Another maintenance cycle has turned. I flew a shorter than usual flight today in order to land before the next phase check was overdue. An airplane is not any riskier to fly when it's ready to go into maintenance than it was 25 hours earlier. It tends to leak or burn a bit more oil and there may be a few other things that rattle, but on average I am certain that the last flight before scheduled maintenance is safer than the first flight after such maintenance. That's not even counting the fact that I'll be landing with extra fuel because of the shortened duration.
Then a propos of nothing, just flying along, there's a really horrible noise. I turn off my iPod to listen more closely, and it goes away. It turns out that the base line, played through the left earbud in stereo, from The Beach Boys Surfing Safari sounds exactly like a cavitating fuel pump. A fuel pump cavitates when there isn't enough fuel in the tank for it to pump, or when it's so turbulent that the line unports. It's not a good sound to have in ones left ear during flight. I'm removing that song from my in-flight playlist.
After landing I help tear the panels off the airplane for the inspection and then we go over to a house belonging to one of the engineers. He mentioned that he has a parrot, which I asked to see. I'm disappointed that it isn't a big colourful African parrot like a red or blue macaw. I didn't know that the category of parrot was broader than just those birds. His is a
cockatiel cockatoo. It looks like a giant lovebird, white with a hint of pink and yellow. He has it because someone asked him to look after it for a year while he went to Africa. It's been nine years now and he's never come back.
The bird doesn't seem to talk or imitate sounds like the birds I think of when you say "parrot." It just screeches. but it's friendly and lets me pet it. It stepped onto my hand, when I offered it. It's fun to pet a bird. They are simultaneously the descendants of the dinosaurs, and man's inspiration for flight. This one sits on my hand, gripping with his scaly feet, and lets me preen him. When I was a kid I used to find bird feathers on the ground and carefully align all the barbules together, marvelling at how the invisibly tiny hooks held them together, converting scraggly disarray into one continuous smooth vane. I always wished I could do that with my hair.
The bird seemed to like it a lot when I bobbed my hand up and down, exaggerating the movements of my hand by stretching and crouching, like someone pumping on a swing to go faster. Then it walked up my arm (yes my bare arm, and yes with claws, but fortunately even a big bird is a lot lighter than a cat) to my shoulder where it sat for a while before launching into the air and flying over to the owner's shoulder. I washed my hands and arms thoroughly when I got home. I hope parrots don't carry salmonella or something. The scratches completely vanished after only a few hours, so it looks like he didn't break enough layers of skin to leave a welt.
Meanwhile the latest news is that we're going to Alaska next, "but don't buy charts yet."