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Adventures of Cap’n Raph!

Adventures of Cap’n Raph!

aux-cockpit-door Adventures of Cap'n RaphFolks, from the flight deck…I hope you had a grand Thanksgiving weekend. I know I did!

Sometimes the stars align, the aviation gods smile upon you…and Adventures ensue!

This was one of those weekends. For, my good Blog Buddy Raphaël F, an A320 Captain from Switzerland, was visiting the U.S. Things just fell into place, as you’ll see.

But, let’s let Raph tell the tale in his own words.

Take it away, Raph!

capn-raph-cockpit-inflight-dc-3 Adventures of Cap'n Raph!

Adventures of Cap’n Raph!

Hope is like fuel that boosts us. Cap’n Raph

Several years ago, at the tender age of 34, I became a junior captain for my airline, EasyJet. I am based in Geneva, Switzerland, and, despite it being my dream job, I still am madly in love with all aspects of flying!

Living in the age of Internet connectivity, it is fairly easy to find all kind of blogs that share stories, pictures, questions and thoughts about our wonderful job, that is, flying. It is also easy to find terrible ones who say BS about almost everything, and pseudo aviation “experts” that think they are better than any NTSB investigators.

And, then, there are the fabulous ones!

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I got to hear about Eric Auxier, better known as Cap’n Aux, via a good friend, a Captain himself on a 737 for another low cost European airline, and got in contact with him through Facebook and his blog. Apart from being an experienced A320 Captain, he also writes tremendous books and is really critical about what happens every day in aviation around the World. Knowing Eric made me wonder if I could actually come over to the States, meet him and see how an A320 operation is done over there.

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The future Cap’n Raph in his first jumpseat!

On top of this, my very first jump seat opportunity was back in 1994, when I was only 14 years old, on a Swissair MD-80 flown by a family friend. I remember very accurately going to the OPS center and reviewing the weather, flight plans with them and going with the whole crew to the aircraft. It was pure bliss. The dream had to become reality one day, that was it.

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Cap’n Raph got to hang with me n Bunny!

These MD-80s don’t fly very often nowadays, but some still do in the USA. So, to make that “remember my first love” jump seat, I looked up and booked a trip within the US from Dallas to Kansas City, which is a line flown by the MDs.

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So yes, in 2016, having dreamed about flying since 25 years and last flown on the jump seat of the MD-80 in 1994, I decided that, despite flying on the left seat of an Airliner, I wanted to make a trip which would make me remember why I am here today!

To make things more fun, I contacted Eric. To our delight, the trip coincided exactly with some days off for him, followed by his flight to Indianapolis that I would make as one of his passengers! Yes, fulfilling everything I wanted, MD-80 and the possibility to see an A320 operation away from our good ol’ Europe!

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Raph visits the cockpit of the mighty Mad Dog!

Of course, FAA regulations and the “known crew member” certificate being not in my possession, I wasn’t able to fly on the jump seat in either flight. However, I joined Eric and his FO, Ron, for the aircraft cockpit preparation in PHX. But, this was only on the second day after my arrival into PHX…a HUGE surprise was awaiting me beforehand.

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Surprise #1: Raph meets the famous Cap’n Dillon! Off for a spin in the Auxmobile!

On the first day, after I landed, Eric picked me up at Phoenix Sky Harbor and drove me to his place, where I got to meet the fantastic Bunny (Mary Ann), his girlfriend, who also shares our fabulous Aviation World as a flight attendant! We then went for a well-deserved breakfast and picked up Cap’n Dillon, the most enthusiastic person I’ve ever met, loving airplanes like no one can do! His life goes to Aviation and it was an honor to meet him in person. So, that was also a mega great surprise—I didn’t know Dillon lived in Phoenix! The three of us drove to Falcon Field Airport . . .

. . . and there they were, waiting for us! Ed and Dena Duckworth, proud shared owner of a magnificent Boeing Stearman, the one with a modified 450hp engine, and I was going to fly this red bird!!!

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Surprise #2: a biplane ride in Ed n Dena’s beautiful Stearman!

What a surprise, Eric, I almost fell off the ground! Cap’n Dillon first flew with Ed, and then off we went, across the desert towards Saguaro Lake and its canyons!

rapt-biplane Adventures of Cap'n Raph!More than 35 minutes later, we came back to the Earth, my thoughts filled with a lot of emotions. I can recall every single moment, flying low over the Salt River, looking for wild horses. A dream!
After this wonderful flight, we all went to eat at Steak and Stone, a great steakhouse right on the airport. We even actually taxied the Stearman right to the restaurant!

