Tag Archives: aviation friends

Open Sky for Fearful Flyers

Had the pleasure to attend the very first Open Sky for Fearful Flyers class conducted by AirHollywood, the largest airplane mockup studio serving the motion picture, television and commercial production industry. While not afraid of flying, I decided to attend because I knew there would be useful information shared AND anything aviation-related designed to assist others is always a good thing. Well, we weren’t disappointed.

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The class was facilitated by Capt Ron Nielsen, a retired commercial airline pilot. According to a published bio, Capt Ron has been a pilot for almost 40 years and recently retired as a captain for a major airline. Flying has been a lifelong passion of his and he now devotes much of his time and energy to helping others overcome their fear of flying. He began working with those fearful of flying in 1987, and has gained a unique understanding of fearful flyers and their fears. His master’s degree in professional counseling has served him well in his endeavor to help others. His knowledge of people combined with his knowledge of airplanes has helped him develop strategies for fearful flyers to successfully manage their fears. Through his live classes and webinars, he has restored confidence to thousands who are now flying again.  He is frequently contacted by the media for his aviation expertise.

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The class was set up as a 6-hour course. Introduction of the weaker was followed by why people are afraid of flying (control, irrational fears, previous situations, etc.). After receiving statistics and facts about the safety of flying in today’s world, we partnered up with others in the class to learn more about what motivates your fear(s). As I’m not afraid of flying, my activity partner did most of the talking as I interviewed him about what makes him fearful. After sharing bios in a group forum, and what makes you fearful, we were treated to a very nice, casual lunch on the backlot. Lunch was followed up by “boarding” our flight. The studio is complete with Jetways and a motion-based mockup which simulates turbulence. We were then treated to the full phase of flight from boarding, to take off, cruise altitude, turbulence, landing, and arrival back at the gate. Even the owner of AirHollywood got in on the action, providing drinks from a beverage cart!

 

To my delight I had the opportunity to speak with the students in the Open Sky for Fearful Flyers course!

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Our day concluded with a tour of the AirHollywood props department and backlot, where we saw upclose and personal everything studios would need to film movie scenes, commercials, or photo shoots.

As this was the introductory course, AirHollywood and Capt Ron listened to, and answered questions from the students regarding what worked well and what we’d like to see in future classes. The goal is to have an on-going fear of flying classes complete with classroom instruction at the studio followed up by taking a real flight.

Here’s some of what we learned:

  • Every year, flying becomes safer > less accidents, although more traffic. Increases in safety due to better engines, technology, training
  • Fear of flying is NOT the same as risk of flying
  • Approximately 60 million people in the USA have a fear of flying
  • If you’re afraid of flying, first introduce yourself to the flight attendants and let them know. Then the pilots. Make sure all of the crew is aware
  • Breathing through a drinking straw will prevent you from hyperventilating. Carry one with you if you’re prone to hyperventilating
  • Sights. Sounds. Sensations — overcoming the fear of flight begins by recognizing these

I left the studio feeling great. It’s a nice feeling knowing that there are others out there who have a love and passion for what flight can add to your life and how overcoming your fear of flying can enrich your life and make it more fulfilling.

Talaat Captan, Capt Ron Nielsen, Rachel Owen, Me

Talaat Captan, Capt Ron Nielsen, Rachel Owen, Me

Sylvester

Please see our previous post on visiting AirHollywood > click here

Sometimes you gotta just keep smiling

And then there was a time…

…I decided to wear a brand new pair of shoes on a trans-Atlantic flight. C’mon, they were Kenneth Coles! When I say I was looking sharp, I was looking sharp! Getting to Zurich was a bit of a challenge though. By the time we arrived the next morning my tootsies were tender. I couldn’t get to my hotel room fast enough to get out of those shoes! Sneakers on my layover were just what the doctor ordered. Next morning, the thought of putting those shoes on again caused me to tear up. And I realized that sneakers (not even the Braniff Converses or AirBerlin airplane sneakers) wouldn’t work with my uniform.

