On Becoming An Aviatrix: Making My Way to the Front (Part III)

29 06 2010

At the end of my last post, Earning My Wings (Part II), I had just been hired as a flight attendant at American Eagle, the regional carrier for American Airlines. I graduated from my training class at the American Airlines Flight Academy in Dallas February 1998. I had “Earned my wings” as a flight crew member, however, it wouldn’t be long before I would be yearning to be seated at the front end of the aircraft. The following is the story of how it happened.

While I was at the flight academy I was very curious each time I passed the pilots who were in training in both a class room setting as well as small rooms with just two students, a pilot instructor and an aircraft panel which simulated the flight deck. Most impressive were the huge hydraulic simulators. The tension surrounding the pilots entering those simulators was always palpable as passing a check ride was necessary for keeping their job.

Having been what people jokingly refer to as a “Professional student” a good part of my young life, I was attracted to what appeared to be a very intense level of learning that was experienced by the pilots. On breaks during my flight attendant training I lingered in the hallways and observed the pilot training. I was more interested in what the pilots were learning then finding my perfect shade of red lipstick. (Those that are flight attendants know I’m not just making fun, but makeup is a real part of the training! Also, I am not intending to belittle the very important role flight attendants play as a vital part of the safety and smooth operation of a flight. I loved being a flight attendant; I was just more intrigued with being a pilot.)

The last part of my flight attendant training, before I was signed off to “Work the line” on my own, was my initial operating experience, a.k.a. “I.O.E. training.” This is when an I.O.E. instructor flies a first trip with a new flight attendant, and makes sure that they are ready to take charge of a flight on their own (pilots also go through I.O.E. training).

So at last, after weeks of training, I was finally working my first (I.O.E.) flight out of my home base, LAX. My earliest memory as a working flight attendant also happened to be the turning point where I really envisioned myself as a pilot. We had just reached cruising altitude of 24,000 feet when I got a ding from now retired Captain Jan Dungan. I picked up the interphone, and she asked me if I would please bring a cup of coffee to her. Of course I complied, and when I opened the flight deck door I think I must have gasped aloud. That view — I think it was the most amazing thing I had ever seen! Before me were big puffy clouds and an endless sea of blue. To say it was so beautiful would be an understatement. It’s hard to believe unless one has seen it, but the view from the flight deck is vastly different than the view one sees out a little side window as a passenger in the cabin of an aircraft. I think when one is in the front of an airplane it’s not merely a view, but an experience. No doubt the mind-boggling panel of instruments, gauges, navigational displays and radios enhance that particular experience. To me, flying is a marriage of nature and technology – right up my alley! The aviation bug bit hard & quickly. This is where I wanted to be!

Next blog post: Making the transition into the flight deck and my first flight.

Previously published June 28, 2010 at Forbes.com Wheels Up

NOTE: If you just started reading this story, please see the previous posts:

On Becoming An Aviatrix: Introduction: https://mctorresgrant.wordpress.com/2010/06/09/on-becoming-an-aviatrix-introduction/

On Becoming An Aviatrix:  The Seed Is Planted (Part I): https://mctorresgrant.wordpress.com/2010/06/14/on-becoming-an-aviatrix-the-seed-is-planted-part-i/

On Becoming An Aviatrix:  Earning My Wings (Part II): https://mctorresgrant.wordpress.com/2010/06/21/on-becoming-an-aviatrix-earning-my-wings-part-ii/

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