史丹的收入

  上年公司皇恩浩蕩,有雙糧給隊長們,近來己經有很多人離職, 雖然公司依然覺得係正常的流失,但我認為如果公司再不斷的收水, 離職的人會一直上升,主因是香港的生活開支實在太高, 老外們在家鄉如果收入不算太大分別,他們根本不用留在香港工作, 到公司覺得人才流失很嚴重時,事情己經太遲了。 講到雙糧,機師的收入有點點複雜,簡單來說除了底薪外,有飛行時數錢, 有所謂的housing,叫Pilot Allowance (近年才有), 有飛得鐘數太多時會有OT錢,在外站有少少outport allowance給你吃吃飯, 平均來講底薪大約是總收入的三份之二左右, 至於雙糧或其他福利,就當然用底薪去計啦, 咁咪又慳到一筆囉。   既然得到公司恩賜的雙糧,一於睇睇條數啱唔啱, 望下望下,咦?點解人工唔同咗架呢? 哎吔,原來史丹己經過了隊長職級兩周年喇喎, 不知不覺原來做了高級隊長,其實只是掛名,工作都是一樣的。   已經兩年了,都未完全適應現時的崗位, 我指未適應,是指要選擇一個適合自己的command style係唔容易, 如果你太過好人,人家又覺得你好恰, 但如果你樣樣野都聲大來惡,又很難跟其他人合作, 這兩年來的經驗話我知, command style的定位在有需要時要隨時改變, 對著比較隨和的人可以easy going少少, 對著醒目的人可以放鬆一點點, 對著懶散的人要提高警覺,避免爆鑊, 對著不放你在眼內的人就不能給他起飛降落, 要盡量減低他可以話事的機會, 遇到初入職無大無細目中無人的人, 就要給他們一些「教訓」,超級執正來做, 如果全程機都110%跟足policy去做, 其實係可以好辛苦, 要讓他好好學習一下公司的文化。嘿嘿….. … Continue reading

錯的時間,對的人(下)

丘比特的工作是四處放箭, 而史丹的工作很快又返回cockpit裡, local knowledge 對我們的工作是很重要, 而local knowledge 即係熟地頭, 你唔熟地頭工作上會踩到很多陷阱, 由於這次只是史丹第二次在西班牙出發, 腦海裡都無什麼local knowledge, 只好飛之前在酒店做些功課幫補一下, 令自己無咁易爆鑊, 在做功課的過程知道在西班牙起飛需要頗佳的climb performance, 公司的文件亦提過如果climb performance唔夠的話, 就用max thrust(最大的引擎推力)起飛就可以了。 到史丹坐在cockpit裡,看看現在正在用短的跑道, 再計一計takeoff performance, 哎吔,可以起飛但只是緊緊夠力, 史丹跟ATC說要長那一條跑道起飛(多點buffer嘛), ATC不太願意,但都批准了, 條件係史丹要重新submit過整份flight plan, 史丹都不明白點解要咁做, 其他地方的機場轉跑道起飛是很少事, 不用勞煩公司同事又submit過flight plan, 無計,跟住史丹又要打衛星電話返公司, 叫同事再file過flight plan, 他們很奇怪問點解又要做過, 我都真係唔明….. ATC話做咪做囉….. Submit完flight plan, … Continue reading

錯的時間,對的人(上)

史丹工作的這一間航空公司, 只數機師都三兩千人, 再數空服們都過幾萬個, 人海茫茫,見到很多不同的人, 一些人你不太想見到他/她,又會撞見幾次, 有些人跟你十分投契, 卻在你十幾廿年的天空生涯裡都無再碰過面, 有時候覺得公司的編更系統好神秘, 你完全不知道它跟據什麼邏輯去編更, 更表是好是壞,跟什麼人一起飛, 完全像一個迷…. 昨天收到美麗神的短訊, 「喂,記唔記得我呀?」美, 「記得,很喜歡養狗狗那個美麗神嘛~」史, 「你下班機係咪去西班牙?」 「係呀,乜你又同一班機咩?」 其實美麗神是N年前一起去西班牙的其中一個空服, 那次是史丹第一次去西班牙, 因為她很喜歡狗狗,講了很多狗狗的資訊給史丹聽, 所以史丹還記得她。 「我剛swap了班西班牙機,原來又係你做隊長呀!」 「哦~ 原來你刻意跟住我飛!」 「跟你個頭呀,我swap完先知係你咋!」 記得上次和美麗神在西班牙出街, 大約是聖誕的時候, 本來那班機無什麼人想出街, 大多數空服們都想lock and seal, 但那班機的FO見到個很心儀的空服, 說一定要約出街玩, 噢,個個人都話要休息,祝你好運吧, 怎料史丹午飯時間準備出街吃飯, 看到成班十個八個空服連機師,已經在大堂準備一起出去玩, 嘩!FO大哥你真利害, 真係要教教我,怎樣能夠人人都要休息時, 你又能約到一大班人出街呢?佩服佩服! 史丹也不愁無人陪食飯了。 那次一班人四處走走, … Continue reading

