Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Seems like yesterday (My sky-high life)

There are certain moments during a pilot’s career that they will share years later with their grandchildren. These days, a flight to Berlin-Tegel is routine, yet still as thrilling as ever. The one that took place on a dull Monday in October 2010 marked a great day in my life, as this was my first flight as an airline pilot.

By Sales Wick, SWISS First Officer A320 

Having previously completed an apprenticeship as an auto mechanic, in 2008 I enrolled at Swiss Aviation Training and began the comprehensive process of becoming a pilot. As though it were only yesterday, I can recall my first day as a pilot, a position I had worked hard to achieve over a period of many years.

On that particular morning I put on my pilot’s uniform for the first time for a flight and looked forward to at last occupying the right-side seat in the cockpit. Shortly after mid-day I reported for duty at the Operations Center counter at Zurich Airport. Full of anticipation and a little bit nervous at the same time, I began the process for what would be my first official flight assignment.

Aspiring pilots at Swiss International Air Lines undergo thorough and rigorous training that concludes with a three-month period of practical route introduction. Upon successful completion of this phase, they earn the rank of First Officer. To ensure that the first few days of route flying go as smoothly as possible, the rookie pilot is joined by two experienced colleague, one a captain and the other a flight instructor, plus a First Officer who has completed additional training. The latter is called a SWISS “Ausbildungs-First-Officer”, or AFO, and accompanies fledgling pilots on their first assignments.

As arranged earlier, I met my AFO and under his guidance I gathered the necessary flight documentation and went through this paperwork with the captain on the flight. We worked out the amount of fuel required for the flight to Berlin and briefed the cabin crew on the day ahead – to Berlin-Tegel and back and then to Vienna, with an overnight stop.

From time to time, my AFO gave me valuable tips. The security check and bus journey to the aircraft passed in a matter of seconds. My thoughts were already in the cockpit and on the duties ahead. I had barely taken my seat when the first passengers boarded. In a few minutes the flight would be under way. Somewhat awkwardly I went through the checklist and discussed take-off with the crew.

Away we go!
We punctually set our "Papa-Tango" (a SWISS Airbus A319 with registration HB-IPT) in motion toward Runway 28. The cabin was ready, the checklists reviewed, and we then received clearance from the air traffic control tower: "Swiss 97 Tango, wind 210°/5 knots, Runway 28, cleared for take-off!" I switched on the stop-clock. My career as an airline pilot had begun!

The captain pushed the thrust lever forward and then handed over flight operation to me. "My controls” – now it was up to me to get the A319 off the ground. Concentrating intensely, I guided the aircraft down the middle of the runway and then took off. We set a northerly course, retracted the flaps and switched on the auto-pilot. My hand was clammy and shaking slightly when I let go of the control stick. At that moment I realized – I’m flying! I briefly enjoyed the moment and looked down as Lake Constance disappeared from view. My initial nervousness gradually faded.

Runway 26R, you are cleared to land
A mere 50 minutes later we were making our approach toward Runway 26R at Berlin-Tegel. The city was clearly recognizable, even the famous TV tower would have been perceptible, but I was concentrating too intently to enjoy the view. I reduced speed, gave the command to lower the flaps and the landing gear, and then switched off the auto-pilot. I then guided the 60-tonne aircraft with my right hand, received a final tip from my trainer, and soon afterward we touched down. I activated the thrust reverser and taxied to our parking position. I spotted a balloon with a “Smiley” image on the observation terrace. But I’m pretty sure that at that moment the grin on my own face was even bigger.

I observed my first passengers as the disembarked and wondered if any of them were aware that their flight had been operated by a first-time pilot?


About the author
Sales Wick is a First Officer on the A320 fleet of Swiss International Air Lines. After originally completing an apprenticeship as an mechatronic, he began his pilot training at Swiss AviationTraining in 2008. In his leisure time Sales enjoys photography and participating in sports.

