Everyone Loves an Air Show

Baseball, apple pie, and Chevrolet are essential components of American pride— but air shows need to be included on that list.

Aviation proliferated here, and our claim to fame is two brothers, Orville and Wilbur Wright who were pioneers of powered flight. Since then, aviation is not only an expression of leisure, but a source of protection. Without aircraft involved in all aspects of warfare, our country would not be as safe as it is.
In the past few months, I’ve been to several air shows both large and small. EAA’s AirVenture is held in the hustle and bustle of Oshkosh, Wisconsin in late July and early August each year. I had the pleasure of representing Parks College at AirVenture 2012; for the week, I manned the booth with my two dear friends Kileigh and Bryce. We spent time talking to prospective students and a handful of alumni.
But we’d sneak off now and then to catch glimpses of the daily air show. And with each performance, I got goosebumps— death and gravity defying, I was in awe at how much skill these pilots had. And the shows would begin with parachute teams, towing the American flag, the national anthem sung in the background.

A few weekends ago, I went to the Air Power over the Midwest air show at Scott Air Force Base. Smaller than Oshkosh, this event was just as patriotic as any show I had been. Military and civilian aircraft alike, lined the ramp— big and small; antique and modern; cargo and fighter.

My favorite airplane made an appearance, a Boeing 757. The graceful, slender fuselage is joined by two muscular engines, delivering way more power than necessary. Delta was graciously giving cockpit and cabin tours— I even got my picture taken in the engine!

While watching the Thunderbirds, it dawned on me— the loops and turns and barrel rolls that these skilled aviators performed aren’t just for flash and glam; these pilots can operate the aircraft to the extent of the human body, and, therefore, tactically manage in defense.

My civilian aviation career is protected by these individuals. They are my inspiration to master the operation of an aircraft with finesse, forethought, and diligence.

Humble Beginnings

This isn’t my first stab at blogging— I have blogged for several years at college, mainly focusing on my addiction to coffee and fledgling career as a pilot (hence “Captain” Bobbie). And this is just a test run. I want to test out this platform versus the other I have been using for awhile.  Bear with me!

Welcome aboard!

Spontaneous East Coast Trip: Part II

I squealed as the bus drove north on Madison Avenue— one of my favorite TV shows, Mad Men, is based on the advertising firms along the way. I sat on the second deck of the MegaBus, oohing and ahhing at the sights of the city. The skyline faded, and I was New England bound!

Bruce and his partner Sean welcomed me with open arms at the bus station, and I was pooped after a full two days of traveling. We had dinner at Modern Apizza! in New Haven, Connecticut. I observed the locals and fell in love with their accent— being from the Midwest, I don’t necessarily have any distinguishable accent, other than a slight twang on certain words (ok, I say “y’all” now and then). We talked of dinner plans the next day: flying into Montauk, New York and having seafood. Inside I was shocked when Sean declined because he had worked all week. My thought was Oh my gosh, you’re giving up a chance to go to Long Island? But then I realized that this wasn’t a rare occurrence for them— oh, the life!
Tweety
While Bruce worked, I caught up on some work of my own (since I was technically “working remotely” from New England), and roamed downtown Hartford. I picked him up from work at we were off to the airport. As we walked to the ramp, I asked him if his plane had a name. No, it doesn’t— but I think the plane looks like a “Tweety” with the yellow and black markings. With the preflight complete, I walked to the right side, expecting to take my seat. But Bruce said, “What are you doing? Sit on the other side.” Who am I to assume that I would sit left seat in someone else’s airplane, having not flown with him before— but all right, if you insist!
Sunset over Long Island
I always enjoy flying with an assortment of pilots, because there isn’t exactly one way to fly; we all have different methods we prefer, and as long as the task is completed thoroughly and safely, the means does not matter. Bruce is a very calm mannered and soft spoken man who would make an excellent flight instructor, and he more so guided me as I flew his plane, rather than directed. And since I was nearing the time for my instrument currency to expire, we planned on doing an approach into Montauk. Feeling rusty after not flying instruments for a year, he helped me set up the approach and bring us into Long Island. 
This is heaven in one’s mouth
The restaurant, Inlet Seafood, was a short walk from the airport. We had to pass a club on the way to eat, and the airport attendant said that the Victoria’s Secret models were having a party there. A short wait, and we were in at the restaurant, having the best seafood and sushi I have ever had. I’m not so snobby that I won’t eat seafood inland anymore, but I have gained an appreciation for the freshness of food. I’m certain that the lobster had been caught minutes before it reached my mouth, because it was so succulent and divine. There were moments in the evening when we fell silent. Not because we had run out of things about which to chat, but because the sheer pleasure of the evening needed no words. Before we went back to the airport, we walked along the beach— I was going to take a dip, but it was rather chilly and the sun was setting. The club was pumping when we passed it on the way back, yuppies piling in out of cabs and luxury cars from the city to attend an exclusive event with the models. For a second, I thought of how much I would love that, but I don’t necessarily care for the models since I appreciate them in a “hey girl hey” way— oh, and I’m blasting home in a personal plane, y’all. 