史丹的特殊技能

史丹好相信不同的性格會適合不同的職業,

有創意的人適合做設計,

外向的人適合做要多見人的工作,

手腳協調好的人可以做駕駛性的工作。

 

史丹亦好明白工作會塑造出一個配合這份工作的性格和能力,

同一份工作做久了,慢慢會適應那份工作的需要,

人的性格和能力都會變得更配合這份工作,

例如史丹當年做了好幾年電腦行業,

專做database,做到一個程度,

公司sales 打個電話來,說要什麼統計資料,

史丹不出幾秒腦海中便出現很多個SQL statement,

來讀和summarise sales所需要的資料,

史丹個腦比公司任何的電腦軟件都要快,

20180704 特殊技能(7)
所以同事們很多時都寧願打電話給史丹,

比他們自己用電腦查更快更易,

不過當然這種超人能力不是一坐低就有,

係要連續OT好長好長的日子,

20180704 特殊技能(1)

朝九晚十,星期日都無假放,

才能練出來,

除了這超人能力外,

另一個練出來的就是一頭白髮,

這亦是史丹當年要轉工的原因。

 

到史丹去學飛前,

經歷正統的港式教育(填鴨式),

操一口流利港式英語(Long time no see. Drink tea next time),

一向都無留意不同國家的英語有什麼分別,

加拿大、英國、美國、澳洲聽起來都是一樣的,

而去了學飛之後,

但由於每天都接觸不同國家的老外,

慢慢都變得單靠口音,

20180704 特殊技能(6)
都能夠聽得出那個人是從那個國家來,

證明人腦係可以慢慢塑造特別的技能。

 

到現在史丹是一個機師,

入行都十幾年,

不知不覺間又塑造了另一個特殊技能,

飛行的基本功每架飛機都大至一樣,

但由於不同的機種有不同的特性,

機師需要不同的飛行技巧去配合不同的機種,

20180704 特殊技能(4)
就是看看機師飛行的手勢 ,

便知他飛過什麼飛機。

 

以煲型747為例,結構跟傳統的飛機很相似,

Flight control都是由很多很長的鋼纜連接,

鋼纜再硬正,都有一定的彈性,

而且鋼纜很長,

控制飛機時鋼纜會有一定程度的拉長縮短,

令機師感覺控制時比較sloppy,

要用比正常大一點的動作去控制飛機,

而且比較多self cancel的小動作,

看起上來有點用control column左chok右chok的感覺,

20180704 特殊技能(5)

但由於鋼纜有彈性,

會吸收了這些細微不穩定的動作,

這些self cancel out的動作很少在飛機上表現出來,

飛機實際上還是很穩定,

另外747還是用著傳統的elevator trim,

轉速度時要trim,轉engine thrust要trim,

轉flap要trim,收放landing gear要trim,

簡單來說就係差不多任何時間都在trim,

這特性亦令747的機師在trimming technique上會特別好。

 

至於巴士,最大分別當然是auto trim,

20180704 特殊技能(2)

在巴士的字典裡差不多没有trimming這個字,

巴士機師很自然對trimmig不太重視,

但他們都會笑你班煲型仔儍瓜瓜,

巴士電腦幫你trim晒都不知幾好,

不用人手trim上trim落浪費腦汁,

這亦凸顯了巴士和煲型飛機在設計上的根本分別,

巴士是電腦話事,機師所有動作都經過電腦處理和翻譯,

才由電腦決定是否輸出去flight control surface,

好處係避免機師做儍事,做出危險的動作。

 

而煲型就是機師話事,機師的輸入動作會照單全收,

(雖然都有些電腦處優化過)

但你想返轉架飛機都可以,因為是機師話事,

好處係避免電腦做儍事,做出人類不明白的危險動作。

 

亦由於巴士對機師的動作輸入經過很多的處理,

所以飛的感覺會無咁直接,

亦比較難飛得很精準(尤其是降落),

初飛巴士的機師會較難適應。

 

而講到煲型777就比較特別,

777有點像巴士和煲型的hybrid版,

它有煲型的根本設計理念,機師話事,

但亦有電腦優化機師的輸入動作,

令飛行時更易控制,

在trimming方面,777是trim for speed,

即是在同一速度下,

無論有flap無flap、有gear無gear、大thrust細thrust,

trim force都不會變,

使機師控制上減輕了很多工作量,

有更多的腦力照顧其他的工作。

 

