Archive for good dog

The Flight of The Fatass.

Posted in air travel, airline cartoon, airliner, airlines, airport, cartoon, flight, flight attendant, flight crew, food, jet, jet flight, passenger with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on March 2, 2011 by Chris Manno

Couldn’t come at a worse time, when each cent spent on fuel strains the budget of every major airline. The fact is, a direct operating cost airlines cannot avoid is fuel usage, which is directly linked to the aircraft’s gross weight. Suddenly, there’s this:

That’s right: double-fudge brownie sundaes–in flight. Which brings us back to the jet’s take-off and climb gross weight. Seriously gross, in some cases.

Back in my Diesel-10 days, I flew with a giant of a captain who shall remain nameless but his initials are Big John. He must have tipped the scales close to three hundred pounds, and I admit, as a First Officer doing the flight control check, I’d purposely pull the yoke back far enough to jiggle his big gut (he’d say, “Whatcha tryin’ to do, boy, loop it?”) hanging over his lap belt.

The big mystery early in the month we flew together was why did Big John excuse himself from the cockpit at the top of descent point, for at least fifteen minutes? That’s right before we get really busy with descent and approach.

Mystery solved on our first layover: the “galley wench” (that’s the flight attendant who served below decks in the DC-10 lower lobe galley) said he was downstairs with her, hoovering any uneaten food from passenger meals that were left over.

Maybe that comes from the grand tradition of fat sea captains who had to keep themselves well-marbled to survive months bobbing around on a hostile ocean. You never know when you’re going to have to spend two seasons and an eternity of reruns on an uncharted desert isle.

You never know just how long a three hour tour is going to be, right? We were doing a lot of trans-oceanic stuff in the ten, so maybe John was planning to be the only guy surviving in a life raft.

Regardless, Big John was just one of a growing number–literally growing–pilots who over the span of a career, drove up the fuel burn of the airline as his career dragged on.

Why? Go back to the top of the page and face the brownie sundae–my weakness. Okay, I’ll come clean: I’m six feet tall and weight 182 pounds (today anyway), have finished nine of the 26.2 mile marathons, blah, blah, blah.  Point is, I do take part in the aerial hog call pretty regularly. A tour, you say? You’d like a tour? Prepare yourself.

First, there’s the big guns that announce themselves with a “ding” on the flight interphone: “Hey, we’ve got [insert uber-caloric dessert here] in back if you all want some.” Or, it just comes already on your crew meal. Either way, there’s this:

A dense chocolate cake-like pie. Sure, just eat a bite or two, right? You’ll run it off on the layover, right (in Toronto in January? YOU’RE LYING)? You missed lunch too, see, and this is okay therefore, mangia, right?.

Then there’s this:

Coming out of several Florida airline catering kitchens–it’s really decent Key Lime pie. Somebody actually recognized that Key Lime’s are just like any other limes–added for the citrus flavor for the pie, not the color–and it looks and tastes authentic. Probably about 800 calories, too.

I really like this meringue-ish type lemon pie too:

It’s kind of densely creamy with just the right amount of tartness. And another 900 calories, probably. Sometimes the dessert just looks so innocent sitting there on your tray, small and innocuous, looking up, suggesting hey–eat me.

But word gets out when the inflight menu changes: hey–the cheese cake’s back. Burp. And sure, the salad’s always a sensible choice . . .

. . . as long as you don’t chase down it with another fat bomb:

I’m less vulnerable to the cake, which often is dry enough to suck all of the moisture out of your already parched (from the 2% cabin humidity) body.

That and the hermetically sealed bread item could absorb a fuel spill of considerable magnitude. So I find those non-confectionary things easy to avoid. But then there’s the catering out of Mexico:

Always some type of pastry dessert that face it–you’re going to try some of it. And when you do, you’re stuffing all 900 calories into your pie hole.

So, you might well ask, why not just bring your own food? Right? Yeah, like that’s any better, like anyone could be trusted to manage that. Here’s just a couple of bad choices in that regard.

This is The World’s Most Dangerous Pastrami, slapped together lovingly (“Ey–we don’t got all day here, whaddya want?“) in the employee deli in La Garbage Airport, Flushing (is it just me or are these terms all appropriately suggestive?) New York.

Or The Long Haul Meathead Sandwich, good for at least two thousand miles:

But tofu’s healthy, right? Shut up:

Here’s the Blow Your Head Off spicy tofu, an O’Hare exclusive I can’t resist. The heartburn alone will keep you awake for at least a thousand miles, which is kind of the point.

Regardless of whether you bring your own food, the galley ovens are just on the other side of the cockpit door. When the aroma of freshly baked cookies finds it’s way forward, who are you kidding?

You’re eating them. yes, you can defend yourself from any smells . . .

