Back In The Saddle?

I may be a bit premature here but there’s a decent chance I’ll be spending the next six months living in the innards of a Boeing 737.

Now that may not seem like much to those of you lucky enough to be employed at the moment but from where I’m lazily slouched on an armchair it looks great.

I had the misfortune (?) to be laid off a couple of weeks ago and once the initial surprise wore off ( and I had a little bit of a moan for myself) I fired applications in all directions. This past week resulted in no fewer than three hits. All aviation related. It’s an omen I tell ya! Two were in IAD (one of them being a flightie gig) and the third was in BWI. Just like the bus. You wait for ages then three come along at once.

My preference would be for the BWI job. True it’s not a flying job but I’m in this to play the long game now.

Besides I’ve been looking for an excuse to move to Baltimore.

Hon.

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Room 101

Every single overnight in SWF.

Every one.

Of course the moment I made it known that I’d prefer another room my crewmates rushed to ensure I ended up in 101. Blows were exchanged more than once. Fnarr.

At this particular hotel our airline had six rooms reserved on a permanent basis. Three for the early crew and three for the evening trio. Someone had the idea to assign the same six rooms to the crews every night. So it was that we had rooms 101-103 and 201-203. This was the only hotel in the system to do this and it bothered me.

If I could choose one world to describe this establishment it would be ‘Beige’. The kind of anonymous and close to the airport gaff favoured by hookers and serial killers…and flight crews. A cursory glance at the sign in sheet (usually in the van) would tell us who had been in the room previously. No need to send the pubes left in the bath/sheets/coffee pot off to the lab for DNA analysis. It’s a bit tedious to turn in for the night only to find a note from the previous occupant halfway down the bed. ‘If you are reading this then they haven’t changed the sheets HAHAHA’. Disturbing enough but when you consider the time and effort taken to cut all the letters of the note out of porno mags you find yourself reconsidering the Jacksonville round you picked up with that captain at the end of the month.

How do I know they were porno mags? Well not anxious to find out what else was left on those sheets I elected to call Housekeeping for new ones and wait for them on the recliner. I lean back and try to lift the footrest with the handle but no joy. I get a bit more physical with it and I feel something shift in the innards of the chair. WTF? Over. Once more with the handle and finally the footrest lifts… while at the same time a veritable cascade of pornography flows out of the chair.

So there I am. On my knees next to the recliner with an array of mutilated stroke books(There were a few videos too.) fanned out around me. Precisely when the door opens to admit the housekeeper and my new sheets.

I wouldn’t have minded it as much if I had gotten some benefit from that particular smoking gun

Aces High Fashion

 p-51_wv_ang*Sigh*
This uniform stuff is getting ridiculous. Not to mention expensive. Hoffizers have to buy their kit and there is a lot of it. About 99.9% of it has absolutely nothing to do with the mission. None of this is the point of course. I just think that the cost of getting kitted out is a real obstacle here. I just don’t have it to spare and until I do I guess they don’t have me.

On a completely different note I have one of my old lowlife crewmates dropping in on Wednesday. It’ll be good to see him again and catch up on the last couple of years. We have quite a bit of material to cover.

Irish Pilots

In over five years of flying I never met a single pilot I couldn’t sit down and have a pint and a chat with. There were a few that were madder than a  box of badgers but they just added a bit of colour to proceedings. The vast majority were dead sound, intelligent, well-travelled (duh)  broadminded men and women and more than a few were from countries other than the U.S.

A modest European contingent included a small number of pilots from Ireland and on more than one occasion Crew Scheduling put an all Irish crew together by mistake.  Cue the mighty passenger head wrecking. To save fuel we would often start lengthy taxis with just the one engine. Not so obvious to the passengers in a CRJ but very much so to those misfortunes  stuck with me in a J-41. Most people are shit scared of flying to begin with but when they are jammed into a tiny 29 seat turboprop that has one of those props very obviously not turning as we approach the runway it’s hard to keep a straight face.

