This is LOOONG, but interesting I hope (includes Ambulance Ride, Dealey Plaza, Museum of Flight, Future of Flight & Everett Factory Tour)….enjoy!
So I’m finishing up my Masters in Mechanical Engineering at the University of Arizona and it was time for some interview trips…which is always the icing on the cake…..
I had received a job offer with Boeing Commercial in Everett and an interview with ExxonMobil in Houston all around the same time. The Boeing offer was all over the phone, I had not been flown out for an interview, so they offered to fly me up for a Friday tour of the facilities (including the all important Factory Tour in Everett) and a weekend getting to know the area.
Thus, I figured lets milk this for all its worth and turn it into a week long fully paid vacation. Have ExxonMobil fly me from Tucson to Houston (Visit a friend who’s also an EMT before the interview), then to Dallas (to meet up with my girlfriend who was there on business)…then have Boeing fly me from Dallas to Seattle and back to Tucson. I wanted my girlfriend to meet me in Seattle for the weekend after her business, and it was amazing to find that on AA, I bought her a ticket and a car for $300 cheaper (THREE-HUNDRED DOLLARS) than the ticket alone for the same exact flights!!!!! (DFW-SEA-DFW, she was off to DC after that and her flight was leaving from DFW)…..so from now on I always check their last-minute weekend getaway packages before paying for the ticket alone
MONDAY, OCTOBER 2ND, 2006
CONTINENTAL FLIGHT #3230 (OPERATED BY EXPRESSJET)
LV: TUCSON 3:40P
AR: HOUSTON (IAH) 8:07P
I arrived at the airport and went to the AWA/US/CO counter to check my bag to IAH….it was a really quick ordeal, as there was no one in line. When I was there I checked out the JetBlue counters and still can’t believe they even knew where Tucson was…..I am looking forward to flying them soon!
I then proceeded through security with no trouble…..I love the Tucson airport, small and to the point…..bought a magazine and noticed the new bar that they put in the middle of the West concourse…..kinda cool, but to me, kinda out of place….oh well. Noticed that my aircraft wasn’t there yet ant it was already 3:20P…..however, it showed up soon enough (from IAH) at 3:30P and boarding started at about 3:45P…..go on board, and the only thing I like about these regional jets is when you get to walk out on the tarmac and take in the sights and sounds….the flight attendant chose to absolutely ignore me by staring at the ground. Got settled in and realized that my seat squeaked! The flight wasn’t full, so I was hoping to switch seats, but before I realized it, people had repositioned around and my moving would have meant sitting next to someone (I was on the A side)….so figured I’d just deal. We left the gate at roughly 4:00P and were off to IAH. We taxied over to 29L (29R was still being repaved), and started our roll…..it was kinda cool since I’ve done touch and goes on that runway in the trusty ‘ol C-172 quite a few times. We climbed out over Tucson and enjoyed a very smooth ride. The early evening was beautiful as we overflew El Paso…might I say that it looks nice from 30,000 feet (driving through it, no so much)…..I had a ginger ale and worked on my thesis for a while. Before I knew it we were approaching IAH. We did the standard loop around to runway 27 and taxied over to the gate.
I hoped out of the plane and down to baggage claim, with my bag coming out in a mere 10 minutes or so. I was in terminal B yet my friend was waiting for me in Terminal C, so had to take the pathetic excuse for a train to where she was….I have built Lego trains that I was more secure about riding in than that thing….but nonetheless, I got to Terminal C, and headed to my friends house in the Woodlands
TUESDAY, OCTOBER 3RD, 2006
As mentioned, my friend is an EMT with a local ambulance company in Houston, and she had been promising me a ride for years…..now was my chance. I got up at 5:30a so that we could get ready and head to the station at roughly 6:30a (way too friggin’ early)….it was going to be a 24 hour shift for her, of which I would tag along until 6:30p, and then I would head to my hotel downtown and go to the first stage of my ExxonMobil interview (dinner).