Coast line of Block Island
The following morning, Bruce and I headed to the airport again, this time our destination was Block Island, Rhode Island. Before going to the island, we had an aerial view of the tall ships coming into port. Upon landing, We walked through wooded trails to the beach, where we lay out and read for a couple of hours. And then it was time to head home— a party awaited us in Connecticut! Though we may have gotten lost a couple of times, we ran into some beautiful New England homes, and at one house two golden retrievers greeted us. Eventually, after checking the weather, which included light rain and clouds at 10,000 feet, we were on our way home (I didn’t *want* bad weather, but could the clouds have been just a bit lower, so I could have flown in actual IMC?!). 
Sky seats to a water show
Look at that fine man!
After we plucked, fluffed, coiffed, and buffed, it was party time. And might I say, the Connecticut gays know how to party. The tone is different in the Northeast— no one gives a damn. A house burgeoning with gay men, and the straight neighbors came over. Everyone greets everyone with a hug and a kiss, a sense of inclusion and “Gosh dang, we’re glad you’re here.” The food was marvelous and the drinks were flowing from fountains. There were plenty of happy couples, some who have children, some who don’t— this gives me all sorts of hope in that one day Anderson and I can live happily ever after. Mostly, this event was a precursor to what we did the next day: Provincetown, Massachusetts. 
Provincetown, or PTown for short, is essentially the gay vacation mecca on the east coast. And when I say that everyone is gay there, I mean that everyone is very gay there. The quaint shops and restaurants and bars welcomed masses of gays, some hand in hand, and some eyes wandering. We ate lunch at a cute little cafe, and I had the best lobster salad sandwich ever. Need I mention again that the seafood is fresh? 
Lobster salad sandwich. NOMZ.
We strolled through the town and met up with some of Bruce and Sean’s friends at their house, which they rented for the weekend. As we sat and chatted with the boys, I pondered what it truly means to be a gay man. Does it mean to grow up and have kids and find the man of your dreams and settle down? Or is that too heteronormative (meaning following the likes of a heterosexual couple)? Does it mean to be outlandish and promiscuous and diva like? I don’t think there’s a set-in-stone answer, nor should there be. We are all human beings, capable of discovering who we are as individuals— and that should be celebrated often!
Sarah and I are besties…
The rest of the trip was fantastic. After seeing boys at the Tea Dance, a gathering of gays for drinks on a Sunday afternoon, we headed back to the plane. Departing near dusk, the air was calm and the sunset was gorgeous. I stopped to consider how much driving this would have been— at least six hours to Long Island, a ferry ride to Block Island, and dealing with traffic on the Cape. All in all, these were very short hops of 20 or 30 minutes. Having one’s own airplane is liberating! Also, I had many affirmations: I am in love with my career. I am in love with myself. I love those who support me in any endeavor. And most importantly, I can’t wait to return the favor. 
When I rolled back into New York City to catch my plane, I had only a hot minute to get from 7th and 28th to LaGuardia. Torn, and broke, I decided to try for the train and bus. Like magic, I ended up at the airport right on time. Somehow, I made the flight, even when I was number 11 out of nine open seats— go figure. With nonrev travel, anything can happen.
I want to go back to the Northeast again to explore more of where my gram grew up, and also to see Bruce and Sean and all of their magnificent friends! (I realize this post is about a month late to follow up the second part— I have a history of doing this, specifically with my Seattle trip report. Sorry, Jackie!)
Cute boys en route to PTown!

Spontaneous East Coast Trip: Part I

Sometimes, we just need to get away. Last Tuesday night, I faced an odd feeling of claustrophobia here in St. Louis. I had just come back from Lambert International Airport, visiting an airline pilot friend (my dear “sister” Delia!) before she ventured on a trip. Walking home from the Central West End metro station, which is a hike since our Grand metro stop is out of service, I was hot in the 102 degree heat and wearing pants. I was cranky for having a five day weekend and nowhere to go. And most importantly, I was hot. Snap-your-head-off-for-no-reason hot. As with any stressful situation I have, I tweeted and complained.

And I was heard.

