Sunday, January 29, 2006

Post 9/11 Flying

I took this picture yesterday during our approach to runway 31L at JFK.

Don't worry, it was the captain's leg - he won the coin toss in Paris - so he was flying.

What a great day to fly into New York! The weather was beautiful and there wasn't a lot of traffic. We didn't get many vectors and were cleared the visual approach to this runway, which is close to our gates. Anyway...

I had a request from Jessica to write about post 9/11 flying.

Most things are not that different.

In the first few weeks, the TSA broke the nail file out of my nail clippers and took away my leatherman tool that I had carried since my Air Force days. I almost had an ice cream scoop confiscated that I had purchased for my mother (for Christmas) because the metal under the plastic handle looked like a weapon on the x-ray.

Just recently I was in Boston (commuting to work, but not wearing my uniform) and got in the wrong security line -- all people in that line had to go through the "puffer" machine that detects explosives. While showing my Delta ID I asked if employees were exempt. The TSA agent said it would be considered a "refusal to test". I didn't want to learn about that process so I went into the machine. If you haven't seen it, it's a glass doored machine that blows puffs of air all over your body. (Most people let out a little yelp like they are being tickled -- I was too pissed off for that.) Then you stand in there for a minute while the machine deciphers the air sample. When the agent opened the door, he told me I had failed -- I tested positive to TNT! I had to wait for a supervisor while other agents thoroughly checked all my luggage. The supervisor told me that sometimes fertilizer can give a positive result (although I hadn't been doing any gardening that morning). She wrote my name on a list and sent me on my way. I almost missed my flight!

By comparison, I used to live and fly out of Atlanta. Our employee bus brought us directly to the A-concourse where our pilot lounge is located. We did not go through security. I think this is fantastic. After 9/11, they tried to bring all the employees through security. During normal shift change times, they could not get everyone through fast enough and it was stopped in about 2 days. So I guess if it is logistically difficult, security is not necessary. (Please excuse my sarcasm, but this drives me nuts.) Please note that I am not complaining about ATL. I wish all airports worked this way.

Enough about airport security!

There are only a few differences inflight.

On international flights bound for the US, we make an announcement from the cockpit before departure about TSA-implemented procedures. In summary, we tell passengers not to congregate in any area of the airplane and to stay in their respective cabin -- Business (First) Class or Coach Class.

I also find that if we miss a radio call from Air Traffic Control, there seems to be a greater effort to re-establish communications. Other airplanes will be asked to relay a message or the company is notified and they contact us by datalink.

But the most annoying change is the new cockpit exit/entry procedure. If we need to come out for any reason (like to use the bathroom for instance), we need to coordinate with the flight attendants so they can clear the door and bathroom of any passengers. It's a real hassle and with all the procedures, we are only alerting the passengers when the cockpit door will be open.

I honestly don't believe that any terrorist is going to use a commercial airliner again in an attack.

It's been done.

They caught us off guard.

We assumed hijackers want to land.

We have learned.

When my neighbors in Atlanta used to ask me if I was concerned about the safety of flying, I would ask, "Do you drive on the highways around here? That is the most dangerous part of my workday!"

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Ahhh, Sunrise

This is not the best picture, but it was an unusually clear as we coasted in over France this morning. This is the Golf De St. Malo and some French cities include, Brest, Marlaix and St. Brieuc. Sunrise made the end of the flight pass more quickly especially as we were vectored along the French coast.

It had been a long night of flying after a stressful drive to work on Monday.

It was snowing yesterday in NH, but nothing shocking. I managed to misread the school cancellations online and thought my kids were staying home. Later as I drove to work, my husband called to say that he drove them to school late. The elementary school called to see how Raymond was feeling since he hadn't come to school. OOPS!!!

Anyway, I thought the road conditions would improve as I drove south. Wrong! The roads got steadily worse and I saw several cars off the road. I even saw a big state snow plow truck/sander overturned on the side of the highway! As I reached the Massachusetts border, I called Cranky and asked him to check the NY flights for me. Everything was getting cancelled! Traffic came to a complete stop and I watched a tractor trailer slide off the road behind me and jack-knife into the ditch. Why was I still driving to Boston?!

