25 October 2015

The Coolest Guy

The arrow pointing to The Coolest Guy
This little panel is technically called the guidance controller.
It is used to arm the "upper modes" or preselected altitudes, tracks, runway approaches, navigational modes and various other autopilot functions for hands-off flying.
A closer look at the panel, just above the captain's finger will reveal a button etched as PFD with a little green backlit arrow. In the picture, the arrow is backlit in the direction of the right-hand seated pilot or the aircraft captain. Jabbing the button will change the backlit arrow to the left-hand seated pilot, moi. Jab it again and the reversion occurs. Simply speaking, the arrow indicates which pilot's Primary Flight Display's references are being used to arm and capture the autopilot parameters for automated flight, navigation and corrections thereto.
In our offshore world, we take turns flying the aircraft. If the captain flies outbound to the rigs or barges as the flight detail for the day may be, then the co-pilot customarily gets to fly inbound and executes the approach to the heliport. This builds proficiency and hands-on hours for the co-pilot, as well as provides for a fair distribution of the workload.

Clockwise from bottom left: Clarity Aloft, David Clarke, Bose and Zulu Lightspeed. Courtesy of the web, and moi.
It was my first flight with an Argentinian Captain, Alfredo. He is husky voiced, and bears his own style in the cockpit, wearing the Clarity Aloft headset instead of the company-issued David Clark or the status symbols of Bose or Zulu Lightspeed, and graduated Ray Bans, making him look as if he were not wearing a headset at all. He works out religiously, attested to by the veins popping out of his biceps, showcased by his tight jeans and S sized company Polo T-shirt. As Goldmember would say, "Yesh. Toight. Like a toiger." Captain Alfredo is cool. You get it.
We flew outbound, with light banter and my headset filled with an accent akin to a male version of Sofia Vergara. 20 miles before the rig location I made the all-stations descent call and requested for the local weather at the rig. It was all clockwork, all routine. The aircraft seemed to be amicably cooperative.
On the rig, the nice Captain volunteered to get on the deck and supervise the passenger disembarkation and embarkation. Customarily, when it is the Captain's landing at the deck, he also does the take-off because the visible obstacles such as cranes or flues or masts, are on his side. As such, the co-pilot would have to get on deck and do the work. Some nice lads, such as Captain Alfredo is, take it upon themselves to get on deck, as they see that even though it is the Captain's take-off, there will be an in-flight handover to the co-pilot to fly home.
While Captain Alfredo was on deck, I did the paperwork. I calculated the take-off weight, entered the flight times and prepared the Flight Management System and navigation inputs for the ride home. With all the homebound passengers on board, the Captain hopped in and we lifted off uneventfully. As the aircraft was climbing steadily to 4000 feet, he confirmed that I was ready to assume control of the aircraft, and he jabbed the PFD button.
Now who's the Coolest Guy?
The green arrow pointed my way for all of half a second and then it jumped back to point towards the right. We looked at each other for a minute. Then he raised his index finger at me to gesture "Un minuto" and depressed the PFD button again to effect the PFD switchover to my side. Again, the left green arrow only engaged for a second before the right green arrow resumed referring to the Captain's PFD.
Captain Alfredo took an audibly deep breath which fed through his Clarity Alofts into my David-Clarks.
"Jeffrey, what does that green arrow indicate?"
"It indicates that the guidance controller has been handed over to me for autopilot selections sir."
Captain Alfredo turned in his harness to face me fully. "That is not correct. Try again. What does that green arrow indicate?"
I was wondering what technical language to use. "It indicates that both FMS systems feed the on-side pilot's PFD for autopilot purposes?"
With his graduated lenses hiding all emotion, Captain Alfredo shook his head and pouted his disapproval. "One last chance Jeffrey. Tell me the truth. Either you know or you don't know the correct answer."
I decided to play along and admitted my ignorance.

"Since you do not know the correct answer, listen carefully to me and never forget this." I nodded compliantly. "The green arrow indicates the location of the coolest guy in the cockpit. Flying out here I was the coolest guy. I thought that flying back, I would let you be the coolest guy, but somehow it cannot happen. You cannot be the coolest guy. I tried hard, but I am sorry, I just am the coolest guy all the time."

I digested this slowly and deliberately. I knew he had set me up for this, dismissing the actual answer to dub himself as The Coolest Guy.

Actually, there is a much deeper implication to this than the premise thus presented.

The Captain can only remain The Coolest Guy with a malfunctioning aircraft.