Friday, May 12, 2017


Dawn on the ramp.
I love the smell of a flight line in the morning. I spent a number of years working on the mighty F-4C and F-4D Phantom II and that smell never leaves you. Visiting The WSO down at NAS Oceana we went out to see "her" jet in the hangar. The smell in that hangar took me back 30 years to the days of my youth.

Walking out on the ramp at NAS Oceana was the same, go back two years before that and going out to pose with The WSO next to one of the Guppies, sigh... Memories, so many memories.
T-2 Buckeye (aka "Guppy"), The WSO, and Your Humble Scribe
My point is, I like, check that, love being around aircraft. Love flying and, well, there is a lot I will put up with to get the chance to go aloft.

All this talk here on the blog lately about TSA and the ee-jits that one has to share oxygen with on commercial airlines got me to thinking. Some folks commented that "if I can't drive there, I won't go there" in regards to having to deal with airports and airlines. Oh yes, TSA as well, a federal entity, and we all know how efficient those are, right?

Maybe not.

You see, I used to work for the government as part of a federal entity. Okay, it wasn't the TSA it was the USAF. The Nuke still works for the feds. I have a lot of friends who work for the feds. I don't think I know anyone who works for the TSA but it's possible. I haven't kept track of all the folks I've known over the years, could be one or two drifted that way.

Now everyone complains about the TSA types, well, most everyone. I don't. Sure some of them are pricks but I'm pretty sure none of those work in Providence at T.F.Green. Why do I say that? Because the one's I've dealt with there have all been pretty good. And I've seen them deal with people who probably aren't firing on all four cylinders. People who are being complete tools and act like they've never been in an airport before.

Deal with idiots all day and you try and keep your temper in check when one more idiot comes your way and pushes you over the edge. Not easy.

Do they serve a purpose? Yes. Was the TSA instituted so that DC could say, "Look, we did something to improve safety"? Yes. And maybe they actually believed it. Maybe it actually does serve a purpose.

Have the TSA ever stopped some terrorist dickweed from getting on a flight and destroying it? We don't know. "Probably," would be my best guess. Do you really believe the locks on your home will keep out a thief? Probably. It won't deter the really determined criminal from getting in and stealing your stuff. Just as the TSA probably can't deter the really determined a-hole who wants to blow up a flight.

So I don't chide the TSA too much. Does there seem to be a lot of them just standing around? Well, sure, hello, it's a government job. Ever drive by a state road repair crew? Twelve guys with clipboards, three guys leaning on shovels and one or two actually doing something.

Then again, it's not an easy job dealing with self-important "I'm in a hurry" asshats all day long. I'm sure there's a pretty high turnover rate so there is always someone in training. Perhaps there are new procedures to improve security, everyone has to be trained. So I'm sure while there may be a few of them standing around, wasting oxygen, and drawing a paycheck, most aren't. (Look around your own place of employment, you'll see the type, they're everywhere.)

But I've blathered on about the TSA too much. I think they're a necessary evil. Do I miss the days when mom and dad could go down to the gate and wait with the kids and grandkids until it's time to board? Sure I do. I also miss the days when idiots from some Third World hellhole didn't want to kill Americans. If we don't have the will, or the resources, to "kill 'em all, let God sort 'em out" then these are things we need to deal with. (Not to mention the fact that if we did "kill 'em all" then this would no longer be America. It would be something else, and I'm not sure I'd want to live in a place like that.)

Again, enough about the TSA.

Dealing with the airlines is usually quite painless. I've had them seemingly "drop the ball" once or twice in the last 18 years or so, that is, since I retired from Uncle Sam's Aerial Follies. When I was being moved about by that august organization (who still pays me a bit o' green every month as a "thank you for playing" award) things were less amenable than me arranging for transport all by myself these days. Flying crammed into a seat which is just roomy enough so that the airline can't be charged with war crimes ain't quite as bad as sitting on a webbed seat which probably was  designed by an actual war criminal. Surrounded by 200 of your closest friends, various, sundry and divers units of aerospace ground equipment. Baggage, tools and supplies to help keep the birds we're off to support flying their appointed missions filling every available space. Then factor in the noise, heat/cold, vibration, and the fact that if you're on a C-130, it's going to take quite a bit longer to get there and United, American, Delta, and Jet Blue don't look quite so bad. Just sayin'.

At least the general has some leg room... (Source)
So what sparked all this? Well, in the "Today You Have Memories With..." alert from koobecaF, a post I wrote a year ago popped up. This one. It was when The Missus Herself and I headed down to Lex's birthplace of Alexandria for to hang out with The Nuke. Just so happens it was around the time of my birthday and Mother's Day, so the middle child figured to celebrate both with her parental units. It had been a while since that had happened. Well, we did it in 2015 as well, but in the years since her commissioning into the naval service, meet and greets in early May were rather uncommon.

I so love being up there, in the great sky, that I will suffer the vagaries of airline travel, the occasional inefficiencies of airline employees (always on the ground, never in the air), and the supposed iniquities and alleged thuggishness of the TSA folks. (And I've never seen that, no, really. Ask me about immigration officials in Seattle though and I might tell a tale or two out of school. Ignorant buffoons some of 'em. Brutish to boot, especially to folks with all the right paperwork but who's English might be a bit lacking.)

