Redbull hangár

Redbull hangár

2012. június 20., szerda

From gliding to the Boeing 737

Edit Tóvári and I lived in the same village for twenty years, but knew each other only by sight. I knew, that she’s become a pilot at Malév (Hungarian airline) and I have been always thought it very cool. A common friend of us has already asked me formerly why I don’t make an interview with her. Unfortunately I didn’t work to such magazines that time, where I could publish it. Recently, I had dinner with this friend and we were talking about Edit as well in connection with the recent bankruptcy of Malév. And what God does, I met her on the bus the same day after many years. She was on her way home from a Malév demonstration. I took it fateful and asked her about the interview and she said yes immediately. During our conversation, she was talking about her long way from gliders to commercial planes, the happy times at Malév and she also told me, how she got by the breakdown of the national airline, as well as the way she searches for a new job.

Gabriella: You wondered last time, how can I have an interest in racing cars and planes as a woman, although I could ask it from you too, as you are also working in a field which is dominated by men. What turned you to this direction?
Edit: I don’t know. Maybe, if I think it through, my brother had a role in it. Because I guess, that always the same was important to me what for him. If he begins to learn history, then I felt, that I also have to do it. I looked up to him and it was important to me what he thinks about me. In the Top Gun era, at the beginning or in the middle of the ’80s, he begun to show interest to jets. He didn’t begin to fly, he didn’t become a jet pilot either a soldier, it was just a burst. Then I started to build model aircraft, but it didn’t go well at all, then, I was around 15, when my father took me out to the sport airport between Budakeszi and Budaörs. I was told there, that gliding is the most ideal to begin flying, because it’s the simplest. It was around ’89, when aviation went under the aegis of the Hungarian Army that time and there was more money in it, I guess it was free, but the medical aptitude test was more difficult. I have never had such a hard medical test like this, although I had many since then. That time my eyesight began to deteriorate and the ophthalmologist diagnosed, that I’m unfit to every kind of aviation. This was my first attempt. But there was some slack after the regime, so I was suggested to try it again, because their approach has changed.

The gliding era

G: How old were you then?
E: I began to fly in ’91, so 17. This time I passed the medical aptitude test. It wasn’t too easy, but it succeeded. I began gliding and got the license to it in ’93. If you have it, you must keep it with the minimal flight time, but I liked to go out to the airfield anyway as the company was good. It went like this for a while, but then I started the university at Miskolc and it required too much time.

Graduation of the freshers in the college at Nyíregyháza
G: What did you study?
E: History. As I was living in a dorm at Miskolc and wasn’t too much at home, thus gliding has been forgotten. Of course I tried to fly the minimum hours to keep my license and kept watching if the admission requirements has changed at the aviation engineer branch at Nyíregyháza College. Because there were Physics and Maths exams and these two subjects has never stood close to me, so I didn’t think, that I could prepare to it. But then I saw once, that it is possible to enter with taken points and entrance examination is not necessary. Beside it, they gave a plus point to my English exam, my aviation grounding and to several other things. My secondary school-leaving exam was also good which they doubled. So I got so many points, that they admitted me. I was in my third year in Miskolc then, but as only with one branch, I had planty of time to the aviation engineering too. I got my diploma from both in the same time, in ’99. There were only two weeks between the state examinations.
We got a basic aviation training at Nyíregyháza which meant instrument flying for example. It was very important in terms of my future. The school trained only agricultural pilots in the early years, but they turned to the commercial pilot education later. The commercial pilot license (CPL) was an important stage of it - which happened within the scope of the state exam – and the instrumental flying license. The two-engine license could have been also important, but we didn’t have this kind of training. I had to find a job after the diploma to earn money to flying and keep my licence. It wasn’t a simple private pilot license, but a commercial one, so I should have to fly more to it in a year. I didn’t have any opportunity in Hungary, so I went to the US, because I was told, that flying is cheaper there and I could do the two-engine training with less money. I stayed there for a year, I collected the hours primarily, worked as a baby-sitter and I spend my salary in a flying club.

G: Where were you exactly in the States?
E: In Los Angeles. A man (his name was Steve) who defected from Hungary in ’56, had a small flying club in a flying school and he helped me. During the year while I was there, five Hungarian made the instrument flying and the two-engine training. They slept rough at Steve for 2-3 weeks, which was a nomad life a bit, but lovable. It was a very good place, I loved Los Angeles. The baby-sitter not so much, but it was necessary. I came home after one year and as I had some more hours in Nyíregyháza, I could do the flight instructor rating. There was still no opportunity at home, thus I returned to the USA to Daytona Beach, working as a housekeeper this time. It lasted almost half a year, but I had enough of it by then. After I came home, I worked at a flying school where I could work as flight instructor and I could keep my licenses with this 50 hours. It was hard to collect the minimal time after it. I went to work to a different field, first I was employed by a small company at Budakeszi, than by Tesco as an assistant, so I didn’t sit doing nothing. Of course I would have liked to earn money with flying and I kept searching. I made my CPL extended. The next step was the ATPL (airline pilot license) theoretical course, I decided to pay in to it and maybe this will be the last one. The students at this course has great connections at Malév and another girl, Hajni Magyar, has a pilot father and husband, she was working as a stewardess, but wanted to be a pilot too. And of course when I finished at Nyíregyháza, we (me and my classmates) gave in our papers to Malév. It was never defined at Malév what are the minimum requirements, when are the recruitments or if there is recruitment at all, so there was no system at them. That’s why I didn’t think, that it can succeed to me. I was sure about, that they check who is whose relative from the appliers, so who should be hired next. But I applied despite this, and I collected more and more time, I called them up, but nothing has happened, they just laughed at me. Once they have invited me to an interview finally. Maybe  it was after my second US stay, because I had the flight instructor license and 250 flight hours. They said, that I should collect more and asked be when I want to take a child.

In the cabin of the Fokker

G: By the way, did you experience any other discrimination or negative comments from passengers or colleagues so far?
E: We didn’t really have a contact with the passengers. The stewardesses told us, that when I did the captain upgrading in the left seat and I had to greet the passengers, then some of them tossed their head and thought, that one of the flight attendants is speaking. When they realized, that it’s not true, wonderment could be seen on their face. And when they was boarding and they saw me, also. But I’ve never experienced negative approach either a colleague or a passenger.

Job interview and training at Malév

E: Returning to my first job interview at Malév, they said, that maybe next time. It has turned out, there was another recruitment shortly after it, but they didn’t invited me to it. Then the guys from the ATPL course - who had good connections at Malév – asked me if I go to job interview, because there will be one soon. I didn’t really know about it. So I called Malév, that I know about the new recruitment and asked if I go too. They said yes. My career depended on it. There was a written test and an interview in English. As for the written test was a computer based test, which consists general aviation things from the ATPL (airline pilot license) subjects and presumably even a CPL pilot should know them: meteorology, law, navigation, flight planning, aerodynamics, reading of meteorologic telegrams. There were questions, calculations and a type-knowledge part too. Many of us were hired after it. There were three types together the 767 at Malév and we can chose between the Fokker or the Boeing 737. More precisely we could chose till there had been free places. It was in birth order, I was quite at the end of the list and a guy who was born 1 day sooner then me, choose the last Boeing place just before me… So I had only one choice: the Fokker. I wasn’t the big plane, but I didn’t regret it, it was a very good team (smaller and more familiar), the aircraft was very simple to handle and easy to learn. Fokker 70 still has been my favorite type from the two. So my career at Malév began like this in 2004 February. Unfortunately I had to write it down many times these days.

The first type: the Fokker

G: In the CV-s?
E: Not only there. In the notice papers, in the litigation papers and such things like these.