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So, I begrudgingly put on my Kenneth Coles and walked across the Atlantic. One of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do. And I continued to smile. And if you’ve ever met me you know I smile all the time, even when it’s unpleasant.

Moral: When your feet hurt it’s easy to  become a miserable SOB. Sometimes you have to smile through the pain just to make it home.

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Passenger dominoes

And then there was the time…

That I was working an (in)famous LGA to PBI flight; a flight that is known for it’s (ahem)…seasoned traveler. I always had a great time working these flights and you had to take on a new tone with this group of flyers. It always worked best if you could match their zeal and energy. One day during boarding there was a back up and people were standing in the aisle with no space between them. As a passenger was putting his bag in to the overhead bin he lost his balance and caused a domino reaction; bodies started toppling. When the domino effect reached a certain passenger she began to react in the most dramatic way. “Ooooh!”, she yelled! “He is trying to knock me down!” “Whats going on?!” She was about to really get going when I stepped up, looked directly in her eyes and said, “Ma’am! You know just as well as I do, that was not what he is trying to do. This began a few people ahead of him and no one was trying to do something to YOU.” She looked me dead in the face, completely calm and said, “You’re right.” She then took her seat. She couldn’t have surprised me more.

My thoughts on this situation: Assume the best in people, help them see the real situation and let them rise to the occasion. It always makes your day better when a passenger surprises you with a great experience.

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Tax Day, Concorde, and Regret

And then there was a time…

…when my roommate and I decided “Let’s fly Concorde to London!” Being FAs without a lot of seniority, and being based in NYC, we had limited funds. So we decided “Let’s do this after we get our tax refund!” For the next few months we flew our schedules and talked frequently about our trip. Our airline offered a sweet deal: for approximately $800 you could fly British Airways roundtrip (standby of course) to London. This particular interline agreement allowed you to decide whether to fly over supersonic and back subsonic, or vice versa. We decided we’d take Concorde over, spend a day or two in London, then hightail it back on a 747. Tax time came and went. Refund checks arrived and were spent. Time passed. We never took the trip. We all know how this story ends. After the accident of an Air France Concorde, the subsequent grounding of the Concorde fleet, and the economics of operating supersonic flights, Concorde flew into the sunset, never to fly again. The end of an era had arrived. Every Tax Day since then serves as a reminder. Not flying Concorde has to be one of my life’s regrets.

Moral: If there’s something you REALLY want to do, do it! Make a plan, stick to that plan. Live life without regret.

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If I could’ve pulled a DB Cooper…

Then there was a time…

…we were cruising through the beverage service; nice crew, light flight, no troubles, very nice passengers. I say to the customer at the window, “And what would you like to drink sir?” And the LADY with the deep voice and sensible haircut at the window answers, “I’d like a Diet Coke.” Talk about embarrassing.  The fact that it takes a long time to pour Diet Coke added to the duration of my embarrassment. If I could’ve pulled a DB Cooper I would have jumped out of the plane, never to be found again.

Moral: Look people directly in the eye when asking questions. Doing so can save yourself from embarrassment AND of the possibility of having to jump out of a perfectly functioning airplane.

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So much depends on HOW you show up

And then there was a time…

…I was working a LHR to JFK flight and decided to go visit with Joan Collins who was seated at the front of the plane. Yes, THE Joan Collins! I spruced up, checked my teeth, opened the curtain and confidently presented myself at her seat. She was reading at the time and kindly placed her book to the side. “Ms. Collins, I heard you were onboard and wanted to come say hello and see if you needed anything.” With eyes wide open, a friendly smile and an attentive gaze, Ms. Collins asked, “Are you the captain?” I found her question splendid. I chuckled and let her know that I was a member of the cabin crew. After some small chit chat, mostly me telling her how I missed her appearance at a London booking signing and her travels to NYC, I refilled her beverage and returned to tourist class. She was most gracious and kind.