而flight control方面777跟巴士一樣用fly by wire,

即是用電線訊號傳送機師的動作去flight control,

無長長的綱纜連接,減輕飛機重量之餘,

又可避免綱纜的拉長縮短,

無那種sloppy的感覺,

機師每一個微小的動作都直接反影在飛機上,

令飛行可以非常精準,動作可以很細膩,

但壞處是如果機師有些壞習慣,

例如很多self cancel的chok左chok右動作,

20180704 特殊技能(3)
飛機會有很多self induced turbulence,

即是根本無turbulence的情況下,飛機都顛簸不定,

這種turbulence是由機師的手製造出來的。

 

當知道每種機的特性,

就頗容易知道坐在的旁邊的機師曾經飛過那一種機種,

年紀越大,飛同一種機種越耐,就越容易估中,

因為那些飛行習慣已經根深蒂固,很難改變。

 

當坐在777 cockpit裡看另一位機師,

飛過747的人飛行時動作比較大,

很易有self cancel或over control的動作,

所以飛機比較不穏定,

很多self induced turbulence,

降落時有點粗獷,

因為動作上還有那種cater for sloppy control的感覺,

但trimming技巧就很成熟和敏感。

 

飛過巴士的人降落時手勢無煲型機師的細膩,

可能他們的動作習慣了連接著電腦,

不能直接反影在flight control上,

感受飛機反應的能力不能像煲型機師的敏感,

trimming上亦無煲型機師的快手,

這方面以初轉過來煲型的人較明顯,

當然這方面的缺點會因時間慢慢淡化。

 

不過飛過巴士的人對於壞飛機,突發事件的應付能力卻是無人能及,

因為巴士經常都有不同系統壞掉,

在巴士無敵複雜的系統下再加上壞左壞右的情況下,

還能了解飛機系統安全飛行,巴士機師的應變能力可謂世界一流,

尤其是巴士目的地有很多鬼地方,

不是ATC指你去撞山,就是泊好位後無情情有條友走上機賣飛機model,

什麼荒誕事件都會發生,

巴士機師見得多應付得多,自然駕輕就熟,

當然他們有時不發覺自己在講巴士術語,

一開口講open descend、ECAM msg,

就知你飛過巴士啦!

 

至於飛過777的人就比較難估,

因為現在就正在飛緊777!估乜鬼啫!?

現在的777機隊已經跟從前的不同,

文化上有很多不同背景和經驗的人加入777機隊,

所以會見到很多不同特質的機師,

很好的見過,

衰到無朋友的也有,

史丹現在的工作方針是,

保持彈性,

無事時友善,有事時強硬,撥亂反正,

即係話硬就硬,問你死未!

 

雖然這個估人飛過乜飛機的技能真係廢廢地無乜用,

但反正是一項免費技能,

多一樣也無妨,

不知道大家又有無什麼廢廢地但又好勁揪的技能呢?

 

史丹的煩惱

史丹已經成為隊長一段時間,

感覺十分特別,

因為這個職級的主導性很高,

整個飛行任務的過程都可以跟著自己想要的節奏去做,

而且工作上的彈性亦比較高,

很多時都可以依著自己的心意去改變工作的流程,

當然,還有很多很多的事情需要去學習,

因為這個職級其中一個很煩腦的問題,

就是有問題時很難找人解答,

多數人有問題時都將頭轉向隊長,

那隊長可以問誰?

很多人都覺得隊長應該什麼都知,

不好意思,我不是神….

另一個令史丹很煩腦的問題就是…人,

我無法選擇跟什麼人飛,

機師的工作就是跟不同的人飛,

公司有成兩三千個機師,

什麼人都有,

有錢無錢,有品無品,

有型無型,好人衰人,

精人笨人,自信自卑,

高級初級,大師散仔,

年輕年老,有心無心,

真係你想得出的人都可能有機會跟你飛,

然而萬變不離其中,

只要大家互相尊重,跟著公司的procedure去工作,

一般都合作得很順暢。

史丹說得出一般都順暢,就即係偶爾會有不愉快的時候,

最令史丹煩惱的一類人就是憤世嫉俗老鬼,

係要老,又要係鬼(老外),又好憤世嫉俗那種,

有時會撞到一個半個這類型的人,

不滿這樣,不滿那樣,

跟他講升職,他說他從來都無興趣,

跟他講standard procedure,他覺得你好煩,

在公司已經廿幾年,他開始飛的時候史丹都未戒奶,

見到史丹這個隊長BB,一副未成氣候的模樣,

就會看不起你,而且將近退休,

會給你很多面色和不好聽的說話,

令整個cockpit的氣氛都很緊張。

從前史丹還是副機長的時候,

都受了很多這類型人的氣,

今天坐正隊長,還要受這些氣嗎?

