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:

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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:

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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

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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.

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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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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:

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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.

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Freefall and Pictures

Posted in action-adventure, air travel, airline, airline pilot, airline pilot blog, flight, flight attendant, flight crew, flight training with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on June 23, 2020 by Chris Manno

Maybe you’ve heard of Amazon’s #1 New Release in Commercial Aviation, An Airline Pilot’s Life.  The true story starts with a step into nothingness 2,000 feet above the hard-packed clay of Southwest Virginia. Then, the parachute fails. Here’s the pic–and the story–plus a few more photos from this fast-selling new book.

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Last one into the jump plane, because I’m going to be the first one out. Then, all hell breaks loose.

From An Airline Pilot’s Life:

Chapter 1

Nothing but a furious blue sky above, laced on top with a wispy cirrus deck like a delicate veil. Below, the earth screamed up at nearly terminal velocity and the jump plane was nowhere to be seen. Fine.

“Hop and pop,” it’s called: fling yourself out the open aircraft door two thousand, maybe twenty-five hundred feet above the ground if the jump plane pilot’s feeling generous, then plunge. I only paid for two thousand feet, but I’d hoped for a bit more.

One fist on my helmet, drawn in as my ripcord hand goes for the handle, so as not to flip myself over from the imbalance. Grab, pull, wait.

Nada.

The rumply-fluttery sound of the main chute dragged out by the smaller drogue flapping upward in the slipstream, but no reassuring, nut-crunching harness tug of full deployment. Okay, arch your neck, look up.

Shit.

The sleeve’s still on the main chute and it’s wagging like a big streamer yards above my head. The sleeve covers, reefs, the main chute. Ain’t opening. I shake the risers like a stagecoach driver urging on a team of horses, trying to shake loose the sleeve, to let the main parachute blossom full and wide but no.

My frantic attempt to clear the streamer has eaten up precious time, too much time. I’d “cut away,” release my tangled main and go for my reserve chute, but I’ve spent too many valuable seconds trying to clear the tangled main. The reserve chute will need at least five hundred feet to blossom full enough to arrest my plunge. I can see cows below, coming into distinct focus, as the ground rises to meet me. That’s bad.

I’d had no money for flying lessons, paying my own way through college, so that was way out of my budget. But skydiving was a fraction of the cost. Bought a used chute, took a few lessons—just get me into the sky and I’ll find my own way down.

Like right now. The voice of calm logic in my head annoys the panicked side of my brain with the salient fact that well, with a streamer, you won’t achieve terminal velocity because of the tangled chute’s drag, so you’ll only hit the packed dirt at ninety, maybe ninety-five miles an hour.

The mortal side of me, the soft pink flesh and blood humanism that doesn’t want to impact the dirt clod strewn pasture land at ninety miles an hour begins to perceive the red lip of terror, but there’s more to be done. I clutch my reserve chute tight with my left arm, then pull and toss away the reserve ripcord.

Both the relentlessly rational side of me and the human side feeling the growing alarm of near death unite in the methodical, careful last-ditch effort: grab the reserve with both hands and throw it downward as hard as you can. Hope and pray the reserve chute catches air and inflates on the way up rather than tangling with the snagged main chute flapping away above.

I give it a heave downward with all I’ve got. I mash my eyes shut, not wanting to see the results. I’ll know soon enough, whether the chutes tangled together and assured my death within seconds, or if I’d beat the odds and have the reserve chute blossom and displace tangled main. Or not.

The calm, unrelenting voice of reason, always there no matter what, had the last words: you really didn’t have jump out of a perfectly good airplane.

Way to go, dumbass.

Copyright 2020 Chris Manno All Rights Reserved

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The rest of the story? It’s all here:

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For paperback or Kindle, CLICK HERE.

And …. more pictures from the true story.

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USAF Pilot Training in Lubbock Texas. We had a blast–the stories are in the book–and here are the real-life people from the story: me on the left, The Coke standing next to me, and Animal Hauser above us both.

