In November 2009, a self-proclaimed Archaeology Lifer found herself employed as a Flight Attendant. She's not sure how it happened. No one really is. Here's what happened next...

 

‎”You are an excellent candidate for this First Officer position sir…but please, tell us why your number of take-offs does not equal your number of landings?”

‎”You are an excellent candidate for this First Officer position sir…but please, tell us why your number of take-offs does not equal your number of landings?”

C-F-18.  Hanging out in CYOW.  Just sitting there like it’s no big deal.

GUUUUH!

The Flight Attendant’s ABCs - E (echo) is For…

  • Emergency Exit Row - Always a matter of some contention.  The EE rows are generally reserved for what FAs call “ABPs”, or “Able Bodied Passengers”.  We don’t mean it to be discriminatory.  All the bodies and organizations that organize aviation regulations around the world enforce the rule that the passengers who sit in EE rows MUST be able to open the exit and not hinder evacuation in the event of an emergency.  So no, you can’t have the extra room for your kids to play around in.  Don’t ask.  And it’s not the FA’s fault you can’t sit there, so don’t hate.  It’s a matter of safety.

  • Engine - What’s the difference between a jet engine and a flight attendant?  The engine stops whining at the gate.
  • Entertainment - In flight entertainment - fantastic on Air Canada and other such large carriers.  Not so good on other airlines.  Non-existent on charter companies.  But then, you pay peanuts for a week-long all-inclusive Caribbean Vacation…do you really expect to be flown down on a shiny, brand new, fully tricked out A380 instead of a B737 that’s older than you are?  Bring an iPod, or even one of those old-fashioned book things. 

  • Engineer -  Officially, the engineer  “an enlisted man or NCO who monitors and maintains aircraft operation in-flight and otherwise aids the air crew.” (Source)  Unofficially the engineer is either the best person in the world who will fix your mutinous coffee maker four times during the flight, or he’s a jerk who sits in the back row reading/listening to music/playing on his nintendo and laughs hysterically at you when you have a flood in the galley, yet still expects to be fed, watered, and otherwise generally treated like a passenger.

The Flight Attendant`s ABCs - D (delta) is for…

  • Dead-head -  Dead-heading is the term used whenever a member of an airline crew travels on another airline in order to be positioned for work.  There are two kinds of dead-heading crew.  The first is the conspicuous variety.  The FA will find ways to `casually` let everyone know that he or she is a flight attendant in the hopes of scoring perks or upgrades or general admiration from civilians.  The second category is slightly more incognito - they keep a more low-key profile.  That way they can silently judge other flight attendants at work on their safety demonstrations, uniforms, announcements, bad jokes and so on.  Personally, I only break out the `wings`if I suspect it will get me a free drink.

  • Diet Coke Products - Diet soda, particularly Diet Coke, is the devil at altitude.  Something about the carbonation and the chemicals make it impossible to pour without getting a huge head of foam.  Ice only makes the situation worse.  Sometimes pouring it like a beer down the side of the cup can help, but on the whole you will usually spend a good two minutes trying to pour a drink and looking vaguely incompetent while doing so. 

  • Delays - How to piss off passengers, pilots, flight attendants AND ground staff all at one time.  Some passengers will act extremely put out whenever a flight gets delayed, and naturally assume that it`s a ploy devised by the airline just to make their lives difficult.  What they usually fail to realise is that everyone else is just as put out as them.  It means more time at work for everyone, and most people try to avoid it.  Often when the delays are due to weather or mechanical issues with the aircraft, I like to cheerfully remind people of the well-known quote - `It`s better be to on the ground and wishing you were in the air, than to be in the air and wishing you were on the ground.`

  • Dehydration - It`s a well known fact that an aircraft is mechanically designed to suck the hydration out of you.  And at altitude NOTHING ever seems to be a good substitute for water.  Soda will only make you more thirsty (not to mention give you jet-belly), and coffee makes you want to pee.  H2O is your friend. 
  • And then today I somehow found myself tagging along with the Pilots from the college program on a tour of Nav Canada’s hangars.  It was part of a retirement ceremony for one of the Nav Canada’s pilots… I don’t know how or why I was allowed to be included.  It just goes to show that a smile and a friendly attitude can get you anywhere!

    Pictures from a couple of weeks ago, when the United Embraer-145 went off the end of runway 25.

    I miss Lettie.  :( This was the last day I got to fly on her.
I need that schedule like Lady Gaga needs pants.

