Friday, August 18, 2006

El Capitan

So, I had figured I might get a week off work after getting home. That turned into a three day weekend. Then, I had to be ready to do my upgrade training, to become a captain.

The first day of training, I found it difficult to get my mind on where each control is, beecause I had been flying a different model for a while. But the flight training was completed in 3 days. Then I spent almost a week trying to get my company checkride completed. Our first attempt, we departed the runway, and I got the pleasure of a simulated enegine failure 200 feet up. Then just after dealing with that, we experienced a real instrument failure, and had to return to the airport.

Finally on Thursday, I got to complete the ride. And just in time. From the moment we exited the plane, I was on standby for departing on my first captain assignment. A small delay kept us in town for one more day.

Today, we departed the area and headed to Chesapeake, VA, just an hour away from home. Today was a long day though. Up at 6:30am, and didn't get to the hotel tonight until 9:30pm. Included in there was almost 6 hours of flying. So it couldn't be too bad.

On my first flight as a captain, I got to deal with building cumulus clouds, some turbulence, a reasonable amount of actual instrument conditions, and an instrument approach. Not a bad start to it all.

Now, at midnight, I've finally gotten some dinner, made the plans for tomorrow, and finished the daily reports. Fortunately, we aren't launching too early tomorrow, so I should get at least 7 hours of sleep in the end.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

The Long Flight Home

Evening of my last day in Afghanistan. I'm sitting in my dark bedroom, illuminated only by the somewhat harsh glow of the laptop screen. My light fixture hasn't been working for the last few days. After tinkering with it, I decided it wasn't worth the hassle, so I resigned to dealing primarily with solar illumination for the last couple days of my time here.

The flight out tomorrow leaves me with the whole morning to finish packing, but it won't take that long. I never fully unpacked, and literally lived out of the suitcase.

The last two days have been purely relaxation. The new pilot has taken over, and my job was to rest. Both of the last two days I've walked to the military base nearby, for lunch. It is about 3/4 mile each way. It is a minor thing in some ways, but those have been the first times I've been out in the streets alone since being here. There is a little risk to it, but I've grown comfortable with the surroundings.

Today's walk home was interesting. Usually, the street children come up to you trying to sell anything they can, but mostly give up after a minute or so. Less, if you keep walking. Today, two of them walked the entire route home with me, continuing the sales pitch. I did end up giving them a little bit of money, largely just for the effort involved. I'd love to help all of them, but it is difficult to draw a reasonable line, knowing how poor many of them are.

Tomorrow, the long ordeal begins. I'd rather take 5 times longer and fly the plane home myself, than step onto an airline flight. I leave the house at noon, and sit in the Kabul airport for a couple hours for my supposed 2:10pm departure. I say supposed, because in my time here, I've never seen or heard of the flight actually leaving close to schedule. Usually it is about 2-3 hours behind. Which is fine this time, because it will save some of the frustration with my 7 hour layover in Delhi, India.

On the way over, I had a 16 hour layover in Delhi, and got to stay in a hotel rather than the international lounge. Much nicer. This time, no reprieve. Then, if that wasn't fun enough, the flight from there to Newark, NJ is scheduled to take 15 hours and 20 minutes. I only hope I can sleep through most of it. Then another few hours layover, another flight to Dulles, rental car, and a 2 1/2 hour drive back to the office. Return the rental, hope my car starts after nearly 6 weeks of sitting, and finally get home about 35 hours after starting. Then, possibly a quick turn around at home, and a 4 hour drive to NC.

7,000 statute miles, in 35 hours, for an average speed of 200 mph.

I want to be home, but I'd rather be here than be on that trip.