Repost: Thanksgiving

“What are you doing tomorrow,” I asked, preoccupied with other thoughts.

“What? ” said Nathan.

“What did you say,” asked Nathan asked again.

“Oh… why don’t you come to celebrate Thanksgiving at my place? Amelia and I would be happy to have you over.” I said enthusiastically.

“Are you sure?” asked Nathan, hesitantly.

“Of course ,” I said. “You know Amelia, the more the merrier. Sri, Chung, Bob, several of Amelia’s coworkers will be there. I have invited several of my old coworkers too.” I said warmly.

“But, Frisco,’ said Nathan. “Are you sure…” as his voice drifted off. Hesitant to voice all that worried him. He eyed me, with a sad look.

One that I missed.

How could I have known what Nathan knew that day, what haunted him, and  what bothered him that day. I was too carefree, my mind on Amelia, who had just accepted my proposal. I was oblivious to everything else. It was the fall of 2003, when several of us gathered together to give thanks. It was one of those last days of happiness we would experience in a long time. Maybe it was already late. I was lax in noting. I was preoccupied with Amelia.

I missed the most important cue in my life about Nathan. That was the day I should have paid attention.

I could have saved him.

Repost: September

BEEP. BEEP. BEEP.

I was in the deep throes of slumber, when I was rudely awakened by my very persistent alarm clock. It can’t be 4:00 a.m. already, I thought sleepily, as I pulled the comforter tightly around me, reaching over to hit the snooze button, without opening my eyes. I must have set it wrong. It definitely had to be wrong. Hadn’t I just barely gone to bed?

BEEP. BEEP. BEEP.

The alarm screeched again, more persistent than ever.

Okay you bugger, stop barking, I swore getting out of bed and leaning over the damn clock to put an end to its misery and just for added credence checked my phone to verify it indeed was past 4:00 a.m.

Yawning, I sleepily pulled on a sweatshirt and made it to the bathroom. I had 30 minutes to be ready before my ride arrived to whisk me to my job. This was going to be a long day. The first leg of my trip was a short hop to LAX, we would pick up our next batch of passengers for the longer haul to JFK.

I turned on the coffee machine, while brushing my teeth and wondered if I should spend an extra day in New York. I was at the end of my current rotation and not scheduled to fly the next couple of days. Flights on reserve were few and far in between, considering the long list of pilots on reserve. On the other hand, I could work on my motorcycle, change the oil and rev it up for my upcoming trip with Alan. It wasn’t long after I joined Galt Airlines as First Officer that I had run into Alan Sheppard. He too was a First Officer at Galt and a motorcycle aficionado. Every opportunity we got, we stole away in our bikes hitting the Pacific Coast Freeway or one of the Highways east: 41 or 46 or 58.

RING. RING. RING. RING.

The phone rang, waking me from my reverie.

“Just checking you’re up dude,” Tim, my ride, spoke lazily. “I will be there in 15 minutes. Don’t keep me waiting, I still have to swing by Eliza’s.” he spoke.

“How come? I thought we agreed that I would be the last one you would pick up,” I said annoyed to lose my extra 10 minutes.

“Well, things changed.” he laughed.

“Yeah, I bet Eliza likely sweet talked you into it. What did she offer?” I asked.

“Dude, nothing. It just worked out best for the route. I’ll see you soon.” he said as he hung up.

I ran through my morning ablutions almost in automation still wondering about New York. Should I pack an additional pair of clothes or not, I pondered when I got the buzzer from the front desk “Your ride is here.”

Quickly grabbing my backpack, cap and blazer I headed for the elevators. New York can wait. Maybe another time.

We pulled into the terminal building by 5:00 am. I checked in the pilot lounge and signed in. Perusing my schedule, I saw I was flying with Captain Bill Atwater. Bill was always fun. He could tell a story well and he knew many a story. After a brief stint in the army, doing a rotation in Nam, Bill had returned home and pursued a career in the Airline industry. He had a solid 30 years of service, well respected and admired by many budding pilots, including myself. The day although long, was at least not going to be boring!

