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Ask The Captain



Meryl writes a weekly column for USAToday.com. The column is entitled "Ask The Captain." You can find it at www.uastoday.com/travel. If you have questions you can ask them by clicking on the appropriate link right from the column or go directly to her



Last Build Date: Wed, 23 Mar 2005 13:31:04 PST

 



Cap'n Meryl taking a London cab for a spin.

Wed, 23 Mar 2005 13:30:00 PST


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Cap'n Meryl's Musical Debut

Wed, 23 Mar 2005 13:28:00 PST

FROM CAP’N MERYLLink to this week’s column at USAToday.com/travel:http://www.usatoday.com/travel/columnist/getline/2005-03-21-ask-the-captain_x.htmCap’n Meryl’s Musical DebutFor some reason, the past couple of weeks inparticular, I’ve had a few dozen people write tome, telling me they had finally listened to theaudio clip on my book page and as a result ordered“The World At My Feet.”Whether or not you’ve read my book, this clip isworth listening to. It’s about 7 ½ minutes longand is a REALLY funny excerpt from a radiointerview I did in 1983, before I was with mycurrent airline. It has to do with a run-in I oncehad with the Goodyear Blimp when I was a militaryair traffic controller.There were four hours of interviews (two two-hourshows) which I have now edited down to about 2 1/2hours, cleaned up with all the commercialsdeleted. Here is a link to the page with theaudio excerpt:http://www.fromthecockpit.com/book.htmI’ve unexpectedly had several requests by readerswanting to buy the entire interview, so Al, theWeb Guy and in-house Technical Specialist, hasbeen busy transferring all my old cassette tapesto CD’s.I was thrilled that the first request for theseinterviews came from a gentleman in Vienna—one ofmy favorite cities in the world. I added a CD ofmusic—-some commercials and songs I wrote andperformed—-as a bonus, although I suppose that’s amatter of opinion; I can think of another word,such as “punishment,” but I’ll let listenersdecide for themselves.So it’s a total of four CD’s including the editedradio interviews plus three commercials and threesongs I recorded while living in Anchorage in theearly 80’s. I’m not much of a singer but I cancertainly carry a tune and the point of the threesongs is that each was written based upon actuallife experiences (as many songs presumably are).All the musical numbers, including two of thecommercials, were played by a group known as “TheMe, Myself & I Orchestra and Choir.” Clever,don’t you think? Every track is my voice or aguitar, keyboard or mandolin part.I’m not actually in one of the commercials, butAl, the Web Guy and Senior ExecutiveVice-President in Charge of Absolutely Everything,insisted I include it as I wrote and directed it,and it won a writer’s award. All threecommercials are only 30 seconds long.The first song is called “The Boat Song” and is asort of lullaby or folk tune with one guitar part(all guitar parts in these songs was on my twelvestring) and a three part harmony. There are twomandolin parts as well, using a really cheap,never completely in-tune one I bought in Russia.The radio talk-show host who did these interviewsbecame a close friend and I went out on hishouseboat many times on the Prince William Soundin Alaska. The song was written with him and hislove affair with his boat in mind. In the earlyeighties, when I wrote this song, I had to record it several times over, each time adding a track: There are three voice parts, a guitar and twomandolin parts for this song.The second song is called “Far Away From Home,”partly written in the early seventies on a Russiantrain ride after all the drunken Red Army soldiersfinally passed out (if you haven’t read my book,see what you’re missing?) It’s a solo voice partplus guitar and a duet played on the same REALLYcheap mandolin which, incidentally, I bought in aRussian “Beriozhka Shop” which basically means“Dollar Store.” That should tell you somethingright there. Not quite in tune, but just all partof the “charm.” (“Charm” is the word I’ve decidedto use.) On the train itself, as I was writing thesong, I used one of the balalaikas I had justbought, the ones I referred to in the book as“dead bodies” to the humorless East German BorderBoys as I was crossing from East to West Berlin onfoot in the middle of a winter night. Thebalalaikas were “dressed” in my clothes to saveroom in my suitcase.By the way, this seems like as good a time as anyto put in this interesting note: When I moved ayear[...]



Cap'n Meryl's new Book

Tue, 15 Mar 2005 12:36:00 PST

FROM CAP’N MERYL Link to this week’s column at USAToday.com/travel: http://www.usatoday.com/travel/columnist/getline/2005-03-14-ask-the-captain_x.htm Cap’ Meryl’s New Book! I’m happy to report that I’ve reached an agreement with a major New York publisher regarding a newbook. When I went to New York a week or so ago tomeet with my agent and some publishers, the goalwas to get my first book “The World At My Feet” re-released by a major publishing house. “TheWorld At My Feet” was first released by the LorriePress, which I own, making it an independentlypublished book. Although it continues to sell very well through mywebsite www.fromthecockpit.com, through Amazon.comand other online book outlets, and throughnumerous airport and other bookstores, I wanted tosee it go into mass distribution. This reallyneeds to be handled by a mainstream publisher. The result of these meetings was somewhatunexpected. Every publisher I met said pretty muchthe same thing, that they loved “The World At MyFeet” but would have liked to see their ownediting touches, and didn’t want it to end just asI was getting to my current airline (which to thisday prefers not to be named in pieces like this). For those of you who have not read it, this is notthe story of my life as an airline pilot. Rather,it’s the story of how I got to my current airline,combating what seemed like insurmountableobstacles like airsickness, discrimination,limited military flight training open to women atthe time, etc. There are funny (and traumatic)stories along the way. If you haven’t yet read it, you may order it byproceeding to www.fromthecockpit.com and clickingon the picture of the book at the bottom of theHome Page. Put “Subcriber’s Special – FreeShipping” in the comments section when you order,or tell the person taking the order if you use thetoll-free order line. That’ll save you almostfive dollars. One publisher offered a solution which I didn’tanticipate, but I like it for several reasons. The solution is that they have contracted with meto write a new book which will include elements of“The World At My Feet,” but will keep going toinclude life at my current airline instead ofstopping right when I got hired. This is good for me for several reasons. “TheWorld At My Feet” still belongs to me along withall marketing rights. This new book is, ineffect, already partly written. Some of my WeeklyUpdates will be tapped for content, as well assome of the ideas from my “Ask The Captain” columnover at USAToday.com. Also, there were somechapters omitted from “The World At My Feet” likeone called “Cookie Run,” having to do with how Icame to have the opportunity to play the MormonTabernacle Organ even though I’m not an organistand not a Mormon. The new book will amount to a sequel of sorts, andif not a true sequel, close enough. Many readershave written asking me to continue my story to thepresent day, and it looks like they will get theirwish. My publisher, which I prefer to not name just yet(I’m a little concerned, with all the peoplequizzing me about getting their own books topress, about creating an unwanted flood ofinquiries to them), is wonderful. My editoralready seems like a very close friend and I can’twait to get started. Publication is slated forJune 2006. People, including my new editor, want to know whenI’ll possibly have time to write a new book as myschedule seems so cram-packed. The fact is, onlong international flights we have breaks ofseveral hours during which we’re free to eat,sleep, watch movies, eat, read, eat some more, orwhatever. I plan on doing some eating, too. Did Imention that? I like the food on internationalflights. Actually, I just like food. I’ll write this new book during my breaks and alsoon layovers. Very little of “The World At MyFeet” was written at home. To change the subject, yesterday I spoke to theDenver Metro Mortar Board Alumni Group here inDenver. I can’t believe I[...]



Bit O’ Bavaria

Wed, 09 Mar 2005 19:13:00 PST

FROM CAP’N MERYL Link to this week’s column at USAToday.com/travel: http://www.usatoday.com/travel/columnist/getline/2005-03-07-ask-the-captain_x.htm Bit O’ Bavaria This was certainly an interesting week. Itstarted with a trip to New York to meet myliterary agent for the first time face to face.Together we visited some major book publishers inNew York to see about getting “The World At MyFeet” picked up for mass distribution. It was anexciting trip as we visited parts of New York I’dnever seen before. Also, although I’ve ridden thesubway in many parts of the world, including suchcities as Moscow, Paris and London, I’d neverridden a New York subway. Chalk up another firstfor Cap’n Meryl! Feedback was good so we’ll see if a deal can bereached or not. No guarantees. I’m still afirst-time (but not a last-time) author and that’salways a tough sell. Because our last meeting ran late in the day, Imissed the last flight to Denver and opted tospend one more night in New York rather thanconnect through Chicago after such a long dayrunning around New York. By doing this, however, I put myself in theposition of having to fly out again the same day Iarrived home in Denver. My plan was to spend onenight in Denver and fly to Chicago in the morning.It looked to me like my next assignment would bean evening flight to Frankfurt from my home baseof Chicago the following day. However, that trip fell through and the next thingI knew I appeared to be in line for a trip fromChicago to Honolulu first thing in the morning,but too early to arrive in time from Denver evenif I took the first morning flight from Denver toChicago. So I flew from New York to Denver on a Fridaymorning, picked up my uniform, packed my bag forHonolulu, and took off that same night forChicago. In the meantime, things changed again, as they sooften do, and another pilot was assigned to flythe Honolulu trip. So there I was at a hotel inChicago and both the Frankfurt trip and Honolulutrips were gone—assigned to other reservecaptains. It looked like I was in for a several-day stay atmy commuter hotel in Chicago as there were simplyno trips which needed to be covered. Rememberthat I am speaking as a reserve pilot. We’re theones who are on standby all the time to covertrips for pilots who may call in sick, or forcharters, or for pilots who have receivedpermission to drop a trip, or whatever. I’mstill very junior on my airplane, and until I gainsome more seniority as older pilots either retireor switch airplanes, I’m obligated to fly reserveinstead of knowing where I’ll be going a month ata time. Actually, other than the fact it can beinconvenient sometimes to not know what to packbefore heading for Chicago to await assignment, Ikind of like my mixed bag of flying. Sometimes, Ido know before I leave Denver where I’m headed,butnot always, as was the case this time around. I needn’t have worried about being stuck inChicago and waiting for a trip assignment thatwould never come; I was in Chicago for less thantwelve hours when the phone rang and I was askedto go straight to the airport and jump on the nextplane to Washington, DC, where I would spend thenight. The next day, Sunday, I was to fly theMunich flight as the captain had called in sick.Although I am Chicago-based, when other bases runout of crews they look to other bases to provideflight crews. I was thrilled, not because a pilot was sick butbecause, truth be told, I had no idea my airlinewas still serving Munich in the airplane I fly,which is the B-777. In fact, I thought we nolonger even flew to Munich. I tend to be wrappedup in what I do and don’t necessarily keepcompletely on top of our entire route structure.In any case, I was pleasantly surprised. I actually passed through Munich just a few weeksago, as recounted in my piece called “The HillsAre Alive,”http://www.usatoday.com/travel/columnist/getline/2005-01-31-ask-the-captain_x.htmbut other than that I hadn’t be[...]



Keep Your Pants On—Please

Tue, 01 Mar 2005 06:19:00 PST

FROM CAP’N MERYL Link to this week’s column at USAToday.com/travel: http://www.usatoday.com/travel/columnist/getline/2005-02-14-ask-the-captain_x.htm “Keep Your Pants On—Please!” This week’s column at USAToday.com (through the abovelink) features a brand new section of my Photo Gallery,called “A Much Younger Cap’n Meryl.” To go directly tothis Album now click here: http://www.fromthecockpit.com/gallery/thumbnails.php?album=13Some, but not all, of these picture appear in “TheWorld At My Feet.” Because I am still on vacation and not having anycurrent flying adventures (or misadventures), I thoughtI’d take this opportunity to tell you about a flightwhen I was a pilot in Alaska for a long-gone companycalled “Wien Air Alaska.” “Wien” is pronounced Weenand is the family name of the brothers who founded theairline. Before I go on, though, I always like to mention inpassing that a Wien pilot once showed me his pilot’slicense, signed by Orville Wright. I know I’m old, butnot THAT old. It’s just that we sometimes forget, Ithink, how very young aviation actually is. Wilburdied relatively young, but Orville went on to work forthe Civil Aeronautics Administration, which precededthe Federal Aviation Administration. In fact, he wasawarded honorary license #1. Orville Wright died inDayton, Ohio, in 1948, the same city where he was born. I was born in Dayton just five years later. Did Imention I was old? By the way, I have one more thing sort of in commonwith the Wright Brothers other than our city of birth: They had a brother named Loren. I have a brother namedLorin. Close enough. In any case, I was the second woman ever hired at Wien. Although their first woman was a very well-likedAlaskan and had set at least some precedent for women,I was the first female to fly on one of theirthree-pilot B-727 crews. Earlier, the largest airplanethey’d flown had just two pilots—the B-737. I was theflight engineer on the B-727. The flight engineer sits sideways facing a panel of dials and gauges, managingthe fuel, hydraulics, air conditioning and othersystems. Many of the guys hated the fact I was there. Somewere, or at least acted, ambivalent, and some were verysolicitous, going out of their way to let me know they“didn’t mind” my presence in the cockpit. One rather blustery day, I was at my flight engineerpanel doing my preflight chores and was getting readyto go outside and perform the “walkaround.” From aSupercub all the way to a B-747 it is mandatory that anexterior inspection take place prior to each and everyflight. That job generally belongs to the lowest-ranking memberof the crew; in this case, that was me. However, thisparticular captain told me he would do the walkaroundtoday as it was so nasty outside. I protested alittle, but frankly I was too surprised and pleased athis friendly attitude to argue much. I was engrossed in something as he returned to cockpitfrom outside, but upon hearing him utter a string ofrather colorful (and unprintable) words, I looked up tosee what was wrong. Somehow, this captain had managedto rip his pants from the very top inside seam of oneleg all the way to the ankle. I’m still not sureexactly what happened, but he said his pant leg rippedwhen he squatted down too quickly to examine a tirepressure gauge. In any case, he was quite a sight with his leg exposedcompletely outside his pants. We were bound forSeattle, which was about a three hour flight. I toldhim I’d see if I had a sewing kit with me. I usuallykept a small one in my suitcase, the kind some hotelsgive out. Once we were en route, I rummaged around in my suitcaseand, sure enough, found a tiny sewing kit. Aftercautioning this captain that sewing was NOT among mytalents and all I could do was patch him up somewhat,he took me up on my offer. He waited a little bit after we leveled off at ourcruise altitude and then, without saying anything, gotout of[...]



Home On The Range

Mon, 21 Feb 2005 18:19:00 PST

FROM CAP’N MERYL Link to this week’s column at USAToday.com/travel: http://www.usatoday.com/travel/columnist/getline/2005-02-21-ask-the-captain_x.htm Cap’n Meryl – Home on the Range I’m on vacation until the end of the February. So what’s anairline captain do with enough days off to actually gosomewhere fun? Shall I jet off to Bali or some other exoticport? Perhaps take a cruise through the canals of France? A trip to the Great Pyramids of Egypt? I think not. My idea of a good time when I’m not jettingaround the planet for a living—which for me frankly is likea vacation in spite of the long hours—is to just stay home,and that is exactly what I’m doing. I need to be re-trainedon all things domestic, though. I’m dialing “9” every timeI make a call, head for my suitcase when I need clothes, andwho knew they made big bars of soap? I’m not as bad as the retired pilot who allegedly asked hiswife if she’d like to go out for dinner and a movie, butlater had to tell her apologetically, “I’m sorry, Honey, butthe flight cancelled.” I’m almost that bad, though. As I write this, Al, my Web Guy and Senior ExecutiveVice-President in Charge of Absolutely Everything AroundHere is sound asleep as it’s late and he’s a morning person. I, on the other hand, am very much a night person. In myoffice loft I have a view of softly falling snow on therolling plains of Colorado where our rural home is locatedon 28 acres. “Oh, give me a home where the buffalo roam…and I’ll show youa dirty house!” This quote comes to you courtesy of ScottGetline, the youngest of my three older brothers, who usedto spout such witty sayings when we were kids. Come tothink of it, he still does. I mention this because peopleask me who does the housework when I’m so busy all the time. How do I possibly have time to write books—well, one book sofar and hopefully another one on the way—fly airplanes, keepup a weekly column for USAToday.com as well as my own WeeklyUpdate, do constant interviews about the book, column andwebsite, sort through a gazillion emails AND keep ahousehold going? The answer is, I don’t. Al does the cooking, partly becauseI don’t have time but mostly, I suspect, because he’s tastedmy cooking. Anything with over three ingredients is out forme. Also, as far as I’m concerned there’s only one setting onthe stove and that’s HIGH. Again, Al does the cooking. I am equally inept at doing the laundry. Nothing ever comesout right, my whites turn pink or blue or whatever because Iam apparently incapable of performing the art of separatingthe laundry. Sorry, Mom. I know you tried. Vacuuming—that I can do. I’m not saying I do, just that Ican. If you’ve read “The World At My Feet” you mightrecall that vacuuming was the only chore I could managewhile in the Army as well. Everything else I hired out, ina manner of speaking. (If you would like to order a signedcopy of my book, please see the postscript at the bottom.) Our household consists of Al and me, a Chattering Lorrienamed Houdini, for whom my publishing company—LorriePress—is named. True to his species, he talks his head off. He’s a beautiful red, medium-size bird of the parrot family. He says things like “What’s the matter with you?” and “I’m asweet birdie!” Or, if Al or I drop something he’ll veryhelpfully say, “Damn it!” thereby saving us the trouble. Hisvocabulary is better than some people I know. He even“answers” the phone when it rings saying, “Hi! This is Al!” Also, there’s Petey and Charlie Chopper, our two ferrets. They’re fluffy, affectionate and adorable and when they getto smelling not-so-pleasant I just throw them in the tub,lather them up a bit and they’re good as new again. Beingmembers of the otter family they enjoy a good swim now andthen (as do I). If you care to “meet” the family, click here and yo[...]



Over The Pole To The Orient

Tue, 15 Feb 2005 08:49:00 PST

FROM CAP’N MERYL Link to this week’s column at USAToday.com/travel: http://www.usatoday.com/travel/columnist/getline/2005-02-14-ask-the-captain_x.htm Over The Pole To The Orient This week I flew a trip originating from NewYork’s Kennedy Airport instead of from my ownChicago base. Being on reserve means I’m veryjunior in my position seniority-wise. I flyleftover trips that aren’t otherwise covered. Maybe someone has called in sick, or taken somevacation, or whatever. It’s not that unusual thatwe’re sent to another base to cover a trip. I had my choice this day to fly right back toLondon, where I flew my most recent trip, or totake this trip to Tokyo. Even though London wasso much fun and I’m anxious to go back, I neededthe extra flight time for the month and opted forthe Tokyo trip. When I spoke with the dispatcher for the flightfrom JKF to Narita I asked her if we would fly thesame basic route as we would out of Chicago—acrossCanada and just slightly north or south ofAnchorage, Alaska, or if we would fly over theNorth Pole. She responded that normally we wouldstick to the Canadian airways just north of theroute we generally take out of Chicago, but due tosome “closures” in Canadian airspace, today wewould fly over the pole which on some routes savessubstantial time, but on others takes just alittle longer. This day it would cost us an extra 34 minutes offlying time. (This week’s column at USAToday.com– link is at the top – discusses taking short cutsover the pole and over previously unfriendlycountries, like Russia.) When I asked what “closures” meant, she respondedthat it usually means manpower shortages for someareas of Canada. Manpower shortages? Okay, stop right there. Iimmediately pictured three Canadian guys dressedto the hilt in plaid winter clothing, ice-fishingsomewhere on a frozen lake in the middle of theGreat Canadian Nowhere. Here’s how theconversation goes: The first guy says, “Great day for ice-fishing,eh?” Second guy: “Sure is—pass me another beer, eh?” Third guy, looking up as an airliner passes highoverhead heading due north: “Not that much fartherover the pole anyway, eh?” They all laugh, just a little guiltily. So over the pole we went. Well, not quite overthe pole but close enough. We passed within about400 miles of it. We can actually plug a fix intoour onboard computer (NPOLE) and it gives us thebearing (always north in this case) and themileage. The minute the dispatcher said “Over The Pole” Iimmediately and involuntarily tacked on in my head“To The Orient.” It sounded like poetry, so muchso that as each new vista in our flight unfoldedbefore us, verses of poetry appeared unbidden inmy alleged mind. When we arrived at our hotel inNarita, Japan, I sat down and in less than 10minutes penned the poem you see below. Nolaughing, now; some things just can’t be helped. I’ve added some new photos to the Photo Gallerywhich appear in a new section entitled, notsurprisingly, “Over The Pole To The Orient.” Thepictures are in sequence as the flight unfolded.The absence of many pictures on the way home isdue to the fact we took off in the evening and itwas pitch black a good part of the way. I went onmy break and when I returned to the cockpit wewere just going by Lake Erie, so that’s where thefirst picture is on the return flight. I also added some photos to the “Japan” PhotoAlbum. My earlier readers will remember that myfirst trip there I ran my camera battery deadbefore arriving and got no pictures at all inNarita itself. I carry an extra battery now. Here’s a link right to the photo gallery on mywebsite: http://www.fromthecockpit.com/gallery/ Okay, deep breath, here goes Cap’n Meryl’s poem. By the way, I’m old school in that I still believepoems should rhyme. No Haiku for me! Over The Pole To The Orient Over the Pole to the Orient[...]



A Very High Tea

Mon, 07 Feb 2005 21:32:35 PST

FROM CAP’N MERYL “A Very High Tea” http://www.usatoday.com/travel/columnist/getline/2005-02-07-ask-the-captain_x.htm What a fun week this was as I flew my first trip to London! The last time I was in London I was just eighteen and only there for a few days. That was over thirty years ago. I was broke and stayed in the outskirts of London at a place called Pister’s Palace in an area called Child’s Hill. My “room” was actually a narrow bed which was the upper bunk in what amounted to a hallway filled with bunkbeds. These were all occupied by other necessarily frugal students like me. I had arrived from France via Hovercraft over the English Channel to Dover, and from there I took the train up to London. This time I flew in as an airline captain and was treated to a wonderful day of exploring in Westminster, where much of the “good stuff” is: Buckingham Palace, Victoria Station, Parliament and Big Ben, etc. I got lots of pictures after fearing it would rain and I would get none at all. Speaking of pictures, this is a good time to bring your attention to the fact that the Photo Gallery at www.fromthecockpit.com has been completely revamped and improved. It was getting too big and something had to be done, so Al, my Other Half and Web Guy, got us a new program so I can post as many pictures as I want without getting into space issues. You can also register to send email postcards should you wish to do so. When you get to the Photo Gallery, which I’ll take you to directly by clicking on this link: http://www.fromthecockpit.com/gallery/ you’ll see there are different albums, sorted by location. After you click on any Album, say Frankfurt/Austria, you can return to the home page for all the albums by clicking on “Home” on the dark blue bar just above photo, or to that particular Album by clicking on the Album name just to the right of the word “Home.” It’s really easy if you just experiment a little. Note that there may be more than one page in an Album. For instance, in the lower right-hand corner of the London Album you’ll see there are three pages. Another feature is that you may send any photo as a postcard, but you’ll need to register first. To do this, click on the photo you wish to send. Look for the envelope symbol in the dark blue bar, right side. Click on that and then you’ll need to register. It’s really easy. Just look around for the register bar to click on and follow the prompts. It took me just a few seconds to register myself. The title of this week’s Update refers to the fact that although we had an American crew of flight attendants flying over, for the return flight our flight attendants were all British, based in London. Our flight left in the afternoon and just as we were approaching the shore of Newfoundland our relief pilot, who had gone to the cabin to grab some coffee, showed up with a tray of scones and some other goodies along with tea — high tea in both the literal and cultural sense at 38,000 over the Atlantic ocean! Since this was my first London flight I had no idea that there was actually a tea service offered onboard. The delights of air travel! By the way, is anyone by me awed by the fact that a person can visit Buckingham Palace at 11:00 AM and be at home in Denver by 11:00 PM? Yes, I know there’s a time change, but it’s still remarkable that this can all take place in a less-than-24 hour time frame. This happened to be an exceptionally smooth flight both ways and we could actually see the ground on both sides of the ocean. So much of the time the ground is completely obscured by clouds, but not this trip. I included an aerial shot of the Irish coast in the Photo Gallery – London Album. We’ll be changing to a hotel in Kensington in a few months, I understand, but for now we lay over in Westminster right on the Thames. I wa[...]