The captains of Turkish Airlines

Not long after the Turkish Airlines’ Boeing 727-type passenger plane had taken off for Istanbul from Geneva, the cabin chief announced that we would be stopping at Milan to pick up a group of Italian travelers.

Shortly after we flew over the Alps, we began our descent over the Po Valley and landed at Milan-Linaten Airport. Our previously cucumber-cool aircraft was soon bursting with a terrific commotion. Boarding from front and back, the Italians took their places in a wild hullaballoo as we Turks looked on in amazement. I was very uncomfortable, and I’m sure it showed on my face. Soon one of the cabin crew came up to me and said the captain had invited me to join them in the cockpit if I wanted.
I rose immediately and made my way to the cockpit in no time flat. The captain, whose name I unfortunately cannot remember today (this incident occurred in 1976), introduced me to his co-pilot and flight engineer and then started up the engines upon instructions from the control tower. Soon we were once again winging our way to Istanbul.
Our route lay over Zagreb, Belgrade, Sofia and Edirne. At the end of a quiet November afternoon, we crossed the Turkish border and, this time on instructions from Yeşilköy (now Atatürk Airport), turned towards Tekirdağ and soon started our descent over the Sea of Marmara.
In November, afternoons in particular tend to be overcast in Istanbul and the greater Marmara region. And so it was that on one of those overcast November afternoons, in calm skies, our aircraft turned its nose to the east and we continued our descent over the Marmara. All my attention was now on the controls in front of the captain as I tried every now and then to understand the instructions in English coming from the tower. As we continued our descent, I suddenly sensed some uneasiness in the captain, who was sitting directly in front of me. Actually there was no cause for anxiety. The 727’s motors were idling and all systems were working in harmony, but still the captain was uneasy...
Suddenly I realized that the captain was beginning to get annoyed. “Tell me to turn”, he was saying. I first I couldn’t figure out what he meant, but when the co-pilot chimed in, I realized that he was complaining that the control tower had not given the order to turn the nose of the plane northwards.
We continued flying eastward for a little longer and then the instructions came from Yeşilköy. The 727 complied, turning its nose in a northerly direction, and we were now flying north over the Marmara, again in fog. As I turned all my attention ahead in an effort to spot land, I suddenly noticed the Bakırköy shore right in front of us in the fog!
Our plane was flying in the wrong direction, because the new north-south runway where we were supposed to land lay considerably to our left. When the captain noticed the same wrong position, he immediately turned the plane to the west and tried to bring it in line with the runway, which we were almost directly over by that time. We were already flying over the Florya Campground when our plane came even with the runway. Sure enough, the wheels touched down just a few hundred meters later. And on that day I vowed that I would always travel with Turkish Airlines no matter where they flew. Just think of it. Here you are, flying only 1000 meters above the ground, and you sense it’s time to change the direction of the plane but you don’t because you’ve received no instructions from the tower. And when you finally do get your new direction, you realize, as a result of your vast experience, that you had been absolutely right about when to change course in the first place!
And that is a Turkish Airlines captain for you!