Ever been itching to know what the view from the flight deck is like when you’re coming in to land? Dave Wallsworth feels your pain.
The British Airways pilot first got a taste for flying as a child, when nervous flyers and children would often be invited into the flight deck – a practice that was stamped out after 9/11.
“I will always remember being in awe of what was going on,” he tells The Independent. “And the views! I especially remember being invited to stay up for landing. And I wanted to be able to give people the opportunity to see what we do and how we do it, as well as experience the superb views we are privileged to have.”
In a bid to share what he sees, he’s now made a series of films of take-off and landing at major airports – and is posting them on Twitter and YouTube in a bid to demystify the process of flying. The first one – a 13-minute film of a landing in Johannesburg – went up this week.
Wallsworth, an A380 captain, had to get approval from BA to film inside the plane, but he says the airline has been “very supportive” and “mindful that all recording is carried out in a safe manner”. Two GoPros were set up – pointing both outside and inside the flight deck – to capture the pilots as well as the outside.
The video records all the flight deck activity, from their interaction with air traffic control to the moment each of the three pilots (senior first officers Jeremy Goodson and Phil Gillespie are also in the film) opts to don their sunglasses – and Wallsworth has annotated the video, explaining technical terms and narrating each part of the flight. For nervous flyers, it’s a boon – seeing the pilots calm, even in the final moments of landing, is an image that’s likely to help more than any fear of flying course. And that, says Wallsworth, was exactly the point.
“I wanted to show that commercial flying is carried out in a somewhat different way to that often portrayed in films,” he says. “It’s generally a very relaxed environment, which actually tends to bring out the best in people and means the job is carried out in a highly proficient manner.”
Wallsworth aims to produce videos for take-off and landing in every airport that he flies to, and has already filmed a take-off from Heathrow and landing at LAX in Los Angeles. Why Joburg? Because it was a “beautiful morning in South Africa,” he says. “The landing into Johannesburg is normally beautiful as we initially see a superb sunrise over Africa, with some amazing colours.”
Showing off technical prowess might also be a factor, though. “The airport is over 5,500 feet above sea level, which has implications for our energy management and speed over the ground during final approach,” he says. “As the air is thinner at this altitude, we’re actually travelling slightly faster than our air speed indicator shows, meaning we’re carrying a little more energy, so we have to make slight adjustments to our approach and landing.” Not that you can tell from the relaxed atmosphere in the cockpit.
The A380’s future as an aircraft is currently in doubt, with Airbus announcing earlier this year that they would cut production, but Wallsworth is a major fan – he calls it “the best airliner in the world, and the one which still makes people stop and watch”.
His videos will certainly make people do that – and he has plans for colleagues who fly other aircraft types to join in as well, building up a video bank of BA flights. The airline currently has 12 A380s, flying to long-haul destinations from San Francisco to Singapore.
Wallsworth is passionate about making his job look accessible – to nervous flyers, to the next generation of pilots, and to his kids (he says part of the reason for filming is “to show them what daddy does when he’s at work”).
“We want to show our passengers that they are in the best possible hands,” he says. And as the controversy rumbles on about recent BA decisions – from charging for food on short-haul flights, to the new “walk of shame” policy which will see passengers in the cheapest seats boarding last – that may be exactly what the airline needs.
Follow Dave on Twitter or see his website captaindave.aero