Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Get Off My !@#$ Aircraft!

So most of the time, flight attendants serve coffee and throw peanuts at you. But it seems that when your plane is falling out of the sky, they have another job, and that job is called 'preparing the cabin.' When the captain tells you that an unceremonious landing is about to take place, you have to lock everything down in the cabin, up to and including the passengers, and then wait till said landing occurs, and then evacuate the people.
So, evacuation drills.
They made a mockup of the planes out of chairs, and we learned several very specific commands to bark at passengers. "RELEASE SEATBELTS, GET OUT! COME THIS WAY, GET OUT, GO!" We practiced choreographed movements that simulate holding back the trampling horde while turning on the emergency light system and peering out the window to see if the outside of the door is on fire. And the idea is to keep yelling, commands, something, anything, because if you stop, they fail you. Or if you yell the wrong thing. Or if you do the wrong movement. Or if you forget to turn on the damn lights. 75% of the class retested, but I am pleased to report everyone made it.

And though it was a silly few days, the mood was fairly somber... the Comair crash happened the morning we started the evacuation class. At dinner, we all clinked glasses for the flight attendant who died doing this very thing in the line of duty.

Saturday, August 26, 2006

Hell Week - Part One

So we just finished the first of the hard parts. We fly three kinds of winged objects here, and they took us onboard all three (counting different versions, like seven) planes and showed us around, and then tested us severely on the contents. I could tell you full avionic nomenclature for numerous mechanical systems, or copious amounts of safety equipment locations, or what's in Compartment #204, but what I think you really want to hear about is the pilot's oxygen mask. See, the regular passenger gets the standard substandard yellow plastic dixie cup with the baggie. The oxygen is still primo quality, lest I get fired prematurely for not disclosing, but the mask is pretty low rent. But if you're up in the flight deck, you get the cool form fitted one that Mav and Goose wear. It's got a kind of nylon-spandex inflatable harness that blows up and expands way open when you pinch the nose buttons, and then sucks back in when you let them go, form-fitting to your head. The coolest thing I've touched this year, no exception.
We lost one of us during the last three days of constant battery. Constantly reminded of the penalties of the misstep.

Monday, August 21, 2006

That's The Point

It was just as I had suspected. They actually do train you to point at the doors with two fingers.

Sunday, August 20, 2006

Snakes... Why Did It Have To Be Snakes?

Yeah, I went and saw Snakes On A Plane. Couldn't miss the opportunity to go see that piece of crap with a bunch of flight attendants. And oh was it a piece. Of crap. The reviews will tell you that if you expect greatness from something with a name like Snakes On A Plane, you're begging for disappointment, and they're right. But it was worth it just to see how many Federal Aviation Regulations they threw completely out the cabin door (yeah, I'm a dork). There is a gay flight attendant character (surprise... a stereotype), and after one of his stereotypical shticks, a guy in the audience next to us wonders aloud to his girl, "Are there even male flight attendants out there?"
Closer than you think, buddy.
And oh yeah... seeing Samuel L. deliver that line everyone's been waiting for about the snakes and the plane and the MF and all... well, that was worth the price of admission. That, and purchasing an actual seat in a movie theater. Like D12 a seat. A bellhop helped us find them, no joke. Progressive theaters they have here in Utah.

Saturday, August 19, 2006

How To Unkill Someone

What an amusing day.
I had done first aid before in the Army, and it's very brief there. Things along the lines of, 'if severed limb is present, transport with but out of sight of victim.' There was CPR, of course, but that was then.
This is now.
The first aid instructor said that American Heart Association has determined that we the people are wasting too much time looking for a pulse. We can't find it, we're finding our own, we're finding someone else's... it just wasn't working. So now, when looking for signs of circulation, we're just supposed to see if you're moving. At first, I thought that sounded like a crock. However, that was before I realized that if you're actually OK and get two huge honking rescue breaths, you are going to move. So it makes sense. Armed with this knowledge, we breathed into those spooky plastic half people, and mashed them when we weren't hyperventilating. Fun fun fun. This girl here discovered that you can pull their rubber faces off, and I really can't bring myself to describe what's under there.

We also beat a baby. These CPR babies put the ug in ugly, and part of the fun was learning the back blow technique, designed to smash loose whatever the helpless tots got jammed into their windpipes. And when some of us asked how hard you're really supposed to do that, the instructor confided that it's often called the Heinz 57 maneuver.
Wow. Condiment as metaphor for baby. I can't quite handle that.