I must say that the station was very nicely equipped with an air hockey table, full kitchen, and all important cable and comfy couches. We got three calls during my stay there. The first came at around 9:30a and it was a lady at a nursing home who was short of breath. We got into the ambulance with sirens whaling….quite the thrill ride! I was told to help out as much as I could without actually touching the patient…thus I gloved up my hands and carried their bags. The second call was a gentleman who was hyperventilating and vomiting at the same time. It was very amazing to me that I walked up with the rest of the crew and was not phased at all by the stench and the sights……maybe I should have been in healthcare….not!......Anyway, this guy was a career alcoholic and when his wife finally showed up it was evident that he was taking a medicine that would make him violently ill if he consumed alcohol (as a way to shock the alcoholism right out of him)……thus, he had brought this upon himself. I was conflicted as I felt bad that he was suffering, but not understanding from the fact that he brought it upon himself. The last patient was a MVA, or a motor vehicle accident. What I found absolutely incredible is that we were the first responders on the scene in the middle of a busy highway, yet, there were already at least 5 tow trucks lined up waiting to tow the cars away. And, beyond that, the guys (obviously from Texas (read: BIG belt buckles)) where flipping coins to see who had first dibs on the tow…….WOW….don’t mess with Texas I guess……..
It is absolutely amazing how nobody in Houston cares to pull over and even merely acknowledge the ambulance with lights and siren….and when they do come too, they just stop in the middle of the road….how rude! Once we got back to the hospital and dropped off the patient, it was very apparent how much the EMTs love the whole Katrina evacuation scenario to this day in Houston. The computer in the break room has a screen saver that says mockingly “Have You Hugged a Katrina Evacuee Today?”……..After some probing, the EMTs there said that there is a pervasive attitude of some select evacuees (along with other idiots) to call the Ambulance for stupid cuts and bumps that can hardly be called an emergency (and I will say, with my girlfriend being an evacuee herself, not all are like this of course).
At 6:30p I took a cab ride from the woodlands and then checked into the Magnolia Hotel downtown (quite the swanky digs….they have milk and cookies at 9P every night). Then went to dinner at some really high-class (read: Big Oil Money) steak place downtown to kick off the ExxonMobil interview.
The next morning went to my interview in the ExxonMobil building downtown (next to the old Enron Buildings), which went very well. However, it helped to confirm what I had deduced after interning with EM in Fairfax, VA…..quite a conservative company that serves to snuff out the innovative spirit anyway they can….but they make sh*t loads of money, so why not get on board?.....hmmm, a bit skeptical…..
After the interview, I caught a “limo” (which is just a standard Lincoln town-car) to the airport. I have a wonderful chat with the driver, who grew up in Azerbajin and lived in Iran (a place I would love to visit).
CONTINENTAL FLIGHT #2373 (ORIGINAL PLAN)
LV: HOUSTON (IAH) 5:30P
AR: DALLAS (LOVE) 6:33P
CONTINENTAL FLIGHT #???? (BACK-UP PLAN)
LV: HOUSTON (IAH) 9:04P
AR: DALLAS (DFW) 10:15P
Unfortunately, due to the late arrival to the airport after the long day of interviews, I was unable to make my original flight, and thus was put on a flight that would leave Houston at 9:00P instead…no problem, right? Wrong….so I chilled in the airport and showed up in terminal B for my flight at 8:20P only to find out that the flight to Love was delayed until 11:00P……that’s not good, my flight to Seattle was leaving DFW at 11:40a the next morning and I wanted to spend some quality time with my girlfriend. I ran up to the counter and pleaded with the lady to see if there was another option (say flying into DFW instead)…..problem solved with that, there was a flight to DFW at 9:04P, with plenty of room, so scored myself an aisle seat (not ideal, but better than nothing)….I had to book it though, so got onto the above ground monorail type thing over to terminal C to catch my flight. Showed up just as boarding was starting. From what I could make out it was a 737-300 and I was in seat 8C. I don’t remember too much as I was dosing in and out from a long day….but arrived into DFW at around 10:15P and was at baggage claim by 10:25P. BIG PROBLEM….bag was still being sent to Love on the original flight….damn, oh well, my suit would have to last me through tonight and hopefully I’d get it the next morning.
