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Thursday, September 24, 2009

Anything can happen will happen

Murphy's Law says “Anything can happen will happen”. How true is that?

Today's flight started off and ended with lots of hiccups which is totally opposite from yesterday's far too perfect 5.6 hours of flight.

Weather was not ideal -- thunderstorms reported with cumulonimbus clouds advancing from the southern west regions, and many regions in Singapore heavy rained. Colour flag was red. If weather conditions did not improve, scheduled 1000hr take-off would be delayed and precious fixed flight time to be jeopardised. Singapore lived up to its reputation of erratic, unpredictable and fast-changing weather condition, clearing the sky in just an hour. At 0900hrs, all signals were cleared for flight.

While climbing up, we met with mild turbulence because of thick clouds, but everything was in control. I must say the turbulence felt was definitely rockier than any other turbulences felt on any commercial passenger planes. Smaller and lighter aircraft, lower flight altitude, and thick clouds after a thunderstorm, could be some of the contributing factors. In fact, even on level and in auto-pilot mode, I noticed the plane's speed, track angle and altitude were not constant.

Next came the hardware part. Hardware for the system (not the pilot's) to be run malfunctioned several times and each time, they had to be restarted. This was in contrast to yesterday's.

The last hiccup of the day was SCARY. We were then only at our 2nd hour out of our planned 5 hours of flight when the loadmaster came telling my colleague and I “RTB (Return to Base) and please get back to your seat and buckle up”. Very quickly, we grabbed our aircraft food, relayed the message back to the 2 system engineers, before getting back to our seats and got ourselves buckled up with the 5-points safety belt, without knowing what had actually happened. The 2 system engineers rushed to the cockpit to question what's the reason for “RTB”. Through the PA system, the pilot announced “Engine Fault”.

I made several quick observations on the expressions of the 2 system engineers and my the other software engineer colleague. Upon hearing the “Engine Fault” announcement, the 2 system engineers looked apprehended and worried stiff, while the software engineer looked calm and he could actually still joke around, finishing his lunch. Like the software engineer, I was also pretty calm. Why the difference? I spent my 40 minutes of ride from Changi Air Base back to workplace searching for the answer and I'd got one - a possible one. The 2 system engineers were both married with kids and family but the software engineer and myself have no such commitments. By making this deduction, I do not mean I don't treasure my life, and in fact, I treasure my life and everyone around me a lot. I just thought there may be some correlation, somehow.

Why am I still here writing this entry? The pilot and the co-pilot managed to bring everyone back safely on earth without major problems 30 minutes later. Only when the plane was stationary were we being told that the “Engine Fault” was due to the right hand side auto fuel indicator turned faulty. The 5 hours mission had to be aborted prematurely because, without the “auto” function, both the pilot and the co-pilot had to manually control the fuel usage and that would need a lot more attention and concentration on their side. Another reason given was, no risk should be taken because no one could guarantee if the minor indicator fault could lead to a more major fault later.

So, here I am -- alive and kicking! Oh ya, I just received a SMS, informing me of a half day morning off-in-lieu for tomorrow for the past 2 days' of hard work, however, I am not going for the off because I have a second project to worry about.

My next flight should be around end of October.

Murphy's Law of “Anything can happen will happen” really still stands even TODAY!

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