Sunday, November 27, 2005

Thanksgiving Flying

Hope you all had a pleasant weekend with family and friends.  I worked Thanksgiving morning, flying a Boeing 757 from Los Angeles to Fort Lauderdale.  It was a full flight.  I had not worked a holiday in over ten years so I was surprised at all the people flying on Thanksgiving.  Leaving LA at 11:30 am we were scheduled to get into Florida at 7:45 pm.  It seems that no matter the day of the year people need or want to get someplace even if it means missing a holiday.  The passenger mix was normal with a little bit of everyone.  It oddly seemed like a normal day to me. The flight was uneventful, the weather in Florida perfect. I spent the night in Coconut Grove and took my first officer out for whatever sort of dinner we could find as by now it was 9:00 pm on Thanksgiving night.  A short walk from the hotel is an area of eateries and bars catering to tourists.  If something was open it was going to be there.  Geared toward people younger than me, the establishments have names like Bahamas Breeze, Tequila Joe’s, Rave, Rum Runners, etc.  These places have never done much for me, especially the ones where you can’t hear yourself think let alone the person next to you screaming in your ear.  Sometimes though, these are the only places open at 1:00 am still serving food after a long day of flying.  Most of these establishments are very understanding and sympathetic to our need for food.  A few of these places know were pilots when we walk in as I was told at one place that “usually every night two guys that look like the two of you walk in here at about this time looking for something to eat”  So much for trying to be anonymous.   The only place serving food was an outside bar.  The first thing I noticed were the people sitting by themselves, hands on a drink, staring into their glasses.  I have always wondered what it is they see or don’t want to see in those liquid crystal balls.  Sadly, this was the best they were going to do today.   Our waitress gave us the menu which was limited to wings, tenders, and other deep fried delicacies.  I asked her if anything else was available and she informed us that the only other thing was a “Thanksgiving like dinner”.  Upon further questioning of the young woman, I ordered what was supposed to be a turkey dinner.  Within 5 minutes a white jacketed chef emerged from somewhere I was never able to figure out.  He just sort of appeared out of nowhere.  He served us two huge plates of turkey, dressing, potatoes, yams, and pumpkin pie.  We dug in and didn’t say much to each other while we ate.  Our waitress however, was a talker.  Perhaps it was my father like appearance that led her to go on about her boyfriend who doesn’t give her enough attention.  I’m sure it was obvious to her that once our plates were put in front of us we were not going anywhere.  A fire hose could not have moved us out of our seats, so we were a captive audience for this young woman’s lament. The men staring at their glasses saved us as they individually ordered new drinks in new glasses.  We left with bellies full and smiles on our faces.  Being able to find a meal like this, on a day like this, at a time like this, is tough.  Sometimes the best things happen when you stumble right into it.  

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Sunset from 40,000 feet off the east coast, November 2005.

Here comes the Jet S

Here comes the Jet Stream.

Did you know that our planet wobbles around the equatorial plane?  It tilts back and forth over a year toward or away from the sun.  Until December 21st (solstice), earth will be tilting away, and then it starts tilting toward the sun for six months until June 21st(solstice), the longest day of the year. The process then starts over again.  

Starting in the fall the fast moving rivers of air that usually hang out in the far Northern hemisphere start their migration south.  These winds almost always blow west to east.  They spend the late fall and winter over the continental United States.  It looks like the fast moving rivers of air are back and we are like flying salmon swimming with the current or against it.  Winds can easily be over 100 knots with rare speeds of close to 200 knots.  For the record a knot is a standard measurement of speed used worldwide.  In the U.S. we use statute miles.  The conversion is 1.15 statute miles for every knot.  If you’re flying along at 450 knots, you’re also doing 517 statute miles per hour.  The next time you get pulled over for doing 75 in a 65 mph zone, just explain to the officer that your were really only doing 65 knots, hey you never know it might just get you off the hook! It’s great when you have a tail wind; you’re screaming across the earth at close to 600 knots and it stinks when you have a headwind as your ground speed can be half of that.  I have had pilots tell me about flying small prop airplanes close to the ground in headwinds so strong they moved backwards. Really.

So this last weekend I flew back and forth across the U.S. two times.  It took about four and a half hours from the west coast to the east coast and about six hours coming back. I remember a few years back flying from L.A. to Boston and the flight time being just under four hours as we did over 600 knots all the way.   The two legs east were red eyes and the sunrises for both were incredible.  The simple act of seeing a magnificent fiery sunrise is worthy of its own story. So a new season of winds starts again and thousands of pilots and airplanes will play a daily game of cat and mouse with them.  Flying north or south of the jet stream to avoid the headwinds, flying through the heart of it to ride the tailwinds, and climbing and descending to avoid pockets of turbulence.  I also had a layover in San Francisco.  I highly recommend a visit to Tommy’s Joint on Geary St. and Vaness. It is a one of a kind place with great food, lots of history, and good prices.  Tell them FlyGuy sent you.  Be Safe.