Took a cab to the Fairmont hotel downtown (and might I say, damn, Dallas is a far drive from DFW…..from the airport the buildings don’t look that far, but its far…..). Got to spend time with the girlfriend which was awesome. Next morning, she was up early, I slept a little longer with the intention of checking out Dealey Plaza. I figured that perhaps my 11:40 flight was too early, so called up and found out that I could stand-by for the next flight to Seattle at 12:55P (with 40 open seats, so no worries). I called Continental to find out why my bag was not delivered to the hotel in the wee hours of the morning (the first of many calls over the next few days, only serving to prove to me how dumb and in the stone-age the baggage department at Continental is). They said it would be delivered in the morning….fine I said, leave it with the concierge.
I had been wanting to visit Dealey plaza for years and years….I for some reason am always transfixed with events that have conspiracy theories surrounding them (although its more fun laughing at how moronic such theories are after using 1 minute of logic). I hoped in a cab and was at Dealey plaza in like 5 minutes. Walking out onto Elm Street was really cool, but at first I didn’t recognize anything, but then I put all the pieces together. The first thing I noticed was that they have painted two “X”s in the middle of the road: the first to denote the first shot, the second to denote the fatal shot. I can only imagine tourists braving traffic to “stand where Kennedy was shot”…..god help us all, let the man rest in peace. I walked around for a bit and then a man in a “stylish” mesh see-thru jersey ran up to me with newspaper print of all the facts/conspiracies behind the events in Dealey plaza claiming he was a sort of guide. His name was Everett and was nice enough, I didn’t have much time to just waltz around, so figured he could give me the main points. He showed me the grassy knoll, the place where Zapruder was standing, and crossed elm street to show me where the third shot ricocheted off of the cement next to a man hole cover and of course, the book depository. The guy was talking amile a minute about all of the random crap that happened, I doubt it was all factual, but whatever, he made me laugh. I gave him a tip, and was off to the Kennedy memorial one block east. The memorial is a concrete mecca with four sides making a cube, and what looked like an old fountain inside the concrete cubes. There was nobody around and for what I saw, nobody seemed to have cared about this monument, or whatever it was, for years…..kinda sad, but I guess time goes on.
Back to the hotel to say goodbye to my girlfriend, who was at a conference and to find my god damn bag…of course, no sign of it. Called Continental and they had no record that I even called in the first place. I told them that now they need to send the bag to Seattle now….arghh!.....
I caught a van to the airport for like $20, which I figured was a steal compared to the cab that cost me $50 the night before. We passed by Texas Stadium and the first thing that entered my mind was where the hell do people park? From the highway it looks like the stadium as a small ground level parking lot that is surrounded by highways…..hmmm…….
Got to the airport, Terminal A to be exact, and headed to check-in. I have to say, although AA is my preferred carrier and I’ve been through DFW at least 50 times in my life, I have to say that DFW is the most depressing and un-inspirational airport on earth! It is so spread out, but stuck in the 80s its amazing to me. At check-in I met two AA ladies who helped me get a boarding pass to SEA…..any bags to check? Arghhhh (standing in my wrinkled suit)…….One of the ladies noticed my drivers license was from Arizona (with the famous expiration date of 2045) and we chatted about growing up in Tucson for a while. After than, went through security and headed to the gate. Figured I’d get some grub, so stopped by the Au Bon Pain and got a chieck sandwich, which wasn’t half bad.
