Aviation Day, Podcasts and So Many C-17s

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What? We’re coming up on the end of summer already? Noooo! Say it ain’t so! The month of August has just flown by… pun intended! Here’s a bit about what I’ve been up to.

Aviation Day

img_7252.jpgFor the first time in a long time (and possibly ever) my airport celebrated National Aviation Day! I used to bring in cupcakes and host a little celebration just for my department. This year, however, the suggestion was made to scale it up and involve the entire airport. A team of employees planned the event, which included music, popcorn, a paper airplane contest, historical artifacts and more.  I can’t begin to tell you how awesome it was to see so many people celebrating our industry and our history.

AAviation Day

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A week before my airport’s celebration, I had the pleasure of once again attending AAviation Day with American Airlines and the AirlineGeeks.com, this time at PHL. My very first flight ever was from PHL to JFK, so being able to revisit the airport all these years later was quite special. As part of the behind-the-scenes tour we visited the maintenance hangar, the ground equipment maintenance facility, the pharmaceutical cargo facility and we got to go on board an A330. The lie-flat seats in first class are pretty darn sweet! Along the way we met a number of American Airlines employees, including the VP of Hub Operations. It was great to get to interact with some of the hard-working people behind the scenes.

Podcasts

If you’d like to hear more about AAviation Day in PHL, as well as my latest adventures at the airport, then you don’t want to miss episode 517 of the Airplane Geeks Podcast! I had such a great time chatting with hosts Max, Max and David. We talked about everything from the impressive growth we are seeing at my cargo airport, to the importance of airport outreach, to my favorite subject… stairs trucks! It was so much fun! A big thanks to The Geeks for inviting me back!

I also had the tremendous pleasure of being a guest on the Podcasting on a Plane podcast. I spoke with host Brandon Gonzales (a private pilot and tower controller) about my adventures at Osh18, including an in-depth conversation about my visit to the ATC tower. Brandon and I are both passionate about encouraging others to pursue careers in aviation so we also discussed how I landed my airport job… again, pun intended! I really enjoy this podcast so if you aren’t familiar with it, give it a listen. The episode with my interview will be out in September – mark your calendar and keep an eye on your podcast app!

So Many C-17s

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I love it when military planes stop by the airport. The sight of a KC-135 practicing approaches or a T-38 at the FBO never fails to make me smile.  The C-17 is typically an infrequent guest – one or two visits each year is the most I can hope for. That is, until this year. I don’t know what the heck is going on but suddenly C-17s are everywhere!

It started with my trip to the USAF Museum in Dayton back in May. I was there to see the Memphis Belle exhibit but was thrilled to also see a C-17 practicing approaches into nearby Wright Patterson AFB. I had never seen a C-17 fly around like that before. So cool! At least that’s what I thought at the time.

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Another C-17 was waiting to greet me at the Udvar Hazy Center when I attended Innovations in Flight in June. This one was on static display so I was able to go inside and take a good look around. Fun!  But then… I went to the Dayton Air Show and guess what was there? Yep. Another C-17. Well, OK – it’s normal to see C-17s at air shows, right? That being the case, I wasn’t surprised that there were multiple C-17s at Airventure Oshkosh. There was one on static display and one or two others that actually performed in the airshows. By the time Osh ended I have to admit I was starting to feel a bit of C-17 overload.

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I returned to work thinking that finally I would get a break. WRONG! In the first couple weeks back I saw three of them. THREE! And then a week later there was another. Last week I decided to wander over and see what bizjets were parked at the FBO. Guess what I found sitting on the ramp?  Yep! ANOTHER C-17! I love C-17s but this is getting out of hand. Look, C-17, you’re an amazing airplane with impressive capabilities and you can rock an airshow with the best of them, but enough is enough. Seriously. Just stop.

I think it got the message…

Or maybe not.

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I see you back there! Nice try, but you aren’t fooling anyone!

AAmazing AAviation Day!

IMG_1159In the United States, National Aviation Day is held on August 19.  Here’s how I’ve celebrated at work the last couple years:

  • I bring in cookies.
  • Everyone eats them.

Yeah… not very exciting or inspiring. This year, however, I lucked into a very coveted ticket to attend AAviation Day at one of my favorite places – Charlotte Douglas International Airport! No, that’s not a spelling error – the extra “A” in “AAviation” is a nod to American Airlines who, in conjunction with the Airline Geeks, put together an awesome behind-the-scenes tour at the nation’s 5th busiest airport. Can you say avgeek heaven? Oh yeah!

IMG_1013I kicked things off early by parking on the very top level of the garage. No way was I going to pass up the chance to do a little pre-event plane spotting! (And lets face it, if they handed out diplomas for plane spotting from parking garages, I’d have a PhD!) My dedication paid off – I got my very first look at Amazon’s Prime Air 767. Sweet!

