By: JÜLİDE KARAHAN
Uğur Cebeci, who was born in 1950, says "It is hard to define the joy I feel when my feet are off the ground. Up there is where I feel most comfortable."
There is no such thing as a coincidence. If there was, a person who has passed his childhood by watching propeller driven F-27’s landing and taking off, wouldn’t have an office looking at Atatürk Airport. If there was, a kid who used to jump off constructions onto sand hills with arms wide open would not try out everything that can fly, from gliders to Concordes. If there was, Uğur Cebeci the CEO of DHA (Doğan News Agency), would not be producing the “Cockpit” page and TV program for 12 years.
How many flights are you taking during an average year?
Last month I flew for 81 hours. However, some of those were not normal passenger flights. Some were demo or test flights. I have been flying 150 times per year on average, since I was 30 years old. I have been up in the air probably 6000-7000 times in my life.
Isn’t that hard?
Jet-lag is not an issue but I don’t like to work once I am back on land, which is a problem. I feel most comfortable up there, I wish I could fly for days without landing once.
You were supposed to retire in 2006 and write stories under vine shades… What happened?
I was really planning that. But I have never left anything undone in my life. I have always achieved my objectives. That is also what I want to do for DHA and just some last retouches are left.
Do you feel like the newspaper won’t be published if you don’t show up for work?
Exactly, just like many other journalists… I felt as if I didn’t come to work, the TV channel and the newspaper would be left behind as an orphan. Of course that is not true, one day I won’t go and life will go on.
Do you have fears ?
No, I have never met fear, especially on the air. Sometimes people are afraid of a plane, saying things like “this plane is very old”. But there is no old and aged plane, just like there is no aged woman… It could be neglected at most.
Actually the saying goes “there is no such thing as an ugly woman”
Ugly planes do not exist either. I watch planes as bird watchers observe birds in their natural habitat. I believe metal is alive, everything with molecules is alive.
A good pilot should be…
Even though there are a lot of new facilities nowadays, a good pilot should never skip over traditional flight rules. Resting and good nutrition are also important.
A good passenger…
Should go to the airport on time, 1 hour prior for domestic flights and 2 hours before international flights. Not only should he/she fasten his/her seatbelt, but he/she should also fix it according to his/her waist. He/she should listen to security announcements every time as if it’s their first time. Should be polite with stewards and air crew. In short, they should be obedient as a lamb.
Are you like that?
Yes, every time. I obediently wait in line; I apply all the rules with care, every single time. My belt is always fastened. I always check my seat.
Your first flight?
I flew from Samsun to Istanbul with propel driven plane when I was 15-16 years old. I was very impressed, it affected me deeply. My interest grew from since then. At the beginning of 1980’s I wrote a letter to Boeing, saying that I was a journalist interested in aeronautical technology. They invited me and I went to their head office in Seattle. There, I watched the process of production of an airplane from beginning to end.
Did you ever consider becoming a pilot?
No, never! Becoming a pilot requires a long education. When I was interested in this professionally, it was already too late. I couldn’t start. If I did start, since I am a perfectionist, I couldn’t have stopped. I wouldn’t be satisfied with a small plane, I would want to go bigger and bigger. I wouldn’t be able to stop myself. Since I couldn’t afford that, I would be unhappy. Now I am happy. I am interested not only flying but everything from maintenance, the metal, the pilot’s life to the feelings of the passengers, plane food, etc. I observe from outside. I see things that most people do not care to see. The trays’ gliding rates, the glass’ sliding ratios, etc…
Did you ever pilot a plane?
Of course I did, with a test pilot… I tried the Airbus 380 recently. I mean, if two pilots eat the same food and get food poisoning, the plane is left on air and the steward comes and asks if anyone knows how to fly a plane, I can raise my hand and land the plane.
Did you ever tried sports like paragliding?
No. I only fly with strong planes.
If you were to do something crazy…
I would fly with an acrobatics plane.
What irritates you during a flight?
I am annoyed with the people who have the 26B seat and still stop at the first row and checks “What number is this?” even though they know it is not theirs. This drives me crazy. I want to kill and eat those passengers.
Do you find anything dull about flights?
I don’t find any security check or waiting-in-line as tiring or unnecessary. I don’t whine and get in the line to wait my turn. Nothing about flights is dull to me. Yet, there is the issue of taking off your belt… Someone should produce belts that are X-Ray friendly for people who fly often. I don’t know why no one has done that yet. Someone should have thought of this by now.
Many travelers use such grinds as an excuse to choose overland routes over airways.
No, I don’t think there are many people left who prefer going somewhere via land. Some people fly for fun or out of curiosity. They ask for a ticket to Adana, and if there is none, they ask for one to Samsun… Their intent is just to experience an air travel, nothing professionally. Afterwards, they like and get used to it. Once you get addicted to flying, you can’t quit. You want to fly all the time. Traveling on air is addictive. You cannot go back to land routes. And why should they drive for hours?
Any tips for passengers to make things easier? Any advice for flights?
First of all, they should remain calm and not panic, because the safest way to travel is flying. If they get afraid while taking off, they should remind themselves the home accidents they have experienced, the electric sockets they hold with wet hands, slippery floors, chairs with a broken leg, etc… They will realize how safe a plane is. To avoid rushing, they should arrive at the airport in advance and complete their check-in procedure. They should listen to the security announcements with attention every time.
An immense project: AnadoluJet
You don’t only fly, but also share your experiences with “Cockpit” for 12 years. Isn’t finding a new subject every week hard?
At first everybody said “This guy started off but let’s see what he will write about in the secondly week.” I think we are almost at our 700th week with our newspaper. Same thing goes for the TV show. I assume we are at about our 400th week there as well. And we have been doing this without repeating ourselves. There are two reasons behind this. First, aeronautical technology is very advanced and there is a new thing happening every day. Every year there are around 1.5 to 1.7 billion flights happening. Right now there are over 17 thousand passenger planes which are active. And secondly, people are curious about the sky, everybody is looking up there.
Does the fact that Turkish aviation is improving with such a good pace have any effect on you not having any subject scarcity?
Of course. First of all, during recent years there has been an explosion in passenger numbers in Turkey. There are several reasons behind this. One of them is us; I won’t be modest about this. Second is Minister of Transportation, Binali Yıldırım, who brought the subject to a legal platform. Third is Turkish Airlines (THY). The growth of aviation industry in Turkey is directly proportional to the growth of THY. When we were young, Sao Paulo was a place in outer space for us; but now, thanks to THY, we are connected to world.
And now we are connected to everywhere in Turkey with AnadoluJet...
Yes, AnadoluJet is an immense project that is centered in Ankara but reaches everywhere. The prices are reasonable. It is run by a brilliantly creative man named Sami Alan. He works so hard that it is impossible for AnadoluJet to fail. They have established a great domestic network; however, I can also imagine an AnadoluJet that can land on semi-finished airfields. One that even uses sea planes… One day AnadoluJet will not only connect Turkey within, but also will fly to close borders and centers. Like from Van to Tehran…