Should the Boeing 737-MAX Fly Again?

Posted in air travel, airline, airline pilot, airline pilot blog with tags , , , , , , on November 11, 2020 by Chris Manno

Should the Boeing 737-MAX fly again?

The simple answer is, yes, the Boeing 737-MAX should and, I’m certain, will fly again. But the next question is even more important: is the airline industry prepared to fly the MAX? The answer to that is neither simple nor optimistic. Let me explain.

First, here’s my perspective. I have over 5,000 hours of pilot-in-command time in the Boeing 737-800 as an American Airlines captain. When the airline began to integrate the MAX into our fleet, I went through what I would classify as a very minimal “differences” training program: this is different; this functions in a new way that is actually better though counter-intuitive; this is completely different and ultimately, muscle memory and patterned responses must all be relearned. And that half-day of “training” was actually six months before we’d even put the first MAX into flight ops. Like anyone could or would remember the details for the six months until the jets arrived, or could refresh their “differences” knowledge by reviewing the digital media put together by the Fleet Training staff.

            That’s the reality of training at a major airline, where the benefit of a high-time pilot group is mortgaged by the airline bean-counters who will cut the training to the bare minimum because “pilots will figure it out on the line.” That was my exact experience after over 15,000 MD-80 flight hours as I transitioned into the 737 fleet. The old workhorse MD-80 was a simplistic, 1960s-era round-dial dinosaur compared to the advanced flight management systems on the 737-800. Everything from navigation to displays to engine power management was brand new and generation ahead of the Old Maddog I was used to. Don’t get me wrong—I loved the brand new -800 and she was a definite step up from the Douglass world.

            But the training, even for a twenty-four-year captain, was like drinking from the firehose or as we’d say in my Air Force pilot days, like cramming ten pounds of shit into a five-pound bag. “It’s alright,” the training folks would say, “You’ll figure it out on the line.” And I did, of course, with the gracious help of a fleet of highly experienced First Officers. Even so, after my initial qualification checkride, I told our Fleet Manager, “You know, coming off the Jurassic Jet, I sure could have used a couple more days to work through this training syllabus.” “Yeah,” he sighed, “When we originally designed the syllabus, it was two days longer. But the bean counters at headquarters said, ‘eighty-percent of the pilots could do it in less time,’ so they shaved two days off to save money.”

            I’d seen that before, as an MD-80 Check Airman myself. The FAA had designated several challenging airports as requiring additional pilot instruction to ensure flight safety. One of our MD-80 “special” airports requiring captains to fly their first approach with a Check Airman was Montrose, a ski destination in the Colorado Rockies. As a Check Airman, I’d be given training on an actual flight into Montrose by another Check Airman who’d already been “trained.” In my case, the checkout flight was with a Check Airman buddy who’d been to Montrose exactly once, on his “training” flight. The next day, I’d do the same for another Check Airman, after being their exactly once myself. Get the picture?

            Now, fast forward to the MAX’s return. Of course, the FAA will mandate some “training.” And of course, the airline bean-counters will try to shave off training dollars, to cut the cost, to let pilots, especially the very capable and experienced major carrier pilots, “get it on the line.” But the problem with that is there are no high-time MAX pilots, unlike the ones who helped me through my first 500 hours on the 737-800. And no one’s been flying the MAX in years, so there’s really no experience base to draw on by pilots in either seat.

            The Allied Pilots Association representing the 15,000 pilots of American Airlines says the MAX training program is inadequate in several areas but the one that stands out is timing: every three years for this vital training, says APA, is totally inadequate. And I totally agree.

            Make no mistake about it: the American Airlines pilots are the best in the world and thankfully for all concerned, they’re represented by a strong union with plenty of safety and training expertise. That’s why there have been no problems with MAX flights done by any major U.S. carrier. But what about the small carriers in developing countries with little or no longstanding training, supervision and oversight budget or practice? With low-time, neophyte pilots? The Lion Airs of the world?

The Allied Pilots Association is the canary in the coal mine: if they’re concerned, so am I. If the American Airlines pilots need more and more frequent MAX training, so do the Lion Air pilots. Yes, the MAX can, should, and will fly again. But not until the training is right so the pilots are ready. Period.

________________________________

Live the airline pilot life, from military flying to the world’s largest airline.

Start your journey HERE.

Air Travel: Another Casualty of Pandemic Porn.

Posted in air travel, airlines with tags , , , , , on October 23, 2020 by Chris Manno

Grounding the airlines, in a very real way, pointlessly cripples the entire nation and endangers all Americans.

American Airlines CEO Doug Parker, appearing on CNBC, warned “there will absolutely be discontinuation of service to small communities, and there will be much less service to larger communities” without more coronavirus relief, he stressed.

