- Thomas Cook pilot India Allix documented the day she flew to Cape Town
- Pictures capture pre-flight checks, take-off and the landing after 11 hrs 30mins
- The journey was extra-special because her father was captaining the aircraft
Flying around thunderstorms at 41,000 feet in a packed Airbus A330 on the way to South Africa is all in a day’s work for India Allix.
The 26-year-old from Westerham in Kent is a senior first officer for Thomas Cook Airlines and here she reveals, in pictures, a fascinating day in her working life.
It begins with a horse ride and a goodbye to her pet dog – then it’s off to London Gatwick for pre-flight checks with her dad.
Yes, on this occasion she’s flying to Cape Town with her captain father, Charles.
India then captures all the key stages of the flight, including take-off, addressing the passengers, steering around a huge storm and then bringing the aircraft safely down after 11 hours and 30 minutes in the air.
Read on for a tantalising glimpse into a day at the office for one of Britain’s high-flyers.
If India, pictured, is scheduled on an afternoon or evening flight then she will spend the morning relaxing by going horse riding on Freddie
About three hours before the flight at 4.30pm India says a quick goodbye to Tina the dog, who India rescued when she was working out in Poland and brought home about a year and a half ago. While India’s away with work, her grandparents or dad usually look after Tina
Pilots are required to get to the airport approximately an hour and a half before departure. On arrival at the airport - in this case London Gatwick - the team go straight to the crew room to meet each other and begin the briefing
The pilots print off the flight plan, which is provided by Thomas Cook flight operations and go through it together, as well as check the weather for the duration of the flight. Pictured is senior first officer India, her father Captain Charles Allix, left, and another Thomas Cook Captain
While the pilots have their briefing the cabin crew also go through theirs, pictured. Led by the cabin crew manager, the team go through the different phases of the flight and are assigned roles and tasks. Every cabin crew is also required to answer a number of safety questions. Cabin crew report to the crew room approximately one hour and 45 minutes before departure
The pilots and cabin crew board the plane, in this instance an Airbus A330, about 50 minutes before departure to begin their checks. This includes security searches, checking the equipment is serviceable and that there are no technical problems that would prevent the aircraft flying. There are also a number of checklists for the pilots to complete to set up the flight deck. Pilots will spend five to ten minutes checking the outside of the plane, too. Here they are looking at the general condition of the aircraft - checking that there are no dents or scratches, no oil leaks and no tubes are blocked. During this check they will also set the required amount of fuel on the fuel panel. For this Cape Town flight they took 80 tonnes
Calculating the take-off speeds – this is done by inputting the weather (wind, temperature, pressure), runway conditions and weight of passengers, bags and fuel. Much of this information is provided to India and the crew by the airport ground handlers
Take-of: India took control of take-off from London Gatwick. The Captain always controls the thrust in the unlikely event that the take-off needs to be aborted for safety reasons. Flights take off at different speeds depending on the weight of the aircraft and the weather conditions on the day such as the wind speed and direction, and whether the runway is wet or dry. However, a typical speed is around 150 knots, which is about 170mph
PA to passengers: On a night flight this is usually made around 40 minutes after take-off once the aircraft has levelled off and is at the cruise height so that passengers can sleep without being disturbed. During this PA, India explains the route they will be taking to Cape Town, the expected arrival time, expected weather on arrival and if any turbulence is likely on route
On the long-haul Cape Town flight all pilots have a three hour rest break in the designated crew seats in the premium economy cabin at the front of the aircraft
Liaising with Air Traffic Control via the hand held microphone. The pilots are informed throughout the flight about which frequencies to change to, waypoints to fly to as well as changes of heading to avoid bad weather
Changing the heading to avoid thunderstorm. This was about an hour and a half before arriving in Cape Town
The view while changing heading to avoid bad weather. This took place during the cruise at 41,000 feet. Pilots have a weather radar in order to detect areas of bad weather and they will also recognise it visually. In addition, during the pre-flight checks in the crew room they will check weather charts and therefore often have an idea of where to expect the bad weather
Reducing the speed in preparation for landing. During the cruise we fly at 0.81 Mach (this means 81 per cent of the speed of sound). During the descent we fly around 300 knots (350mph), reducing to 250 knots (290 mph) by 10,000 feet. We then reduce the speed further to around 210 knots (240mph) about 15 miles from touchdown in order to be able to start selecting different flap settings for landing and reducing the speed further. A normal landing speed is about 135 knots (155 mph)
The descent into Cape Town - not a bad view from the office
The view of Table Mountain, from about 3,000ft up, before and during turning onto the final approach
The approach into Cape Town: On an Airbus you don’t touch the thrust except at take-off and until you reduce the thrust at landing because the aircraft’s auto-thrust system controls it during the other phases. But you always have your hand touching the thrust levers during the approach in the unlikely event of needing to abort that attempt and fly around for another approach
This is at about 800ft and autopilot has been disconnected by now – it is disconnected at 1,000ft. Despite what the name suggests, pilots still have to tell autopilot what to do and when. Most landings are manual but the autopilot can perform the landing in foggy conditions
This is the final approach into Cape Town at a speed of about 135 knots (155mph)
The taxi from landing to arriving on stand takes around three minutes, which is quite a short taxi. If it is a long taxi then we often shut down one engine in order to save fuel and comply with the 'green operating procedures', India explains
Once on the ground the pilots begin the shutdown checks – this includes turning the seatbelt signs off for customers once the aircraft has come to complete stop, which is what India is doing in this photo. The outbound flight time was 11 hours 30 minutes
Outside the aircraft, which has two Rolls-Royce Trent 700 engines
India said: 'When I first qualified as a pilot I was flying an A320 aircraft. When I joined Thomas Cook Airlines I was flying an A321 for short-haul trips before training on the A330 aircraft for long-haul flights. I will now fly a mixture of short and long-haul flights, which suits me perfectly, especially with animals at home so I’m not leaving them for too long at a time'
India with her dad, Captain Charles Allix. She said: 'I have done seven short-haul flights with my Dad on the A321, but Cape Town is my first long haul trip with him on the A330. We really enjoy flying together and always remain professional and stick to the "SOP's" (Standard Operating Procedures) as if flying with any other pilot. However, unlike other pilots I fly alongside, he does comment on how often I re-apply my lipstick during the flight!'
India and the other two pilots had a four-day stopover in Cape Town so had lots of time to explore. One of India’s friends also joined her on the trip. While there they went horse riding, climbed table mountain, visited a leopard sanctuary and a local vineyard
India is pictured here checking the engine latches before the return to London Gatwick. She said: 'After Cape Town I had a couple of days off before heading off on another long-haul trip to Goa. I really enjoyed Cape Town as it was my first visit there and it was a real privilege to fly the furthest flight I have ever flown alongside my Dad'
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