Saturday, September 6, 2014

Adventures in Flight: Jetset in 3...2...1

One minute I'm home on my couch enjoying what I thought might be a day off. Being on call with my job is a beast unlike any other. Waiting by the phone for a call from the crew desk to be off to a host of possible places: Sydney, Denver, San Diego, Orlando or sitting at the airport for 4 hours in the event that something goes awry and I'm needed, were all in the realm of possibilities. After 14 years, I still have sit on call every other month. I used to love it much more than I do now. Having a line, where I know what trips I have all month, is better for having control over your life. With a trip, I can trade for others or attempt to drop it for a day off. When on call, I only have a single day at a time that I can trade and there are so many rules; you must have at least 3 days in a row, can't have more than 6, can't create a new block in the month,...I'm sure there are more that I am forgetting!

So it was a day spent wasting it away on my couch watching Air Disasters on Netflix – not for the faint of heart, to be sure, especially before taking flight. But watching shows about what can go wrong seems to instill in me the knowledge that things will go right because of the lessons learned. It's funny how I can do this, but wouldn't want to watch Jaws before going swimming in the ocean!

Thoughts of a possible nap crossed my mind as the hours passed and the chances of a late trip grew greater...or I'd find out at 7PM what trip I'd get for tomorrow. Either way, a nap was sounding like a doable thing.

I was a call-in reserve for the month, which means each night at seven, I can find out what my trip is the following day. However, there are times we are not given a trip. The options here would be released for the following day, or converted to ready-reserve, which is what happened to me the previous day and was why I was sitting around wondering if the crew desk would end up calling me.

Then my phone rang – the ring tone familiar – that of one of my favorite songs by Stevie Nicks, perfect for a call that is to whisk me away to a far-off place...“You will fly like some little wing,” she sings, “straight back to the sun”. It was the crew desk calling with an assignment and I was soon to be jetting off.

Normally, the phone rings and I've got at least 4 hours before flight. This call was different. I was asked if I could be at SFO in 2 hours. I looked carefully at the time and considered that I wasn't packed nor showered, but I was within my normal prep time. Yes! I don't receive a lot of short call outs, but when we do, we only need to do our best to make it, and I knew I could.

The next minute I was getting ready for a trip to Honolulu; deadhead there in a coach seat, lay over for 14 hours, work one leg home...great trip! This job can have such a sense of urgency at times. “I'm needed in Hawaii!” Drop every thing and jet off.

Taking off from SFO

From wasting a day on the couch in front of the TV to sitting in the window seat on a jumbo jet watching the traffic on Highway 101 flow by as we taxied under a clear, blue sky to the start of the runway. It was such a gorgeous day, what was I doing at home on the couch? Oh, yeah. Waiting for a call from work. Had I not been ready so quickly or not lived as close to the airport, I might not be on my way to Oahu.

Seated next to me was the first officer who would be flying me home the next day. We talked briefly and then he lost himself in a movie while I played tunes and did a few crosswords. Four hours later, we flew over Pearl Harbor. I could see the white monument of the USS Arizona clearly. Further back in the harbor were naval ships; a carrier and a few destroyers. Beyond that were the mountains of Oahu and the Western shore of the island. We made a sweeping turn and lined up with the runway and soon our 767-400 was parked at the gate.

When we got to Waikiki Beach, it seemed that everyone was was packed! I checked in and changed clothes, then it was time to jam in a short vacation; a couple of Mai Tais at the hotel pool bar, enjoy the sun set, a bite to eat, a walk on the beach and then time to head to my room. Not a bad day at work.

The following morning I would regroup with my crew in the hotel lobby to be on our way back to the airport. Once through security, we reached the gate and found out why we, along with the pilots, had all been flown to Oahu to work back. The inbound flight had diverted to Hawaii from Sydney due to pilot legalities; it was as far as they were allowed to fly. The passengers had all cleared customs in Oahu and had been waiting in the gate area for a few hours. This sounded like bad news for us, but they wound up being quite nice, just very tired; most would sleep the whole way.

I was assigned to work the aft galley, which was a task since we were boarded with a full-on breakfast service. It's been a very long time since I've had to do a full-on meal service of any kind on a flight that was not international. The crew worked well together and we had a very good time. Before we knew it we were starting our descent into the Bay Area. We landed under the same beautiful skies as we had left the previous day.

I got home, repacked my bags for the next assignment where I would be off again, seeing the world, tending to the tired traveler and happy I love my job.
Diamondhead crater from Door 4

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