Seat 7A  “Er…excuse me Miss? Did the captain forget to turn the other engine on”    

 Me  ”  Jaysus! Hold on there now missus while I give him a call *Picks up intercom” “C’mon owra that ye bollix and start that feckin’ engine…Yeah? Ye said that the last time!”

More Big Gulps than 7-11 I tell you.

So on and so forth. Another time I was in White Plains with the aforementioned Murphy and there was a wedding going on at the hotel we were in. Two of the guests left a huge cooler full of drink in striking distance. We immediately absconded with said drink. We eventually gave it back (most of it anyway)once we had negotiated a decent ransom.

The daily porn hunt was just funnier with an Irish crew. It was just another part of the pre-flight ritual to pull up the seat cushions and look in all the nooks and crannies to locate the ridiculous porn torn from magazines and stashed all over the planes by the previous crew. Most of the time it was confined to the cockpit. The only time I ever lost it in front of passengers was when I heard one of my countrymen spluttering in astonishment at finding something especially ridiculous.

 ” Aaahh Good jaysus would ya look at dat? Wha?”

I had to beg the passengers pardon (much to their amusement)and take a seat for a minute until I could get the laughing under control.

FAQ  for Irish Crews

Q  Is it true there are no snakes in Ireland?

A. Yes. The giant spiders ate them all

Q  Are you from Scotland/Australia/South Africa/Canada?

A. Fuck off for yourself.

Q. I love your accent.Where are you from?

A . Detroit.

Q. Have you read Angela’s Ashes?

A. They haven’t got the Braille edition yet…now where’s the front of the plane again?

Q. Are you spending the night in Columbus?

A. Yes…but not with you.

and my all time favourite

Q. How much have YOU guys had to drink today?

A. Ladies and Gentleman thanks to the thundering gobshite in 10 A .Your crew now has to go and take  a drug and alcohol test. Unfortunately this means that your flight will be delayed (if we can find a spare crew) and may even be cancelled (if we can’t) Once again. This comes to you from 10A. Thundering gobshite. We love you.He does not.

 

Somehow it just wasn’t as funny with the others.

On The Job Injury

Herman was a legend among us. Those of us who had flown with him never gave the details to those who had not. It was too much fun to watch their shell-shocked expressions when they had finished their flights with him. Herman wasn’t just a colleague. Herman was an adventure.

Now Herman was from Hong Kong and was a born again Christian. Neither of those things were what made him that legend but I mention them as they both added elements to the crazy- pants stew that was this man. Never a fan of taking things easy he did everything at high speed. Walking,talking,eating and taxiing were all done at a high rate of knots. This led to one First Officer he flew with to call out “Rotate” as they were speeding to the gate one time. To save time between flights he would skip meals and scoff some evil Chinese madness in flight. Another poor F.O. witnessed Herman slurping cold eels out a can. He’s not been right since.

Herman was a great fan of efficiency and multitasking and as I was fairly competent in both areas we got along quite well. We once sat down and planned out installing little sewing machines in the tray tables so that passengers could sew footballs or sneakers in flight. Another time,on a dare from me, he rode the baggage carousel at State College wearing a rising sun head band and waving a plastic Samurai sword.

I didn’t mind Herman you see,as I was able to close the cockpit door on him and his poor misfortunate F.O.s. So while Herman wasn’t my favourite Captain to work with he was one of the more entertaining. Until he sent me to hospital with an inhalation injury. Then it wasn’t funny anymore.

We were in Dulles and the plane needed it’s lav serviced as it was getting a bit whiffy. We had plenty of time and the rampers told us they would take care of it before we came back to the plane. True to their word they did. Only they took a little too much care of it. The toilet was filled almost to the brim with the infamous Blue Juice. The ramp guy had “over-serviced” and had pumped in too much. I called Herman back to have a look. He revelled in the challenge presented to him.

“Get me three of the heavy trash bags” was all he said.

This was where my instincts told me to flee but my curiosity at what Herman was up to beat them back. I had to see what he was going to do. I didn’t have to wait long. As soon as I gave them to him he wrapped his arm in the bags and plunged elbow deep into the blue lagoon.