Moral: People can be very nice. Depending on HOW you show up and present yourself, people may think the world of you. You part ways feeling like you’re on top of the world.

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Aviation Geek Fest 2014 (AGF14) – Highlights

Aviation Geek Fest (AGF) is becoming a rite of passage for the serious avgeek. We first heard of this annual get together last year in 2013 (AGF13). Sadly, due to scheduling conflicts we were unable to attend. We followed the avgeekry antics and activities of those who were able to attend. To say we wish we had been able to attend is an understatement. So, it was with great determination and perseverance, that we cleared our schedules and made sure we were logged into the website minutes before the tickets went on sale this year. Once the tickets for AGF14 went on sale, those who hadn’t been quick on the computer were out of luck. The event sold out in 3 minutes! Thank goodness for the refresh button!

For those who do not know, AGF is the brainchild of AirlineReporter.com’s David Parker Brown. David began AirlineReporter.com in 2008 and has been sharing his knowledge and passion for aviation with others over many years. The first AGF was in 2009 and attendance for this annual event has been growing by leaps and bounds.

The weekend was full of activities that would turn the novice planespotter into a serious avgeek. Some of the activities and events included: tours of both the Everett and Renton Boeing factories, a raffle for amazing prizes, and the opportunity to meet bloggers, travel writers, those genuinely interested in aviation, and the opportunity to see friends and to make new ones.

Here are but a couple of the highlights from AVG14:

The prototype mockup of the Boeing SST — located at the Museum of Flight Restoration Center, the remnants of this mockup made our hearts go from V1 to VR in seconds! Of course we had heard and read about the Boeing 2707 SST that had never been built due to the large capital resources need to launch the program and political reasons. Click here for link to Boeing site regarding the SST, or here to read more about what would have been the first American SST.

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Inside the first Boeing 747 — going inside the first 747 ever built has been a lifelong dream. We’re sure more than a few avgeeks have this on their bucket list. Thanks to David Parker Brown, and his passion for aviation, he was able to gain access into this iconic aircraft for the attendees of this years AGF14. When the doors of the first 747 were opened we ascended the airstairs with great excitement. Walking inside this airplane was like walking into a time machine. On the day of our visit,  45 years and 1 week had passed since this aircraft took its first flight and would become the first aircraft given the moniker “jumbo jet” (the first flight was February 9, 1969).

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Again, we’d like to thank AirlineReporter.com and David Parker Brown in particular for making this years AGF14 truly amazing!

(More pictures from AGF14 available at our Flickr account: airlineguys)

Delta Sky Deck – an observation

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Observation decks are reminiscent of the glory days of flying. There was a time when people would go out to airports for the sake of watching planes from these excellent vantage points. A few airports in the world still have them. They’re definitely a thing of a bygone era.  When we heard Delta was opening “observation decks” at two locations (JFK and ATL) we were over-the-moon with excitement.

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Dramatic red tarpaulins dissecting the blue skies

On June 10, 2013 Delta opened an all-new 1,710 sq ft Sky Deck at Atlanta’s Hartsfield Jackson International Airport. The Sky Deck is an extension of the Sky Club, Delta’s lounge for frequent fliers and is located on F Concourse at the Maynard JacksonTerminal.
We were given the opportunity to visit the Delta Sky Deck and here is our account.
When entering the Delta Sky Club on F Concourse our first impression was modern and clean. Once inside the Club we were greeted by an immense, 2-story glass wall which gave us a bird’s eye view of the taxiways, runways, and the airport control tower. Talk about avgeek heaven! The Club is standard in its look and feel across the Delta domestic system. There is ample seating arranged individually and group seating configurations, business center, work stations, quiet area, high top tables, bar area, espresso/coffee machine, and a variety of snacks (from sweet to savory, from healthy to indulgent). Other amenities included power ports to charge your electronic devices and free wifi. We did notice that the wifi was very slow. We surmised it may have been slow due to the number of passengers in the lounge at this time.
What makes this Sky Club unique, like its counterpart at JFK, is the Sky Deck; a partially enclosed outside seating and gathering place for Sky Club members. Cozy sofas, chairs, ornamental shrubs, and high top tables adorn this oasis. The blue sky was dissected by large red decorative tarpaulins. Members have an unfettered view of all the airport activity going on below. During our visit there was a Delta 747 destined for Tokyo, a 737 parked just below, and we even saw the Delta 767-400 BCRF plane (pink plane) taxiing by. Being on the Sky Deck harkened back to an era that no longer exists at many of the world’s airports. We both agreed that more Delta Sky Clubs should have Sky Decks.

