Flying – It’s Still An Adventure

No matter how often I fly it seems that there is still one more adventure to be had. On the way to Chicago I had two.

Today’s flight had just reached cruising altitude when there was a medical emergency on the plane. From my seat in 8A there was not much that I could know, but the flight crew moved quickly and efficiently to manage the situation. We have continued to Chicago so I assume that the situation was resolved or at least stabilized.

We count on so much from those around us. When we think of medical issues it’s in the context of a 911 call and a screaming ambulance ride to the hospital. At 30,000 feet there is very little that can be done. There is the traditional call for any doctor who is on the flight but for the most part the cabin crew is left to their own nerves and training. They are working in cramped conditions to assess a patient who may have no friends or relatives on the flight with them to offer background information or medical history.

Fortunately technology is now on the plane which rivals a fully equipped ambulance of ten years ago. Heart monitors and defibrillators and medical kits were quickly pulled from the cabinets above my head over 7B.

However, no technology can substitute for the caring concern and quick reactions of a well prepared team. From the tie-back of the curtain separating First Class to the efficient movement of the cabin service cart out of the way, it was obvious that this team knew their roles and performed them well.

And then, like volunteer firefighters and National Guard troops, they return to their regular tasks, even asking me if I would like a refill on my coffee.

As we were about thirty minutes out from Chicago our Captain came on the intercom to explain the bumpy ride and increase in noise. Turns out when we left DFW they had anticipated that we would need to fly around some storms in route. The storms moved off and we were able to. Ove back to a much more efficient path – however this left us in the position of being too heavily loaded with remaining fuel. To prevent an overweight landing and subsequent aircraft downtime we had descended into thicker air and extended the spoilers, along with starting the auxiliary power units. This would burn off enough fuel to get us to Chicago on time and with the proper fuel load.

An elegant – if bumpy – solution to the good fortune of a faster route.

Flying is still an adventure but it is not what it used to be. Do I miss the days of real silverware and flights that included a hot breakfast? Of course – who would not long for the days past where flying was and elegant and comfortable way of moving from point a to point b.

However I believe one thing has not changed. Regardless of feelings about unions and contracts, work rules and pointless administrivia, the people who keep us safe and comfortable in the air are professionals who have good days and bad days but in the end they are dedicated to doing the best that they can for those who rely on their skills

A big thank you to the flight and cabin crew of AA Flight 2324 from DFW to Chicago on August 10th at 6:50 am. I and at least one other person on this flight appreciate your dedication and professionalism.

Power, Pandemics, and Eating Alone

On a business trip to Florida this week, an experience in learning how much I have forgotten.

One thing I have quickly learned an iPhone in full travel assist mode eats power. With the GPS enabled, making lots of calls, and using the e-mail function to keep up with the office this thing is throwing 10% warnings by 5:00 pm. As I type this over dinner, the phone is hooked up to life support on the table in front of me, drawing power from the emergency recharger that I keep in my briefpack.

As a travel tool the iPhone is a “killer app.” I found the restaurant I am eating at tonight Finz Waterfront Grill using the iPhone app LocalPicks from TripAdvisor. The restaurant got good reviews and said it had a great view. Being a Wednesday night they are not too busy, and watching the sun go down over the boats was a nice complement to my meal.

Back to my teaser what I have forgotten. I used to travel a lot in my consulting role, but since I “went corporate” I have been only an occasional air traveler. Going through security I forgot to put my wallet and phone in my briefpack, so I set the alarm off and had to back up and retry. Fortunately it was not a rush time or I would have been justifiably lynched by my fellow travelers.

I put my laptop through first rather than last, almost forgot to pull out my liquids in short did just about everything wrong at the security checkpoint I could. How soon I forget. I used to be so proud of my ability to clear a checkpoint without a hitch.

However, not traveling has been nice also. I have sympathy for those guys who make high profile statements of “leaving to spend more time with family.” I was very glad to be a part of my daughter’s high school activities. It’s been great fun being a part of the Band Boosters, being at the games and working the concession stands. That is important stuff much more important than clearing a checkpoint in record time.

So on to pandemics since none of the band kids read this blog (I think) I feel safe saying that the band trip to Corpus is canceled. It’s the right decision even though based on fear rather than fact. However, with the long incubation period of H1N1 and the fact that Corpus is really close to Mexico, it’s a decision that I can support.

The kids will be disappointed but the school cannot take a chance that even one child will become sick. With end of year activities in full swing and graduation on the horizon, I can think of nothing worse than packing a lot of tired kids on a bus and exposing them to potential infection.

However I feel for the seniors they will miss their last opportunity to have fun together. At least the seniors in the Wind Ensemble had San Antonio with the Honor Band concert for TMEA. I only hope that they reinstate the final concert that was canceled I would like to hear Kathryn and all the Wind Ensemble kids play together one more time.

The pandemic combined with the economy and the state of the US Government makes me wonder what’s next. US business really needs this a way to halt all remaining global projects and tank another part of the farm economy. I sympathize with the pork industry swine flu is not something that you get by eating bacon!

So I sit here at Finz, eating alone and typing on this blog entry. I just took a photo for a table of people eating next to me. They are obviously down on vacation. The waitress has decided that she does not need this table for a while so is not hinting about the check, and a guy in the bar just starting playing guitar, so it’s a nice place to be. There is even a breeze coming through the open window next to me, cooling as the water gives up the warmth of the day.

I am not used to eating alone anymore. It not as much fun when you can’t comment on the food, people watch, and share the experience with someone else. Eating should be a social activity something to be shared with special friends or family. Even the best food is not as good without someone to share it with.

Tomorrow I get to go home. Please don’t read this wrong, at least I am not in Iraq for a year or two just in Florida for a couple of days. It does make me appreciate my wife and kids at home though and just puts a double underline under my appreciation for those men and women in the armed forces who make the daily sacrifice of leaving home and family while putting their lives on the line so many days. Thanks guys for your dedication to keeping this country and a big chunk of the world safe.

So I am down to coffee while the guitar player does the Eagles the coffee is good and the breeze is fresh. My phone has drained all the power from the emergency charger, and is once again ready to guide me back to my hotel. I may have forgotten much but have also learned a great deal. I have learned that pandemics and computers problems may separate us from things that we want, but that friends and family are the real treasure, and those we keep in our hearts.