Words on Wednesdays: AvTech


November is NaNoWriMo

“Is Amelia, here?” I asked Anne at the front desk. “She asked me to meet her here.”

“You must be John,” she said, as she continued looking at her screen.

“Wait,” she said.

“I beg your pardon?”

“Amelia is not here. She is off in the field inspecting the avionics in one of the B737s, somewhere out there,” she vaguely pointed.

“Do you know when she will be back?” I asked.

“Maybe, maybe not” she responded absentmindedly.

“Do you like opera,” she asked after eons.

“What?” I asked in exasperation. What the devil is wrong with this woman?

“Are you seeing anyone?” she continued.

Before I could respond, the phone rang, and she was on the phone for a good ten minutes, talking secretive, absurd nothings. I was almost ready to give up and leave. What a strange group of people, I thought. How does Amelia manage to work with this weird bunch?

“How about Yanni?” asked the ridiculous woman interrupting my thoughts.

“What?” I asked stupidly. What does this have to do with Amelia I wondered?

“Can you let Amelia know, I was here? I will be at the Firehouse Grill,” I responded getting ready to walk out and leave this bizarre office.

I could hear strange sounds, as someone in the cubicle next to the front desk desperately controlled himself or herself.

“You must definitely like John Lennon. You seem the type,” continued the ridiculous woman.

“Yes, I like John Lennon.” I humored the woman.

This time, the person behind the cube, could not hold himself or herself any longer. I could hear unconstrained laughter. I walked around to see what the ruckus was, before Jane at the front desk could stop me.

Frank the assistant was doubled over laughing so uncontrollably that I was not sure what it was all about. Seeing me looking at him dumbfounded, Frank finally got his act together.

“Hi!” he said. “Amelia said you would come over at 11:30. Would you like to see how we prepare to return an aircraft to service?” he asked. “Amelia said you might,” before I could respond.

“Sure.” I said.

“Terrific, I am to bring you over so you can watch. It is pretty cool”.

As we walked over to the B737 undergoing checks, Frank made small talk. “Don’t mind Jane. She means well. She is just trying to figure out if your interests are similar to Amelia. You know she is a master matchmaker. She can’t stop herself.”

What? I thought. Yanni, Lennon, maybe Jane was not so stupid after all. I could forgive her if she was on my side. Was she?

“There, you are,” said Amelia. “We have been waiting for you. I thought you might like to see the process to return the aircraft to service. This is one of the first aircraft that has been scheduled to return to service.”

“Yes. I certainly would.” I said as Frank and I joined Amelia and Jack as they walked through the avionics checks.

It takes a full seven days to return an aircraft to service according to Amelia.

Although, what was foremost on my mind was whether I liked Yanni.

Words on Wednesday: Thanksgiving


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 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.

Words on Wednesdays: For the Love of Amelia


November is NaNoWriMo

“I hear, you have a new Certified Flight Instructor.” said the sweetest, gentlest voice, I ever heard. “I’ve heard great things. I hear he is a great instructor, not like …” the voices faded,

“Yes, what of it, Amelia Mary Earhart? Are you ready to commit to lessons?” taunted Chung, loudly.

“You know it is not Earhart, but Aaronhart. Is he in?” persisted the sweet, gentle voice.

“Maybe,” replied Chung, irritatingly.

“Come on Chung, I want to talk to him, please,” begged the sweet, soft voice.

“For you anything, sweet Amelia Mary Earhart. Anything!” responded Chung.

After, what seemed ages, “John Francisco Adams!” barked Chung. “There’s someone here for you.”

“Hello.” I said as I turned around the corner as swiftly as I could. Being unemployed and in search of any student, I was desperate to get up in the air.

“I’m John. Are you looking for an instructor?”

“Hi, I am Amelia,” said the most beautiful, absolutely, breathtaking person I had ever come across in my entire life. I gazed  unabashedly, awestruck by what I saw. It felt surreal. This can’t be real?

“I am looking to get my private pilot license,” she said. “I work at AvTech, on the field” she pointing over her shoulder to a large hanger across from the flight school.

“When would you like to start? Have you ever flown in a small aircraft before?” I asked.

That was how I met the love of my life.  Although, it would take me almost two more years to get the courage to ask and commit.

Over the next few months, I taught Amelia to fly. It was almost towards the end of her flight instruction before her check ride, that I managed to find the courage to ask her out to coffee. We spent two hours laughing and talking, and then walked over to the diner for a burger and a pint.

Over the next few weeks, I trained Amelia and helped her obtain her private pilot certificate. Six months later, we were living together. Amelia was like a sunshine in my life, and I could not imagine my life without her. It happened so fast, that sometimes I wondered, if it was too good to be true.

