Live from the Line: LAX it is!

Well, my wish came true! I’m here on Los Angeles and I’m supposed to deadhead to Washington DC tomorrow morning. I, personally, don’t think that’s going to happen. I can’t believe how much snow their expecting and how much they’ve had already. The weather this year has been crazy! California has been flooded, Phoenix learned what rain is, and the east coast redefined the word “winter.”

DC is expecting over a foot of snow tonight into tomorrow, and my flight is supposed to depart at 7am. I wish they’d just release me and let me go home. But at the same time, today provides for some much needed catchup time with my friend Jenn, who I’m flying with and my friend Aimee, who just landed here in LA from…DC. She was lucky, she was the first and only flight out!

Well.. I’ll keep you updated.. this trip is full of surprises.

Aborted Normality

I was on day 2 of 4, working Seattle to Los Angeles, back to Seattle, then once again, back to Los Angeles. I was flying with a crew that I knew but haven’t flown with before. I actually did one of their IOEs a year ago. Having that faith in her really came in handy.

We were getting ready to land as usual in Seattle from LA, nothing was out of the ordinary. Suddenly, we hit moderate to sever turbulence on our final decent. The aircraft was banking left, right, up, down, the tail was swinging as the front turned.. it was a very rough ride. The looks on the passengers faces in first class was a look of nervousness.

The landing gear came down, and the flight attendants received our two minute warning. I took my jumpseat, content as usual – knowing that all of my safety checks were done correctly and my cabin crew was seated. Thank god.

As we started our short final, things got hectic. The aircraft hit wind shear and we were again experiencing moderate to sever turbulence. As we got closer to the airport, I began to see the lights from the runway, I knew this was going to be a rough landing. Seconds before the aircraft would have been fully on the ground, wind shear again. Both pilots, in unison, decided to abort the landing. I expected it. I was prepping myself for an emergency had we landed. Yes, it was that bad. We had actually touched our main landing gear to the runway, and the wind shear then blew us off the runway onto the grass.

As we shot back to the skies like a rocket, and the airplane was making noises airplanes shouldn’t make.. I sat there.. smiling. 1A was having a panic attack. She kept screaming “its not safe to land” “its not safe to land” to which I screamed over the bulkhead “we’re not landing!”

Finally, after stabilizing our altitude the Captain came on the PA to address the passengers.

As you can see, Seattle is a little windy tonight. We didn’t feel comfortable putting the plane on the ground in that wind… so we’re going to go around.. take another look at it.. and it’s safe.. we’re going to land. If not.. we’ll worry about that when it happens — but air traffic control is saying it should be okay.

Then my phone rang. The Captain explained to me what had happened.. the main landing gear had touched the runway and the wind sheer blew us off course, and off the runway. We were going around, the landing should be normal and fine and if I had any questions. I didn’t.

I then called to the back to make sure the other FAs were holding up okay and heard the information the Captain announced over the P.A. They both said they were doing fine, the passengers seemed okay, and they were enjoying the ride.

As I hung up the phone the passenger in 1F looked over at me and mouthed “we’re going to be okay, right?” I said, yes. Though, reviewing my commands and prepping myself for the worst I too wanted to hear everything was going to be okay.

fpAs we started on our go around.. and went back through the turbulence to line up to land, again, I started to watch the people in first class become friends with each other, pray, and some began to cry.

After a few minutes we received the signal from the flight deck to take our seats and prepare for landing. We never stood up, anyway, it was entirely too bumpy and unsafe, so we were ready.

As began our decent we hit the same wind, rain and wind shear we did the first time, making me feel uncomfortable about a second attempt at landing. The passengers were beginning to cry louder and hold hands. Finally, the landing gear was deployed again and we were going to give it another shot. We landed, safely. And it was the smoothest landing I’ve had in a long time.

Trying to make light of the situation, and reassure everyone that they’re okay and the aircraft is still in tact, I get on the PA and said “well……..welcome to Seattle” and closed it by saying “We hope you’ve enjoyed your experience with us today.. and we look forward to seeing you soon!” As the passengers were getting off the plane each and every one of them stopped to say thank you to me and the flight deck. Some said “thanks” some said “thanks for saving my life” and some walked right past us without saying a word.

I looked to the back of the cabin and saw that were was 2 pax still in their seats. So I went to back to the back and there was an elderly woman, probably in her late 60’s who was visibly shaken up. She was crying, shaking and didn’t want to move. I had one of the other FAs grab me a bottle of water and told her I would be bring her bag to the front so that whenever she was ready, she could walk to the front. Once I got to the front of the aircraft I also had ground support order her a wheel chair.