G: Let’s return to this topic later. But could you tell me something about your training at Malév?
E: It was amazing! We learned only the Fokker 70 type for three weeks at first with the help of a computer based training. We didn’t have a teacher either, we were clicking and took over the systems alone. Although I was in the US for one and a half year altogether, but I didn’t know the technical vocabulary in English completely and we didn’t learn about jets during my college years. OK, we examined engines and structures, but in Hungarian, so learning it in English was new to me. We took the exam of it, then a a two week simulator training followed it in Amsterdam. We passed the exam from it too, then another course from Malév procedures was the next. Then we started the flight training, sitting in the cabin as a third person at first, we were watching what the others do in front, then I could sit into the right-seat on the 4th of April 2004 to fly at first, after the two months  training. It was a normal passenger flight. But as long as we didn’t have the license to it, a third person was sitting in, because it was a two-pilot aircraft, so a captain and a first officer were required as well. To get the license was another two months, while I was flying in the right-seat with an instructor  and learned everything properly. Then I could fly alone.

Communication in the cabin and the technical gremlins

In the Boeing's cabin

G: Do you remember on what route was your first independent flight?
E: A Budapest-Warsaw.

G: Was it trouble-free?
E: Absolutely. Otherwise I didn’t have too many incidents. I had problem with the gear twice, it was the weakest link. It happened, that it didn’t come out or I had a sign which showed if it would not have come out. In this case, we had to reject the landing and go around, do the necessary things which were written in the book, switching, pulling this and that, etc., then do it again. And once in Oslo, at the starting of the engines, the ground staff signed, that one of the engines are smoking. I was an experienced first officer by then, but it was the first flight of the captain in this position. It’s the biggest trouble, when there is fire or smoke on an aircraft. When it’s on the ground, it a smaller problem - although many have died in it -, because the passengers cannot escape in time and it is even worse in the air. It was quite frightening, but the captain knew, that he didn’t superinduce the kerosine yet, so not in the engine burns something, so the smoke can’t be a fuel-fire, so he didn’t pull the fire system onto the engine, because it had destroyed the many million dollar engines. We waited and it has turned out, that the auxiliary power unit’s starting mechanism has fallen apart and as the oil spilled to the hot parts, that caused the smoke. So we stayed there in Oslo, while it was repaired, then we flew home with the empty plane next day. We also had a cabin-smoke bacause of a fuse. In that case, we stayed in Rome, but we didn’t know how long will we stand there and when will the mechanics arrive, so we didn’t see the city, we stayed at the airport.

G: Did it occur, that you could stay somewhere for a few days and had time to discover the city as well?
E: It was possible only on the flights with non-European destination or on the Athen-based flights, but I have never flown on these, so I can see cities only as a tourist.

G: You have mentioned the Malév procedures before. What should we mean it?
E: Mostly that who say what in the cabin. (It can be different by airlines.) It is very important at a two-pilot aircraft, that anybody says anything, the proper answer must be said to it. Sometimes the first officer flies, but on the ground and in emergency situations there is only captain and first officer. In other situations, just pilot-flying and pilot-non-flying. So when the pilot-non-flying says „positive” when she/he sees, that the vario climbs up, then the pilot-flying says: „gear up”. And for example if this „positive” fails, then you tend to forget the gear. There are mechanisms which you must practice to have everything in its place. So everybody says and does its own job.

G: OK, it’s clear, it means the communication between the pilots, some kind of a checklist. But is the communication with the tower defined by international standards?
E: Yes, except the national specificities.

G: In which phase did you learn it during your training?
E: We start it, when we sat in the cabin as the third person. But the English radio communication was a subject in the CPL training already. We met it during the ATPL course too and we learned it in practice here. During the last observer flights (when we sit in the cabin as third) we had to listen to the radio. Didn’t have to switch anything, just listen to it. But it’s not a big thing, because after a while, you will know what they will say. Although in a foreign environment, where English is spoken in different dialects and they don’t say what you expect, you can be surprised.
G: Do you ask again in this cases?
E: Yes, as long as I understand it completely.

The Malév-bankruptcy from the inside

G: You worked for 8 years at Malév, didn’t you?
E: Yes, but I was a stewardess at Malév Express for 6 months before it. It has just come when I had enough of my work at Tesco. I met some stewardesses at a New Years Eve party. They suggested to try out this job if I want to be a pilot, as it can be the good way to it, regarding getting useful information for example. I applied, they hired me and really felt good there. And I was lucky, because after 7 months, this ATPL course started.

