Walter and Doris were not interested in joining Sandra, RÃ©mond and I in visiting museums, so just the three of us set off this morning. Our first port of call was the main museum of Geneva. Wow! Sandra and I wandered around with eyes and hearts wide open. We saw great paintings from all the great artists modern, surrealist, impressionist and classical. There were also Rodin sculptures and an area in which an old castle that was taken down had been “rebuilt” indoors. It was wondrous. This took us to lunch time, and we had coffee and shared some cake between us… We then moved on to the next stop, a stop which was to take my breath away, we went to see what if was not the largest private book collection in the world, was damn close. We went to the the museum of the book of the Foundation Martin Bodmer. There were original Egyptian papyrus scrolls, copies of Virgil and Homer and Homer from hundreds and hundreds of years ago. I saw a Gutenburg Bible. I saw the oldest copies of Shakespeares plays. I saw pieces, poems etc from Satre, Kant, Marquis de Sade, Lord Byron and many more written in their own handwriting.
And the first editions…. Sir Isaac Newton’s “Principles”, More’s “Utopia”, Galileo, Copernicus… Even a first edition of Gulliver’s travels, Goete, Rousseau and so on and so on and so on… to be able to almost reach out and touch (if it was not for the thin pane of glass separating us) books that changed the way people think and act. The first editions are editions of books as they existed before they changed (in some cases literally) the entire way the world turned; the way governments acted, revolutions turned and people thought. Pages, blocks, papyrus with Greek, Hieroglyphics and even an artifact from the earliest writing ever recorded.
Sandra and I, both being bibliophiles, left stunned.
But our wondrous day had not come close to ending yet. RÃ©mond told us he will be retiring in the next year or so and probably the next time we are in Geneva he will be retired; so if we are interested in how air traffic control works now was the time. And of course we were more than just a little excited to be given such a privledge:- to see into how the air traffic of the world is controlled and kept safe and secure.
We then got a complete tour. We started at the air traffic control center (after going through passport control) and from above we learnt how the control center is divided. RÃ©mond pointed exactly what was happening in each area, who each person was; and, what each person did. From there we went to the training area where there were apprentice air traffic controllers being trained. In this area a copy of the control area is created, and in another area there are trainers playing the roles of pilots communicating with the trainees.
From here we then went into the real air traffic control room. RÃ©mond then gave us a rare privledge! Using the real-time live system he logged in and showed us what it described to the air traffic controller; and how he used it to receive information though the system. This was in the section for planes flying through the air space controlled by Geneva, and we learnt how to read the radar screen. What each blip meant, and what exactly was happening. He also explained what the air traffic controller had to do in order to keep the skies in order, and what he had to pay the utmost close attention to… to prevent tragedies. Once we understood what we were reading on the radar screen it was hypnotic to watch. He then took around the different areas showing us the screens for the different sections (or different altitudes). We started off in the area of high altitudes, ie for directing planes passing above in the skies but not landing or departing from the Geneva airport; to the departure section where the moment a plane takes off, from here the next instructions are given. And of course all the time this was happening in an air traffic control room in which people were working. So once something was described we could see it happening in front of us.. But the privledge did not end here. Once we left the air traffic control center we went through passport control again; and then onto the runway; and then up into the control tower! From here the actual landing and departure instructions are given. Once a plane has taken off it is “given” from here to the air traffic control room; and when a plane is ready for landing it needs to receive final permission to land from the the control tower; for the tower can give it the order to fly over and come back for another pass if this is necessary.
From here we could see the entire airport with every plane. We saw how the control tower works and from such a vantage point RÃ©mond explained every area of the airport, all the different kinds of planes (passenger, private, cargo etc) and how the different parts of the airport work together, and what the air traffic controller in the control tower needs to be aware of, and what he needs to do.
And then we watched it all for ourselves in the busy airport with a plane taking off or plane landing almost every minute. We could see every tiny detail of the airport itself. In the control tower we saw the equipment, we heard the conversations between the pilots and the controllers and we of course we saw the planes contsantly taking off and landing, parking and others immediately getting ready for take off.
Quite a thing. And I felt very privledged and lucky not only to see how these vital arteries of the world work. What beauty and power! …But also to have been given such a thorough personal guided tour which covered every detail of the process. What I have written here in this stuttering, “scribbled” post is just a thin slice of the information and knowledge and insight provided to us by RÃ©mond.
After this Sandra and I, after such a full day that not for a slightest moment did not contain amazement, came back to the Graf home for a delicious supper.
When I excused myself after coffee to “quickly write on my blog”, Doris misheard me and thought I said that I wanted to be excused for “quick run around the block”.
What a wonder fulled day…