Just one pilot's attempt at taking an interesting picture every trip, often with a story to go with it. Come along for the ride.

For more recent posts, go to my site www.kentwien.com

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Aruba Turn - "Turkey in the sky with dressing"

I managed to trade a 10 hour San Juan 2 day trip over Thanksgiving for a 9 1/2 hour one day trip to Aruba on Thanksgiving. It was certainly worth losing a half hour of pay to gain an extra day off.

Linda wondered if we would be catered with a few pies or turkey meals for the crews like United did (where she was previously a flight attendant). I was pretty sure that wouldn't happen, as I usually work on Thanksgiving and I hadn't remembered anything like that in the past.

Fortunately for us, the flight attendants brought turkey, stuffing, sweet potatoes and a variety of pies for the flight home! How lucky was that? It was actually really good. Since this flight was more than 8 flight hours in one day, we had an FB (relief pilot) along with us. That meant we had a 1 hour and 10 minute break going down and 1:15 coming back. I snapped a few iPhone picture while enjoying the Turkey dinner.

Ellen, the captain, brought an amazing Pumpkin pie that she also made. Almost as good as being home. Almost. Today was also my mom's birthday. I couldn't help but laugh when we flew over 'her' waypoint. I had to take a picture with the phone and email it to her right away after landing. Notice the "Kathy" intersection:

I've got another one of those San Juan/Newark trips next week and then for December I'll be spending a bit of time in Barbados! 31 hour layovers. How could such a junior guy on the list hold this wonderful trip? Well, it pretty much flies every day during the Christmas break. Santa may have to come to our house a few days early this year.

But the big goal will be to bring my wife on one of the BGI layovers that just happens to be over our anniversary. That would be a huge feat for both of us if we could make it happen. We're watching the loads closely.

Friday, November 23, 2007

3 Day San Juan Newark "Canal Street with Kimmie"

The ability to trip trade can make all the difference in the world sometimes. I called up another FO (Jeff) who was kind enough to trade with me for his identical SJU/EWR trip that departed one day later than mine. This made it possible for me to attend my wife's U.S. citizenship ceremony. We've been married for 15 years, and she's always had a British passport with a U.S. green card, but now it's official, she's a citizen. The trade also allowed me to layover in Newark on the same night as my sister Kim, a flight attendant for Alaska Airlines. We planned to get together in Manhattan for some shopping, so I was especially excited for this trip, even with the early departure and the flight time of more than 20 hours over the 3 days.

As is typical in a small base like Boston, I had flown with the Captain, Mike S. before. Mike drives from Vermont and since this trip left so early in the morning, he had to leave his house at 12:30 a.m. to drive the four hours to Logan. It made it much harder for me to complain about getting up at 2:30 a.m.

Typically our early morning departures either have just one leg or they are a turn. This one however was the beginning of a very long trip. The first day had us going from Boston to Miami to Aruba to San Juan. That's nearly 8 hours of flying. After another mexican dinner and some good sleep, we left the next day for Antigua then San Juan and finally Newark, NJ.

Flying over St. Kitts, I thought it would be cool if there were an astronaut out there who could blog freely. I figured this picture taken from a 757 would have to suffice.

In orbit (over St. Kitts)

But after landing in Aruba, I realized this BA 777 was the closest thing to a space ship that I would fly:

British Airways Boeing 777 in Antigua

I left Mike to go with my sister to her layover hotel since we planned to go into town early the next morning. When we woke up on Monday morning, it was snowing pretty heavily in Newark. We were both excited to get into Manhattan though, so we jumped on the NJ Transit train at Newarks Penn Station and zipped into the city with another Alaska flight attendant who was going to visit her friend.

Kim and I went straight to B&H Photo which is a HUGE store that is full of great gadgets. This place is nearly the size of a grocery store, and unlike most places, it's staffed with nearly 200 employees. If you ever get the chance, I highly recommend swinging by. It was pretty crowded even at 9 a.m.

