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Thunderstorms And A Rare Approach – A Jumpseat Flight To Remember!

Thunderstorms and a Rare Approach – A Jumpseat Flight to Remember!

Post Series: Stories from the Flight Deck!

Hello dear readers. After some articles stuffed with lots of theoretical aviation knowledge, I would like to take you back to the flight deck Today. Our jumpseat flight will lead us from Vienna to Barcelona this time. Buckle up, and enjoy the ride. It will get quite bumpy!

What is a Jumpseat?

Jumpseat view from the Airbus A320 cockpit

A quick glimpse from my jumpseat onto the FCU of the Airbus A320 flight deck, while we were still on the ground in Vienna

My alarm woke me up quite early on this particular Friday. Nothing that a strong coffee could not solve, right? It would not have needed a coffee to wake me up, though, because a very interesting flight was waiting around the corner for me. A friend of mine, who works as a first officer for a major European carrier, invited me to join him on the Airbus A320 cockpit on his duty from Vienna to Barcelona. Of course, I took the chance and occupied the jumpseat.

Before we take off, I would like to explain the term “jumpseat” briefly. In aviation, a jumpseat can be situated on an aircraft’s flight deck and/or cabin. In the cockpit, these seats offer additional space for non-operational crew members, government officials, non-duty pilots or pilot trainees or, in my case, airline staff. Often, they are also referred to as “observer seats“. Of course, flight attendants have to sit down for take-off and landing, too. That is why cabins are also equipped with several jumpseats.

After a thorough briefing in the Office, it was time to board our aircraft and to prepare ourselves for the upcoming flight.

On the Jumpseat – Take-Off into the Blue Hour!

After some time, all was set and we were ready to soar into the sky. We pushed back, started the engines and taxied to the departure runway. Today, we were assigned to runway 29, which would lead us to the West, after departure. The Standard Instrument Departure forced us to perform a left turn, immediately after getting airborne. This points our aircraft away from the city, resulting in fewer noise emissions for Vienna’s citizens. After we arrived at our runway, we watched some departing and landing traffic come and go.

Finally, it was our turn. We received the take-off clearance, and the captain pushed our A320’s thrust levers to the front. I love that sound of the engines spooling up! Soon, we reached our rotation speed and lifted off into the morning sky. Below the clouds it was still pitch dark and also quite foggy, but as we broke through the ceiling, this darkness was replaced by moody blue colors and an epic sunrise.

Sunrise Cockpit

We cruised along for quite some time, 37.000 feet above the ground, and enjoyed the sunlight, which is more than scarce in central Europe during Winter. Our routing lead over Northern Italy, along with the Southern-French Coast and, partly, above the Mediterranean Sea.

Jumpseat – Descending Towards the Thunderstorms

We came closer to our destination. We were now told to leave our cruising altitude and to prepare ourselves for an ILS Approach on BCN’s runway 02, which is very rare! Runway 02 is just over 2.500 metres long and crosses runway 07L. In most instances, the approach would lead to one of the main parallel runways, namely 07/25L and R. I was very excited to experience this from the jumpseat!

As we descended, we watched some large cloud formations building up. Of course, this is a joy to watch. But our weather radar told us, not to come too close to some of those clouds since we would have to expect severe turbulence inside them. Just to be safe, our pilots asked the air traffic control (ATC), if we could change our heading be 20 degrees to the right to avoid the really bad weather. Of course, this was granted. It still became quite shaky, however. On the picture below, the clouds still looked harmless and calm. Some minutes later, some huge CBs built up!

We came closer to our final approach on runway 02. The flight deck crew constantly monitored the weather radar. It now showed fewer turbulences but some heavy precipitation now. One last turn to the right and we were “on finals”.

The grey clouds and the rain created an awesome atmosphere to observe from the jumpseat. The scenery looked very dramatic and the light in the cockpit was very moody. Our first officer turned off the auto-thrust and autopilot and manually headed the aircraft to the runway.

Despite the awful weather, the first officer touched down smoothly as butter and we rolled out slowly but steadily. We arrived at the gate. Unfortunately, the weather did not get better at all.

Jumpseat view el prat

Jumpseat view el prat

Jumpseat Flight – Back to Vienna. Can anybody just Fly on the Jumpseat?

The very friendly ground staff at El Prat turned our airplane around in just 20 minutes – And also kept their good mood despite the rain! Afer this quick turnaround, we taxied to runway 07R for our departure back to Vienna.

I hope, that you have enjoyed this trip report. This flight was more than remarkable. I experienced a very rare approach and was able to shoot some unique photos in bad weather conditions.

You may ask yourself, if it is possible to have a look into the cockpit and to sit on the jumpseat as a normal passenger, too? Well, I guess I have to disappoint most of you guys. 🙁 In most instances, only crews and airline staff are allowed to enter the cockpit inflight and to occupy the jumpseat. There are, however, some exceptions to that rule, if the captain or first officer knows you personally, for example. In countries like the UK or US, however, it is impossible to fly on the jumpseat as a non-crewmember. But don’t be sad: I will try to let you experience the view from the flight deck through my pictures. 🙂

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Have a great day,


This Post Has 4 Comments
  1. Wow, I really enjoyed reading this. As a frequent traveler, it’s so interesting to get this rare insight into the approach, mindset, events in the cockpit. Great photos too. Thanks for sharing.

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