Wordless Wednesday: Morning at KSLC

Delta planes SLC

Richard Simmons Air New Zealand Safety Video

If you thought Deltalina was entertaining, you should check out the new Air New Zealand Safety Video starring Richard Simmons! Air New Zealand is notorious for their saucy safety videos, particularly the one where the crew are dressed in body paint.

If you’re sick of the #RickRoll, how about you do a #RichRoll?

Ode to a Certain Irish Airline

No airline is perfect, but a certain Irish airline tends to live up to all these cliches. Enjoy!

Ignite Salt Lake Video – Enjoy Your Time at the Airport, Whether or not your Junk is Touched

For those of you who missed my #IgniteSaltLake presentation, here’s your chance to watch me stumble over my words about how to enjoy your time at the airport. Many thanks to Jesse Harding, the main event organizer for Ignite Salt Lake, the sponsors, the other speakers, and all those who attended the event and encouraged me in this crazy endeavor.

Pilots, Patdowns, and Rest Rules

Just wanted to put my two cents in on two aviation topics that are currently in the news: “naked body scanners” at TSA security screenings, and FAA reform of pilot rest rules.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010 is National Opt-Out Day. It is an awareness campaign, cleverly planned for the busiest travel day of the year, to get the attention of lawmakers. Travelers are encouraged to opt-out of Advanced Imaging Technology (AIT, or “naked body scanners“) and request an enhanced manual pat-down. According the the official website:

It’s the day ordinary citizens stand up for their rights, stand up for liberty, and protest the federal government’s desire to virtually strip us naked or submit to an “enhanced pat down” that touches people’s breasts and genitals in an aggressive manner.  You should never have to explain to your children, “Remember that no stranger can touch or see your private area, unless it’s a government employee, then it’s OK.”

The goal of National Opt Out Day is to send a message to our lawmakers that we demand change.  We have a right to privacy and buying a plane ticket should not mean that we’re guilty until proven innocent.  This day is needed because many people do not understand what they consent to when choosing to fly.

It’s more than just a traveler issue for me, it’s an issue of common sense. Pilots and other crew members are subjected to security searches day after day, and are exposed to potentially harmful radiation levels. Many airline unions have encouraged pilots to refuse the AIT scanners and request the pat-down everytime. Unfortunately, I don’t have the highest opinion of many TSA agents…many are young, inexperienced, and exploit the power trip that their uniform affords them. If my husband’s junk is going to be manually examined, I’d prefer it not to be done by a TSA agent. My friend Sam, a regional captain, wrote an excellent post on security silliness required for pilots. Why are crew members practically strip-searched when they have the greatest weapon at their disposal (the airplane), should they choose to cause a disaster? Will fingernail clippers or a shampoo bottle over 3.4 ounces be more dangerous? It just doesn’t make sense.

The other issue under discussion is regarding the FAA’s proposed Flight Time/Duty Time requirements. These new rules allow a reduction in the amount of hours a pilot may have on the ground, while increasing the total hours they may be on duty. Sully Sullenberger, the captain of the “Miracle on the Hudson,” is encouraging the traveling public to  lobby to have the proposed rules revised for safety. Please watch the following video, and visit the Coalition of Airline Pilot Association website to create letters to send to your local government officials.

Important Message From Captain Sully Sullenberger

Help keep the friendly skies safe, one pilot at a time!

Airline Mergers and Acquisitions

I can hardly keep up with all of the recent airline mergers and acquisitions. Aviation tends to be in the news fairly frequently, last year being particularly eventful.  I’m not sure if more is going on than in past years, or if I’m just paying more attention. Twitter keeps me pretty connected to the latest headlines. In response to the crash in Buffalo last year, the FAA has been revising crew fatigue and rest requirements. Airlines are beginning to hire again, and furloughees are being called back. United is in the process of merging with Continental.  Pinnacle is buying Mesaba. TransStates is buying Compass. SkyWest is acquiring ExpressJet and merging it with ASA. ComAir announced drastic fleet reductions. Today,  Southwest Airlines announced its plans to purchase AirTran.

I remember being floored when I started hearing rumors of Delta and Northwest merging in 2008. My husband was in his first year with his regional airline, we’d just relocated to Detroit, and the national economy was taking a nosedive. Between Delta and NWA, there were approximately 10 regional airline contracts. I knew at some point, many of those airlines would either fold or get sold. Sky-high fuel prices have made many companies reconsider renewing contracts on fuel-inefficient aircraft. Tickets are getting more expensive to keep up with costs, and more planes are taking off full.