From there I made my way to the terminal to meet up with the rest of the group. There were about 12 of us altogether. I expected that most attendees would be from the Charlotte area. Wrong! In fact only one of the group lives near CLT. The rest were from places like New York, Texas, Florida and even California and Washington! Some of us work in aviation and some don’t, but all of us were kids in a candy store the whole day.

IMG_1189The tour began with a visit to the Operations Tower. Wow – what a view! And what a lot of computer equipment! The Operations Tower is responsible for all aircraft movement on the ramp. I wish we had a set-up like that for deice pad control in the winter! But then again, the ramp at CLT is a MUCH busier place with 600+ flights per day. We were allowed to wander around the room, examine the different work stations and ask questions. I honestly could have stayed for hours!

Our next stop was out onto the roof where we had a fabulous view of the ramp. The entire group went camera-happy, snapping pics almost non-stop. I don’t think I’ve ever seen so many American airplanes all in one spot! Good thing there wasn’t deck furniture and a cabana (and drinks) up there or they might have had some trouble convincing me to leave!

From the roof we went all the way down to the ground level for a walking tour of the ramp (with ear plugs and high-viz vests, of course). Being around the airplanes and crews and ground equipment was simply spectacular. There was so much going on – it’s much busier than what I am used to! Alas, there was not a single stairs truck in sight! Fortunately there were so many airplanes and so much to see that I didn’t mind.

After the ramp tour, we visited the American Airlines offices and enjoyed lunch in a cool, comfortable conference room. (Did I mention that the temps were a toasty 90F+ outside?) Several executives from American joined us and we were able to chat with them about how the company has grown over the years, as well as some of their future challenges.

FullSizeRender (81)After lunch, the awesomeness continued with a tour of the training facility. We met in a conference room first to learn a little about the training program itself and watch a video about the history of American Airlines. Then we visited the egress training area where Flight Attendants learn how to operate various types of emergency exits. Seeing the cut-away plane interiors was actually quite fascinating. They even had an E145 fuselage (minus the nose, wings and tail).

From there we moved into one of the flight simulator rooms. There were three Airbus A320 sims in this particular room, all of which were in use.  (The facility has approximately 13 sims of various types.) It was fascinating to watch the sims move around and to speculate on the scenarios that the pilots inside might be facing.

Our last stop of the day was the American Airlines maintenance facility. The first thing I noticed when I walked in the door is how big it is. Similar to the Boeing factory in Seattle, employees use bikes to get around. We walked through fabrication areas and past the parts room on our way out to the hangars where there were three planes undergoing maintenance. I can tell you this – I do NOT want to be the person assigned to work on the top of the tail! Then again, climbing up and down all those flights of stairs would definitely be good exercise!

Our last event of the day was a visit inside one of the planes in the hangar (an A320). We examined the cockpit and then lounged in first class for several minutes. I also checked out the seats in the back and found them to be roomier than expected.

All too soon, however, it was time to exit the plane, take our final group photo and catch a shuttle back to the terminal.  I couldn’t believe it was time to say goodbye already! We were so busy the day just flew by.  Fortunately we had new friendships, amazing memories and some cool swag to take away with us.

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Look!  I found the motorized stairs!!!

As a passionate aviation enthusiast who happens to work in the industry, I have had many amazing avgeek experiences. However, I can honestly say that AAviation Day ranks right up at the top. A HUGE thank you goes out to Ryan Ewing and the Airline Geeks for all they did to plan and organize the event, as well as the wonderful staff at American Airlines for making the day so special!

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So what do you think? Are you crazy jealous and wondering how you can experience AAviation Day for yourself? Check out the Airline Geeks website and follow them on twitter. Events were held at all of American’s hubs, as well as two locations overseas. And the ticket cost? Zero. Zip. Nada. Free! But you have to pay attention if you want to score one. If this year was any indication, next year will be even bigger and better. Hope to see you there!

Why Airports Need More Avgeeks

IMG_7898In many ways airports are like small cities – they have their own shops, restaurants, transportation systems and police departments. It makes sense that while there are some positions that require aviation expertise, for the most part you don’t need to be an avgeek to be a good airport employee. That said, the airport could definitely use more avgeeks. Here are a few reasons why:

We Love Where We Work – Even on Mondays

How many people do you know (other than pilots) who LOVE their office? I mean really love it to the point where they think about stopping by on their days off, not to work but just because it’s a cool place to be?  How many people do you know who love the PARKING LOT where they work? Bottom line – an avgeek at the airport = a kid in a candy store, even on Mondays.

