Monday, June 30, 2008

The perils of living with a pilot- Episode 34

While driving to the library during a late afternoon thunderstorm:

S: Geez, I can't believe it's raining so hard. Are you sure you can see anything? I can't see for crap with this rain. I'm glad I'm not driving.

A: It's not that bad, I've still got about a half mile visibility. No need to file for IFR, we can still go VFR.

This past weekend I was also forced to watch Air Force One so that A could point out all of the airplane and flight inaccuracies and impossibilities.

Also this weekend, I met a Navy Flight Engineer while out at a bar. We live in a town with two Navy bases, both of which have active flight lines- we have a lot of posers who say they are pilots to be cool. So I promptly asked him to recite his after landing checklist. I even had to give bonus points because he couldn't keep his hands still while he was doing it- they kept reaching for imaginary switches and dials. I've caught a couple of fakers with this little trick.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Clearing out the cobwebs

This spring has brought us the urge to do some much needed cleaning and updated in parts of life. It feels so good to be able to let go of THINGS, both tangible and intangible. A's recovery from cancer has given both of us an excuse to start things fresh.

I spent a few hours this week (boss is out of town...) cleaning out old emails from my personal account. The 2005 angry back and forth emails from the crazy roommate I had to kick out, who then had the nerve to turn around and ask me if I would leave the cable on so she could come by and tape things during the day b/c she couldn't get cable at her new place. The emails from all of the people who contacted me via my profile in 2004/2005. The emails from the men I dated before I met A. I did keep all of the sweet emails from early on in A and my's relationship; when I recited some of the sappy stuff, he could not believe he had ever said it. Par for the course I guess. It was funny to go through all that stuff, but there's no need to keep it anymore.

We're moving out of the apartment finally. Well, we will be in another month. To a larger townhouse nearby. I'm so excited to not have to: park 500 feet away from my apt., listen to the downstairs neighbor's TV at all hours of the night, schlep my groceries up a flight of stairs. The new place is larger than what we've had so we're going to have to find some new to us furniture to fill it up a bit. And I've never, ever, lived in a 2 story place before.

We're taking the opportunity to purge a bunch of stuff again too. We really cleaned out when we moved to FL but we've accumulated a fair amount in the last 2.5 years. Books that we can check out from the library if we ever want to read them again. My wedding dress from my failed prior marriage (A was not happy about dragging that all the way to FL, but I insisted). Old aviation manuals and knee-boards. All that stuff that's been thrown in closets to be dealt with later. A put some old music on my ipod so I've been rocking out to the likes of Depeche Mode and Erasure lately. Always reminds me of the photos of A rocking the permed hair and trendy clothes in the 80's. Nothing like humiliation to bring your love closer...

I'm up for a new position at work. More responsibility and more in line with my college education and previous experience. Looking back, I seem to change jobs about every 2.5 years, once I've completely mastered them, so this new hunt is right on schedule.

There are a few things I'm not yet ready to let go of, like Kidzilla's baby toys, and a few things I wish I could let go of, like the student loan of Kidzilla's father that I'm still listed as a co-signer on. I think all that will come in time.

A is doing well getting back into teaching ground school. He quickly found out that not only were all his reference materials outdated, but he needed to brush up on some of knowledge. Going back to teaching initial instrument ground school in a single engine plane has reminded him of how much he used to have to remember. His schedule is much better this time around. He still gets called out with "this is the guy that happened to" when story time comes up. He's best well known as the instructor who had several students freak out in the plane on him- like the student who grabbed his arm and said "I've got a wife and kids" in a panic while doing a complicated (upside down?) training maneuver. A must have nerves of steel.

Kidzilla's been in California for 2.5 weeks now. He had a wonderful camping trip with Grandpa and Grandma to Mt. Lassen and Lava Beds National Monument. Camping and exploring caves at Lava Beds was one of my favorite trips as a kid. I miss Kidzilla, seeing his empty room and his artwork on the fridge, brings up a sigh every time. But, I do have to say, A and I have been living it up as child-less adults as well.

There hasn't been much aviation related to write about lately, haven't found any inspiration in A's return to flight instructing. It's been 4 months since A last flew. Which feels like an eternity considering everything we've been though since then. Any topic requests or book reccomendations are appreciated.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

A belated though for all parents in honor of Father's Day-

Live so that when your children think of fairness, caring, and integrity, they think of you.

- H. Jackson Brown Jr.

Friday, June 13, 2008

The A320 Day

This week I sent Kidzilla to CA for 5 weeks. My father (UAL Retiree) came out to get him and non-rev'd him back out. Here are some excerpts from an email he sent me about their trip. They were up at 4:45am Eastern time and finally made it home at 10:45pm Pacific time- what a long day! I am not envious of that or of the struggle to finally head west out of ORD.