Friday, August 18, 2006


Oh yeah... one of the lights signifies a condition wherein the pilots, during critical flight phases, don't wish to be bothered, and they call this condition 'sterile flight deck.' This kinda gives you a clue as to how the powers that be think of flight attendants, ha ha...

Chiming In

OK, so everybody who's been on a plane knows about those annoying little dings that happen now and again. Did you know they meant something? I didn't, and neither did you.
For eight hours we pored over these signals. Sometimes they mean one thing, and sometimes there are two and then mean another, and then sometimes an accompanying red light makes them mean a third thing, or a blue light a fourth thing. And then each of the aforementioned situations can signify different things during the different phases of flight. And that's just one particular aircraft... we fly three models, and all of them are different.
Again with the crap.
The good news is this... I passed the chime test today, but I was still kinda shaky on what they really meant. But Steve, my roommate, failed. So, in quizzing him in preparation for his retake tomorrow, I have become an expert on all things chime.
The bad news is that our class is down by two; we had a couple of casualties from the retake of yesterday's test this morning. I have seen this happen before in military schools, and was prepared for it, but a lot of the girls were emotionally shaken to lose what have in a short time become friends.
First aid tomorrow.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Manual Labor

We got our flight manuals today. I didn't know this, and neither did you, but all flight crew have to have a manual with them, within reach, at all times. Every flight attendant you've ever seen has had one near them. See, the big nasty FAA (who, we're told, all look like Agent Smith) can waltz up to you at any time and demand to see it, and if you can't produce it, or if you can and it's missing a page, or the pages are out of order, they can fine you up to $1,100. Not your company, you.
So, crap.

It's a big manual, too. It's fist-thick, and comes in a small bag that looks like a purse. Yay. The plan is to go through it section by section, and take tests on the sections daily. We took our first test today and I am happy to announce that I passed. A few of us didn't and have to take retests in the AM. If they don't make it this time, they leave the island.
Again, crap.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Arrival, Captain

So I'm here in Mormon Country.
Yesterday was busy. Left Baton Rouge early in the Colombian morning, and with a bizarre sense of detachment... I'm sure it will hit me later, and in waves, that this shebang is permanent. Flew to Atlanta and then to Salt Lake. Watched the attendants vigilantly, and probably made everyone on board uncomfortable because of it. Sat next to a teenage girl with a live turtle, and she kept holding it up to the window so it could see.

There are mountains here. I was able to identify them because I've seen those things on TV. Here on the ground, everything is incredibly clean... you forget that the rest of the world is like that when the only big city you know is New Orleans. The hotel is nice. Rooming with a native named Steve. Across the street is a huge public park. There are lawn sprinklers everywhere. The word 'everywhere' doesn't quite get the point across... more appear every time you blink. It's insidious. There's something afoot here, and it makes me uneasy.
Shuttling to Wal-mart tonight for groceries. Wal-mart, I was happy to discover, is a chain... as is Papa John's pizza. That'll keep me happy for a while.
School began today. Took a written test and delivered the memorized speech... no problem. We lost a few, though... our class has begun the inexorable dwindle (whatever that means). The instructors were friendly, but then this is the first day... I'm sure we'll draw fire soon.

Saturday, August 05, 2006

Preparation Game

About one week left, and lots to do.
Got the study packet in the mail. The class is about a month long, and because it's so short (despite the threat of 12 hour days), there are things I have to know by the time I get there. Lots of acronyms, definitions, and the pre-departure speeches. There are certain collections of words that are just part of the collective consciousness by now... the Miranda warning, the marriage recitatation, the Lord's Prayer, and of course, the pre-departure speech. Everybody knows that one... the seatbelt thing, the oxygen mask thing, the upright tray table thing. But there's nothing like having to learn something that makes you forget you know it. Not to mention that there are several versions of it, depending on which model aircraft I'm supposed to be in (something vaguely unsettling about describing a plane I'll be in using the words 'model aircraft'). There'll be a test on the first day, and if I fail it, I come right back home.
Like the man says, no pressure.
Assembling all the items I'll need as well. Lots of copies of birth certificates and driver's licenses. Applying for a passport (because some flights go into Canadia). And something that looks like it might be amusing is the 'six required items' list. On this list are things that you have to have every day in class, all the time. One is a flashlight, one of those two AA jobs. I'm imagining being right in the middle of a class and one of the instructors suddenly dives at me, howling, "PRODUCE YOUR FLASHLIGHT!"
I am working on my quickdraw.