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The poem was penned by Bavicca Bharathi (photo on left), who made news in 2010 when she became India’s youngest commander, flying on the ATR 72-500s with Kingfisher Airlines.

I received the poem as a sms from her, today, and genuinely found it worth sharing! Happy Sunday, everyone!

Oh my ATR!

High Winged, and tail propped,
T-Tailed, and Prop unstopped,
O Lover boy, with dorsal fin,
With your song, my heart you pin.

Fighting the weather,
Flying with the thunder,
Amid balls of butter,
Till you begin a stutter.

Racing the strong,
Until we’re told wrong.
Then laughing the bong,
Having planned this all along.

Pushing the ceiling,
For the familiar feeling,
My heart would be me killing,
If not for your healing.

This and much we’ve done you know,
So much, I could never stow.
Come back for you, I will fat boy,
Don’t think I’ll settle for some lame toy.

The Flying Engineer’s note: The ATR 72-500 is a ~72 seat turboprop regional airplane. The airplane is high winged as the wings are above the fuselage, “T” Tailed as the elevators are above the rudder, which looks like a “T” from behind. The “tail prop” is a small rod-like structure that is hung from the aft fuselage, to prevent the airplane from completely tipping in the event of poor load distribution (which can easily happen on board this plane with provision for boarding only from the rear). Not to be confused with “Prop”, which is short for propellers: 6 long blades per propeller, lending it a diameter of 13ft. The “song” is actually the loud sound from the engine which is music only to the ears of those crazily in love with the airplane, but otherwise is a passenger nuisance. “Fighting with weather”, “flying with thunder”, “amid balls of butter (clouds)”, “till you begin a stutter” reflect the ATR 72’s inability to cruise above the weather, and being a light airplane easily tossed around in turbulent air, in comparison to the bigger jets.

The ATR72, like other turboprops, has the ability to slow down very quickly, because of its huge variable pitch constant speed propellers that can offer significant aerodynamic resistance when the power levers are pulled to flight idle. Because of this, the airplane can fly at very high speeds until just a few miles from touchdown, after which it can retard quickly. Challenging the strong headed pilots of  “stronger airplanes” by “Racing the strong”, she and her crew member, like others wanting some fun, approach the runway at a high speed while behind a bigger jet aiplane, which on the other hand has to plan an approach and fly slower. Sometimes perplexed air traffic controllers would request the jet to speed up and the ATR to slow down, telling the ATR crew it’s “wrong” to fly so fast. The cockpit would erupt in laughter, for their plan in embarrassing the jets and taxing the air traffic controller (most of whom are ignorant of the aircraft’s amazing aerodynamic braking) succeeded, sometimes with a cheesy line, “You should have given us landing priority, we’re faster”. Ofcourse, that is the only time they can have fun, for  “Pushing” the ceiling is the thrill that most ATR pilots get when they can, on certain occasions, cruise at a higher altitude, which infact, isn’t much.

The ATR 72 provides ample hand flying opportunities for it’s pilots. With the controls linked directly (via cables) to the control surfaces, the pilot has quite an “intimate” relationship with the airplane (“This and much we’ve done you know”). No other class of airplane flying for scheduled operators (airlines) allows for the joy of hand flying. I still don’t understand why she called the airplane “fat”. She now flies the Airbus A320 for a well performing airline, and as most pilots say, the A320 may be a marvellous airplane, but at the end of the day, is a “toy” (the mere presence of a pair of “joysticks” is one reason for some; anti-Airbus and pro-Boeing men and women have more to say), with less flying and more systems managing.

An ATR72-500. Note the tail prop: the small, hanging rod from below the fuselage near the right-rear door (closed).

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