Archive for the airlines Category

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.

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.

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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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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Fly Along On My First Solo

Posted in air travel, airline pilot, airline pilot blog, airlines with tags , , , , , , , , , , on April 20, 2020 by Chris Manno

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If you’re a pilot, there’s really not another moment that surpasses a first solo. Many other pilot milestones come after, but though some may equal the momentous experience, I’ve never found any that actually surpasses my first solo, and that includes even supersonic solo flight, solo formation, aerobatics, or any of the other big events like checking out as an airline captain.

Here’s an excerpt from my new book, “An Airline Pilot’s Life,” (Amazon’s #1 New Release in commercial aviation) that will allow you to ride with me on my initial solo in a Cessna-152 after I’d had just over eight hours of flight instruction.

The book is on an introductory price of only $3.99. This Part One of the story is over 300 pages long, spanning my early flying experience, detailing my passage through USAF pilot training then six years of military flying throughout the Pacific and Asia.

Part Two covers my decades as an airline pilot, starting as a flight engineer at the world’s largest airline and continuing through years as a pilot on the MD-80, DC-10, F-100 and 737. Join me in the cockpit as both first officer and then nearly three decades as a captain. Part Two will be released in both Kindle and paperback formats in May.

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Here, then, is a sample, a chapter that focuses on my first solo. The setting is at the Bedford Flying Services flight school at Roanoke, Virginia’s Woodrum Field. As an Air Force ROTC cadet selected for USAF pilot training after graduation from the Virginia Military Institute, I was enrolled in the USAF Flight Instruction Program. The program was equal parts flight instruction and screening for the Air Force. There was a basic syllabus designed to get a cadet ready to solo in minimum time and as importantly, see who had the aptitude (or didn’t) to become an Air Force pilot before arriving at a pilot training base.

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After a few hours of flight instruction from Pat, I was handed off to another flight instructor, a younger guy that the other Flight Instruction Program cadets had warned me about.

Bob was a former enlisted guy, a boom operator on a KC-135 crew. He seemed to have a chip on his shoulder, having had five years of “yessir-ing” officers on his assigned flight crew, pilots and navigators, but now we who’d soon be officers would have to answer to him. I think he may have resented the fact that he was helping us along the Air Force pilot path he’d never had an opportunity to travel.

His attitude was both aloof and condescending, especially compared to Pat’s easy-going instructor attitude. But for me, I had enough faith in the two Cessna-152s and my ability to fly them or as accurately, let them fly as they’d been designed, that I wasn’t going to let his attitude be an obstacle. Besides, for an FIP cadet who’d endured over three years at VMI, his caustic attitude was barely amateur level by comparison.

He was sarcastic in the plane and seemed to set up each maneuver as a test, then scoff if it didn’t work out perfectly, which often it did not. I had less than ten hours flying time, so chances were good, given my inexperience and his obstructive attitude, that my maneuvers would be somewhat rough. I didn’t let it bother me, although one of my classmates was having a very difficult time with Bob.

Bob actually let one nose high stall accelerate into what I realized afterward was a spin. We were nose low, corkscrewing toward the ground and that, I found out later, was definitely not in any part of the flight syllabus.

But if his intent was to have me lock up, or to panic, it didn’t work. The lesson of my skydiving streamer still held full sway: panic is never, ever an option, period. I fell back on Pat’s offhand remark and just pulled the power back, since we were in a dive, and let the plane right itself and eventually, return lift to the airfoil so we could fly again.

Maybe that was Bob’s backhanded way to build my confidence, which it did. I knew I’d be fine in those planes come what may when I was solo. Most of all, as I’d learned from skydiving, I could trust myself to keep a cool head

Or maybe it was his way of weeding me out, tripping me up, undermining my confidence or worse, the Air Force’s confidence in me. It didn’t work. I had more faith than ever in the two little planes and my ability to shepherd them around the bumpy skies of Roanoke.

