x Abu Dhabi, UAE Friday 21 July 2017

Female touch at controls of a giant

Captain Heather Ross says flying a commercial plane is a lot more relaxed than the transport aircraft she flew in the First Gulf War.

Captain Heather Ross on the flight deck of the Dreamliner. Courtesy Boeing
Captain Heather Ross on the flight deck of the Dreamliner. Courtesy Boeing

Captain Heather Ross says flying a commercial plane is a lot more relaxed than the transport aircraft she flew in the First Gulf War.

"This is so much easier to fly," she says of the new Boeing Dreamliner 787. "It's so much more comfortable."

Ms Ross is currently assigned to the Dreamliner and is responsible for testing the plane and ironing out any issues as Boeing increases the deliveries of the new aircraft to customers.

She helped fly the plane on its world tour of customers and suppliers, and touched down in Abu Dhabi on Wednesday for the final stop on the global journey.

Ms Ross originally joined Boeing in 1985 as a flight-test engineer. In 1988, she left Boeing and joined the United States Air Force, where she attended undergraduate pilot training and flew T-37 and T-38 jet aircraft.

In 1990, she completed transition training to transport planes and was based in California.

In total, she has about 6,000 hours of flight time under her belt and says she never gets bored in the cockpit.

"There's usually enough stuff to do," she says, adding that pilots are constantly monitoring the plane's systems, doing fuel checks and taking note of the weather at approaching destinations.

"We might not have our hands on the controls the whole time," she says.

After flying 40 missions during the First Gulf War, Ms Ross stayed with the Air Force until 2003 when she became a pilot for United Airlines, where she was a flight engineer on the 747 and a first officer on the 737 planes.

Having flown Boeing 777 planes, which have similar cockpit to the Dreamliner, it took Ms Ross just five days to train on the new aircraft.

rjones@thenational.ae

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