AMERICAN FLIGHT #1661
LV: DALLAS (DFW) 12:55P
AR: SEATTLE (SEA) ~2:30P
I got a window seat in the emergency exit row (21F), which to me is as good as domestic first class any day. Another thing that adds to the whole DFW sucks mantra I was going through earlier is the fact that there are like 2904328480 examples of the MD-80 in DFW, or anywhere AA flies…..a comfortable plane, but not that exciting, was hoping for a 757 or something…..oh well
Flight left the gate on time and we taxied over to 36R for an immediate departure. Flight was uneventful other than for the NICEST flight attendants that I have ever met in my entire life. They practically did a continuous beverage service (once they got to the back of the plane, they started over again at the front)…..I actually declined beverage service towards the end of the flight because I had enough! (which is rare for me)…..As we started the decent and they collected the trash, one of the flight attendants went row by row and personally thanked everyone for flying American and wishing them a pleasant day in Seattle (with the sweetest texas accent ever). I kick myself for not writing down their names to send a compliment card to the company.
We descended down and had a spectacular view of the southern parts of seattle….first thing I sad as this looks like heaven on earth (I had been there once before and didn’t remember it as being this nice). We glided down for a smooth landing on 34C and taxied over to the gate. The new wing where AA has its gates is beautiful and stunning, for me at least. I went down to baggage claim to find the car rental place. It was nice that the car rental facilities are in the attached garage at the airport, no sh*tty shuttle buses here! Scored myself a snazzy forest green Pontiac G6, which has got an incredible amount of power and made me reconsider, albeit only for a moment, my personal preference to only buy foreign autos…....call me unpatriotic, but there is no comparison……..
My hotel was in downtown Everett, so I needed to make my way up I-5, however, driving from the airport included passing by Boeing Field and the Museum of Flight….obviously a must see.
MUSEUM OF FLIGHT
I drove around Boeing Field for a bit, trying to get some pics from different angles and hoping something big would land or takeoff…..biggest thing was a Cessna 172…damn….I then head to the museum of flight. I had just missed the closing of the walk through of the Concorde across the street, dammit! But, there was a Da Vinci exhibit that just opened the week before, so I wasn’t all too disappointed. Da Vinci was one smart motherf……….there were incredible replicas of his many inventions that spanned the field of defense, maritime, aviation and construction. A must see! I toured the rest of the museum with the other highlight being the history of Boeing airplanes found in the red barn. Its amazing to see the history that was started there that led into the massive jumbos that we have today. Afterwards, I went up to the observation deck which has exhibits to help you identify airplanes, listen the radio communications, etc……for anyone with a private pilot’s license or higher, it’s a bit cheesy, but I got a fairly good view of Mt. Rainier from there.
From there, I decided to drive up to Everett. The drive wasn’t too bad, however Everett is farther from Seattle than I had remembered, about 30-40 minutes. I got to my hotel and settled in before driving around to explore to find some dinner. First impressions of Everett is that it’s a dump with its only real highlight being the event center downtown…..all I kept saying is please tell me its possible to commute from Seattle if this were the offer I was to take.
FRIDAY, OCTOBER 6TH , 2006
BOEING EVERETT FACTORY/FACILITY TOUR
I woke up around 7:30a and called the front desk to see if my bags had arrived from Continental (I had given them the address)….nope, nothing down there…called the airline again and they said that it was still in Dallas….no worries, only day 3 for the trusty ‘ol suit…..so I ironed it and sprayed Axe body spray to cover up anything.
I got in the car and drove the 10 minutes over to the factory and my first impression when I drove up to the visitor’s parking lot (in front of the building next to the factory) was wow, nice building. I strolled in and met my host for the day. She was a recent hire from Univ. of Illinois, in aero engr. I got my visitor’s badge and went in the building to visit with some people in the structures group that I would be working with. After the formalities and random questions, it was time for the excitement, the Factory Tour.
