Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Just a few more of my fellow crewmembers.

- NEWS -
as of 03/11/11 @ 1330 EST

According to our Delta employee news, all flights inbound to Narita and Haneda have diverted safely. All 1,200 Japan based employees are safe and have been accounted for as well as all flight crews. Both Narita and Haneda have re opened for departures only. There was no mention of when company departures may start though. Thanks to those who have emailed to ask of my whereabouts. I'm safely home in New Hampshire, but leave for Frankfurt tomorrow. To learn more about what's going on with regard to the Japanese earthquake and Asian flight Operations, click on Terry Maxon's aviation blog.

Want to see a great video? It has nothing to do with flying... but everything to do with living.

I think that I've accurately explained why I enjoy airline flying, but click here to see why a younger airline pilot enjoys his job as well as I do. He see's it from a more youthful perspective.

But a quick note first if I could. CONGRATULATIONS  to Ricardo Carvalho from Brazil, a regular blog reader, who just obtained his private pilots license and plans to move forward to earn his commercial pilots license. Congratulations Ricardo.  

If you remember the old TV show The Naked City about NYC from the late sixties, you'll recall the opening scene when a narrator would say, "There are eight million story's here in the naked city, here's one of them," as the camera zoomed in and focused on a particular NY City resident. 

As you know, one of the reasons that I enjoy my job so much, is due to my fellow crew members. There are millions of airline employees out here... here are just two of them. 

Dean, whom you met in the previous posting, and I have flown frequently  with one another over the years. He's an expert, even though he cringes when I say that, but he is. Actually, more accurately I should refer to him as a scholar.  

We left our hotel, located near the Eiffel Tower and with the help of Dean's Metro Map, went in search of the nearest station. We all have our shortcomings and mine, without a doubt is trying to figure out how to purchase metro/train tickets. In France, Germany, Japan, the Netherlands and even the States, I'm flummoxed when I stand before an auto ticket dispenser. Fortunately, we've both visited Paris many times and had a good idea of where we were going.

We resurfaced at Saint Michel Square, in the Latin Quarter half way between the Louvre and Notre Dame on the Left Bank (Rive Gauche). Dean was in search of a French bookstore that he frequents to purchase specific books for friends of his. But before we hit the book store we need to eat.

We found a french bakery on a side street and indulged to our hearts desire. Did I need to  preface it as a french bakery? I suppose all bakeries in Paris are French. I should have taken a picture of their display counter though, as their food presentation skills are second to none. You may remember my bakery pictures from Dusseldorf and Frankfurt; I'm addicted to these places.

Dean chose this apricot "fat pill" while I chose a more reasonable french croissant (that I'm sure had no more than two sticks of butter) with strawberry jam. But wait... Deans not only ordering in French, he's holding a conversation in French with the baker! The two of them are bantering back and forth and having a grand old time. It turns out that Dean spent several years in Algiers working construction to earn money for his "flying habit" as he puts it and speaks the language fluently. 

We parked ourselves a short distance away on Saint Michels Square, on a beautiful day and watched the world go by. Saint Michels is the bohemian section, the site of many anti-war protests, the anti de Gaulle rally's of 1968 that nearly toppled his government and is filled with students who fancy themselves intellectuals. The Sorbonne is nearby too and the Seine River is but a few steps away. After visiting the major attractions that Paris has to offer, the narrow, winding streets surrounding Saint Michel are full of fascinating shops, history, architecture, restaurants and people that will drive your curiosity. 

Behind Dean is Notre Dame, (Our Lady of Paris) completed in 1345, but note the green vendor boxes too. On warm days, vendors hawk from these structures selling books, magazines, pamphlets postcards and an interesting variety of other items too. It's difficult to walk past some of the more interesting displays but we must, we're on a mission and time is growing short as we walk the Left Bank north, towards the Petite Palace.

Another museum, difficult to walk past is Musee d'orsay, The Temple of Impressionism, but I've visited here before with my family on vacation and during other layovers, so we press on. 