I have learned that being married to someone in the aviation industry is unpredictable. When Taylor was hired, regionals were recruiting like crazy. Had the economy not tanked, he might be a captain right now. It’s exciting to see things moving again, but it’s worrisome to know how it will affect other families like us. It’s been tough living apart, and the commute is so hard on him.  We are constantly scheming ways to live together and make it financially. We’ve lived in the same place for 14 months, but I honestly don’t know when or where we’ll be next. It’s hard to feel a sense of security when life has so much uncertainty.

I can only hope that all this change will bring about good things.

The Bachelor Finale: Jake and the Skank

“This is the life I’ve always wanted. This is the guy I’ve always wanted. This is the fairy tale I thought I’d never have.”

Vienna Girardi

So…Jake chose Vienna.

Vienna Marie Girardi

Born in Geneva, Florida May, 1986 (23-years old)
Currently resides in Sanford, Florida
Graduated from the University of Central Florida
Bachelor’s degree in Interpersonal Organizational Communication
Member of Kappa Delta

Back before this season of “The Bachelor” started, I was given spoilers for the season from my friends through Pilot Wives Club. I haven’t ever gone into a reality TV season with so much info, but it gave me a chance to watch this season of The Bachelor with a more critical eye. I knew Vienna would win, and I watched her words and actions with a fine-toothed comb.

Vienna Girardi rubbed me the wrong way from the season premiere. She does have a attractive body and spunky personality, but the best descriptive word that flashes in my mind is FAKE! How will she look without the hair extensions and push-up bra? How will he feel about her when she can’t fit into her little booty shorts? She quickly wrapped Jake around her French-manicured little finger. Jake “bonded” with her while bungee jumping, interpreting adrenaline for love. Jake dismissed the warnings about Vienna from the other girls in the house. And if Jake doesn’t end up happy, it’s his own darn fault.But who knows? Maybe Jake and Vienna WILL have their happily ever after. Being married to a regional pilot in Texas will be much different than the lavish dates and accommodations of St. Lucia. Vienna will love her 15 minutes of fame, but her story will change when Jake is gone over half the month. And that’s if he even goes back to flying “on the line.” She hasn’t yet experienced the disappointment that occurs when Jake gets delayed or extended on trips, when he gets scheduled major holidays and on her birthday.

My prediction? Jake and Vienna won’t last. They’ll enjoy the publicity for a while. They’ll get stalked by the paparazzi. They’ll plan their lavish wedding.  Jake will probably get that Southwest Airlines gig he’s been hoping for, but be stuck on reserve for years.  And while Jake is gone, Vienna will get bored and give up on him. Her Zoom-whitened smile will fade and she’ll get bored of being alone on his four-day trips. One or both of them will cheat. And in a few years, she’ll end up like this on a  future season of  “Reality TV Romances that Didn’t Work Out”.

The Bachelor: Jake’s an Okay Guy

The Bachlor, Jake Pavelka, Pilot Bachlor, On the Wings of Love
The Reality Show I Love to Hate

A few weeks ago, I wrote a blog post about Jake Pavelka, AKA “The Bachelor.” I’ve only watched a handful of seasons of The Bachelor, so I knew the basic premise, the cattiness of the girls who “really think they’ve fallen in love,” and the awkward situations that ensue when 25 hot ladies go after one man. With this background, I was really dreading the outcome of the season with Jake as “The Bachelor.”  Now that the season is drawing near a resolution (and yes, I do know who ultimately “wins” Jake’s heart), I thought I’ve give an update on my impressions of America’s favorite regional pilot.jake Pavelka, jacob lynn pavelka, The Bachelor

I actually think Jake is an okay guy! He is charming,  sensitive,  and I honestly believe he has integrity. I like that he doesn’t string along the girls he knows he doesn’t have a future with.  My gut instinct is that he is proud of his body, and he normally wouldn’t be parading it around like this:

But honestly….I don’t mind looking (and don’t tell my husband!) ABC knows how to get viewers hooked! Now when I hear “On the Wings of Love,” like I did at the grocery store on my birthday, my mind immediately wanders to the above image.