If you’ve got the flying bug, you can find out more here about how to become a pilot on our website and by attending one of our regular career information events.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Training on ground (My sky-high life)

The annual three-day Recurrent Ground Course (RGC) presents cabin crew personnel with an opportunity to deepen their knowledge of first aid, emergency and general procedures, and crew resource management. The three full days, in which there is a great deal of content to deal with, are certainly action-packed.

by Kristina Roder

Last month it was time once again for me to attend the annual three-day Recurrent Ground Course, or RGC as we crew members refer to it.

The first item of business is to refresh our basic knowledge of medical matters. Where is a particular type of medication located? What questions must I ask before I administer anything? How do I respond in a serious situation, such as when a passenger becomes unconscious and perhaps stops breathing? Such scenarios are more common than one might expect. Air pressure within the cabin is the same as on a mountain peak at an altitude of 2,500 metres, which can cause difficulties for ill and elderly people. The extremely dry air on board is another troublesome factor on long-haul flights in particular. The importance of this training is reflected by statistics. If a problem arises, we can respond faster and more skilfully to bring it under control or at least prevent the worst possible outcome.

On the second day of the course we train inflight scenarios in a cabin mock-up environment. Last year a smoke drill was simulated, while this year’s topic was various forms of decompression. By training unusual situations, it is possible to respond faster and more competently in a real-life incident. The ability to respond swiftly is essential. And the importance of effective communication cannot be underestimated. A flight can last a long time, and access to the flight deck is barred by a steel door. It should not be taken for granted that the flow of information will go smoothly. By rehearsing an emergency we get to see where our own strengths and weaknesses lie and take appropriate action. After all, operating a flight safely requires the involvement of every single crew member.

The final day of the course includes my favourite exercise: fighting fire. Before I began flying I was very afraid of flames. Through the drills I have learned how to extinguish or contain a fire with a few simple actions. Such knowledge is beneficial away from an airplane, too. The day concludes with a test to make sure participants have mastered all procedures and know where equipment can be found if needed. Anyone who fails the test must repeat it as only those who possess the necessary knowledge and skills are permitted to fly.

Happily, I passed the test and can therefore continue to enjoy the sun above the clouds. And even if I am trained to deal with a serious incident, I’ll gladly forego the experience!

Thank you for also following my private blog: A cocktail a day

Monday, June 30, 2014

SWISS on Instagram (FlySWISS)

Our next Instagramer of the Month is flight attendant Fabienne Gassmann. She has been travelling around the world with SWISS since 2011 and in July you’ll have the chance to accompany her on multifaceted line of work. You can look forward to many creative photographs of what goes on behind the scenes. Be sure to follow us on Instagram and enjoy Fabienne’s pictures.

by Fabienne Gassmann

Dear SWISS fans and followers

Next month I will have the honour of presenting you with insights into my exciting job as a flight attendant. I am eagerly looking forward to sharing impressions of my aerial "office" with you.

After completing my commercial training with Swiss Federal Railways I wanted to see more than just the four walls of an office. Since 2011 I have been a highly enthusiastic SWISS cabin crew member. I love the variety my job brings because every day is different in terms of the crews, passengers and destinations.

During my first six months with SWISS I worked on short-haul flights. I then received training for the long-haul routes and since then I have been flying on all SWISS flights worldwide.

My preference is for long-haul flights because they involve only one take-off and landing, give us much more time with passengers on board and include a free day or two at the destination. I love the sea so I am always happy to be on a rotation to SFO, LAX or MIA. Hong Kong is another of my favourite destinations as a place that has everything to offer: shopping, great food, good and affordable massages and beautiful views from such places as The Peak and many more attractions.

During my free time I like getting together with friends. In the summer I love swimming in Lake Zurich or barbecuing at home when the weather is fine.

I hope you enjoy my pictures from all over the world and thank you sincerely for following @FlySWISS on Instagram. See you in July!