On a late fall afternoon Bob and I went up in 11-Juliet. He sat next to me, elbow to elbow, taciturn as always. He’d shadowed my preflight walkaround, seemingly bored. I did all of the preflight radio clearances and we taxied out, lined up on runway 23 and took off.

We flew directly to the practice area and immediately worked through all of our maneuvers and a stall recovery series. I really felt it was unfair, two against one: me and Juliet against Bob, and he didn’t stand a chance. Whatever he demanded, we could do. Stall, falling off on the left wing? Give her slack, let the nose fall, tap the rudder, level the wings, feed in power—not too much, climb back to the original altitude.

Compass figure eight? Watch us. Slight back pressure and a touch of rudder, let the compass and Juliet swing her nose at a thirty degree bank left to right, in her own time; remember where you started, track back with the nose just above the horizon, now reverse course, smoothly. No rush; let her fly. Claim the peaceful time lag as your own little slice of calmness.

“I’ve got it,” Bob said abruptly, then aimed us toward a field a couple thousand feet below and just north of Interstate-81. I had an inkling of what might be coming next. Fine, I decided. Bring it on. It’s still two against one.

Bob pulled the throttle completely back and the engine fluttered to idle, the prop practically feathered.

“The engine just died,” Bob said, sounding annoyed. “Land.”

I set up a long, lazy downwind. I searched, then spied a smoke stack near the western edge of the practice area, all the while easing Juliet lower, trying to keep a clean, power-off airspeed to stretch our powerless flight. Smoke showed wind out of the west, so we’d land into the wind.

I eased a wide turn to the left, into the wind. I slowed, gradually fed out landing flaps. And waited. How far would he take this, I wondered, as we slipped below five hundred feet. But I also didn’t worry: I’ll land it in the field, I don’t care—that’ll be your ass, Bob, not mine.

At about three hundred feet, Bob pushed the throttle back in and the engine buzzed back to life. We climbed, and I retracted the landing flaps.

We entered the landing traffic pattern for runway 23 at Woodrum Field. I taxied us clear after a routine landing.

We taxied back towards the departure end, but at midfield, Bob spoke again.

“Pull over here.”

I swung us off the taxiway and pulled into an apron abeam the flight school. I let the engine idle. He popped open his door.

“You ready?” he asked.

Sweet Jesus. Ready? Ready? I was born for this.

“Yes.”

He nodded. “Do a couple patterns, touch and goes, then park it back at Bedford Flying Service.”

I nodded. He strapped down his seatbelt, then left, clicking the door shut securely, walked away and didn’t look back.

I nosed 11-Juliet forward, back onto the taxiway. I paused at the departure end and ran through the magneto check fairly mechanically. We’d been flying for an hour, the magnetos, the ignition, the airframe, me—we were all ready. This wasn’t about manuals and numbers and specs—this was about flight.

In that golden instant I had the rare sense that this was momentous not just for what it was, a first solo flight, but for what it meant. There are unique, lifetime flying moments that matter more than anything in a pilot’s life. Few they are, and I somehow intuitively knew the truth: whether you went on to fly supersonic, aerobatics or formation in an Air Force jet solo, or commanded an Air Force flight crew on trans-Pacific missions or succeeded in airline captain upgrade and took on worldwide jet flight with hundreds of souls in your hands—nothing would outdo this first solo. Nothing. Equal maybe, add to the legacy, but never surpass this moment. I knew that, even as a twenty-one year old strapped to a beautiful little Cessna, I knew that.

And I made a point of savoring the reality, burning it into my memory as a golden moment, even back then. I knew it belonged equally to the tough guys like Clark King who punched me into reality, to Buck who held me strictly accountable for my life, to Coach Wade who led with tough but caring leadership, to Major Sullivan, who found me a way forward from disaster.

But it also belonged to me and I’d damn well own it, every God-given second. Cleared for take-off I took a deep breath. This is mine, I resolved. I don’t deserve it, but no less than anyone else who’d attained it, nor any more than those who hadn’t. But I can own it, do it justice.