For all the supposed problems with the TSA, go visit an Asian country or three, they've refined corruption and bribery to such an art form they don't even feel guilty about it I'll wager. Then come talk to me. All countries have their jackbooted thugs, not all of them work at airports, but there are a few. (Yes, France, I'm looking at you.)

To be up there, winging across the skies, looking down at the ground so far below...

Especially traveling in the company of the love of my life...

Down to DC, or out to Fresno, or San Francisco to see the progeny and their wee bairns...

I'll tolerate damned near any minor inconvenience, for truly, for the most part, that's all they are. Minor inconveniences.

While driving down to DC is an option, parking where my daughter lives is a problem. While I have driven down to to Virginia, it's just too damned convenient to fly. From rolling out of the sack to boots on the ground at Reagan, five hours, give or take. Driving is at least twice that, but if you hit New York and New Jersey just right, it can take even longer. I know. Been there, done that.

And drive to California?

No, just no. Maybe when I'm retired and someone donates a motor home to amuse me in my dotage...

But no thank you. I'd rather fly.

While much of that poem doesn't really apply to what is essentially a flying bus, much of it does. Up there is peace...

At least for me.


  1. Don't get me started on highway departments...

    I have that same reaction to the smell of a flight line. I had line access for so many years and I took it for granted. I could spend the whole day out there if I wanted too, and if I was carrying a highway department clipboard I could stay out there without being hassled by the man. I probably got spoiled flying as crew though. Even when crammed into a navy gut wagon/airliner I'd be manifested as crew (for the alleged purpose of collecting flight skins) and treated as a fellow surly bonds slipper rather than as self-loading cargo. I enjoy the actual flying part of the commercial air travel adventure, but for me that's a few moments of delight bookended by unnecessary misery. I do love those moments though.

    1. I have always been in the position of being self-loading cargo. As long as I have a window seat and the idiocy of my fellow humans is kept to a minimum, I enjoy myself.

      I have also met some very nice people in my travels. Might be a post in that!

  2. The TSA people don't bother me. They are not very friendly...they are not supposed to be friendly...they are supposed to make you nervous, not comfortable, they are looking for signs of nerves or panic that may indicate you are hiding something or have bad intentions.

  3. Yeah, the airlines and the TSA are easy punching bags, especially recently. But while flying in a crowded metal tube may not be pleasurable, it's far more preferable than long distance driving, where an entirely other class of idiot can be found.

    1. And the ee-jits on the highway are far more dangerous.

  4. Everything you've said Sarge is true and I agree. The problem is that both the Airlines and TSA have managed to piss away virtually all good will built up over the years by the good people in both organizations. When coming back from London, I screwed up and left my belt on when I went through the detector. That bought me the full scan treatment. The difference was the British version of TSA was polite and courteous as they did it. When he finished, he thanked me. And I thanked him.

    Watching others get that treatment in the US, the attitude is "this guy has it coming and I get to be the one who gives it to him".

    Why? Why would you do that?

    Is that flight more safe because you made his life miserable? It probably is more safe because you searched him, but more safe because you made him miserable? I don't think so.

    Both the flight crews, ground personnel and TSA are paid to do a job that involves working with people, not cattle. Part of that job involves, most definitely, their cooperation. That cooperation is more likely if you begin the process by treating them well, continue treating them well when things don't go their way and still treat them well as they leave your responsibility.

    This clip summarizes it best.

    You may, at some point, actually need to drag someone off the airplane. United wasn't at that point. And any goodwill that United may have had is gone. Everybody will approach the flights with their guard up, making any request for cooperation that much harder to re-accomodate.

    1. I'd like to think those are isolated incidents. It's unfortunate that things were handled badly. To me it signifies two things: very bad leadership and piss poor training. We've all seen that. In most of our jobs there aren't folks with cell phones standing by. This phenomenon is bad in some ways, good in others.

  5. I always try to make one of the TSA folks smile. They don't get much encouragement.

  6. Thanks for the post. While I don't entirely agree with you, I don't entirely disagree either. You make some good and valid points. Food for thought.

    Paul L. Quandt

    1. If my readers can make me think, well I need to return the favor. There are often many sides to a story.

  7. We are NOT going to talk about Highway crews and road construction. It is currently orange cone season in western MI for sure!!

    I enjoy flying, but I like driving too. Even though I do it all day long. As an example the end of June I'm driving to the Connecticut shore to spend a week with my parents and sisters to celebrate Mom and Dad's 60th wedding anniversary. But if/when I go to San Diego to see my sisters, I'll fly.

    I've used the train as well as Greyhound, and now flying reminds me more of the bus with the extra hassle of TSA but faster. But when I travel, I make sure I have an extra day so if I get delayed, or stuff happens, it isn't a major tragedy. And since I am one of the rule-follower types, I try very hard to be sure I don't bring stuff on the TSA doesn't like. I figure if I can make things easier for them, it could make it easier for me. :)

    1. Very wise and some most excellent advice!

  8. My wife hates the smell of diesel fumes. I love it, as it reminds me of living on airbases and being close to the planes. Mmmmmmmm. Love that smell.

    That and the actinic smell of a desalination plant. Brings back memories.


Just be polite... that's all I ask. (For Buck)