Saturday, September 6, 2014

Adventures in Flight: Meeting Iselle

I hear the big island of Hawaii has never taken a hit from a hurricane, not for any particular reason, other than just luck. It's been over 20 years since a hurricane has hit the islands. While I've certainly been to the islands numerous times in the past 14 years, apparently, for no other reason than just luck, a storm finally nuzzles the Big Island and Mother Airline gives me a trip there.

Growing up in Houston, hurricanes aren't anything new to me. I remember one storm that passed right over us. I awoke to sideways-falling rain and heavy winds. We hadn't lived in the home long, and one of our newly planted trees was leaning to the right, dancing and shimmying as the storm pushed through. The eye passed over and the air got still and dry, the sun even peeked out for a bit, as if to see what was going on below. Then things went back to hurricane mode as we caught the back side, and that poor tree now leaned as far to the left as it had to the right, as the winds on the back side of a hurricane blow in the opposite direction.

I've always loved a good storm. Strong winds amaze me and as long as I'm dry, I don't mind rain. I was excited to be going to Hawaii the day the storm, Iselle, was supposed to land. The trip was only scheduled to be a turn, meaning a 13 hour duty day, 5 hour flight there, and about the same coming home. Turns are tough to work and there are times the crew goes illegal, meaning the flight goes longer than we are allowed to fly. It's happened to me before, and is why I always take my suitcase for turns- especially this time.

The crew I worked with was about as excited about the storm as I was. One, who had not been minding the news, wasn't aware of the hurricane until we mentioned it. We walked to the gate, discussing the what-ifs; might we go illegal, where would they put us up, there would surely be a loss of power and it would be horrible to be in a hot hotel with no air conditioner.

When we reached the gate, we were inundated with nervous passengers asking if we were really going, how safe was it, and were we worried about flying into a hurricane? I got so tired of the questions, that when we began boarding, and more questions came, I played a few games, such as dumb, “I don't have any information, you probably know more about the storm than I do”, to dumber, “What hurricane?”

I thought it was interesting that people were flying to an island about to be hit by a huge storm, and it was the flight they were concerned with. The worst part of their day was certainly going to be on the ground, not in the air.

The captain made an announcement before we left that calmed everyone's fears; we would be just fine, arriving long before the storm was to reach Oahu, and the winds when we landed wouldn't be much stronger than the ones we were leaving in San Francisco. It was a delight to the passengers, but a let down to me.

The captain was right. We landed to very anti-climactic Honolulu weather; calm, balmy, partly-cloudy and rather nice at 10PM. We took off just over an hour later, about 6 hours before the weather was supposed to turn ugly. We had a few bumps after take-off, and that was the extent of it. I was hoping to meet Iselle, but we beat her and left before being formally introduced.

There is a saying that warns of being careful of what one asks, as we were not free from excitement on this flight. Working in economy and hanging out in the aft galley during the flight home, I was made aware that there was a medical issue when the purser made an announcement asking if there was anyone on board with medical training. Nothing like that announcement to get your attention. It turned out to be minor; a woman with some tingling in her arms and shortness of breath. We administered oxygen and on board was a dentist, a nurse and an anesthesiologist to look after her. She was fine and after landing would walk into the terminal without the aid of a wheel chair.

It was a gorgeous morning in SF when our 757 touched down back home. The one good thing about Hawaii turns is that, with over 10 hours of flight time, I could now enjoy 36 hours free from duty. Yep, time for some well-deserved shut-eye. After all, Mother Airline would be sending me back out for more adventures once my rest was finished. Never a dull moment in the life among the clouds, and one of the reasons I love my job!

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