• Kristin Sorenson

Airplanes, night skies, shooting stars

A Boeing 757 holds between 200-295 passengers. This is the plane we take to Dublin from Dulles, or to San Fran from Dulles, and sometimes wherever else it needs to go from Dulles. It's long and it's narrow, and it's kind of always broken, but I love it. Since I first took it overseas to DUB, it's "the Dublin plane" to me. So naturally, it's always a bummer when I'm working the 75 and we land 6 hours later and and we're not in Europe. ("Ladies and Gentlemen, welcome to San Francisco, where the local time is 11:58 pm...") #FlightAttendantProblems


Airport Alert


"Airport Alert," also lovingly referred to as "Airport Appreciation" or "Airport Arrest," is a shift where a flight attendant is called in and sits in the crew room at the airport for 4-6 hours and waits for a call to be used for a flight to fulfill a last-minute staffing need. This can really suck. I've done Airport Alert at all times of the day. New Year's Day this year, I had to be at Dulles at 5:20 am. Got called for a domestic 3-day right when I got there, so at least I got a trip. But it was brutal. Three hours of sleep, here's a three day with three flights today alone, HAPPY NEW YEAR! Other times it can work out to be pretty cool. This summer, I got trips to Barcelona, Zurich, Dublin, and London off of Airport Appreciation. But last night, I was sitting Airport Arrest.


3 HOURS LATER


My assignment period was from 1631-2031. What is it with transportation- more specifically, aviation- and its oddly specific scheduled hours? I can just picture the Schedulers:


"Hey man, put her down to come in around 4ish."


"How about 1630?"


"Nah, we gotta make it complicated."


"1631-2031?"


"That's it."


"Sweet. Drinks after work? It's 5:17 somewhere!"


Trip Assignment


So at this point, it was 2005. I had T-26 minutes until I could've been released to my Friday night, but my boy Denzel from Scheduling hit me up, and BAM, I had a flight to catch. (At 2146, of course.)


This flight to Houston was, as we like to say in aviation, "just a little delayed." Nothing is ever "SUPER DELAYED," or a "BIG PROBLEM," 'cuz we like to keep the people calm, cool, and collected as we deliver their frazzled selves to their destination 4.5 hours later. "WILL I MAKE MY CONNECTION?!" ;)


Lav Breaks


Pilots are great. They fly the plane, they ask for coffee, they make really loud, abrupt announcements in the middle of the night ("*CRRR* FROM THE FLIGHT DECK *CRRR*), but they have to operate from their little metal mancave in the front of the plane, so we flight attendants have to let them out to use the lav sometimes. (But only if they're nice.) (Kidding.)


So, we'll allow the temporary release of one pilot to use the lav and stretch and get more coffee, and one of us flight attendants will go up in the flight deck (cockpit) and chill with the other. This is the time to be social and shoot small talk: where you're from, how long have you been flying, if you don't want your special cheesecake, let me know...


Sometimes they're really awesome and we'll talk about our families, where we live or commute from (fun fact: MANY flight attendants and pilots don't even live CLOSE to where they're based!) or what to see on a layover somewhere. I like to ask questions about flying, because I'm genuinely interested, and because it gives 'em a little ego boost, ya know.


So last night, while the First Officer was out, I was up with the Captain, and he asked if I had ever made a radio call. "No!" I excitedly replied. "OK- you push this button, say 'Memphis, this is [Jackpot] 159; we are at Flight Level 320." So I channeled my inner Captain Dave, said: "Memphis, this is [Jackpot] 159; we are at Flight Level 3-2-0." Then, ATC responded "[Jackpot] 159, *CRRR* *inaudible staticky words* *CRRR*" Captain laughed, we high-fived, and then I went back to my side of the plane and let him take his lav break.


Deadheading


"Deadheading" is when a flight attendant or pilot flies from point A to point B as a passenger, but still on company time. So when you see flight crew in uniform in passenger seats, they might be deadheading somewhere to work a flight out of wherever they're going. Sometimes, on last-minute trips from Airport Alert, the trip might end in a deadhead back to base. We were scheduled to sleep in Houston and deadhead back the next day at noon. Upon landing though, the super awesome gate agent in Houston informed us that the plane was going right back to Dulles--EMPTY.


Like, NO passengers?!


Remember how I said a Boeing 757 holds between 200-295 passengers? So I called my boy Denzel at Scheduling back and convinced him to let us deadhead on this ferry flight (read: NO passengers- 0 out of 295 potential passengers) back to Dulles right then and there. I don't know about you, but ridin' on a big-ass plane with N O B O D Y to attend to is like, a flight attendant's dream right there. And, the best part- I GOT TO RIDE WITH THE GUYS UP FRONT! #FreakingOut #FlightDeckForDays #PilotStatus. Let me put this into perspective: the Captain asked ME if I wanted any coffee. #PlotTwist


Took the midnight flight goin' annnyyywhereeeee


Ok, so it was the midnight flight (1200! A normal number!) but we were going back to IAD, not just anywhere. Although it does seem like the plane is going -anywhere- when you're up front, because we're just blasting through the sky, in a metal tube, in the dark; the guys seem to have enough confidence in their little light-up gadgets to get us there, no big deal... After takeoff- which was sadly anti-climatic because it was dark and cloudy- the pilots talked about pilot things like Super Bowl 17, layovers, and the stars.


Oh, my gosh, the STARS!


Ever been camping in a place far away from ambient light, so the night sky is literally #lit? So, imagine that, but at 41,000 feet in the air. Now, picture the moon. You know how it seems so high up on the ground like it's right there on par with the stars? Now picture being that high, and having the moon seemingly on your level, and the stars painted even HIGHER than the moon. Like the moon's on the ground and the stars are way above them. And they're so bright! And there are so many of them! And then one straight fell from the sky right in front of me! OMG! I was so stupidly excited I didn't even make a wish. Sigh. But it was STILL SO COOL.


The guys dimmed their instrument panels and the lights so that I could get a really good look. I just sat staring into the cosmos, sorta kinda wishing I had paid more attention to Astronomy 101 in college, and just thinking about how small everything felt. It was straight out of an IMAX movie, the galaxies, and bright, prominent constellations. It was, quite possibly, the coolest thing ever. Just getting to witness that was crazy. It was like nothing really mattered. Like every "big" worry or earthly inconvenience or whatever was bothering me was just blown away, because WE ARE SO SMALL. This world is HUGE. And dang, is it beautiful out there. And it was just me and my two pilots in our empty Boeing 757 at FL410 cruising through the night sky.


12 HOURS LATER


My little space trip ended with a nice smooth landing back at IAD at 0429. I had been awake since the day prior, and all of that happened because I got called in for Airport Alert. You never know with this job. You could end up working a really gaggy trip, go somewhere cool, or end up sliding down the aisle on a tray blasting "Toxic" by Britney Spears because you can.*


*You def can't do that lol


**But if you do, you didn't learn it from me ;)


***Full disclosure: I was too busy being a star-crossed hippie up front to participate in any cabin shenanigans. #WishesDoComeTrue

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