Such service cuts devastate not only the airline industry and tens of thousands of airline workers, but also the lives, businesses and livelihoods of entire communities and in some places (e.g., Hawaii) entire states. Air travel is the lifeblood of commerce in a nation whose borders span three thousand miles east to west. Cut off the lifeblood of business and eventually, the entire body of trade, investment, manufacturing, jobs, benefits, health insurance and even the tax base dies a slow death right alongside the airline business.

The emergency orders that locked down the nation in the Spring were never intended as anything other than triage, yet here we are a half a year later still holding a tourniquet tightly around the neck of the nation. The consequences for the patient are glaringly obvious: save the limb, lose the life? Seriously?

It’s time to get back into the air in particular and into life general: kids can’t go without education, people can’t go without engagement and support, and business can’t survive without air travel. It’s time to stop the triage and start the rehab, before it’s too late: enact rational, proven, and credible safety standards to be enforced on the ground and in the air–then end the formal lockdowns and the informal thuggery of the “stay home,” hide under the bed social media terrorists. Resist the news media click bait of “cases” panic porn (6.3 million “cases” of the flu last year; over 300,000 traffic fatalities during the same period) and focus on the recovery and survival of the very nation, which so earnestly, vitally, and ineluctably depends on air travel.

Pass the relief package. Bring the airline workers back, keep our air travel network safe and robust, ready to connect business, commerce, trade, engagement and virtually every vital function of this nation.

Don’t passively acquiesce to the heartless Mekong Delta tragedy of Ben Tre in the very heartland of America: “We had to destroy the village to save it,” a soldier told war correspondent Peter Arnett in the aftermath of an Army massacre.

End the lockdown. Fund the airlines. Anything less is senselessly and blindly destroying the nation. —Chris Manno

Live the airline crew life, firsthand, from start to finish. From Amazon Books, just CLICK HERE.

Should My Kid Become An Airline Pilot?

Posted in air travel, airline, airline cartoon, airline pilot, flight attendant, flight crew, military flying, pilot with tags , , , , , , on October 17, 2020 by Chris Manno

I get asked that a lot, especially these days, as people with aircrew dreams worry about the recent implosion of the airline world. The quick answer is “yes and no.” Stay with me.

First, how old is your “kid?” Kids–high school and college–are ten to fifteen years out from being qualified for an airline job anyway. So, here’s the yes: chase that military pilot pipeline–USAF, USN, USMC, and US Army. By the time you’re ready with military flight hours and experience, the airline pendulum will be on the upswing, as it eventually must be.

Yes, military flight training is tough to get into, and, as I discovered firsthand, even harder to get successfully out of:

My flight journey, from “kid” to USAF pilot training to 35 years in the cockpits of the world’s largest airline, most as captain. Read this.

But if the “kid” is thinking of flying for an airline any time soon–think again: this most recent airline meltdown cost the jobs of anyone with less than ten years at a major airline. Anyone hoping to get hired now will have to get in line behind those currently on the street, awaiting recall to their airline job, before any “newhire” sets foot on the property.

I actually told a couple kids that. It is kinda true …

But if you’re the thirty-something considering a career change: I wouldn’t. You’ll be the last one hired and will probably never upgrade to captain, even if you do get hired, because you’ll be too old.

So, tell the kids, “Work hard in school, fight your way into military flight training–preferably with the Air National Guard or reserves–then fight your way back out. DO NOT GIVE UP–before or after. Serve your country, get the best flying experience in the most advanced, coolest jets in the world, then bide your time. The next people hired as airline pilots are kids now. This is your time: focus, dedicate yourself, and do not take no for an answer (see my story above). Be there, ready, when the airline biz recovers, redefines itself, and rebounds.

Trust me: it’s worth the wait.

Freebie Alert

Posted in air travel, airline pilot, airline pilot blog, airlines, aviation, flight attendant, flight crew with tags , , , , on October 7, 2020 by Chris Manno

Get your hands on Amazon’s #1 New Release in Commercial Aviation FREE, today only.

Want the inside scoop on airline crew life? Are you a crewmember now, or have you been–or are you planning to join the airline crew profession someday? Here’s the good, the bad, the ugly; the rewarding parts as well as the heartbreak; the extreme behavior, some misbehavior–some extreme misbehavior, in the air and on the ground. It’s the unvarnished reality of aircrew life, hidden by the airlines and mostly untold by the crews … until now.

Get your free Kindle download HERE, today only.

Furloughed? Free Stuff.

Posted in air travel, airline, airline pilot, airlines, aviation, crewlife, flight, flight attendant, flight crew, pilot with tags , , , , , , , , , on October 6, 2020 by Chris Manno

My heart goes out to all of my colleagues, pilots and flight attendants, who’ve borne the brunt of the latest travel industry meltdown. There’s not anything much worse or more stressful than losing your job.

So, here’s freebie that will allow you to take a little bit of the airline crewlife with you while you’re temporarily sidelined. It’s the good, the bad, the ugly; the fun and the real-life drudgery of airline crew life, as well as the secret joy, benefits, and one-in-a-million experiences that make up your crew day.

