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  • Patricia Northrup

from the flight deck

Updated: Nov 8, 2019

It is a beautiful day at Flight Level 320. Even though I don’t write these blogs while I am flying, the hours across the blue skies of our world give the mind plenty of time to think about……everything and finally journal it when I get home.

It is that blue skies perspective that gives ultimate life perspective. When your office view has no end and you are held in the hand of the elements for a period of time, you realize how totally insignificant you are to the universe but how incredibly significant you are to those that are near.

My first trip as a Captain was exciting. Chicago in a snowstorm…….ahhhh…..the joy of the job!

American had spent a great deal of time training me. Not only in my 20 years as a First Officer but also in my training for this command. So many people are counting on you to make the right decisions and think of everything. During my training, I landed in Miami after 2 runway changes and in the middle of a rainstorm. Once we got on the ground and we cleared the runway, I just stopped the airplane, parked the break to mentally catch up. It took me 2 minutes to gather my situational awareness and make sure the next steps I took with the 189 people on board and this 200k of aluminum were correct: worth all 120 seconds!

I think so often that we forget to do that. We are do anxious to get to the next thing, do the next thing or not allow someone to get ahead of us, that we get overwhelmed in the overwhelm. And ultimately make some missteps……not an option now for me.

Today leaving Hawaii on my second trip as Captain, I had a cup of coffee, checked the weather along the route, chatted with the dispatcher and savored each necessary step in the process to depart. By the time we were ready to push back, I was confident that everything was done. The elephant had been consumed one small bite at the time.

It is going to be difficult to get used to the various comments about female Captains. I am learning that most people have never seen one……I guess in a way we are unicorns; people talk about them but no one actually sees them. The funny part is to me, this perspective has not changed. Pilots look the same to me today as they did as a First Officer. But when I was saying goodbye in Honolulu, one passenger gave me a high five and told me I was awesome. Normally we have to do something to be awesome….I was just awesome for existing as a unicorn……I will take that!!

Until the next flight.


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