The UK Mirror newspaper has captured the story of Captain Wayne Bayley and his pilgrimage back to his Barbadian family roots in a Nigel Thompson exclusive.
When Captain Wayne Bayley lined up his Dreamliner on the runway at Gatwick airport ready for a flight to Barbados it was much more than a 8hr 15min, 4,350 mile journey across four time zones that lay ahead.
Because for the senior Thomson Airways pilot this was very much a pilgrimage back to his family roots, too. (Story taken from the UK Miror)
The 291 passengers on the world’s most advanced commercial aircraft may have been preparing to relax in the Caribbean sunshine, but Wayne, 60, was planning on spending his time catching up with all the news from his relatives on the idyllic tropical island.
For Wayne, who is married with two grown up children and two grandchildren, is half Bajan… and when he found out he would be flying the first ever Boeing 787 superjet from the UK to the Caribbean destination it was “something very special”.
His late father, Lisle, left the island’s St Thomas parish for Britain during the Second World War to join the RAF as an aircraft fitter. Duty done, Lisle settled down after the war with wife Mamie in England and later Trinidad.
Wayne arrived on the scene and of course there were trips to see the Bajan half of the family, and it was there that a lifetime’s interest in flying was kick-started.
Wayne, a vastly experienced pilot and Dreamliner trainer who has been with the airline since 1991 in its Air2000 days, said it was “very poignant” for him to take the inaugural 787 to Grantley Adams airport in Barbados.
Going home: Wayne in the Dreamliner’s spacious cockpit
When Wayne was a youngster he had regularly been given rides in the cockpit of Boeing 727s and 707s there, thanks to his dad’s connections (Lisle was by then an engineer with British West Indian Airlines).
“I remember just sitting in the flight deck and seeing that vividly blue sea as we came round the coast and lined up for a landing and we could see the people lying on the beach looking up at the aeroplane as we made our final approach,” said Wayne.
“Flying in the Caribbean is different than flying any other airspace… clearly defined, vividly white cauliflower clouds, really gorgeous blue scenery and clear beaches you don’t see in any other part of the world I’ve flown.”
Talking to the affable Wayne you quickly realise how enthusiastic he is about flying in general and the $193.5million composite material Dreamliner in particular.
I’ve been lucky enough to travel on one three times and apart from the physical differences from a standard jet you notice in the cabin (more light from bigger windows, dynamic LED mood lighting, wider aisles, higher ceilings and less dry air at a lower cabin pressure) it’s smooth, quiet and fast, too.
The two General Electric GENX engines on a 787 may unleash 128,000lb of combined thrust when captains such as Wayne open the throttles, but it’s very quiet on board.
Wayne explained that because a Dreamliner can cruise higher than normal jets, at up to 42,000ft, it’s able to pass over some types of turbulence, too.
New generation: Inside Thomson’s Boeing 787 Dreamliner
And that altitude combined with a zippy speed of up to 640mph (Mach 0.85) is knocking time off flights. As Wayne explained, pilots can tweak their routes over lower-flying traffic to take advantage of the jet stream and effectively go on a “short cut”.
So passengers are getting to their holiday paradise quicker or reaching home sooner.
Wayne said: “Two weeks ago I flew from Orlando to Manchester and the flight time was six hours and 59 minutes from wheels up to wheels down.”
To put that into context, it’s more like the kind of fast flight time you’d expect to the UK from New York – about 900 miles closer.
Of course, aviation in Barbados wasn’t always about revolutionary 21st century superjets. Wayne recalls a story from his dad about when his great-grandmother Eugene Earle saw the first ever plane at Barbados’s Seawell airport (as Grantley Adams was then known) and thought somebody had gone too fast in a truck and it had somehow taken off.
Wayne added: “It makes me smile to think her great-grandson will be flying this plane to the island… what would she make of that?”
Eugene would be hugely proud of her descendant. And there’s no doubt Captain Bayley’s Barbados-bound Boeing superjet definitely isn’t a flying truck…
Capt Bayley’s five Best of Barbados tips
1: Have Sunday lunch in Bathsheba.
2: Watch a West Indies v England Test match at Kensington Oval.
3: Visit during Crop Over summer festival
4: Have a couple of lunchtime beers at Mullins Bay
5: Join a chartered yacht day sailing up the west coast
(Story and pictures taken from the UK Mirror)