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Monday, July 30, 2012


Missing Man Formation.
Recently I experienced one of the greatest—and most heart-rending—honors a modern airline pilot can have:  Captaining a flight that is transporting a fallen soldier to his final resting place.

Escorting the hero was a military honor guard consisting of two of the soldier’s comrades, and two young Marines.  Also onboard were the man’s father and a lovely, devastated young woman—girlfriend? Wife? Sister?  I never found out.  I never learned the soldier's name, either.  Or his rank.  Or how or where he died.

But it didn't matter.  Because, like the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, he was ours.  He was us.
Coming on the heels, as it was, of the Aurora movie theatre tragedy, this flight was particularly poignant for all passengers and crew as well.

Comrades and Honor Guard salute the Fallen...
...and then crisply march away...
As soon as our preflight duties were finished, I ordered the gate agents to allow the party onboard.  They were escorted down to the ramp, where they presided over a short ceremony as the casket was loaded into the forward cargo hold.  Simple, precise and crisp, the military detail saluted the casket then made a sharp about face to march away, reminding me of the Missing Man Formation often flown by jet fighters.*

The Missing Man pulls out of formation...
For six hours as we crossed the country, I contemplated my speech.  As Captain of the flight, I was expected to say a few words upon arrival.  At Top of Descent, I took a deep breath and keyed the PA:
“Ladies and Gentlemen, this is your Captain speaking.  I’d like you to pay special attention to this announcement.  (pause)  Today we have the great, great honor of escorting one of our fallen soldiers to his final resting place.  
“Also on board, you may have noticed, is a military honor guard as well as family and loved ones of the deceased.  I would like to personally request that, upon arriving at the gate, out of respect for our fallen hero, you remain seated as the party deplanes to meet their loved one planeside.”
And for his loved ones, I saved the best for last.

“And to those of you worried about connections, I would like to say that we are arriving thirty minutes early.  That is because Air Traffic Control, aware of our status as an escort flight, cleared us ‘Direct to Destination’, in honor of our precious cargo.  (deep breath, trying desperately not to choke up)  Ladies and Gentlemen, in my 30-plus years  of flying, I have never witnessed such a gesture.”

It was true.  Despite pushing back from a major hub airport during rush hour, Ground Control cleared us straight to the runway, Tower immediately cleared us for takeoff, and Center direct to his final resting place.

It was my leg.  I am proud to say that, in honor of the fallen, I was able to make one of my smoothest-ever “greaser” landings, and rolled quietly down and off the runway to the gate.

The entire cabin was quiet and still as the solemn party proceeded off the plane.  I emerged from the cockpit just in time for the father to say to me, with tears in his eyes, a quiet, “Thank you.”
“It was an honor,” I replied.  “Take care, sir.”

God paints a gorgeous sunset to welcome the Fallen to his final resting place.
The party had another brief ceremony planeside as the coffin was loaded onto a specially-painted black tug and cart and driven off-airport.

Crew and Passengers' mood: somber and reflective...
Needless to say, the mood among the crew was somber and reflective.  That was, until a small girl, no more than 4, marched up to the cockpit and loudly proclaimed, “Hi, pilots!  My name’s Gwennie!  But really my name’s Gwendolyn!”  Our hearts melted, putty in her charming little hands.

...And then a little passenger's innocent joy breaks the somber mood...

And then it hit me.  That little girl.  So full of joy.  Of innocence.  Of life.  That’s why our hero had sacrificed his.

And it was not in vain.

"To fly West, my friend, is a flight we must all take for a final check."
—Author Unknown**

I did not have the honor of serving my country like my father, brother and nephew.  It is to them—and to our Fallen Hero and his loved ones—that I dedicate this piece.


*For more info on military escorts, see:
For more info on the Missing Man Formation, see:

Missing Man formation flown by Huey helicopters (traditional for Viet Nam Vets); Missing Man peels off at 1:56 mark. Thank you Allen:
While doing research, I also stumbled upon a wonderful Captain’s blog, now defunct, with a strikingly similar story: 
Air Traffic Controller Alex shared this beautiful story from the "other side of the mic":
A Controller's Story
**Related poem:
A wonderful music video found by Miss TWA (
Travelin' Soldier
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Thursday, July 26, 2012

VLOG: Zen & the Art of Landing—Postponed :^(

Profuse apologies, folks, but due to several technical glitches--including a major hard drive crash--my next Vlog,
has been unavoidably delayed.  I will post ASAP.

Landing--like kissing--comes in many varieties.  Cap’n Aux explores them all!
(Uh, the landing part, mostly.  But, ya, also the kissing part.  That too!)

Thursday, July 19, 2012

INTERLUDE: Crazy Glider "Controlled Crash!"--1st Person View!

Here's a great vid of a glider "Controlled Crash!"
Giving credit where credit is due, please visit Sulako's Blog 
( ) to view it!!
Here's a pic of what you're gonna see!:
Bonus LInk:  A killer OshKosh Promo!:

Thursday, July 12, 2012



  With the family on our annual "River Trip" to the California Sierras--
a tradition started by Dad and Grandpa pre-WWII!

Hello, you’ve reached Cap’n Aux.  I’m out of the flight deck right now.  In fact, I'm off backpacking some random corner of the globe!

So, I thought a few quick travel tips gleaned over the past (X) decades might be apropos, and perhaps suffice to cure your Airline/Adventure fix for the week...

As mentioned in a previous blog, the best travel tip I ever received came from my dad: "When you plan a trip, first lay out on your bed everything you want to take.  Then, put away half the clothes and take twice the money."
But of course, there are Essential travel tools.