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The Wolfpack, above. That’s me with my flight suit unzipped, Chip leaning on my shoulder, and Animal Hauser leaning in front of me. Lot’s of adventures with this bunch, and the book puts you in the cockpit with us.

Then, I shipped off to Kadena Air Base on the Island of Okinawa as a tanker copilot for two years of flying all over the Pacific, Asia and the Indian Ocean. Below, that’s me and Widetrack, a guy I flew with and shared some pretty wild times–which are also in the book.

Me and Widetrack, waiting on the wing of our jet.

Me and Widetrack, waiting on the wing of our jet.

Those were the early years, my Air Force experience which led me to a career as an airline pilot, which is also covered, putting you in the cockpit of the world’s largest airline. Here’s a sneak peek:

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Animal, Chip, me, and The Coke. The story of our journey from USAF pilot training to captain’s stripes is epic, and the details are what comprises Amazon’s #1 New Release in Commercial Aviation.:

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Kindle ($5.19) or Paperback ($17.99) Just CLICK HERE.

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“Mamas Don’t Let Your Babies Grow up to Be Pilots.”

Posted in air travel, airline, airline cartoon, airline pilot blog, airport, aviation, crewlife, pilot with tags , , , , , on June 18, 2020 by Chris Manno

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I doubt Willie and Waylon couldn’t pass an FAA administered flight crew drug test, and their “mamas” knew that, the song notwithstanding. But what about the rest of us?

Sure, airline pilots realize the challenges and constraints put on them by the profession, including constant flight evaluations, performance monitoring (any other profession data-stream and archive performance for analysis and critique?), invasion of privacy (any other professions require annual disclosure of  physicals, mental health, arrests and convictions?) and recurring random drug and alcohol testing.

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Enter Covid-19. which dwarfs the above career threats we’ve all accepted, endured and tolerated up until now.

Rewind just six months in the U.S airline industry and the picture was much different: the mid-1980s hires, pilots who are now nearing mandatory retirement (another unique airline pilot reality) which would create a massive pilot shortage across the airline industry. “If you get hired today,” the siren song went, “You’ll be a captain in five years.” Massive seniority catapult, the retirements were supposed to be.

Pilots at regionals felt they could be picky about which major airline they hire on with: I have a friend who flew for Comair for over ten years, waiting and adamant about only working for Delta Airlines eventually. After three years at Delta–when he could have gone to several other carriers years earlier–he’s now on the street for at least three years.

Another friend at Emirates reports their pandemic-mandated pilot cuts weren’t done strictly by seniority–rather, management took the opportunity to boot dozens of pilots with attendance records and other personnel issues the airline didn’t want to deal with ever again. Not furloughed–terminated.

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And many snooty pilots shunned the quiet financial dynamos like Spirit, Frontier and JetBlue, holding out for a marquee carrier like United, Delta and American, only to witness their peers who DID hire on with these powerful Low Cost Carriers upgrade to captain and enjoy a job security despite the pilot cuts (some are still hiring pilots) even as the “snooty pilots” are furloughed by their own carriers, with recall nowhere in sight.

No matter who they are or where they came from–the military, regionals, corporate, cargo or general aviation–all airline pilots have taken a beating, weathered harsh early flying jobs, invested unimaginable sweat equity, personal sacrifice, and expense, just to call an airline cockpit home. Now this.

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Me and my USAF pilot buds.

Ex-military pilots who maintained an ANG or AFRES connection may be able to get back onto active military service once again, but even that’s with drastically reduced pay and much more demanding flying in terms of time away from home and family, much less the risk involved in military versus civilian flying. Other may be able to make their “side hustle”–if they have one, into a financial lifeboat for the near term.

Yes, pilots laughed at me when I fought my way through 65 on-campus graduate hours to earn a PhD as they enjoyed their boat/motorcycle/airplane/toys, but I’ve been teaching at a university for the past 17 years and just upped my class schedule, mostly for the additional income.

