Freefalling in air pockets with ace pilots

Thursday, 1 July 2010 - 12:50am IST | Place: Mumbai | Agency: DNA
Laying hands on information when its needed most is the one dream reporters keep chasing all their lives.

Laying hands on information when its needed most is the one dream reporters keep chasing all their lives. But there also come those rare times when a hoard of knowledge and insight lands in their kitty from unexpected sources.

Something of this sort happened to me last week when I was invited to a party hosted by a pilot friend.

Reliable information is extremely hard to come by in specialised fields like aviation, as there are not many people who are willing to share sensitive data, and those few who do, request anonymity.

When incidents of serious nature occur in the aviation sector, they are usually kept under the wraps citing reasons of confidentiality and company interest.

This is why I was really excited about going to the do, and was hoping to get some interesting and inside knowledge about the aviation industry. As the party began a slow trot, pilots in small groups started discussing issues like the recent air crashes, problems facing the flying community, and their experiences inside and out of the cockpit.

One of them, who had just returned from Saudi Arabia, explained how his plane was caught in a big air pocket, and how he managed to keep the aircraft under control.

He said that that due to global warming and climatic changes, the skies around Saudi Arabia have become air-pocket prone and pilots have to be very careful while flying in that direction. “We can
foresee bad weather and clouds, but air pockets cannot be predicted,” said another pilot.

After a few pegs lining the visitors’ inhibitions, the anecdotes became funnier. “Once on a flight to Singapore, my plane hit a pocket. Due to the sudden impact, a lady passenger fainted. We asked for a doctor on board, but there was none. A male crew member, who had worked in a hospital before, volunteered to help.

He took off the lady’s coat and massaged the area around her heart. She gained consciousness soon, and was okay. The other crew members, however, rued that they should also have worked in a hospital,” said the pilot.

It reminded me of an incident during a flight to Hyderabad some years ago. As we took our seats, there was an announcement:

‘Welcome on board. This is your pilot, Captain Driver. Wish you all a happy journey.’ Everyone burst out laughing about the pilot’s name. As luck would have it, en route, the plane hit a few air pockets, jolting the passengers.

When the pilot finally flashed the all-clear sign, a passenger quipped, “Now I know why he is called driver. He likes to take his passengers on a bumpy ride.”

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