Oh! The Glamour!

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Awoke this morning with a mighty start,
Suspended in the inky void.
Tried to slow my racing heart,
My dreamless slumber now destroyed.

Reached for where I knew the lamp was,
Where I though it might have been,
Came up empty, hurt my hand ‘cause
There’s a wall where lamp had been.

Confusion, now, my brain has gripped,
I start to wonder where I am.
Veneer of smugness now has slipped,
Consult my mental diagram!

Roll across the bed and fall out,
Find myself upon the floor.
Why am I awake? A call-out?
Search around for bathroom door.

Find the bathroom. Find the light.
Of course! It’s slowly coming back!
Could it be time for my next flight?
‘Cause if it is, I’d better to pack!

Frantically, I quickly shower,
Dress and fill my useless bag;
Leave the room, descend the tower.
God! This life can be a drag!

Make my entrance to the lobby,
In uniform with cap in hand.
Hotel staff all look so snobby,
Crew has gone! Well, I’ll be damned!

‘Twas then I spied the lobby clock,
My heart then sank just like a stone.
It’s 2 am! Oh what a shock!
Of course, I really should have known!

Ten hours early, I am now –
A trial run, of course, I planned.
Vacate the lobby with a bow;
You frequent flyers understand!

Stephen Tomkins
13 July 2015
Shanghai.

time zone

Author’s note: I make no comment as to whether the above incident actually took place.

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Night Flight

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A Cheshire Cat moon beams down from on high
And slowly sinks lower and lower in the sky;
His comforting smile rewarding my thoughts
While beset by machines with their ones and their noughts.

The blackest of seas swallows Cat and his smile
Like a red crescent whale diving deep for a while.
Pinpricks of light in an ebony veil
Disinterestedly shimmer, unchanging and pale.

Air hisses past like a rain-swollen stream,
While I seem suspended in a motionless dream.
Time passes by at a glacial pace.
The miles that we fly disappear without trace.

Bodiless voices speak on in my ears,
Silence again as the frequency clears.
A voice now beside me, my reverie breaks,
Suggesting a coffee to keep us awake.

The view from his window, no different to mine,
But does he perceive what I think is so fine?
The weather tonight is so clear and benign;
It’s not always like this when flying the Line!

Stephen Tomkins
11 July 2014

Midnight Departure

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Pinpricks of white in an indigo sky,
Stars twinkling at us, they’re not at all shy.
A platinum moon shines ethereal light
On towering battlements, black, edged in white.
Cathedrals of Cumulus, silent, imposing,
At eight miles a minute, we’re rapidly closing.
From deep inside, there’s a bright flash of light,
Perhaps it’s the incense that chose to ignite?
Threading the needle between them we go
While back in the cabin, you hardly would know.
A few hours later, the sky pales ahead
And rapidly morphs into deepest blood red.
Below us the ground turns a purplish hue,
And gradually features start coming to view.
Orange, then pink and finally gold,
The sun then ascends, it’s a sight to behold.

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Stephen Tomkins
9 February 2015

The Airbus Rap

By Stephen Tomkins
29 March 2014

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For those who don’t speak chic Français,
My footnotes might help ease the way!

Yo! You fools! I’m Stevie T!
I’ve got a message so listen to me!
That Boeing Crew just gives us crap,
That’s why I made “The Airbus Rap”.

They seem to think they’re the only ones
Who can fly a plane – they’re all Top Guns!
We Airbus guys, though, know the truth.
We’ve done our testing, got the proof!

With trusty sidestick at my side,
That Normal Law[1] gives one sweet ride.
We’re autothrusting up and down,
Trimming’s[2] for fools! You crazy clowns!

Triple Click[3]! Triple Click! Yeah! What I say!
A Cavalry Charge[4] and I’m away!
With autopilot now disconnected,
My flying skills are resurrected.

Wrestling Fifi[5]? No! No! No!
You’ll come unstuck, that’s not the go!
With sweet caress, you’ve got to treat her.
Trust me now – not trying to preach ya!

Airbus loves its acronyms
So learn them all or you’ll seem dim.
The AADs[6] the place to start;
Get moving now and learn them by heart!

Sometimes Airbus can be unkind
But don’t you pay it any mind.
She says some things I won’t repeat
As wheels and runway gently meet.

The Boeing guys still seem to grapple
With Fly By Wire stuff made by Apple,
And even though that’s not quite right,
The concept still gives them a fright.

They see our flight deck, start to frown
But who would want it painted brown[7]?
We eat our meals off sliding tables[8].
Our flight controls don’t need no cables!

By FMAs[9], we live and die.
Without them, Fifi wouldn’t fly.
A daily litany of them we pray;
It’s another language! No cliché!

Which brings me to my favourite part
(And that includes cool autostart!)
By phase of flight she changes screens!
I’ve yet to find out what that means!

Mon Dieu! I can’t believe the time!
To go on so long! It’s just a crime!
By Airbus cleverness, we’re inspired!
We hope by now, you’re not too tired.

You Boeing dudes are still our friends
And here’s how you can make amends:
Stop talking ‘bout your moving sticks[10]
Defect to Airbus! Quick! Quick! Quick!

To those who’ve not yet seen the light:
Give ‘Bus a go, it’s quite alright!

[1] The normal operating system for Airbus Fly By Wire (FBW) flight controls.
[2] Manual trimming of the elevators (when in manual flight) is required on Boeing but done automatically on Airbus.
[3] The warning sound made when a flight mode changes automatically to a more basic mode.
[4] The warning sound made when the autopilot disengages.
[5] An affectionate (?) name given to Airbus aircraft.
[6] AAD is an acronym for Airbus Abbreviation Dictionary – 91 pages of funky acronyms!
[7] Boeing flight decks were, for some time, painted in “pleasing tones of brown” while Airbus flight decks are grey.
[8] Airbus aircraft have retractable tables in front of the pilots, made possible by the absence of large control columns (which Boeing retains) between the pilots’ legs.
[9] FMA is an acronym for Flight Mode Annunciator/Annunciation
[10] Moving thrust levers (when autothrottle/autothrust is engaged) is a major and contentious point of difference between the two manufacturers.

Nothing To It! (or “What’s It Like To Be A Pilot?”)

Some envy my most glam’rous life.
You think it’s great? Just ask my wife!
She can’t remember who I am,
Quite over all pretence of glam!
Myself, I try to introduce
And broker an uneasy truce.
I slump into a comfy chair
To make up for night’s spent ‘up there’!
Soon enough my snoozing’s through,
There’s far too many jobs to do!

“You have to study? But what for?
You must have done it all before!”
And so I have but there’s more to it
Than simply turning up to do it!
“You only have to fly the plane!”
Such comments drive me quite insane!
The testing comes round mighty fast;
I study so I might get passed!
Keeping up to date is fun,
You start again just when you’re done!

In the cockpit, people ask:
“Just how easy is your task?
The autopilot does the work,
Sitting there is just a perk!
The takeoff’s done by button press
While you sit there in fancy dress!
Another press completes the landing!”
Shows their lack of understanding!
Were it so easy, they would be
Sitting there instead of me!

But when the rain falls, lightning flashes,
Engines fail and thunder crashes,
They’re very glad we’re sitting there,
Strapped into our sturdy chair,
With all our skills kept up to date,
Averting quite a nasty fate!
So when in flight you think “How easy!”
Remember us when you feel queasy!
It’s in our blood, this love of flight;
The work we do is out of sight!

Stephen Tomkins
31 December 2014