I know several pilots who struggled through law school while flying fulltime and at least now have gainful employment despite the dried-up aviation opportunities. Others have real estate licenses, teaching credentials and I even know one first officer who’s on track with a management training program at a major box store chain. Not what we expected, but smart because it pays the bills.

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But it all comes down to this: if you want to be an airline pilot, beyond the many unreasonable demands of the industry and the government agencies that oversee the licenses required to hold the flight privileges, the fundamentals of personal and financial disaster lurk just below the thin veneer of airline pilot reality: flying is a great career–until the career vanishes.

I’m rooting for the pilots still clinging to their seniority lists despite reduced flight hours and the defacto pay cut that produces. I’m hopeful for the smart pilots who had the foresight to hire on with the Low Cost Carriers who are poised to dominate the airline biz in the post-pandemic years ahead. And I’m empathetic to those pilots who were simply victims of a very capricious airline industry, despite the rosy predictions of only a few months ago.

For everyone else: “Mamas, don’t let your babies grow up to be pilots.”

Get the full, insider airline pilot story:

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Amazon’s #1 New Release in Commercial Aviation! All the insider, in-cockpit drama of a major airline flying life.

Paperback or Kindle, just CLICK HERE.

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An Airline Pilot’s Life: Windshear Flashback.

Posted in air travel, airline industry, airline passenger, airline pilot, airline pilot blog, aviation, wind shear with tags , , , , , , on June 11, 2020 by Chris Manno

Not every airline adventure–or misadventure–made it into An Airline Pilot’s Life, if only for the sake of controlling the page count. You can read an excerpt from the book that puts you in the DC-10 cockpit for my first copilot landing at LaGuardia in this month’s Airways Magazine.

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Meanwhile, here’s an incident where we tangled with windshear on approach to Raleigh-Durham Airport and to be honest, I wasn’t sure we’d successfully escape. Read on:

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The weather at Raleigh was iffy, with thunderstorms moving from east to west, towering cumulus that ranged in height between twenty-five and thirty thousand feet. That, in the context of airline operations, was simply North Carolina in the summertime.

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The MD-80 cockpit felt crowded with three of us crammed into the small compartment in the pointy end. It wasn’t unusual to have a jumpseater but for some reason, the space that day seemed too small. But, the back of the jet was equally crammed with all 142 passenger seats full, so the extra pilot on the jumpseat, who was actually an FO I’d enjoyed flying with in the past, was a reality so he could join some buddies in Raleigh for a golf outing.

Enroute, my excellent, experienced, retired Air Force FO requested the Raleigh-Durham Airport weather. That flight segment always seemed quick to me, maybe because I was more accustomed to the longer Seattle or Boston legs out of DFW, so I was glad he’d gotten an early start on the weather.

“The airfield is clear,” he said, and handed me the weather that our onboard printer had spit out. I glanced at it with my non-engineer’s pilot eyes: Instinct mattered as much as data, to me. I looked for the big picture, the hidden details, like what signs are there foretelling what’s to come. Pressure falling rapidly, towering cumulus northeast. Yeah, the airfield’s clear—but. Something felt wrong.

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“Let’s plan flaps 28,” I said, which doesn’t sound extraordinary: the MD-80 standard approach configuration was 28 degrees of flaps because it saved fuel. I didn’t hold with that, personally, having flown the MD-80 for twenty-plus years myself. There were less times when 28 was actually required than not, and I liked having the power up on approach because of the added drag of 40 flaps because it made for better go-around response under normal circumstances.

But “what wasn’t there,” what the weather report didn’t explicitly state, gave me pause: flaps 40 meant flaps 15 for go-around, which was extra drag we wouldn’t need if there was a hint of wind shear. Flaps 28 was less drag on the approach and since it would be paired with flaps 11 on the go-around, if we were to fly a go-around, which was also an extra margin of performance we might be glad we had. Layers of thinking and prevention, that’s all part of the captain’s job.

