Escaping from the cockpit of a 747 in an emergency is remarkably different than I ever imagined. In yesterday's post Jean Luc Picard,I began the story of landing a 747 into one of the world's most challenging approaches, Kai Tak airport in Hong Kong. Up to this point I had landed as a passenger at the old Hong Kong airport many times and knew the approach and landing must be a real challenge to airline pilots given its steep banked right hand turn just before touchdown and the closeness of the city below. In fact, the plane was so close to the city you could easily see people's laundry on their rooftops as if they were only a few feet away. Most passengers on the plane never gave this landing a second thought, reading their newspapers or magazines and not even watching out the windows of the plane. I can never do that and have to watch every bit of the landing, making sure the flaps look to be the right degree, making sure the wheels open up at the right time. A real back seat driver in a plane, but fortunately I just keep it to myself and observe. I love to fly and love everything about airplanes. The captain of the ship, who reminded me of Star Trek's Jean Luc Picard, had promised me and Acoustic Energy president Steven Taylor that he would "send for us" about an hour before we landed. I was scared to death he would forget and couldn't rest for even a moment. Every time the flight attendant would walk by our seats on the upper deck of the 747 aircraft, I would try and make eye contact letting her know it's me. Yes, me, the one she'd be coming for. The one who would be escorted to the cockpit. Had I been younger I might have peed my pants. But that wouldn't do for entering the cockpit of this magnificent plane. So I waited and hoped he hadn't forgotten. "Mr. McGowan? Mr. Taylor? The captain would like to see you. Please follow me." Now, this never happens in "real life" but it was happening to us right now. Man, I was excited and both Steven and I bolted up forgetting to unbuckle our belts. "Oops" we both said, trying to look cool. Trying to look as if this event meant nothing, just another day of being invited to the cockpit. We are cool and collected guys who can't actually get out of our seats. She smiled graciously with an all knowing smile. "Right this way". She did some secret knock sequence on the door and we waited. The second officer opened it up, thanked her and invited us in. I can't even remember this guy's name so stunned that we were actually in the freaking cockpit. This was awesome. Inside there were only the two guys: Jean Luc and Will Riker, his second in command. There were four seats in the cockpit, the front two facing the windshield where the pilots sit and two others, behind and to the sides of their seats. The captain got up to greet us, the plane apparently on autopilot and just humming along. "I need to give you two a safety briefing before we land. The thing you have to know about this cockpit is in the case of an emergency we do not follow the passengers out the exits. If something happens you're much better off as a passenger than being here in the cockpit. Are you both ok with this?" Well, I had no clue what he was even talking about but of course Steven and I readily agreed. We were sure Jean Luc wasn't going to kill us. He was about as confident and in charge a person as I have ever met. Whatever he wanted us to do would be just fine. "Take a look over here behind us. See those reels?" As I looked I saw what appeared to be rolled up fire hoses behind glass. What was he doing, having a fire drill? We were being trained as firefighters? "In case of an emergency, these reels are how we get out of the plane." Visions of the Keystone Cops entered my head for some reason. This seemed rather whacky. Passengers in the back of the plane jumped out the doors, got to slide down big slides and all that made sense. We were going to grab a fire hose and launch ourselves out of ..... where exactly? "Take a look at the handles above each window. You are going to have to grab onto this handle and swing your legs up and kick the windows out. Then you'll grab this hose and eject yourself out of the cockpit to safety." Holy crap! This was not what I expected. This was a little scary. I mean, grab handles, kick out the little windows, squeeze through the windows holding onto a fire hose and jump out of what is essentially a 5 story building? Really? But we were all in, and we accepted the instructions. Steven and I were handed headsets like the pilots wear. "Who gets the main seat?" Jean Luc looked right at me. I had no idea what this meant but since it was my idea and I asked first, it was going to be me. Steven acquiesced and we both sat in our designated seats. Turns out the "main seat" that I got was an electric affair that slid silently right between, behind and above the two pilots (you can see where I was sitting in this photo). I think this was the seat inspectors must take because from this vantage point I could see everything the two pilots were doing with uncanny clarity. This was absolutely the best seat in the house. Steven's seat was at the same level and behind the captain's and he was forced to look over Jean Luc's shoulder to see anything. Me? I was in the middle as if in the real Jean Luc Picard's seat with my trusty two pilots at my command. I was definitely a bit nervous. Tomorrow we fly straight into a mountain and I am not as brave as I imagined.
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