Saturday, September 13, 2008

Welcome aboard...

There was an article on today's NYT website entitled, "Flying the Unfriendly Skies". The author, Michelle Higgins, went through American Airlines' Flight Attendant Training School and reported her experience. It had a video that went with it called, "Flight School Confidential"... I had to watch it.

As you know, I was a Flight Attendant for 10 years, and let me tell you, FA training is not easy. Judging by the video, it has not gotten any easier over the years.

The above photo is of a few of us crew members lolling around in a 747 engine, that's me standing. (Sometimes it got a little boring hanging around on the tarmac...) Luckily, we had a ladder and a few "ramp rats" to help us up and down. In training, it was a different story. To qualify on the 747, we had to jump out of a mock up cabin... Our trainer popped the door open, blew the slide and down we went, JUMP, JUMP, JUMP... It's a scary thing to do that without the adrenalin rush of an actual "event". We were given the opportunity to jump out of the upper deck... no takers. A single lane slide 47 feet up? After you.

My flying experience began as a bet. There was an ad in Newsday... I was sitting around with my boss at the time and read the ad to him. He said, "I'll give you the day off if you go to the interview". Sure, why not? That began my whirlwind career of "sky-walking". I had the opportunity to see places I never would have traveled to otherwise. I met people of many different cultures, tasted foods from all over and sated my wanderlust nature.

As cliche as it is, I met my future husband on a layover... it was April in Paris... he worked for a French airline, I worked for an American airline... we dated NY-Paris for a year and ended up getting married. Long story short, I'm still here, he's not... see my profile.

I worked for three different airlines, all charter (I wanted to do international flights and not just Peoria-Pitt-Philly-Phoenix). The last one was American Trans Air (ATA). They just went bankrupt this past spring. I met my roommate (DD) in training and we shared a house in Long Beach, NY, just four blocks from the beach and close to JFK. Our hours were not normal, we had two phone "signals", one for friends and one for crew scheduling... we had "The Wall of Shame"... photos from layovers that you wouldn't want your mom to see. We had a lot of fun. We also lost a lot of friends. It was the 80s and HIV/AIDS was still not quite defined.

Some of the more memorable flights include flying the Mormon Tabernacle Choir to Washington, DC for George H. W. Bush's 1989 inauguration. I kept asking them to sing something and after a bit of egging on, the forward cabin broke into song. It was amazing to be surrounded in that sound. We flew Sir Richard Branson, his wife and several of his guests including John Hurt, from Miami to London when Virgin's plane broke down. He's an inspirational man. I had the opportunity to work a flight to the "North Pole" with the Sunshine Foundation. We had kids and their parents on board for an hour or so, with clowns and Santa... we just inched along the empty runways, but the kids enjoyed every minute of it. So did I. I have a lot of good memories.

These days, post 9/11, it just doesn't seem like it would be much fun anymore. The training video included smoke hoods and defibrillators! We were lucky enough to have a basic first aid kit and CPR certification. If you want a good laugh, go rent the movie "Stewardess School".

Fasten your seat belts!


Anonymous said...

Enchanté, Fun post - I enjoyed your stories (esp. the MoTab). I'm very jealous you live in Paris. :)
Bonne journée!

QBParis said...

Dear Mormon Soprano,

Thank you for your comment!

The "MoTab" was an especially wonderful trip, mostly due to the friendly and well-mannered choir. There was a smile, a please and a thank you with every request.

One trip I left out was an incentive trip for a large insurance company... (There's no farm like State Farm!) After the umpteenth service from the Midwest to Italy, one gentleman came up to the galley and asked for another ice-cream. We were "taking a break" and enjoying the ice-cream ourselves, but we topped ours off with a creative use of peanuts. When he said, "That looks good", I couldn't resist asking him (with a smile, of course), "Would you like your nuts crushed with that?"