A dear friend from the National Gay Pilot Association (and yes, there is such a thing, of which I am a member) responded to my tweet, inviting me to visit him and his partner in Connecticut for a long weekend. I sat down in my cool apartment and breathed a sigh of relief— but how in the world do I get there? I thought. By now, most of you know that I use buddy passes from my aforementioned sister, giving me access to the country for a much more affordable price. I fly Frontier, a very formidable low-cost carrier but limited in niche destinations such as Connecticut. The options of getting to the East coast were strenuous but doable: a flight from St. Louis to Denver, spending the night in Denver, and taking the first flight to New York’s LaGuardia airport— only then to take a bus northbound to New Haven, Connecticut. It seemed like a stretch on paper, but it looked like it would work out. 30 minutes later, the tickets were booked. I was East coast bound the next day.

Because I traveled on the 4th of July holiday, the fight out of St. Louis was spacious. 80 seats were open at the time of my booking; and when I got to the ticketing counter to check in, the agent gave me a seat right away. This never happens to nonrevvers. Almost always, we wait until the last minute for seat assignments. But in the unlikely event of 80 passengers booking a flight to Denver, the agent took a small leap of faith and uttered the words, “Would you like a window or aisle seat?” Window, please!

It had been almost a year since I had flown commercially— a renewing moment for my sometimes burnt out passion. But the second the thrust levers were thrown forward and we lifted into the sky, I took in a big breath of dry airplane air and relaxed completely. Awolnation’s “Sail” blasted on my iPhone, way before the use of approved electronic devices was allowed. But sue me. I’m a pilot.

Ten minutes early on a flight means so much to the airline system. It’s ten minutes of time that graces an  unexpected delay, yet it meant nothing to me but “Oh, good, 10 more minutes to add onto my 13 hours in Denver.” I deplaned, used the facilities, and strolled through the gate area, maybe expecting to see a flight to LGA. Lo and behold, there was! Five minutes from departing, I thought, “What the hell. I’ll try getting on and if not, no big deal. Maybe I can spend the night with a friend in New York.” 10 minutes later, we taxied for takeoff to New York.

“There’s no place like it in the world” my seat mate said to me as we descended into the metropolitan area. I concurred and smiled as the glow of the city shone through the oval window. Lightning in the distance matched that of the strobe while we dodged cells— right as we touched down, I contacted everyone I knew in New York to see if I could crash on a couch until my next day bus departure to Connecticut. Nope. Long story short, I slept in LaGuardia.

The best omelet I have ever had— Chelsea Market

My friend Julia, who is a high school friend of my dear yoga instructor, showed me around the city the next day— rare as it is for someone to have a car in New York, we meandered through the neighborhoods of Manhattan, traveling more than one possibly could on foot. Driving down the avenues, the isle stretches forever. And I don’t think that feeling will ever stray, the one of excitement when skyscrapers edge the lanes. In such a densely packed piece of ground, there is an endless sense of passion.

A few times this summer, he has told me not to come in, for he doesn’t “care if you work upside down in a hammock somewhere. Just get it done.” I killed a few hours at a Starbucks somewhere along 9th and 40th; while this was to be a mini vacation, my boss allowed me to “work remotely.” It just so happened that I was remotely working from New York City.

But the “meat and potatoes” of this trip comes from the New England portion. Stay tuned…

Coffee Review: Kaffe Hela Bönor Mörkrost

I’ll take that coffee table with my coffee, please.
Method: Auto-drip brew
Quite literally it means “coffee whole beans dark roast” in Swedish— yes, the same place at which one may purchase a sofa, one can pick up a bag of coffee, too. 
My mother bought this for me on a recent trip to Seattle (coffee capital of the world) and I was thrilled at the conception of coffee from IKEA. But on second thought, I raised my eyebrow to the fact that this is essentially generic coffee from a furniture store. At any rate, my Swedish roots were interested when I opened the bag. 

The beans are lighter than most dark roast coffees, and the aroma is nutty— much like the Caribou Coffee I reviewed earlier. The appearance of the beans is also not as oily as my previous Starbucks French Roast, though the richness isn’t sacrificed. Indeed, the taste is lighter than the French Roast, but I’m content with it. While the body of the coffee is very full, it skimps on the aftertaste— the brewed aroma isn’t as full as I had expected, either. At the center of the gulp, it tastes mildly acidic, but it doesn’t distract from the drink. 
It’s late afternoon. I would suggest drinking this roast then, too, for it neither gives me a kick in the pants, nor does it make me want to curl up and take a nap. It would be perfect for entertaining! 
All in all, IKEA’s dark roast coffee is a solid afternoon brew, appropriate for guests, and adds just enough caffeine to the end of your work day for a lively and jitter-free commute. 

Breaking In

A few weeks ago, I splurged and paid a exorbitant amount of money for two pairs of shoes, one brown and one black. I needed the black shoes, but I *had* to have the brown. They were gorgeous, they fit, and they were only $40!