“Herman!!!! You mad bastard! What are you doing?” was my helpful contribution.

“Ah…’s no problem.I just have to release this catch and…..”

We never did find out what the catch was supposed to do because we both took to our heels to avoid the volcanic fountain of vileness that erupted from the toilet. I was just ahead of the advancing tide but poor old Herman caught some on the chest. There was a blue river of this digestive enzyme (corrosive to aluminium) coursing under the seats and soaking in to the carpet. This plane was done for the time being. Or so I thought.

When the mechanics came on-board they could not believe the extent of the damage. The blue juice had by now sought out the lowest points on the plane and was spilling out on to the tarmac in full view of the passengers. It was like one of those Tom and Jerry cartoons where Tom gets riddled with gunfire,drinks a bucket of water and has it all squirt out of him.

Add a very blue (literally and emotionally) Chinese man with trash bags wrapped around one arm for extra comic effect.

Now we were supposed to have three more flights in that plane. A Roanoke round and then on to our overnight in Charlottesville but this was looking unlikely now. There were no spare planes available and ours wouldn’t be fit for flight for a while. To make a long story longer the mechanics dried out our plane as best they could and we were put back in it.

I never made it to Charlottesville. The flightie jump seat on a J41 is right next to the lav and that was where the soakage was worst. I had to breath that crap for nearly an hour and a half and by the time we landed  back at Dulles I thought I was going to choke to death.

The Emergency Room doctors got a laugh out of it. I’d have laughed too if I  could have spared the breath.

Herman,If you’re reading this I owe you a kick up the hole.

Hair Of The Dog

The thing that I miss most about the airline industry is the friendship.It’s not your average workplace and there really is a sense of being a part of something bigger.We were not workmates.We were (and remain) crew-mates.In a very real sense your crew became your family on the road and very strong and enduring friendships were forged.You could liken it to a college fraternity or sorority…..or some mad cult.

That our infant airline was basically strangled at birth by the big boys and under siege for every moment of it’s short life added to that camaraderie.I have to confess that it took me a while to move on from what we had and for a long time I couldn’t revisit the many great memories without mourning them.These days (nights really) I work in a lonely,soulless environment with little or no contact with humanity and it was genuinely painful to contrast those good times with my sere present.

I’m over it.

I could choose from a huge array of good memories but this one thats been bouncing around my skull for the last several hours works for me.

For some inexplicable reason only known to Crew Scheduling my crew was taken away from me and I was dumped in Richmond on my own.It was my 30th birthday.I was to report to the airport in the morning and take the place of the inbound flightie for the super short hop back up to Dulles.I was ,however,duty bound to do so nursing a wee bit of a sick head.I mean it was my birthday after all.So making very sure to observe all of the FAA and company regs I got langers with some locals at a very disreputable roadhouse within the alloted ‘wet time’.

I wake up in the hotel in Triple A status (Alive,Alone,Aching) and set about getting ready for my day.I make it to airport in plenty of time and a very amused ramper gave me a huge paper cup of black coffee.I wander out on to the tarmac and park myself on a tug to await my plane.It was nice out here.Cool enough to warrant my big blue overcoat but warm enough not to regret wearing my uniform dress.I must have dozed off for a minute because next thing I know one of our J-41s is rolling very deliberately right at me.I don’t stop to think that it’s doing that because I’m sitting just in front of it’s parking spot.Oh no..this was a plot to torment my wee sick head with the hellish scream of two Garrett turbines.The absolute bastards!

I slip my ear protection on immediately and eye the approaching plane to make out the gobshites in the cockpit.Yup..sure enough it was Deek and Murphy.Two good friends who knew exactly why I was sitting on the tug with the coffee.The bastards! The ground crew guide her into her berth and chock the nose wheels.Normally this would be when the crew would shut the engines down but they had a really short transit from the runway to the gate and needed to run the engines for a minute or two to properly attain a safe shutdown temperature.This, of course, was a source of great hilarity to the pair of bolloxes up front who jockeyed the throttle just for me and my sick head.

