Sunday, March 23, 2014

One Last Trip

Tomorrow I start the last four-day trip of my career at NewCo, and what is hopefully the last hurrah of my career at the regional airlines. I have an April 7 class date at [nameless major airline] and it appears that NewCo is going to let me go without exacting their last few drops of blood in the first days of April. That's just as well; I have a few loose ends to wrap up before I disappear down to Atlanta for a few months of training, and Dawn and I are also taking a quick trip to the Netherlands and Belgium for her Spring Break next weekend.

It's actually fairly uncommon for Captains of my seniority level to bid for 4-day trips - especially those of us who live in base. I do occasionally bid the more conventionally desirable 2-day trips and daytrips, especially in summer, but for most of the year I really don't mind 4-days. They get me out of Minnesota - a real bonus this brutal winter - and give Dawn time to catch up on the endless test correcting and lesson planning associated with her teaching job. And truth told, I enjoy going out with and getting to know my crew over the course of a 4-day trip. I've made some very good friends over 4-days. With a 2-day or daytrip, you barely get to know a person.

My flight attendants for this last 4-day are, quite coincidentally, old friends whom I've flown with quite a bit and have had some great layovers with. I've never flown with the FO but am told he's a good guy, so maybe there's one more friend to be made before I move on. Perhaps I am looking at my ten years at the regionals with rose-colored glasses now that they're almost over, but I think I will always look back at them as some of the very best years of my life. I've made so many great friends, seen so many neat parts of this country and our world, and enjoyed many quiet moments of sublime beauty in the sky that has become my second home. Sure, the career stagnation has been bothersome at times; I certainly never saw myself spending a decade at the regionals. But I've flown with many good pilots who suffered far more turbulent careers than my own, yet are able to go to work eager to see what the new day has in store. I share the cockpit with these guys and gals for four days at a time, with little to do for much of it but talk of life and our loved ones and our mutual passion for flight, and then talk yet more over a beer or two at the layover, and by the time we part I'm utterly shameful of any thoughts of self-pity I've been harboring over my own circumstances.

I'm growing quite excited to find what the future holds at [future airline] as my class date approaches, though the prospect of such drastic change after a time of prolonged stasis is also a bit nerve-wracking. There's a lot to learn right off the bat, an entirely different culture to adjust to and a new way of doing things to adapt to. I can adjust and adapt, I'm confident of that - I've done it plenty before, in the hungry early days of my career. I just haven't had to do much of it lately. The prospect of a fresh challenge, the first in a while at least where flying is concerned, stirs up the nervous pacing excitement of a fighter before a match.

But first, one last trip to be savored. I'll miss flying the JungleBus quite a lot, and I'll write about that in a separate post. I'll miss being in the left seat for a while. I'll miss being based out of MSP for a while. I'll miss NewCo's interesting, diverse route structure. I'll miss the easy camaraderie that comes from flying with a lot of the same people over the years at a small airline. But for the next four days, I needn't miss any of that - only appreciate it, one last time.