Friday, January 23, 2015

"bygone, rugged times. . ."

Brother Hogan said to keep my eyes peeled; a surprise was on the way. . .  It arrived in Monday's mail---a First Edition copy of Jenny Was No Lady, The Story of the JN-4D, by Jack R. Lincke, published in 1970.  Yeah, Brother Hogan finds cool stuff!  My bride calls him the King of the eBay Treasure Hunter's Club; I am inclined to agree.

The book is a joy to read!  So far, after only forty pages (out of 288) I have laughed out loud more than a dozen times!  Here's a teaser my airline compadres are sure to find amusing:

"In the bygone, rugged times, barnstorming Jennymen often slept under the wings of their ships.  Today, the gentlemen pilots of the airlines sleep in posh hotels.  It is coffee, cakes, and a 38-24-36 stewardess on the flight deck.  Such is the mischief of time and progress, those twin iconoclasts who do not keep their dirty fingers out of our business."

And because I know my audience:

Iconoclast: n noun

1.  One who attacks and seeks to overthrow traditional or popular ideas or institutions.

2.  One who destroys sacred religious images.

Either definition will work. . .

Thank you Brother Hogan!

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Making Sense Of Commuting

In the old days when a pilot was hired at an airline he (and the few shes out there) moved to their assigned crew base, and that was about it. This was before airline deregulation. With deregulation, and the bloodbath of "free market" competition, everything changed. After a few job losses, many pilots (myself included) decided it was easier to commute to work than it was to uproot their families and move to a new domicile, especially if (when) the new company was a fly-by-night operation.  There were plenty of those in the 90's. The results of my unscientific study concluded that most start up airlines last about three years.  Thank goodness those days are over!

One of the hazards of living out of base is the occasional cancellation of a flight that you had planned to commute on.  It doesn't happen very often, but it does happen.  Murphy's Law states:  Anything that can go wrong, will go wrong.  One of my ex Eastern Airlines buddies likes to add:  "And at the most inopportune time!"  The results of my unscientific study tend to support the law.  Big D doesn't care where I choose live, but it does care that I show up for work on time.  When you live five hundred miles from where you work, it's a good idea to always have a backup plan!

Last weeks backup plan was to head up to the Big Apple a day early because the weather guessers were forecasting crappy weather for most of the East Coast Saturday night and Sunday morning.  The forecast was spot on.  It was snowing when we touched down at LaGuardia Saturday afternoon---GIANT FLAKES!  By the time I reached my subway stop in Forest Hills, it had changed to a windy, rainy mix.  I was soaked by the time I reached the crash pad---only three blocks!  Commuting in a day early was the right call.  LaGuardia was at minimums through noon on Sunday.  I'm sure there were delays---and if I've learned anything in twenty-nine years of commuting it's this:  A stress free night in the crash pad beats sweating an Expect Departure Clearance Time five hundred miles from base on the day of your sign in!

"It ain't over till it's over."  Yogi Berra  

For the commuting pilot, when the trip is finished; it's still not finished.  There's still the flight home to consider.  Sunday's trip finished late Wednesday evening, too late to get home.  It had been a long day, eight hours and forty minutes of flying, so I was happy to go to the crash pad and hit the hay.  Before turning in I checked the flight schedule to make sure my flight home in the morning had plenty of seats, and was scheduled to depart on time.  Everything appeared normal.  I closed my eyes thinking all was right in the world.

"Rats"  Charlie Brown

Six hours later I'm staring at the departure screen, FLIGHT CANCELLED!  (I'm pretty sure nobody heard my comment.)  Backup plan?  Yup.  Brother Baker's crowd had an A321 departing for Charlotte in thirty minutes, which as it turned out, had plenty of open seats. The gate agent handed me a boarding card, seat 13A.  My lucky number!  After saying hello to the guys up front, I set out to find my seat.  When I got to my row, I found a middle aged couple standing in the aisle, talking to a guy sitting in seat 13B.  Beside him, in seat 13A (my seat) sat a shopping bag full of Italian bread.  The lady thought the guy with the bag was sitting in her seat.  He said he was not, then added:  "But there's plenty of seats, I can move."  But he didn't.  Row 12 was empty.  I thought maybe he missed his row, so I asked what seat he was assigned.  He said:  "13B, but there's plenty of seats, I can move."  But I could tell he wasn't interested in moving.  The lady was clearly frustrated.  Her boarding card said 13B; her husband's said 13C.  She wanted her seat.   A flight attendant eventually came to the rescue.  She directed the couple to an empty row further aft.  Through it all Mr. Italian Bread Guy just smiled and stared straight ahead.  It was all kind of weird.  By now the boarding door had closed.  Not wanting to be "That Guy," I slid into row 12 and sat by the window, seat 12A.  My new lucky number!  It didn't take long to figure things out.  Standing in the aisle you couldn't smell it, but row 13 reeked---like an old Cheech & Chong movie!  13B was stoned!  I smiled as I looked out the window.  That explains the big bag of bread. . .

The view from Seat 12A.