If you are a furloughed airline crewmember, you can download this Kindle book FREE on October 7th:

Simply CLICK HERE on October 7 and follow the Amazon prompts to download your free copy.

Enjoy an exclusive, insider view of airline crewlife while you count the days until you’re back flying the line. Take care, and all the best.

Air Travel in the Time of Pandemic

Posted in air travel, air travel humor, air traveler, airline, airline cartoon, airline pilot, aviation, flight attendant with tags , , , , , on September 15, 2020 by Chris Manno

People today love to embrace an awful horror story, especially one that makes for good click bait. “Air travel” and “pandemic” in the same sentence will draw social media responses well beyond the mundane details of daily life–but therein lies the fallacy.

While the CDC assures travelers that “Most viruses and other germs do not spread easily on flights because of how air circulates and is filtered on airplanes,” the larger warning, following this assurance, is that air travelers must “consider how you get to and from the airport, as public transportation and ridesharing can increase your chances of being exposed to the virus.”

In other words, it’s not the spectacular, scary “omigod I could get COVID on an airliner” premise but rather the mundane daily life exposure that’s the real threat. Between boarding and deplaning, from home to destination then back to home, you’re going to clock much more exposure to viruses than you will on the actual flight.

That’s exactly as it always has been in the airline biz–spectacular but .0011% accident rates are the clickbait headlines fueling air travel worries, even though over 200,000 annual U.S. traffic deaths don’t dissuade anyone from driving the Airport Freeway to get on a flight.

Airlines are taking this outbreak seriously–and notice that social media hysteria aside, the CDC has now reclassified Covid-19 as an “outbreak”–which is startling to me having been an airline pilot for decades. Typically, airlines are reluctant to enforce behavior standards among passengers for fear of damaging brands, invoking boycotts, or grabbing ugly headlines from out-of-context social media videos and photos. Not so in the case of Covid: passengers have been banned for life from several airlines for refusing to comply with CDC-recommended precautions.

The reality is, air travel, with aggressively sanitized planes, explicit exposure-minimizing crew procedures, and inflight uber-filtered air makes the actual flight the least contagious part of your trip.

So ignore–and resist creating–groundless social media click bait. Take normal precautions, bring hand sanitizer, water (stay hydrated!), mask up, and get aboard. If there’s anything to actually worry about, it’s your drive to and from the airport on deadly highways.

Air travel, as with freeway traffic, simply requires personal responsibility, normal precautions, then a determination to get on with your life.

Please do.

Looking for the real-life, in-cockpit view of air travel and airlines? Here it is. Awarded “Best Non-Fiction of 2020,” paperback or Kindle, from Amazon Books. CLICK HERE.

An Aircrew View of 9/11

Posted in 9/11, air travel, airline industry, airline novel, airline passenger, airline pilot, aviation, flight, flight attendant, flight crew, travel, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , on September 9, 2020 by Chris Manno

We never forget, those of us who were airline pilots and flight attendants on that awful September day. Since then, we’ve added to our aircrew ranks a whole new generation of pilots and flight attendants who were just kids when the twin towers fell. And yet, they are part of the aircrew tradition, inner circle, and the sacred trust to never, ever forget.

Here’s what that cataclysm looked like from the crew view on that day. Those who were crewmembers will remember, those who are new crew will live it in a way like no others, because this is their realm and their legacy to carry forward. And those who aren’t in the crew ranks, well, here’s what that fateful day was like.

From Air Crew Confidential: The Unauthorized Airline Chronicles, the new release from Dark Horse Books:

_______________________________________________________________________

Fallen

            “Why?”

            “Yes, why,” Mandy repeated into the handset. She hoped she didn’t sound peeved, but she was. “Why are we descending?”

            And descending fast, barely fifteen minutes after climbing and leveling off at cruise altitude.

            “Why,” the first officer repeated, then she overheard the captain talking in the background. “We’re not exactly …”

            More garbled cross-cockpit talk that she couldn’t make out. But it sounded urgent. We’re not exactly sure? How are the pilots flying the plane “not sure” why we’re descending?

            Gary poked his head out of the forward galley curtains, hands upraised as if to echo her own what the fuck? Mandy searched his eyes but couldn’t decipher the fine line between annoyed and concerned. But Gary wasn’t smiling.

            “Look,” the first officer said at last. “We’re pretty busy. We’ll call you back when we can.”

            The interphone went dead. The engine roar rumbled back to a whisper and the nose dipped lower. The seatbelt sign chimed on.

            “Your guess is as good as mine,” Gary commented quietly in passing. He checked the seatbelt and passengers in First Class as Mandy made her way down the long aisle to do the same in coach.

            There was at least another two hours of flying time left. Descending? Why? What don’t we know? What don’t they know?

            “Miss,” a passenger held up his hand like a kid in a classroom as she passed. “Why are we going lower?”

            She made her face blank..

“Oh, just routine,” she lied, now wavering herself on the razor’s edge between annoyance and concern. “Fasten your seatbelt, please.”

