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SWISS FOUR ZERO HEAVY II

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Part 2: A Layover well spent

Into the desert – Mojave Air & Space Port

After a relaxing evening in Long Beach and a hearty breakfast, we decided to rent a small Cessna 172 at the local airport. Today’s goal: Mojave Air and Space Port (KMHV), which acts as a cemetery for old short-haul and long-haul aircraft. The dry desert air and an ever shining sun offer the perfect conditions to park or exploit discarded heavy metal for future owners.

The Air and Space Port not only has lots of interesting aircraft, but also has a decent snack bar with rather delicious burgers and countless props from the brothers Burt and Dick Rutan. In the 1980s, Burt designed the legendary Rutan Voyager, which his brother Dick used in 1986 to fly around the world in exactly nine days, three minutes and 44 seconds. To our great delight, an older gentleman spoke to us while we ate at the local restaurant. His story was about Dick Rutan himself! He greeted us with the words “Hi, my name is Dick and I flew around the world” and talked to us a little from his snack bar about his non-stop flight around the world.

A little while later we put fuel into our Cessna and made our way “home”. The next part of our journey led us to a small airport south of Los Angeles – Hawthorne. There we boarded a helicopter for a sightseeing flight. All inclusive of a panoramic view of the city and the international airport! However, before we landed in Hawthorne, we made sure to take an extensive trip around down town Los Angeles. An impressive backdrop, where skyscrapers protrude like needles out of the city, which is otherwise rather flat due to the risk of earthquakes.

After an exciting day of flight, the sun sets into the ocean in the West and we enjoy the sunset from above. Night falls and the light of the sun is replaced by an ocean of artificial lights that never seems to come to an end. We depart once again in order to capture the evening view on another short flight with a Cessna from Hawthorne back to Long Beach.

We fly over the Port of Long Beach. After the port of Los Angeles, this is the largest container port in the entire United States of America. It acts as a gate to trade between North America and Asia and creates more than 316,000 jobs.

Before we start our landing on runway 30 in Long Beach, we have a quick look at Rainbow Harbour and our crew hotel.

We finally land and after a large dinner, we realise it’s time to relax in preparation of the next day. The return flight is imminent.

Rückflug LX 41

As I wait for the return flight at the gate at Tom Bradley International Airport, I was able to see the crew in the aircraft. Time for a photo from outside!

Contrary to the outbound flight, Patrick will be “pilot flying”, thus flying us back to Zurich while Sales and Thierry will assist him with this task in their pilot monitoring role.

Directly after take-off, runway 24L will take us directly to the open ocean. Then, we will turn left in order to fly over the city to the north-east. The briefing comes to an end and off we go. We roll past numerous wide-bodied aircraft on our way to runway 24L.

We leave American soil with a speed greater than 320 km/h and charge towards the ocean. It was the start of twilight as we set off and darkness set in as we flew over Nevada. Darkness accompanied us far across the Atlantic. On the way there, we fly over Las Vegas. At this cruising altitude, we are given an incredible view of Sin City.

We continue to fly in darkness for a few more hours and I go to sleep. As I return to the cockpit, the sun across Greenland greets us with all its splendour. The blue hour shows itself from its best side.

A few more hours fly by until we reach Europe’s mainland over France. Once again, we become aware that pilots need to actively assess the situation at all times: we are now surrounded by a few storm clouds. These are displayed on the weather radar integrated in the navigation display in gradings of green, yellow and red depending on the intensity of the precipitation inside. It is important to find a path around or between the clouds.

The weather calms down and we enjoy a wonderful approach past Basel, and land on runway 14 in Zurich.

The weather at home is warm as summer and equal to the weather in California. Captain Patrick gently lands his Boeing 777-300ER on Swiss soil and rolls to the gate. Another transatlantic flight comes to an end. Actually faster than the outbound flight because jet streams, strong gusts of wind above the ocean, blow from west to east at extremely high speeds. This strong tailwind results in a proper speed increase. Time for the last aircraft selfie at the gate. LX 41 heavy out!

Now it’s time to say goodbye. Farewell to a remarkable aircraft and a weekend that I will never ever forget. I was able to learn about a profession very closely. It’s a profession that cannot be compared with anything else and, in my opinion, it is still a dream job. Thanks to Sales, Thierry and Patrick and of course SWISS for making this unique experience possible. Happy Landings! Kind regards, Aaron

About the Author: Aaron Püttmann (@pilotstories), 25, studied Aviation Management in Bad Honnef and now works for a major global air carrier. He also keeps an aviation blog on pilotstories.net, where he shares his passion for aviation with his readers.