Combat Landing

Like most people, I complain about my job. I complain about our customers, management, IT (especially IT), the general ratio of work to pay, and pretty much everything else that come to mind.

In reality though, my job is pretty damn cool. One of the cool things about it is that I get to work in, on, or near various airplanes from time to time. Sometimes, I even get to fly in them as we test our software, and that's always an adventure.

As routine as air travel has become, flying on these airplanes for work reminds me of how truly remarkable it is every time one one of these metal beasts lunges into the air at hundreds of miles an hour. On these work flights, my job is usually to sit and observe and not touch anything. I do get to wear a cool headset, though. One that blocks out the roar of the propellors but lets you listen in on the chatter between the pilots and the tower and crew on the plane. It sounds kind of like the trucker talk you'd hear on the Dukes of Hazzard, just a lot more sophisticated -- and, as a side note, they really do say, "Roger" and "Copy" quite a bit.

On this last flight, they had installed satellite internet on the plane and were testing it out. For some reason, they thought it was important to see how far they could bank the plane before they would lose the connection. I lost my connection with reality at about 50 degrees of bank. It didn't help when they swung it around to bank at 50 degrees the other way. The only thing keeping me from throwing up was my intense fear of throwing up.

The fear intensified when I heard the pilots talking about doing a "combat landing." In a typical landing, the plane slowly decends and makes a couple of nice gradual turns to line up with the runway. In a combat landing (well, this one at least) the plane flies over the tip of the runway at a ninety degree angle to the way it should land. To the untrained eye, this might look like the plane is trying to land on some random airport building. But, as the plane crosses the tip of the runway, they immediately throw it into a steep bank and make a tight 270 degree turn. At the end of the turn, the plane levels out, and it should be going a lot slower and be lined right up with with runway for a landing. Of course, I didn't know any of this before they did it. At the time, all I was aware of was being really low to the ground and the wing tip pointed straight down.

I survived though, breakfast and honor still intact. Commercial air travel doesn't seem all the bad, now that I think about it.