She scooted aft before he could ask another question. Turbulence rocked the jet. A couple passengers let loose an “oh!” and one cursed.

Darcy met her in the aft galley.

“This is weird,” she said.

Mandy nodded.

“I called up front. He said they’re busy, will call back.”

            The P.A. crackled. Background noise from the cockpit filled the speakers, scratchy, distant.

            “Ah, folks, from the cockpit …”

            Just spit it out, Bill. Or Bob, whatever name applied to the interchangeable pilot man in the left seat. They were terrible at ad-libbing announcements. The P.A. went dead.

            Mandy crossed the line back to annoyance. Come on, guys, give us some idea of what we’re doing. The cabin interphone chimed.

            Darcy grabbed the handset just a nanosecond before Mandy could reach for it. The rudder fishtailed and the rear of the plane swayed.

            The groan of hydraulic motors driving the slats forward and down from the wing leading edge shook the cabin.

            “He says we’re in a holding pattern,” Darcy said at last. “Landing at Billings, Montana.”

            What? Why, Mandy wanted to ask but held her peace. Why Billings, and why holding for Billings? There couldn’t be more than two aircraft inbound to that Podunk in an entire hour. 

            “Okay,” Darcy said. “You’re sure?”

            Sure about what? Mandy sighed. She’d actually dialed Crew Sked that morning, but decided to save the sick call for the baby shower Saturday instead. Now she wished—

            “He says Air Traffic Control has ordered all aircraft to land immediately,” Darcy said quietly. The aircraft slowed and the deck became level again.

            “What? Seriously? Why.”

            “He didn’t say.”

            “Ah folks,” the P. A. rasped from the overhead speakers, “This is the captain again …”

            Just talk, she wanted to scream. And never mind ‘this is the captain;’ don’t you have a name? Aren’t you ‘Captain Smith,’ or Jones or Miller or whatever no-name name pilots always have?

            “We’re diverting into Billings, Montana, because …”

            Now they’d go illegal for sure, run out of crew duty time, and be shipwrecked in Billings-effing-Montana. Should have just stretched the sick call through Saturday and—

            “… because the FAA has ordered all aircraft to land due to some sort of national emergency.”

            What? Call lights began to chime in the cabin.

            “…. Ah, we don’t have any more information than that at this point in time …”

            A hydraulic pump whined again. The aircraft floor seemed to buoy upwards. Flaps. And glancing out the window, ground details spelled out ‘we’re pretty close to landing.’

            “We’ll have more info for you as soon as we get on the ground. Flight attendants, prepare for landing.”

            That’s it? What the actual frig was going on? She turned to Darcy whose eyes were wider than she’d ever seen on a human. The air grew warm and stuffy, probably because the first officer hadn’t pre-cooled the cabin for the unplanned descent.

            “Fourteen-F” Darcy said carefully, her voice quavering. “Got a cellphone signal. He’s says there’s been a terrorist attack on New York City.”

            Two plus two, Mandy thought; national emergency, terrorist attack. But where do airliners fit in? She set the thought aside and did a final cabin walk-through. The scowling air noise doubled in strength, then the main gear thumped into place with a thud that shook the floor beneath her feet. They were very, very low. Her cellphone buzzed in her pocket.

            “At least two flights hijacked. Are you okay? –Dad.”

            The blood drained from her head. Attack? New York? Hijacked? She plopped down on the jumpseat next to Darcy and strapped in. She handed Darcy the cell phone, flipped open like the wide jaws of a faceless joker. A faceless, heartless joker. Darcy covered her mouth and closed her eyes.

            Fight it, Mandy urged herself. You’re looking at this through a straw, seeing only a tiny bit of the picture. Classmates all flying today too—what if? If you’re going to predict the future, at least make it something good. Kerry’s based in New York now; Samantha just transferred to Boston.

            The interphone chimed and Mandy snatched the handset from the cradle.

            “Mandy in back,” the words floated out of her mouth on their own, out of habit only, her mind flying fifty miles ahead of her heart, threatening to implode. What if?

            “My partner says we lost one of ours,” Gary said. “Into the World Trade Center.”

            She dropped the phone. Darcy picked it up and replaced it on the aft console, then stared at Mandy. She shook her head, covered her eyes.

            Rolling, turning, more flaps; tears—no, stop that. Later, maybe later. Avoid the eyes looking backwards, the passengers wired like copper, conducting an electrical current of worry and concern over fragments of details discovered as cell towers answered when the airspeed slowed.

            We lost two of ours. Into the World Trade Center.

            A molten core, boiling tears of fear and knowing sadness, threatened but Mandy kept the lid on. There was a job to do, procedures to walk through, and things to disarm and stow and check and report and not think, please god not think but just do.

            Into the World Trade Center.

            They taxied in forever, it seemed. For heaven’s sake, the airport wasn’t that big! She peered out the round exit porthole and a line of jet tails stretched to the edge of the runway—five, six? He couldn’t count them all.

