Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Ask A Pilot

I love airplanes. I generally enjoy air travel, and as a kid entertained the notion of becoming a pilot. Of course, becoming a pilot requires a lot of time, effort and money, none of which I cared to part with when it was so much easier to just go off to college like all my friends, so I never pursued flight as a vocation. I remain fascinated by aviation, however.

I recently stumbled across a very interesting discussion thread in the most unlikely of places. A Delta pilot, who happens to be a gambling enthusiast, started an "ask my about being a pilot or flight in general" thread in the off-topic section of a gambling website. He started the thread a year and a half ago, and is still contributing to it. His online persona is exactly what you would hope for from a pilot of a major airline: knowledgeable, methodical and thorough, with a sense of humor and good cheer.

The discussion thread now numbers over 3600 separate posts. I'm not sure what it says about society, but the first questions all seemed to focus on the salacious: how, and how often, do flight attendants ... attend ... to the flight crew, and so on. However, once the frat boys in the audience got that out of their system, the thread settled into a wide ranging exploration of piloting techniques and practices, aerodynamics, airline industry protocols, and analyses of specific air disasters. (It was a post on another internet forum discussing the Air France 447 crash that alerted me to this one.) The feedback the pilot received from his thread was so positive, he was invited to start a blog with the Smithsonian's Air & Space online magazine. Several readers have also gone on to take private flight lessons as a result of the enthusiasm generated by the pilot's discussion.

If you have even a passing interest in aviation (and can slog through the sophomoric early questions about stewardesses), the discussion is an incredibly interesting and comprehensive peek into the world of pilots and flight.

Summertime Tour

As of this moment, Kelly is here:

She is on a trip to Philadelphia and Washington DC (via a connection through Atlanta) with a gaggle of her recently-graduated classmates. This is a trip the school has been making for many years. Coming on the heels of a year spent studying American history, it should be a prime opportunity to make that history come alive. Their schedule over the next six days is packed with visits to all of the historically significant points of interest in Philly and DC.

I delivered her to the school parking lot at 3:15 this morning. A couple of the kids were running late, but most were there ready to board the charter bus to the airport. The four girls on the trip took a row of seats near the front of the bus; the twenty or so boys all piled into the back. Just when you think they are growing up a little, they let you know that they are still kids.

Kelly is not close friends with anyone on the trip, so she was a little apprehensive about the whole thing, but we know (and she does, too) that it will be an experience well worth having. Our kids will link up with students from other schools for the tour activities, so there will be opportunities to meet people from all over the country.

In the meantime, I'll spend my time watching flight trackers whenever Kelly is in transit.

Overprotective parent update (10:30 am PDT):

Kelly's flight has now landed in Atlanta. The flight from Atlanta to Philadelphia will depart in about 90 minutes. I don't envy the two chaperones (teachers at the school) who must herd their young charges to the right locations at the correct times for the next several days.

Paranoid parent update (3:15 pm PDT):

Our intrepid Moragan youths are learning the harsh realities of air travel. They ended up stuck in Delta's Atlanta hub for three extra hours. They are now boarded on the flight to Philadelphia, due to arrive around 8:30 pm local time rather than 5:30 pm. Kelly called home during the delay; it sounds like all is well. By the time they arrive in Philly, their west coast stomachs will be crying out for dinner, so I hope they can work a late dinner into the schedule. It will be nonstop action for the next few days, once they eventually get to the City of Brotherly Love.

Wednesday, June 08, 2011

Endings, And Beginnings

This spring has differed little from recent prior springtimes in form. The weight, the sheer mass of the season, however, overwhelmed those that came before. Work was busier. Coaching baseball exacted a substantial cost in time spent on the field, awake at night, and, during most other waking moments, in puzzled contemplation of the psychology of 10-year-old boys and their parents. The pastor of the church we attend retired after 29 years of ministry, in the same season that I added the challenge of playing guitar to the singing I was already doing during the services. Volleyball kept up its familiar twice-weekly pace. Cheryl's tutoring business turned into a 10 hour per week (afternoons only) job. Over at all, the skies cast the gray pall, raining throughout Memorial Day weekend and the first weekend of June.

The baseball and volleyball seasons have now ended (more on those to come in other posts), and swim season has begun. The school year ends this week, and with it the departure of most, but not all, of the tutoring clients. The ponderous sense of finality that has loomed over this season comes from one of those endings. Kelly graduates from middle school tomorrow.

She will be leaving the only school she has known in this town. I feel the evening before her first day of sixth grade on my fingertips, when she and I walked around the unfamiliar campus charting out her route from class to class, a new habit at a new school. Even though she quickly learned the layout of the school and the location of all of the classrooms, we repeated that reconnaissance every year the night before school began, just the two of us. I would share knowing smiles with the other parents wandering around the school grounds doing the same thing. We were easing our own fears for our kids as they stepped out further away from us under the guise of helping them quell their anxieties about finding their way around the school.

And now that is over. The next scouting trip we take will be at the high school, where parental guideance will be even more conspicuous and awkward than before. Kelly is looking forward to the next level already, though. She has been drawn in to the volleyball program, which will hold thrice-weekly practices throughout the summer in preparation for an August minicamp and tryouts. She is eager to challenge herself against better players, and in tougher classes.

Kelly did fantastically well in middle school. She was a straight-A student, a video star, a two-year volleyball player, and a valuable aide to several teachers and administrators. We could not be more proud of her. When her name is called tomorrow night at the graduation ceremony at St. Mary's College, it will mark time well spent and accomplishments well-earned. We hope for the same for her as she starts high school in a couple of months.

It breaks my heart that she has to keep growing up, out and away from us to do it.