I had a weighty premonition that once I left the earth solo, nothing would ever be the same again.

When the sturdy little engine reached takeoff power, I released the brakes. We rolled into the headwind, she steadied, then Cessna 9811 Juliet and I rose into the sky, alone.

We climbed to pattern altitude as I’d done a dozen times before and I allowed myself a glance to my right, to the empty seat, and a real peace and jubilation warmed me from the inside out. This was how it was meant to be. Airplanes just fly better solo, I realized, because flying was all about the aircraft, you, and flight. That’s what mattered and everything else was just giving the devil his due for the privilege of flight, of piloting.

And I was right—I was never the same after that. This was what my life was meant to be. And in that moment—at long last—it was mine. And there was no way, not so long as I breathed, that I’d ever let it go.

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To get your copy of Part One on Amazon Kindle and

live the adventure yourself, CLICK HERE.

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An Airline Pilot’s Life

Posted in air travel, airline, airline industry, airline passenger, airline pilot, airline pilot blog, airline safety, airliner, airlines, airport, aviation with tags , , , , , , , on January 12, 2020 by Chris Manno

Want to live the airline pilot life from an insider’s view? Here’s your chance: for the past two years, I’ve been writing an insider, no-holds-barred true story from day one in my forty-plus years of airline and Air Force flying.

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It’s over four hundred pages of details and the real-life, true adventures of flying jets for a lifetime, both USAF and at American Airlines for nearly thirty-five years, twenty-nine as captain.

Watch this space for upcoming excerpts, and the official release date in both paperback and Kindle from Dark Horse Books. Now, the manuscript is in its final rewrite stage:

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Soon, very soon, you can have your own copy, and live the life yourself. If you enjoy the stories and adventures that are the JetHead blog, you won’t want to miss this true story.

Stay tuned.

Airline Cartoons LIVE

Posted in air travel, air travel humor, air traveler, aircraft maintenance, airline, airline cartoon, airline cartoon book, airline industry, airline passenger, airline pilot, airlines, cartoon, fear of flying, flight, flight attendant, flight crew, pilot, travel with tags , , , , , , , , , , on June 1, 2019 by Chris Manno

The best airline cartoons just got better: now you can watch them come to life. Just tap on the image.

Of course, you can still enjoy the static version,

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the best of which are in the cartoon collection, available in paperback or Kindle format from Amazon here,

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but meanwhile, here’s a sampling from the “live” cartoon channel on YouTube, which you can subscribe to free for updates.

There are plenty more cartoons on my YouTube playlist, which you can access and subscribe to here.

Just one more way for you to enjoy the best, frontline airline cartoons.

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The BEST Airline Cartoon Collection: $2.99!

Posted in air travel, air travel humor, air traveler, airline, airline cartoon, airline cartoon book, airline delays, airline industry, airline passenger, airline pilot, airline pilot blog, airliner, airlines, airport, cartoon, crewlife, fear of flying, flight, flight attendant, flight crew with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on January 4, 2019 by Chris Manno

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The entire, revised airline cartoon collection at a special introductory Kindle price of just $2.99 for a limited time only!

Get yours instantly from Amazon Kindle– just CLICK HERE.

Here’s a sneak preview:

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Get your copy today!

Air Travel in the “Me” Millennium

Posted in air travel, air traveler, airline, airline cartoon, airline cartoon book, airline delays, airline industry, airline passenger, airline pilot, airline pilot blog, airline ticket prices, airlines, airport, fear of flying, flight attendant, flight crew, passenger, passenger compliance, travel, travel tips with tags , , , , , , , , , on September 15, 2018 by Chris Manno

Sure, flying today has diverged from the mythological “golden era of air travel”  so many passengers hold as a yardstick to their own recent airline experience. That can’t help being a disappointment, but there’s more to the story: it ain’t all one-sided.

