Archive for August, 2008

My Overheard Submission!

29 August 2008 at 7:06 am
by Jonah

This was from our New York trip a year ago.

Freight Doesn’t Bitch

25 August 2008 at 6:45 pm
by Berck

One either has things to blog about or time to blog, but the two seem to be mutually exclusive.

Things always go wrong when I fly with Matt. Last time I flew with Matt, we had a maintenance divert. When I met him yesterday evening in the crew room, he asked, “How’s it going?” “Well, things were going great, but now I’m going to be flying with you…”

Not that I don’t like Matt–In fact, I really like Matt. He’s a new captain, upgraded from flying turboprops and has a real respect for FO’s. And sometimes I can actually tell him something he didn’t know, which is tons of fun for me. Especially since he welcomes the information much like I do, unlike many captains who will simply discount anything a first officer says.

My trepidation about flying with Matt is a result of the fact that the last time I flew with him we had to divert to Dulles on our way to DFW. Airline crews have a knack for discovering a relationship between trivial, unrelated pre-existing conditions and unfavorable significant events. In other words, what most people would call superstitions. Last time Matt and I flew together, something unusual and frustrating happened, ergo next time Matt and I fly together something unusual and frustrating will happen. This is, perhaps, surprising among pilots when you consider that we’re the champions of an activity that for so long was regarded as impossible or even mystical, but which in modern times is one of the most potent symbols of the success of technology.

The night didn’t start out terribly promising. Jonah and I went to the airport at the same time; it was a bit early for me, but I wanted to get her there in time for her 7:10pm flight. We managed to get to the airport (and through security) before 6pm.

Despite the astoundingly good weather, both of our flights were delayed. This might seem like a strange coincidence to those of you who haven’t flown to or through New York. Those of you who have understand that almost every flight to or from New York either leaves or arrives late. Usually both if the weather is good. If the weather is bad, the flights are all canceled.

I do not pretend to understand all the little things that conspire to make this the case, but I do understand one thing: The primary cause of the problem is capitalism. There are too many flights, and the airlines have no economic incentive to fly fewer flights in order to make things work. Air traffic in the New York area is a splendid example of the complete and utter failure of airline deregulation. The free market may work for some things, but it does not work for air travel.

The good part is that the people who get the most upset about the inconveniences are the rich, Republican business travelers whose first class seats are purchased with the blood of the exploited working class. The same travelers who also insist that the free market is the solution to all the world’s problems.

I got a text message from Joanna as I was starting my jet’s engines. I like that it’s generally the FO’s job to start the engines. The sad part is that the jet is so long and the engines are so far back there that I can’t hear them starting. Unless there’s a ground crew with a headset plugged up to the aircraft, then I can hear the engines over the intercom, which is strangely satisfying. The actual starting procedure is almost disappointingly simple. I push a button to arm the fuel pump for the engine to be started and then push another button that says, “START”, to actually start the engine while simultaneously starting a timer. At an ITT of no more 120ËšC and an N2 of at least 20% RPM, I release the lock on the thrust lever and move it up from shut-off to idle, and watch to make sure everything happens. Pushing buttons is fun. If I do it wrong, the computer will either ignore my request to start the engine and sound alarms at me to tell me that I screwed up and remind me that it’s smarter than I am. Humanity is such obsolete technology when it comes to flying.

Anyway, her text indicted that they were expecting a 70 minute taxi. I wasn’t surprised. Ground control had us taxi into a second line for takeoff, next to the primary line which was obviously well over 50 airplanes long. We pulled up behind a 747 which looks really big from the cockpit of a CRJ, and shut down the engines to wait.

“DING-DONG,” said my plane. “I’m off one,” I told Matt. “I’ve got one,” he responded. I pushed a couple buttons, adjusted a couple knobs, and rotated a dial on the overly complicated comm panel and said, “What’s up?”

The somewhat annoyed voice of the better looking of the two flight attendants filled my headset. “We’ve got a passenger who won’t sit down. She’s afraid to fly, and demands that we let her off the plane now. She is irrational and uncontrollable.”

I conveyed the situation to the Matt, who called company operations. There were many conversations regarding the identity of the passenger in question, her traveling companion, the severity of the situation and so on.

