Flying back to Fortaleza on a B777

I'm home, on a day off. My phone rings, and it's the company calling.

They ask me if I'd be interested in flying an extra trip. They have added a last-minute flight to Fortaleza, Brazil, and they're assembling a crew.

It didn't take much thinking to reply. We're in the middle of this Covid pandemic, and if I can help, I'm more than happy to oblige.

What they didn't know is how special Fortaleza is for me.

It's not an usual destination for the B777 fleet, so I wouldn't miss an opportunity to fly there.

Years ago, I was working as a ground instructor at ATR [a plane manufacturer]. From time to time, there would be a new aircraft to deliver to its owner and they needed pilots.

One day, I had the chance to be sent on an Avianca delivery. The mission was to go from the factory in Toulouse to their base in Bogota.

The ATR72 being designed for regional flights, it is done in the old fashion way: with many stopovers.

Toulouse to the Canarias, refuel, then to Cape Verde.

What's the closest airport after that? Fortaleza.

It's a six hours flight. A few months ago, I was spending my days teaching traffic patterns at the flying club, and now we're crossing the Atlantic Ocean!

What a day.

A few years have passed, and I'm a captain on the ATR. I love this airplane, and decided to stay on it and get the upgrade, rather than starting anew on a jet.

I fly in Scandinavia mostly, and still do deliveries from time to time.

A company I work with calls me to ask if I'd be able to do a ferry flight from Europe to Colombia.

When I asked for more details about the trip, they told me they haven't found a first officer yet, but are looking for one.

Without any delay, I told them I know someone. It solves their problem, so they're happy with that.

I pick up my phone again. I ring one of my best friends, who recently got an ATR rating too.

We've known each other for years. His parents are my parent's neighbors...

Of course, he's interested.

When I told him about the route, I could hear the excitement "so we're crossing the Atlantic?"

Where do we fly? Fortaleza.

I have done many long distance flights, but that place keeps coming back.

Fortaleza. Where I landed after my first oceanic crossing.

Fortaleza. Where I monitored my friend's first landing after the crossing.

Fortaleza. Where scheduling wants me to go with the B777.

No wonder why I said yes...

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