Kayoh @ 190

August 28, 2011

What Route do You Fly?

Filed under: Travel — Tags: , — Andrea @ 9:25 pm

“What route do you fly?” is the number one question asked of airline pilots and is also probably one of the top reasons we generally avoid being in uniform if at all possible so as to not be asked this question.

It is not the fault of the passenger sitting next to us while we have to travel on company business. Most people have known someone at some point in life who probably did fly from LAX to Tokyo every other Tuesday, but I personally have never met a pilot who was able to have a schedule that predictable.

I am not quite sure why pilots have such an aversion to this question just like I am not quite sure why a “normal” person has the idea that we all fly from one city to one other city and that’s it. Back in the extremely early days of aviation (I’m talking transporting the mail before commercial passenger flights took place) the pilots were assigned to a “route”. For example, Route A went from Buffalo, NY to Detroit to Louisville and then back up to Buffalo.  Route B would go from Buffalo to Pittsburgh to Columbus, OH and back up to Buffalo.  You get the idea.  So yes, there definitely used to be “Routes”.  Then the glory days of passenger airlines came upon us, especially when the planes started flying overseas to Europe and beyond. A pilot just might be able to go from LAX to Tokyo every other Tuesday.  But those days are long gone. We’re talking decades gone.  Now, it is all about efficiency.

At my airline, most of the scheduled trips take me across the nation a couple of times as well as up and down one or both of the coasts.  Every trip is different and for me personally, because I am at the bottom of the seniority totem pole, I never know where I’m going until I get to my base where I begin every trip. Each trip is always a new adventure with different cities and different crews to fly with.  Just flying one route all the time could get quite tedious.

I would absolutely love to know where the idea became ingrained in society that pilots have only one route, but in the meantime I will do my best to answer this one question with grace and kindness.

August 15, 2011


Filed under: Travel — Tags: , — Andrea @ 11:40 pm

I have seen the sun rising and setting over and over throughout the years. Sadly, their beauty gets taken for granted far too often and it takes something special to grab my attention again. The sunset or sunrise is always at it’s best when blended with clouds, mountains and thunderstorms.  I was able to take this photo right after a thunderstorm had passed through and while the sun was setting. Once again I am reminded that the view from my office is truly amazing.

August 7, 2011

So Sweet

Filed under: Travel — Tags: , , — Andrea @ 11:11 am

Saw this in the Denver airport and was lucky enough to capture the image of a pilot and his little girl sitting on his flight kit rolling along on the moving sidewalks…

Chicken Anyone?

Filed under: Travel — Tags: , , — Andrea @ 11:00 am

Through the years I have been mistaken for being a flight attendant more frequently than I would like to remember. I have even had my own crew look at me with a puzzled look on their face wondering why they have an additional flight attendant on board that isn’t required by the FAA. Most assumptions are quelled when I make a left turn after walking onto the airplane and enter my office, the cockpit.

I am a little more lenient on the average passenger as most of them don’t know what the various uniforms and insignia mean.  All they see is a woman in a uniform of some sort which usually translates into “flight attendant”.

I have been handed trash, people’s coats that they want me to hang up for them, dirty diapers and slightly used vomit bags usually accompanied by a sheepish look of apology. I accept all of these things with a smile on my face, and do what needs to be done with them.

Last week, however, I was handed a full plate of fried chicken. Yep, fried chicken.

There was one seat left in first class and so the gate agent upgraded this nice looking gentleman to the big comfy seat. As he was moving up, he stuck his plate of fried chicken toward me and told me to put it away for him. For some reason I just stood there and looked at him. Didn’t say a word. He does it again. Sticks his plate of fried chicken in front of me and says, “Here, put this away”. The flight attendant who was working first class that day quickly stepped in and told him that she would look, but that she really didn’t think she had room. He comes back with “well they always put it away for me on every other flight”. At this point I just turned around and went right back into the cockpit. A move I feel slightly guilty about, having left the flight attendant alone to deal with this fine man.

I am not sure why the fried chicken elicited such a response from me. Perhaps it was just his execution, or lack thereof, that bothered me. But for some reason, I just could not go along with being handed the chicken. It just felt rude.

July 24, 2011

Don’t Kill Me

Filed under: Travel — Tags: , , — Andrea @ 5:52 pm

Fear is a part of life. Fear of heights, fear of water and most definitely fear of flying. Getting on a commercial airplane for some people is an extremely nerve wracking experience usually handled with pills, alcohol or just the simplicity of holding someone’s hand. Even with this fear, people face it knowing that otherwise it would take them a week of driving or riding the train to get them to where they want to go.

I always encourage fearful flyers to talk to the pilots whenever possible. For one thing, I have seen a person visibly feel better and more relaxed as they are about to go back to their seat. I guess just talking to the pilots and knowing who is up there helps. For another, meeting a passenger who is nervous about flying stays with me throughout the flight. Most of the time pilots do not interact with the passengers, so if I have a face in my mind of a person who is experiencing anxiety over being on my airplane, I will do everything I can to make sure that flight is as smooth as humanly possible. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t, but I will definitely put in the extra effort.

