Archive for pilot

Let’s talk about writing about flying.

Posted in air travel, airline, airline pilot, airline pilot blog with tags , , , , , on March 15, 2021 by Chris Manno

Let’s talk flying, and writing–and writing about flying.

It’s a lively discussion of both on the Clueless Gent podcast–just CLICK HERE to listen.

We talk about flying, about writing, about crazy flight stories and a behind-the-scenes look at An Airline Pilot’s Life, the true (“Best Fiction 2020”), insider story of life as an airline pilot. Click here to check out the book on Amazon.com.

Now Give *Yourself* a Gift: Signed Copy of An Airline Pilot’s Life.

Posted in air travel, airline, airline industry, airline pilot, airline pilot blog with tags , , , , , , , on December 26, 2020 by Chris Manno

You deserve a post-holiday gift for yourself. For a limited time, you can grab a signed copy of Amazon #1 New Release and winner of “Best Non-Fiction of 2020:”

The perfect reward for yourself, or the gift of inspiration for any fledgling aviator or anyone considering the airline pilot career field: from first solo in a Cessna 152 to supersonic solo in a USAF T-38, then on to seven years as a USAF pilot, then 35 years in the cockpits of the world’s largest airline, most as captain.

Here’s what readers and book reviewers are saying about this insider view of the airline pilot world:

Written with heart, wry wit, and honesty. Chris Manno has a strong eye for dialogue and for detail, and both are put to use in this entertaining, info-packed memoir of a pilot. –J. Beldon

Wow; just, wow. Great read. Refused to put it down. –NB

Right from the beginning of this book, I was hooked, reading the story of what could have been a deadly end to a planned jump from an airplane. –Maryann Miller

An honest peek inside a life well-lived, An Airline Pilot’s Life is the best memoir I’ve read in years. –Jennifer Silverwood

Get your signed copy HERE. Or, just scan the QR code below to go directly to the order page.

Should the Boeing 737-MAX Fly Again?

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

Should the Boeing 737-MAX fly again?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Start your journey HERE.

Air Travel in the Time of Pandemic

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Please do.

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

An Aircrew View of 9/11

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

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

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

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

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Fallen

            “Why?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

            She made her face blank..

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

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

Darcy met her in the aft galley.

“This is weird,” she said.

Mandy nodded.

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

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

            “Ah, folks, from the cockpit …”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

            “What? Seriously? Why.”

            “He didn’t say.”

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

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

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

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

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

            What? Call lights began to chime in the cabin.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

            Into the World Trade Center.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Copyright 2020 All Rights Reserved

From Aircrew Confidential: The Unauthorized Airline Chronicles

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

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

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

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

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

cvr ac2 r 2 - A

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

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

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

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

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

a2pl cvr w award and mat

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

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

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crew silhouette 2 001 (3)_LI

Furlough Letter

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The letter. The damn letter.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

In cruise, Kimmie faced the inevitable.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Will you, my dear?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Finally, Kimmie sighed.

“I’m so sorry, hon. I heard.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Just CLICK HERE.

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

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Freefall and Pictures

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

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

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

From An Airline Pilot’s Life:

Chapter 1

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

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

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

Nada.

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

Shit.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Way to go, dumbass.

Copyright 2020 Chris Manno All Rights Reserved

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The rest of the story? It’s all here:

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For paperback or Kindle, CLICK HERE.

And …. more pictures from the true story.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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An Airline Pilot’s Life: Windshear Flashback.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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From Amazon Books–just CLICK HERE.

Kindle ($5.19) — Paperback ($17.99)

 

An Airline Pilot’s Life Now Available In Paperback & Kindle.

Posted in air travel, airline industry, airline passenger, airline pilot, airline pilot blog, airliner, aviation, crewlife, flight attendant, flight crew, flight training, pilot, travel with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on May 24, 2020 by Chris Manno

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This is the true story that is Amazon’s #1 new release in Commercial Aviation, now available in paperback! Now you can live the pilot’s life yourself, from early years flying gas-powered, control line aircraft, to soloing in a Cessna 152, to USAF pilot training and soloing a supersonic T-38, to many years as an Air Force pilot in the Pacific, to American Airlines and a decades-long airline pilot career around the world, most of it as captain.

You’re in the pilot’s seat, living every step of the journey, hands-on, first person; the unvarnished truth that is the reality of a pilot’s life.

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Critics have called this “the real thing,” “an extraordinary adventure,” and “the closest most of us will ever get to flying a jetliner.” It’s all here, from the flying the DC-10 to captain upgrade to the MD-80 left seat, to instructor/evaluator, pilot union elected officer, to the Fokker-100 and eventually, the 737-800.

Live the dream yourself, every approach, every tight spot, every behind-the-scenes adventure in a vivid, fast-paced real life story.

Get your copy from Amazon books–just CLICK HERE.

Then, let your first-person adventure begin.

From Goodreads: “Reading this book, one learns what goes into the making of an airline pilot, as well as what is in the heart and soul of an airline pilot. I highly recommend it on both counts.”

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