Chasing The Years of My Life

by Berck

I flew today.

It’s a sad state of affairs when it’s blog-worthy that I, an airline pilot, flew an airplane today.

I was sitting in the crew room watching The Baxter on my spiffy new aluminum MacBook that I can’t really afford when my right breast started vibrating. I paused the movie, removed my headset and examined my telephone. Someone with from 336 area code was trying to call me. My first instinct, since I didn’t know who it was, was simply to ignore it. But I decided the likelihood of a wrong number from an area code that’s not mine was small, so I decided to answer it.

The ensuing conversation was exceedingly confusing.

Me: Hello?
Him: Hi Berck. Is Jessica Potter with you?
Me: What? Who’s Jessica Potter?
Him: A Flight Attendant.
Me: Uhm. No?
[It was about now that I placed the deep South accent on the phone as belonging to my Chief Pilot.]
Him: Are you on the plane?
Me: No. What plane? Should I be on a plane?
Him: I don’t know. I’ll call you back.

I seriously had that conversation with my boss today. It’s a wonder that airlines get airplanes anywhere, much less as safely as they do. He called back, and told me that I was, in fact, supposed to be flying to Dulles. I checked my schedule on the computer, and sure enough I was scheduled to depart for Dulles in half an hour.

It turns out that the Captain was notified of the trip several hours prior to the above phone call. The other flight attendants and I were not. I’m still not sure exactly why the Chief Pilot was calling me, or what about. And I have no idea why (s)Crew Tracking didn’t notify me of the trip.

Usually I have some warning before I fly. I was a bit worried about making my brain shift from passive movie-watching mode to flying an airliner. I needn’t have–as soon as I started walking around the plane the motions became automatic.

Pilots are creatures of habit, and good pilots have good habits. I got the ATIS, clearance, calculated performance data, and then the weight and balance for the airplane–all more or less without thinking about it. It’s amazing how far I’ve come since being on IOE just a few short months ago.

The Captain flew us to Dulles uneventfully. He had me switch on the autopilot for him on as soon as legally permissible–at 600 feet above ground on takeoff. I planned to do a fair amount of hand flying on my leg, so I wondered if it was going to bother him.

It didn’t. I flew us back from Dulles and probably did the best job at hand flying a jet I’ve ever done. We were incredibly light, only about 61,000lbs because we only had 11 passengers. When light, my airplane resembles a jet fighter, which makes hand flying all the more challenging. I leveled off at 10,000, 13,000, 15,000 all by hand. I was actually impressed with how well I managed, but I went ahead and let the autopilot do the final level-off at 17,000 feet because my brain was starting to get overloaded. Straight and level is probably the hardest task when hand-flying a fast, powerful swept-wing jet.

We cruised right by Atlantic City on the way back, as usual. If you’ve never seen Atlantic City at night from the air, take my word that it’s quite a sight. I could easily make out Trump’s blue building. The lights appear to be the result of some sort of local nuclear fusion. Cities can be bright at night, but Atlantic City appears to be so bright that I assume they turn the lights off in the day so the sun doesn’t get jealous.

I’ve got ready reserve tomorrow, and then Friday night I’m repositioning a plane to Charlotte, presumably so the final inspections can be done on the plane before we give them to their new operator.

There’s no news on the displacement. I’m still supposed to be in training in PHX on Monday for a plane that, with any luck, I won’t be flying.

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