That all being said, I just had an experience with a passenger that I have no idea what to think.

While getting ready for a flight during passenger boarding, the flight attendant comes up and says that she had someone who was scared of flying and wanted to talk to us.  When she came in the cockpit, she was crying and sniffing and generally freaked out. A petite girl in her early twenties just crying her eyes out because she had to get on an airplane. My heart really went out to her.

She took another step closer to us and said “I know that over 90% of airplane crashes are the pilot’s fault, so please don’t kill me”.

(This is the part where you insert the screeching tire sound)

After picking our jaws up off the floor, both of us took turns trying to calm her down and explain that we didn’t want to die either and we would do everything we could to make the flight as smooth and safe as possible, but to no avail. She kept throwing various airplane crashes at us and telling us how it was all the pilot’s fault that these people died and that she didn’t want to die.

The kicker of it was that she has been flying quite a bit commercially since she was two years old. She knew what to expect. She knew if something sounded different than normal when the airplane was climbing or descending. She knew more than an awful lot of people do about airplanes.

After a few minutes of this, any nugget of nurturing female compassion on my part went out the window and I was seriously trying to figure out how to get this woman out of my cockpit.  I still think back on it and have no clue what was really going on. If she was really that afraid (I can’t imagine being completely paralyzed by a fear like that), why was she getting on an airplane? Was this to get attention? Did she have any clue that by using that approach to get someone to help you will probably backfire? It was a curious situation.

As far as I know, she was fine during the flight. We never heard a peep about her once she left the cockpit, but that was a conversation I will not forget.

September 11, 2010

Gate Agents

Filed under: Travel — Tags: , , — Andrea @ 6:22 pm

I spent last week in Phoenix training for work. Because we were all out about a year and a half, the company decided to put us all through training again as if we are brand spanking new. The majority of the week was spent being exposed to Death by PowerPoint. Lucky for us all, we made it through with minimal head-nodding. Each day also held a list of guest speakers from almost every department in the company. Most of them would have been much better received had we not actually worked for the company before. So while each speaker was telling us all about how their respective department works with us, it was the perfect opportunity for us to point out just how much their respective department sucks. I almost feel bad.

One department in particular I felt the need to share my feelings with was Customer Service, aka the Gate Agents.

GA- “What you guys don’t understand is the timeline we HAVE to work under. We are so busy and there is so much going on, but we HAVE to close the door 10 minutes early in order to leave on time.”

Me- “Even if there are passengers waiting at the gate?”

GA- “Yes”

Me- “You do realize that the Gate Agents closing the door has absolutely nothing to do with getting an     On-time departure, right? The pilots have to release the brakes to start the clock”

GA- “Yes, but in theory if we close the door 10 minutes early, the flight will leave on time”

Me- “You do realize that we are in the business of actually getting our passengers from point A to point B, right?”

GA- “Yes, but we have to stick to the timeline or we get in trouble”

Me- “Blame it on the pilots, then”

GA- Blank Look

Me- “Ok, how about the times I’ve seen passengers running up to a gate 10 minutes prior for the last flight of the night, but the gate agent won’t let them down and instead starts booking hotels and vouchers. The plane continued to sit there with the jetway attached while we spend money just to not have to open the door.”

GA- “We don’t have the authority to make those decisions. We have to stick to the timeline”

Me- “So there’s no leeway for common sense?”

GA- “No. We must stick to the timeline”

I really hate that. As I was walking past the customer service counter at the airport yesterday, I heard a man say that he still had 4 minutes left and didn’t understand why the plane had left him. It makes me cringe.

I know that most, if not all airlines have a rule like this where they close out the flight XXX minutes early to make sure it departs on time, so definitely do whatever you can to be at the gate and boarding twenty minutes before departure. If a gate agent tells you that you have time to go to the bathroom, seriously look at your watch before going. As a passenger running to connect to another flight, I would suggest trying to get the pilot’s attention if at all possible because if we know you’re there, we will do whatever we can to help. Otherwise, you really are at the mercy of the airline.

September 4, 2010

To Pee or Not to Pee

Filed under: Travel — Tags: , — Andrea @ 10:26 am

Part of being an airline pilot involves getting a special physical on a regular interval. My airline happens to require me to go see the doc every six months, so before I head back to work on Monday I had to go get my “medical” this past Thursday.  If you are under the age of 35, they’re not that big of a deal. You fill out some forms, hand over around $80 and get the basics checked. Can you see? Great!  Can you hear? Awesome. Once at age 35 though, you are hooked up to an EKG machine to make sure the ticker is ticking at a level we all want our pilots to be at. And yes, of course, we all have to pee in a cup.

Over the years, I have become quite good at peeing in the small, but doable (or should I say, peeable) plastic cup. Being a girl and all makes me quite proud of this accomplishment.

Because I was on a short timeline, I had to go to a doctor that I had never been to before on Thursday. Even though the medicals are pretty standard, it is a little nerve racking to go to a “new guy” who just might find something wrong with you that will effectively end your career. After coming off of unemployment, I am just not in the mood for that to happen.

