Boeing 747 pilot Christiaan van Heijst has captured these stunning shots of thunderstorms over the Indian Ocean.
“Heavy weather over the Indian Ocean and nonstop flashes under the stars; massive thunderstorms over the Indian Ocean lights up the midnight sky for hundreds of miles around.
“Even though the 747 is a sturdy machine with four powerful engines, we’re absolutely nothing compared with those forces of nature outside that window.
“Deviations of dozens and sometimes many hundreds of miles (around thunderstorms) from our flight plan are necessary to avoid the most violent parts.
“Keeping one eye on the weather radar, we have to keep track of our fuel as well. Every minute further from our course consumes precious kerosine that we might need later on.
“How far are we willing to deviate? How long do we want to maintain this course? What are our reserves? How is the weather at our destination developing? With a fuel consumption of 200 kg / 440 lbs per minute, we don’t have unlimited options.
“A balance between knowledge, experience, risk assessment and decision making; a fitting job description of an airline pilot these days.
“While my colleagues are discussing our options, I have a chance to enjoy the spectacular view outside of the thunderstorms. Far from landfall and with nothing but an unfathomable deep, dark ocean beneath us, I cannot help but look at that violent storm with a sensation of awe and reverence. This is nature at its best.
“A viewpoint and experience that no living being ever had before the invention of the jet airplane in the 1950’s. With the wind under my wings and a camera close at hand, I feel right at home.
In this close up below note the captain’s radar screen located at the extreme right of picture showing the orange and red highlighted weather which is the thunderstorm to the left which you can see outside the cockpit to the left!
Christiaan is one of the world’s leading aviation photographers and more of his work and more close encounter (s) can be found here.
You can follow Christiaan on Instagram here: @jpcvanheijst
EDITOR’S NOTE: Christiaan takes these photos either from an auto programmed camera or while he is on his designated rest break.