    I miss Lettie.  :( This was the last day I got to fly on her.

    I need that schedule like Lady Gaga needs pants.

    Hmmmmmm

    7So once upon a time I told the Dispatcher at the flying club to call or text me if a B747 ever landed in YOW. He just said that an Air China B747 landed…. I’m seriously considering the 45 minute drive right now.

    I’m checking to see if they are being diverted from YYZ (usually the only reason B747s show up around here). If they are, I’m taking the camera and going.

    I’m that cool.

    I’m too cranky to think up a witty title…

    I’m having a day of doubt.  I’m Captain Crankypants of the Negativity Ship, and we’re all going down.

    Ok, no not really, just me.

    Landing is brutal.  I want to be good at it NOW.  Balls to “safe” landings, I can do that, we’ve covered it, I’m safe.  I want the nice landings and I want them now (imagine me stomping my foot like a petulant child at this point, if it helps).  It’s just so hard.  I get the theory.  My Instructor has the patience of a saint, but he keeps repeating the basic idea, and all I can think is ‘Yeah, I get it, but could you crawl into my brain, take over my hands, and let me FEEL how it is supposed to go?’  Because I understand.  Promise.  But I can’t put it into practice.

    I nearly asked to give up halfway through my lesson today.  I didn’t - I literally had to bite my tongue.  But I was ashamed of myself for getting so frustrated that I wanted to stop for the day.  That’s not me.  I’m stronger than that.  How could I want to give up on something so easily? 

    I’ve been all frazzled for a couple of days now, and I’m not sure why.  I need to chill out though, for real.

    Otherwise, my favourite part of the lesson came while I was lining up on runway 25 ahead of Jazz or someone.  I heard them talking to the Tower, and the Tower responded.
    ‘You are number two, just behind a C-150.  He’s lining up to land on runway 25.  Just slow down and give him about 30kts to clear.’

    He.  Him.
    Oh man!  Did I switch gender again and forget?!  Oh wait.  Nope, still a girl.  Still got boobs.  Still don’t even sound remotely like a man on the radio.  Come on buddy!

    I’m taking my cranky butt to bed now.  Wish me good dreams, and a JULY FLYING SCHEDULE FOR THE LOVE OF GOD!

    An exciting few days at the club really.

    Tuesday, just before my lesson, we saw Air Force Two take off.  We hadn’t even known it was there until it popped out from behind a hangar and lined up on runway 14, right outside the club.  SURPRISE!  I didn’t think fast enough to take a picture though.  Then, during my lesson, a badass black Challenger was also working in the circuits, but on 32 while I was on 22.  Still, pretty cool to be able to hear him over the radio and catch a glimpse here and there.

    After my lesson I was having dinner with a couple of instructors in the club lounge, and I noticed something LARGE coming in to land on runway 32.  I got ridiculously excited, because I could see it had four engines.  My mind started buzzing ‘Oh god, a 747! Yes yes yes!’ before it got closer and I realised it was entirely the wrong shape.  It landed and came to a stop practically on our doorstep.  An Antonov 124!  It was absolutely gorgeous, and caused quite a stir.  Everyone rushed outside to take photographs.  Naturally this was one of the days I didn’t have my camera.  The picture of the AN124 I thieved from My Instructor’s facebook page… the rest are from my cell phone!

    While sitting on the lounge, I overheard one of the other students planning his cross-country flight to Pembroke that evening.

    'Hey,' I said.  'Do you have a passenger?'
    'No,' he replied.
    'Sweet, can I come?'

    And that’s how I invited myself out for a night flight in a C-150 with a guy I barely knew. I was so glad I did.  By the time we got back to YOW we had become friends and were having an absolute blast.  I learned a lot, and laughed a lot on that flight.  Plus I got a little bit of extra flying time in, while the PIC tried to figure out where the hell we were! Also, he gave me mad props, because I spotted things well before he did.  For starters I could see the YOW runway about twenty minutes before he did, and I pointed out three of our route markers for him.  I have no idea how I could figure it all out in the dark, but somehow I knew where we were!

    We landed briefly in Pembroke, and stupidly left the plane doors open.  When we got back from stretching our legs, it was FULL of mosquitoes, which we spent a good 15 minutes trying to swat before we left.  We discovered that the Canada Flight Supplement is very good for this purpose.  When we were done there were mosquitoes smeared all over the front windshield.  Yeesh.