We started a long enroute descent straight into runway 05L. We’d briefed the approach as an ILS, my preference, even though the weather was currently VFR. I always prefer the precision approach and the missed approach, myself. That way, if we request the ILS, there’s no ambiguity about what we’ll do on the missed approach. So many pilots brief “Missed approach will be with the tower” which is really no brief at all. More importantly—and I often have to correct this—if you’re cleared to fly the ILS, you’re expected to fly the published missed approach, not “go with the tower.”

Ahead to the east of the field, the sky darkened to a bruised blue and clouds stacked well into the stratosphere. We had a good radar paint ahead which showed just enough mileage between us and the storms to execute the missed approach if needed. The winds seemed steady off the nose, maybe even increasing slightly, which foretold the approaching gust front from the storms east of the field.

We never saw it coming: below a thousand feet, in clear air, with the runway in sight, we lost over twenty knots of airspeed instantly and began to sink. In a heartbeat, the WAGS (Windshear Alert And Guidance System) sprang to life, commanding a pitch-up and calling out “Windshear! Windshear!”

I kicked off the autothrottles and I was already hand-flying, so I aimed the nose towards fifteen degrees of pitch and firewalled the throttles. Still, we continued to sink, even at maximum thrust from both engines.

“Fifteen degrees,” my FO called out to cue me, “We’re still sinking, airspeed minus ten.”

I caught the five-hundred foot marker on the radio altimeter tape out of the corner of my eye. Shit. And we were still sinking.

We’d been ambushed: an outflow boundary from a thunderhead behind us had tossed us a huge tidal wave of tailwind. Slowly, gradually, we regained flying speed and crept skyward at barely two-hundred feet per minute. We cleaned up, executed the missed approach and as we did, we requested clearance direct to Norfolk. We cruised the twenty minutes to Norfolk in relative quiet.

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“You just never know,” I told my FO as we taxied in to a gate at Norfolk. He just nodded. We’d done everything correctly, but: you just never know. You’re vulnerable on approach, dirty, slow and low and I was just glad for my instinctive bias towards flaps 28, just based on a hunch.

The jumpseater actually deplaned in Norfolk—said he’d rent a car and drive back to Raleigh, even though we’d be returning there ourselves after refueling. About half of the passengers deplaned too, because I guess they’d all had enough flying for the day, especially with the closeup look at the dirt a few miles from the Raleigh runway.

Procedures, instinct and luck—a little bad luck and a lot of good—and we made it to Raleigh a few hours after the storm had passed. Sometimes, it’s just that way.

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Get the full story–read the true story that is Amazon’s #1 New Release in Commercial Aviation:

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From Amazon Books–just CLICK HERE.

Kindle ($5.19) — Paperback ($17.99)

 

“The Best Of” Airline Cartoons

Posted in air travel, air travel humor, air traveler, airline, airline cartoon, airline passenger, airline pilot, flight attendant, flight crew, passenger with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on June 2, 2020 by Chris Manno

Are you a pilot, flight attendant or passenger missing the good old air travel world that is only now creeping back from the screeching halt of demand that’s grounded most flights? Looking forward to getting back into the sky? Well, here’s a cartoon glimpse at what we’re all missing. Enjoy.

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Nowadays, people seem to judge others more than ever, questioning why anyone’s flying–ignoring the fact that they are too. And it even looks different today.

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The airport itself is open, but the concessions are mostly a ghost town.

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Crewmembers can expect enhanced security screening.

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Boarding is much less crowded.

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Inflight, it’s much the same as ever.

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The pandemic is a factor, but there are differences.

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After your flight, please remember:

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And know that your crew is waiting to welcome you back aboard.

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Want to get a firsthand, behind the scenes look at crew life? Here’s your chance to live the airline crew life:

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It’s Amazon Books’ #1 new release in Commercial Aviation: an insider, firsthand story of flying from years as an Air Force pilot, then into the cockpits of the world’s largest airline for over three decades of flying, most as captain, around the country and the world. You’ll live the cockpit experience firsthand, fly the trips, the aircraft, the approaches and more.

Get your copy from Amazon Books in Kindle or paperback format.

Just CLICK HERE.

