Posts Tagged ‘Air Travel’

While eating a burger at Bob’s flying club last week, I happened to meet a young entrepreneur. Eric Walden was all decked out in a uniform, with wings on his shoulder and his cap. Then much to my surprise, I saw him again last night on the late night local news. The anchors’ hook was something like:

“Have you ever wanted to fly like the rich and famous?”

For the vast majority of people, commercial flights are the only option, but Albemarle County pilot Eric Walden is hoping to change that by making private flights an option for people who aren’t among the richest in the world.

“There’s a whole lot of other people that have the need and the desire to travel privately, but a lot of them don’t know that it’s available,” said Walden.       http://www.newsplex.com/content/news/New-Charter-Flight-Company-379228591.html?

With expectations high for more airport delays and missed connections this summer, I’d say he started the right business at the right time. Walden owns a turbo-prop Daher TBM 850 that can carry up to five passengers. He can fly higher and faster than Bob’s Piper Arrow, and if say five people wanted to split a ride to Nantucket, the price compares favorably with commercial tickets – AND there is no time lost waiting in TSA lines!

Walden has been flying for 25 years and comes from a long line of aviators; his great-grandfather first flew a monoplane in 1909. The name of his charter flight company is Little Hawk Logistics.

And speaking of birds, I’ve had a bluebird battering my windows lately. He, or she, is staying at the back of the house for the most part, on the first floor. One day I was using Bob’s computer to do some book editing, and between the bluebird knocking and the generator recycling itself, I could barely think! In researching this problem, it seems it is male birds fighting off their reflective rival, and once a female is attracted and a nest secured the window battering should stop. Unless it’s a cardinal?!

Here are some ways to prevent this behavior:

  • Decals or paper shapes placed inside or outside the window
  • Strips of tape, plastic or paper arranged in an irregular pattern
  • Soaping the outside of the windows either fully or in a pattern
  • Placing non-reflective screen outside the window 2-3 inches from the glass
  • Adding one-way transparent film or opaque plastic to windows
  • Repositioning an outdoor plant or flower basket to block the window view
  • Closing outside shades or blinds if possible

It’s another rainy day on the Blue Ridge. In fact the headline before the story on Little Hawk Logistics was, “Rain Fifteen out of Last Seventeen Days!” I guess I am not alone in feeling like mildew is spreading at my feet and rust is clogging up my joints.

So let’s dream for a moment about the sunny future of aviation this weekend. If you’re anything like my hubby, you will love this story out of Germany. It seems they are developing the Lilium Jet, a small helicopter-like plane for private use – think The Fifth Element! It will be to aviation what the Tesla is to the auto industry.

“The company’s aircraft concept promises flight without the flight infrastructure. It will require an open space of just 225 square metres — about the size of a typical back garden — to take off and land. The Lilium Jet can cruise as far as 500km (310mi) at a very brisk 400kph (248mph), and reach an altitude of 3km (9,900ft). And it recharges overnight from a standard household outlet.” http://www.bbc.com/autos/story/20160512-the-flying-machine-in-your-back-garden

Here is the Love Bug preparing to go over her Checklist for departure to CHO!



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How to Evade Ebola by Flying Yourself!

A man for all seasons, Bob is also a private pilot. I haven’t flown with him in awhile, for many reasons. But mostly it’s because the weather has to be perfect, and I have to have a destination in mind. Like the Love Bug. You won’t find me flying over to Newport News for lunch. And also there’s this, I just don’t like flying! But yesterday, I squeezed myself into the plane.

Pre-flight Check

Pre-flight Check

Me:  The interior looks great! Ouch, oh yeah I forgot I’ve got to take my earrings off before I put the headset on. Thinking to myself – Let’s see where can I stow them? Can’t reach my bag in the back… wait, I’ll just clip them onto my necklace.

Bob:  What? Here you’ve got to have the mic right up to your mouth, like this, like you’re kissing it

Me:  OK, are we clear? What about those clouds?

Bob:  We’re clear to 9,000 ft. Those clouds are around 5

Me:  Good, so it’s smooth sailing?

And it was pretty smooth, the clouds underneath us looked like marshmallow fluff, until I noticed a little red button light up and Bob started fooling around, quickly, and he’s never quick in the cockpit, with the throttle and the landing gear

Me:  What’s up? (said meekly and like I didn’t know something was wrong). Thinking to myself – we are 9,000 ft in the air and the landing gear isn’t supposed to come down until we descend in another 200 miles or so

Bob:  We’re just going to slow down a little  

Me:  Straining to read the red button on Bob’s panel – WARNING GEAR UNSAFE!   

Warning Light

Warning Light

Bob:  The door’s probably not fully closing (the Piper Arrow has retractable wheels, and the doors to said wheels were just replaced in its annual)

Me:  Thinking to myself – So this is it, we’ll have to fly around the airport to burn off all the fuel and then land on foam, if Charlottesville even has foam to put down on the runway, and we’ll make the local news, there will be fire trucks…

Bob:  We’ve got three green (which means all three wheels have come down) so it’s not a problem.

For an emergency physician/pilot, nothing is a problem. These people are the epitome of cool under pressure. Remember the voice recording of Sully landing in the Hudson? That’s Bob, telling me there’s nothing to worry about.

