Friday, November 14, 2014

"The More Than Great Waldo Pepper's"

We had beautiful weather here in the Carolinas on Wednesday.  Clear blue sky, light winds, and temperatures in the low seventies.  It was the perfect Hatz day---and a welcome change from Monday's planeload of ice in Minneapolis.  I fired off a note to Brother Barbeau:  "Is it a Hatz day?"  He replied, "I think it is!"

Photo by Helmut Buquor

Start up, Jellystone Air Park. . .

Photo by Helmut Buquor

Jellystone Air Park neighbor, Helmut Buquor, coined the phrase, "The more than Great Waldo Pepper's."

"The Great Barbeau" . . .

. . . and "The Not So Exotic Guy."

This never gets old!

On downwind for Runway 18 at York, South Carolina.

Bush-N-Vine Farms.

Turning final. . .

Peach Trees in Autumn!

My Captain, "The Great Barbeau."  

His side kick.

Back on the ramp at Jellystone Air Park. . .


A peach leaf from the Bush-N-Vine.

What a beautiful day!  I am so not ready for winter. . .

Friday, November 7, 2014


Sorry folks, no Grateful Dead stories.  I missed that scene.  The deadhead I'm talking about is the airline variety:  Positioning flight crews around the system for reasons known only to Crew Scheduling.  It's not something I look forward to---and the airline is not big on it either.  It would rather collect the revenue from the seat it can't sell---and I'd rather be flying the airplane.  But it happens.

At Big D planned deadheads usually occur when there is a schedule change.  Network Planning decides that September 14th is summer, and September 15th is fall.  The summer 757 to Orlando is replaced with a fall MD-88. The layover MD-88 crew will ride in on the 757, and the 757 crew will ride out on the MD-88.  These are known in advance, and are usually included in the monthly bid packages.  Other planned deadheads are the result of "staffing issues."  Someone gets sick mid rotation, or a delay pushes a crew into extended rest.  When this happens the reserves get called. . .  "Good morning Captain Cottom, this is Crew Scheduling.  We have a 0500 sign in at Newark (New Jersey.)  It's a deadhead to. . ."   

Unplanned deadheads are usually the result of maintenance or weather issues.  Our maintenance folks are good at what they do.  Rarely does my schedule change because of a broken airplane.  The weather; well that's a different story.  One inch of snow in Atlanta and there is a pretty good chance that crews will be deadheading for days.  Big D continues to spend a lot of money trying to mitigate the chaos of snow in the Southland.

The deadheading "experience" can be hit or miss.  If the flight is full, I expect to sit in a middle seat in the back of the airplane.  If the flight is empty (maybe on a Saturday) I might see First Class.  It is all covered in The Law of Deadhead Travel, which states:  First Class travel is reserved for flights with block times less than 60 minutes.  Any flight longer than one hour, the deadheading crew member will sit in coach, period.  (Usually in the seat with an inoperative reading light.)  Widebody International crews are governed by a different set of rules.  According to their manual, and I'm paraphrasing here, if a lay-flat Business Class seat is not available, the deadheading crew member may, at his or her convenience, request a reserve pilot be called to cover the deadhead.  That's the story I heard when I was a new hire seventeen years ago. .

My deadheading experience is almost always positive.  Probably because I enjoy chatting with my fellow travelers.  Sure, there is the occasional Grumpy Gus, but that is the exception.  The uniform helps too.  My last deadhead was back in October---to cover a layover in Norfolk, Virginia.  I was seated in coach (as per the Law.)  When a tall gentleman sat down beside me, I said:  "I was hoping for a short skinny person."  He replied:  "Yeah, and I bet with long blond hair."  We had a nice chat on the way to Norfolk. Last Tuesday I received the following letter:

Click on image to enlarge.
Who needs a lay-flat Business Class seat when you have interesting fellow travelers? The DVDs were awesome.  Be sure to check out New Dominion Pictures.