At both ATL and JFK, Delta collaborated and partnered with Architectural Digest and designer Thom Filicia to develop the Sky Deck terraces. Many may remember Thom Filicia as the interior design expert in the highly enjoyable, amazingly energetic, Emmy-Award winning hit show “Queer Eye for the Straight Guy.”

For those who are not a member of the Sky Club, and want to have this unique experience, there are various ways to gain access. These include, but aren’t limited to: paid membership, using miles for membership, purchasing a 30-day or 1-day pass, and various options through the SkyMiles American Express Card. Please click to see what options are best for you, locations, and amenities offered at Delta Sky Clubs.
We enjoyed our time at the Sky Deck at the Sky Club on F Concourse at ATL. When your future plans take you via Atlanta and you have time, you should definitely check it out.
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Sylvester & Darin

Planes, Trains, AND Automobiles — we’ve got it covered!

As followers of the airlineguys, you have come to know that aviation is our passion. However, we do love other modes of transportation as well. Sylvester has a great appreciation for trains. I, on the other hand, have a love for cars. I love my current car “Ariel”, a Hyundai Veloster. She has become one of those cars that fits me well. If she had more power and maybe a stick shift…well, maybe it’s best it doesn’t have that much power. Looking to the future when time is up with her, I am thinking I would like my personal carbon footprint to have a better impact on the environment. So, my next car will be more environmentally friendly and at the same time will bring me enjoyment when  driving it.

Soooo, recently I had the opportunity to drive the 2013 Lincoln MKZ for two days. Lincoln calls it “Date Night with the MKZ” and it happens to hybrid version. What a great marketing plan! You’re reading about it now. I first saw this car at the Atlanta Auto Show in February. It was the car that really caught my eye.  I love the sleekness, the narrow focused headlights, and of course the sunroof; it slides all the way back to reveal the the sky…beautiful! Something about this car reminds me of a spaceship or a sleek new design of an airplane. The MKZ is graceful and powerful, strong and fluid. It has elements of the initial 7E7 design, which later became the 787. This design feature I find very attractive in this car.  Then there is this: when sitting behind the wheel, it feels like a modern cockpit, with touch screens and touch cabin controls and adjustable mood lighting.  This is truly advanced technology and makes driving this car completely fun.

I truly enjoyed the experience and I would recommend that you take a closer look at this car.  I think Lincoln really did it right with this car and for an aviation and automobile enthusiast to see the two come together so beautifully, will  always be a winner in my book.

Darin

AJC article — “Absolutely beautiful, the sheer monster size of it” — Korean Air A380 lands in Atlanta

We had the pleasure to speak with AJC aviation reporter Kelly Yamanouchi recently to discuss aviation and the arrival of the Korean Air A380…the world’s largest passenger plane. Here is the article. Thank you Kelly for helping us to spread the word on how truly wonderful aviation is.

Sylvester Pittman and Darin Topham, airlineguys

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Korean Air A380 taxis to gate at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport. Picture provided by airlineguys

 

BY KELLY YAMANOUCHI – THE ATLANTA JOURNAL-CONSTITUTION

Airport workers stopped their tugs to watch. Catering employees came out to take a look. A child atop the Terminal South parking garage stood on a cooler for a better view. Dozens of adults pulled out their cameras and smartphones to capture a piece of history.

And, yes, time stood still.

At least, that’s how it felt to Sylvester Pittman.

