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TheThe Los Angeles Philharmonic, while on tour, is subjected to less than ideal conditions because of the travel schedule, performing in a new hall with its own unique acoustical challenges in each city, adjusting to unfamiliar sleeping conditions, etc. But every effort is made to make us comfortable so that we can best represent our country and our fair city of Los Angeles. Sometimes the conditions are challenging, but more often they are favorable and even fun.
For the last hectic leg of our tour we are traveling on Swiss Air from London to Barcelona, finishing with Lisbon and Madrid. This is the toughest part of the tour because of the attrition alone, but it is also difficult because it is three concerts in three cities over three days. Ouch!
But one of the cushiest elements of this last leg of the tour is our air travel. We are traveling via a Swiss International Air Lines charter flight. We are traveling on the same Airbus A320 on all three flights, a very attractive and comfortable means of travel. But most importantly, we are traveling with the same flight crew. They are awesome.
As we boarded the aircraft in London, there was a little extra stand-around time and I had the opportunity to chat with a member of our crew. Being the airplane geek that I am, I asked if since this was an international charter flight, would it be possible to sit in the jump seat during the flight. Juan, one of the flight attendants, said he would ask the captain. My boldness was rewarded with a very cool experience:
Approach to Barcelona Airport
Landing on 25 right
Landing to the West
"Descend to 3000"
We descend from the bright blue of 30,000+ feet of altitude down through the white puffy clouds.
"Descend 3000 confirm Swiss 9324"
"3000 confirm, Buenos Dias"
Captain Gehring and 1st Officer Schroeder are not used to having an audience, but they are surely performers. I enjoyed watching them perform their jobs. The do it with a practiced ease and expertise manifest in their using only fingertips as they guide this massive jet full of LA Phil members; that can only come from years of practice... and I know "practice."
"Preceding traffic ahead, slow to 160"
"Swiss 9324 confirm"
"Establish 25 right"
"25 right confirm"
"Wind at 300.05 degrees"
The runway is in sight at this point.
"Flaps at full"
Schroeder calls altitude — "500"
Automated voice calls:
Then we bump and touch down on the tarmac.
The work continues as they reverse full and on with the after-landing check. This experience was illuminating for me because this is yet another example of what it takes to move an orchestra around the world.
I can't say enough about our flight attendants and how they have pampered all of us. They are efficient and effective in their jobs. Captain Gehring and 1st Officer Schroeder as well as their colleagues, Karin, Ruth, Anna, Thomas and Juan, all attended our concert in Barcelona and were very enthusiastic, but my secret was that I was the true Swiss Air groupie.