            “Boston,” Darcy said, holding up her phone. “CNN says it was our Boston flight.

            And Mandy knew, just knew. The she could not forget what she’d learned from Aunt Coreen after her cousin had taken his own life.

            “There’s that second or two,” Aunt Coreen had said, “When I wake up. Just a few heartbeats, really, when I don’t yet remember what happened, that he’s gone.”

            These, Mandy decided, were those seconds, heartbeats. She didn’t quite know yet. And she didn’t want to wake up, not to the loss, the grief, the fear and pain.

            And the certain knowledge that nothing would ever be the same again. More taxiing, turning, creeping, slow. Still moving. The certain knowledge that there was pain and loss, and it wouldn’t go away. Ever.

            Darcy took her hand and squeezed. Mandy squeezed back and savored the last few moments of peace before she’d actually have to know, to own, and never forget.

Copyright 2020 All Rights Reserved

From Aircrew Confidential: The Unauthorized Airline Chronicles

Available soon in paperback and Kindle (pre-order HERE).

What DIDN’T Make It Into “An Airline Pilot’s Life?” This.

Posted in airlines with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on September 2, 2020 by Chris Manno

When it comes to crew life, outsiders want the dirt, the real lowdown, and they ask me at times, “What was too sensitive for you to include in An Airline Pilot’s Life?” My answer is always, a lot.

Too many others could get hurt and as bad, this: some stuff is insider knowledge outsiders probably don’t need to know. Well, I found a way to share it anyway:

cvr ac2 r 2 - A

Here are the nitty-gritty, incredible, crazy, hilarious and often sad, all at once, insider stories from the airline world. There’s some extreme behavior; there’s some misbehavior. In fact, there’s some extreme misbehavior, in these stories.

I hesitate to share them.  Too sensitive? Too intimate? The tough stuff is going on right now: furlough notices. What’s that like? See for yourself. Below is a story from the collection that will let you witness the very insider view of that tragic reality. But that makes me cringe: so many fellow crewmembers, folks I’ve flown with and care about, are getting the bad news.

That’s why, when I retired in May after thirty-five years at American Airlines, I passed on the proffered final flight water canon salute. I just couldn’t, wouldn’t, didn’t; not when so many others are facing loss of their flying job, income, security and their very profession.

See why this collection makes me worry? For now, though, I’ll give it a try.

The collection is available for Kindle pre-order, assuming I have the fortitude to go ahead with the publication. Both paperback and Kindle formats are slated for release by Dark Horse Books on October 1. I’m not sure how long I’ll let the publication run, to be honest. It makes me uncomfortable, which is why I didn’t include these incendiary tales in An Airline Pilot’s Life.

a2pl cvr w award and mat

Named “Best Non-Fiction of 2020” by the N. Texas Book Festival.

Well, let’s give it a try. Here’s some of the heartache that’s going on now, behind the galley curtain. A sneak preview from Aircrew Confidential.

_______________________________________________________________

crew silhouette 2 001 (3)_LI

Furlough Letter

Stacy bound her pony tail in a twisty-tie, then grabbed her stacked bags again and rolled toward her departure gate. She looked good, she knew, especially compared to some of the older, more senior flight attendants who didn’t seem to care how they looked.

It wasn’t a bad thing, she decided, that heads turned, male heads, sometimes young and good-looking male heads, when she walked into a boarding area. That was probably something the senior mamas noticed, even if they never acknowledged the fact.

The gate agent scanned her ID card, then pulled open the locked jetbridge door.

“I’m sending them down in ten,” she said without looking back at Stacy. She strode down the sloping jetbridge, bags in tow, already starting to swelter in the layers of polyester uniform in the stale-smelling jet bridge.

“I’m Stacy,” she said as she stepped through the forward entry door. “Number four.”

“Kimmie,” the older woman said. “Number one. Shirley normally flies four on this.”

“Oh,” Stacy answered, smooth and cool. Why did that matter, that ‘Shirley,’ whoever she was, usually flew number four?

“I guess she called in sick,” Stacy said and smiled sweetly.

“Well no,” Kimmie answered. “Thursdays she has Bunco so she just drops. Never fails.”

Hobbyist, Stacy grumped to herself. Drop a trip, lose the pay, but for those married to a doctor or lawyer or such, that mattered little. My husband lets me fly forty hours, one hobbyist told her. I have to get away from the kids.

She was already in a foul mood and the thought of more elitism, especially since Stacy herself counted every paid flight hour towards her own rent, began to annoy her. She dragged her bags down the aisle and stowed them near the aft galley. Now is the time, she decided, to put this all out of your mind. And yet, the letter poked out of her tote bag as she forced the overhead bin shut.

The letter. The damn letter.

No, she decided again, this time more firmly. Not going to let it end like this. That thought, of course, sprouted green shoots of memory only recently planted. Those she could allow herself.

