Archive for the mile high club Category

Fear of Flying: Free Kindle March 25-26

Posted in air travel, air travel humor, air traveler, aircraft maintenance, airline, airline cartoon, airline cartoon book, airline delays, airline industry, airline passenger, airline pilot, airline pilot blog, airline safety, airline seat recline, airline ticket prices, airliner, airlines, airport, aviation weather, cartoon, fear of flying, flight, flight crew, flight delays, FoF, jet, jet flight, mile high club, passenger bill of rights, passenger compliance, pilot, travel, travel tips, weather, wind shear with tags , , , , , , , , , , on March 24, 2018 by Chris Manno

If you are a victim of fear of flying, either directly (you are fearful) or indirectly (a friend or loved one won’t fly), here’s a resource, free:

Cockpit insight, practical coping strategies, explanations and … cartoons!

Get your FREE Kindle copy–CLICK HERE.

Help for Fearful Flyers

Posted in air travel, airline cartoon, airline delays, airline passenger, airline pilot, airline pilot blog, airline ticket prices, airlines, airport, airport security, fear of flying, flight crew, jet, mile high club, passenger, pilot, travel with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on January 31, 2015 by Chris Manno

Cover Airline Book 1Here’s a chapter from my brand new book, “Air Travel and The Death of Civility: A Field Manual & Survival Guide,”  crammed full of shortcuts, insider info and little-known techniques to make your air travel as stress-free and smooth as possible.

Available now from Just click on the title link above, or search on Amazon.

Help for Fearful Flyers

Please don’t feel alone because you’re not: many passengers have some level of nervousness about flying. It’s just another version of the anxiety many feel at the dentist, the emergency room; virtually anywhere new, unfamiliar, and potentially uncomfortable. In fact, people and businesses actually cultivate and market exactly this type of anxiety at theme parks with roller coasters, haunted houses, and terrifying thrill rides. Some people actually crave the feeling.

What a nervous flyer feels is perfectly normal and need not eliminate the option of flying. That fact alone is reassuring, especially in the case of groups or couples who limit their travel options due to the reluctance of one individual to fly. Often, a large part of a passenger’s unease is an understandable fear of the unknown, which is essentially just unfamiliarity with a strange new environment. So let’s fill in some of those blanks in your flying knowledge and then, we’ll discuss techniques to manage your unease.

Land in crud

First, let’s consider the aircraft and its durable, ingenious engineering. The designers of our jet have refined their process of building and manufacturing our airliner through decades of progressively better models with ever-improving materials and techniques.

The aircraft was built to rigorous standards of strength and durability far beyond what we will ever encounter in flight. To be specific, the FAA certification standard required the aircraft to demonstrate that it could withstand forces in turbulence well beyond that which has ever been recorded, plus an additional margin, with complete airframe integrity. That means that regardless of turbulence, there will be no airframe damage or structural deformity, we’ll be still flying just fine. Basically, this aircraft is not coming apart in any conditions we encounter in flight. You don’t worry about your car running over a bump at high speed, over railroad tracks, or even a curb–but it’s not built to anywhere near the strength standard of our jet.

bumpy twitter

You’ll actually notice less turbulence in flight these days, due to a couple of assets we use. First, radar technology has advanced not only in display resolution, but also in a predictive capability: now, our digital radar and on-board computers are sifting through thousands of bits of digital data gathered by radar and other systems, giving us an accurate prediction of where turbulence may occur. Our radar is integrated with the Global Positioning Satellite system and knows where it is at all times, allowing it to separate terrain features like mountains from weather echoes. The radar aims itself correctly and has an accurate, interactive display of over 300 miles ahead of the aircraft. The radar has a “pop-up” feature that allows it to show on our displays even if it’s not selected, when it finds a weather problem many miles away that we need to know about.

Add to that the ground-based computer analyses that are charting patterns of turbulence, which are then automatically up-linked to us in flight, plus the exchange of real-time information between pilots and air traffic controllers and the end result is less turbulence encounters, and lighter turbulence when encountered. There are days when rides just aren’t completely smooth and we’ll encounter some bumps. But rest assured, we’re working our way through the sky in the smoothest flight path possible.

raining luggage0001

Visualize the air we fly in for the fluid that it is, with currents, eddies, flows, and even the wakes of other aircraft also aloft. Crossing a jet’s wake is much like crossing that of a boat: rumbles, some bumping, then we’re past the wake. Atmospheric eddies and currents can cause similar short periods of bumpiness, or even just a mostly choppy sea of blue. If that persists, we’ll search for a smoother altitude–just give us a few minutes to coordinate a clearance from air traffic control.