然而隊長的工作不是研究受氣與否,

而是怎樣和這類人在cockpit裡都能令飛行工作順利完成,

在這個題目上史丹都未有一個很確實的方案。

某天去美國,和老鬼一起飛,

老鬼態度不太好,有點目中無人,

他說他已經在公司飛了廿幾年,

真的很長吧…(是史丹的兩倍)

機程中不停提著是他自己選擇不去升隊長,

而不是他晉升失敗,

得架喇,不用講太多,

史丹唔想知你過去,

你現在飛得掂架機就得架喇,

不過史丹都明白,

在這間公司要升隊長真的像跳入地獄再自殘三百次的感覺,

如果我快到退休,我都不想太辛苦。

準備descend時,當地機場溫度為攝氏一度,

無問題,正常程序,無什麼特別,

當descend到一半的時候,溫度下降到零度,

跟據公司的procedure, 我們要做low temp altimetry correction.

即是由於空氣冷縮熱脹的關係,

飛機實際高度會比高度計的讀數為低,

所以要將所有高度限制加高,令飛機不至撞山,

在sea level的機場,零度便要開始做low temp altimetry correction.

過程都有圖表查,不用幾十秒便可以完成。

史丹跟老鬼說我們要做low temp correction,

老鬼一臉不耐煩,只說一句,

「I think this is totally unnecessary.

I never do correction for low temp in my life.」

史丹心裡想著,

「This is also the most unprofessional comment I ever heard in my life」

史丹没有說出口,只是用一個堅定的眼神望著老鬼,

意思是:朋友,如果我出聲你都唔做,我怕你要提早退休!

老鬼見到史丹的眼光,

一臉無奈的在flight computer和minima都做了low temp correction。

到泊好飛機後,一般機師們都會一起離開飛機,

一來是禮貌,二來same team same dream嘛,

當然係一齊行啦。

而老鬼呢?佢真係采你都傻,

一早己經一支箭般離開了,

可能他真的很不滿吧。

老老豆豆,當天天朗氣清,四圍又無乜高山,又有ATC radar vector,

我自己都覺得low temp correction作用真的不大,

但飛行的standard procedure是一定要跟,

除非有好特別的理由,

否則我們這些機師是無選擇的,只有跟著做!

守護standard procedure確實地執行亦是我們的責任,

況且那些procedure又不是我發明的,

我不會無啦啦找些麻煩給你做,

那個動作都只是花你十秒八秒,有多難做呢?

我好希望他說的never do correction in his life只是悔氣說話,

否則我都不知道他怎樣在落雪的機場起飛降落。

話說回來,很多時史丹都會檢討一下自己是否待人處事不好,

令一些人不太接受史丹的指示,

還是人家真的看不起史丹這些隊長新人呢?

當然無可否認,工作上史丹都有很多很多不足的地方需要改進,

很多時史丹都在想,如果可以選擇的話,

寧可是自己處事不好,多過人家看不起自己,

因為如果是自己做得不好,我可以改,

但人家看不起史丹,我無法改變他人的想法。

到回程上機,老鬼當然又一支箭般自己走了上機,

史丹都開始習慣了他的行為,

飛行中途都無什麼特別,

因為今程不是他坐control seat,

但平淡當中,飛到中途一半,

突然收到客艙乘客一封信,

話要在飛機上跟他女朋友求婚,

要全機空服幫手,又列隊,又要廣播他的音樂,

又要開香檳(佢話佢畀錢喎),

又有成本劇本叫全部機組人員跟著做,

還要隊長幫手做announcement,

他說之前己經通知了航空公司,

請各位空服合作。

首先,成人之美是好事,

不過,史丹無收過任何通知說有乘客要搞場大龍鳯,

飛機已關燈,所有人都在睡覺,

我不認為有什麼人會想全機開燈、播歌,睇你做show,

還要大部份人都睇唔到你商務位在搞乜東東,

另外,空服們是有自己要做的工作,

不會放下自己的工作去跟你的劇本幫你開show,

所以史丹拒絶了乘客的要求。

但史丹剛剛才說過成人之美嘛,

又怎能完全的拒絶他呢?

史丹跟ISM商量一會,

定下了一些條件,

1.) 不可影響其他乘客休息,

2.) 不可影響空服們的正常工作,

3.) 不可以煩到我!(或機師們)

如果他做得到,我就給他十分鐘玩個超簡化版求婚,

當然要麻煩ISM去跟男朋友打探清楚,

確定女朋友是否超高機會嫁畀佢,

否則搞場大龍鳯之後給女朋友拒絶,

那就真係金翅捉虫鳥…..