As a stewardess
G: What was this Malév Express? I haven’t heard about it.
E: It was the subsidiary of Malév. It had a very short life, worked only 2-3 years. They wanted to build a regional airline, had four Bombardier CRJ, which is a small, real female aircraft for 50-50 passengers. They did the short routes, Prague, Bucharest, Timisoara, but they sold all the planes slowly. There was an idea to transform one of them to a government use, as it wasn’t easy to sell them, but they didn’t make it finally.

G: I guess, it’s a good example for that in small, what happened to the parent company. We could read it in the press in the past years, that clouds are gathering over Malév and it was known as a wallet drain. What did you perceive from it as a pilot and employee? Did it have a negative side concerning to you?
E: Not really. When a stint has happened, for example when they terminated the long distance flights, everybody felt that mostly who were flew on it. Although these flights were always full. For example, we could directly take those passengers to New York and Toronto, who arrived from Tel-Aviv. Maybe they should have bought planes instead of terminating these flights. This time we think about, is it really worked on business bases? Or what the hell they want with this company and why they run it like this, when they could do it better? But I felt really good at Malév as long as it existed. The last year was very peevish, then they start to fear of loosing their job, but I don’t want to worry about it.
Although I was a works council member in the last two years. We consulted with the leadership in every second month and we heard only bad news. They said, that they try to rescue the company like this or that and they try everything and blah-blah. Although the last management was exceptional, because they really did it very well, but unfortunately they could work less than a year. They were positive humanly too and very likeable to me. They didn’t prevaricate, didn’t say bullshits, you know when somebody lie into your eyes. There were only show-meetings with the former leaderships: we went there and they held pretty presentations to us which hadn’t got any sense. But in the last year, they really wanted to do something, solve it, beg everywhere, but I think the decision about the company had been made by then. We waited and we would have liked it, that a new company will start right after the bankruptcy preserving the old one (like it happened at Sabena, Swiss, SAS). I still had trusted in it, even when I heard, that the planes were held down on the ground and this is the end, because I would have had a flight some days after the bankruptcy announcement.

G: How were you informed about it?
E: I heard it in the radio. But I was sure for days, that I will take my flight to Tel-Aviv on Saturday. But as the days went by it failed. It didn’t mean stress to me, because I hoped. I’ve been still hoping. Although there is a very slight chance to a turn for the better to Malév, mostly because they are selling the rights now.

G: And all the aircraft were also taken away.
E: They couldn’t do anything with those. New ones should be leased. But I really lived it as a tragedy, because I’ve never accept this situation. OK, I’m searching for a new job and maybe I wouldn’t go back to the company, because I wouldn’t take this uncertainty again. But there are some colleagues, who haven’t got any other chance.

Pilot on the job market

Over the clouds

G: How does a pilot search a job?
E: There are many portals, agencies and good forums where experienced job-seekers also comment. It can be known which company or airline worth to apply to, where development is so strong, that there are always open positions. And as Malév has fallen for, many agencies and airlines came to Budapest to hold a recruiting roadshow for us, for example the Emirates and Copa Airlines from Columbia.

G: Would you go to work to Columbia too?!
E: Of course!

G: What did you experience at these job fairs?
E: I couldn’t attend Copa’s, but I was at the others’. Two Chinese agencys’ between them. Wizzair and Travel Service also held a recruiting event, but it was rather a PR-orientated in case of the latter, presenting, that they are so good and support the ex-Malév pilots. There were some events, where they held a preselection on the spot. For example at APAS, where I’m in the selection process momently. This is a Hon Kong agency, but they search pilots for a Chinese airline, Hainan who operated the Budapest-Peking Malév flights till 2012 March. It was terminated just before I could fly on it. A kind lady held a presentation in behalf of them and was talking about the agency and Hainan too. There were two Boeing 737 pilots in high position from the airline. Then we got a 20 question test about this type. We had to fill an application form and we were called into a meeting room in pairs where the two pilots were sitting behind the table and made the interviews. Then things started very fast after it. It was in early March and they gave me an appointment to the 16th of March already in Bejing. Later one more time.