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Passengers, too, in the contemporary age of the selfie, have also diverged from the model of decorum and self-restraint that went hand-in-hand with the Utopian but long past air travel legend. That new, self-focused, unrestrained millennial attitude dictates much of what happens in today’s air travel. Let me explain.

Hand-in-hand with the genteel, bygone airline images was a foundation of passenger behavioral restraint and courtesy that has also vanished like the sixties. And like it or not, here are some major changes wrought by the millennial evolution away from the self-restraint and personal responsibility that characterized the era they claim to miss.

  1. People today simply will not be told what to do. That runs the gamut from emergency instructions that could save their own lives to procedural norms that make boarding actually better for the group–but only if the individual cooperates. Today’s air traveler knows the rules, hears the requests, and the directives as applicable to the group, but optional for themselves.

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2. Self-restraint: the “self” now overshadows the restraint in two major ways. First, the “self” aspect of the traveling public fuels a sense of entitlement rather than restraint. That’s even in the subtlest nuance of boarding which creates a massive, obstructive knot of bag-dragging humanity ignoring the simple instruction to “please board only when your group is called,” to the life-threatening free-for-all luggage grab in an emergency evacuation. In the “self” era, there is no rule that must be followed, no directive that can’t be ignored, because that’s the way people are wired today.

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Second, the notion of self trumps the concept of fairness: a cell phone video with zero context and outrageous, often aggressive passenger behavior is not only tolerated–it’s embraced and celebrated on social media. Nothing is too outrageous for a passenger to say or do and whatever that atrocity is, someone else must provide compensation.

3. Personal responsibility: everything is someone else’s fault, so everyone is a victim, and every victim needs “compensation.” Whether it’s a mechanical delay to correct a glitch in a complex, $100 million dollar machine or a weather delay, today’s self goes from zero to outrage without passing through rational thought (weather is outside of a business’s control; complex machines break) and goes right to the worst aspect of self: one must proclaim their insult and outrage on the thoughtless, unmediated scrum that is social media.

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Anything goes in the self-centered rush to scream your bombastic victimization into cyberspace. Thanks, @HeimBBQ–did you recall that in your local marketplace about 50,000 employees you just maligned also make restaurant choices?

3. Helplessness has displaced personal responsibility: if anything, air travel has gotten even simpler in the digital era. The ubiquitous smart phone that conducts audio, video and photo outrage across the internet spectrum also has the capability–if used–to supply instant, accurate answers. But, the personal responsibility aspect (what’s your flight number?) falls by the wayside of many people who can remember a date, time and address–except at the airport. Google has the instantaneous and accurate answer–but only if you know how to ask the question.

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4. The marketplace: it’s easy, perhaps convenient, to overlook the driving force in the air travel industry, and that is price. But the fact is, when the Civil Aeronautics Board relinquished control of airfare and routes, the deliberate government “hands off” approach left the marketplace in the hands of consumers: you asked for dirt cheap airfares–you got it. Don’t say that your $600 transcon airfare is “too expensive” as you book your flight on your $1,000 smart phone so you can attend an hours-long entertainment (sports, music, whatever) event for another thousand dollars. The whining makes for effective social media click bait–but it just doesn’t fly, logically or literally.

So there you have it: the air travel reality is a narrative of change, of evolution, of price and self–and the results might be dismal, but the responsibility is shared equally between consumers and the marketplace they drive.

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In the final analysis, no, it’s really not “about you,” but in fact it is mostly because of you, despite how negative a connotation the idea of personal responsibility is in today’s world of “me.” Air travel is still the dumb beast slaved to your buying choices, and the airfare “steal” you foghorn on your social media feed fuels the very enroute outrage you tweet later. In a very real sense, you are both the cause and the effect.

So fasten your safety belt–it’s going to get bumpy, and the whining only louder and less justified.

Get the whole airline insider cartoon collection:

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Only $7.99 from Amazon books, click here.

 

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