Passionate aviation writing by Capt James McBride
Passionate aviation writing by Capt James McBride


"Secrets from the little room

at the front of the plane"

March 2021 saw the publication of FLIGHTDECK PROSE & CONS containing many new stories about flying commercial airliners to all corners of the world.






I could see on the screen of my company phone that it was Ops calling. In easyJet the department was called NMC, (Network Management Centre) which reflected the easyJet team ethos. They liked to think  they were inventing airline flying from the start. Whatever; those of us who’d been in the industry a while, still thought of it as ‘Ops’ - heresy I know. In the same way, I was ‘Duty Dog’ as I was standing in for my boss. I was Deputy Chief Pilot of the airline for the long weekend.


“Hi Johnny, what’s up?” I instantly recognised the voice of one of the supervisors in Ops, (sorry, NMC) He sounded a little stressed for a Saturday evening I thought. Surely things had calmed down a bit by now?


“James, we’ve had a strange request and we need your authorisation”.

Oh dear… I didn’t like the sound of THAT. Immediately I felt myself brace for the worst, but I tried to reply casually.


“What’s the problem Johnny, I’m sure we can sort it out”.


“We’ve had a call from a Gatwick crew. They’re just about to depart Nice to come back home. They’ve boarded all the passengers, but they are overbooked by one. We have checked and he has a valid ticket with a paid booking, no more seats in the cabin. So, the captain has asked - can he use the jumpseat?”


I mentally breathed a sigh of relief; this was going to be an easy one.

“Okay, have I got this right Johnny? It’s a fare-paying passenger who wants to sit on the jumpseat to get back to the UK?”


“Yes James, that’s correct… and… it’s the last flight out of Nice tonight”.


Well that didn’t matter, the answer would still be ‘No’ I thought to myself. But I wanted him to understand I was making my decision based upon the legalities of the operation.


“Well the law changed a couple of years ago. You know, before 9/11, it would not have been a problem Johnny, but now the flightdeck door is locked and only bona fide crew are allowed to fly in the cockpit, so you will have to tell them the answer is ‘No’, we cannot grant permission.”


There was a pause. Johnny knew what the law said, just like me, so why were we having this conversation? There must be something else.


“James. It’s Sir Richard Branson”.......





I thought to myself, ‘Oh F***!’ and put my head in my hands.


Richard Branson? The founder of Virgin Atlantic and the most high-profile person in the British aviation industry.


Dear God, why does it have to be him? Of all the things I could have predicted, this was not one of them.


Somebody had to decide within the next 10 minutes as the flight was due to depart. I asked for all the details and Johnny said.


“He, Sir Richard, is asking for us to let him travel in the flightdeck on the jumpseat. The captain is okay with it, but he won’t do it without permission in writing from the Chief Pilot… “


........................................................................ Read the book to find out how this story ends.


..............................DID THEY SHOOT THE DEPUTY??




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