Tuesday, June 26, 2007


I’m a weird flyer. I’m enough of a nerd that I love to look out the windows and look at all the planes I can see. I can identify many of them when I’m at the airport. I don’t enjoy socializing on planes so I always have a book and an iPod deployed defensively.

I imagine in my head the stages of the taxi and takeoff and the landings. When we rotate, go air borne and gears up I have a tendency to mutter those things under my breath. (With my typical mutter I probably sound demon possessed. My neighbors probably just hear “KILL KILL KILL” or something so maybe that is a defense against making an “airplane friend” too.)

I’ve had to travel from Salt Lake to the Santa Anna, (or John Wayne) airport quite a few times for my work. I’ve become rather familiar with that airport. It has some unusual qualities. The runway in Irvine is rather small and I’ve never seen any craft larger than a 737 there.

One of the fun things at that airport are the low noise take offs. Because the take off heads off right over Newport Beach (read expensive property) they are required to make a low noise take off. This means for 737’s that you firewall the throttles to get up off the ground, climb as hard and fast as you can and then as you reach the expensive property throttle way back and stop climbing until you are out over the ocean. This gives a nice falling sensation to the stomachs of everyone on the plane so they give warnings before this maneuver to prevent panic.

Because the runway is so short in Irvine pilots need to stick the landing right at the leading edge and slow down quickly. This has lead to quite a few bumpy landings as pilots think (in my imagination) “Oh BOOGA! That is a SHORT runway” and plop the plane down.

Earlier this month I came down with a cow-orker and he sat by a bunch of crew members from another flight returning home one the same one we were on. They laughed and giggled at the hard landing we received on that flight. But that landing was nothing compared to the one I had yesterday.

We were flying a CRJ 700. It was quite overcast with a morning fog and the ceiling was pretty low. I could feel the plane intercept the glide slope as we started our decent and I was wondering how close that needle has to be for the poor guys up front to make a smooth landing when it’s this foggy.

As we broke through the clouds and I started picking out familiar landmarks and I was having fun. As we approached the airport I said out loud “We’re a little bit high”. (My neighbor probably heard “I’LL GET YOU ALL”) It seemed that we were maybe 30 ft. higher than we should have been as we crossed the threshold of the runway. I could feel the pilot cut thrust and cut the flare a bit to drop the plain. At the last minute the pilot flared up again trying to ease down but POW! We slammed hard – jolting everyone in the plane. Everyone was a bit shocked by how hard we landed and there was some muttering in the plane. No one said much because we don’t want to be put in jail by the TSA for complaining about a pilot or something I guess.

The flight home is usually much smoother since the SLC airport has nice long runways. Pilots can just ease on down even if they are 30 ft above the glide slope. Plus I usually end up on CRJ 200’s on the leg back home and they are so small I’m sure they can land nicely about anywhere.

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