I first met James on an Emirates A380 flight from Dubai to London Heathrow (Callsign ‘EK003 heavy’- click here to view the review of that flight) in 2011. He was our Senior First Officer and was kind enough to take a few photos for me from the flight deck using my camera (my camera was allowed in, but not I!). We had an amazing crew on that flight, and the senior purser was a good bloke. Upon hearing that I was a photographer and journalist, he replied “Oh, our senior pilot is also a photographer and author- let me speak to him and see if he can lend you his book”. The guy gave me his book for the whole flight…best in-flight reading I have ever done! After we landed at a windy Heathrow, the senior purser (who somehow also doubled as a good salesman), asked me “So, what do you think? Would you like to buy it?” I burst into laughter….I thought it was a free gift from James!
Ever since that flight, we have been good mates. I can say that he comes across as a very friendly and customer-focused person- which is a rare to find in the aviation industry these days. Reading his blog posts and his Facebook posts, you get the feeling that he is a true aviator and not just a pilot- he calls his planes girlfriends…I mean, you can’t really get much more love out of your job than that! He makes you wish you were a pilot, even if you are not into aviation and even if you have no love for planes whatsoever! James has always provided me with great advice about flying and I have cherished that advice. We met again in Dubai in 2015. This time he was preparing for his simulator test for his command course on the Airbus A380. It was at that time that he told me of his retirement plans. I was quite sad and surprised to hear it.
James’ last flight, EK407, was on the 24th of September from Melbourne (MEL) to Dubai (DXB) on aircraft registration A6-EDY, arriving early in the morning in Dubai. I cannot begin to imagine what he must be going through at this time, knowing that he will never fly ever again. His career has been nothing short of an exemplary one for those who want to enter the challenging but rewarding world of aviation.
He will be writing books in his retirement on subjects related to aviation (while downing a few well-deserved daiquiris in Boracay, no doubt!). Click here to read a review I wrote for one of his books in sleeping for pilots and other insomniacs!
In his own words, just before this last commercial flight out of Melbourne for Dubai, the great Melbournian said on Facebook: “They say pilots only love the plane they're flying ... And they remember only two flights, the last one they did and their first solo. Thanks, Peter Nelson, for sending me solo in 1985 ... Will never forget it!”.
After a remarkable career of thirty-one and a half years that many can only dream of having, I am sure he will be yearning to fly again soon! Mate, you are really an inspiration to many and it has been an absolute pleasure to know you as a mate. Here’s cheers to a very well-deserved and happy retirement!
Below is a recording of James' interview on Melbourne's Radio 3AW with Darren James
A typical commute in London. Most of us to do this everyday. The queues are long, but there is a steady flow and no one pushes anyone else (like in other parts of the world) and rest assured that your pockets are safe too (well...just take care like anywhere else...but London is SAFE as can be!): Photo Copyright Navjot Singh
I am deeply sad to write that my good friend, Howard G Franklin, passed away, surrounded by close family in Portland (US), on the evening of September 11, 2016. I first met him in person in March 2012 when he visited Hangzhou (China) while he was touring the country with his wife, Linda, who I have known as a writer way back from 2008 when I published my first book on China through FirstBooks and Inkwater Press. We kept in touch ever since as good mates. Such is the sad fact of life that we are all busy in our day-to-day lives and distance makes it challenging to meet each other often than we hope for. I was hoping to go and meet him in Portland one day (a city I have never been to and I had hoped that I would visit).
Linda confirmed that he was diagnosed with metastatic cancer at the beginning of April. He had three very good months, sailing through chemo, continuing to play singles tennis and walk three miles a day. Following a genetic test that indicated it was 90% likely bladder cancer, he had immunotherapy, but developed pneumonitis throughout July. By August, it had metastasized very widely with 11 new brain lesions, which robbed him of all balance and stability, and invasion of heart lining, lungs, GI tract, etc. His last six weeks were a very rapid decline, from walking with Linda's assistance, to a walker, to a wheelchair and finally to being bedridden. With his whole family by his side, he left our world at 9.19pm local time, holding Linda’s hand. They had over nine wonderful years’ together, way too short but as Linda says, they did so much and he was able to leave a legacy behind, which was so important to him.
Outside of personal life, his work as a distinguished author and attorney in the US will always be remembered by the many who he was able to bring inspiration and joy to with his lifelong experiences. Here is a link to an article I wrote last year about Howard’s work, and below is a screen shot of an obituary that was published in his local newspaper in Portland.
May god bless Howard G. Franklin and may his soul rest in peace. Great man.
On 3 August 2016, a Boeing 777-300 aircraft, registration A6-EMW, belonging to Emirates Airline, was operating a scheduled passenger flight, numbered EK521, and departed Trivandrum International Airport (VOTV), India at 0506am local time for Dubai International Airport (OMDB), the United Arab Emirates (UAE). At approximately 0837am local time, the aircraft impacted the runway during an attempted go-around at Dubai. There were a total of 300 people on-board the aircraft, comprising of 282 passengers, two flight crew members, and 16 cabin crew members. However, the UAE's General Civil Aviation Authority (GCAA) was very sad to announce that one of the firefighters lost his life while saving the lives of the others.
Jassim Isa Al Balushi managed to rescue 300 lives, but in doing so, he lost his own. The brave firefighter sustained fatal injuries after helping put out the flames during rescue operations, the report said. His valiant efforts, however, were not in vain, as everyone on board escaped from the burning jet alive—including 282 fliers and 12 cabin staff. Once everyone evacuated, the aircraft exploded and burst into flames and Al Balushi was unfortunately caught in the blaze.
The initial report into the incident has shown the pilot had tried to abandon the landing after the main wheels of the Boeing 777-300 had already touched down.
When such accidents happen, it is always best to wait for the investigators to do their job and publish the report, rather than listen to so many so-called 'aviation experts' on the TV and the internet because most of them are just guessing and have little or no idea on what the truth of the matter is.
The official Preliminary Report has been published by the GCAA of the UAE. Click here to get it from their official website.
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