Mountains cause the atmospheric equivalent of river rapids in the airflow, even at altitude, because orographic features like ranges and peaks act like rocks in a stream, causing a rougher ride. That’s typical of a flight path across the Rockies: some bumpiness is not unusual. But you can rest assured that at our flight speed, we’ll pass through the area without delay.

In US airspace, airlines and Air Traffic Control pool weather information to share among all flights, and one designated FAA facility manages traffic and routes around areas of severe weather. With all of these assets working for us every flight, we don’t get taken by surprise by weather.

buck twitter

That type of coordination that shares weather and route information is emblematic of the entire US aviation system, which has had a seventy-year learning curve of development, testing, and refining that has resulted in a strong, reliable oversight and infrastructure for commercial aviation, including

the Federal Aviation Administration, Department of Transportation, and the National Transportation Safety Board. All three in combination provide experienced and comprehensive oversight that makes flying the safest mode of transportation you could choose.

Another highly-developed airline support system monitors our jet in flight. Our technical operations center monitors hundreds of bits of data sent in a non-stop, automated stream from our jet in flight. In flight, I’ve had a message from our round-the-clock tech center print out that said, “Can you verify the vibration on the left engine? It’s reading a little high down here.” The engines alone transmit a huge stream of telemetry to our tech center, and that data allows long-range trend diagnosis that has all but eliminated in-flight engine failure on the Boeing jets I fly. Trend data and years of diagnostic experience have allowed Boeing, our

emo support 1

tech staff, and our maintenance center to keep aircraft systems in peak operating forms.

From years of firsthand experience, I can say Boeing jets in particular are finely engineered, rugged and reliable American-made jets, and that’s the main reason I fly them. Thousands of hours in Boeing cockpits have given me every confidence in the strength, power, and versatility of these jets which are capable of handling anything we could encounter in flight.

I’m fairly typical of the pilots you’ll find in command of your flight, in my thirtieth year with my airline, my twenty-fourth as captain. I was an Air Force pilot before that, and like my colleagues on the flight deck, I have the singular goal of flying safely, procedurally perfectly, and always conservatively. I have three back up plans for every eventuality and firmly believe there is nothing I could face in flight that is beyond my capability. That’s not only due to experience, but mostly because of years of relentless, ongoing advanced training not only in full-motion simulators, but through hours of classroom instruction, systems training, and recurrent exams. I have every confidence in the copilots I fly with who share the exact same goals, procedures, and training. In the cockpit, we’re unanimous about one thing: the safe, efficient, and smooth operation of our flight.

Pasta entree

So, knowing all this, what else can you do to ease the stress of a flight? First, keep the above facts in mind, reviewing as needed leading up to your flight and even on board. Second, keep track of the elapsed time. Your airline app will tell you how much flight time to expect, as will the captain in his PA and also, the flight attendants will normally tell you the planned flight time in their PA. Whatever the total flight time is, divide it in half. Now, keep track of the first half, which will elapse much faster for you than the total time. Just that half, count it down. Upon reaching halftime, relax and rejoice: from there you will count down an ever-shrinking time period much shorter (and growing ever shorter) than you have already endured quite successfully.

Concentrate on your breathing, keeping it steady and calm. Reading matter, a video, music: dive in, focus on that. Claim a little “me” time and catch up on reading or viewing that you never seem to have time for otherwise.

bigg ass twitter

Keep an eye on your halftime benchmark, noting your steady progress. Bear in mind the fluid aspect of air and anticipate some waves in this most vast sea we’re sailing through. Be confident that your extensive flight team, including the crew on board as well as our airline technical, operational, and dispatch staff constantly monitoring and interacting with us in flight, plus the air traffic control network of pros handling our route passage. We’ve all been doing this for a long time and as our record shows, we’re darn good at it.

I’ve used the countdown technique at the dentist office (my “nervous flyer” experience) as well as when running several 26.2 marathons. It works!

There may never be a time when a nervous flyer actually enjoys a flight, but there’s no reason a flight can’t be tolerated with minimal stress with a little forethought and perhaps, an equal amount of distraction with entertainment or conversation. Here’s a summary for you to review as needed:


• Unfamiliarity is often at the core of preflight anxiety. Review the contents of this book and this section, and give yourself credit for your successful progress through the various steps required for a plane flight.

• Your aircraft is a tough, versatile, well-designed engineering marvel that has been refined over years of improvements.