With my favorite place out of the way, we went to Kimmie's stomping ground, Canal Street. This place is full of Chinese knock offs which would normally bore me to death, but my sister made it fun. Kim Wien Wong, as we like to call her, knew some of the shopkeepers by name. In fact, I think she may be too friendly with them as she wasn't completely brutal in her negotiating tactics. She was sure that no one was showing us the good stuff because I looked too much like a cop. Finally some guy led us to a loft in a back alley for some handbags. Kim didn't find anything she needed but hypothetically, I could have bought some poorly encoded, movie theatre filmed DVD's of The Simson's Movie and Dan in Real Life for $3 each. Hypothetically of course.

Before heading back to the hotel to get ready for our evening departures, we stopped in the Apple Store in SoHo to pick up a few accessories. I've managed to turn Kim into a real tech geek in the past few years, so she was right at home.

Kim went home to Seattle on Alaska and I flew down to Miami and then Boston.

I was surprised how many passengers have been asking about the airways that are being opened up for the holidays on the east coast of the U.S. It seems like a lot of hype for such a small tweak to the system. On the way home, we heard Jetblue ask: "Center, is the George W. Bush super highway open yet, we'd like to get a direct to Hampton if we could and break it in." ATC told them it wasn't scheduled to open until Wednesday though. Nice try JetBlue.

CA Mike passing the sunset by...

Monday, November 12, 2007

SDQ Turn

Just after getting home from the two day San Juan, I traded into a turn to Santo Domingo. The Captain turned out to be Mark S., who was deadheading with us the day before from Miami. Mark is senior enough to avoid flying on reserve, but for November he probably figured the reserve pilots wouldn't be used much, so he went ahead and bid it. It may have backfired on him, because if this week was any indication, he might be pretty busy in November.

We climbed out of Boston at a leisurely 1130 a.m. and flew 4 hours south to SDQ. I snapped a few shots while doing the walkaround in Santo Domingo. I thought this was an exceptionally polished tailcone, so what the heck. I'll add it to the trip pictures along with yet another winglet shot and ramp scene. More and more of the 757's are showing up with winglets. All of the 737's are done apparently, and soon all of the 757's will be retrofitted.

The flight back was uneventful. As with nearly every flight this time of day, the sunset was worthy of a shot.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

SJU Two Day "Minibar Mayhem"

Combined with the lack of flying on reserve at the end of October and some days off at the beginning of November, I was starting to feel ready to go back to work. My wife, Linda, had thrown out her back, so it was lucky I was around to help out around the house. Let me tell you. Being as I call the 'captain' of the house, responsible for everything that goes on such as the laundry, cooking, cleaning, shopping not to mention the diaper changes and feeding everyone, well, it's enough to make you RUN back to work when the chance comes. Linda is feeling much better and I'm so glad to have her back to help out! She's pretty amazing.

I managed to get a line for November, which was quite a surprise since we had reduced our flying this month significantly and I was just sure I'd be flying another reserve schedule. But when you throw in a holiday like Thanksgiving or Christmas, if you're willing to work over those two days, you just might have a good chance of holding a line.

I traded almost every trip around and I've made up a nice enough schedule, I think.

My first trip back was with Captain John R. who is a wicked smart political junkie. I always enjoy flying with him to get the latest scoop on what's going on in the world of politics. He has certainly changed my mind on a few important topics.

While this trip involved an early get up (3:30 a.m) for our 6:30 a.m. flight to San Juan from Boston, at least we were done when we got there and could (in theory) spend the rest of the afternoon on the beach. We zipped on down to San Juan along those Atlantic routes that president Bush plans to open up for the Thanksgiving rush. They are often 'cold' anyway, so we did take advantage of the shortcut this time.

John was nice enough to give me the first leg down there. After being off from work for a bit of time, I think I would prefer to fly the airplane rather than talk to ATC. You never forget how to fly, but talking is easily a forgotten skill. (And writing in a blog, for that matter!)