    We landed back in YOW at about 10.30pm, just before My Instructor, who had been working on night-time circuits with another of his students.  I ran downstairs to use the bathroom, and when I came back upstairs I overheard my Cross-Country friend telling My Instructor that I was going to be an awesome night-rated pilot.  I couldn’t help but feel a little proud of myself. 

    Yesterday afternoon when I was done work I felt a mad pull to go hang out at the club.  But it was raining heavily and I was tired and cranky, so I decided to come straight home instead.  When I got online, I got the news about the E-145 coming off the runway, and I immediately started to worry.  I got my runways confused, so for a little while I thought it had come off just by the flying club.  I texted and called everyone I have on my cell making sure everyone was OK.  Eventually I remembered that the runway was on the other side of the airport, and thankfully no one was seriously injured in the accident.  The Dispatcher and I drove past this afternoon though, as they were just beginning to lift the plane.  To be quite honest, they are lucky that the accident wasn’t worse.  If it had been a larger plane it would have gone right through the barriers onto the road.  And if it had come off the end of runway 32 it could have injured a lot of other people, not to mention probably destroying the Flying Club’s fleet.  Thank goodness it was not more serious.

    There you go, folks.  A whole week’s worth of posts, all jammed into one hour!  I’m going to bed now.

    "Wait a second, who’s flying the plane?!"

    I just remembered that I never wrote about Monday’s flying lesson, and boy was it a doozy!  The most fun I’ve had in a plane to date!
    This will be brief-ish though.  I have a headache.

    I went into the lesson expecting a briefing with My Instructor, but instead we headed straight to the plane and went flying!  No complaints from me.  I had previously told My Instructor that I wanted to do a spin for myself, so when we got out to the practice area, he looked at me and said ‘Well, take it away then…’  I glared at him, swatted him on the arm, and told him that he needed to do it once to show me, since it had been a couple of weeks since The SuperInstructor and I had done them.

    'Oh, man.  I haven't done a spin in like a year…' he said.

    I’ve missed his sense of humour, I really have.  It’s dry and a little sarcastic, and always deadpan. 

    Well, he showed me a spin again, and asked if I was ready or I needed to be shown again.  I opted for him to show me again, which he did.  Then I was ready to do it, and I totally froze.

    'Are you ready?' he asked.
    'Uuuuuh,' I said.
    'You don't have to do it, you know.'
    'I know! But I want to!!!'

    There were deep breaths, and a little bit of blind panic, but I went for it anyway!  It wasn’t perfect, but it was OK.  I’m kind of at the point where I am astonishing myself with my guts.  I can’t believe I’d ever have the balls to do something like that, but here I am, doing mad maneuvers in an airplane!

    Following that, we (finally!) finished up my lesson on spiral dives, and then headed to the circuit.  The Circuit is nuts!  It was pretty busy, so there were all kinds of instructions coming at me.  Eventually I was first in line to land - although the Tower told us not to actually land for a touch and go, just to do a low fly-over, as they had about seven other (considerably larger and faster) airplanes coming in behind me.  It was pretty cool though, as we were given that clearance for runway 32, which is one of the main Ottawa airport runways, and not our normal club strip!  Lining myself up for a (pretend) landing on an international runway was pretty badass, I thought.  Until I realised that there were probably hundreds of people in the terminal doing exactly what I do in the airport - watching planes land!  I got hit with stage-fright!  It didn’t matter though - my instructor had to take control in the end, and we broke it off into a climb above the terminal, and finally rejoined the circuit for runway 22, where I did another crap landing in a hardcore crosswind, but at least out of sight of the terminal building.  Sigh.  I’ll get it right one day, I suppose.

    All in all it was a great lesson.  We spent about as much time laughing and enjoying ourselves as we did being serious.  I’ve booked My Instructor again for Tuesday, and based on how that goes, I’m probably going to end up saying screw the SuperInstructor, I’m sticking with Mine.

    On a final note - one of the most memorable moments so far:

    After finishing demonstrating a spin for me My Instructor let go of the controls.  I was re-adjusting my headset which had started to fall off during the spin, and it took me a moment to notice he wasn’t in control anymore.

    'Dude,' I said.  'Who is flying the plane?!'
    'Aren't you?' he replied.
    'No!'
    'Oh.  You gonna?'

    He’s such a pain in the ass.  I missed him!!!!