A pilot’s life in the tropics
People often ask me: how is life in paradise?
Well, considering the fact that I come from Southern Europe, the contrast is maybe not that extreme. As people here, like in Spain, like to be outside. This happens particularly when the sun goes down. Temperatures here are the most difficult thing to adapt to. The Dash 8 is a Canadian aircraft, so let’s say it is not very well prepared to be in the sun. No window blinds installed plus no chance of opening the windows can me oneself feel like a piece of meat on the grill.
Regarding food: Bye bye being a foodie unless you have time and money to spend time in a resort. Here, one has a “wide range of choices”: You can choose between rice and noodles or chicken and tuna.
Maldivians have also their own treats called “Mashuni” (a type of dry tuna mixed with chilli, coconut and onion; actually very good), “hedika” of fried shorties (very fried but tasty) and the world famous “Suppari” or “Maldivian nuts” (something you can chew all day long and tastes like wood). As most food comes from overseas, there is not that much choice of foods in the Maldives. I specially miss fresh milk, cheeses, Spanish ham or simply a good steak.
We are talking of the capital here, this is not the case of the resorts, though, as you can find all sorts of foods and, even, wines there.
When it comes to the professional experience as a pilot, though, I would consider the Maldives an ideal place to learn flying.
The Dash 8 is a very gentle aircraft, very stable, but complex at the same time. Maldivian model has only one FMS on the captain side and autopilot is only for the Navigation mode and Altitude holding.
There is no auto-thrust so you have to be aware of the power throughout the whole flight. Two of our aircraft have the function of the Vertical Nav and Lateral Nav for approaches in bad weather, which is, actually, really helpful specially during the rainy season, when it can start raining extremely hard in a matter of minutes or seconds, sometimes on short finals.
Our work schedule is quite interesting. We have a roster of 77 days on 14 off, which means 14 days off every two months. The company has no agreements with other airlines, though, so we have to pay our own full fare tickets back and forth. However, while we are in the Maldives, our schedule (at least mine) is very light, flying something like 3-4 days on a typical week, and then being on stand by at home for another 2-3 days, plus one day off every 6 days.