My shift in the cockpit is slowly coming to an end. Our mere 11hrs and 20 minutes’ flight is just about to enter its final third as we are reaching Europe over the west coast of the Caspian Sea.
We’ve departed Bangkok’s runway 19R just after mid day on yet another humid day in the capitol of Thailand. Our routing took us north westbound towards Myanmar and the Golf of Bengal. We reached the Indian subcontinent north of Calcutta and headed on towards Delhi and the Indian-Pakistani border. We flew overhead Lahore now proceeding on a westerly course towards the impressive mountains of the Hindu Kush of Afghanistan towards the Turkmenistan and the Caspian Sea. Despite the fact that I am able to recall our routing within some three phrases it was a flight full of intense moments. The departure out of BKK and the first good two hours of the flight kept us busy avoiding some thunderstorm build-up’s over the Bay of Bengal. We got really lucky and clear view onto the vast area to its north corner, where the countless number of branches and arms of the river Ganges (Ganga) and Brahmaputra flow into the Bay of Bengal. Its this troubled waters that have some massive influence on the weather over the Indian peninsula and even being the birthplace for some deadly Monsoons reaching as far as far east Asia. Once past India and the first part of Pakistan we reached the area of the Hindu Kush mountain chain. It spans across some 800-kilometres between central Afghanistan and northern Pakistan and reaches its highest point of 7’708m at the peak of Terichmir. This troubled land, torn apart by civil wars, political power plays between the West and the East as well as the alleged home of terrorists, looks so beautiful and fragile from above. Its canyons, the massive mountain peaks and the vast endlessness are of outmost perfection. We’ve been switching radio frequencies for countless times, talked to air traffic controllers with all kinds of accents and came across seven countries before reaching Europe again.
Its just to the west of the Caspian Sea where a bunch of airways – our highways in the sky – merge and form an invisible, single path across the Georgian sky. Its name N644, pretty ordinary I’d say. While the mountain peak of the Caucasus are passing by underneath we enjoy a spectacular show of contrails drawn by fellow airliners across the sky. Simple, straight white lines drawn across the blue sky, mark this otherwise almost invisible highway of the sky. One airliner after the other crosses our flight path opposite, on its long journey to Asia and always well separated by at least 1000 feet (300m). Both parties rocketing through the sky, closing-in on each other with almost twice the sound of speed with just some few millimeters of aluminum protecting its occupants from hostile environment they are blasting through. Godspeed and have a nice flight!