We've now reached our objective, L' Hotel des Invalides where construction started under Louis XIV, the Sun King in 1670.

Built as a hospital and rest home for France's war veterans, today it houses the nations military history museum (Musee de L'Armee) as well as Emperor Napoleon's Tomb (1769 - 1821). Many other notables are interned here as well such as Marshal Ferdinand Foch, Supreme Allied Commander during WWI. Others, such as General Jean Baptiste Kleber who served Napoleon during the Egyptian campaign, is buried in Strasbourg, but his heart lies here in a vault beneath the chapel. Apparently Jean Baptiste never visited San Francisco!

Dean, a 1975 VMI (Virginia Military Institute) graduate, inspects the artillery in the Cour d'Honneur, just one of 15 majestic courtyards in this sprawling complex. I went to Norwich and am more than casually interested in our surroundings as well. There are 60, bronze artillery pieces here that span 200 years of technology.

As we gaze up upon the Emperor, let me tell you a little about Dean. He's a WWII scholar and I don't use the term lightly. Like many I've read and been moved by Steven Ambrose's Band of Brothers, D-Day and Citizen Soldiers, but he's traveled well beyond that. His WWII library, that houses books written by combat veterans is awe inspiring. He's sought these men out, interviewed many and had them autograph their books. He's met and interviewed original members of Easy Company, 506th PIR, (Parachute Infantry Regiment,) 101st Airborne Division. I'm sure you know of Major Winters and Easy Company.

He's acquired and studied original "After Action Reports" concerning battles in the European, Pacific and North African theaters of operation, journeyed to these sites and walked the battlefields. In fact he's so learned that he conducts tours along the Beaches of Normandy, through the hedge rows and into St. Mere Eglise. This summer he'll conduct tours for the first time on Iwo Jima and around Mt. Suribachi. 

Operation Detachment, Battle of Iwo Jima, 2/19/45 - 3/26/45

I'm sure that you're familiar with Joe Rosenthal's 1945 Pulitzer prize winning photo of five Marines and one Navy Corpsman raising the US flag on Mt Suribachi during the battle of Iwo Jima. I've read Flyboys and Flags of our Fathers by James Bradley and have flown over the site en route from Saipan and Guam to Nagoya and Tokyo... but Dean has been there and walked on hallowed ground. 

Five hour flights from Honolulu to San Francisco and nine hour flights from Paris to Cincinnati pass in a flash as I'm enthralled and educated by Dean on the finer points of WWII history, Operations Overlord, Market Garden, Torch and Sea lion. He'll be embarrassed when he reads this, he's very modest, but the depth of his knowledge, his passion for history and those who lived it, fought through it and died during it is unparalleled. 

Do you know the term Band of Brothers? Dean asked me if  I knew from where it sprang and I was thrilled that I could answer him. It derived from William Shakespeare's St. Crispin's Day speech in Henry V.  

Here it is.

And Crispin Crispian shall ne'er go by,
From this day to the ending of the world,
But we in it shall be remembered-
We few, we happy few, we band of brothers;
For he today that sheds his blood with me
Shall be my brother; be he ne'er so vile,
This day shall gentle his condition;
And gentlemen in England now-a-bed
Shall think themselves accurs'd they were not here,
And hold their manhoods cheap while any speaks
That fought with us upon Saint Crispin's day.

We're standing on the main esplanade of Invalides looking below to Napoleons Tomb. Constructed of red porphyry (slate) from Russia, Napoleon was laid to rest here in 1861.

Napoleons tomb with the Eglise Du Dome Chapel in the background. The architecture surrounding us is spectacularly ornate and involved. The chapel had been constructed years earlier so much excavation and thought needed to be applied to "fit" the Emperor in.

This museum is huge so we concentrated on Napoleon's Tomb and the WWII exhibition which took us many enjoyable hours to navigate. 