“It was almost as if traffic sort of stopped for a moment as that plane came in,” Pittman recalled, savoring a moment that, for him and Atlanta’s legions of av geeks, had been a very, very long time coming.

And yes, that’s av geeks — short for aviation geeks, the tribe of airplane connoisseurs for whom last week’s arrival of the first Airbus A380 to fly into Hartsfield-Jackson was almost a religious event.

You see, for av geeks, an airplane is more than just a mode of transportation. It’s a fabulous machine. A technological wonder. A thing of beauty.

The super-jumbo Airbus A380, the world’s largest passenger plane, has been flying around the world since 2007. But the world’s busiest airport was not on its itinerary, much to the frustration of Atlanta’s av geeks.

“It seemed like it was never going to become a reality,” Pittman said.

The day finally arrived exactly one week ago when a Korean Air flight from Seoul touched down.

“Amazing,” rhapsodized Pittman.

“Absolutely beautiful,” breathed av geek Jeanene Wilson, “the sheer monster size of it.”

(How big is the A380? Big enough to carry 853 passengers, though current versions are configured to carry far fewer. Powerful enough to lift off weighing more than 1.2 million pounds.)

As you might expect, Atlanta’s enormous aviation industry supports a strong, close-knit community of passionate av geeks.

Pittman and his friend Darin Topham, both former Delta employees, run a website called airlineguys.com targeted at that community.

These are folks who track flights online and on apps, following them around the world as if the planes were celebrities. They travel to other cities just to hang out at the airport and watch planes take off and land.

Sometimes they’re stalking a specific plane, like the A380 or the Boeing 787 Dreamliner. Sometimes they’re content to watch any plane, every plane, all the planes they can.

Av geek Chris Byington grew up in Washington, D.C. watching the Concorde come and go. On Wednesday he watched the A380’s second landing in Atlanta, marveling at how he could smell the jet fuel and see the grass ripple from the engine blast.

A 27-year-old MBA student at Georgia State, he visits Hartsfield-Jackson about once a month, just to plane-watch. “It’s just cool,” he said. “I guess I’m still a little kid.”

Pittman has flown to Los Angeles and Washington to indulge in plane spotting. Wilson likes to travel to the Caribbean island of St. Maarten to watch planes fly directly over her head on a beach near the airport.

Craig Campbell, an ExpressJet dispatcher who took photos of Wednesday’s A380 touchdown, flew to Boston this weekend to embark on a plane-spotting cruise.

It doesn’t take an av geek to understand the fascination of a behemoth like the A380. But listening to them talk planes is like listening to wine snobs wax poetic over rare vintages.

The 777? “Always a delight to see,” Pittman said.

The 747? “Never ever gets old. Just never gets old.”

The 787? “It’s a very, very beautiful plane. The technology alone makes it very special. The profile makes it top notch.”

Huh?

“The nose makes it beautiful, and how the engines sit on the wings,” he strove to explain. “The vertical stabilizer also kind of makes the profile complete.”

OK. Maybe non-geeks will see what he means once the 787 arrives in Atlanta, an event for which no date is yet set.

“We can only hope,” Pittman said. “And the day that happens, we will definitely be out there.”

Pittman’s affection for planes was kindled when he took his first airline flight in the summer of 1981 at the age of 16.

“I remember it like it was yesterday. It was a Saturday,” a flight back from a summer program in Atlanta to his home in Florida, he said. “And after that trip, I knew, this was it. I was hooked.”

That summer, he also toured the Atlanta airport’s new terminal complex, which had opened the previous fall.

“We went out to the airport and rode the train from concourse to concourse,” Pittman said. The people-mover train “was very futuristic at the time.”

He knows that when most people think about air travel, they think of the delays, the security hassles and the baggage fees.

But in the community of av geeks, “We also still embrace the wonderment about what aviation is all about,” Pittman said.

“It all culminates to going down the runway and lifting off, and being free from the earth and being able to fly.”