• Constant monitoring of the aircraft’s vital systems in flight allows reliability and safety that makes air travel the safest travel option.

• Weather systems are a reality of life, but we have advanced technology on-board as well as on the ground keeping us well ahead of weather challenges and well clear of danger.

• The atmosphere is a fluid and behaves much like a large body of water, with the same, normal characteristics such as currents, flow, eddies, wakes, and the occasional bump.

• Your pilots are highly experienced and dedicated solely to the safe, professional operation of your flight.

• Use the countdown system of flight time to your advantage, watching your time aloft grow ever shorter.

Cover Airline Book 1Other chapters include buying a ticket, getting the best deal and the right seat, check-in and security shortcuts, on-board perspective, aircrew insider perspective, damage control and much, much more. Read this book, then travel like a pro!

The perfect gift for someone about to travel, for those reluctant to fly–and for those eager to fly and wanting to have a stress-free, excellent air travel experience.

Order your copy from

Just click this link.

Airline Amazon screenshot

Mile High Club: Death and Romance in the Outhouse.

Posted in air travel, airliner, mile high club, passenger with tags , , on November 4, 2011 by Chris Manno

Of all the useless 1960s air travel nostalgia hangovers, this is the worst. No, not the idea of food in coach–although that’s definitely nostalgic, unless you have a major credit card ready for the on-board data reader to deduct the cash before you even break the plastic wrap. Want to eat but don’t want to pay? You should have brought your own lunch, pal.

Okay, I buy the turkey sandwich pictured here even when there's a First Class meal catered for the flight crew--it's excellent.

No, not food–what I’m talking about is the bogus urban legend surrounding–inexplicably, at least to one who actually knows what we’re talking about–the aircraft lavatory. There it is: the on-board toilet and the closet where it’s secreted away.

Which leads me to ask: what the hell don’t I understand about this? What is the fascination with the filthiest, foulest, most disgusting six square feet on board an airliner? Namely, this:

Sure, there are some flimsy walls partitioning off this mess–and your mess–from the general public. And believe me, they ARE flimsy walls too–weight is fuel burn which is cost in flight. But shrewd aircraft designers rely on the ambient background noise of flight (you know: jet engines, 300 mile and an hour wind noise) to cover up your bodily noises on the can, much like the lame exhaust fan in a tiny apartment is intended as background noise so you can crank away without disgusting a cohabitant. Lesson for the wise: don’t do anything in an aircraft lav on the ground that you don’t want others to hear. Because they will, especially as they troop past on boarding, and they’ll give you that look when you step out.

Do you get it yet? We’re basically talking about this:

Being confused with this:

Which is apparently another legendary site involving the inexplicably pajama-clad Crypt Keeper (above) and teenagers or other foolish yet financially astute bimbos. So here’s my point: the lav, like Hef’s geriatric boudoir, is actually the last place anyone with an awareness of reality would have anything approaching conjugal relations.

Sure, people say they’ve “done it” in an airliner lav.

But again, it’s as outdated as the prop job in the drawing above, never mind the natty dress and Pepsodent grins. Because besides the issue of today’s cramped lav (space is $, remember), there’s the detail of sanitation: it’s as clean as your average outhouse, and often smells like one. Because either you have the swirling tank of port-o-john water below, or on more modern jets, no water at all–just a non-stick coating with fragrant skid marks anyway:

So anyone who says they have joined “The Mile High Club” is either A) Lying, B) Disgusting, or  C) Has lost the will to live. And here’s the dirt on option “C:” there is no supplemental oxygen in the lav.

Read the fine print: some restrictions apply.

That means that no matter what purpose there is in your lav visit, in case of a rapid depressurization, you’ll need to immediately get out of the lav and grab one of the hangy-down masks before you lose consciousness. As my keenly observant son (he took the above picture aboard a foreign carrier) mused, you have to decide if you want to take the time to pull your pants up and stumble nearly hypoxic into the aisle, or bolt out with your pants down, business unfinished and hope someone would help you anyway to don a mask as if you weren’t naked from the waist down.

In all probability, you’re meeting your maker like Elvis’s last public appearance: face down, pants down, toilet unflushed. Now that’s the stuff of legends, right?

So my point is this: never mind the folklore and urban legends–avoid the lav at all costs. Hold it, go before you board, whatever and if you do have to go into the lav make it quick and then get back to your seat.

To me, that’s just common sense. But if in any way this is news to you, I recommend this icon of travel nostalgia:

At least you’ll be able to breathe no matter what demonstration of disgustingly poor judgment you’re finding necessary to pursue in the can.