A year and ten months ago, on the stairs of the Charm Farm, all of them in descending order, uniforms fresh, the sign board proclaiming their class number and graduation date.

What a hodge-podge they were: the oldest guy was a retired cop; several school teachers, giving up the daily grind; many, like Stacy herself, fresh of a series of post-college marketing “positions;” just all manner of young and old, or at least older, but all of them survivors of the attrition rate she figured was built into the flight attendant training program.

Within a day, within hours, really, they were scattered to the four winds, to crew bases on both coasts, plus Chicago. Then the first few quit in their first months at their crew base. That wasn’t hard to figure: Stacy herself felt like quitting when she’d arrived at O’Hare on Christmas Eve with two suitcases and the one box the airline had shipped for her. And that was it.

“Stacy,” Kimmie’s voice cut into Stacy’s thoughts. “We’re still checking emergency equipment, if the agents call.”

Not that Stacy wanted to rush boarding, but the fact was, Kimmie and company were basically lounging in First Class, not checking anything. Her phone buzzed.

Our FO is wearing cowboy boots with his uniform, the text read. Stacy sighed, then tapped away with both thumbs.

Probably a cheesy ‘stache and a teeny wienie. She hit send. Then she added, my granny crew is sitting on their fat asses in First.

Where was Laurie? Stacy couldn’t remember. Detroit turn? Stacy had a hard time remembering her own schedule, or even the day of the week, much less her roommate’s schedule.

“I’m Delores,” a portly flight attendant wearing gardening gloves said. She resumed hammering cubed ice that had clumped together on the catering truck.

“Stacy,” she replied and raised a hand to wave, but Delores had already ducked back into the forward galley. The cabin smelled stale, and little air circulated.

He keeps trying to get me to go to lunch with him sometime Laurie texted. Says I’ll like his Porsche.

Loser, Stacy texted back. She checked the emergency equipment in the forward overhead bin. The phone rang on the jetbridge and Stacy pictured the disheveled, harried agent who hadn’t met her eyes on the jetbridge.

“Don’t answer that,” Kimmie ordered, comfortably curled up in a First Class seat.

Yes ma’am, Stacy said in her head, then tried to figure out why that rankled so much. Being told what to do? Being ordered to join the old ladies malingering, delaying boarding?

The fact was, she too was in no rush to start the tedious parade of passenger demands, confusion, clumsiness with luggage and the impossibly slow process of finding a seat then actually sitting down. But she didn’t like being discounted, being told by parent-ish Kimmie and her cronies what to do as if she were a child.

“So,” Kimmie continued to her partners also on their duffs in First, “Everyone knows Shirley and I own 19 to London. It’s our bid.”

Granny thinks she owns the early London flight, Stacy tapped out on her phone. Bitches. She’s been sent out on that flight as a reserve more than once. While some of the crews were welcoming, too many “air bags” like Kimmie felt compelled to assert their “ownership” of a flight by virtue of their seniority rather than anything related to skill or merit.

The fact was, passengers clearly preferred the younger, prettier and more energetic younger male and female flight attendants to the waddling, plodding and as was the case right there in First, hiding flight attendants.

The agented clomped through the door, huffed a sigh, then pointed to Kimmie.

“We’re boarding,” she announced, then turned on her heel and walked up the jetbridge again.

“We used to board a full DC-10 in twenty minutes,” Kimmie called after her, mostly for effect, Stacy figured, or maybe for Stacy herself. That rankled too. She headed for the back of the plane.

Stacy took her place in the aisle for the mind-numbing slow shuffle of boarding which, she grudgingly had to admit silently, really did seem endless.

As the jet trundled to the runway, Stacy sway-walked to compensate for the nose-weaving taxi motion with the practiced grace of one who’d had a few years of doing it, of pouring scalding coffee flawlessly in a bouncing cabin, and reassuring nauseated passengers in turbulence that her own stomach had long since accommodated.

In cruise, Kimmie faced the inevitable.

“Let’s get this over with,” she said. She released the brake on a service cart and yanked from the galley.

Stacy positioned herself at the forward end of the cart, facing aft, popping open soft drinks, twisting caps off of liquor minis and wine splits, pouring, then handing things over to Kimmie who passed out the drinks and snacks.

The older woman had a strange, obsequious, automaton manner about her, as if she was there as a paper cutout, speaking with care but her eyes vacant, elsewhere, just sleepwalking through the service.

Fine, Stacy decided. Passengers, too, were barely there. More engrossed in layers of technology from ear buds to games and movies, hardly noticing her and requiring a second or third inquiry: something to drink? Snack?

It never ended. What? Something to drink? Would you like to purchase an on-board snack … credit or debit only … something to drink?

Kick the cart’s toe brake, pull forward a few rows, park the toe brake. Something to drink? A snack? Credit or debit.

