Just another night up in the sky one could say as we are approaching the West African coastline over the Senegalese capital of Dakar.
I am still trying to get used to the long nights aloft. Yet my experienced colleagues keep telling me, that you
will never really get used to it. Basically it all comes down to managing your energy, while the majority of the three hundred and something guests behind me are trying to flip to the colder side
of the pillow again. Its something between excitement and the long wait for my turn to get some rest. To be honest, the pitch-black night ahead doesn’t help at all to fell less tired. From time
to time I pick-up a new topic to talk about with my fellow colleague here in the front row, while crossing the vast nothingness of the Saharan desert. Every now and then a little bump reminds me
that we are travelling close to the speed of sound at 32’000 feet above mean sea level, yet it feels like we are rock-steady in our man-made ship of the skies. While our flight gets transferred
to another air traffic controller somewhere far away, I flick through our flight documentations and keep checking the fuel and flight status.
Just about five hours ago we departed Zurich Airport during an intense pour-down. Its been raining cats and dogs while we were getting ready for our pushback. We got lucky to still be able to take-off just ahead of the bad weather rolling-in. During our departure we kept circumnavigating some impressive thunderstorms over the western part of Switzerland and the Alps that gave us some nice bumps during the climb. After a good flight hour or so, the lights of the Balearic Islands started to come-up ahead of us. We passed Palma de Mallorca and headed for the North-African coastline around Algiers.
“Everything is as it should be Captain”, I keep my colleague to the left posted about my fuel and status check, while briefing him about the latest met report I just received via ACARS. Another hour until the vast Sahara will let go of us. She has been engulfing us for quite sometime as we were cruising southwest-bound along the Atlas mountain chain.
“Swiss 93, passing SEPEL contact DAKAR on 129.5, secondary 6535 have a good night.” We are singing-off from Nouakchott control who kept accompanying us for quite some time. We are getting in reach of the Senegalese control area and start preparing the crossing of the big pond lying ahead of us, as we are getting closer to the South Atlantic coastline of western Africa. A few minutes later everything is settled, all the necessary inflight planning has been done and we are ready to cross the South Atlantic Ocean towards the north-eastern tip of South America. Its these dull moments when nothing else happens, except the continuous monitoring of the flight parameters keep tiring you.
Its that time of the night when stargazing helps overcoming everything. I start to take a glance on the world outside, as the lights of Dakar are approaching fast.
Travelling close to the speed of sound some ten kilometers above the earth, yet another visit to the stratosphere pays off. Shooting stars are lighting up the sky up ahead, making me keep wishing things almost endlessly. Above all its the settling milky way that keeps me starring into the pitch-black night ahead. This vast something spanning across the firmament, the origin of everything basically. Thousands of years’ mankind has been turning skywards at night. The milky way has always and will forever be part of great stories, the origin of myths and great tales. I try to imagine how the people back in the ancient days were looking at the starry night sky. “Another coffee?”, I get ripped-out of my thoughts about the galaxy and ancient times.
For many centuries only man standing on solid ground, awake, commissioned with a duty filled with honor stood guard to the milky way. Nowadays its us crews, dashing through the stratosphere, being the night watchman of the Milky Way galaxy.