G: Did you have to stand the travel costs?
E: They payed the tickets to their own flights (we had to travel inside of China too) and the accommodation cost also.
I have applied to 15 airlines altogether since the middle of February, but I didn’t get even a reply from some of them. Flydubai answered, „that no, thanks”, but as it has turned out, they refuse all the female pilots. I don’t have any news from the Emirates, but they privilege the captains now. Chinese airlines are quite active these days, but you can apply only one of them at the same time. I guess, all of the airlines is partly governmental there, so it would turn out soon, if my application was in several places. Otherwise everything happens under the aegis of the aviation authority and the foreign pilots’ applications meet there. I do my best to meet the expectations, last time I took a a language exam to EVA which is a Taiwan airline. I have signed up on several agencies’ webpage and they will send if they find something.

G: So you are cosmopolitan in this respect.
E: I have to be that. I don’t want to move from this country, that one and a half year was enough to me from the US, I didn’t want to settle down abroad. But it seems, this is the only chance to continue flying.

Landing at sunset

G: Do become the former colleagues rivals in this situation?
E: No, thank god, we help each other maximally. Who goes somewhere sooner to a job interview, that inform the others and vice versa. When I went to Wizzair to an interview, they gave me a task in the simulator, which I didn’t expect and couldn’t solve it. It was related to traditional navigation what we learned at instrumental flight, but I used it last many years before, because it wasn’t necessary to Fokker. We had to handle only the on board computer there. It has occured just occasionally at the simulation exercises twice a year (manual flight, basic navigation), but just minimally, so I didn’t expect it here. And if you are not in it, then you can be confused by the instruments very much. We walked into it with my captain, who was there too, but we informed the following ex-colleagues about it and some of them were hired.

G: And what if you hear about an opportunity, where they need only 1 or 2 pilots? Then you keep the information to yourself, don’t you?
E: You never know how many pilots are they looking for. I was forwarding the news about the new opportunities to some colleagues initially. But our labor union (HUNALPA) works very well, they have already known about these opportunities and it clamps the colleagues which is useful, because I don’t have the e-mail address of everyone. I don’t know either, who has found a new job already and who don’t want to work abroad, so it would be needless to bother everybody with the job opportunities.
It is also true, that it turns out in this situation, who is not a good person. Good example to it the case with Ryanair. They hired only captains and there were some captains at Malév who became that on Fokker, then they moved to Boeing. There they didn’t get the left seat, but could do the captain paper to this type too and could take one flight a month and executed the captain tasks. They recorded these flight hours, although these weren’t 100% hours as they weren’t appointed captains. I had 110 captain hours on Fokker like this. I didn’t fly even a minute as an appointed captain, but I was on the left (in senior first officer position), I took the decisions, arranged the refuelling, but a tutor captain was along me every time. These few guys collected time the same way on 737, but they didn’t highlighted it to Ryanair.

G: Did Ryanair check this?
E: It would have been unnecessary, because these men had practice, everybody knew it, at it was clear, that they would cope on Boeing too. They were pilots with thousands of hours who also flew thousands of hours as captains, it’s true that on another type, but it doesn’t matter, because the first officer and the captain also can fly the plane. The captain position means decision-making, it doesn’t matter on which type. It happened that many of these guys were employed and some of them with Budapest based position. A former colleague (it hasn’t turned out who was that), who wasn’t employed with Budapest basis, drew the attention of Ryanair to check this data, because he hoped, that maybe he would supplant them and can get a Budapest based position.

G: Unbelievable…and what happened?
E: Ryanair has checked it up and they wondered how can a colleague scheme against another. They decided, that they accept the those captain papers. When I heard this story, I was really shocked, but didn’t wonder anyway, because we are different and there are such persons like this.
Another example. It has turned out, that many have known what will happen to Malév so they could find a new job in time. Although, sharing this information with the others would have caused panic and everybody would have dropped everything and disappeared.
But my experience is rather positive. We, who reached the last step of the selection at Hainan, move together. If somebody has news, calls the others immediately or when we are talking and I’m a bit pessimist, they raise my spirits.