She fell into the mind-numbing mantra, ask, pop a top, pour, tap the brake, pull. Finally, she helped Kimmie drag the cart back into the galley, shove it into its slot then flip the latch. At last, she plopped down on the jumpseat, exhausted more from the noisy hotel and crappy night’s sleep than from the mind-numbing cart mantra, up then back down the aisle.

She pulled a People magazine from her tote bag and dropped it in her lap, then leaned her head back just so against the bulkhead at the perfect angle that let her glimpse the round porthole in the emergency exit even while her head rested against the aft bulkhead.

Framed by the circular window, a tapestry of raggedy mountains glided noiselessly by below and disappeared behind. She gave in to the gently swaying yaw of the jet, always more pronounced in the very aft end, and let it lull and rock her like a cradle. The drone of the engines, the whoosh of conditioned air, and the ever-changing tapestry smoothly, silently scrolling by below mesmerized her into that half-sleep of conscious twilight, dreamy, awake but not really.

A highway like a tiny vein slipped by and sun glinted off speck-like semi-trucks lumbering below, antlike, earthbound. A flash of sunlight glinted off of filament-like railroad tracks and moments later, like a black marker streak, a freight train like a miniature eraser blotted the sunlight and crept ever so slowly west on the rails.

It was a footless, god’s-eye view, exclusive, omniscient, above and beyond at incredible speed and height. That was hers, her secret view, her superpower, soaring above.

“She will fly,” Aunt Millie said, holding a ladybug on her fingertip.

“How,” seven-year-old Stacy asked her, squinting in the sunshine and floating dust motes in the side porch. “How will she fly?”

“Well,” Aunt Millie said, a modest smile nonetheless crinkling the crow’s feet near both eyes, “She knows how. May not look like it, but she will.”

The ladybug seemed more like a cute button, a perfect little toy, even a candy, but certainly just a bug. Fly? How?

Then just like that, the candy-like red panels on the ladybug’s back flexed up and out in unison and after a heartbeat, she rose in a blur and darted out the open window then up into the sunlight.

“Just like that,” Aunt Millie said. “She knew how, and she knew just when.”

That was amazing. How could a bitty bug just know, both how and when? And she will fly. She just knew, she repeated to herself, trying the thought on like a soft new sweater. It fit. Somehow, it just felt right. Not the how and when exactly, but.

“I will fly,” Stacy announced, then nodded her head for emphasis.

“Will you, my dear?”

She nodded again, as if to say, that’s final. Millie smiled, stood, then kissed her on the forehead.

“Well, my girl, I do believe you will.”

“Flight attendants,” the PA blared and her half-dream fled like a candle blown out, “Prepare for landing.”

Those were the words a flight attendant lived for. Landing, taxi-in, then time off. She stood and shook the cobwebs from her head. Then she swept past the galley curtains and walked through the cabin, checking for seats fully upright and passengers belted.

As they taxied in, Stacy’s phone buzzed to life and she glanced down at it, cupped in both hands as if it were a precious metal or a family bible. She wanted to look, but she wanted not to. Laurie.

Stacy dug in her tote bag for the letter, for her relative seniority position. Pointless, she knew, but like dawn on death row, she hoped that maybe the meaning had changed or perhaps she’d misread it. But since Laurie had landed an hour ago, she’d know the truth. She’d heard the announcement from the union. And the dream was alive, at least until it wasn’t.

We’re both gone, the text read. Furloughed. The standard WARN letter had been sent out, a verdict read but no sentence carried out. This was it. Gone.

She crumpled the letter and tossed it on the floor. Shit. What do I do now? She thought back to the cloud-flecked blue sky, the scalded ochres of Utah giving way to the big-shouldered Rockies below, all below her, gone. She too, like her sky, just gone.

After everyone had deplaned, the tears came, but she didn’t care. Kimmie looked into her eyes like her mother used to do, knowing, but not saying anything.

Finally, Kimmie sighed.

“I’m so sorry, hon. I heard.”

Stacy nodded but said nothing. Yes, she knew, but with her seniority, Kimmie still had her job. And her sky, and her super power and the sun and clouds and escape and freedom and what did she know—

“Hon,” she said. “I know. This is my third airline.”

Delores put a puffy arm around Stacy’s shoulders. “My second. First one liquidated. No recall.”

“I waited tables,” Kimmie continued. “I just had faith I’d be back. Then we got recalled but a year later, we lost all our seniority in a merger and I was out on the street for five more years.”

“That’s awful,” Stacy said, and all at once, she meant it.

“And now,” Delores added, “After these furloughs take effect, we’ll be flying bottom reserve even though we have nearly thirty-years of seniority.”

Kimmie laughed, and patted Stacy on the back. “Not sure how these granny bones are going to handle that.”

There was everything good about being a flight attendant and of course, everything bad. But this, this, the worst of the worst and a loss. All around, for granny bones and young girls who believed in the magic of ladybugs and flight.

“You’ll be back, hon,” Kimmie said as they parted ways at the jetbridge door. “You take care, meantime.”

“You too,” Stacy said with a nod and a pat on Kimmie’s forearm. “And yes: I will fly.”

