Thursday, 29 January 2009

I know I've been around planes too long when..

There's a thread running on about how aviation creeps into the lives of us airplane fanatics..since i qualify for the title of aviation fanatic (in fact, if it were like real education, i'd probably be a triple phd or something on useless airplane facts), i read the thread with what you can imagine to be great glee. People were posting little things that they did in their day to day lives which were a direct effect of their love for aircraft. Like saying roger, when you want to indicate that you understood something. I have a list of my own when it comes to stuff like that, so i thought i might as well write them down.

My biggest offence is to pretend im flying a plane when i ride my bike. To most people, starting up a bike is a reasonably straightforward deal, especially if they have electric start as an option. But for me, it has to be an elaborate affair, as if i were spooling up a jet engine. i turn the key, pull back on the choke, press the starter button, listen to the engine cough to life, imagine its creating a smoke screen behind me like the rolls royce RB211s on a Tristar, wait for the straining sound that the choke makes, pull back on the choke lever pretending its a lever on my cockpit's throttle quadrant, pull the clutch and put it into gear, and then burn through the clutch in the name of feeling the rpms build up, just like it would when a jet spools up. and then im happy.

well not completely happy, cos then i start making estimations for times of arrival, time enroute, alternate routes (since alternate destination like in an airplane is not possible since im gonna be ending up in offce/home at the end of the ride anyway) etc..and when i have to make tight turns or turn around, i hit the throttle just before im aligned straight with the road, just the way i've seen some captains go full thrust a moment before the plane is aligned with the runway centreline. the thrust straightens out the plane as well as the bike, and i get this incredible rush each time it happens, be it on the bike or the plane. oh, and when a im approaching a traffic light that's turning yellow, i mentally call out V1 (the speed beyond which takeoff cannot be rejected) and gun the throttle and zoom through the light, calling 'rotate' once im through.. and when im caught at a red light and if i happen to be right at front, i perform what i call a carrier take off, building up rpms and then letting go, with the tyres skidding and straining to get me up to speed. Oh, and on the rare occasions that i do a wheelie, i call it a high alpha pass.. and then im happy.

of course, the list doesn't end there, far from it. setting right aviation related misconceptions and mistakes, even when my services were unwelcome, is another angle to it. this includes vigorously shaking my head and then making an explanation to my friends when i spot a mistake in a movie. that we are in a theatre does not matter in the least, nor does it matter that they couldn't care two hoots about what i consider to be a sacrilegious mistake. I mean, it may have been practical for the director to show a small regional jet from the outside yet use a twin aisle plane for the interior shot cos its roomier, but i will have none of that. nor will i stand for it when torpedoes are dropped on the ground or when other such stupid things are done.

aircraft recognition is another of these little habits. each time a plane flies above me, i have to crane up and recognize it. its a compulsion. seeing alone will not do. the very least requirement is a recognition of the operator, type and subtype. its not enough that i recognize its a 737, i keep straining my neck and increasing my chances of spondilitis till i figure whether its a 737-700 or 737-800. and if i catch the registration, especially on my visits to places close to the airport, then the day becomes significantly brighter. and if i spot a rare type, like for instance the day i spotted an Antonov 124 at IGI delhi, delirium ensues..sure, i do figure that it gets a bit annoying for those around, considering they dont share the interest, but this is something a lot of us plane nuts have in common.

what i have found most interesting about aicraft lovers is the passion that is shared. to me, it seems a lot more intense than most of the other hobbies and hobbyists i know. i have seen total strangers bond over their common love for aviation, in a way i havent seen much before. its not quite the same as a love for cars, bikes or comic books, but then that's just my opinion. all i know is that i spend two thirds of my waking hours doing thinking about planes, or doing something related to aviation. if i hear the drone of an engine, i look up. if i have to travel, i'll take the longest layovers to spend more time at the airport. i'd do the 50km ride to bangalore airport on the bike just to see off a friend, when im actually seeing the planes. its a passion, its one that keeps me going, and its one that i dont care if those around me don't share it with me.

it's my little world, one where im supersonic, flying on a flightplan that has no destination, only waypoints.

Addendum : I suppose its ironic that two days after i posted this, ive been moved into non aero work. damn you, recession.. :(

Monday, 12 January 2009

That thing i did..

When i was in twelfth standard, for our school's inter house western music competition, our house (named sputnik, btw) decided to play the song 'that thing you do', from the movie of the same name, played by the fictional band called the wonders. of course, not being known for my musical prowess (except for singing kpac drama songs really off-key with the aim of gaining amusement by annoying everone in earshot), i was naturally not a part of this desicion, nor was i aware of it. now the trouble with sputnik house was that we weren't a bunch known for being good at anything actually. in our twelfth standard, we had hardly won any competitions except for a few individual sports victories, and there was a definite shortage of people willing to go on stage for a musical performance. adding to this was the nature of the competition, since the rules said that it has to be a group performing the song, preferably with instruments. which had us in a bind, since singers were difficult enough to find. anyways, i was probably playing football, or goofing off or something when the house captain, nithin, who is also one of my closest friends, had suddenly remembered that i used take drum lessons for a year or so.

well, this was true enough, but considering that we had one music teacher in school who taught every damn instrument without knowing how to play them himself, my musical qualifications were suspect at best and a joke at worst. the only times i put my alleged drumming to use was to bang on the desk much to the general annoyance of all in class. so naturally, you can imagine my surprise when, on the eve of the competition, nithin came to me and said 'dude, you have to play the drums for western music'. i wasn't in the least flattered, in fact, i was shit scared. i mean, i've done my share of nonsense on stage while in school, but this was something else. i said no, i havent really learnt drums, it was all a mistake, i couldnt possibly do it, etc. but i supposed i misjudged nithin's desperation, cos i was dragged of to practise despite the colourful objections i came up with. he was the house captain, and he needed someone to play an instrument, period.

from this point on, it might look like one of those cheesy underdog stories, but then thats pretty close to describing what happened. that evening at practise, nothing was happening right, and my drumming was more of a hindrance than assistance, and that was something i expected. it felt really bad when i couldnt keep the simplest of beats going, and the four singers had to stop each time i messed up. frankly, it was embarrassing. but there was no time left, and we all had to leave by five thirty after practise. it was school, after all. i dont know what was going through nithins mind, but as we left, he came up and said something along the lines of dont worry, you can do it, etc, which evolved into an extended inspirational conversation as we walked towards the school gate where we parted ways. anyways, practise resumed next morning, and we had till about ten o'clock before we went onstage. we started at seven, with pretty much the same results, interspersed with further pep talk from nithin. by around nine o'clock i had gained enough confidence to try out a few basic rolls along with the staple beat, for which i got rapped by one of the singers who said i'd probably muck it up on stage. so i shelved the idea.

at ten, we went onstage. my mind had pretty much gone blank, this is the first time ever that i had played any instrument on a stage in front of people. it didnt matter that most of the crowd were juniors i could browbeat into silence even if i did muck up badly on stage. my hands were shaking, etc. the usual stuff. anyways, once the song started, everything came on just perfectly. though i couldt manage a single perfect practise, i was rolling left and right, not missing a beat, and the house captain as well as some assorted friends (arjun comes to mind) were giving me surprised looks from backstage by which i figured i must be doing something right. anyways, long story short, that was my only onstage musical performance, and we won the first prize which was pretty amazing for a bunch of four singers, a wannabe drummer, and someone with one of those jangle thingies to go with the beat. compared to the fact that we won against more accomplished singers in other houses whose victory was almost a given that morning, it turned out to be our most memorable victory ever. even today, the subject pops up after nithin and i are a few (black) beers down.

anyways, my whole reason for telling this story was different. i havent done much drumming after that incident, and on saturday, i finally got behind a drum kit after years. a colleague of mine, benjamin, used to be a drum instructor, and recently bought a pretty expensive kit. and he offered to teach me. now i had mentioned the school story to benjamin once over a few drinks, so after i stumbled along with some five or six songs that were playing on his laptop, he stopped the music and said 'ok, enough with the crap, now is your test'. or something to that effect, cos i was already delirious from the drumming. and he played 'that thing you do' on the comp.. and funnily enough, i played it again, with only one mistake. i have heard the song maybe four or five times in the last seven years. yet, once it started playing, it just came to me, it felt like that day on stage years ago, and my hands freed up, and the beat just flowed.

as soon as i left benjamin's place, i was on the phone with nithin :)

anyways, net result is that im planning to drum more often, learn with benjamin, perhaps get my own kit somewhere down the line..

song attached, btw.