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Guy Leitch

June 21, 2017

We live in wonderfully uncertain times. As I write, that nice lady Theresa May has just been given a bloody nose by looney leftie Jeremey Corbin. US President Donald Trump is being seriously embarrassed by his fired FBI Director. And 39 year old French President Emmanuel Macron, who is younger than his wife’s son, said, “Let’s make the world great again,” as a perfect riposte to Trump’s withdrawal from the Paris Climate Accord.

Here in South Africa, the Gupta leaks are amazing in the way they are tearing a whole government apart. That they imagined their emails would never be leaked, speaks volumes about the Guptas’ and government cronies’ arrogance. It also reminds those who believe in conspiracy theories that no conspiracy will ever last, because sooner or later someone will spill the beans – even if as a death bed confession. So yes, man did land on the moon.

Talking about climate change brings me to the point of this random riff: as pilots, the weather is the one thing that we can always expect to be unreliable and challenging. And this is where professional pilots really earn their keep. Of late I have been much impressed by the vast chasm between professional pilots and those who aspire to be professionals. SAA recently failed seven out of seven co-pilot upgrades. We have the confidence of knowing that our much-maligned national carrier is at least keeping standards up.

The Cape weather has been as bad as it gets, with forecasts warning of 100 km/h winds and heavy rain. And yet every flight into Cape Town landed safely. There were minimal diversions or cancelled flights. On Flightradar24, I watched the pilots spacing themselves to get in between the squalls and flying the ILS down to the Cat 3, 50 ft minimum  – where the joke is your aircraft needs a ‘paint sniffer’ to find the white lines on the runway.

When the weather is this bad, it is the Captain who, as always, has to make the decision whether to take on the weather and attempt to land, or to divert to some non-challenging place. When you are confronted by these extreme conditions, but you have a plane load of passengers who expect to be delivered safely and on time – and without a scare – then the pressure is on, compounded by peer pressure from fellow pilots who made it in and your flight-ops department who has a schedule to maintain and does not want to have to pay for passenger accommodation and busses.

These professional pilots beating the worst weather and getting in safely are testimony to the high standards this profession maintains. It is a product of years of practice and endless six-monthly simulator ‘sweat box’ sessions that enable pilots to deal with the worst mother nature can throw at them. To those who aspire to be airline Captains, the responsibility and the standards required is, to use a horribly over-worked word, awesome.



Quote of the month:

How hard is it to fly a plane?

When asked on the aviation forum how hard it is to fly a plane, ‘SaraLima’ replied:



“Flying an airplane is as simple as riding a bike …  only you’re riding that bike     while juggling six balls with a random seventh, eighth or ninth thrown in,        doing your tax returns, taking  dictation from an auctioneer, speaking a foreign language, interpreting several hieroglyphic maps,  operating at least three   computers, drinking a bottle of water, doing algebra in your head, and simultaneously conducting urgent experiments in navigation, critical thinking, meteorology, biology, psychology, chemical propulsion, thermodynamics,        metallurgy and, of course, aerodynamics as you prepare to react to a dozen   different situations that could have life-threatening implications if you don’t    do the right thing nearly immediately.”

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