Sunday, June 1, 2014

SWISS on Instagram (FlySWISS)

This month in June on our Instagram account we will again take you to the skies. Join our A320 First Officer Sales Wick and let him show you his world as a SWISS pilot. Enjoy some insights and view of his fascinating job above the clouds.

Sales Wick, First Officer Airbus A320-Family

Dear followers and fans of SWISS. My name is Sales and I will be your Instagramer in June. I am happy to give you some insights into my work as a First Officer on the Airbus A320-family that serves our short-haul network. Further, I will take you along to some of my days as a simulator- and theoretical knowledge instructor in our type-rating training. I joined SWISS four years ago after completing my basic training at SWISS Aviation Training in 2010. In the upcoming month I will be regularly sharing photographs taken during my days at work, either above the clouds or at our training facilities.

I grew up in central Switzerland close to Lucerne and completed an apprenticeship as a technician before starting the training to become an airline pilot. During my time off I enjoy doing sports as much as I can and like to travel to places I don’t get to visit during work.

We operate a total of 37 Airbus aircraft of the A320-family to our various European destinations out of Zurich and Geneva and even fly to some holiday destinations on behalf of Edelweiss.

Destinations I enjoy the most are the ones with certain characteristics, for instance the short flight from Zurich to Nice, Coté d’Azur. It’s one of the most scenic routes in our network. Especially flying over the Alps and seeing all the beautiful peaks passing underneath as well as the challenging approach into the airport of Nice is nothing but breathtaking.

Enough for now: Welcome on board! 

I hope you enjoy the photographs I get to share with you, follow us @FlySWISS.

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Long layover in Beijing (My sky-high life)

In this SWISS Blog report, flight attendant Kristina Roder recounts her impression of Beijing during a night-stop rotation on which she was accompanied by her father.

by Kristina Roder 

I’m always excited when the timetable changes in the spring and autumn. Although the route network generally remains the same, schedule adjustments on specific routes sometimes mean longer layovers for crews, which is great news for a keen traveller like me. During this past winter, we were able to take advantage of a particularly long stay in Beijing.

For flights departing Switzerland on Sunday we had a four-night layover at the centrally located Swissôtel, near the Forbidden City, various parks and numerous markets. The minute I looked at the timetable I wanted to try for a night-stop rotation. This was something I had always wished for and this time my wish was granted. Because my father had long wanted to fly with me to China, this was the perfect opportunity. He obtained a visa while I arranged a ticket for him.

This was my first ever night-stop in China, too. I had never flown to either Beijing or Shanghai before. The culture of Hong Kong is rather different from these two mainland cities, so I was naturally very excited about the imminent night-stop, and a little bit nervous too, based on some of the negative things I had heard in Switzerland about life in the Chinese capital. Fortunately, I can say that nothing of that kind was confirmed. For a tourist at least, a visit to Beijing is a pleasure regardless of the language barrier. The people are easy-going and pleasant. And they do their best to be helpful and take pleasure in the sight of a relatively rare face from the western world. The city’s attractions are visited primarily by Chinese. In fact, tourists are a rarity in China. Business travellers from the West are generally too busy to have time to see much of land or its people.

Beijing, a city with a thousand years of history, impressed us on various levels, from the Great Wall to the Forbidden City and the Temple of Heaven. The buildings are hallmarked by the attention given to detail. They are also colourfully illuminated and truly unique.

The food in Beijing is particularly good, too. Delicious vegetables, fried meat and shared and enjoyed. Chinese-style green beans are one of the best delicacies of all. It might sound incredible but it’s true. Local beer and rice brandy are ideal beverages and combine with the food to make for a perfect evening on the other side of the world.

Please find more details and photos about my journey on my personal blog: A cocktail a day

With the summer timetable now in effect, I’m hoping for night-stop assignments for Chicago or Dubai.

Best regards, Kristina