You wouldn’t usually look upon a flight with easyjet as a near-death experience, but I have to admit that on this particular occasion it felt rather like it.
On a visit to Milan Malpensa to mark the setting up of an easyjet base there and to meet recently appointed chief executive Andy Harrison, part of the day’s programme, which also included a football match between members of the press, easyjet staff and Italian journalists, was a flight “around the skies of Milan, offering breathtaking views of the Alps and the city”.
What I hadn’t expected was to be admiring the Alps from below the level of the peaks. In a flying display that would surely rival any at Farnborough or Paris, our pilot threw the A319 around the skies and at times our wingtips looked to be no more than a couple of feet away from the side of the mountain.This photo was taken by my journalistic colleague Richard Maslen of Airliner World magazine, who came along on the white-knuckle ride too.
What was even more worrying was the fact that there was a stream of visitors to the cockpit eager to record the event on digital cameras. All I know is that with that sort of precision flying, I don’t want the pilot distracted by visitors elbowing him aside in their eagerness to get the best shot.
Clinging to the side of one mountain was a cable car station, which was higher than we were! What its occupants must have thought as we hurtled past them a few feet away I can’t imagine. The pilot was so keen for us all to see the cable car, in fact, he turned the aircraft on a sixpence and came back the same way so that people sitting on the other side could get a good look.
Add together the closeness of the snowy mountains, the bursts of turbulence, the G-force pinning you to your seat during a couple of turns and the constant stream of passengers wandering up and down the aisle, I was glad to get back to the press conference, and it’s not often I can say that. It was a stunning experience but not one I would necessarily want to repeat!