Posts Tagged ‘Travel’

Saevire in Machina

Posted: November 23, 2019 in Aviation, Life
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I haven’t posted anything in a while, and just recently I was reminded of some thoughts I shared regarding the photo above. So permit me a moment of your time to share a short story about love, loss, joy, pain and and sometimes having to wait around a while.

“Uh, it’s a bridge, Matt.”

That is true. My relationship with this bridge goes back nearly a decade and is full of the kind of complicated emotions that run deep. While it is a bridge, it’s not just any bridge. What you’re looking at is the infamous Chelsea Street Bridge. On one side of the bridge is Boston Logan Airport, and on the other is Massport Parking where working crews and airport employees must park before reporting for work. The side you’re on when this motherfucker goes up can very well determine the outcome of your day. Many a crew and airport employee have been stranded for up to an hour waiting on various types and tonnage of shipping traffic to pass underneath, making those poor souls late for their duty assignments. Due to its completely unpredictable nature, never has one piece of machinery so directly determined the fortunes of so many.

They say no one has ever beaten the Chelsea Street Bridge. And they’re right. On this day, completely by chance, I was on the airport side of the bridge when I happened upon it raised completely with slow moving traffic passing below. With traffic stacked up, no end in sight and a report time to make, I made a split second decision to divert to short term parking. I made it to work on time, but that son of a bitch bridge cost me $70.

My thoughts and prayers go out to the stranded, despondent, unfortunate souls on the other side, waiting not so patiently on this pain in the ass bridge to come down, so they can report for duty to faithfully serve the traveling public. Theirs is the untold story of despair so often overlooked. We should never forget their bravery, and determination… or mostly that they need their jobs badly enough to sit around and wait and not just go home because “f this bridge.” Sometimes you have to wait kind of a while.

Stay strong, weary employees. Stay strong.

September 11, 2001

Posted: September 11, 2019 in Aviation
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I’ve never really participated in the sharing of 9/11 stories. Partly because I don’t really have one that’s worth telling, but also I’ve always felt that it cheapens the day to shift focus from the loved and lost, just to talk about myself. Who am I? Just a dumbass who drives airplanes for a living.

Where was I 18 years ago this morning? It doesn’t really matter, but since we’re talking about it, I was in Fort Lauderdale waiting to start IOE for my first flying job. I was barely a pilot then. Hell, I was barely even an adult. My mom called early (for her), woke me up and told me to turn on the news. I watched the towers come down and then spent the next three days like so many other Americans, glued to the coverage trying to grasp what just happened. I didn’t know anything about the industry I was trying to break into, or how it was the day before, but I knew for sure it wasn’t ever going to be the same.

So here we are nearly two decades later. I won’t presume to speak for all of the men and women I work with, but for those who were working, or old enough to remember September 11, 2001, I think it’s safe to say that we carry this day with us every time we walk onto the airport property to start a trip. Every time we close the doors and secure the aircraft for departure. Every day. Not just the one day a year Facebook explodes with the “Never Forget” pictures. I’m not saying the emotions behind the pictures are disingenuous, I’m simply saying that for a lot of us, it doesn’t end on September 12th.

For the thousands of families who were directly affected through the loss of their loved ones, they don’t have the option to forget. They’re living with the blackness of this day on their soul for-ever. For the rest of us, we show respect to their immeasurable grief by keeping them in our thoughts, and when we put on a uniform, being proactive in our security practices. I consider my security brief to be the most important part of my introduction to my inflight team, and while they sometimes look at me sideways when I ask to see everyone of them, there’s a method, and a message too important to get handed down through the telephone game. When we walk on to the airplane, the bullshit meter is pegged, and there’s no room for shenanigans. We do these things so the country doesn’t have to suffer again. Admittedly, it’s a small contribution, and in this huge and complex world, we may just be one airplane of thousands. But inside that airplane, we’re 200 human beings with families who expect to pick them up at the airport (reasonably on time).

I feel fortunate that the people that I include in my extremely limited social media presence, and include me in theirs, are those in the industry that do understand these things, or those that serve or have served our country in one way or another. I have always said there’s a fine line between paranoia and preparedness and we must be cautious to be on the right side of it. For my part, I’ll continue to check my doors and corners, and maybe, just once, get off the gate on time.

 

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To say that I have a fairly storied, bordering on sordid history with this little airport would be something of an understatement. As a young man in my early 20’s, trying to learn how to fly, be an adult human and make my way in the world, I was bound to make a few mistakes. At the Burbank/Glendale/Pasadena Airport in the late 1990’s, most of them involved a few hilarious vehicle incidents (including a exploding lav cart), the secret service and at least one totaled patrol car. I am not at liberty to disclose any more than this. Suffice to say, much learning occurred inside the perimeter fence of this historic airfield, and almost always the hard way. Such was my way in those days. 

The last landing I logged at KBUR was on April 30, 2001 in a 1951 Piper Apache. A decidedly less complicated airplane than the Airbus A320 I am fortunate to have under my command today. This landing was the return flight from Van Nuys following my Commercial/Multi-Engine checkride and my last in Southern California for quite some time. I’ve talked about that flight and the lasting impression made upon me by an impressive gentleman who had likely forgotten more about flying airplanes than I’ll ever know. In the two decades that followed, more hard lessons were to be learned about becoming a professional pilot and a decent human being at the same time. These two things are not always coincident. The road has been difficult and fraught with peril. 