最後大家傾掂數,

在descend前空服們有點空閒時間給他玩十分鐘,

那個時候其他乘客都已經醒了,

不怕打擾他們休息。

老鬼知道史丹批准乘客求婚,

他覺得很不滿,說如果是他一定不會理會那個乘客,

覺得這是很無聊的事,

史丹說:「由頭到尾我都無叫你去理那件事喎,不用你粗心呀。」

史丹心想,方丈報三日唔埋兩日又話「因管理不善的什麼什麼航空…..」

如果今次能成人之美,傳了出街又有單好新聞中和下都唔錯丫。

講回客艙,

空服們都好有心,

用剩下的snack和甜品,幫他做了一個臨時蛋糕,

再播段短音樂,給他造點點氣氛去求婚,

其實詳細過程史丹都不太清楚,

因為descend前機師們都很忙,

没有太多心神去理客艙的事,

降落泊位後老鬼依然一支箭般玩消失風雨中,

而史丹就去打聽一下求婚的結果,

原來女朋友已經來到cockpit門口,

要說聲多謝,她已經由女朋友變做未婚妻了,

非常好,總算無白廢大家的心機。

之後這件求婚事件有無出街?無。

方丈報有無繼續講「因管理不善」?有。

唉,睇來公司的大形像都不是一朝半日能被我們這些小螺絲改變….

史丹應該用什麼態度去對待一起工作的同事,

到現在都無一個肯定的答案,

這一刻史丹都只是做自己,

當然每種不同的對人態度都有不同的好處和壞處,

我想都要好一段時間去拿捏清楚…

機師的光環

好多時街外人對飛機師的形象都是從電視電影而來, 機師們總是圍身名牌, 很有型咁在機場穿梭, 在其他人眼中總是有光環包圍著似的, 史丹入行前都有這種憧憬, 可能自己外表一向都比較適合幕後工作, 入行後都無法套上這個美麗的光環。 想當年史丹還未入行, 還是在考cadet pilot的階段, 其中一個環節是去澳洲試飛, 好讓公司睇睇你的學習能力有多少, 當時史丹同屋有位很富有的室友, 他真的很有錢,中學時代已經開跑車返學, 完成中學後又可自費去考商業機師執照, 估計最少都要幾十萬, 他還有multi-engine rating, 史丹當時都認為他應該十拿九穏可以考到cadet pilot。 還記得當時他說機師身上一定要有三樣東西要名牌, 太陽眼鏡、手錶和筆, 太陽眼鏡要Ray-Ban, 不用多解釋,Ray-Ban當然是傳統機師太陽鏡的代表, 要時尚一點,Oakley都是很潮的選擇~ 而手錶要戴Breitling, Breitling就是機師界的Rolex, 那為什麼不戴Rolex呢? Rolex可以炫耀有米, Breitling可以炫耀有米之餘,更可以炫耀自己的職業, 所以Breitling比Rolex更適合機師, 至於筆…. 他說要用Parker, 我不知是什麼原因,可能只要是貴價就可以…. 他說有這三樣名牌才似一個真正的機師。 試飛完畢後,過了一段時間公司打電話通知史丹成功考入了cadet pilot, 但有錢朋友卻落空了, 我不知道他為什麼不獲取錄, 而史丹亦無什麼特別比他優勝, … Continue reading

Christmas Sapporo Trip

Before Christmas, I was rostered to do a Sapporo turnaround. Two days before the duty, I started taking notes about the weather condition in Sapporo: it has been consistently appalling.
For two consecutive days, no flights could land at Chitose and all our flights were diverted due to the heavy snowstorm.
It was a bit worrying. So a day before the Sapporo duty, I went back to the office to do my homework. I did some revision on cold weather operations and asked my colleagues what I should be aware of in Sapporo.
The replies were all about the terrible weather. My colleagues advised that I should bring an overnight bag with me in case we got diverted.
I felt uncomfortable on hearing that. But I guessed worrying was pointless. Proper preparation was all that I could do for now.

Duty day. I reported to work and checked the weather forecast.
The runway was clear, and it seemed I had the weather was on my side.
Brilliant!
The weather seemed acceptable, and at the time it seemed unlikely that we would be diverted.
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I even thought about travelling light and leaving the overnight bag behind, but thought against it: “Aiya, let’s take it with me. I need a big winter jacket for walk around on the ground anyway. Since the jacket is inside the overnight bag. Best take the bag with me.”
And it proved to be the best decision I have ever made.

Two days before my flight, temperature in Sapporo had been sub-zero and snow fell unforgivingly. Even the snow has stopped for the time being, there was still a built-up at the airport.
If there is snow on the ground, the company permits an extra hour of fuel to allow for holding.
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On the crew bus, I gave a briefing to the cabin crew and let them know that even though the weather was acceptable, the Sapporo duty could turn into our worst nightmare. The weather looked uncertain and condition could change any minute.
Long delay was on the cards, and so we should be extra attentive to our passengers. Any slip ups could lead to a commotion in the cabin. It was all very probable – I’ve seen it all many years ago. The media picked up on it, and it wasn’t pleasant or easy to handle at all.

The flight to Sapporo was pretty trouble-free. In the skies, we paid close attention to the weather in Sapporo. Luckily the local weather seemed OK. At the time, ATC holding looked to be our only worst case scenario.
When we reached the Sapporo airspace, we went into holding at two different locations. It wasn’t a big deal as we had enough holding fuel; and the subsequent landing was normal too. The runway cleared up nicely, and our plane could decelerate effortlessly to our assigned exit.
When we cleared the runway, we expected to take a right turn to park at the terminal.
But… ATC asked us to turn left!
At first I thought I misheard their instruction. But every aircraft in front of us did the same – left turn and away from the terminal. It was ominous…

The main reason Chitose ATC took us on a merry-go-round was because Chitose had only six international parking bays, and all of them were occupied.
There were many reasons why those aircraft couldn’t leave their bays: no ground support, cargo couldn’t be loaded or unloaded. Passengers couldn’t disembark and those in the terminal could not board. Those aircraft with passengers on board waited for passengers to end their fight over a blanket…

Our wait for a parking bay was excruciatingly long. As more and more aircraft came in, the queue on the ground became longer and longer. Even though the parking bay was within eyesight, we simply weren’t assigned one.
Day turned into night, and there wasn’t much I could do but to keep passengers updated with the latest situation.

Long waits on the ground are problematic due to crew duty hour. Crew duty hour depends on the number of sectors we fly, and that leads to different restrictions on our duty hour. By law, these hours cannot be exceeded or contravened.
The current duty assigned to me was a Sapporo turnaround and not an overnight. This limited my usable duty hour, making it even shorter.
One way to resolve the short duty hour is to fly to a closer destination and change crew there, so that the same aircraft can continue its way to Hong Kong. Alternatively, the captain can exercise his discretion to extend the duty by two to three hours.
It was agreed that the duty hour would be extended. The return leg would stop over in Tokyo, as a set of crew was already in place and waiting there, ready to take over from us.
Back on the ground on Sapporo, our wait for a parking bay has stretched into four hours. We were first in the queue, but we kept waiting.

From the cabin, I received a call saying a passenger suffering from a chronic illness needed to take his regular medication within an hour. The passenger took a dose before he boarded, and he must take his next dose soon.
Unfortunately his medication was checked into the cargo hold. As long as the plane was denied access to a parking bay, the passenger would be denied access to his medication.
I radioed ATC and said: “We couldn’t wait any longer. Our passenger had his medication checked in the hold. We could take a remote bay as long as we could access his medicine.”
At first, due to language barrier, ATC couldn’t understand us. After repeated explanations they finally got it. Half an hour later, there was an empty bay for us.

After we parked at the bay, passengers couldn’t disembark because there was no ground support. And indeed, where was ground support?
Chitose Airport is only a small airport. Inundated with a backlog of many aircraft and endless passengers, the local ground support wasn’t manned or equipped to deal with it all. We waited for another good few hours before ground support came and started the disembarkation process.
More than half a day has gone by and I have only completed half of my turnaround duty so far!

The boarding process for the return leg began. Since we had a long delay in the previous leg, the crew could no longer fly to Hong Kong within their legal limits even with extended duty hours.
The company decided we should fly to Tokyo instead, swap a set of crew there and continue on to Hong Kong.
I carried on working relentlessly. But I wasn’t the only one – everyone was off their feet: ground support, engineers… they were all so busy. Despite everyone putting in their best effort, there was still all sorts of different delays.

As for the passengers on board, they have already been stuck in Sapporo for three days without hotel and food. No money could buy them comfort – all the shops in the terminal were sold out of food.
And even if the passengers wanted to leave Sapporo, they couldn’t. JR trains were suspended due to the snow. Passengers simply couldn’t leave.

I did my calculations. There was only an hour and a bit of available duty hours left. We couldn’t afford further delay on the ground in Sapporo if we wanted to make it to Tokyo.
I knew I had to find ground support asap. Unfortunately manpower was in fantastic shortage in Chitose, and it took a very long time before preparation work for Tokyo was completed.

Just as we were ready to leave for Tokyo, a message from the company came through – the crew hour has expired for the standby crew in Tokyo, and a new destination was proposed:
Osaka.
What!?
Are you kidding?
It was like having ants in one’s pants… I was worried sick with the pressing time frame. There was barely enough duty hour to fly to Tokyo…
Taking into account a longer journey to Osaka, the proposed flight was nearly impossible. By now, there was only half an hour left in our available crew duty hour.
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First Officer told me: “Holy shhh… we took fuel for Tokyo – we haven’t got enough for Osaka!”
Oh god why!?
We are dooooooooomed!
I immediately paged for the fuel truck to come back. The fueling took another 15 minutes from our crew duty hour. At present, only half the preparation work was done for Osaka. With only 20 minutes left, I radioed ATC to ask if we could take off in 15 minutes, if we pushed back now.
Every second of the crew hour counted.
And those seconds could be maximised if we did our preparation work during taxi.
But ATC’s answer was…
“You’re number five in the push back queue.”
FIVE?
That meant at least half an hour before push back! That made it impossible to even make Osaka within our legal limit. What on earth was I supposed to tell these passengers who have been waiting for days?