So I find the Doctor’s office and check in with my liter of water in tow to add to the enormous amount of water I have already had that morning in anticipation of peeing in the cup. One has to be prepared for these things and I don’t want to have to spend any more time than I have to trying to make myself have to go to the bathroom. By the time I see the Doctor, I am floating.

Normally (or at least at every other medical I have done in the last 17 years), the first thing you do is pee in a cup. Nope, not here. The first thing he did was weigh me which, again back to being a girl, is mortifying. Do you know how much water weighs? Well I do. And so does everyone at the Doctor’s office and of course the fine folk at the FAA. Come Monday, my company will know too.

I bite my tongue even though every part of me wanted to start whining or at the very least, make an extremely inappropriate snarky remark. At this point in the medical proceedings, I am feeling very proud of myself for practicing some new-found and hopefully lasting, self restraint.

We continue on with the eye exam and ear tests. The doc then takes out his hearing aids to listen to my heart and lungs through his stethoscope. I keep my mouth shut and my laughter to myself and smile again at how this new and improved restrained “me” is going pretty well.

When it appears that the exam is over, I just figured maybe I didn’t have give a “urine collection” this time. That or he just forgot. Nope.

The doc, pulls out a Sharpie and a dixie cup. Writes my name on it, hands it to me, and says “bathroom’s down the hall, just leave it in there when you’re done.”. A DIXIE CUP. You know, those impossibly small paper cups that your mother had in the bathroom in the plastic dispenser? Seriously, what are those things for? You can’t get an actual drink of water from them and I don’t know of anyone who shares mouthwash to necessitate another cup. But anyway, at the moment I was faced with having to pee in one.

I did my best, left it in the bathroom, got my paper medical to take to work, and left. I just paid $80 to pee in a Dixie cup. It just feels wrong.

August 30, 2010

Back in the Saddle

Filed under: Life's Struggles — Tags: , , — Andrea @ 6:27 pm

I lost my job on April Fool’s Day and now it appears that I am getting it back on Labor Day. Somebody has a sense of humor.

One week from today I will drive out to Phoenix for about a month and a half of training to be able to fly the friendly commercial airline skies again.

It is funny how bittersweet this all is. I am crazy super excited about having a steady paycheck again and the little things like people watching in airports and catching up on my reading are making me smile a bit. The trade-off for the paycheck is that I will be gone from home at least eighteen days per month. I rather got used to being at home :)

There are so many things that I have come to love and appreciate and so many wonderful memories that have been made over the last year and a half, all because I was unemployed. I also hope that because of this experience I have become a better person and will stay that way, foregoing the negativity that naturally lingers in the air when anywhere near an airport or airline employees.

I know I can be better and not so grumpy at work (yet to be seen). At the very least I should have some stories to tell in the near future.

June 14, 2010

Back to Reality

Filed under: Travel — Tags: — Andrea @ 8:08 pm

What an amazing trip to Europe. The few times that I have been to Europe in the past, I really enjoyed myself and the culture I was in, but for some reason this trip or specifically, Paris, really affected me. We were quite lucky to spend several days with a few locals who became fast friends and with that came the opportunity to really experience Paris on another, far less touristy level. I loved every minute of it. The long meals, the wine, and attempting to learn French on a level somewhere above my Jr. High French class were all a part of the great experience I had there.

I also loved the touristy things too. Thanks to the tips in the lucky guidebook I bought and devoured before going, we didn’t wait in a single line for anything. Even though it is high season over there right now, I didn’t feel crowded or cramped anywhere we were (except the Metro, but that’s ok).

When I got home, I avoided the scale for two days absolutely convinced that I had gained some crazy amount of weight. I ate very well. Decadence was mine. So after all of the chocolate croissants, breads, foods soaked in vast amounts of butter and let us not forget all of the amazing pastries, I was completely shocked to find that I had actually lost five pounds. I still can’t believe it. However, if you remember my earlier post, I did have blisters on my feet from the miles of walking we did. Even when resorting to taking the Metro everywhere just to let my blisters heal a bit, I still ended up walking miles each day (I won’t even mention the amount of stairs I climbed).

Now I am back to reality. Back at home trying to figure out how to possibly keep these precious few pounds off my frame. Back to my world where Paris is once again a dream trip.

May 31, 2010

In Paris

Filed under: Travel — Tags: , , , — Andrea @ 10:33 pm

Yes, here I am…in Paris.  After 13 hours of flying a little baby business jet through the U.S., Canada (the Arctic), and Iceland we found ourselves (D and I) landing at Le Bourget Airport in Paris, France.

It is still hard to believe we are here and will stay here in Paris for 9 days before flying south to an airport called Tours Val de Loire to pick up our passengers who are attending a wedding.

We have already been here for a couple of days and haven’t actually done anything touristy. We did see the Eiffel Tower flying in, but haven’t been there up close, yet let alone go up it. We walked through the courtyard of the Louvre, but haven’t gone inside, and our handy Metro passes haven’t even been used. They’re not kidding when they say that Paris is a “walking” city (I have two huge, glorious blisters on my feet to prove it!).


The word of the week is Savour.

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