“Ladies and gentlemen, welcome aboard your flight with multiple destinations. As you step off the jet bridge onto my aircraft, take a quick glance into the cockpit. Yep, that’s me sitting in the captains’ seat and that’s my first officer laughing about how he accidentally locked himself out of his hotel room. Naked. Again.
We’re both a little ripe from flying for the last five days, and this is our fourth trip leg today, but you’ll also notice that we’re still smiling. That’s because we have spent years and thousands of hours training and living an uncommon lifestyle to be up here for you. We know what we’re doing, so we have time to enjoy the here and now. We hate all the bureaucracy and company politics that go with the job, but we love being in our pilot seats. That smirk you saw on all the pilots’ faces as you walked through the terminal is from years of humble arrogance.
As you walk down the aisle and bang the heads of other passengers with your carryon bags, look for an open bin to stow your bags. You’ll be carrying baggage for the rest of your life, so might as well learn how to stow it properly. Make sure it’s small enough to fit and that it’s secure because if it falls out when we encounter a little unexpected turbulence, others could get hurt. Turbulence is only dangerous when it’s unexpected.
Locate your assigned seat and strap in. You are now our passenger. For the next few hours, you have to turn your life over to us. It’s hard to trust others, but it must be done if you want to get somewhere quickly. We will hand over control of our lives many times without giving it much thought because it’s what we must do as humans in a complex society. Trust and doubt, give and take are endless cycles that are part of our human experience and there are moments when you don’t have a choice about being in control. During those moments, you’ll just have to tighten your seatbelt and trust that others will get you through the storm.
Those flight attendants hustling up and down the aisle are part of our crew. You probably ignore their safety briefing, but as always in life, we don’t realize what we don’t know until there is an emergency. Those emergency exits are actually really heavy and hard to open, and I’ll bet most passengers sitting in the exit row couldn’t get those emergency exits open. But, they won’t figure that out until there is an actual emergency, and then it will be the flight attendant, who they ignored, who will save their life.
Our route today will take you through a segment of a life up in the air and you will see things you could never imagine. Since I have been locked in the cockpit with men for several thousands of hours over the years, I have been given a perspective few get to experience. To help you see a different perspective too, I am giving you a checklist to use as we move along our route. It will take you from gate to gate and when we’re done, we will have both learned a little more about what it takes to fly.
Now…just sit back, relax and enjoy the flight.”
There are those among us who unknowingly carry the spirits of a thousand generations. They quietly walk the earth knowing what is fundamentally right. Ella Granby began her life in balance. Unwanted by her creators, but wanted by her new family, her life choices draw her to the extremes to find balance. She is pulled from the upper Midwest to the airfields of Africa. She is not the passenger, but rather, she is piloting the aircraft. She had read the cries to stop the poaching, but rather than just signing the petition, she is there, in Africa, quietly living her life to save another.
The destruction is so overwhelming that Ella realizes she needs support, but Aman is not what Ella's ideology expected. Western educated but raised in the heart of Africa, Aman teaches Ella what it means to be truly connected to the earth while flying above it. Through their balanced teamwork, a force is created to slide the axis, but how long can it withstand the pressures of an unbalanced world…
Before Start Checklist
- Preflight your life - check
- Navigation equipment – tuned and identified
- Cycle switches and knobs to impress passengers – check
- Attitude – check
- Parking Brake - set
The sequence of events in my life unwittingly set me up for an aviation career. It’s like going to the grocery store for some bread and coming home with a new car. Except in my case, I accidentally completed a personal Before Start Checklist into aviation and was startled to hear an engine start when I was done. Definitely never intended, but clearly amazed that it happened.
I stumbled into the world of aviation when I was nineteen, thanks to a shitty roommate in college who skipped out on the bills, along with my money. Even though I was working two jobs, I was still coming up short, so I took a third job as a customer service representative position (okay, fancy term for working the front desk) at a small airport southwest of Minneapolis called the Flying Cloud Airport. The Fixed Base Operator (FBO) offered a variety of services to private aircraft, and since it was a reliever airport for Minneapolis containing four different flight schools and four corporate FBO’s, it was a very busy airport.
My schedule was second shift at Ethan Aviation, so it worked nicely into my already busy school schedule and it was quiet enough after the “suits” went home in the evening that I could fit in some homework and study time. My shift started at 2:00 p.m. and this was my first experience with a telephone switchboard and flying a desk.
Within the first fifteen minutes of my on-the-job-training, there was crackle and static popping through the Unicom (private radio frequencies/radio to communicate between pilot and FBO) until I could hear a voice from space: “Ethan Aviation, this is Citation November Three Zero Juliet Delta, I’m on Tango Lane and I need the Jet A truck, and I want a little Prist today. I also need a tug and my catering brought over. How soon can you be here—oh, and can you bring the hangar key?”
What language is he speaking and what in the world does he want me to tug on?! The woman training me was on the phone and gave me a look like, “Well, come on, answer the man.” I had no idea where to begin because I didn’t understand a thing he’d said, let alone know how to talk on the Unicom radio. After a couple weeks of training, I knew that a call like that meant the pilot needed Jet A fuel with anti-ice additive, he was parked at Tango Lane on the airport, and he needed the tug to pull his aircraft out of the hangar.
My first few weeks of training were overwhelming to the point of nausea, but unknowingly my addiction had started. Aviation is a secret society that you ooze your way into, and it takes time to learn all the nuances of it. It has its own language, syntax, sounds, and smell. There is no quantum leap into aviation knowledge. It takes duration, but once you get it, you’re hooked. Ask any bleary-eyed pilot, and they’ll say they’re addicted. There is no other explanation for it. It’s a high that is attained by swallowing enormous amount of input and having that information travel through your blood to your brain. It releases ego grown by knowledge of a complex society that puts machines into the air and gracefully back onto the ground again. At its core, it is a gang with gang mentality, and once you’re in, plan on staying awhile.
My primary job description, customer service representative, involved answering twelve incoming phone lines, taking care of the pilots and passengers, and to coordinate all the services with the line crew and maintenance department. When a corporate/private pilot is nearing the airport, they often call ahead to the front desk on the Unicom radio so they can let the line personnel know they’ll be there shortly and to advise the customer service rep of what type of services they’ll be requiring.
Ethan Aviation provided full service care, which meant I would arrange everything the rich and famous (at least in their mind) desired: rental cars, catering, ice, hotel arrangements for the flight crew and/or passengers, concert tickets, sporting event tickets, liquor, maintenance, fuel, hangar, aircraft tie down, de-ice service, ramp space, etc. I’ve even had hooker requests, but couldn’t/wouldn’t help them there. Sometimes with just twenty minutes notice, I would have all the above arranged for them. Then, the yahoo line guy who’d been sitting on his ass counting the number of runway lights would simply walk up to the newly arrived aircraft, open the door to the airplane and receive a $20 tip while I, on the other hand, would receive a tip that “maybe the line guy should park my aircraft closer to the lobby door next time…”