But you’re not gonna avoid cookies, are you? And never mind in flight, what about the junk you bump into hanging out before the flight? Like the old faves stationed around the nation, waiting:

It’s the best breakfast burrito in the nation, waiting for you at a little shop in the Albuquerque airport. Perfect salsa, will light your hair on fire. And in the Portland Airport, “Good Dog Bad Dog,” with sausages you are going to eat no matter what.

Need a closer look? There’s a video look at “Good Dog-Bad Dog” on the bottom of this page. Go there, try one–you’ll be hooked, too. And speaking of dogs, back to basics in the Oklahoma City Airport–Sonic, headquartered in OKC, offers you the essential foot-long chili-cheese-onion dog right across from the gate for your convenience:

This is all leading to a very scary conclusion, fellow fliers: we are destroying the ozone needlessly because of the bulk–literally, the bulk–of those who must be hefted off the ground and into the stratosphere with the fossil fuel burn increase required to haul their fat asses airborne.

Don’t get too smug, either, if you’re not a big butt pilot–we’re only two of 165 butts on my airplane. Yeah, we notice–

The suitcase will fit under the seat–but what about fitting in the seat? Anyway, that’s what’s driving up fuel costs, along with the constant mayhem in the middle east, hurricane rumors near the Gulf, a flu outbreak at a refinery in Jersey–whatever. Those are things Al Gore says we can’t control. Eating in flight is quite another thing.

But actually, it doesn’t look like Big Al’s skipping any meals either. So let’s just forget it–this is The Land of Plenty, to fly across it is going to take plenty of fuel because of all of the plentious butts on board.

Flying is a tough business, in my experience. You deserve a trip to “Good Dog–Bad Dog” in order for fortify yourself for the journey. So click on the video below and enjoy an up close and personal visit to the place.

Me, I’m heading out for yet another long run. I’m personally too cowardly to follow in Big John’s gigantic footsteps–his heart exploded on a layover and he keeled over dead, face down in his angel hair Carabonara.

Bon appetit!

a

Advertisements

Flight Time In Dog Years

Posted in air travel, airline cartoon, airline delays, airline ticket prices, airliner, airlines, airport, cartoon, dog kennel, flight attendant, flight crew, flight delays, jet, life, parenthood, passenger, pilot, travel, travel tips with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on March 12, 2010 by Chris Manno

This flight flung me back to the dog pound. Just trying to get into the cockpit, and boom: flashback to the day I divorced my dog.

There was no one left in the boarding area when I tromped down the jetbridge about ten minutes prior to scheduled departure. I’d been up in Flight Operations printing a new flight plan after a major route change to avoid the severe weather over Tennessee and Kentucky I knew we’d read about in the next morning’s headlines.

Hadn’t met the Number Four flight attendant yet, but she was planted squarely in the doorway. No “Hello, my name is,” nor opportunity for me to do the same. Rather, hands on hips, looking at me like it was my fault, she said, “The woman in 4-F wants to know if her dog got on.”

She got a couple seconds of grace time as I struggled to not say something smartassed. Like most flight attendants, she was a pro at handling people, and handled me too: “He’s in there pushing buttons,” she said, jerking a thumb at my First Officer, “so he’s busy.” But before she could ask me if I’d go down to the ramp and poke my head into the forward cargo compartment and page 4-F’s dog, I slipped past her, saying, “Yeah, ten minutes prior to pushback I have a few buttons to push too.”

That’s when the flashback smacked me in the face: the look in her eyes, having been sidestepped, was the look in my dog’s eyes as he drove away. Not really disappointed, because she wasn’t that invested in 4-F’s dog. Rather, it was a problem solving-thing, a rearrangement, the details that would get us all under way peacefully, dog or no.

Same with Gus, my ex-dog. He lived his life with that look, the notion spelled out in his eyes that like my flight attendant colleague, was all about getting on with it. Maybe because he was a pound-mutt, a Retriever-Chow mix, stoic as his Mongolian ancestors which tempered the Retriever friskiness: he was the perfect dog. Time spent in the pound gave him an ex-con’s wariness, as if a skepticism about how “the time” was going to go overruled assurances and even a prescribed sentence.

Gus, the beer drinking, baseball watching perfect dog.

But on a jet? I know every airline charges substantial fee to bring a dog on board. Since the all-important 4-F dog wasn’t in the cabin, I assumed it was probably too large and so had incurred an even larger shipping fee below decks in the cargo hold.

Clearly, this was about somebody wanting something important from their dog, not vice versa, because I’ve seen dogs crammed into the cargo hold in kennels.  Not a cool way to travel.

This trip was about the dog’s owner and so more than the welfare of the dog, the question of whether he was on board had everything to do with what the owner wanted.

That was the reason for divorcing my dog: I wanted what was best for him, not me.

Our time together started out simple: a neighbor kid fed and watered Gus when I was flying; at home, we had baseball nights alone. For a while there, I indulged his expensive taste in beer: he turned his nose up at anything but RedDog once he’d tried it. An Amstel Light for me, a couple ounces of RedDog for Gus. It got to be too much, having to buy a separate–and more expensive–beer for the dog: it was like having company all the time.

