Since my last post I have completed a 9-day trip to Europe and a 7-day stay at home and a 12-day trip to Asia. To say that I am whipped is a bit of an understatement. The European trip included 6 crossings of the Atlantic and reinforced my desire to do more Orient flying. Atlantic crossings are accomplished quicker, usually in 7.5 t0 8.5 hours, depending upon the destinations, but the time zone changes seem to really kick my butt. The U.S. departures are generally late in the afternoon or early in the evening which provides European arrivals at the start of the business day or around the mid-day hour. Having flown all night, you feel like you have no choice but to take a nap in order to feel even slightly human. Before you ask, yes, we get a break during the flight, usually around 2 1/2 hours and yes, it is designed to allow you to get some sleep and feel refreshed for the arrival procedures. Unfortunately the turbulence monster doesn’t seem to be included on the distribution list for the smooth air request during my breaks. Either a bumpy ride or galley carts banging against the bunk room wall seem to conspire to keep me from getting more that a half hour of sleep during those breaks.
On my first European layover I got to the room, cleaned myself up and went to bed. My ‘nap’ lasted 6 hours. I got up (now late evening) ordered room service and tried to get some computer work done (designing a website for a friend). Five hours later I got back into bed and slept another 6 hours. That left me enough time to have some instant oatmeal and coffee and to get ready for the van to the airport.
My next layover had a slightly earlier European arrival, so after my 4-hour nap it was early afternoon. I had enough time and energy to visit the workout room before getting ready to go out for dinner. I found a nice Italian cafe, had a good dinner and made my way back to my room. I caught up on some email and went to bed at a reasonable hour in the late evening. I was then awake at 3 am, unable to get back to sleep. You’d think that I would then have no problem sleeping on my break. Refer to monster above. My break occurred as we were making our way across Iceland. The forecast for moderate chop was accurate, of course.
For my third European layover I tried to recreate the first sleep schedule. I didn’t have any time to partake of the sights, but I felt a whole lot better with the sleep cycle. I was almost successful with my plan. Unfortunately, I must have slept in a weird position because I started feeling twinges in my neck and shoulder muscles.
By the time I finished my commute home after the trip the muscle spasms were getting stronger and when I got up my first morning at home I was out of service. A massage session a couple of days later helped, but it took almost a week to feel like I could safely complete any flying duties. Of course that coincided almost perfectly with the start of my next trip. Why does it always work out that way?
The good news (to me anyway) is that the Asia trip ends with a deadhead leg back to the U.S. which will allow me to finish up at my new base of operation. My seniority and the equipment that I am flying have allowed me to get a transfer to one of our West Coast pilot bases. Instead of a 12-hour commute I will now have a 2-hour commute. On top of that, 90% of the trips from this base go to the Orient. I’m a happier camper.