I finally got to Logan airport (a three and a half hour drive!) and managed to be one of the last people to board the 12:30 shuttle to LGA. We got to NY at 3:00 pm and I took a car over to JFK. Thank goodness I didn't need to be there until 6:00!

The flight to Paris was uneventful and tomorrow we head to Bombay.

I'll be glad when I get home -- hopefully the weather will cooperate!

Friday, January 20, 2006

The Wealthy Industrialist

According to Wikipedia:

An industrialist is a person who operates or controls a substantial industrial business over a period of time, usually amassing substantial fortunes or political power in the process, and who tends to become widely known within society in connection with their industry, or through other pursuits such as philanthropy.

So what does this have to do with me? Unfortunately, absolutely nothing.

Last night I was making dinner for my family. I had been thinking about making chili ever since I read Balloon Pirate's recipe the other day. Unfortunately I'm very "time-challenged" right now, so I went to my old standby, McCormick's Chili Mix. It only requires 3 ingredients: hamburger, red beans and tomato sauce. (I use an extra can of red beans -- it feeds one more person and makes it thicker) Then I mixed up some Jiffy Corn Muffin mix and threw it in an 8" round pan.

Anyway.....Since I was cooking dinner it was time for a beer. We were out of Sam Adams, my preferred winter beer, so I grabbed a Molson Canadian. After everything was underway - chili simmering, corn bread baking - I noticed the label on the back of my beer said "wealthy industrialist". What the hell does this have to do with my beer? Those crazy Canadians...

After grabbing another beer I decided to take a picture. (My husband thought I was crazy.)

There was fine print around the edge of the label that said,

Some said it wasn't possible to put another label on the back of the bottle. We said, "Huh, what did you say?" because it was really loud in that bar.

So today I went to that website and and read this:

Using Molson Twin Label Technology, we've applied a second, or "twin" label to the back of each bottle of Molson Canadian and Canadian Light. This label can say anything, and usually does. So now, instead of letting your mouth do the talking, you can let your Molson do the talking.

I guess it's supposed to help out the drunks in bars to start up conversation. There are a lot of different messages, none that I would ever use or want to use.

I prefer the bottle caps found on some classic beers like Heffenreffer, Lucky or Narragansett that had the "concentration" puzzles. Does anybody remember those?

Have a great weekend and please don't "let your Molson do the talking"!

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

This Hill Sucks!

This hill is about halfway through my usual run. It is nicknamed the "Great Divide" and while it is great, it divides nothing. It is near the border between our town of Sunapee and neighboring town, Croydon, but runs perpendicular to the line. Anyway, according to my new handy dandy Garmin Forerunner 301,

I know that the top of the hill has an elevation of 1315 feet and the other side is 1300 feet. The bottom of the hill is at the 2.5 mile point in the run and has an elevation of 1151 feet. I realize with this information and a couple of distances I could calculate the gradient of the hills but I won't. Suffice it to say that I go down the hill VERY fast and up the other side much more slowly! I can give some more nifty numbers from my Garmin:

Heart rate downhill: 150 bpm
Heart rate uphill: 178 bpm
Pace downhill: 6:30 min./mile
Pace uphill: > 10:00 min/mile
Stops during run uphill to keep heartrate below 180 bpm: priceless

Sorry, couldn't resist that last one.

I've discovered something since I began running with this great gadget: No matter how much data I have available to me, I still find numbers to contemplate while running. Maybe the calculating is as therapeutic as the running.

Music is essential for these runs. Not all the songs on my MP3 player have a fast beat, but each puts me in a certain state of mind. Current running playlist:

Aerosmith No More No More - gets me started
Red Hot Chili Peppers My Friends - sounds great through headphones & good for warmup
Pearl Jam In Hiding - reminds me of moving back to NH
Boston More Than a Feeling - first album I ever owned
Foreigner Feels Like the First Time - helped me get running again 3 weeks after my c-section
Jack Johnson Sitting, Waiting, Wishing - I'm not sure why, but it works
Counting Crows Long December & Train Calling All Angels - reminds me of Rome for some reason
Paul McCartney Band on the Run - before I had an MP3 player, I ran with a CD player and this album was good for running (before I had a CD burner)
U2 One - This song was on my MP3 player for almost 2 years in Atlanta - reminds me of my daily runs there (Sybil: this reminds me of Penhurst subdivision)
Allanis Morrisette You Learn, Thank U, Uninvited, Hand in my Pocket - angry chick music that helps me think
No Doubt Don't Speak - alright, this just has a great beat
Sarah McLachlan Adia - reminds me of being a new-hire at Delta & moving to Atlanta from Charleston SC
Dido White Flag - a song courtesy of my daughter that I find I can also sleep through on airplanes
Neil Young Old Man - I've been finishing up to this and it's great for my final hill - by this point my head is totally clear and I'm ready to start my day!

