“The speed surprised me for a second or two and my heart was racing,” said Mr. Gaad. “The increase in speed, the increase in altitude, the speed you have to control during landing and in other phases is completely different from what you are used to, but after a flight or two you get used to it.”
Another new reality for pilots flying during the pandemic: preparing to operate aircraft that have been parked for extended periods of time. The European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA), which is responsible for civil aviation safety in the European Union, has issued guidelines for identifying hazards such as worn aircraft parking brakes or wild animals nesting in aircraft engines.
“Airlines need to take into account that pilots may take longer than normal to complete the required preflight checks on an aircraft that is coming back into service,” said Patrick Ky, the agency’s executive director. “A holistic approach is the key.”
Despite the challenges, many pilots feel relieved to be back at work.
“In the beginning there was great concern about the risks of Covid, but now that vaccinations are being given everyone who has been recalled is so happy,” said Sourav Basu Roy Choudhury, an American airline pilot he did not want to be identified because he wasn’t allowed to speak to the news media.
“We love the air, the view, the planes and it’s so much more about those feelings than the money, although with this pandemic you can see that the money is important too.” Mr. Choudhury said. “Everyone makes a lot of effort with training because they just want to go back.”
Some pilots have worked in warehouses or as delivery drivers in the past year to take care of their families. others didn’t work at all.
“I felt completely useless and didn’t understand how I could work and train so hard to become a captain only to find myself back at the bottom of the ladder,” said a former British Airways pilot who asked, not by name to be identified because he did not want to jeopardize his chances of being reinstated.