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  • Patricia Northrup

Trip number 3 as a new Captain

I am finally feeling comfortable in my new seat. From the first flight little things would plague me. There was always something that would be in the back of my mind that I wanted to do or say but the sheer volume of what I has to remember would make such item elusive. It is such a good feeling when you begin to get ahead of your environment that you can start to add things to your routine that make things nice for you and everyone around you. Tonight it was chocolate bars for the crew……..YUM!

This evening I was headed to the BIG APPLE……the city that never sleeps and this night I would not sleep either. We departed Los Angeles on time and were due to arrive at the New York Kennedy Airport at 9am the next morning.

On a previous flight, I found out that the TWA terminal at Kennedy Airport had been turned into a hotel. After September 11 and the end of TWA, that incredible icon of a structure sat empty and abandoned. There is always a part of you that hopes that “someone” will pick up the mantle of restoring or preserving those special places in history but you never know if progress or history will win out in the end.

In this case, history won out and Terminal 5 has been preserved…I had to see it!! After I rested in the hotel, I was going to go to the airport early and give myself a tour.

As we were on final approach to 22R at Kennedy Airport that morning, we encountered a problem. We were both so tired after a long night in the air but when you see the warning light illuminate, you know that is time to start earning your salary. The way I see it, I am not paid for what I actually do but what I am prepared to do and what I am able to do.

The First Officer and I immediately went right back to the incredible training we receive by the airline. It is almost a dance that you learn to do in an emergency, and it is incredibly effective; especially when you are at the end of a long night.

“My Aircraft” that initial call starts everything into motion and we identified that we had a flight control issue. Without boring everyone with the details, we dispatched our duties and safely landed the aircraft on the longest runway that the Kennedy Airport had to offer. We had a parade of vehicles of lights flashing escort us to the gate this morning, so everyone knew that our flight had arrived! We didn’t ask for the lighted escort but I know it is good training for the ARFF, Airport Rescue and Fire Fighting, personnel.

Two things came to my mind after this flight…….First thing my thousands of hours have taught me is that unusual situations tend to create a time warp…we feel the need to do things quickly as if that will improve the situation and before you know it you are doing things you don’t want to nor should you be doing. In reality, the opposite is the reality. Although it took a bit of time to make sure that everything was accomplished and accomplished correctly while dealing with our flight control problem, the methodology and intentional slowing of the clock brings calm and peace to an airborne emergency. I believe that is really true in most situations in life.

Second, I cannot land or take off on 31L at JFK without thinking of my fellow pilot that was flying AAL587 almost 18 years ago to the day and departed that runway. In 90 seconds, he and all of the passengers on that airplane were gone. It is always good to remember the situations of the past that continually help us make better decisions in the present.

After I got to the hotel and rested for my return flight to Los Angeles, I never did get to see the old TWA terminal that day…….I will though. The TWA terminal gives me hope for the “Encounter” in Los Angeles…that iconic structure shown in every 1970’s drama to depict LA…….that someday it would be a hotel with a view!!!

Until next time!

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