Bon voyage, and don’t forget to wash your hands.

Ride the sky home.

Posted in air travel, airliner, airlines, airport, faith, fart, figure skating, flight, flight attendant, flight crew, jet, life, mile high club, night, pilot, savchenko, travel, weather with tags , , , , , , , , , , on July 1, 2010 by Chris Manno

There’s a song in my head and it won’t go away. It comes at the top of the slide,

a sloping seven mile glide, ever downward and south toward home. Bound for DFW from the west coast, the captain’s voice my own, says “we’re eighty nautical miles from touchdown in Fort Worth; be on the deck at half past.” and on it drones with the same spiel as ever, but the music gets louder each mile, drowning it out.

It’s a tedious trip west to east to south, like the ride from The Stockyards to Tanglewood, or God forbid, the Far Southwest side on Bryant Irvin where any time of day, never mind rush hour, it seems like forever: there’s just no hypotenuse. East to west, or north to south but not north to southwest in Cowtown, not without a lot of pain and aggravation. But come down easy, that’s how you get home. There are no shortcuts.

The mayor once said with a hang dog tired face it’s so bad you could change a tire in a Cowtown traffic jam and not lose your spot, and he wasn’t even talking about trying the mythical hypotenuse between the North Side and the southwest Mecca of Hulen and Tanglewood. Really, it’s not so far away but just hard to get to yet home is definitely worth the trip.

When I cross the Red River I feel like I’m in the neighborhood and the red dirt pancake of the Panhandle starts the song of home in my head. It’s those comfy notes your hands just know, a cozy riff you can get lost in like a half-awake morning in the Paris Coffee Shop, more aware of what it’s not—and it’s not a modern chain shoveling breakfast—than the bald light, melodious clink of silverware and bracing aroma of strong coffee that it is. Newspapers and linoleum and waitresses who call you “hon” and the comfort of an old tune not redone, not over done; rather, the original from way back when. That’s the music that when you play it, you transcend fingers and frets and keys and notes, simply cruising along with the melody.

A hundred plus people follow me down in the back, some coming home and humming the same tune. Picture my wife’s Paschal mafia: they graduate and scatter to the four winds—but they return sooner or later. So there are the inexorable five year milestone reunions at Joe T’s or the Stockyards Station or anywhere Fort Worth that’ll hold the returning classes; hugs, backslaps, “so good to see you!” but because so many seem to move back eventually, and we see them weekly anyway at Thom Thumb on Bellaire, what’s the big deal?

But that’s everyone humming along—no one needs sheet music; like the song in my head, they probably don’t even know they’re doing it. That’s the song of home you get to sing aloud now and again with others who know it.

We slip between big-shouldered thunderheads marching out of the west toward Fort Worth, casting a bruised blue shadow across a red sky sprawling east like a dome you can see best atop Reata, the bustling crisscross of Sundance Square below. Storm’s coming with one inch raindrops plopping an inch apart, but nothing’s perfect and who knows? Maybe it’ll hold off till we get there, and we need the rain nonetheless.

Things look bigger the lower you go and now the swaths of green and brown and lakes of blue define themselves like individual musical notes on a scale but now you don’t need them: there’s DFW and you’re cleared to land. More hands and feet on the controls, working less with science than art, riding the familiar tune whose beat is like that of your heart. Close your eyes and see the flow of red tail lights snaking down the main artery to Fort Worth.

Slower, down to earth but still, the music will carry you home. The steel and glass on Main and Commerce rise straight backed and tall, waiting. Patience, slowly, mile by mile, the music will carry you home.

Airliner Lavatories: No Blue Sky and NO DEUCE. Ever.

Posted in air travel, airliner, airlines, airport, flight crew, jet, lavatory, mile high club, passenger, pilot with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on February 3, 2010 by Chris Manno

I couldn’t wait to stick my head in that toilet. I was nine, we were flying from Buffalo to Chicago and when the seatbelt sign finally went off, I flew up to the lav, just certain that when I flushed the toilet–once I figured out how–the bottom of the bowl would open up and I’d see blue sky below. I’d planned to drop stuff out of there across the country, pencils, tissue, pictures, maybe even a deuce if I could work one up.

What a buzzkill when I realized the truth: it’s just a chemical toilet. No open skies, thousands of feet of open sky below. Just a chemical toilet.

Well, it’s worse than that. The way your modern airliner is designed, it’s basically a chemical toilet with no water–just degerm solution swirling around below an aluminum “splash pan.” Yes, “ewwwwww,” but stay with me–it gets even worse: the chemical toilet is barely an arm’s reach from the galley.