 

 

MD-80 Flashback

Posted in airline, airline pilot, airline pilot blog, airlines, airport, aviation, crewlife, flight, flight attendant, flight crew, flight training, pilot, travel with tags , , , , , , , , , on May 28, 2020 by Chris Manno

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I flew the American Airlines’ MD-80s for over 20 years and more than 10,000 pilot hours. She was the mainstay of our fleet for a long time and generally speaking, it was a decent jet to fly.

My first actual flight as copilot is recorded in detail below. This is an excerpt from my true-life story, An Airline Pilot’s Life, which is holding at Amazon’s #1 New Release in commercial aviation. In this book I take you along in the cockpits of American Airlines’ DC-10s, MD-80s, F-100s and Boeing 737s. Every training program, every aircraft shakedown flight, and more, including my years as an instructor/evaluator pilot. How do the jet’s controls feel? What are the maneuvering characteristics? How is the engine response? Get firsthand, first-person answers.

Here’s a sample, letting you sit in the copilot’s seat on my first landing in the MD-80, with 142 passengers on board:

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“Localizer capture,” said Charles Clack, a Check Airman, from the left seat. Ahead, the lights of the Los Angeles basin sprawled like diamonds scattered across the blanket of night as we sank lower on our approach to Long Beach Airport.

Technically, I should have made that callout, being the pilot flying, as soon as our flight director system captured the navigational signal leading us to the runway. But that was why there was a Check Airman in the captain’s seat supervising my first landing—with 142 unknowing passengers aboard—in the MD-80.

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As is typically the case, I discovered the real aircraft flew better and different from the simulator, which had been my total experience “flying” the MD-80 up to that point. I had the jet trimmed up nicely and the winds were mild so she flew a steady, true course with little correction from me.

But the most important, exciting and rewarding point for me was, I was the pilot flying. That felt good, after almost two years sitting sideways at the DC-10 engineer’s panel. That had been an easy, decent gig, but this is what I was here for.

Fully configured with full flaps, the MD-80 autothrottles kept the EPR (Engine Pressure Ratio, pronounced “EEP-er”) fairly high, which was good: she flew more stable at a higher power setting with more drag. The MD-80 Operating Manual recommended flaps 28 for routine use because it saved fuel due to the reduced drag compared to flaps 40. But I learned from experience that the jet flew a better, tighter approach at the higher power setting and really, how much extra fuel was being burned from the final approach fix to touchdown anyway?

Fully configured with gear and flaps, I simply flew the long silver jet down the guy wire Major Wingo had told me about, from our vector altitude all the way to touchdown on the comparatively short Long Beach runway. The landing was firm but decent, although the nosewheel came down harder than I’d anticipated.

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“I should have reminded you about that,” Charles said later in the hotel van. “With flaps forty, the nose is heavy; so you have to ease it down.”

Still, nothing could dampen my elation at having flown my first takeoff and landing in a passenger jet at a major airline. With a full load of passengers on board. That was it—I was really an airline pilot at last. Cross another item off the dream come true list, I said to myself silently.

The first officer upgrade at the Schoolhouse had been a breeze for a couple reasons. First, the McDonnell-Douglas systems logic and flight guidance processes were much the same as those on the DC-10. I already understood “CLMP,” “IAS,” “VS” and all of the flight guidance modes and what they’d do because I’d been monitoring the DC-10 pilots’ processes and procedures for a couple years.

And, I was paired with Brian, a very smart, capable captain-upgrade pilot for the entire ground school and simulator programs. He was a Chicago-based pilot, quiet, serious, and very capable. He offered easygoing help and coaching, just as he’d do with his copilots up at O’Hare and I learned a lot from him. He’d be an excellent captain, I could already tell, and in fact, he became a Check Airman himself eventually.

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The MD-80 itself was a study in design contradictions. When Douglas Aircraft stretched the old DC-9 by adding two fuselage extensions, one forward of the wing root and one aft, they didn’t enlarge or beef up the wing at all. By contrast, when Boeing extended the 737 series, they’d enlarged and improved the wing. The MD-80 simply had higher wing loading, which is not an optimal situation from a pilot’s view. The lift was adequate, but certainly not ample, reducing the stall margin. While Boeing’s philosophy was “make new,” Douglas seemed to be simply “make do.”