This two day trip marked my first return to Burbank in almost a decade and more notably, the first time putting wheels on the deck as Pilot in Command in nearly twenty years. As Terrence Mann once said, ”The memories were so thick, you could swat them away like flies.” I marvel sometimes that we all got through those years relatively unscathed and out of jail. Fortune was riding shotgun, perhaps undeservedly so. But, prevailing wisdom suggests that fortune indeed favors the bold, or in my case the stupid, so here I am, in the left seat of a pretty impressive machine with none of the 87 ill advised tattoos I attempted to get after many nights out on the town. My list of people to thank for that alone is staggering.

My connection to Southern California runs deep and I look back upon those days as a closed chapter in the ever writing story that is life. Not good or bad, but a series of experiences that helped shape the man I am today. Whatever that means. I look forward to sharing with my son (when he is MUCH older) the lessons learned as a young man trying to figure it out in SoCal. 

Man or Animal?

Posted: February 9, 2016 in Life
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I think what this blog needs is a frank discussion on what is most important in life. I think you know what I’m talking about.

Coffee.

Nailed it, right? Popular scientific opinion will tell you that it’s opposable thumbs that separate us from the animals, but I respectfully disagree. I think it’s a good cup of coffee.

After fifteen years of moving airplanes at ungodly hours of the day and night, I was finally forced to acknowledge the fact that airport and local coffee vendors simply can not be relied upon for the most important component to safely transporting crew, customers and aircraft to the intended destination without incident. They’re never open when you need them, or worse they are and their excuse for coffee is at best criminal, and at worst utterly inhuman. The stakes are just far too high to take the chance. Now, if you’ve read any of this blog you would be correct in surmising that I am a systems guy. Every good idea needs a better system, right? So when it finally became apparent that it was time to solve the dilemma of how to have consistently good coffee while traveling, it turned out to be a task worthy of my OCD research and analysis.

Before we even talk about the tools, I’ll briefly touch on actual coffee. Choosing the right coffee bean is a lot like choosing a pair of running shoes. It’s incredibly personal, and what works for one person, may not work for someone else. Whole bean only, and the darker the better. If I can see daylight through my coffee, I’ve obviously made a horrible mistake. Trader Joes Italian, French or Sumatran are my usual go to beans, but some of the best coffee I’ve had comes from the smaller roasters that you can’t find on a shelf in a brick and mortar store. In either case, stay away from pre ground coffee at all costs. It’s important to note that you can have the best coffee on the planet and still kill it with a substandard brewing system.

Let’s start with the grinder. Go out and get yourself a burr grinder. Like, right now. I’ll wait… (Just kidding, maybe finish reading this first…) They can range from obscenely expensive to sort of reasonable, but I believe for the money you are buying a higher level of grind capability. The difference is noticeable in the quality of the final outcome. I use a Cuisinart, which allows you to adjust your grind from extremely fine to extra course. I’ve found an extra fine grind produces a stronger brew while a mid coarse grind turns out something a bit more balanced. Since the grinder is prohibitively large and heavy, traveling with it is not an option. My solution to that is to pre grind as much as I need for the length of trip I’m heading out on, and seal the grinds in small ziplock bags.

Never, and I mean never, use the coffee machine in your hotel room. I know it looks like it will make coffee, but I promise you no good can from from it. I’ve experimented with the French press for a while, which I’m sure we call all agree is a significant improvement over your standard drip machine. However, if my priority is making coffee on the road, I have to admit that it’s a little too bulky, not to mention fragile for a portable operation. I was at a drive in campsite with some friends a couple years ago when I was introduced to the Aeropress coffee press. To be honest, I’m not sure why the coffee that comes out of this odd looking little coffee press is so spectacular. I can only assume it uses what in aviation we refer to as PFM Technology. Either way, I could see the Aeropress would be a man-portable way of bringing good coffee to the most remote of locations, like this hotel room in upstate New York.

What about water? When I’m on the road, I use bottled water, which fortunately I have in abundant supply. Local water conditions may effect the taste of your coffee, so if you can, bottled is the way to go. As I’ve mentioned, your standard hotel room coffee machine, while being a coffee machine in name only, is an equally unreliable method of producing water at the right temperature for your perfect cup of coffee. I settled upon the Bodum 17 oz. travel kettle. Smaller than your average electric kettle the Bodum gives you the opportunity to get your water to exactly the right temperature. I shoot for about 175 degrees, and yes, I have a thermometer.

Most fanatics (read: addicts) will tell you that brewing the perfect cup of coffee is as much art as it is science. After some trial and error I identified a recipe that turns out a cup coffee so amazing you’d think it was brewed by unicorns:

– 2 generous Aeropress scoops of beans, mid coarse grind
– Water heated to 175 degrees – I push as much water as I can through the grinds without diluting it.
– Just a splash of half/half – This isn’t really necessary, as black coffee from the Aeropress is just as good.

I spend a fair amount of time in a confined space around expensive electronics that don’t react all that well to coffee spills, so in looking for a water tight container I discovered the Contigo insulated mug. It advertises keeping hot liquids hot for five hours, which I would say is a little optimistic, and has a lockable spout. This is especially important because when I inevitably knock my coffee over while performing those “preflight checks” you’ve heard so much about, I won’t cause significant delays and expensive maintenance procedures. You’re welcome, traveling public.

Forget for a moment the operational need, whether you travel for business or leisure, sometimes the impact of starting the day with a good cup coffee can make all the difference in the world. Being away from home is hard enough without having to suffer unnecessarily.

Please brew responsibly.