So I wore them once before a conference to show them off. I looked dapper with slacks and a button down shirt. It wasn’t even a special occasion, but as many of you know, I love dressing up for the hell of it— I live by the adage, “If you look good, you feel good!”

After the day was over, my dogs were barking! I was filled with buyer’s remorse and grieving that my purchase was somehow impulsive. But the shoes, they looked so wonderful! It was as if with each step I was crushing valuable dollar signs. I packed them in my suitcase for the conference, along with my new black pair (that proved to be comfortable on the first try). However, I was so anxious to wear them at the conference with much walking that I didn’t put them on during the entire event.

As any college student can attest, I loathe doing laundry. Luckily in my complex, there are multiple washing machines and multiple dryers— during off peak times, I can easily wash up to five loads of laundry at once (which is about a third of my wardrobe…*gulp*). But I hadn’t washed any clothes in a period of time. It came to the point where I had one pair of pants and the only thing that would go with those pants was my painful brown shoes. With a leap of faith—because I had no choice—I laced them up and went on my way.

Halfway through my day, the pain subsided, and the shoes became quite comfortable. I waited and waited, time and time again, for the shoes to revert to their orthopedic attack— but the comfort prevailed. I took a huge sigh of relief and praised myself for my brave purchase. That $40 did not go to waste after all!

I wear these shoes all the time now and get great compliments on them (though I prefer compliments on the bargain, rather than the fashion). My point here is this: perseverance, and even a bit of apprehension, is worth the faith and courage it takes to overcome any obstacle. On a small scale, I was put between a rock and a hard place— the soles of my shoes and the ground. It was in the moment at the end of that day when the shoes stopped hurting that I thought, “Hm. I’m glad I took that chance.” Aren’t these shoes gorgeous?

Captain Status

My persona for my radio show is Captain Bobbie— I realize I may have jumped the gun by nominating myself as captain. No, I haven’t taken my ATP and no, I do not fly high-powered turbine aircraft— I am working on my commercial certificate in a cute little Piper Arrow— but Captain status is something more than a certificate and sitting left seat. Being a captain is taking command of situations with the care and safety of all involved with your party. 

For my non aviation friends, all pilots live by federal aviation regulations in a quite large bible-like book under Title 14 of the Code of Federal Regulation. Part 91.3 of this title states “The pilot in command of an aircraft is directly responsible for, and is the final authority as to, the operation of that aircraft.” All that legal mumbo jumbo means is “For God so loved the world that he instated FAR 91.3, that those who live by this will not perish but have eternal authority.” 

A captain cannot turn to the person sitting in the right seat and ask questions, for it is up to the captain to make the ultimate decision; therefore, it is our inalienable right to determine our destiny. 
Aeronautical Decision Making is a model by which pilots make choices in the cockpit that is based on the current situation. It is at the discretion of the pilot to disregard any rules and regulations during an emergency— in fact, the aforementioned 91.3 permits it! Do what you have to do in a time of need and explain later. 

Captain status means people trust their lives with you. 40-300 people on any given airplane put their fate in your hands as you shuttle them across the sky in a pressurized tube. The only information you have given them is your name during the preflight briefing. That the passengers blindly trust you demands that you perform at your best. Your decisions should not be made at the sake of convenience, but the sake of safety. It is so much easier to take an easier route— but is the easier route the safest and smoothest route? Airplanes and people can handle a certain amount of turbulence, but there are always clearer skies elsewhere without the bumps.

You are the root of your own suffering. Should you divert south, because there is extreme turbulence ahead? Or would you willingly sit through it because it would be shorter yet more uncomfortable? If you have the fuel, five minutes tacked on to a flight will be worth that much more when the airplane is safely on the ground. In other words, if you have the energy, circumnavigate your obstacles as opposed to enduring pain— the journey is more important, anyhow, for it is through that which creates experience.

A dear friend of mine recently started upgrade training at her airline, and I could not be more proud. She exudes confidence while knowing her weaknesses— that in itself is invaluable, because egotistic pilots pride themselves on knowing everything. Egotistic pilots also cause incidents and let their heads get in the way. To be clear headed is to know what you know and accept that you don’t know everything— any other combination puts others around you at risk (and also makes you look like a smaller person). I look forward to being in the cockpit with her some day and efficiently operating and leading an aircraft safely to it’s final destination. 

I wish I had the credentials with four stripes on my shoulder to back up my Captain status, but a uniform wouldn’t make me a commanding officer. Captain status is available to all who apply—even non aviators—and is granted on the basis of your own character. Are you a captain?

This post is dedicated to soon-to-be-captain Delia Willes, who blogs at Squeaky’s Skywritings. It was inspired by her recent post Report from training.