I headed over to the airplane to begin the pre-flight checks. As first officer, it was my duty to do the outside walk around and inspect the flight. Entering the cockpit, I saw Bill already there going over the details of the flight.

“Morning, John. Looks like it is going to be an easy, breezy flight. I see you are also on the schedule for the next flight leg to the east coast.” Bill greeted me.

“Captain,” I responded. “Good to see.”

“Everything look good on the outside?” he queried.

“Everything looks fine. Charlie mentioned that we have an old friend jump seating.” I said.

“Did he? Did he say who?” Captain appeared pre-occupied pouring over the flight schedule.

“No, he’s keeping it a surprise. Anything bothering you,” I asked.

“We might have a problem with extra baggage.” Bill responded absentmindedly.

“Okay, shall I talk to Charlie?”  I asked.

“Not just yet. We’ll…”

“William Turner Atwater!” bellowed a voice.

“Teddy! Is it really you?” laughed Bill, getting up and hauling Teddy into a warm embrace. Theodore Edward Graham was another legend at the airline. “So you are the surprise. Well. Well. John, do you know Teddy?”

“I’ve never had the opportunity to meet him in person, but of course I have heard about him. Who hasn’t?” I responded.

“He and I were together at Nam and fought side by side. We quit the army around the same time and chose a career in aviation. Thirty years. And it comes to an end soon. I heard you are retiring soon, Teddy.” Bill said looking at Teddy.

“Yep. In fact today is my last day. I jump seat with you to LAX, pick up the flight to DCA. My last flight.” He answered.

“Are you planning to retire in the Capital?” questioned Bill.

“No, just have to take care of some business out east, and then I will move permanently to Lancaster, CA. I still own a home there. Millie and I will settle down there. How much longer do you have?” Teddy asked.

“I retire at the end of the year. Good to hear that you are still going to be in California. Jill and I plan to retire in San Luis Obispo, so we will be practically neighbors.” Bill responded enthusiastically.

“Captain, ready to load the passengers?” asked Nina, our chief stewardess, peeking into the cockpit.

“Yes, better get them in, before they start a strike,” joked the Captain.

Thirty minutes later with the herds loaded, weight and balance resolved, we finally closed the airplane doors and taxied in line to depart from Runway 28L.

I like these early morning departures. Daylight was barely breaking through. There was some early morning fog hugging the coastline. The lights of San Francisco were like beacons suspended in space. Off to the right was the Bay Bridge glistening in silver. Even this early in the morning, I could see traffic beginning to increase. And to the right, glinting golden with the streaks of dawn was the majestic Golden Gate Bridge, connecting Marin County to Downtown San Francisco. Wisps of white fog floated. We climbed steadily and headed towards Point Reyes, before turning to intercept the 281 radial to Woodside.

I always enjoyed flying the Golden Gate Arrival during evening twilight or dusk as well. It is breathtaking, or sometimes, as is often possible, when the fog rolls in and the Golden Gate remains suspended in space, resplendent in the evening glow. Seeing the Golden Gate any time of the day or night means coming home. The setting sun over the Pacific, the crisp sunny skies with fog looming over the valley, are a comforting sight. I love flying from my home town of San Francisco, CA.

The trip to LAX was a mere one hour and 2 minutes. Within minutes we were headed direct to Avenal VORTAC and cruising in level flight. Arriving at Avenal we will execute the arrival procedure into LAX.

After a brief stint as a charter pilot, I had jumped at a chance to fly First Officer at Galt Airlines. The housing boom had propelled the Silicon Valley to great heights. I was what was known as a reserve pilot: always on call. The past two years, I had grabbed any and all flights that I could get. Over the last two years, I had flown this route many times.  I could literally fly that route blind folded.

I could hear the bantering between Bill and Teddy as they joked about bygone days. I wished the flight were longer. One did not get the opportunity to fly with not one but two legends in the same cockpit. Bill flew the plane with expert precision and finesse.

We had arrived at Avenal and were already working through our before landing checklist, when a call from our dispatch office buzzed in. Seconds later, we had communication with the Air Traffic Control.

Neither of us knew that moment, how irrevocably, all our lives were going to be changed.

Repost: Nos.tal.gia

noun

1. a wistful desire to return in thought or in fact to a former time in one’s life, to one’s home or homeland, or to one’s family and friends; a sentimental yearning for the happiness of a former place or time: a nostalgia for his college days.
2. something that elicits or displays nostalgia.
 
It can be the lost childhood of the 70’s or
the memories of dancing to the 80’s tunes of ABBA or
the Beegees… or
the seriousness of the Beatles or
the adolescence of the 90s or
the maturity of the 2000’s.
 
home

Continue to read here.

Two decades later

Each year as September rolls in, it is hard to not reflect on 9/11. This year marks twenty years since that fateful day. Has it really been that long?

This year as I reflect, here are some articles I have written on the topic over the last twenty years.

We will never forget!

As I started to write this, I was struck by the enormity of what happened on September 11,  2001. It is more than a month now, yet those atrocious attacks remain fresh in my mind like yesterday. What happened there must never be allowed to happen again, not here nor anywhere else  in the world. Much more than peoples lives was lost that day. It is upto each one of us to contribute in our own ways to rebuild the future. As aviators it is important now more than ever, to come out and fly to promote the cause of the future of General Aviation. Continue to read here.

Lost Innocence

Where the mind is without fear and the head is held high
Where knowledge is free
Where the world has not been broken up into fragments
By narrow domestic walls
Where words come out from the depths of truth
Where tireless striving stretches its arms towards perfection
Where the clear stream of reason has not lost its way
Into the dreary desert sand of dead habit
Where the mind is led forward by thee
Into ever-widening thought and action
Into that heaven of freedom, my Father, let my country awake

— taken from the Gitanjali by Rabindranath Tagore

“It must be difficult for you that there is no way to lock your aircraft. Quite easy for someone to break in and fly away” I said without thinking. Continue to read here.

This Day, Ten Years Ago

We Will Always Remember

The weather has been dreary all week. Lee was making it’s way up the coast bringing rain, flooding, power outages and playing havoc. As if we haven’t already had enough. Rattled by earthquakes, hurricanes, tornadoes, and tropical storms. Despite the external havoc, the foremost thought on everyone’s mind the last few days was the one thing that we will never forget. How could we? From front page footage of scenes reviving the horror, to recollections, and never before seen or heard stories of one of the worst tragedies to touch the free world. The somberness reflected on each and every face: remembering the horror of this day, ten years ago. It was gloomy on all fronts all week. Continue to read here.

We Will Always Remember

9/11: Thirteen years later…

We’ve come a long way since that horrific day, thirteen years ago. Time has only proved how resilient we are. Continue to read here.

Remembering this day

dc2

In a way 9/11 triggered my childhood fascination for writing.

2001 was the year, I got my PPL. I could finally become a full member of the 99s. It was the year I took over as the editor of the Slipstream, the newsletter for my local chapter. Continue to read here.

Thanksgiving

Have a safe one…

Fly 'n Things

November is NaNoWriMo

“What are you doing tomorrow,” I asked, preoccupied with other thoughts.

“What? ” said Nathan.

“What did you say,” asked Nathan asked again.

“Oh… why don’t you come to celebrate Thanksgiving at my place? Amelia and I would be happy to have you over.” I said enthusiastically.

“Are you sure?” asked Nathan, hesitantly.

“Of course ,” I said. “You know Amelia, the more the merrier. Sri, Chung, Bob, several of Amelia’s coworkers will be there. I have invited several of my old coworkers too.” I said warmly.

“But, Frisco,’ said Nathan. “Are you sure…” as his voice drifted off. Hesitant to voice all that worried him. He eyed me, with a sad look.

One that I missed.

