Chocks In and Checklist Complete.
The sounds of the engines shutting down have faded. The final formal words of checklists have been book-ended with farewells. Now the Boeing 787 sits in relative silence until the next crew starts its drills to stir the jet into life once more.
I have completed the check flight that returns me to line flying and In the stillness, there are a few moments for solitude and contemplation. For this moment was never guaranteed. A year ago, when I first returned home from hospital, my days were spent sitting by a window with a rigid limit of seven minutes exercise each day. I was working towards small goals in the hope that they would grow larger and ultimately return me to the skies.
In time, the minutes grew into more metres and ultimately kilometres. I had faced challenges in my life previously but nothing had rivalled this. The unending support of my gorgeous wife made it possible and my kids made the ongoing effort worthwhile. But to fly again? There were days when it definitely seemed to be a bridge too far.
So, here I stand. Qualified on a new type of aircraft with a world of new destinations calling. As I scan the now-sleeping instrument panel I give thanks that I am back in the saddle. I consider all the knowledge that I have gleaned from my training captains over recent weeks and all that I have seen – from snow-capped Mount Fuji to Big Ben.
On the tougher days of recovery, I had considered retiring from flying but knew in my heart that I wasn’t finished quite yet. And I’ve always been one to do things on my terms, rather than those thrust upon me by circumstance. It’s been a long road but now the future has some certainty once again.
I scan the aisle from the flight deck door and the final passengers have disembarked. Only the check captain and a few cabin crew remain. Some are aware of my journey back to flying the line and some are not. As I wish them goodnight and turn to leave the aircraft, the captain announces that I’m now the newest Boeing 787 pilot in the airline. I smile and the crew applaud. My cheeks fill and I blush like a teenager.
Thank you for all that you do and all that you are, Kirrily.
And thank you to all who have supported me along this road to recovery.