Amelia worked at AvTech LLC. She had recently graduated with a degree in Aerospace Engineering from University of California in Los Angeles. AvTech was a unique organization. Since 2001 when the in aftermath of 911, the aviation industry had suffered immensely and airlines have gone out of business or retired their fleet, the graveyard came into being.  AvTech had one of the biggest graveyards of all in the Mohave Desert.

For me, I couldn’t imagine my life without Amelia.

Words on Wednesdays: Chung


November is NaNoWriMo

“It’s time”

I revolted. “Now, ” I asked.

It can’t be. I thought desperately. How can it be now. It was still premature. I hadn’t seen anything or suspected anything to make me think a change was needed.

“He is highly erratic and uncontrollable. He has been saying things. Once he had a drink, he is beyond control.”

“It’s Nathan! Dammit! We were in Nam together…”, my voice petered out.

“Are you telling me you wont do it? Is this the time you are telling me that you are not capable of doing the things you promised?”

I had gotten myself into things far beyond me. I couldn’t do this to Nathan. All the visions we had as teenagers, about country, about the world, about freedom, and all the good we could do.

Nathan, who had saved my life. Who was going to save him now?

Words on Wednesdays: Immigration #1


Pre 1790

Historian’s  believe that the first human beings came to the America from across the Bering Straits about 20, 000 years ago.

These were the ancestors of the many Native American cultures, which would people the landscape for thousands of years.

Around the year 1000, a small number of Vikings would arrive. Five hundred years later, the great European migration would begin.

Crossing the Atlantic meant two to three months of seasickness, overcrowding, limited food rations, and disease. But the lure of available land and the hope for political and religious freedoms kept the Europeans coming.

In some places, the meeting of Europeans and Native Americans was peaceful. In others, the cultures clashed, leading to violence and disease. Whole tribes were decimated by such newly introduced diseases as small pox, measles, and the plague.

Continue to read the timeline here.

Sri


Words on Wednesdays…

In memory of Sri

Fly 'n Things

NaNoWriMore

“Sri Rama Chandra Murthy!” yelled Chung.

The voice reverberated across the floor. Each of us, stopped what we were doing, while we waited for the echo to end and peered around to see what the ruckus was about. A yell from Chung of this magnitude meant only one thing: not good.

“Keep your shirt on, Chung. I am right here,” Sri responded, with a hint of laughter in his voice, after what seemed an eternity, getting up from one of the desks in the corner.

Chung eyed him squarely, as if he could devour him with his gaze. “And what took you so long to respond?” he queried sternly. “I thought you might like a moment to chill out,” smiled Sri, nonchalantly and easily, as he headed over to the front desk.

“Hey dude, you know I thought you handled Bert with aplomb. I knew I could count on…

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Sri


NaNoWriMore

“Sri Rama Chandra Murthy!” yelled Chung.

The voice reverberated across the floor. Each of us, stopped what we were doing, while we waited for the echo to end and peered around to see what the ruckus was about. A yell from Chung of this magnitude meant only one thing: not good.

“Keep your shirt on, Chung. I am right here,” Sri responded, with a hint of laughter in his voice, after what seemed an eternity, getting up from one of the desks in the corner.

Chung eyed him squarely, as if he could devour him with his gaze. “And what took you so long to respond?” he queried sternly. “I thought you might like a moment to chill out,” smiled Sri, nonchalantly and easily, as he headed over to the front desk.

“Hey dude, you know I thought you handled Bert with aplomb. I knew I could count on you. Hearing you giving him the run through on the club rules and how you would make mince-meat of him if he even had a single straying thought in that direction was superb. You know I always admire the way you handle things around here with the precision of the military general. You know you never finished telling me the story about how you…”, the voices faded as Sri, yet again smoothly and suavely, averted another showdown with Chung and had him distracted enough, to be eating out his hands. I could soon hear laughter as yet again Chung reminisced about his war days recounting another of his escapades, the issue with Bert long forgotten.

Sri was an easy going chap, always smiling, cheerful and well-loved equally by instructors and students alike. He had a sharp mind, a computer engineer by profession, and a flight instructor by choice. He had shown up at the flight school a couple of years ago wanting to get flying lessons. He had swarmed through the professional program that Dessert Air offered from private pilot to certified flight instructor within a year and was now a part time CFI. Most weekends he could be seen hanging out in the lounge when not teaching, having long debates with anyone who was around about any topic in the world. He was a geek at heart.

Truth be told, I had a fondness for Sri. He was my first student at Dessert Air.

One fine summer morning, he had shown up at the flight school asking about classes. Things were slow. Not too many students to feed all the out of work CFI. I hung around the lounge, anxious to get in the air even if in a two seater. Being in the air felt normal. Sitting around twiddling my thumbs waiting for someone or something was not my thing.

