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FAM Flight Stories

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FAM Flight Stories

Old 13th Jul 2005, 15:00
  #1 (permalink)  
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Join Date: Aug 2004
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FAM Flight Stories

Those of us in ATC who were able to take Familiarization Flights have some interesting tales to tell. We’ve found ourselves: the only person awake in the cockpit, involved in emergencies and exciting situations, hung upside-down in the harness by fighter jocks and regaled with terrific flying stories. Perhaps we can start a thread of these tales from the past so the “new kids” can learn from a program that may never be available to them.
My First FAM

Walking into the cockpit of a mammoth DC-10, paperwork in hand and requesting a jump seat from the Captain for the first time is an exhilarating experience. As a private pilot and en route controller, I knew something of what to expect, but I’ve got to admit, I was nervous.

The crew were very helpful in getting me situated in the comfortable seat behind the Captain next to the awesome picture-window. The seat had all sorts of controls: a handle for up and down, another for back and forth and a few I didn’t quite understand.

As we taxi for takeoff, the chatter of ATC a cool background to the staccato litany of check-lists in the cockpit, I give my seatbelt one last check and rotate my seat to face full forward. This is really exciting!

“UAL571 Heavy, wind 090 at 13, turn right heading 120, Runway 8, cleared for takeoff.” Here we go! The DC-10, ponderous at first, begins to pick up speed. 50 kts, 100 kts – we’re really rolling now. Wow! Awesome!

V1. Rotate. V2.

The nose lifts up, the ground starts slipping away and . . . oh, oh. My seat starts turning to the right, rotating so I face the First Officer. It keeps going and I’m staring at the Flight Engineer. In a moment I’m facing nearly backwards. My legs and arms flail about, but to no avail. I’m sitting backwards in the cockpit of a DC-10 on my very first FAM flight.

Did I mention: I’m feeling like a complete idiot?

The crew got quite a kick out of seeing an ambassador from their government looking so foolish and as soon as we were above 100 they had the Flight Attendant come in and get me properly arranged.
The Lucky Vector
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Old 13th Jul 2005, 16:59
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I won't say how long ago it was , but the aircraft was a BEA HS21 on a flight EBBR to EGLL.

I introduced myself to the purser and the Captain and was told to come to the cockpit after take-off. This I did. Unfortunately there were a number of policemen on board attending an anti-hijacking conference in London and I rapidly ended up face down in the aisle with my elbows up around my neck. Most worrying to the rest of the pax. Fortunately the Captain came on the PA and said that "It's one of ours." and I was allowed to continue. Fortunately I spent the landing in the cockpit and didn't have to run the gauntlet again.

A few years ago I was on a DC8 freighter to the States and woke up to find I was the only one awake on the flight deck.

Most frightening though would be almost anything I was P1 in
Lon More is offline  
Old 15th Jul 2005, 01:00
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Join Date: Oct 2002
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What happens at flight levels, stays at flight levels....
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Old 15th Jul 2005, 15:17
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Jeapes Tours

It was in 1975 and I was a military ATCO at West Drayton on a ‘fam’ flight organised by ‘Jeapes Tours’. This was supposed to be a trip to Kenya but when I arrived at Gatwick at midnight for the Tradewinds 707 flight I was informed that my flight had changed and to get on that aircraft. Where am I going ? I asked. Somewhere interesting he said and disappeared.

The crew put me into a nylon netted room behind the cockpit and left me sleeping. I awoke and stumbled into the cockpit as we were in the final landing phase. I looked out of the window and saw gun emplacements and tanks. ‘Where are we’ I sheepishly asked. Benghazi in Lybia said the Captain. Fuel is cheap here but it is a Russian military airbase !! I was a Flight Lieutenant in the RAF and there was a cold war on. I rushed to remove any trace of military addresses from my papers and luggage labels. The Russian Officer boarded the aircraft with two armed guards to check the papers and pointing at me said ‘Who is he’. Luckily the Captain only knew that I was a West Drayton ATCO so assuming I was a civvy he told the officer that I was a CAA Official.

Naturally I counted all the MiGs and made a mental note of everything (Me a spy !! I’ll get a medal for this !!).

We left without incident to continue to Mogadishu and a red tape hold up which had the potential to delay us for several days. I went to the tower to look around and spotted an Army Major who looked familiar. We had been on the same Shawbury ATC course in 1969 so after swapping life stories he told me that he was the ATC boss. I explained our predicament and within 30 mins we were airborne and away to Bombay.

China was interesting but I didn’t tell the RAF that that was where I had been !!

Gisajob is offline  
Old 15th Jul 2005, 16:55
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Join Date: Jul 2003
Location: Cheshire, California, Geneva, and Paris
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I went on an EI Fam flight once and was asked by the Captain"did I know X". I replied that I did and that he was a "right git". The Captain replied "Im his dad".
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Old 16th Jul 2005, 05:18
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Join Date: Jan 2005
Location: Nashville TN. USA
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We lost FAM rides after Sept. 11, and it doesn't look like we will ever seen them again. Being able to sit in the Jump Seat and having the opportunity to ask the pilots questions and to observe their side of the microphone was a very valuable tool.

NATCA BNA is offline  
Old 16th Jul 2005, 21:19
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Excellent story!
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Old 19th Jul 2005, 13:41
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Join Date: Mar 2000
Location: On a radial
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I believe NATS still offer Fam flights as part of our BA week training. I recently was lucky enough to sit on the flight deck of a 75 and 319 to zurich and madrid. a tremendous insight to a PPL holder and a trainee atco. I haven't heard anything to the contrary that this has been terminated since february.

Not amazing story to tell... but i think they're still out there up for grabs
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Old 19th Jul 2005, 16:39
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Join Date: Oct 2004
Location: Island off mainland Europe
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As a young trainee at LATCC I got a fam with A2K out of EGCC. It was with a great sense of excitement that we taxied out for our trip to GCLP that dark winters morning. The stars were shimmering as we took off into that cloudless december sky and as we headed south I could see the snow capped mountains of Snowdonia 20,000 feet below.
Next thing the pilot pressed a button on his autopilot, undid his top button, loosened the tie, feet up and breakfast out.
This set the tone for a very relaxing and enjoyable trip as we carried a party of OAPs off for some winter sun.
Anyway about halfway through the flight the co-pilot had gone to chat up one of the hosties out back and the pilot decided he needed a jimmy. So there I am in the cockpit of a 757, 200 pax behind me at 30,000 feet and Portugal below me. It was one of those "this is a bit wierd" moments in my life.
After landing, the pilot had to work out his fuel figures for the return trip so I stood by the door to be greeted by scores of old ladies saying "ey up Mabel, theyre getting younger every day" and "nice landing son".
Ah happy days
Artas is offline  
Old 19th Jul 2005, 20:48
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Join Date: Jan 2003
Location: Southampton
Posts: 99
I did my BA Famil Course as part of my ATCO training about 3 years ago. Went to Lisbon and Zurich. I remember the approach into Zuroch very well. Betwixt two rather formidable looking mountains and in receipt of some rather uncomfortable vortex wake - "the worst I've ever encountered" according to the Captain.

The flight to Lisbon was uneventful, apart from the fact that we were lucky enough to be departing LL just after Concorde. Fortunately I had me camera with me (how sad!) and got some smashing photos.

Ah those were the days......
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Old 19th Jul 2005, 21:32
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Join Date: Feb 2001
Location: UK
Posts: 587
Had a fantastic jump seat trip on a Falcon 50 a couple of years ago. Enjoyable as a PPL and an ATCO.

We picked up the Chief Executive of a global company and flew him back to base, where he was met by his chauffeur driven Merc. I walked back to the Tower, got on my pushbike and cycled home...how the other half live!!
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