Friday, December 11, 2015

My Favorite Things: Ferrying a Flight

Takeoff from San Francisco International

Since my days in training I've heard the stories; zooming down the aisles on serving trays or standing at the back wall of the plane during take off, kicking back and watching movies in first class seats; singing songs over the PA system; party in the back, sleeping up front. The reasons vary for the need; mechanical issues, aircraft positioning, apparently it once happened after someone relieved themselves in the aisle – toxic land mine! It's always been a dream of mine, and in 15 years, I've only had one incident of doing it... ferrying a flight.

A ferried flight is one in which there are no passengers; only crew. Often, aircraft are ferried with only pilots, but occasionally, flight attendants are also needed to accompany a ferried aircraft. I think all flight crew enjoy the chance to ferry a flight.

Many years ago a pilot told me a story about ferrying a flight. There were no other crew members other than the two pilots. There were carts installed in the galleys, but they were empty. During the flight, the pilots got a hankering for a hot cup of joe. The first officer went hunting but couldn't find any coffee.

Upon entering the lav, he did find a pack, hanging on the hook. He decided to make a go of it and brewed a cup of coffee. Some flight attendants will hang a coffee pack in a lav that has particularly bad odor issues. He told me that once he tasted it, he realized how effective they were in doing so. He told me, “Every scent that was in that lavatory was now in that cup of coffee! I nearly lost my lunch!”

The morning I got the call that I was on a crew to ferry a flight, you'd have thought I won the lottery! I was a bit crest-fallen when learning that the flight was only from San Francisco to San Jose, which is only an hour traffic.

I showed up at the gate and met the rest of the crew. It was neat being able to board and just leave when we were ready; no passengers to board. We were to pick up our passengers in San Jose and then work to Denver. I was clearly the most excited of the five of us.

We completed our safety checks and briefed with the captain. He reminded us that we still had to arm the doors and then he said the magic words, “If anyone would like ride in the cockpit jumpseat, we'll only have one available, just let us know. The others had no interest, but I was like a boy being told I could open Christmas presents two whole weeks before Christmas!

Beautiful Day in SF
After arming my door, I took my seat in the cockpit and strapped in. The captain had also said he'd leave the door open so the others, who were seated in the first class seats, could have a view. I'd been able to take off and land in the cockpit during training, but if you've been reading my stories, you know how much I love aviation, and being in the cockpit is the best!

It was a beautiful day in the Bay Area. We taxied and took off and as the plane's nose arched upward, the cockpit door slammed shut. Unable to reach it, it remained closed until we were safely in the air, at which time the others offered their complaints of not being able to see the takeoff.

The sad thing about the short distance of our ferry flight was that we only reached an altitude of about 8,000 feet, but the aerial tour going down the coast was fantastic. The Pacific Ocean was on my right and the bay on my left, with the hills, the highway, Stanford University and Moffett Field, once the home of huge blimps and an airfield that still (at that time) housed their huge hangars.

In no time at all we were landing from the south at San Jose, and after taxiing to the gate, there was no wait for the passengers to board; scheduled departure had come and gone and we were coming to the rescue. It was sort of awkward going from such a fantastic experience to suddenly having to work!
High above San Francisco

I've not given up hope for the opportunity to ferry a flight longer than half an hour. A whole aircraft with nothing but crew, access to movies, cooking your own meal at your leisure, hanging out in the cockpit...ferrying a's my favorite!

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