"Sounds of Flight" - a poem


Thunk, thunk, thunk
It tells me my nosewheels are running over the centerline lights
Unnerving to some
But a desirable event on the take-off roll

Every sound has a meaning
There are obvious ones
The whining change in pitch as the engines spool up
Or wind back down
The wind whistle changes with our airspeed as well
The louder my First Officer talks to me
“We’re cleared to Flight Level Three-Five-Zero”
The louder the outside air is whooshing that she is talking over
And reveals that we are going faster

Clack, clack, clack is a sound I don’t want to hear
It means we’re going too fast—it’s a warning
Click, click, click on the other hand
Means the stabilizer trim is moving
Another indication we are changing speed
And trimming to keep the flight controls light and manageable

There are chimes for lots of things
Each with its own sound, or specific number of them
One ding and we have a message on our printer
Two dings and a flight attendant wants to talk with us
Three dings and we have to talk, something is up
One reason we ring three dings is when we are about to encounter turbulence
Nobody likes the knocking of a shaking aircraft
Four or more dings and the meaning is classified, sorry

Click-chirp —my First Officer just disconnected the autopilot
The click comes from her yoke button
The chirp comes from the autopilot switch
All the time the altimeter vibrator rattles like a woodpecker on glass
Keeping our needles within our instruments from sticking
We even listen for a shift in the hiss of our internally circulating air
When we turn on the engine or wing anti-ice
To assure ourselves that it’s working

Perhaps my favorite sound is the grinding followed by the klunk, klunk, klunk
As all three landing gear lock into place
And no matter how smoothly I roll the old bird onto the runway
There’s a chirp of the tires as they grip the pavement
And rub while they spin up from perfectly still to one hundred and sixty miles per hour
In an instant


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