The insane,screaming,banshee howl of those engines dragged me to the edge of murder.Well.. not really.You see given the same opportunity I’d have done the same thing.I move nose to nose with the plane and making sure no passengers can see me I gave Deek and Murphy the two fingered salute.Murphy ( from Ireland too) convulsed with laughter. Deek was from Minnesota so Murphy had to translate my gesture.He too joined in the yuks.

These were the things that told me I belonged.That I was among friends.Among my crew.

I belonged.

 

Doc Savage

As I haven’t been flying for some time I needed to take my arse in for a flight physical and get the AME (Aeronautical Medical Examiner) to sign off on a medical certificate.You just don’t fly without a med cert. and if ,for whatever reason,you don’t have one then you shouldn’t be in the air.There are quite a few things that can disqualify you from getting a med cert (and thereby grounding you) and the fairness of those exclusions is another topic entirely but it is the law of the land.

Back in the Long Ago I recall having to take Army ‘physicals’ both before and after certain NCO schools.This usually entailed a hung over Medical Officer taking the the odd hit of O2 as we marched in (quietly) and circled a table.This fulfilled Irish military physical requirements at the time.It demonstrated that we were capable of remaining upright,possessed gross and fine motor skills (try marching silently sometime) we could see and hear and that we did have a pulse….each.

Now I’m not saying that the AME examiner wasn’t thorough.Not saying that at all.I would never say that about a man who has a framed Colt .45 pistol over his desk…..I mean would you? I am saying that it just felt perfunctory.That’s all Doc….is that thing loaded by the way?

We could say that about interactions with a lot of medical professionals but I somehow expected more from this guy.Maybe he was feeling his age (he is not a young man) or perhaps he’s not too keen on women flying when there’s a perfectly good kitchen going vacant.Maybe he’s like that with everyone but I ,as I said, expected more from a doctor with an office in a fecking aircraft hangar.

I suppose I’m spoiled with having real living,human connections with other doctors and professional people in my life.I’m not suggesting we cross any boundaries but it is very easy to maintain excellent working relationships and still have time for a cup of tea.I’m a huge fan of this shift towards a more holistic approach to all things. When I say ‘holistic’ think osteopath as opposed to allopath.Just want to be clear on that.Just because I like being asked “How are you?” instead of “what brings you in today?” doesn’t mean I don’t believe in hard science and the scientific process. Physics,maths and engineering keep planes in the air after all.That’s my belief system.Nothing else is wanted or needed.

Except maybe a little eye-contact and ackowledgement as a person every now and again.

 

Hello world!

So this is this WordPress you speak of?  Welcome aboard An Irish Airwoman Forsees Her Debt. Please take a moment to familiarize yourself with the safety features of this blog.We’ll be pushing back for departure very shortly so please make sure all of your neuroses are secure,your emotional baggage is securely stowed and that you are in your fully uptight and insecure positions.

Chocks Away!!

So the West Virginia Civil Air Patrol have finally decreed me worthy of membership.I received a nifty folder in the post the other day complete with lovely fashion plates depicting the correct way to wear the various uniforms.I’m particularly taken with how the skirt has to fall within a certain distance above/below the knee.

None of the uniforms (BDUs excepted,but I don’t look good in camouflage) look like they’d be very comfortable in the cockpit   er..I mean flight deck.The thing is though you have to be in uniform when you fly soooooo that sort of corners me into wearing a flight suit.For a Cessna 182.

About a million years ago I remember the slagging  my comrades and I dished out to Irish Air Corps pilots flying similar aircraft in Gormanston, Co.Meath. They were towing the target drogues we completely failed to hit with thousands of rounds of 40mm,12.7mm and 7.62mm.

 “Oi! Top Gun!”

“I feel the need…the need to pee”

“That’s not  a plane.That’s a Volkswagen with wings!”

And so on.It would appear the worm has turned full circle.