On one of those bright summer mornings, Sri had shown up promptly at 9:00 am on a Saturday morning. I could hear the excitement in his voice as he queried the front desk personnel, “I want to learn to fly. What do I need to get started?”

It was one of those lucky days for me. I was glad I had woken up early and showed up at 9:00am. Sri was an exemplary student. He was a quick learner and at times spoke incessantly. I could hear the concern in his voice as he expressed doubts and the assertiveness as he argued a point. He had a plethora of random bits of knowledge and it was impossible to outsmart any debate with him. He almost always had the last word.

At the end of that first discovery flight, he admitted to having an aunt who was pilot and having flown with her over the glorious San Francisco Bay as a 17 year old. The joy and incredible enthusiasm in his voice as he recounted those memories and how they sparked his excitement and eagerness spoke volumes about his passion for flying. How could I doubt a teenager’s eagerness to be a pilot?

I had been in his shoes, not so long ago. In a way, Sri was my savior. On a day, when my world was crumbling, he was the anchor that steered me in.

And so began my second career as a CFI.

September


I finally have the next three weeks free to work on my novel. Almost. Once I am done with what is still undone 🙂

Here is my revised chapter on 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.

Try, Try, Try Again


Words on Wednesdays

‘Tis a lesson you should heed: Try, try, try again.
If at first you don’t succeed: Try, try, try again.
— William Edward Hickson.

Legend has it, that after Robert the Bruce was defeated for the sixth time by the King of England, he fled and hid in a cave. He lay there, ready to give up all hope, when a spider caught his eye. It was hanging by a long silvery thread from one of the wooden beams above his head, and trying to swing itself to another beam. It tried again and again, failing each time.

Six times.


Photo courtesy: livescience.com

Robert thought, “I too have failed six times in my fight for Scotland. But if this spider succeeds the next time, I will try once more to regain my kingdom.”

The spider swung again – and on its seventh attempt, it succeeded.

Robert the Bruce threw off his despair and went on to battle the English and eventually, won at the Battle of Bannockburn.

This was the story I learnt during my childhood. One that has remained with me over the years, because it talks of persistence, perseverance and determination to achieve one’s goals.

Moral of the story, if at at first you don’t succeed: try, try, try again!

December


Words on Wednesday

It was a few months later that I ran into Captain Bill Atwater, rather accidentally at the Thursday evening Farmer’s Market in San Luis Obispo. SLO as the locals loved to call it.

Alan and I had driven our motorcycles that morning down to SLO, a small gem of a town, nestled along the coast between San Fran and LA. Alan had attended school at CalPoly and still had some connections.

Earlier in the day we had visited the Jet Center and the FBO at the airport to see if there were any jobs to be had. I didn’t really want to go back to charter flying or flight instruction, but with the way things were, I would be fortunate enough to get any job. Since the weeks and months following the terrorist events in New York, the airlines and air travel took the hardest hit. Airlines cut schedules. Aircraft were being retired. Many smaller airline companies had gone belly up. Furloughs had started. And junior officers were the first to go.

“John! Fancy running into you here,” Bill exclaimed as he slapped me across the shoulders. “Have you met Jill, my wife?”

“No. How do you do? This is my friend Alan.” I responded.

“What are you doing here?” Bill insisted.

“Alan and I rode down here this morning. He always spoke so highly of the Farmer’s Market that I decided to check it out. Are you retired then? I heard you say, you were going to settle here?” I asked in return.

“Yes, December 1st. That business back in September was a terrible business. I was given the choice to leave early and I decided to. There was nothing left to keep going on. So here we are. Jill and I moved in just before Thanksgiving and it is splendid.” Bill responded profusely.

“What are you doing these days? I heard several first officers were let go…”

“Yes. Still looking for jobs. That is why Alan and I are here. We were at the SLO airport this morning.”

“Nothing?”

“Nothing.”

“Sorry to hear that. If this was a few years ago, I would have been in a tight spot. As it is, I am in a tight spot. I have been trying to get in at SLO as well. No charter jobs. Just flight instruction at the FBO. These day,  there are hardly any new students. The industry has been hit hard!” Bill pondered the gloomy future.

“Have you had dinner yet?” Jill asked. “A friend of mine has opened this neat restaurant a block away from here. Bill and I were going to try it tonight. Why don’t you and Alan join us?”

So it happened, that Alan and I had dinner with Bill and Jill that night. It was as we parted ways that Bill said: “Why don’t you talk to Teddy? Jill and I were over in Lancaster visiting for Thanksgiving and he was talking about a flight school in Mojave looking for instructors. They also have a test school there I think.

“Okay,” I had responded.

At that moment, even I couldn’t have fathomed what was in store for me.

See Also:

September: NaNoWriMo Wrapup