Snowmobiling has its own (somewhat headbanging) playlist on my MP3 player, but that's another story for perhaps another time...

Sunday, January 15, 2006

A Day of Extremes

When I left New York yesterday morning at 7:30 am, it was warm and rainy. I didn't even wear a coat when completing my "walkaround" (kicking the tires etc.) of my beloved B-757. We were flying Song flight 2041 to Aruba. I hadn't flown a 757 in almost 2 years and couldn't wait to fly what I consider, the "sport" model of my category. Smaller (and cooler looking) than the B-767ER we fly to Europe, it's a fun airplane to fly.

It took a little over 4 hours to get to Aruba, where it was partly cloudy and 82 degrees. It is a small island and a non-radar environment where we tell the controller our location and he clears us accordingly. We called the island in sight and were told to descend into the pattern at 1500 feet. He then cleared us for a visual approach to runway 11, which brings us in over the resort end of the island. I had a great landing, remembering to pull the power at 30 feet instead of 10, and keeping the nose from dropping.

I wish I could say we went and sipped margaritas on the beach, but instead went through security and customs (preclearing to the states, which is nice) and back to the airplane. Because the flight time round trip is longer than 8 hours, we carry 2 pilots for each leg, and I was done for the day. Since I commute back home through Boston, I went over to another gate and hopped on an American Airlines flight to Boston. Luckily the Captain agreed to give me a ride so plopped down in an open seat in first class. What a deal! I couldn't take a picture while I was flying in, so I took these on departure:

This picture has most of the island in it. Aruba is smaller than I expected!

(Not much happening on this end of the island... )

So I made it to Boston ahead of the winter storm. The front was passing over Providence RI as we flew over and it was rainy in Boston. I ran over to the Delta terminal and caught the employee bus to my car. After nearly 2 hours of miserable driving, I was almost home. The rain had turned to snow at this point, so I was happy to be home!

The wind was howling and the temperature had dropped dramatically. Around 11:00 pm we heard a loud crack! A large pine tree had fallen in our driveway and it fell the only way it could without doing damage. It fell at an angle between the house and the barn and only scraped the barn a bit as it fell. If it had fallen backwards, it would have taken out power lines so we were very lucky! Here are some pictures I took this morning:

Here's the tree trunk that snapped!

This tree fell across my husband's normal parking spot. Fortunately he puts his truck in the garage in the winter.

(The boys were out playing in the snow as I shoveled and cleared branches)

What a day!

6:30 am -- rainy, 45 degrees
12:30 pm -- sunny, 82 degrees
9:30 pm -- snowy, windy, 20 degrees

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Thoughts on Alito

I was reading the Alito transcripts from today here:

I think it is difficult to figure out how any judge will rule in the future by asking him/her questions. But I was troubled by his convenient loss of memory regarding his membership in the Concerned Alumni of Princeton (a group that opposed admission of increased numbers of women and minorities).

Here is a little snippet of Senator Durbin's questioning:

Durbin: Let me just go to the Concerned Alumni of Princeton. I didn't understand your answer.

Your answer said something about ROTC being discontinued at Princeton University. I know you were involved in ROTC. I'm told that by the time you filled out this application ROTC had been restored. I don't believe you were suggesting that bringing more women and minorities to Princeton would somehow jeopardize the future of ROTC. I don't know that that's the case.

ALITO: I've said what I can say about what I can recall about this group, Senator, which is virtually nothing. I put it down on the '85 form as a group in which I was a member. I didn't say I was anything more than a member. And since I put it down, I'm sure that I was a member at the time. But I'm also sure -- and I have wracked my memory on this, that if I had participated in the group in any active way, if I had attended meetings or done anything else substantial in connection with this group, I would remember it.