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The rest of the afternoon was spent talking about nothing but Aviation, DC-3’s (yes I fly one! But more on this later) and about life in general.

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Raph, Dillon and I meet up with Ed, Dena and the flying kids for lunch at Steak n Stone!

The evening was great too, bar food, actually great bar food at Four Peaks, a microbrewery in Metro Phoenix. There, I also met another of Eric’s team, John Keith, whom we call Otto Pilot! John is an actual anesthetic surgeon’s assistant, who is currently training for his dream: future Airline Pilot!

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We join Otto for great grub n brew!

Too many great people in only one day. I got exhausted, still working on my jetlag of 8 hours after only 2 days here in the USA, plus got a cold—an all-inclusive package!

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Inflight entertainment personally provided by the Cap’n!

Nevertheless, the second day went as smooth as it could, flying American in coach with Eric and Ron driving us towards Indianapolis. The evening was due to be as epic as the previous one! In fact, on a previous trip to the French Antilles, I met Joe S., also a follower of Eric’s blog and a friend of him. Joe used to be a PC-12 driver in Paradise, but had to work his way up the ladder to get there after several years of flight instructing. He managed to secure himself a position now at Republic Airways, a regional carrier flying in AA, UA, DL colors on the Embraer 170/175!

Believe it or not, again by pure coincidence, Joe was in Indy that evening for his Republic Airways training course! After checking into our hotels, we therefore met up—Eric, Ron, Joe and I—for some good talks and a substantial discount off our bill, thanks for these $13 Malbec glasses (Editor’s note: they were actually $16! Buyer beware!!), but the wine was good!

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L-R: FO Ron, me, Raph, and Republic pilot Joe S! (I met Joe in Puerto Rico while he was flying there, and I was on theAirways Caribbean cruise—see link below!)

briefing-card-rapt Adventures of Cap'n Raph!Eric and Ron were very gentle on their intake of that red fluid this evening, as they had to leave the next day for their next flight. Joe had to make good impression on his ATP exam, and me? I had to do nothing except to cure that cold! So, off to bed at 10pm!

TAdventures of Cap'n Raph!he next day was a cool one too. I flew again the MD-80 to Dallas and then a brand new 787 American to LAX! Absolutely cold answer from the lead purser on the 787 when I politely asked if I could just sneak to the flight deck to quickly talk to the two up front, showing my ID.He said NO.

Adventures of Cap'n Raph!Never mind, I enjoyed the flight very much Sir, thank you!
The last day in LAX was made of adventures airplane spotting at the best place to do so, the In and Out Burger short of 24R! I’d been there before, but always enjoyed the feeling of watching an A380 passing above my head.
And, best of all, the Quantas 747. Unfortunately, he landed on 25L that day. Bummer!

Adventures of Cap'n Raph!

Plane spottin’ at LAX with Cap’n Raph!

All in all, that trip made me realize how wonderful it is to be where I am, but also how difficult it could be to remain here. So many have had hard times, mergers, furloughs, downsizing, base transfer and so on. The only thing we shall never forget is to smile, to enjoy what we do and hope for the better if possible. Hope is like fuel that boosts us. Aviation needs fuel, therefore Aviation is a booster. I think that sums it up.

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Raph visits the cockpit. I leant him my “inflight library,” and he lent me his latest copy of Airways Magazine (which of course included my latest column!)

I would like to thank two persons that are so supportive and so much understand me on my Aviation adventures: my parents. There to help me during the 2001-2003 crisis, and always there to fully hear my complaints when things weren’t amazing. Also, a particular word to my Mum, who despite being a nervous flyer, has always believed in my choices and whose critical sense of life made me stronger every day.

raph-noteThank you all to make my World, I wish for so many more years of freedom in the sky (with two pilots on board and a load of great passengers to transport!)

Raphaël

Thank you, Cap’n Raph!

I’m so happy you found the U.S. of A. accommodating to your avgeek cravings!

Folks, the next morning after I left Indy, I found a note slid under my door. I just had to share it with you!—>

Next week, we will learn how Cap’n Raph became just that—a Cap’n! Things work differently in Europe, and I found his adventures of climbing up the ladder both fascinating and enlightening. What’s more, he also flies a beautifully-restored DC-3 in his spare time. Can’t wait to hear about that!

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On Short Final

Departing next week

Pearl Harbor Flag

December 7th, 2016: a Date Which will Live in Memory

Cap’n Aux Visits the 75th Anniversary of Pearl Harbor Day!

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Now Boarding

Adventures of Cap’n Raph—Part 2

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Cap’n Raph’s adventures, climbing up the European Aviation Ladder!

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Related Cap’n Aux Posts

Cap’n Aux Adventures Links