This is you, standing in the galley, looking into the can. Nice, huh?

Are you getting this? Here, let’s paint the picture: the aircraft designers put an outhouse right next to the kitchen. But it’s worse than that, too. Let’s strip out the walls

Okay, see where that bowl is? And see where my seat in the cockpit up front on the left is? And how close? Well, the ventilation is designed so that whatever you do in the lav is brought forward almost instantly.

An old Air Force buddy of mine flies for Southwest Airlines and reports this as a major problem on early morning flights. Since Southwest doesn’t have reserved seating, a line forms at the gate well before boarding.And no one will leave the line to go to the bathroom lest they lose their boarding priority. He reports that as soon as they’re airborne, everyone suddenly needs their morning constitutional. The end result could only be described as similar to my high school memories on Saturdays when my Dad would roam the house picking up newspapers and magazines. You knew what was coming next: an hourlong sit down during which you hoped none of your friends came over; the whole house smelled like, well, an airplane lav.

No, we’re not defenseless in the cockpit:

But that does make it hard to drink my morning coffee (believe me: you want me to have my morning coffee) and does nothing for your fellow passengers gagging up front.

Yes I always fly with a drawing pad. Why do you ask? Anyway, take pity on the other hundred-plus people on the plane. Here are some reasonable yet crucial guidelines:

1. No Deuce in the forward lav. That’s the one by the cockpit near me. “Number One” only in the forward lav–NO DEUCE (that’s a “Number Two,” okay?) EVER up front. Except, of course, for me:

It’s good to be captain. You? Go to the aft lav in the rear of the airplane. Everyone back there’s traveling on some kind of discount anyway, they can live with it.

2. Mile High Club? Seriously?

What, in an outhouse? The last guy’s skid marks (remember: no water) stinking the place up? Now THAT’S amore. And you’d have to be an idiot. Your buddy who claims he did it in the lav (yeah, right) is an idiot for even thinking about it.

3. In and out, quickly. No newspapers, you’re not my Dad and this isn’t Saturday; you’re in a Porta-Potty five miles up at 500 miles an hour. Make it quick.

4. Wear shoes! It’s not that we mind you mopping up the sticky spillage on the lav floor with your socks (or less–ewwwwww); we don’t. It’s just the thought of it makes me gag when I type this, and especially when I see you doing it.

5. Mercy Flush: every thirty seconds, at least. Remember: no water. Lots of air. People trying hard to breathe and your atomized particulate matter is wafting around the cabin.

Look, your best bet is to just hold it, because the lav’s a filthy Petri dish; between flights the unlucky low man on the ramp totem pole holds his nose, flaps a rag around the lav, sprays some junk to mask the stench then slams the door. You can hold it and remember, it’s not like the bottom’s going to open up and let you throw stuff out into the blue sky. Seriously, I checked.


World’s most dangerous sandwich, from the deli in Hangar 3 in LaGuardia Airport:

My in-flight hogfest from LaGarbage to DFW February 2.

Hot pastrami with provolone, onions  and mustard on a hero. Definitely will get you to the other coast, and someone’s going on oxygen a couple hours into the trip. Okay, there’s the connection with the “Deuce” post above.

When I was a First Officer–back when the earth was still cooling and dinosaurs roamed the planet–on the DC-10, I’d get one of these babies to go from the LaGuardia deli and eat it in flight enroute to O’Hare. During the next leg, about midway to Seattle, you could count on a burnt-onions-like gas cloud in the cockpit that had the captain ranting. What was he all whipped up about? Here, just Pull My Finger.

He’d fingerpoint, eventually at me, but on a three-man crew he couldn’t be certain if it was me or the flight engineer (that’s the beauty of today’s two-man crews: you always know who farted) who was responsible for gagging him. I swore up and down it wasn’t me.

Then one trip, the usual engineer called in sick. Over Wyoming–same stench. Busted; he wouldn’t give me any landings the rest of the trip.

Now, “My Darling Bride & Favorite Flight Attendant of All Time,” like most women, would be horrified and grossed out by this story,

but seriously–nobody’s reading this blog, much less this far down in it, plus she doesn’t even know I have a  blog. So shhhhhhh, mum’s the word, okay? Besides, whenever she asks me what I could possibly know about the general topic I call “Man Stuff,” I tell her honestly, “I used to be a guy.” Guys–particularly husbands–reading this are nodding and grunting. Women? Whatever. As I said, nobody’s reading this anyway.

%d bloggers like this: