Saturday, May 12, 2007

A few random things today:

1. Check out this blog, Pilot's Wife. It's written by a young woman living in London, UK who is married to an airline pilot. She writes about a lot of things that are recurring themes in my relationship with Lisa, and if you are a pilot I bet your significant other has also brought those same issues to your attention, too. It's a good look at how our lives as pilots affect those who love us.

B. Kitsch and I overheard the following yesterday, on departure from New York:

"Center, this is United **** heavy. We have a medical emergency on board and would like to return to JFK. We are going to need the long runway"

"Roger United, what is the nature of your emergency?"

"We have a passenger on board who has had a seizure of some kind, and we would rather return to JFK than to continue on to Moscow with the passenger in this condition"

The controller and the crew worked out the best routing to enable the plane to dump fuel while returning for landing, and it seemed that things were working out as well as could be expected when we were told to flip to another frequency.

I felt bad for the poor person having a seizure, but I also started thinking about the logistical nightmare this scenario would present; this jet had just taken off from the airport for a long-haul flight, so the airplane would be loaded up with fuel, fuel they were going to have to spend some time dumping before they would be able to return for landing. Even though the airlines get good prices on fuel, I'm guessing it would cost them at least 25 cents a pound, and it wouldn't be unheard-of for a heavy aircraft to have to dump over a hundred thousand pounds of gas before being light enough to land without damaging the landing gear. Also, because New York to Moscow is a long-haul flight, the crew might also be fairly tight on duty-day requirements, so a delay like this might force the airline to switch the crew for a fresh one once they landed. If they can't find a fresh crew immediately, they might have to put the passengers up in hotels until they could. If the emergency became life-or-death, the crew might have to consider landing overweight, balancing the risk to the rest of the passengers with the risk of the sick passenger dying due to lack of immediate medical care. And of course let's mention that fact that they would be making an unscheduled landing in New York's JFK airport (one of the busiest on earth), which adds considerable stress and workload to the already-busy air traffic controllers. And those are only the things that immediately popped into my head, I'm sure I haven't considered loads of other factors. I wonder if airlines have insurance for this sort of thing. Does anybody know?

III. I saw 28 Weeks Later (link goes to reviews) last night with Lisa, and if you are a zombie-movie fan, I recommend it. There were some continuity errors and I didn't like the zombie-shaky-cam effect very much, but it had some pretty scary moments. Most 'normal' zombie movies feature ones that shuffle along with their arms outstretched, mumbling "Brains....Brainssss", but 28 Weeks Later features furious screeching zombies who all have excellent cardio and can sprint faster than most of their victims, which really ramps up the tension.

Four. I managed to hornswoggle Kitsch into doing a long flight today, so I have the next few days off! I'm looking forward to relaxing outside with a cold beer in my hand, enjoying the summer weather and not worrying about anything aviation-related for a while. I love my job, but the reason I do all of this is for days like today, when I can spend time with Lisa on my own schedule instead of my passengers' schedule.

Have a good weekend, and fly safe!

1 comment:

Dave Starr said...

Good recommendation on the blog, Sully. Anyone interested in the interaction between pilots and their loved ones ought to look for the excellent novel of the same name by Anita Shreve ... a page-turner, but also a quite insightful look at family relationships as "modified" by airline flying. It was also released as a made for TV movie but trust me, read the book.

Your vignette about the emergency medical return ought to go out to a wider audience. Thos eof us who sit in tourist class and bitch about ticket prices seldom realize just what the airlines do to protect passengers. It's not at all only herding the asses into seats. That return to JFK will cost United a fortune and o one, except, perhaps, the poor guy with the seizure will give them any credit for it. I'm not a stockholder or apologist for any of the airlines, but a realist when it comes to just how much it takes to provide that cramp economy seat.