When I knew that we could no longer take off, the only thing I could think of was to mitigate against the aftermath…
I asked ground support whether passengers would be given hotels – No.
…No local hotel had that capacity anymore.
Asked if ground support could give passengers food – No.
…All the transport links were disrupted and trucks could not reach the airport.
Asked if ground support would give crew hotel – Maybe.
Asked if ground support would give crew food – No.
Asked if ground support could give crew transport – Working on it.

Passengers have been stuck in Chitose Airport for three days already. And where do I find the heart to tell them that they would be stuck here for another day?
What else could I do for them?
After a discussion with the ISM, we decided to do a meal service, even if it meant we gave up all our crew meals.
These passengers have gone without proper food for three days already. The least we could do was to give them a reasonable bite before they disembark.
That’s the least we could do.

“Deeply sorry that you all have to disembark this plane. We cannot take off within our legal crew duty hour limit. As such, our aircraft will be towed to a remote bay to free up the terminal parking bay for other aircraft.
Once we reach the remote bay, the plane will be shut down, and the cabin will become very, very cold. You are better off inside the airport terminal.”
I told the passengers over PA the full story why we couldn’t take off.
I welled up as I did the PA.

Not quite sure why, but I was deeply saddened. I felt very, very sorry for the passengers. My heart ached. It broke my heart to have to leave the passengers behind, sleeping on the hard floor once more, after having spent three evenings there already.
Even I did all I could within my ability and authority, I blamed myself for not being able to take the passengers away.
FO patted me on the back and said: “You tried hard enough. Don’t be too hard on yourself.”

After a very long time, hotel and ground transport were finally arranged for the crew. A taxi ventured out on the icy roads from the city and journeyed into the airport to pick us up.
When I left the aircraft, a chill washed over me. Even if heating was on, I felt very cold. Very cold.
Only at this point did I realise I have gone without a bite for 18 hours straight. I took two left over biscuits from the passengers and shoved them in my mouth.
This should do it for now. At least until we reached the hotel.

It was a long journey to the town center, taking more than an hour. On the way, ice and snow covered every visible surface. The taxi understandably went very slowly. It slipped on the road a few times.
The uncle who drove us was like the tofu delivery man Takumi Fujiwara in the Japanese anime Initial D. The uncle gripped the shift stick, calmly wagged the car’s tail to corner, spinning the car with so much swagger as if the angle and direction was completely under control!
I said I needed to learn from him. I needed to keep his kind of cool in crises.

So we arrived at the hotel. Relax now, could we?
Not really. A team leader should do what he is entrusted to do.
I went out to get a little bit of food and drinks for the cabin crew; they haven’t had any proper food for a very long time now.
Thanks to the overnight bag, I got change after a quick shower. Fresh clothes! Joy, what a luxury!
By that time, it was already 4am. Sat in the bed, I calculated tomorrow’s flight time, and the company rang.
They asked if my team could cut short their rest time (a captain could at his discretion reduce rest time). I said I didn’t mind, if that helped the passengers. Furthermore, the cabin crew might want to return to Hong Kong as soon as possible.

You might not know that even though rest time could be cut, there was a limit as to how much it could be cut.
First: by law, the crew should have at least 10 hours rest in a hotel.
Second: available duty hour for the next flight would be reduced according to the lost rest time.
In the end, we decided to cut the rest time by one and a half hour.
In the meantime, it was sleep before battle again at sunset.

I only slept for a few hours. The next morning, the company messaged to tell the crew to prepare their own inflight meals as ground support might not be able to source enough food for all the passengers and crew.
I recalled a conversation with the local ground support the previous day, that there might not be any food at all for passengers on the next flight.
So I implored the company to get food for the passengers – even if it meant getting them from corner shops in the city center. Food must be prepared for the passengers. I couldn’t bear to see them starve as they have gone without proper food for a long while now.

D day. Snowflakes were dancing around lightly. And the weather seemed acceptable.
Seeing we couldn’t afford any further delays, I telephoned to remind the local engineers to clear the snow on the aircraft before us crew arrived.

In the afternoon, we boarded a vehicle, and were fully prepared to combat again. The cabin crew were very smart – they brought a whole barnful of supplies with them. There was so much food!
An army marches on their stomach. Quite right.

