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Beautiful Machines

September 15, 2010 Leave a comment

I was casually surfing, I mean researching on the internet today, when I stumbled upon this photo in a site header (linking instead of pasting since it’s in Flash).  As is wont to happen to me I was immediately taken back to when I used to perform that task, marshalling in aircraft to their parking position.

I never actually handled an IL76 unfortunately (I did climb into one undergoing repairs in Libya though).  The awesomest aircraft I had to guide to a stop was one like this:

Antonov AN12 / Copyright Angara at Airliners.net

It may not look like much – old, what with the props and all.  But it was noisy, even through the ear defenders. And big. And coming towards me.  I sometimes used to have perverse thoughts on the lines of: what if the pilot didn’t see me? What if one of engines shot off it’s mounting and came towards me?

A turboprop is slow to accelerate, so I used to play these mind games that if something happened, I could duck out of the way, or between the landing gear. Or something.  It was a completely different story with one of these beauties, the private jets:

Bombardier Global Express / Copyright Luc Van Belleghem at Airliners.net

The high pitched whine of the turbine engines gives these aircraft a restless air.  They were built for speed, not for crawling around.  I felt as if the engineering feat was not putting them in the air, but keeping them in check, restrained and obeying the pilot’s commands on the ground.  Which is why, when marshalling one in, I felt like I had the barrel of a (quite large) cannon being slowly pointed towards me, with a shell that was crying and begging to be fired.

I was not scared, I would not have done the job otherwise.  Those thoughts were merely fleeting products of my imagination, which I would shrug off, and get back to there and then.

It was a job I performed with mixed emotions – on one hand I absolutely loved the idea of being close to these high tech machines, climbing on board $50 million VIP aircraft, or being involved in some tricky cargo loading operation.  On the other hand there were the odd timings, the associated running around and the whatever-the-weather requirement.  It could get quite cold in Malta when raining on a February pre-dawn morning.  The office job wouldn’t look so drab then.

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