G: Do you know how many pilots needs Hainan?
E: No, but most probably many, because they bought some Boeing 777 and there will be retraining from 737. The others spoke with a senior HR guy from the airline, he told them, that they can get the 777 planes if they proved, that they have enough 737 pilots and we would be those.

G: One of the financial magazines wrote, that airlines interested in rather the captains form the 200 jobless Malév pilots. Is it really more difficult to find a job as a first officer?
E: Yes. I got the answer from India, Indonesia and Malaysia, that they looking for captains only.

G: Is it because they have enough skilled first officer?
E: Maybe. I would not in parentheses, that the maybe human material in Indonesia and Africa is such, that it is harder to educate captains from them. I know, that there are many foreign captains at these airlines.

Is China the future?

G: Returning to the article of the financial magazine, it was quite pessimistic regarding the bet, that how many of you will be employed.
E: You cannot know it previously. It’s impossible to look into China for example. Amazing how big is the domestic air traffic there. Every flight is full. We had to travel across the country, because the theory exam was here, the simulator is there, the medical test is at a third place. Although tickets are not cheap. We met a American pilot from the airline in a hotel and he told us, that he is the first from the foreign pilots (there are nine altogether at the company on the B737) who will be allowed to take an international flight after four years. He has flown only domestic flight before.
G: As for the numbers, how many female pilots were at Malév together with you?
E: We were five at the end. Altogether six female pilots has worked at Malév ever. Hainan doesn’t have any female pilots on Boeing 737 momently, that’s why I was surprised when they offered a job interview to me.

Pilot girls at the labor union's ball in 2007

G: Then maybe you will show they was to the future female airline pilots in China.
E: Maybe, although I didn’t see any girls in Hainan’s flight school. Maybe it’s based only boys who start it very early, in their teenage.

G: A very evil question: do you have a B-plan to regarding you future, if you don’t find a pilot job?
E: My mood become very bad, if I start to think about it. So I made me realize it, that as I flew in February last time, my last simulator exercise was on the 11th of last November and if I do another simulator in this November (which HUNALPA will support in half part), then I’m OK till next February which means a lot of time. Because airlines require to have a flight in the last 12 months. That’s what I keep in mind. Otherwise I don’t have a B-plan. Because if I think it through, I don’t know what would I do gladly and the problem is, that I’m not young, 38 years old. Although I had a diploma from history, aviation engineering and sport management, I don’t have experience in anything except flying. Being an assistant for a year is not a huge work experience. If I began anything, I would start it from zero and I Don’t have a contact system to get interesting jobs for example in sport/event organizing or tourism. I’m thinking about flight controller education, but maybe there is an age limit there. This would be a two year course and maybe they would accept some subjects from my aviation engineering diploma. As far as I know, it’s hard to get in there.

The last flight with the Fokker

G: We met last time, when you were on your way home from a Malév demonstration. Would you tell me something about its reason?
E: Many of us had a ten page employment contract. As we didn’t work in a normal work order, we had a separate collective contract and a separate individual contract which didn’t match with the Labor Code. Despite of it, they want to pay our dismissal pay according to the Labor Code. We got something on to the debit of the wage guarantee, but it was only the fraction of the amount due to us.

G: Newspapers said, that after selling the possessions of Malév, they could pay the former employees off.
E: I don’t see into it, so I don’t want to ratiocinate. Also heard that Malév had many goods, s it would have been cheaper to carry it on, put in the missing 3 billion Forints. Because the last financial quarter was surprisingly good, the new strategy worked really well and if it could have continued like this, there had been future to the company. The plan of the latest management was, to escape into growth. Budapest airport has an excellent location. It connected the Middle East and Far East with Asia and the Balcans and you could transfer only here. I heard, that the Malév bankruptcy saved Aeroflot from the collapse, because they could do the Budapest-Moszkva flight instead of us and those flights were always full. I flew on that route sometimes. It’s interesting, that even till the last year it was the only remained flights with warm food.