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We’ll Take On Annoying Tasks… Because Airplanes!

It’s time to help with inventory? Ugh. Wait… it’s time to help with inventory at the FBO where all the cool cargo planes land? Oh hell yes! Sign me up! Wait… There’s stairs trucks and tugs and deicing equipment there too? Sweet! Can we take inventory every week???

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This was today’s mail. Even though it is fastest to go across the apron to take it to my office, I chose to slog the long way around. Why? Because one gust of wind and the mail would have been getting sucked into jet engines and causing all kind of mayhem and I couldn’t let that happen. Because avgeek.

We Take Safety Personally

The company that maintains our navaids discovered recently that it’s not a good idea to forget to send invoices because I WILL call and ask for them! Why? Because if the navaids stop functioning it could be bad.  Very bad. That’s not going to happen on my watch! I may not be allowed to de-ice airplanes or plow runways, but I can make sure the systems that help support a safe landing remain operational.

We Actually Understand Aviation

No, you don’t need to understand aviation to be a great airport employee. But let’s face it – SOMEBODY ought to understand why airplanes are cool and how ATC works and what the heck navaids are. SOMEBODY should represent at Osh and celebrate National Aviation Day.  The fact is, my love of aviation means I’m going to go the extra mile in my job. Of course, it also means I’m going to take pictures all the time, walk the long way around to my desk so I can look out the windows and continue to pester the air field guys to take me out in the plow.

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We Get Excited Over Minor Things

At a non-airport job, recording lockbox payments is necessary and important but not very exciting. At an airport job entering lockbox payments is also not very exciting… unless you’re an avgeek in which case it’s another opportunity to geek out. Look – here’s a payment from FinnAir! And Emirates! And Kuwait Airways!

Flight Crews – We’ve Got Your Back

Avgeeks aren’t necessarily pilots or FAs, but we have a better understanding than most people about what those jobs entail. So flight crews – when you’re anxious to get on the shuttle so you can get home for the first time in five days, we understand. We’ll make room for ya. And we won’t pester you with a million questions, even though we REALLY want to.

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Avgeeks Wanted!

I often hear, “You work at an airport? Wow –  you’re so lucky!  I wish I could do that!” Newsflash – you can! You think I have some kind of special talent that allows me to work at the airport? Ha! If anything I’m a poster child for how a regular person who happens to like airplanes can find a way to work in aviation.  So unless you live far away from an airport, there’s no reason why you can’t work there if you want to.  My airport even has a volunteer program so you can go and act like you work there, just not get paid for it.  This would sound terrible to pretty much anyone… except an avgeek. “You mean if I volunteer I get a parking pass for the employee lot?  Awesome!!!”

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Now there are TWO of them!!!

Aviation Celebration

IMG_6890In the United States, August 19 is National Aviation Day.  Established by President Franklin Roosevelt in 1939, it is a day for us to reflect on and celebrate the history of aviation, as well as its role in our lives today. Perhaps not-so-coincidentally, it is also Orville Wright’s birthday. How did we mark the occasion at the airport?  More on that in a moment, but first…

We Have A Winner!

At the end of last week’s blog I encouraged (OK, fine – cajoled, begged, badgered) you to let me know which mini Boeing should grace my desk at work – the 747 or 787. Well the results are in and the winner by a respectable 43% is THE QUEEN OF THE SKIES!

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Don’t feel bad Dreamliner fans – she’ll continue to brighten up my living room from her location right next to everyone’s favorite ground support vehicle – the stairs truck!

National Aviation Day at the Airport

You’d probably expect an airport to take full advantage of National Aviation Day by engaging with passengers and employees to celebrate all the ways in which aviation inspires and connects us.  There’d be balloons and confetti! Or maybe a couple of posters.  Or perhaps an email? Or… yeah, you guessed it –  there was no mention of National Aviation Day at all.  At least not in any organized way.

One-Woman Aviation Celebration

IMG_6888Well you know I wasn’t about to let National Aviation Day go by without acknowledgement, ESPECIALLY not at the airport! So I built some biplanes (no, not real ones – I’m not THAT talented), brought in mini-cupcakes, wrote an announcement on my white-board and invited everyone to join in the celebration. I also brought in my mini-747 and gave it a place of honor on my desk. I wasn’t sure how my coworkers were going to take all this celebrating – as you know, most of them aren’t avgeeks.  But then I got an email from a supervisor actually thanking me for being passionate about aviation!  The email went on to say that it’s easy to get caught up in all the day to day work and it is good to be reminded about an event that recognizes and celebrates the aviation industry. Wow! That totally made my day!

Happy National Aviation Day everyone!  After all, for avgeeks and aviation enthusiasts all around the world, EVERY day is aviation day!

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