There’s a big of a disconnect between his career as a regional pilot and the glitzy “rich and successful” career that ABC makes him out to have. Actually, my sources at ASA (his regional airline) have told me he hasn’t been flying on the line for quite some time, and he’s awaiting an interview date with Southwest Airlines in March. He flies the CRJ-200 (same as my husband) but most of the shots on the series show the 737 that Jake hopes to fly soon.

My biggest beef of the show continues to be the lack of emphasis Jake’s future partner will experience with his career. He hasn’t said a word about the realities of his time away from home. A pilot’s partner will always have to share their man with Crew Scheduling. He will deal with delays, reserve, domicile changes, and possibly even furloughs. He may be comfortable with his current salary with ASA, but it’s always a paycut to go back to First Officer pay.

Jake Pavelka, The Bachelor, Jake Shirtless

But in the meantime, I’m just going to forget about all the IMPORTANT stuff, and focus on the reality TV drama!

Flying Cheap …The Regional Lifestyle?

The CRJ-200 – My husband’s birdie

My pilot wife friend Melissa tipped me off on this upcoming Frontline special: Flying Cheap

Quoting the Frontline website:

From producer Rick Young —

The crash of Continental 3407 outside Buffalo last year, killing all on board, was big news, as any commercial crash is. But like many who were fortunate enough not to be touched personally by the tragedy, what most caught my attention was the news that followed. The co-pilot had been making less than $16,000.

While I knew the airline industry had been struggling through tough times since 9/11, I sure didn’t know that some of the folks that fly me around are working second jobs and overnighting on lounge room La-Z-Boys. And I didn’t know that regional airlines, once thought of as puddle-jumpers, had grown so fast that they now account for more than half the nation’s daily departures. We are on our way to becoming a regional airline nation.

If you missed this big industry shift, that’s understandable. Most flights today still carry the codes and colors of the major airlines. But over the past decade, fewer and fewer of the majors are actually flying those planes. That job is increasingly outsourced to small regional companies with names most of us hardly know. Continental 3407 wasn’t flown by Continental, but by a company called Colgan Air.

The rapid growth of airline outsourcing is part of a fiercely competitive industry that keeps airfares affordable for many. And that’s good for consumers. But the crash of 3407, and the year-long investigation that has followed, raised significant questions about the safety practices of regional operators like Colgan. So it seemed a good time for FRONTLINE to journey into the world of the regionals and see what the insiders had to say.

In this clip from the film, you’ll hear about the lives of regional pilots, crash pads and the pressures that outsourcing brings to bear — “pilot pushing” as its called in the industry. Two former Colgan pilots agreed to speak publicly for the first time, and so we flew to California and sat down for long, amazing interviews. While their stories were in many ways surprising, we knew they weren’t unique. We’ve spoken with many regional pilots, both former and current, and most all shared similar concerns about what’s happening in the airline industry.

The full expose will be showing on February 9th. But even from this 10 minute snippet, you’ll see and hear some pretty harrowing facts…poverty wages for newbie first officers, crazy crowded crashpad conditions, the realities of duty time vs paid flight time, company efficiency quotas, the reasons why so many people commute. I’m a little perturbed that the video infers that all regional pilots are low time and underexperienced…but that’s a pretty common media angle.

It will be interesting to see if the special mentions anything about pilot families, and how the commuting lifestyle affects family life. I don’t deal with the physical fatigue my husband experiences after his fourth 16-hour day in a row, but to say I’m immune from emotional fatigue would be false. I do know the existing duty FAA guidelines are currently under revision, and things can’t stay at the status quo much longer. And this includes bargain-basement airfare.

And now for some light entertainment…

Apology to those who think I hate Embry Riddle

Just to clarify:

I meant no disrespect for Embry Riddle in my previous post regarding “The Bachelor – On The Wings of Love.” Personally, the only exposure I’ve had to ERAU is listening to the cockpit experiences of my husband and his pilot friends. When they hear about how “Grandpa Moneybags paid for my training at Embry Riddle,” its hard for them not to feel some resentment. Those typically are the same captains who make fun of my boys for living off of peanuts, pretzels, and Biscoff cookies (because money for their student loan payments trump a healthy meal). These loan payments often exceed their take home pay, and they went to the least expensive flight school they could find.

I do not doubt that Embry Riddle graduates gain an excellent education there, regardless of how it was financed. Maybe some of your ERAU grads who sent me hate mail will understand my perspective a little more…and will be kinder to your fellow pilots who trained in a less prestigious program.