And just to let you know that I was there, here I am standing before Gustav Eiffel's masterpiece that stands 1,063 feet tall, built for the World Exposition of 1889. Interestingly, Eiffel designed the "internal frame" for our own Statue of Liberty, a gift from the people of France in 1886.

This was a very long but productive day as we spent more than eight hours on our feet  before returning to our hotel. A petit grocery store nearby supplied me with a ham and cheese baguette, an orange, a chocolate bar and a small bottle of red wine. It was a great day!

Holding short of runway 27R at CDG the following day behind an Air France A-330, as we prepare to journey back across the North Atlantic. Destination, North America.

We're operating today as Delta 43, back to CVG. Our flight time is 9:32 to cover 3,651 nautical miles. That strong tailwind that aided us eastbound yesterday is now a detriment westbound today.

We've just been cleared to "line up and wait behind this departing A-330" as I call for the final items. But before we take off, let me back up to when this crew boarded the airplane an hour and a half ago.

Robin came into the cockpit to say hello and per my usual operation, I had her pose in the FO's seat. Nice girl, enjoyed talking with her, she's Cincinnati based. But when I went back on my break a few hours later I had the chance to really get to know her and what I learned was extraordinary. She sends packages, cards, letters and those of others too to our troops in Iraq and Afghanistan. 

She also asks passengers via the PA if they'd like to add comments to her latest book that she passes around. Her overtures are very well received and passenger comments are wonderful. But I still didn't understand the depth of her commitment until she handed me the presentation below.

Open this up and read the inscription!

Now read the letter inserted on the left by Master Sergeant Marcus R. Dawson, USMC, First Marine Expeditionary Force.

I have to tell you and I wasn't embarrassed either, but it brought a tear to my eye. Her level of commitment to men that she doesn't know and will probably never meet was deeply moving. I've seen these "kids" in their desert camo at airports throughout the world, shipping out and returning home and I've experienced a few coffins loaded on board too. I won't even try to describe my emotions, but knowing that Robin is there to help is comforting. 

This is just one more example of how lucky I've been, to have been surrounded by fellow employees like Robin who have richly enhanced my last 30 years. Would you like to learn a little more about Robin? Click here to see just how committed she is. 

Thanks Robin, it was a pleasure to meet you!

And finally, on a little lighter note here are Dean and Erik, nine hours 32 minutes later back in CVG. (Erik is a former Navy C-130 pilot by the way) The reason that I've taken this photo is to show you our flight bags. This is the last day that we'll be carrying them, a throw back to pre-glass, round-dial cockpits, so you'll no longer see them in future photography.  Mine is in the middle. 

For years I carried a leather bag that saw service at Air New England, Orion, Republic and NWA until sadly, it just couldn't perform any longer. I switched then to my Dad's old leather bag that he'd used at Delta and Northeast Airlines before that, until the bottom fell out and it too was forced into retirement... a second time. This bag, of nylon construction, has performed satisfactorily, but I've never developed an emotional bond with it. My leather bags, scrapped and worn, battered and torn had personality and when brought home on rare occasions filled my office with the pleasant aroma of cockpits. You know, that odor of leather, oil, coffee and jet fuel. The same intoxicating scent I sensed in my Dad's office as a boy, dreaming of flying DC-6's and Vickers Viscounts along the Eastern Seaboard one day. I had no idea that the dream would carry me this far.

My original flight bag that went from ANE to NWA

Sarah, like those cartoons that ask, what's the difference between two "nearly" identical pictures... Can you see a subtle difference between Dean and Erik above? Give Sarah a couple of days and then anyone who see's it can feel free to jump in.

I have one more crewmember who I'd like to introduce, I know that you'll love his photography. But I'll save First Officer, aka LTC James Reeman until next time. As usual, thanks for following along.


Would you like to read about a more detailed Paris trip? Visit My Most Popular Posts just below the visitors locations map, drop down eight postings and join Dave and me in the City of Light for another day in Paris.