Take it or leave it, pal.

We drove everywhere in my old Blazer, the back seats down so he could walk around and fall down a lot–he never grasped centrifugal force–singing bawdy dog lyrics to old Beatles CD’s (“I wanna mount your leg . . . and when I hump you I feel happy, inside . . .”) which was all well and good while it lasted.

Then came the girlfriend. I’d had “girlfriends,” but this was and still is the one. We got married. Built a house. Had a child. And Gus got edged out bit by bit: time and baseball and beer drinking (he NEVER had to go to the bathroom and looked at me like “you whimp” when I had to by the fifth inning) gave way to a re-engineered household and lifestyle, joyous for us; for Gus, not so much. He was an outdoor dog–had to literally drag him inside in bad weather–and too rough for the new house; too big around a newborn.

But then I knew my old baseball and Beatles pal still needed–and deserved–time and attention. He was near ten by then and I knew he wasn’t, in the twilight of his dog years, going to get it from me.

I put an ad in the paper. Rejected several families after the “interview:” nope, not sending Goose into a worse situation.

Then an old broken down sedan pulled up, huffed a mighty sigh and died. The driver’s door swung open and a disheveled man stood. A scruffy looking boy climbed out of the back seat.

Through thick Spanglish, the story unfolded. His German Shepard, best friend for all of his five years, had died. They saw the ad; hoped maybe they could find the right dog; no money for adoption. They had a yard and a vacant lot, all fenced. Gus could run, would get the attention he needed.

And that was that. He drove off, not even looking back, all about the “now,” as dogs seem to be. Tomorrow doesn’t exist, yesterday doesn’t matter any more. Bye.

The flight interphone cracked to life in my headset. “Ground to cockpit,” came the Crew Chief’s voice on the ramp below. “You guys ready up there?”

And I wondered to myself: is that what you do if you’re a dog’s best friend? Keep him with you at all costs? Or send him off–or below in a cage–and continue on “there” or wherever no matter what? The cargo hold? A beater sedan?

“No,” I answered, unstrapping. My First Officer gave me a “what the hell?” look as I stepped out of the cockpit. The agent, too, looked startled. “Be right back.”

Out through the jetbridge, down the stairs to the ramp. The guidemen with their wands and day-glo vests eyed me quizzically. I ducked under the fuselage, over to the forward cargo door a ground crew woman was about to close. “Wait.”

I leaned into the chest high cargo door, letting my eyes adjust to the dim light. There.

Medium sized kennel; medium sized dog. So far so good. “Hey buddy, you okay?” I ignored the ground crew woman’s stare burning a hole in my back. Five minutes till push, I knew she was thinking, we’ve got to get moving.

Brown eyes stared back. Some kind of beagle; nice looking dog. Same Gus eyes, too: not sure where I am, or where I’m headed, but let’s get on with it. Maybe even a little bit sardonic, like Gus sitting quietly as I take the mandatory fifth inning plumbing break: you wuss.

I turned to the ramper waiting to close the door. “Okay.” Back under the fuselage, up the jetbridge stairs. I brushed past the still befuddled  gate agent and strapped back into my seat. The dog’s about the now, the getting there, hopefully to a better place. Maybe a double yard with room to run; a little boy who’ll fill up his world again.

“Okay to shut the cabin door?” the agent asked, “Everything good up here?”

Good? Well, probably not beer and baseball, or at least not RedDog. But a better world, so the trip would be okay.

“Yeah,” I answered, flipping on all six fuel boost pumps overhead and arming the engine igniters. “Let’s get on with it.”

________________________________________________________________________________________________

*

Horses in my beer, plus the Roadkill Report.

Posted in air travel, airlines, airport, flight crew, food, pilot, travel with tags , , , , , on January 27, 2010 by Chris Manno

Okay, a day off, finally home in Cowtown.  At this time of the year, in this berg, that means The Fort Worth Stock Show and Rodeo. Here’s the whole thing in just 45 seconds:

You get the idea? An integral part of the experience is related to cold beer. Giddyup.

Part of my job as an airline pilot is to eat everything in sight, coast to coast. Reporting on that, then is the following recurring feature:

Now, I promise that in my travels, I’ll only post the good stuff, cool finds in obscure places that you have to try if you’re anywhere nearby. My first is one of my favorites, from Portland’s PDX International.

“Good Dog-Bad Dog” in PDX’s terminal brings you hot brats of all varieties, and you pick the toppings from a self-service bar. I always get the “Sweet Italian,” then top it with mustard and kraut. Always fast, hot and super-tasty. It’s a gut bomb that’ll get you another thousand miles down the road.

It’s great to find a place that’s beyond the usual chain fare. More info?  Check it out.

%d bloggers like this: