I’m starting to get the impression that a certain airline likes my blogs, because this is the second time this year that a regular (and usually boring) trip from Belgium to Germany becomes an epic adventure.
But let’s start from the beginning:

Last Monday I had planned a trip Brussels-Munich (flight) and Munich-Regensburg (shuttle) for the start of 2 weeks of meetings in Germany. I left home around 9:30 am for a flight at 1:15 pm (I read a couple of months ago that the most frequent traffic jams in the civilized world happen in Brussels and … I can confirm that). Once in Zaventem the usual stuff, check in, eat something and head for the gate.
When I arrived at the gate, my flight had already an announced delay of 15 min, no big deal I thought. We managed to start boarding at 2:00 pm. Of course by then some passengers with connecting flights were starting to get nervous.
Once in the plane the captain apologized for the delay, due to some “small technical problems” they had faced in Munich. I started reading the newspaper and by page 10 I noticed that we were still on the ground, so, something was wrong … and yep that was the case. The captain came out to inform that there was an issue with the evacuation slide on the front right door and that a technician would come up to see whether it could be “fixed”, or otherwise …

up_in_the_air

As you can expect the result was “otherwise”, so the captain asked us all to leave the plane and go back to the gate. I took the opportunity to “admire” the works on the plane. First they managed to open the door then to dettach the slide from the plane, and then the “technician” started to have the time of his life. He jumped again and again on the slide in order to deflate it, as you would do with a plastic swimming pool in your backyard. My son would certainly be jealous.

After I don’t know how long, we were invited to enter the plane again, BUT as the front emergency exit was not usable, all passengers should sit from rows 12 till 20something: first come first served (regardless the allocated seat). Thanks to many years of flying experience, I managed to be the first person to enter the plane and sat .. in row 12 (that’s an important point for the rest of the story).

Ok, so we are finally sitting, and then the flight attendant takes the microphone again, and I started to think “what next?”. “Dear passengers, we are giving a great opportunity in this flight, there is an available seat at the cockpit, if you want to take that seat you will have to be f…..
I started to get heart palpitations. Did I get what he just said? A passenger in the cockpit? Then it HAS to be me!! I sprinted 12 rows as if it would be to the finish line of one of my races. In one or 2 seconds I was in front of this guy with a smile in my face
…. ast”
He explained to me what a unique opportunity it was. I answered, that yes, I knew, because on my previous 1.083 flights I happened to be sitting in the cabin.

I sat in row 2 until the pilot started the paperwork, then he (Robert) welcomed me, introduced me to the copilot (Sylvia) and invited me to sit on the jumpseat, between pilot & copilot of that Embraer 195. I put my headsets on … and let the fun begin!!

It may sound like a joke, but it’s true: About the time when I was supposed to sit in the cockpit, they decided to take 250kg of extra ballast in the plane. I was thinking to myself that maybe they weren’t expecting somebody as skinny (I mean “athletic”) as me up there ;-).

To be honest I hardly dared to breath during the first minutes of the flight. The cabin was quite small and I was afraid to push with my knee or my elbow the wrong button and cause “real fun”.
After 10 min or so, the pilot turned the auto-pilot on and started talking to me. So, as things seemed under control we talked about the problems of the plane, his flight career, the cockpit and that stuff that “pro’s” like “us” normally talk about, you know? Well yes, every couple of mins we were annoyed by some voice in the headphones telling the pilot to change again the radio frequency from a to b, but that was the co-pilot task.
After my most magic 90 min ever in the air, we started the landing approach. Of course, that was serious, so I just kept quiet and enjoyed the view and all the screens (and please don’t imagine anything spectacular, they seemed like an improved version of the Space Invaders console game from the 80’s).
We had a smooth landing, taxied eternally at MUC airport (as if it mattered to me) and eventually arrived to the gate. We parked next to the plane that Robert, Sylvia & crew would take 1h later to fly back to Brussels. Because of all the problems instead of the “usual” 5 flights they would do in a day, they would ‘just” do three.
I thanked them both for this unique opportunity, and waited outside the cockpit watching with a smile in my face all the non-cockpit-passengers leave.

Then grabbed my stuff and left the plane around 3 hours after Expected Time of Arrival. As you will understand .. I couldn’t care less!!!

Rafael Sales

Rafael Sales

Work in Conti since 1997. Started in the Tire Sales Organisation of Belgium, first as IT Assistant, then as IT Manager. From 2003 I got more and more involved on Central IT projects, till I became "central". Right now I'm Distributed Systems Manager on the Tire Division, basically covering all the "PC World", including Messaging, Mobility ...

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