ALITO: So that's the best I can reconstruct as to what happened with this group. I mentioned in wracking my memory about this, I said, "What would it have been, what could it have been about the administration of Princeton that would have caused me to sign up to be a member of this group around the time of this application?" And I don't have a specific recollection, but I do know that the issue of ROTC has bothered me for a long period of time. The expulsion during the time of the units, at the time when I was a student there, struck me as a very bad thing for Princeton to do.

DURBIN: Did women and minorities have anything to do with that?

ALITO: No. And I did not join this group, I'm quite confident, because of any attitude toward women or minorities. What has bothered me about -- what bothered me about the Princeton administration over a period of time was the treatment of ROTC. And after the unit was brought back, I know there's been a continuing controversy over a period of years about whether it would be kept on campus, whether in any way this was demeaning to the university to have an ROTC unit on campus, whether students who were enrolled in ROTC could receive credit for the courses, whether the ROTC instructors could be considered in any way a part of the faculty. All of this bothered me, and it is my recollection that it continued over a period of time.

*end of snippet*

How can someone join an organization, list it on a Justice Dept. job application and not know why they joined? What does working in the Reagan Administration do to people'e memories?

I think a better answer would have been "I don't know much about the organization -- my wife signed me up for it".

I realize this is a very small point with so many more important issues regarding a Supreme Court Justice appointment but I prefer honesty above (almost) all else. The "I don't recall" excuse irritates me!

That's all --

p.s. Mo, I flew with a very Texan captain (you know the type) but found out 4 days into a 6 day trip that he was Democrat and hated Bush. We agreed on several issues and I was totally shocked! (After that discovery I almost didn't mind his whisting in the cockpit.) I don't know how you live there....

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

The other side of the world

I left on a 6-day trip on New Year's day -- a fairly typical trip for the JFK based -- Paris (24 hr layover), Chennai (24 hr layover), back to Paris (24 hrs again) and then back to NY. As another pilot once commented: You really feel like you've gone somewhere when you get home! Here's a picture from the cockpit of the parking coordinates at our gate in Chennai :

(Photo fixed by Balloon Pirate -- thanks!)

While in Chennai (the city formerly known as Madras), I explored the city a bit with the other 2 pilots. Two of the Indian flight attendants showed us around and helped us with transportation. This is what we rode in:

These things are really cool! I would love to have one. The 2 guys in the brown shirts were our drivers -- we needed both since there were 5 of us. It's pretty crazy on the roads -- lots of beeping horns and weaving around -- luckily we weren't going very fast so it didn't seem as scary as the Van Wyck in NY! We paid each of these drivers to drive us and wait during our stops for lunch and shopping. Total cost for each: 300 rupees ($7) for 5 hours. We gave them each a 50 rupee tip and they were ecstatic.

Had a great lunch sampling a variety of indian dishes. I looked through a window at the cooks and they were working incredibly hard in a hot and steamy room. To make the bread they toss it like pizza dough and then put it on a rock and into the oven. One of the Indians told me the cooks have no hair on their forearms from that job. Wish I had taken a picture...

When I got back to the hotel, I noticed some repairs being done to the roof. This "ramp" for the workers looked to me like something from Gilligan's Island:

The pick up time for our flight back to Paris was scheduled for 12:45 am so I had to take a nap in the evening. But before hitting the hay I found an internet cafe. It was interesting also -- it was a Mailboxes Etc. type place -- with a few computers in the back. When I walked in there was only one man on a computer and he didn't acknowledge me so I started to leave. He called to me and said I could take any computer -- he had just been very involved in a computer game. I don't know why I was surprised, but he was playing computer cricket. I stayed for an hour and paid 30 rupees (75 cents) -- what a deal!

Our drive to the airport was uneventful -- not much traffic at that hour. There are a lot of idols in the airport terminal. I wish I could write an educational paragraph on this topic but I need to research it some more. Here's a picture of the departure board with an idol below it:

Passengers were looking at me as I played "tourist" to take this picture but I couldn't resist. Our flight is the one to New York, and yes, we left at 02:50!

The flight to Paris was long -- 10.5 hours -- and dark all the way. Ahh, it's great to be home. I definitely feel like I've been somewhere!