We arrived at San Juan before noon and went to my favorite hotel, where, if you'll remember from this trip, I discovered from Captain Mike that if you are staying in one of the suites, the minibar is complimentary! I was sure to let Captain John know this wonderful gouge (Gouge: military speak for a tip that will help get you through a task). I arrived in the beautiful room that had it's own walk out terrace and immediately dove into the minibar. The Oreos and the Pringles were the first casualty, followed by a soda or two. I mean, really, why let these things go to waste?

Later in the afternoon, while video chatting on the complimentary high speed internet with Ruthann in dreary Ireland, I opened up a Medalla beer. Ruthann was ready to throw her macbook in the rain with frustration. But don't feel sorry for her, it wasn't but a few months ago that she was happily snapping these pictures to send back to her friends soaking back home in the old country.

I had to hang up with Ruthann and her mom to meet up with John for the free appetizers and beer at the hotels small lobby for those staying in the suites. After a false start, (who knew long pants were required at this lounge?) I was enjoying the visit with John and one of Boston's best flight attendants, Elaine. Cheese, fruit, chips and salsa at no cost. Ahh, this was the life. (insert mental image of wife changing a diaper back home here).

Karma has a way of catching up to me quickly. I went back to the room to get ready for our dinner at a Mexican restaurant and I got a knock at the door. And then "Minibar," was the call out. Oh, no! I opened the door and meekly asked if the minibar was in fact free to crewmembers. "No." He said. "I'm here because you are short a water."

"Well I'm short a heck of a lot more than water!" I laughed. After explaining that I was set up by a certain captain who's pictured here the Minibar guy said not to worry about it. He wouldn't charge me. But I really didn't do this to scam anyone. I honestly believed it was complementary. And now I had to tell Captain John before he cleaned out his fridge!

Fortunatly John had only managed to work his way through the Oreo cookies. I tallied up the bill that the minibar guy left for me to see. I would have owed $17.

Of course I had to get back online to tell Ruthann. She felt vindicated. Served me right, she claimed, for sitting in paradise while she was in some leaking thatched roof home with only a peat burning fireplace in Western Ireland sharing a room with her 8 other siblings. (well, OK, she just has one brother, but I'm sure the rest of that is true-in my mind).

John and I met back up and ate at the Mexican restaurant down the street. Here's a nice blurry picture of the place.

The next day John went to pay for his Oreo's. The lady at the front desk said, "Don't worry, there's no charge. We don't track those closely." So maybe this was the lady that Mike talked to who told him there was no charge. I love this hotel.

For the flight home, we were completely full. Even the extra 2 flight attendant jumpseats were filled in the back as were the cockpit jumpseats. It was my leg, and since we had 4 Boston based deadheading pilots on board, the pressure was on for a good approach and landing of course. I think any pilot wants to do his best when his peers are in the back. PIlot nature, I guess. Of course, the landing was so good that after the tears cleared from their eyes, they took down my address to send me roses. At least that's how the landing was - in my mind.

As you know, the original purpose of this blog was to take a nice picture from each trip and write about it. But I typically exceed my self imposed word count and photo count for most trips. Here are a couple of pictures I shot on this two day trip. The highly polished 757 in Miami is an example of one of our oldest (#7) 757's that recently came out of a "C" check in Tulsa. They really do an amazing job of bringing them back to near new condition. I still love how they look in the sun.

And if you want to make it look like you're flying very high, just use a wide angle lens for your horizon shots:

And finally a little advertising on the airplane:

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Another pilot's blog...

Sorry I've been quiet lately, but I'm not due to fly again for a few days. In the meantime, you might enjoy reading this anonymous pilot blogger (who happens to be female) write about flying in Canada. I'm enjoying her writing style and I think you just might enjoy her Cockpit Conversation blog.

Check out the list of GREAT aviation blogs she has in her "blogs" section.

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Exeter, New Hampshire, United States
Grew up in Alaska, went to high school and college in Washington State. Commercial pilot since 1990.

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