G: There was another Malév demonstration in February. Was it in the hope, that maybe the company can be revivified?
E: No, it was rather a memorial ride. We went from the Malév headquarters through the Rákóczi-bridge to the Gellért square, because there was the hydroplane airport in the ’20s. It was a very sad event, because the experience was fresh for everyone. But the car drivers were tooting to us and the train also.

The German precision and the volcanic eruption

G: Let’s turn to something cheerful, because I don’t want to end the interview with such a sad thing. Did you have a favorite route, for example?
E: I like the Germans and Geneva.

G: Why them?
E: Because I didn’t have to think there. Although the Balcans was interesting exactly because of the contrary: there you had to build up the whole approach. There was air control of course and they were very experienced by the end, but I were rather left alone there. But the Germans were really precise, they told the speed, the rate of descent, I just had to wriggle without thinking. Everything went to fleet there.

G: It’s funny, as my strangest aviation experience is related to Germans, although not to the air control. Me and my journalist colleagues were on our way home from an F1 test in Valencia with a transfer in Germany. Not long after take off, the captain started to enumerate football results in English and German with a strong Italian accent. Some minutes later we realized, that he is not talking about the matches anymore, but he says with the same monotone emphasis, that there is a problem with the on-board computer, so he turns back to another German airport, aber keine panik. When we transferred to a new plane and we fasten our seatbelts as well-bred passengers, our captain (who followed us) said into the mic, that the plane is refuelled just now and it is against the rules, that we are on it during this process, so don’t fasten ourselves, as we can refuge if fire breaks out…Fortunately we drank some champagne on the former plane, otherwise we hadn’t lough at it.
E: It’s not true, that it is against the rules, otherwise they didn’t allow it. Somewhere they allow it and somewhere not, but it’s true, that mustn’t be fastened during refuelling. There are some cool captains like he. During the football world championship for example, result were passing in the ether. Usually the info came from the air controllers, because they could watch tv.
Once we got stuck in Berlin, during the volcanic dust thing. It was good, that it happened there. We have just finished the boarding, we had the departure clearance, when the tower told us, the the air space has closed and won’t be any take off for a while. We started from Budapest, that we just go and come, so we didn’t have clothes or anything in the bag and we spent six days there finally. Nobody wanted to take the responsibility to allow take offs, because there hasn’t been anything like this before, that the ash concentration is evincible and couldn’t be known what will happen the engines. There was an almost-incident, when a 747 flew into a volcanic ash cloud (there wasn’t any report about it) and it has almost destroyed its engine. It was a good decision by the captain, that he switched off the engines before they went bust, thus he could restart maybe two of them at landing. He made emergency landing at another airport,  everybody has got away, but the engines have totally fallen apart. Maybe even the painting was rubbed of by the ash. Otherwise nothing could be seen in the sky, the sun was shining, but nobody wanted to say, it’s possible to go. Then they found a back door: they said that using visual flight rules (VFR) we can fly out of the air space. It wasn’t easy, as all the Malév flights must have flown by instrument flight rules (IFR), but we took the risk and it worked.

G: But it could have been also dangerous to the engines isn’t it?
E: Yes, that’s why it was illogical. Despite of it, not so many have left the air space, because it’s a company policy at most of the airlines to fly only with IFR. Otherwise it was a big task to the captain to take the risk and fly home by VFR. Because as long as no trouble, it’s OK, but if something happens, they take us to task.

G: Isn’t it made you nervous as a passenger, that not you are sitting in the cabin, so you don’t have influence on things?
E: I definitely don’t like to sit on a plane as a passenger. Neither on a small aircraft, because a minimal turbulence makes me sick on it, except that I fly it.

Preparing to an air rally race

Air rally world championship Troyes, 2006

With club-mates at ILA, beside the Airbus 380

Text: Gabriella, photos: from the interviewee