It wasn’t like flying around the Jersey Shore this time of year, with its kaleidoscope of pink and red cranberry bogs. But it was autumn in the Shenandoah Valley and beautiful just the same. It is also Homecoming weekend for UVA, so yesterday we landed amid the Big Jets with all their private pilots in uniform hanging around talking about who was getting enough sleep.

There wasn’t another plane in the sky all the way from Nashville, but three hours later and finally on the ground – all three green down – our little four-seater Piper was the poor relative to the top 1% of the 1% of alums flying in to see the Hoos play the Heels.

Me:  Perfect landing. Thanks honey, that beats 9 hours in the car!

Bob:  Smiling, thinking to himself – I’m gonna call that mechanic first thing Monday morning.  IMG_1478


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If you’re not traveling by air this holiday season, or ever, this post is not for you.

But if you do find yourself squashing all your earthly belongings into one tiny carry-on, that you have to gate check anyway, all the while wondering if it’s worth it; standing behind a passenger in the security lane who “forgot” to pack her liquids separately; waiting while a person goes through the metal detector yet another time until he finds that nickel in his pocket. Line after line of  irate elders and squabbling children, like a Disneyland line to the outer limits of your sanity. Fear not. The airline industry is offering its fine, upstanding citizens a way around this mess.

It’s called Global Entry along with its caveat TSA Pre-Check! http://petergreenberg.com/2013/08/20/global-entry-vs-tsa-pre-check-which-is-worth-it/

Here’s the deal. If you manage to apply for this program online, which amounts to a criminal background check, you will be called in to your nearest international airport for a mini-inquisition with a TSA/Police?Immigration and Border Control-type guy. This week Bob and I made the cut. We drove two hours to Dulles and waited around a corridor along with other people awaiting their future – wary travelers like us mixed in with some who may or may not be allowed to enter the US. Tension was running high, then they called my name – Bob said he’d see me later.

The young man in uniform asked me to take a seat and look into the camera. There was no, “How was your drive?” “Nice day today isn’t it” I tried to smile at the round lens while handing him my passport and driver’s license. He got right to the point,

“Did you ever use a different last name?” I was ready for this, “Yes,” I replied, “I was married before for 4 years in 1969 and had a different last name.” I had to place my fingertips on a digital pad because I was being fingerprinted. “Not like the old days,” I said, then instantly regretted. “You know I had to be fingerprinted with ink back in the day…when I was teaching…” I was already starting to blush, feeling guilty for no reason.

“What’s this name?” he said, rather adamantly, ignoring my whole soliloquy. He was pointing out my maiden name, the one I was born with. Curses, I forgot about that one. And then, looking down at his computer, the ballistic questioning began:

“Have you ever been charged with a crime?” “No” Have you ever been arrested?” “No” But isn’t that the same thing I wondered.

“Have you ever had a DUI?” “NO”

“Ever got a speeding ticket?” “No” Finally he looks up, right into my eyes and says “Are you sure, you never got a speeding ticket?” Now I’m not so sure, have I? I must have gotten a speeding ticket at some time. “Well maybe I might have gotten a speeding ticket a long time ago, a very long time ago…”

I’m beginning to understand why people confess to crimes they never committed. As Bob and I were walking out of the airport I apologized for spoiling our chances at seamlessly going through security lines in the future. There will be no fancy fast lane for us; never having to take off our shoes, keeping our coats and scarves on forever more. Oh no, we were destined to line up like chattel. I was sure I’d flunked my test, ruined our chances at Global Entry.

Bob waiting/napping @ Dulles Airport

Bob waiting/napping @ Dulles Airport

Then Bob called me and said we’re in. Guess I’m not such a criminal after all?

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What does a therapist, a lawyer and a retired travel agent have in common with a 30 Rock actor and frequent guest host of SNL? They were all escorted off their flights for speaking inappropriately or disrespectfully or maybe just plain speaking to a beleaguered flight attendant who was having a very bad day. In Palm Beach, the semantic scuffle started over an AirTran attendant’s baggage handling skills; and according to Alec Baldwin in LA, the American attendant “…reamed me out 4 playing WORDS WITH FRIENDS!” It was all over his refusal to turn off his electronic device aka cell phone. “Fair is foul, and foul is fair” Shakespeare.

Because I am a devout word nerd, I play Words with Friends. This is the one and only online game I do play and it is just with the Bride. We like it because we can play around her hectic schedule without time constraints. Bob, otoh, loves to play Suduko by himself on his iPad, in the travel magazine or wherever he can find a puzzle. We were both sitting on a US Air flight out of Charlotte, NC recently when the attendant announced that passengers should turn off their electronic devices. My cell was off and stowed away but I kept reading on my Kindle, thinking that because it was not connected by wifi at the time it would not interfere with avionics…wrong. Well actually pilot Bob said it wouldn’t, but I listened to the attendant when she specifically told me to “Turn It Off!” We had a very nice exchange actually – and this was after experiencing a rough pat down at the security gate.

What’s the take away? We have no rights people when we buy a commercial airline ticket. We agree to be mauled, xrayed and treated like cattle, “You, that line, you wait over here….” But I would like to propose that airline attendants receive specialized training in social skills, in anger management, in plain old fashioned courtesy. In fact we may all benefit from reading a book my psychologist brother Jim told me about, “Crucial Conversations.”

“Learn how to keep your cool and get the results you want when emotions flare. When stakes are high, opinions vary…” Start with your heart, oh and Happy Holidays. No I’m not ready for Christmas just in case you thought of asking….

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