!) go wild, I am sitting here in the freezing fog and once more pointing my verbal gun at my sorrows … ;)

It has been a shit few days if you allow me some colourful language. For the first time in what has felt like half a century I found my way out to the airport this week. I arrived there in half sunshine, half fog, expecting the latter to clear, given it was hardly lunchtime still. That grey old bastard had other plans though, but being as optimistic as only I can be out there, I was not yet ready to give up. Meeting a few old friends can make waiting time exciting time too.

That time became longer and longer and to be frankly honest, my friends were about everything I could see. Hats off to those flight crews who made it down in one piece and hats off to those who made the right decision not to force things when maybe they could have and caused trouble in doing so. Flying must have been a nightmare that day and so was taking pictures.

F-GLZR, Air France, A340-300

On the way back I met another old friend of mine and we had a chat over a coffee about what we had just seen - or more essentially, about what we could hardly see in the mist out there. If you have any doubts about that grey rectangle above, this was as bad as things got and let me tell you, it was not only dull, it was windy, moist and freezing!

The next day things did not get better. In fact, they got dramatically worse. This time the talk about courageous flying with hardly any visibility was not the talk of disappointed planespotters, this time death had struck. Over dinner I found out about a homebased Piper PA-34 aircraft that as it would turn out to be crash-landed within the airport boundaries. They say pilots don't die, they just fly away and don't come back. But what exactly can you say if he actually comes back but does not make it from the airport fence to the terminal?

HB-LSD, Piper PA-34, crashed at BSL, 7 Dec 2016

I spent considerable time trying to gather information to have some basic imagination about events. Said information includes straightforward things as maps, weather, radar tracks, but also tougher stuff such as an airband radio transcript from right when the accident happened. To the trained ear, airband radio is nothing special unless there are non-standard proceedings or for those who like it, particular language accents. This time I was listening to a record knowing that one of the voices would suddenly drop out for all the bad reasons. I have listened to the same record again since, but the first go was a really tough one.

Crashes do happen and I do not have any illusions about that whatsoever. It is the particular context that made me slow down just a bit now in this case. Having been just a few hundred metres from the crash site not only the day before, but on so many other occasions, some wild thoughts came across me. What if this had happened on a sunny Sunday afternoon with so and so many people watching live? These are a kind of thoughts that comes up naturally, but should still not lead to knee-jerk reactions. I can definitely assure you that I will be back at the Belvédère, even if there is proof now that the sky may fall down on you.

A night and a day have passed since and the sky has cleared, at least for a few hours. The authorities have done their job and got their evidence on the spot which appeared to look as messy as messy can be. Where exactly on the scale of messiness this will, only they will know for now. As for everyone else, it seems appropriate to take a deep breath and look into the future. Time is moving on and I sincerely hope that the blue skies of today were only the start. I did not go without some more grey though, owing to one of those aircraft that had to avoid the crash site last night and got diverted as far away as Liège in Belgium:

A7-AFV, Qatar Airways Cargo, A330-200F

That basically should have been grey as their aircraft are very grey, but for some reason, this fella decided to show me the belly only …

Monday, December 05, 2016

The Alpha!

Vittu, perkele and saatana! Another one of those planes that has haunted me in my dreams and even more in my nightmares.

A is commonly known as the first letter in our alphabet. The Alpha, this is where it all begins. In planespotters terms, A is the first one of most fleets. Any registration number that ends on A is the oldest one in the group, the great-grandmother of all … of all those planes, eh!

Not matter how crazy they might be up north in Finland, even they stick to that principle. In a fleet of Airbus A321s that counts eleven units, I managed to catch the B, C, D etc. with no problem whatsoever. Even the more recent batch, that was not really meant to be flying the easy continental European routes, found its way into my collection as if it was the easiest thing in the world.

One of those bastards misbehaved. A!

When I first started to list my sightings about ten years ago, things seemed to be falling into place quite nicely. One gap after another was filled quickly and quite frankly, if five out of six get done within a year or two, why should the sixth as it were not pop up in front of me? Some vodka-drinking dispatcher must have stalked me from his office sauna and kept sending A anywhere, but not where I had my pixel gun ready to shoot the thing.

An unplanned run-in in Barcelona must have lead to that guy having been sacked now. Just as I was about to leave Barça this summer, I managed to catch a glimpse of what I just thought that it could be A. Upon verification through my very own stalking software (which only works for aircraft, just to make that clear to you girls out there!), it turned out to be A. Things turned around sharply. Within ten days, A decided to come and see me again, this time in London. And this time there was no escape from my camera any more …

OH-LZA, Finnair, Airbus A321
On that note, happy Independence day to all my friends from Finland!