How could I have known what Nathan knew that day, what haunted him, and  what bothered him that day. I was too carefree, my mind on Amelia, who had just…

View original post 80 more words

Manned vs. Unmanned

I recently came across some interesting, but contentious discussions. The discussions started innocently enough with a question on what advances in space the scientific community wanted to see for manned flight. Among the plethora of ideas, was a simple, yet honest request to stop using the term manned flight. This resulted in the opening of Pandora’s box with arguments for and against such a change in terminology. As I read the arguments, at times rude, and dismissive of the need for this, I seriously started considering the terminology.

My personal concerns where triggered when one of the respondents to the discussion indicated how a professional woman in the scientific world in the 1970’s in a predominantly male dominated society was referred to as “unmanned”. That response affected me more than I expected. It felt offensive and degrading. I was heartened to learn that NASA had updated their terminology back in the 1970’s to use flight crew when the first women were selected to the space program and became part of the astronaut team.

What is the correct way to convey this, I pondered? Should I be more attuned to the right terminology than I already am? You see I never saw gender differences when the term manned was used. The dictionary definition of manned includes the gender neutral “person or persons”.

As commercial aviation gained momentum during the early golden age of aviation, air hostesses, or air stewardess as they were referred to then, played a vital role in welcoming passengers aboard the aircraft and ensuring passengers had a fulfilling experience. This role has since evolved to include other roles and responsibilities, and over the years, more and more men have started filling these roles. Today we automatically refer to them as flight attendant or cabin crew. No one either questions or contradicts this transition in terminology use. Just for fun, I used the Google ngram viewer that charts word frequencies over a large corpus of books to examine cultural change over the years. While the current viewer accesses literary content only till 2008, the observed trends from the charts while not definitive appear to be trending in the obvious direction.

The whole meaning of gender has been evolving over the last few decades. Why should a person’s right to bear arms be more important than a person’s right to define who they are as a person or gender of their choice? As we strive to get our youth more interested in aerospace and STEM programs, especially young women, why should we not rethink how we define our crew to be more inclusive and in harmony with the changing demographics?

Note: A version of this appears in Aviatrix Aerogram.

For the New Intellectual

My morality, the morality of reason, is contained in a single axiom: existence exists—and in a single choice: to live. The rest proceeds from these. To live, man must hold three things as the supreme and ruling values of his life: Reason—Purpose—Self-esteem. Reason, as his only tool of knowledge—Purpose, as his choice of the happiness which that tool must proceed to achieve—Self-esteem, as his inviolate certainty that his mind is competent to think and his person is worthy of happiness, which means: is worthy of living. These three values imply and require all of man’s virtues, and all his virtues pertain to the relation of existence and consciousness: rationality, independence, integrity, honesty, justice, productiveness, pride.

— John Galt’s Speech. (Ayn Rand)

 

See Also:

Happiness

Fall in DC

Falling Water A Flyout that wasn’t

Money is the root of all evil

In the name of the best within you

Atlantis

Heroes in Fiction

Capitalism with Morality: The Lost Cause!

The Challenge of a Changing “Self” by Lane Wallace

On the wall of my office, I have a framed copy of the cover for Flying magazine’s October 2000 issue. Unlike most of the magazine’s covers, which feature an airplane of some kind, this one featured … me. Granted, there is an airplane, or at least part of one, in the image. But I’m the main attraction. I’m sitting on the wing of a beautiful Staggerwing Beech biplane, in shorts and a blue, sleeveless, button-down shirt, gazing off into the sunset, under the headline “Oshkosh Dreams.”

If that cover doesn’t sound familiar to anyone, it’s because it never ran. The art director always produced two cover layouts, one of which got chosen for the publication run. So I have the only copy of that cover. It’s part of why I like it, and why it’s up on my wall. I’m a cover girl, but only within the confines of my own home.

More to the point, however, that image of my youthful, tanned self was taken more than 18 years ago. I still see myself, when I look at it. But I’m also not that particular woman anymore. So much has happened; so much has changed. That is, incidentally, as it should be. But it also emphasizes a really important point about being ourselves.

Continue to read the full article here.