Monday 24 - Travel
We were unable to update you on the trip home for the past couple days because frankly we were way too busy trying to get home!
Sunday morning 5 planes departed Ohio State University for refueling stops in Metropolis IL and Branson MO. From there 3 planes intended to fly direct to Grand Prairie airport near DFW and 2 were to stop in Paris Texas for fuel. As we worked our way south and west in 45 knot headwinds, clouds and rain, the storms thickened in the DFW Metroplex.
Paul Martin and I stopped in Paris but as we finished fueling the wind and rain began. We decided to spend the night. The day had been very long and the 1.5 hour flight to Grand Prairie would have been too dangerous given the thunder and lightning just over the horizon.
Mat Belden, Dylan Jones and Kyle Mayhugh were closer to Dallas. Mat made it to Grand Prairie from the east side but Dylan and Kyle, who were 30 minutes behind Mat diverted to Perrin Texas due to weather. So at the end of the day we had 5 airplanes at 3 different airports!
Next morning we were able to land at KGPM (Grand Prairie) just ahead of another storm that passed over DFW and damaged 27 American Airlines jets with hail. Our planes were safe.
The plan was to spend part of the day touring the American Airlines Flight Academy where American trains it's airline pilots. As it turned out, the building weather allowed us to decide early to cancel plans to fly Monday and take advantage of the opportunity to tour American's facilities. Thanks to Captain John Hale, AA's Vice President of Flight, for making a 4-hour simulator block available to us so each student could fly the new $30 million dollar full motion B-737 simulator for 30 minutes. They went into the sim with instructor Rick Padgett in groups of 3 and each were allowed to fly several approaches from the captain's seat. They took off from San Jose, made a left turn and flew an ILS approach to San Francisco airport. They did one with no clouds and another with weather obscuring the airport with the HUD or "Head's Up Display." Hey, jets are easy to fly eh?
Of all that has been said and done over the past two weeks – nothing can compare with the experience the team enjoyed today.
While one group was in the simulator, others were able to watch flight attendants practicing drills in the emergency evacuation simulators. After lunch they got an opportunity that few – very few – people ever see: Systems Operations Control. SOC is the heartbeat of American Airlines. The team was taken to the AA "War Room" or situation room overlooking SOC and looked down on a giant room full of planners, dispatchers, crew schedulers, weather forecasters, equipment schedulers, and maintenance schedulers to name a few. Each of American's 3600 daily flights is individually scheduled, dispatched, and continuously tracked by one or a team of dispatchers. While we were in SOC a storm passed over DFW damaging 27 airplanes and stacking 50 airplanes on the ramp. We saw how American puts the pieces back together when a storm disrupts the operations in a major hub.
"Off schedule operations" may seem chaotic to passengers on hundreds of flights during a storm, and to some extent, it is. But only by seeing these professional experts reconstruct and reschedule the planes and the crews to get them all where they are going at the end of the day, can you really appreciate how difficult and complex it is.
The final treat Monday was a visit to the pilot's union headquarters. As an American pilot for over 30 years, I spent 6 years as the pilot representative for the Los Angeles domicile and sat on the board of directors for 3 terms. I also spent 4 years as the National Communications Committee chairman. The purpose of the visit to the union was to show the labor side of commercial flying. Pilot careers are molded by contracts negotiated by a union's collective bargaining agreement. Captain Dave Bates, president of the Allied Pilots Association took time out to talk to the team about how he became an airline pilot and the prospects for future employment our young pilots will enjoy.
What started as a busy day gathering planes from airports across the Metroplex, ended with a BBQ dinner and the gracious hospitality of AA Captain Mark Chapman and his wife Karen. Their offer to house and feed the team was truly above and beyond our expectations. The Chapmans offered to transport and accompany the team all day long and as it turns out – all night long. I'd like to thank and acknowledge them and my good friend Captain Jeff Sheets who also helped transport and entertain our pilots as they toured the Flight Academy. Thanks so much to you folks for helping to make our stay in DFW an incredible experience!
SDCC Flight Team flying back to San Diego slowed by storms...
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