The day started out ok. M got to go into the flight deck and make a welcome announcement on the plane. The captain gave him a A320 trading card. We sat in first class and had breakfast. That was the best part of the day. Waiting in ORD was the worst. We missed several flights; the Denver flight had over 75 standbys. Mom finally got us to try the flight to PHX. We were in the last row on the plane along with a United Express pilot. But getting on the plane M got to go into the flight deck and talk to the flight crew. He got another A320 card. M says it was his first flight on TED. It was a TED flight from PHX/SFO with the same cabin crew but different captain and F/O. The captain put M in his seat and let him try on his hat; the FO gave M a set of wings. We were finally home at 10:45.

I do have to say THANK YOU to all of the crew who made the trip so exciting for Kidzilla. A was a little jealous that HE had never gotten to sit in the CA seat of an A320 or wear a CA hat. It really does make a wonderful impact and make a crappy travel day into a great experience.

I am always proud to see crews who take the time to chat with kids and invite them up to the cockpit. Not only does it show the public that pilots are people too, not just seemingly well paid adulterers who never leave the cockpit, but I think also that when a kid sees all those buttons, dials and levers it enhances that whole pilot coolness factor. I think it's great PR for pilots and someday in the future people will remember that time when they got to sit in the CA seat for just a moment and remember that that CA is a person too and yeah, he does deserve to be paid according to the responsibility that he shoulders.

So pilots- invite a kid into a cockpit for a moment- make a kid's day and probably an impression for a lifetime.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

He Survived

A finished his radiation treatment yesterday. We are both so excited that he is done, done, done and currently cancer free. Here is a picture of his neck-

Currently it's at about a second degree sunburn stage. Radiation burns tend to lag about a week behind treatment, so it will contine to worsen and will peak next week. Near the bottom you can see the scar where they removed his tyroid. The burn is quite asymetrical too, a result of the tumor having crept up the side of his neck on one side. Although his skin should heal, it will always have a distinct look and texture. But for the most part it's covered by clothing.

This is the mask that A had to wear while receiving treatment. It's a hard plastic mesh that was form fitted to his face. The bolts around the edge were for bolding his head to the table to keep him from moving and misdirecting the radiation beam.
Today begins the waiting period until he can go back to work. He can reapply for a medical in 6 months, but any body scans won't show him as cancer free until a year from now (has to do with residual cells and ?). We aren't sure yet if the FAA will take his dr's word for it or insist on a scan. His dr. feels it's best to wait until 1 year if they request a scan. So we'll see how it goes.
In the meantime, we are all doing well and doing our best to keep tabs on the aviation ups and downs of late.

Monday, June 2, 2008

Some random thoughts on pilots

Found these two quotes while reading "Pilots of the Line" by Sky Masterson ( a collection of fictional short stories about flying).

This one about where a pilot feels most at home-

For a pilot, home is not a building with four walls and a roof, neither is it wherever his hat is laid; it is that area in closest proximity to his plane... It is the only place where an aviator knows for sure he belongs, the only place he knows what day it is- exact Zulu time for that matter. Home is Chicago, San Juan, Tokyo, and Berlin, all at once, so long as jets rumble his hotel room window there. Home is walking the beach in Tampa with shiny black Florsheims, sandals in Milwaukee in January, paying twelve dollars (US) for a hamburger at the hotel restaurant, and administering parental advice over the telephone from a thousand miles away. Home is sharing dinner at a Japanese restaurant in Mexico with four people you met four hours before. Home is the Ramada in Buffalo on Christmas morning.

This one about those spectacular women aviators call their wives, written about pilots-

They recognize how command changed their personality over time, forced them to believe that though they must accept input from others, they are the ultimate decision makers, because they are ultimately responsible. And since they must maintain control in all cases in flight, only a superman can turn off this trait on the ground, on a whim, a trait that only a super wife can live with for every long- only a super wife could command the house for a few days while her commuter was gone and relinquish command to "the captain" when he returned. They recognize this. They also recognize the implausibility of finding such a flesh and blood woman in a lifetime.

There is a new Kenny Chesney song out (say what you will, the guy is good looking!)- Better as a Memory. In the first verse, near the end, is a line "My only friends are pirates" that for the longest time I thought was "my only friends are pilots". I was convinced of it because pilots just seemed to fit. It was only after searching the lyrics and listening to the song very loudly that A was able to convince me that it was an R, not an L that I was hearing. Even then it took a while. I still think it should be pilots there. The imagery and suggestion of the song- leaving before becoming committed- lends itself well to the pilot image of always moving on, a girl in every port, dropping in and out unexpectedly. But pirates? The image of plunder and pillage just doesn't seem to fit. Maybe I'm biased.

We have a friend, I'll call him Mavrick, who totally fits the pilot image. He's the nicest guy, always friendly and outgoing, almost always with a cute girl by his side. Tall, handsome in his uniform, still in his twenties. Usually can be found flying off to new and exciting places when he isn't flying for the company. Dad is also a big time pilot as a major so he's got an "in". But strangely, when I think about it, he's the only pilot I can think of who fits the bill. All of the other pilots we know are settled, in relationships, some have kids, some have dogs, some have expensive morgages. I guess it's easier to keep the public perception of that handsome, rakish pilot (and more fun for the pilots) than it is to present the reality of the life.

Sometimes I don't relish facing the reality of my life either.