In the evening, we finally arrived at the airport. There were many passengers still waiting for us.
The plane was parked in a remote bay, and we couldn’t board as there was no shuttle bus. But today, something was different. It seemed there were more staffs in the terminal.
A few Hong Kong ground staff have come to support!
The merit of Japanese ground staff is that they’re super organised. And in crisis situation like this, our Hong Kong colleagues really showed their worth, unleashing their strongest point: The minute our Hong Kong ground staffs stepped out of the plane, they were already in combat mode. They marched into the terminal in high spirit. Their passion, their energy, their professionalism… I wanted to give each and every one of them a big smooch and a super tight squeeze!

After much negotiation, we found a bus to take us to the aircraft. The passengers were ecstatically happy when they saw us finally getting ready to board. They applauded in joy, exclaiming in excitement that they could finally go home!

Thanks to the engineers, the snow was already cleared by the time we reached the aircraft, saving us a bit more time.
Since we were parked in a remote bay, I asked the ISM to send a few cabin crew to escort the passengers onto the outdoor stairs, and protect them from the slippery icy surface.
Due to a shortage of shuttle bus, it took a very long time to board all the passengers. Every passenger got a bento in the end (which was better than nothing).
All of my passengers today boarded the same aircraft last night. So I did a special PA. A long, long one. So long that I couldn’t even remember what was said verbatim.
It was along the lines of:
“I believe most of you were on board this plane yesterday.
From various sources I know you’ve been stuck in the terminal for a very long time, without food, without hotel.
I completely understand how you feel.
Sapporo Chitose Airport is a very small airport.
There are only six parking bays.
In this unprecedented snowstorm, unseen in the past 50 years, many aircrafts and passengers have been inconvenienced. Chitose Airport has been working beyond its capacity, and it’s beyond what ground support could reasonably handle.
I know everyone has had a tough time. As your captain, I tried my best to do all I can within my ability and authority.
This morning I was still in conversation with the company to discuss our flight today. Our cabin crew didn’t mind cutting short their legally-required rest time to make this flight possible.
Yesterday, we even shared our crew meals with everyone.
Our flight today isn’t supposed to have any food on board, but we pressed hard and searched hard for food for everyone. The bento you have in front of you is the result of this morning’s negotiation.
Regrettably, yesterday’s delay was too long.
There weren’t enough men to handle ground support.
We used up all our available duty hour and we couldn’t take off yesterday.
I exhausted my authority as a captain to extend our duty hour. We tried for alternative destinations a few times, and we couldn’t take off in the end.
I understand you must have a lot of suggestions for my company, and please do send us your feedback.
We can only improve with your comments.
But I would also like to let you know that us frontline workers…
Ground staff, engineers, cabin crew, pilots and all our colleagues… worked very very hard to make sure we return to Hong Kong.
I’m very sorry even at present I can’t guarantee we can take off today, because there are too many variables outside of my control.
I appeal for your support to your cabin crew and other frontline staff today.
We are all on the same plane. We’re in it together. We’re all focused on the important mission of bringing everyone home.”

The FO seemed a little bit moved by the PA, and he said it was the “best PA he’s ever heard”.
I wasn’t sure if the PA struck a chord with our passengers; but every word said was from the bottom of my heart.

A cabin crew came into the cockpit and said she used her “prehistoric mystic powers” to translate what I said into Cantonese.
Sorry! The next time, I will make my PA in Chinese as well!

Since some passengers gave up on waiting for the flight today and took domestic flights instead, their left bags were still inside the belly of this plane. It took our ground colleagues a very long time to locate and offload these left bags from the cargo hold.
Our ground colleague also made frantic phone calls to confirm the passenger number and their associated checked bags. He was extremely meticulous. I really appreciated his work.
By that time, we didn’t have much available duty hour left.

After we pushed back and half way through taxiing to the runway, ATC changed our departure clearance!
Aiya!
We had to re-programme the flight computer again!
The FO was puzzled when he saw me fishing out the manual, then proceeded to checking very slowly and carefully against each item. The clock was ticking against us, and the FO wondered why I paced myself through every item on the checklist.
I said: “If you’ve never had an accident before. Today is the day. The more hurried we are, the more careful we need to be. Accidents strike when you are in a rush, especially when you don’t pay full attention.”
Luckily the FO was very experienced, very smart. He alleviated much of my workload and stress.

It was in the small hours when we were finally airborne. Most of the passengers were asleep, and when we approached Hong Kong, I couldn’t bring myself to waking our passenger up by making a descend announcement.
It was 3am when we finally landed.

I didn’t get any proper shut-eye throughout this Sapporo trip.
Nor did I eat a normal meal (guess the two meals at the hotel were OK).
My Christmas day off and promised family time went up in the air.
I even missed my wife’s baptism day.
So what did I get? Might be an experience.
Being able to take our passengers safely home was a big enough reward for all of us in the end.