Ideally, try to limit yourself to:
-1 big backpack/roller board, and
-1 sturdy day pack/carry on.  

  Backpack/rollerboard, with detachable day pack
--the only way to go!

I LOVE the new all-in-one backpack/rollerboard/detachable day packs now available out there.  Perfect for world travel!

**slaps head** Now why didn't I think of that?!

PS: I have used the same wonderful, sturdy fanny pack since college (thank you, Julia!)

Miss TWA's personal shoe-toting carry-on!

In the Daypack/Carry on:
-Boarding pass(es)!!
-ear plugs
-eye masks
-blow up pillow
-Local map: You can't beat the ones that the car rental places give out!  Ask for one at the counter even if you're not renting their car.
-Compass, strapped outside of pack (essential when emerging from a subway/train station/airport in a foreign city!)
-1 used, thick paperback
-1 change of shirt or equivalent
    While we all may cherish our Kindle or iPad (see below), nothing beats a paperback that you can toss around, beat up, read during taxi and takeoff, and...TRADE!!  And it NEVER runs out of batteries!
-Small sketchbook/journal, pen/pencil
-power converter plug(s) for the appropriate country(ies)

-a VAGUE--not set in stone!--plan.


Images reprinted courtesy of (i.e. blatantly stolen from) Synz at From Sea to Summit blog:

CLOTHES-Unisex version
Depending on climate:
-light rain resistant, hooded jacket
-1 or 2 zip off pants<-->shorts
-at least 1 long sleeve, button/collar shirt
-1 or 2 t-shirts, but NO MORE! (buy local souvenir shirts as u go!)
-Swim suit/workout shorts
-a few undies n sox
-squishable, rain repellant hat
-cheap, ditchable sun glasses (if prescription, take your old pair!)
-plan to dress in layers, as the climate demands. Ex: undershirt, long sleeve shirt, sweatshirt, jacket...

Indiana Jones--my inspiration for practical world travel!

-1 pair of nice hiking shoes (they will be your dress shoes, walking shoes, etc!)
-1 pair of sandals (optional, or could purchase at destination)

  Uh, minus the whip...Petra, Jordan

Plan to wash your clothes every 4-5 days or so; again, buy shirts as you go, as souvenirs!

Let's go on an ADVENTURE!!

-Try not to carry too much cash; what you have, stash in 2 or 3 separate places.  If you get picked or robbed, you still have the other stashes.

  Remember, guys:  practical, versatile shoes!  Uh,'re on your own!!

-In today's modern world, except for the most remote places, you really don't need a plethora of cash.  Credit cards and/or debit cards work great!  And ATM's abound.  Use them to withdraw cash.  They often give the best rate, and the extra charges on are worth the minimal hassle; consider the charges "insurance."  Just withdraw a few hundred at a time, worry free!  Take 2-3 credit and debit cards, all stashed separately.
-Scan of driver's license, passport--2 copies with you, stored separately (if with a travel buddy, trade copies), and at least one back home with a loved one who can fax it in an emergency.
The right backpack(s) is essential! Photo courtesy
(i.e., stolen from) Hedgehogs W/o Borders:

Electronic Extras:
In today's e-age, I can't fathom hiking the Himalayas or exploring the Amazon without my iPhone and iPad.  So, some app recommendations for the smart phone/pad/kindle:
-a buncha books
-a buncha games
-a fully charged recharger

Random Recommended Apps:
-Next Flight -FlightTrack -TripTracker
-AroundMe -Urbanspoon -Yelp
 -Free Wi-Fi  -BedBugAlert
-e-Travel Guide(s) for your trip: Still in the fledgeling stage, but out there.  Lonely Planet has multiple city guides available on apps now; usually, however, you need to buy each separately, which all then load into the one "Lonely Planet" app.  They have a ways to go, however, before I'm really impressed with their e-guide.
-Dictionary/translator app for locals (Can anybody out there recommend a good one?)

Images reprinted courtesy of (i.e. blatantly stolen from) Synz at From Sea to Summit blog:
Travel guides: Ever since my virgin international sojourn to Japan in 1986, my personal favorite guide has always been Lonely Planet; amazingly candid and non-commercial, I felt it was speaking to my very soul (I still remember the quote that sold me:  "The Japanese can read and write English flawlessly.  They can spot the difference between a gerund and a gerundive at 60 paces; but they can't order lunch.")
My best friend swears by Rick Steves.  The College budget backpack crowd swears by "Let's Go" series.  My other best friend just swears...And you can never go wrong with a good Frommer's!
-Gifts: bring a bunch of little trinkets from home: IheartNY key chains, Grand Canyon buttons, etc., to give as gifts to those you meet.  You'll be repaid in kind - exponentially!

  Now that's one savvy traveler!

-As a "non-rev" (flying non-revenue standby), I try to NEVER check my luggage; if I get bumped, my bags could fly without me; conversely, who among us hasn't had the lovely experience of our checked luggage getting rerouted to the rings of Saturn?
-As for hotel roomsNever by the elevator! Never by the ice or drink machine! Never above the 7th floor (limit that the firetruck ladder can reach!)   Never by the Honeymooners!  Never by the drunk frat/bachelor/bachelorette party!  Never by the freeway! Of course, this may leave few options left.  If stuck, turn on the a/c, stick in those earplugs, and do your best.  Or...go join the party next door!

  Home sweet home!  Er, coffee shop...Petra, Jordan

Anything I skipped or missed?  Got a good travel tip??  Please comment, or contact me at!