The plane I usually fly while at work–Sierra Golf–is ready to go on her last flight of the day
The last flight. Anyone that I work with or takes the time to read my ramblings know I truly enjoy the last flight of the day.
Quite often the last flight is given to a “volunteer” of sorts. We tend to alternate the days flights as much as possible in order to maintain a level of fairness amongst the pilots but by the last flight that fairness system can change a bit. For instance, one of the pilots may have a prior commitment outside of work and by seven in the evening we are winding down because we cannot legally fly over fourteen hours and of course we start the duty day by six in the morning at the latest so we are rapidly approaching the end of our duty time (there are exceptions but we rarely use them because they have a duty time cost on the following day which can really throw off scheduling). Well if that pilot has an engagement that he cannot miss and he would have been next in line for the last flight oftentimes we will assign it to someone else to try and help the affected pilot out. In this case the dispatcher will ask if someone will take the last flight. This is where I will usually step in–I love that last flight even when I’m completely exhausted.
To me the completion of the last flight is a symbol of “another successful day of challenging flying” safely completed. Nearly as important, is the last flight of the day is my chance to reflect and unwind…it’s my opportunity to cap off a rewarding day with the proverbial cherry on top. It’s totally therapeutic and allows me to soak in some amazing views because the lighting is usually at its best this time of day, the sun is setting and the flight will happen in a time photographers call the “golden hour”.
This day being no different, what I originally thought was to be my “last” flight was completed and before I could tie the plane down I was asked if I could do one more flight for some friends/frequent flyers that just showed up and were dying to get to their small, remote island to spend the weekend in their cabin.
It only took me a nanosecond to jump at the opportunity to fly again even after having completed a long, grueling day. This flight was all set to be a sunset trip on a beautiful evening and the potential to see a great sunset was there given the atmospheric conditions–so I offered the copilot’s seat to a friend and the four of us made the ten minute flight out to Green Island in silky smooth air while watching a beautifully deep red sun slip below the horizon leaving behind an afterglow that was breathtaking.
The landing among the seagulls was anticlimactic and we were greeted by an entourage of nearly two dozen folks who were already started on their weekend party…it was an amazing site to say the least. Now understand, this island is extremely small with no trees, three cabins, a flag pole and a grass airstrip. Seeing that many people out waving and greeting the plane as the engine shudders to a stop made for a great atmosphere…sort of festive as if we were celebrating the last ten minutes when we were enjoying the sunset flight.
Before long I had to say goodbye to all those friends and quickly make the flight back to our home airfield before I timed-out. By timing out that meant I was coming up on my fourteen hours and I had to have all my work completed; including securing the plane, fueling as needed and the associated paperwork. I love the final flights of the day…many times they will stick in my memory for years and often top off my day…exactly as this one has done. In terms of legality I cut this one kind of close though, it was exactly eight in the evening when I finished everything so I was right at my duty time cutoff and I legally satisfied the regulations…
…well that’s my story anyway, and I’m sticking to it,