PEOPLE: Aviators’ world
Flitting between three cities in two countries in all of 10 hours without ever setting foot on land is all in a day’s work for AirAsia pilot Noor Hafizah Mohd Idrus, writes P. SELVARANI.
5.30am Wakes up, showers and gets ready for work. Drives from her Kota Warisan Sepang home to the Low Cost Carrier Terminal (LCCT).
6.45am Parks her car at the LCCT car park and walks to the AirAsia office on the second floor of the terminal building. Clocks in and checks her schedule for the day at the computer terminal in the Crew Briefing Area.
Collects the trip kits (a pouch containing all the charts and maps for the routes she will be using for the day) and checks that everything is in order. Checks to see where the designated aircraft is parked.
Briefs her superior Captain S. Puvan who will be accompanying her on the flight and they discuss the flight destination, weather conditions and other operational procedures.
Prepares the necessary paperwork such as calculating the take-off weight of the plane, the landing weight and how much fuel the plane has to carry. (It saves time to prepare this ahead instead of doing it on board).
For today (June 8), Noor Hafizah will be flying to Senai International Airport in Johor Baru and back to the LCCT, followed by the second flight from the LCCT to Denpasar Ngurah Rai International Airport in Bali and back.
7.20am Grabs some toast from the office lounge (workers’ cafeteria) which she will later nibble in the plane. (“I cannot eat too early”.) 7.25am Together with Capt Puvan, Noor Hafizah starts walking from the terminal building to the bay where the aircraft is parked. Boards the aircraft and takes her position in the right seat. 7.30am As passengers bound for JB begin to board the plane, Noor Hafizah goes through the command routes with Capt Puvan again and checks that everything is in order. 8.10am She requests for permission to take off from the control tower.
8.15am Taxis the plane onto the runway.
8.20am Gives instructions to the cabin crew to be seated for take off.
9.03am Lands at Senai airport.
9.10am While passengers disembark and the cabin crew tidy up the aircraft before the KL-bound passengers board the plane, she cross-checks the flight route calculations and wind speed with Capt Puvan.
9.27am Taxis the plane out of the Senai airport apron and takes off for the LCCT.
10.10am Lands at the LCCT. While passengers disembark, she takes a quick toilet break. Returns to the cockpit and checks route and wind speed for the next flight to Denpasar, Bali.
10.30am Bali-bound passengers board the aircraft.
10.55am She taxis the plane off the apron and gives instructions to the cabin crew to be seated for take off. Plane takes off at 10.59am.
11.55am Announces to the passengers that they are now entering Indonesian airspace and the weather conditions.
1.30pm Advises passengers to fasten their seat belts as they will soon be arriving at the Denpasar Ngurah Rai International airport in Bali. Shortly after that, she instructs the cabin crew to take their seats as well.
1.44pm Lands plane.
1.55pm While passengers disembark and Kuala Lumpur-bound passengers board the plane, Noor Hafizah and Capt Puvan step out of the cockpit to stretch their legs. After a brief chat with the cabin crew, they return to the cockpit.
I count my lucky stars as Capt Puvan invites me to sit in the cockpit for the duration of the flight back from the Denpasar Ngurah Rai International Airport to the LCCT in Sepang.
I take my place at the jump seat behind the pilots’ seats. The cockpit door is locked behind us.
Noor Hafizah runs through the checklist, flight route and wind speeds with him. She explains that to save time, she had done the calculations for the flight back to LCCT, en route to Bali, and has programmed the aircraft for the departing flight. 2.20pm She double-checks everything and requests permission from the air traffic controller (ATC) to taxi away from the parking bay.
She slowly positions the plane on the runway, ready for take-off but is told by the ATC to hold behind another plane.
As we wait for take-off clearance, Capt Puvan informs me that a couple of flights are due to land, which is why we cannot take off as scheduled.
2.37pm Capt Puvan announces to the passengers that there is a slight delay in take off as they are waiting for another plane to land. The Ngurah Rai International airport is rather busy at this hour.
He tells me that when the plane is about to take off or land, the “silent cockpit” rule is observed where there is no verbal communication between the pilot and co-pilot as they listen to instructions from the control tower.Celebrate Aidilfitri with a FREE BlackBerry® CurveTM from Celcom Biz
Upon receiving clearance from the control tower, Noor Hafizah starts rolling down the runway and takes off. (This is where my heart starts pounding as I am paranoid whenever a plane takes off or lands! But with an uninterrupted view of the runway and the skies before me, I am rather surprised that I feel no fear as the plane gently takes off!)
Once the aircraft has reached an altitude of more than 3,000 metres, the two pilots continue discussing technical details, showing me the radar picture which indicates our flight path and the location of other aircraft in the vicinity.
As the plane is on autopilot, they only have to monitor the instruments. She monitors the flight while Capt Puvan, the radio calls. They later inform me we are flying at an altitude of 11,400 metres at a speed of 270 knots (860km) per hour.
The buzzer at the cockpit door rings and Capt Puvan looks at the CCTV screen behind him to check who’s at the door. It’s senior flight attendant Aznina Abdullah who is ready to serve beverages and some sandwiches. It’s Nescafe for Capt Puvan and Horlicks for Noor Hafizah.
Noor Hafizah leaves the cockpit for a quick toilet break. Capt Puvan, 38, tells me that while he graduated as a commercial pilot from an Australian flying academy in 1995, he was unable to get a job for many years due to the 1997 economic crisis.
He took on various jobs, including sales and marketing, and only started flying when he joined AirAsia in 2002.
Noor Hafizah says she nursed an ambition to be a pilot since she was nine and graduated from the Malaysian Flying Academy in Batu Berendam, Malacca, in 2006 and has been flying with AirAsia for the past three years, logging 2,900 hours of flight time. She is one of the airline’s 17 female pilots.
As we are cruising above the clouds, I react with shock as I see another aircraft crossing our path at a range which seems a little too close for comfort.
Capt Puvan assures me that it’s quite normal and there is nothing to fear as the aircraft is some 600 metres above us. He points out that they have also been monitoring it on the radar screen.
During the flight, Capt Puvan and Noor Hafizah share their experiences and the former gives her some tips for her upcoming flight simulator examination that all pilots have to undergo every six months.
We are flying in Malaysian airspace at an altitude of about 4,500 metres. Capt Puvan explains that they have to lower the speed as there are two other aircraft preparing to land before them.
We are flying over Malacca at an altitude of 1,800 metres.
Noor Hafizah prepares to land the aircraft but has received instructions from the control tower to delay awhile as another aircraft is about to land. She continues to communicate with the control tower and upon getting the go-ahead, prepares to land.
It’s a gentle landing and Noor Hafizah taxis the plane to the designated gateway, guided by the marshall.
As the passengers disembark, Noor Hafizah fills her report form. She then disembarks the plane and heads to the AirAsia office where she files her report and returns the trip kits.
Noor Hafizah heads for home.
-- Fri Sep 18, 2009 10:41 am --
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