We walked across the street and into the famous building, the largest one in the world by volume. If I could’ve taken pics I would’ve, but no go. It is extremely impressive inside, but for some reason I thought it would be bigger. There are walking paths along side the roads weaving through the plant. You have to watch out for the various people of bicycles weaving in and out of pedestrians. On the side that we came in on there were some random parts of the horizontal stabilizer on the ground, but not much else. I guess this is the spot where they’ll start the 787 production, but not too sure about this. Walking over into another section, the tail of a 767 peaks out. The first one we came to was a 767F for LanChile, IIRC. Its amazing how every employee in the company can walk into the factory whenever they want. We walked up to the massive jet and checked out the landing gear and some of the other parts that the workers were installing. At this point, the bird is unpainted and there are weights where the engines should be. We walked up the ladder and into the belly cargo hold where other employees where installing random wires, etc.
As we were walking out, my host directed my attention to the cranes at the top of the building. She mentioned that it is rumored that the crane operators are the highest paid employees in the non-management workforce because of the years needed to perfect their craft. She mentioned that no major movements occur during the day shifts, with most movements of fuselages, etc., being a night (so that the risk of hurting people is minimized). The building has four large hangar doors, with each of the doors having a line of planes behind it, where when the plane reaches the door, it is fully assembled and ready to be towed across the road to the paint hangar.
The 767 in front of the Lan Chile one I think was for Shanghai Airlines, and the entire Chinese delegation was there to take a tour of the assembly….it was quite impressive to get such an incredible international feel for these products. Beyond the planes, which are impressive enough, the next most impressive thing is the multitude of Tully coffee joints that are found throughout the factory (one was right under the wing of a being assembled 777). There are also banks, gift shops, computer facilities and a full cafeteria. You could probably survive for months in that place and never have to leave.
After the visit, I drove around Paine Field for a bit, and took some pictures and tried to get a closer look at the flight line (with the newly painted jets). The two TAAG 777s were there along with a bunch of Singapore 777s as well. I noticed that there was a future of flight museum on the north end of the field, so decided to check it out. The parking lot provides the best views of the main runway at Paine Field. However, the actual Future of Flight, which I guess was built just recently is a waste of money. I don’t even remember how much I paid, but the major exhibits include at 747 stabilizer (taken from storage at Marana-Pinal, just another AZ plug), a Mitsubishi Eclipse fitted with a 787 paint-job, a 787 mock-up and computers where you can “design” your own airplane…..which was all kinda lame when compared to the museum of flight of the flight museums in DC (Smithsonian)…….oh well, I bought myself a diecast 744 (no 777LR in stock, damn) in the gift shop and had a chat with a gentlemen who had recently published a new version of his book about Boeing. I guess this guy was an engineering, then he got an MBA and sold airplanes in South America….I was very interested to talk to him about his experiences, since I might be following in his footsteps….but he was more interested in telling his sob story about his pension not being enough money to live on, over and over, and almost begging passer-bys to buy his book. He was polite, but his attitude was off and not inspiring….oh well, I bought the book anyway.
I spent the rest of the weekend with my girlfriend, who flew in on Friday night and enjoyed a great time in Seattle. This has to be one of the most friendly places on earth, which I relate to coming from Tucson, which is very friendly as well.
MONDAY, OCTOBER 9TH, 2006
All good trips must end sometime and it was time for my girlfriend and I to leave the hotel in Everett and go to the airport. Our flight would be leaving at about 11:40a, thus giving us time to go downtown one last time to have breakfast in front of Pike’s Place Market (and to buy a Salmon for my dad to bring back on the plane). Oh, and my luggage finally showed up on Saturday……..wonderful….