Kimmie nodded, and smiled so hard the crow’s feet crinkled at both eyes.

“Well, my dear,” she said at last. “I do believe you will.”

Stacy turned, squared her shoulders, held her chin high, a went on her way.

crew silhouette 2 001 (3)_LI

________________________________________________________________

Well, what do you think? Too much, too “insider?” Let me know.

And pre-order here from Amazon Books, if you want.  You’ll get a copy on October 1.

I can’t promise how long I’ll keep it for sale after that.

circle-cropped B

An Airline Pilot’s Life named “Best Non-Fiction 2020.”

Posted in action-adventure, air travel, airline, airline novel, airline passenger, airline pilot, book review, books, reading with tags , , , , , , , , , on August 29, 2020 by Chris Manno

a2pl cvr w award and mat

Amazon #1 New Release An Airline Pilot’s Life was named “Best Adult Non-Fiction of 2020” by the N. Texas Book Festival.

Book sales continue to surge as readers discover the opportunity to live firsthand the in-cockpit experience of flying a military jet, then a three-decades-long airline pilot career, most of it in the captain’s seat. “An Airline Pilot’s Life is the real deal,” says Literary Review.

Grab your copy, paperback or Kindle, from Amazon Books.

Just CLICK HERE.

Then, strap in, and let the dream take flight.

C52260C9-4626-40A8-AFD8-7F7A8DFA0741

Do Pilots and Flight Attendants Hook Up?

Posted in air travel, airline, airline cartoon, airline pilot, airline pilot blog, flight attendant, flight crew, pilot with tags , , , , , , on July 2, 2020 by Chris Manno

A2PL new cvr F - Amazon blurb w border

The simple answer is, yes … and no. Here’s the full story.

First crewlife is different from the average work life, for a couple reasons. First, when crews show up “at work,” the first thing they do is scatter to the four winds. No boss, no supervision, no oversight–gone. I always liked that aspect of my job as an airline pilot, especially as a captain: there’s no “boss”–except maybe me as captain–but rather, just a job to do. That job is flying, something we like to do.

selfie cockpit 2

When we as crew are out on the road, most of the logistics that the biz or leisure traveler need to worry about are taken care of: transportation, hotels, airport access. So, in theory, there’s the potential for some social interaction.

In “the good old days,” pilots and flight attendants were “paired” for an entire sequence, meaning, the cockpit crew and the cabin crew were scheduled for the same flights and the same layovers, sometimes for the whole month.  If there was time an opportunity–say, the long Cabo layover, with open bar included in the hotel stay–there could be some partying going on.

We used to say on the Fokker, which had a crew consisting of two pilots and two flight attendants, that every trip was a double-date. In fact, on my F-100 captain checkout trip, I met a flight attendant who I dated for much of the next year.

F-100 in flight pic

The F-100: “Every trip was a double-date.”

That ended when I met another flight attendant on another F-100 trip and in less than two weeks, we decided we should be married. And we have been married for the past twenty-five years. I detail this story, plus many other pretty extreme pilot and flight attendant connections, here.

But truth be told, we’re the exception to the rule. While there are many pilot and flight attendant couples, and many flight attendants married or committed to other flight attendants, and many pilots with the same connections with other pilots, several factors have made those connections less likely.

air prayer crew 001

First, the crewlife workday ain’t what it used to be: work hours are longer, layovers are shorter, and hotels are of lesser quality and the locations seldom in choice areas any more.

Plus, a few years back, the FAA instituted new crew rest requirements for pilots, but there are no such federally mandated rest requirements for flight attendants–a travesty in itself, but that’s another story. The end result has been that often, pilots and flight attendants stay at different hotels or even if they’re at the same property, the flight attendants are headed back to the airport after a shorter–typically inadequate–rest break.

Flight attendants are worn out from such brutal scheduling with too little rest. That kind of kills the social prospects of any layover situation. But there’s more.

Flight attendants tend to be outgoing, confident, adept at handling any situation, self-assured and practiced in the social arts from calming a passenger storm on board to leading their own lives with confidence and independence.

air pilot layover hotel 001_LI

Pilots tend more towards the nerdish, narrow-thinking, dogmatic way of seeing the world. It’s kind of the opposite pole of the typical flight attendant personality. Pilots land toward the control-freak end of the personality bell curve and many are insecure with a strong-minded, independent partner.

If a pilot can handle the typical flight attendant confidence and grace–and really, who wouldn’t?–the results can be a lifetime partnership:

us F-100 door 001 (2)

But then, there are also so epic train wrecks, and I detail them both, success and spectacular failure, in vivid, real-life case files in An Airline Pilot’s Life. Read it, and you’ll have a pretty clear picture of what exactly goes on between pilots and flight attendants.

From Amazon Books, Kindle ($5.19) or paperback ($17.99).

Just CLICK HERE.

amazon screen grab a2pl

 

%d bloggers like this: