Amazing Grace


I have no idea what time it is.

It’s late… No, its early. I’m so screwed up.

Lighting flashes in the distance and the ride gets progressively worse. The radar is showing the green and yellow blobs that indicate that we’re going to be picking our way through some weather. Meanwhile, the Rolls Royce engines dutifully carry us northbound over the thousand miles of ocean between us and the eastern United States.

I check my watch, it’s 0430. The indiglo numbers confirm my fears, it’s both late and early at the same time. Awesome.

I look out the window and there are no stars. Lightning flashes again, this time from below. Yeah, that’s what I thought, we’re in it. St. Elmo’s fire lights up the windscreen and the ride gets worse. There’s no indication that deviating off course will help. We’ve got to ride it out and wait for it to get better. Sometimes the only option is to do nothing.

The radio is quiet. The HF comm is shut down between reporting points. It’s one of the few benefits to working at this ungodly hour of the day. The nav computer keeps us steadily on course as I scroll through the system pages. Values and tolerances are normal. All green, no red. Life is good.

Ani Difranco is the chosen playlist for this segment of the flight. It’s an old album my sister gave me a long time ago. One of my favorites.

Amazing grace, how sweet the sound….

The ride smooths out a bit and we break through the clouds. The northeast quadrant of the sky reveals the first grey blue indication of the coming dawn. It’ll come fast, stretching its long arm of daylight across the horizon. I’m going to need my sunglasses soon. That’s gonna suck.

The equal time point sequences and I enter in the next points. Any emergencies before the ETP and we go Bermuda. Passing that point means no matter what, we go to Boston. That suits me just fine.

The lower part of the horizon is dark orange now, backlighting the storms off in the distance. A lightning strike reaffirms my contentment at heading in the opposite direction.

0500. Two hours, seven minutes to go. A look at the TCAS shows traffic a thousand feet above and converging. I look out to the east, and a Delta 767 passes overhead leaving a contrail behind it. On the ground, a thousand feet seems like quite a distance, but up here, it can feel pretty close.

I can see where the sun is going to break the horizon. Directly on a 090 heading. How about that? Theres an anvil cloud out there with a deep orange outline. Orange streaks invade the shades of blue above it marking the imminent sunrise. That’s the spot.

I’m not the poetic sort, but I will say that there is something special about witnessing the sunrise. Everyone sees the sunset. It’s just as pretty and it happens just as often. The difference, I think, is that so few people see the sunrise, and even fewer get to see it from here.

I get up to stretch my legs and the stiffness is a reminder that just 24 hours ago I was waking up on top of a mountain. I passed up watching that sunrise for an extra hour of warmth in my tent. I later felt that I might have missed something kinda special up there. This morning makes up for it. I haven’t seen the sunrise from my seat in the cockpit in a couple months. The experience is not lost on me.

As expected its nearly time for the sunglasses. A light overcast layer obscures the the new sunlight light from my weary eyes. Half of the sky is bathed in a pinky orange hue that is indicative of the new day. I was reluctant to come in tonight. Working a redeye is hard, but sometimes these small moments make it a little better.

The VHF comm crackles to life as Ani is winding down. Radar contact. The ETP has passed, and now it’s Boston or nothing. Just over an hour and we’ll be on the ground. There’s a lot to do between now and then.

Ok seriously, where did I put my sunglasses?

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