  1. wow,beats my layover in newark ! erik has capt's strips but an f.o.s hat? great read as always,rand. mike v

  2. Very observant Mike, but it's not what I'm looking for. It's much more subtle.

  3. Dean has 5 buttons showing, Erik has 6 ?

    Joe, NH.

  4. Dean is missing a button. What do I win?? As always another great post. I too had a synthetic fabric bag that lasted all of four years at my last airline. I left it in the crewroom to live out its glory days after my last trip, slumped over, keeling to the side. At my current airline, we have had ship sets so most guys carry a laptop case with them. On a final note, once it is warmer in Paris and the vendors are out near the museums, there is on the South Bank near Musee d'Orsay that sells vintage airline prints. They are the art deco-y airline ads from the 40's and 50's. Very neat.

  5. Joe and J,

    That's it! Dean busted off a button after eating that apricot pastry. We're lucky that he didn't take someone's eye out as it flew across the hotel lobby. Just kidding about that part, but we got a kick out of his "unbalanced blouse." And J, yes, I've seen that vendors airline stuff too, as a matter of fact he was out during this trip but in a limited fashion. He displayed several vintage Air France posters with Connies flying over the Eiffel Tower.


  6. Wow Rand - what an interesting read - it's been a long time since I was in Paris, but the pictures bring back some memories!

    I loved the section you posted on Robin - what an amazing lady and what a commitment to showing support to our troops! That's a heck of a tribute from those Marines to her as well!

    How many more 75/76 trips left now?? Or are they now over??

  7. Mark,

    Thanks for your remarks about Robin, I'm sure that she'll enjoy reading them. I flew my last 767 trip yesterday from Frankfurt to DTW and will fly my last 757 trip later this month that will be a long layover in SEA. I plan to visit the Boeing Museum while there and see the #1 747 on display.



  8. Rand, I sure would like to have the opportunity to hear Dean speak. We share that interest, but his library as you describe it outpaces my own.

    Happened upon this on JAL's last 747 flight. "Retiring" must mean that DAL will buy their fleet perhaps?

    It's in Japanese language, but perhaps you and your readers will still get the drift.

    A touching and sad end to JAL's jumbos. I have very fond memories of a trip to the motherland with them.

  9. Rand,
    Another great post.

  10. Hi Rand,

    Great post. I too love visiting Les Invalides when in the city of light. One of my favorite parts is way up on the top floor where they have a bunch of scale models of various cities. Everything was included, down to the location of every tree! Have you ever been up to see these? There was an exhibit on maps at the Field Museum in Chicago a couple of years ago, and Paris loaned one for the exhibition. The exhibit was so awesome, I had to go 3 times. The exhibit also featured "slim's" chart from his crossing of the north Atlantic in the the Spirit of STL. All of his hand drawn notations were on the map, charting his progress east across the ocean. Very cool.

  11. cstclair@pelmorex.comMarch 9, 2011 at 8:08 AM

    Always a great read Rand! Those BAe 146 needed 4 Lycomings to get airborne .. a quirky but sturdy plane .. Much used here in Canada by Air Atlantic (Canadian Airlines connector) Air Nova & Air BC (Air Canada connectors) all pre the 1998 merger. Cheers .. and enjoy the 747!

  12. I think that one of the reasons the "Whisperjet" has 4 engines is that they are much quieter and they can get in and out of much smaller airports with steep approaches and departures. My son has a model of one on his shelf in NWA colors, given to him by his uncle who is a former (unwillingly) NW mechanic. I don't recall him ever speaking fondly of the aircraft though, like he did of the 757...

  13. Rand, Re: the Avro 85 and why it has 4 engines. It has 4 engines because 6 wouldn't fit!

    Delta MSP

  14. Congratulations Brent! It's really a joke that sounds like this. Why does the BAE 146 have four jet engines? Because there wasn't room enough for six!

    K1. Yes, you'd love speaking with Dean. He's not only knowledgable, but very enthusiastic.

    JB. I've not seen that section of Invalides, but thanks, I'll make an effort to get back and seek it out.

    Thanks for everyone's guesses and thanks for responding.


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