A red-eye flight is pretty much any flight on the back side of the clock that lands in the morning and leaves the passengers and flight crew with, you know, red eyes. For me that means mostly either a flight from the west coast back to somewhere in the east, or a flight to Europe. Most of our flights to Europe leave in the evening and land somewhere around daybreak or an hour or two later. These are definite red-eye flights.
Sunday night we pushed back from SEA at 10.30 [on time, yippee!! You are welcome, dear passengers.] and headed off to the east for Detroit. We flew along the top of the country until Wisconsin where we began angling southeast toward the arrival into Detroit.
Flying the back side of the clock is a lot different than day or evening flying. There are only a limited number of red-eyes heading back east and a commensurate number of air traffic controllers working. Consequently, the normal radio chatter that you hear on most other flights is not present at night. There are long stretches of silence because there just aren’t that many flights that need instructions from air traffic control. Sometimes the radio is so silent that you begin to wonder if you flew out of the controller’s airspace and he forgot to switch you to a new radio frequency. This occasionally happens but air traffic can usually hunt you down fairly swiftly courtesy of emergency radio. This is a dedicated emergency frequency that everyone monitors while they are airborne. If air traffic loses us on one frequency they can usually find us on the emergency frequency.
We once got lost on Scottish radio heading from Paris back to Cincinnati. When Scottish finally found us they gave us quite the tongue-lashing. We believed that they forgot to switch our frequency and let us fly out of the airspace, but they certainly acted as if it was our fault. In these post 9/11 days no one likes to be out of radio contact, neither pilots, nor air traffic control and for understandable reasons.
It was a pretty uneventful flight [the kind that pilot’s love]. We did get to see some of the northern lights as we flew, but they were not the spectacular ones where fingers of light stretch from the horizon straight up into the air. These were just a faint glow low in the northern sky. Good northern lights from the cockpit are pretty impressive and definitely a memorable event.
We landed in Detroit on a chilly fall morning, 30 minutes early due to some nice tail winds that pushed us across the country extra quickly.
Now for a few days off…