The ailerons were unpowered, relying on the exact same sluggish flying tabs the old KC-135 tankers had. She was lethargic and clumsy in the roll axis and the actual control wheels in the cockpit were cartoonishly large to give pilots more leverage against the lethargic ailerons. To boost roll response at slower speeds, the wing spoilers were metered to the ailerons, which was a mixed blessing: they didn’t raise the left wing to reinforce a right turn; rather, they dropped the right wing with drag. In an engine failure situation, the last thing you needed was spoiler drag added to engine thrust loss in any maneuver. That was Douglas doing “make do,” as they had done with so many hastily added components on the DC-10.

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The instrument panel was chaotic, as if they’d just thrown in all the indicators and instruments they could think of and then slammed the door. That left the pilots to constantly sort out useful information and block out distracting nuisance warnings. Douglas made a stab at lightening the scan load on the pilots with an elaborate array of aural warnings, a voice known as “Bitching Betty” to pilots. They just weren’t sensitive enough to be useful, like yelling “landing gear” in certain situations where landing gear wasn’t needed, which gradually desensitized a pilot to the point where you’d reflexively screen out the distraction, which was good, but also the warning, which was bad.

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The most unbelievable bit of cockpit clumsiness was the HSI, or “Horizontal Situation Indicator,” the primary compass-driven course and heading indicator before each pilot. Mine on the copilot’s side was placed off-center and mostly behind the bulky control yoke. It was actually angled slightly to make it more visible to the captain, because his instrument display was also obstructed by his control yoke, an incredibly clumsy arrangement.

The ultimate design goofiness was the standby compass, which on most aircraft was located right above the glareshield between the pilots. Douglas engineers must have had a field day designing the MD-80 whiskey compass, locating it on the aft cockpit bulkhead above the copilot’s right shoulder. To use it, you had to flip up a folding mirror on the glareshield itself, aim and find the compass behind both pilots’ backs, then try to fly while referencing the compass in the tiny mirror.

The fuselage was long and thin, earning the jet the nickname “the Long Beach sewer pipe” because it had been built in Long Beach at the McDonnell-Douglas plant. Flight attendants called it the “Barbie Dream Jet” because it was almost toy-like compared to the other American Airlines narrow body jet, the 727.

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The problem with the increased fuselage length was that Douglas hadn’t enlarged the rudder at all on the stretched MD-80, so the rudder itself was fairly useless for heading changes or turn coordination. All it seemed to do was torque the fuselage and have little effect on the aircraft’s azimuth. Eventually, an MD-80 pilot learned to ignore the rudder pedals in the air, unless it was needed to control yaw during a thrust loss on either engine.

The aspect of having the engines mounted along the aircraft centerline was a good deal compared to wing mounted engines which incur more asymmetrical yaw in an engine failure and I appreciated that. The engines were so far back that you couldn’t hear an engine failure in the cockpit, so there were actually warning lights to alert pilots of a failure.

The JT8D engine response was forceful and the engines themselves were the Pratt and Whitney equivalent of the gutsy General Electric TF-33 fanjets we had on the EC-135 J at Hickam. Minus the roll heaviness and disregarding the cockpit design mess, I wasn’t about to let anything dampen my enthusiasm for line flying as a pilot at a major airline.

I’d waited long enough to bid first officer that I could actually hold a set schedule rather than an “on call” reserve pilot schedule. At my seniority range, the trips weren’t very good, but they were trips just the same.

My first month I held a schedule of early two day Buffalo trips. Still, I was undaunted—I had a schedule! A regular airline pilot trip.

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Read more: fly the DC-10, the F-100 and more.

Get your copy of An Airline Pilot’s Life in paperback or Kindle format from Amazon Books HERE.  Makes a great Father’s Day gift!

Want a signed copy (US only)? Click Here.

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