Cockpit Chronicles: Picture Perfect Paris

During the sterile-cockpit period we don’t get into non-essential conversations; we’re required to limit it to only what’s required for the safe operation of the airplane. This keeps all of our attention focused on flying and reduces the chance that a distraction could lead to a potentially serious mistake. This sterile period is defined as anytime the airplane is moving under its own power and below 10,000 feet.

That said, whenever we have a chance to set the parking brake while we’re on the ground during a delay, or when we’re above 10,000 feet, it’s a great opportunity to get a picture, especially when I’m a relief pilot sitting in the jumpseat.

I’ve been struggling to properly expose both the inside and the outside of the cockpit, which can be challenging. I managed the nice shot below because the sun was reflecting off the instrument panel from the left side and behind us slightly.

But what about the times when the sun isn’t helping you out? In the past I’ve used a flash to ‘fill’ in the cockpit areas while exposing for the outside of the airplane as seen in this picture:

But I’ve found a great way to get just the right exposure using HDR (high dynamic range) software.

I picked up Photomatix Pro, which is available for the Mac or a PC for $99. It works by taking a picture at three (or more) different exposures, and then letting the HDR software merge the images to form a stunningly detailed picture, even in some of the most challenging light conditions.

Here are a few of my attempts, showing the difference between a non-HDR adjusted shot and the HDR version.





I couldn’t contain my enthusiasm for this method so I shared the technique with Mark as we each ate a business-class chicken dinner.

The menu changes almost every month it seems on the European trips. I was rather impressed with a new dish offered which is chicken covered in a white chocolate sauce.

I had no idea there was chocolate in this until I complimented the purser on such a great dinner. The white chocolate sauce makes for a surprisingly tasty combination.

While we’re on the subject of meals, I have to share this next picture.

Have you ever wondered where the flight attendants find extra silverware if you drop or misplace one? I was surprised to find out that there’s an entire drawer of cutlery on this particular Trans-Atlantic flight. I doubt they’ll run out.

The Velibs are becoming our favorite way to get around in the city. Fortunately Mark had his trusty American Express (the only credit card that we’ve found to work in them–unless you have a Visa or Mastercard with a chip in it) and we all rented bikes to go from our dining restaurant back to the Latin Quarter for dessert.

Mark found Amorino, an Italian ice-cream place that’s quite popular, with more than ten locations in Paris.

I’ve since been back to Amorino a few times and I’ve found the line to get in has exceeded my patience. So I guess the word is getting out.

I’ll leave you with two other interesting photos. Here’s something I don’t think I’ve ever seen. I’m glad I had the camera handy to capture it. Looks kind of like some sort of vortex, no?

Finally, on the way home, we noticed a few Coast Guard helicopters hovering over the water. They’re easy to spot from altitude from the donut shaped imprint they leave on the water.

As we approached Boston, there were thunderstorms reported in the area. As Captain Mark descended below 300 feet on approach, we had a rather large increase in airspeed of more than 20 knots. As we went slightly high on the glidepath as a result of the increasing wind, Mark elected to go-around.

By the time we landed and were taxiing in, the rain began to fall and lightning shut down the ramp, which meant that our ground crew was unable to park us. So we sat and waited for the weather to pass through.

Sorry I’ve been away for the past few weeks. We’ve recently moved and the process has taken almost all of my time and effort. It’s been a challenge getting settled in the new place. I don’t have a defined place to keep things which led to my leaving this morning with my wife’s car keys, preventing her from getting anywhere while I’m gone. As we get settled, I hope to do a single catch-up post to bring you up to date with the past month’s worth of flying.

I’m just too far behind to write about each of the Paris trips for July. But I do want to share some of the highlights in the next post.

I’ll leave you with a gallery of the shots taken on this very photo worthy trip. See if you can pick out the HDR photos:


Cockpit Chronicles takes you along on each of Kent’s trips as a co-pilot on the Boeing 757 and 767 out of Boston.