AMERICAN FLIGHT # 2350
LV: SEATTLE 11:40A
AR: DALLAS (DFW) ~5:30P
EQP: 757 (Ex-TWA)
We got to the airport and I returned the car, then proceeded to the AA check in counters to get all checked-in. The gentleman was very friendly, and helpful in getting us checked-in. My girlfriend was connecting in Dallas to DCA on another AA flight, but different reservation code. I was going to Tucson on the same code, so no worries. In the end, the guy had to write out by hand the tags on her bags because the computer couldn’t take it…(brain surgery and space travel, yet the computer system cannot blend two reservations…hmmm). We also asked for upgrades, since I had some miles saved up to burn, and received them for the flight to DFW. Anyway, proceeded to security worried that for some reason the new TSA rules would label my Salmon as a possible method to bring down an airliner and refuse my ability to carry it on……luckily there were no problems and we proceeded to the gate. I quickly saw that it was an ex-TWA bird we’d be flying….not that excited as I didn’t know what to expect, but a 757 nonetheless…..We pre-boarded with the first class cabin and were seated in the last row on the left side. Immediately it was made known that the lavatory behind us would make a continual noise the entire flight. Then, we were slightly delayed because the caterer had forgot to load the alcohol on the plane (flashes of the “we ran out of coffee” scene in Airplane! Flashed through my head). Everything was loaded up right and we pushed off the gate at around 11:50A…..the safety demonstration was supposed to be completed on the video monitors that drop down from above the seats. However, for some reason the tape player didn’t work and the screen two rows in front of us got into this possessed cycle of opening and closing over and over and over……..thus they nixed it, which also meant no movies to be shown on this flight. Oh well.
We took off immediately from 34R and climbed out over downtown Seattle and banked right for a close-up view of Mt. Rainier. Which was absolutely stunning. The lunch for the first class cabin consisted of an UNO’s Mushroom Deep Dish Pizza, along with a salad (and fresh backed cookies for dessert…., the flight attendant asked my girlfriend and I if we were traveling together, a bit perplexed I said we were and asked why…because she had cut the cookies wrong and made a huge one and a not so huge one, thus if we were flying together, we could duel it out…which obviously she won, because its like that with women….it just is). The pizza was actually damn god and since the little lady couldn’t finish hers, I cashed in on a bigger portion for myself. She had a bourbon on the rocks and I had a red wine…..we are trying to act like high rollers in first class with the big drinks, but in the end, we’re not……Flight ended smoothly in DFW on time and we taxied over to a gate in the A terminal.
AMERICAN FLIGHT #393
LV: DALLAS (DFW) ~6:00P
AR: TUCSON ~6:10P
We hoped on the sky train thing to get over to Terminal C, my connection was a tight one, while hers wasn’t leaving until 7p or so. Much to my surprise is that I was given a seat in first class, which I saw on my boarding pass, however I hadn’t asked for an upgrade on this leg…..I think somebody may have screwed up…oh well, good for me….We said our quick goodbyes and I was on the plane back to Tucson! Take-off was swift from 18L with not much wait and we were off into the wild blue yonder. Got a great view of downtown Ft. Worth. The meal this time around was a grilled chicken with rolls served in a bread basket. The cheesecake for dessert was quite delightful (a swirl of vanilla and chocolate) along with the standard salad. All in all it was nice, but not worth whatever the paying customers around me were paying that’s for sure. As a last rant about domestic first…..the seat is “wider” but for me much of that “wideness” is taken up by the large armrest where they put the drinks. Plus, I’m 6’4” and the extra legroom is nice, but not incredible…its still hard to get comfortable…..oh well…good food nonetheless. We cruised into Tucson just as the sun was setting….and it was one of those oh so beautiful Tucson sunsets (we get probably 300 stunning sunsets every year….and I’m serious, find me anywhere that consistently competes with ours….)…..and had a very interesting approach. Since the main runway was still closed, we came in over the Rincon Mountains and made a bee-line over Davis Monthan to Runway 21. Once we touched down, the pilot put on the thrust reversers, but didn’t slam on the brakes until halfway down the runway, which concerned me for a second, but figures it was no problem, which in the end it wasn’t and we taxied uneventfully as the last rays of the sunset disappeared. A perfect ending to quite a trip. I hope all of you enjoyed this incredibly long trip report.