Matt called ground control, “We have a, erhm, passenger issue and need to taxi back to the gate.” I would love to put an audio clip of the conversation that ensued on the blog, but unfortunately the folks who archive JFK ground seem to have been slacking the past week. In any case, the conversation went something like this:

ATC: I need you to be more specific.
Captain: We have a passenger who refuses to sit down and we can’t go with her on board.
ATC: Okay, let me explain this to you. The only way I can get you back to the gate is to let the 3 aircraft in front of you take off in front of the uncountable number of planes that they are currently in sequence behind. This is unfair and will inconvenience everybody. In order for me to do that, I need to put something substantial in my logbook. “Passenger won’t sit down,” will not cut it. Something along the lines of, “Unruly passenger,” will.
Captain: Our flight attendants have stated that the passenger is irrational and do not feel safe with her on board.
ATC: That’s what I needed to hear. Air France 456 heavy, Delta 345, and Comair 5432, an unruly passenger has just made your day. Start ’em up and get ready to go.

It took an hour to get back to the gate and get the passenger unloaded. She was so, “scared of flying,” that she made it from Spain on an airplane earlier in the day just fine. I wanted to have the cops meet us, board the plane, and take the woman off in bracelets, but it seems that Matt is a kinder soul than I and had a gate agent met the plane instead.

That wasn’t the end. We discovered after landing that we had a fat woman who needed a wheel chair and who the flight attendants claimed couldn’t walk. This was a problem because we were in a remote parking area with no jet ways, which meant that she’d have to walk down stairs. Most places that have such parking have a lift to get invalids on and off the plane, but it seemed that Dulles had no such device for us. After letting most of the passengers off, we had to close up the plane, start the engines and taxi to a gate with a jet bridge so the woman could be removed. She walked off.

That wasn’t the end. When we finally got to the hotel at 3am, we discovered that our company had failed to make reservations for us. It was very, very late by the time I finally got to sleep last night, and I had no trouble sleeping until my alarm woke me up at 11:30am.

Weekend Visit to the Big Apple

24 August 2008 at 8:36 am
by Jonah

I managed to get to NYC yesterday and got to JFK about the same time Berck flew in. I didn’t think there was much hope of me getting on the Delta flight that left at 8 in the morning as there were 4 empty seats and 14 standbys listed, of which I was ranked 13th, but somehow I did. I had an aisle seat in the front bulkhead, which wasn’t unpleasant at all. I also had an individual TV and got to watch some Olympics! Berck and I met at the airport and headed back to Sydney’s apartment. Then the three of us went out on the town.

We went to a Sicilian restaurant way over in west Brooklyn called Ferdinando’s. Famous Fat Dave recommended their Sicilian rice balls, which were excellent. We also had a stuffed artichoke that was yummy, veal that was decent (Berck is a much bigger fan of veal than I am), some delicious penne in a bollenese sauce with riccotta, and, my favorite, some wide pasta with delicious mushrooms, tender eggplant, and sundried tomatoes (which really didn’t add anything the dish, but someone else ate all of them for me). We split a wonderful bottle of wine, and the whole meal wasn’t even too expensive.

Next we went up to the Lower East Side to our favorite bar, The Living Room. They have free concerts all night long with a one drink minimum ($6 for a Yuengling, is usually our choice). We saw an Australian that wants to be John Mayer and Ben Arnold and his band who want to be Van Morrison. Sydney bought the Aussie’s two CD’s he had on sale with the intention that we would share them. I asked him to autograph them, but he insisted on autographing to someone. So now one of them says “To Sydney and Joanna.”

We’re off to an Israeli brunch this morning, then Berck has a flight to fly tonight about the same time as my flight back home. I think we got up too late for Sydney to come to brunch… she has a Mets game to attend.

Displaced to Chicago!

22 August 2008 at 9:59 pm
by Berck

Looks like my last day in New York is November 1. After that, it’s off to Chicago, but not before I go through more training. That’s about all the information I have now; more as I get it.

I might could have had Phoenix, it looks, but then I would have been on reserve for a very long time, so I didn’t bid for it. I’ll have decent choice of a line in Chicago.


19 August 2008 at 12:09 pm
by Jonah

Eli had an issue with a horse in training last week. Here’s a link to a video of him talking about.

You can watch him live on the Internet, if you’re willing to stay up all night. This link is to the schedule for the 20th. And this link is where you click to watch him compete. Unfortunately, you can’t watch it without installing Silverlight first. It will automatically prompt you to download it.