I look over, across the aisle from this woman, and there was another woman, this one was laying on the floor. I asked her the same thing, got her some water and the other FA moved her bags to the front. I kept telling both of them “its okay, we’re on the ground now.. everything is fine.” For some reason I didn’t think they believed me.

As the elderly woman walked off the aircraft she did get in the wheelchair. She was feeling weak in her knees and didn’t want to walk.

After the passengers were all gone the Captain came out of the flight deck for a debriefing. That’s when we were told about how we were blown off the runway, and how the decision was made to go around. He then asked us if were okay or if we had any questions. None of us had any.. we were all pretty calm because we never got up out of our seats.

In retrospect, we should have done a quick walk through to make sure everyone was okay, but I really don’t think it was safe enough.

Anyway, a few minutes after our debriefing .. one of the gate agents comes down to the aircraft and said “Are you ready to board?”

And that quickly you have to forget about what just happened, could have happened and might happen.. put the fake smile back on your face and work one more flight before going to bed.

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The Infamous Delay

Since I’ve started flying I’ve been fascinated with the traveling publics reaction to the word “delay.”

For me, “delay” means running behind schedule, fixing a problem, and/or taking a little extra time to ensure everything is working and looking the way it should. To a passenger, “delay” means something to complain about.

Weather delays are the most baffling for me. When you’re on your way to the airport, do you not check the weather in your destination city, in addition to taking notice to the weather outside your own window? It always seems to come as a surprise to passengers waiting in the terminal when the agents announce that the inbound aircraft is delayed because of the monsoon currently hitting the city. Most are quick the blame the airline saying “they’re never on time!” or run right over to the gate podium and proclaim “but I have an important business meeting!” Do you not realize what has happened? The weather has caused a delay here, not the airline or the flight crew. Frankly, we don’t care that you have a business meeting and there’s no way we could have kept the operation on time with hurricane force winds and enough water to turn the aircraft into a cruiseship. Chances are your flight crew and the agents working your flight are just as annoyed with the delay. The agents are stuck working overtime and the delay has cut into the flight crew’s already short layover. Though some pilots seems to think so, we are not god. We cannot change the weather.

Mechanical delays for me, are like a double edged sword. Yes, it is an airline caused delay and yes the airline shouldtake responsibility for it. However, would you rather the airline NOT take the delay and knowingly allow you to fly on an aircraft that has a mechanical issue? These types of delays usually invoke the worst response from passengers, which amazes me. The overwhelming sigh is heard throughout the terminal. As the passengers board, you can easily pick out the ones who understand why they were delayed and roll with the punches, but those that board grumpy and upset have to realize that an aircraft is a machine and machines break. Life goes on… (probably thanks to the delay!) Your flight attendants and pilots have family too, and we’d like to go home to see them just as much as you want the flight to land safely.

Also remember, the delay on your flight could be caused by a late arriving aircraft; but that aircraft could be late because it had a mechanical issue. The passengers on that inbound aircraft deserve just as safe of a flight as you do.

The delay ¬†which affects me most is a Crew Rest delay. A crew rest delay is usually caused by one of the other delays I mentioned above. When we arrive into a city late because of weather or a mechanical a flight attendants layover is reduced. The Federal Aviation Administration has strict laws governing how many hours of “rest” a flight crew must receive and when.

Remember: “rest” is defined as the aircraft door opening upon arrival, and closing again the next day for departure. It doesn’t mean the actual amount of hours sleeping through the night.

The FAA says the minimum amount of rest we can receive is 8 hours, no less. Therefore, if we arrive into a city late, and it cuts down our layover past 8 hours; our flight out the next morning will be delayed to compensate for the 8 hours. This type of delay infuriates most passengers, which drives me absolutely insane. Usually, the agents announce to the passengers what is going on, and why the flight is delayed — and then, during boarding, we’re faced with the on going “so did you get enough sleep?” – “are you well rested now?” – and “its about time you woke up” sarcastic comments. Folks, do you REALLY want a pilot to take your life in his hands on less than 5-6 hours sleep? Do you really want to trust a flight attendant to evacuate an airplane in the event of an emergency without enough sleep? The delay wasn’t caused because we overslept or didn’t feel rested “enough” it was caused by us not being able to get even 5 hours of actual rest.

The traveling public needs to remember that we are human beings. We are not onboard simply to serve you a coke and pick up your trash, we are there primarily for your safety in the event of an emergency. Sadly, the public doesn’t realize this until an event happens such as US Airways 1549 and the Air France crash in Toronto a few years back where the flight attendants save everyones life.

The next time you’re delayed try to look at the bigger picture of what exactly is going on. Ask yourself the question: “if the delay wasn’t taken would my flight take off and land safely?” Aside from those rare instances where an unplanned or unexpected emergency occurs, wouldn’t you rather the answer be “yes?”

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