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Time for my regular pre-flight check-in!

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  • Time for my regular pre-flight check-in!

    Since I found out about SOAR it has become a routine for me to come to this forum and post before I fly. The last time I flew was June 2016, when I had to rush down to Florida to be at my dying grandmother's bedside. It was fine! Well, the whole experience of watching her pass on was not "fine," though I'm glad I did it. But the flights there and back were fine.

    Actually, thinking about it, in 2016 I flew three round trips, including the June trip (and the return flight was during some bad storms) and the March trip to and from San Diego, where my initial return flight got delayed 12 hours and ended up a red-eye with a connection in Charlotte. And it was ALL fine. I actually slept on the flight from Charlotte to Atlanta out of sheer exhaustion. I think I'm making progress!

    This afternoon I'm flying up to White Plains (ATL -> HPN -> ATL) to go to the wedding of my mother's cousin. So not just my first flight in 17 months, but my first night away from my kids in 17 months. So I've been feeling a sort of low-level stomach-twisting anxiety the last couple of days. Not specifically connected to the flight itself, but just "Oh crap, there's going to be this huge change in the routine today." And also probably some underlying weird guilt about leaving my kids (for TWO DAYS. I come back Monday. Not at all rational. My mother-in-law's taking care of them today and my husband's coming back from a conference tomorrow).

    If I have any actual flight-related anxiety, it's related to this being my first trip on a regional carrier in a while -- ExpressJet, which is apparently "winding down" its relationship with Delta. (ExpressJet DBA Delta Connection is the only Delta flight into White Plains.) I poked around the Airline Pilot Central forums a bit but don't have the expertise to know what the situation is for ExpressJet employees, other than they're not happy about losing the Delta contract (understandably). I mean, at the end of the day the people hired to fly the plane are still going to get it off the ground and back on the ground, because they're professionals. But, you know, I want to be supportive of the professionals. (Also the irrational-anxiety part of me whines about the Colgan Air crash. One time when I flew and I couldn't meet the pilots, I made a point of asking the flight attendants if the pilots had had enough sleep the night before.)

    Anyway -- I hope everybody's doing well. The new forum looks great!

  • #2
    In White Plains now. The trip was AMAZING! Well, the trip itself was routine and a little annoying, but -- let me tell you about it.

    I get to the gate with maybe ten minutes to spare, not enough time to meet the pilot. I chat with the gate agent, who is friendly and reassuring. (And who tells me that Delta hasn't killed employees' families' ability to fly free standby -- that's nice.) We get on the CRJ-900. I spend time practicing buckling and unbuckling my seatbelt, finding the exit, chewing my gum like I'm Violet Beauregarde, reading over the safety info, keeping an eye on the flight attendants to make sure they look like they're just having another ordinary workday (they do).

    We taxi. And there's a very loud, noticeable rackety sound right underneath us. For a moment I start worrying about the wheels. Then I have two thoughts: one, it is far more likely that we would be hearing something between us and the wheels than the wheels themselves; and two, if there was something wrong with the wheels, the pilots would be receiving information to that effect. So I continue sitting and chewing. My hands are a little warm and maybe my heartrate's slightly elevated, but that's the extent of my discomfort.

    We end up going back to the gate because at least one passenger got nervous and demanded that the racket be checked out. After a few minutes (we don't deplane), a crew member (who was DHing, I think) gets on the intercom and tells us that it's some bushings that are no longer muffling noise as effectively as they're supposed to, that the mechanics have looked at them and cleared us to go, that there won't be any noise in flight, and that anyone still uncomfortable is free to get off the plane at this time. (He did not say this in a condescending manner, mind you. Overall I think Delta/ExpressJet handled this very well, and I said so to the crew when I got off the plane.) Maybe one or two people leave. I stay put.

    I will cop to Googling "crj 900 bushings" during the time at the gate just to be sure I didn't find sixteen different links to NTSC reports or pending lawsuits. And when I didn't, I just... stayed put. My brain did not go into panic mode. It was amazing! I know for certain there would have been a time when having to prepare myself for takeoff, twice, plus dealing with a new rackety noise, would have undone me.

    During takeoff I was a little nervous, especially during the part where I could feel the pressure pushing me into my seat. Fortunately it's not a wide plane, so even from an aisle seat I could see out the window clearly. Also I had just reread the part of Captain Tom's book about multiple new pressures on executive function during takeoff. I kept telling myself, "Don't trust what you're feeling or hearing; trust what you're seeing. Are we still above ground? Yes. Are we plunging towards the ground? No. Okay, then." And then after a little bit -- not very long at all -- even that mild nervousness went away and I wrote a letter and worked some of the in-flight crossword puzzle and chewed some more gum.

    My kids are fine, my mother-in-law is hanging in there, my relatives are happy to see me, and I am so, so glad to have made it up here! So grateful for SOAR, once again!

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    • #3
      Thanks for the feedback. I'll be working on the emotional-protection bit. The stakes are higher for my next flight, because it'll be the first time my kids have flown in five years.

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