What do I remember? This, my friends (in no particular order):
1.) Being escorted into the flight deck of a 747SP on a flight from Hong Kong to New York when I was about four or five years old. It was nighttime, and we were flying high above the Arctic...40,000 ft. easy. The captain and first officer showed me around the place--it looked like a big, glowing city, all right in one tiny room. The lights were dimmed, and the instruments sparked with orange and yellow light...it was an absolutely beautiful sight. The navigator on the ship spread out a PA souvenir map of the arctic route, and plotted out our flight path for me on it. I still have that map today, and it's a priceless valuable to me.
2.) Gliding into HNL like a gull gracefully swooping out of the sky on a 747-100...the approach into Honolulu had to be one of the most fun for me, because I'd sit in my seat in Clipper Class and, with the wide armrests, pretend that I was flying the plane myself with a side stick and thrust. I'd mimic every minute bank and engine pitch change, the second after it happened. I felt so cool doing that. Also, the flight attendants thought it was cute.
3.) Delta's Fantastic Flyer magazine, the first (only?) airline magazine made especially for kids. Plus Dusty, the Delta Air Lines Air Lion...anybody remember him? Pawberry Punch was part of this whole kid-oriented marketing ploy...I never got a chance to have any, because by the time we started flying on Delta in the early 90s, I had grown too big for such childish things (or so I thought
4.) Sitting in Clipper Class, enjoying a filet mignon, drinking Country Time lemonade and watching the movie on the headphones. Absolutely heavenly. Even though it wasn't First, the flight attendants treated us like it...though I was just a kid, I got the same service as everyone else. I can't believe how much we used to fly up there, but then again, I guess PA's load factors weren't tremendous during the 80s. Sigh.
5.) Drawing airplanes that I saw on the tarmac, while in an airplane. The beginning of my obsession with drawing aircraft.
6.) Stupidly (and loudly) suggesting to my father that the flight number that we'd be going on (flt 499, DCA-MIA) was similar to that of 401, the Eastern L-1011 that had crashed in the Miami Everglades a decade and a half before. I had been watching the movie about that crash and reading the accident report a few weeks before, and that spooked me. Fortunately, my dad shut me up before many people around me heard what I was saying. Hey, I was a kid, I didn't know any better...
7.) Sitting in the International terminal at JFK at 3 in the morning, watching the bums push their carts around, desperately hoping that some how, some way, the Pizza Hut kiosk would open soon. (Our flight, an A-310 from Heathrow, developed an engine problem on takeoff, resulting in a 3 hour ground delay while the mechanics "changed a circuit breaker. I thought then, and still do now, that our captain was full of it, but anyway...we got into Kennedy really late as a result. Too late to catch the last flight into DC from there, so we were forced to stay at JFK until 6 am, when the first PA Shuttle flight left from LaGuardia. Not a pleasant night).
8.) The pain, the anguish, the heartbreak... the shock when PA 103 went down...I don't like to think about that day, but when we heard the news on the radio...it's sort of like one of those moments in time. Like when Kennedy was assasinated, or when the Challenger exploded...you never forget where you were or what you were doing when you found out. When the world changed for 270 people, thousands of employees, and one eight year old boy.
That's all I have to say about that.
9.) Flying all day to get to corners of the globe...leaving our house at 5:00 in the morning in the middle of the dark twinight to get to Dulles for a 6:30 PA Express flight (Dash-7) to JFK. Then to LAX, and to HNL on a 747-100...total time spent flying: 13 hours and change, plus two-hour layovers in JFK and LAX.
Going to POS (Port of Spain, Trinidad), we'd usually be on PA's 435 from DCA, which flew DCA-MIA-BGI-POS...leave at 1:30 in the afternoon, and getting into Trinidad at 12:30 in the morning or later.
10.) The PA wings, headsets, flight kits (including shaving cream & razor, shoe horn, socks, comb, moisturizer, etc.), soaps, playing cards, etc...all of which I still have today. Things were a lot more free back then...the last vestiges of a bygone era...the pre-dereg era...
11.) Ungodly layovers in MIA and JFK, waiting and hoping to get on a connecting flight home.
Sometimes we didn't get on, and that was disappointing. On our last trip with PA ever, we were going to Nassau, but oddly enough, couldn't get on a flight out. Not to Eleuthera or Key West, or Providenciales, Grand Turk, or *anything*. Everything was full (though our baggage made it to Nassau). So we stayed in Miami and had our vacation there, which was disappointing because I had so badly wanted to fly on PA Express' (relatively) new J-31s, an a/c I'd never flown before. Two weeks later, PA packed up shop for good.
Nowdays, I realize how weird it was that all those flights were full, and yet PA didn't have enough money to forge on. Were passengers, seeing the writing on the wall, using up their WorldPass miles to tropical destinations? Or did PA just get their loans called? I never was too clear on that. In any case, I digress...
12.) Meeting the captains and getting cockpit tours of a Dash-7 at JFK, a 727-200 in MIA, an A-310 in HAM, and 747-100 in JFK. In the A-310 (which was actually on the inaugural flight of PA's AMS-HAM-JFK service), the flight deck was abandoned on our stopover (crew change, probably), and I wandered in there. Imagine, a ten year old all alone in the flight deck of a hundred million dollar jetliner...thank God I didn't touch anything.
I also remember the crew of a particular 727 flight from DCA to MIA which arrived *really* late at night in Nov. 1991...the final days of PA. The captain, who looked extremely tired, walked along with us, smiled, and let me take his picture, even though he was obviously trying to get away to the crew hotel. That meant more to me than anything in the world...even more now, as I realize that this man was smiling, even as the airline he was flying for was crumbling around him. I often wonder what became of that captain, as I still have his picture in my old photos.
I know that most of this is somewhat off-topic, but it's what I remember from flying as a child. Sort of a heavily abridged memoir of ten years of my childhood spent in the sky.
And, for those who think my family is wealthy or something, they're not...my mother was a PA employee for 18 years, and we flew space available.
It was quite a ride.