January 18, 2011

Hi everyone! Happy New Year! I hope that you all had a happy holiday with your friends and family. I had a great time at home over the past month, and got to experience some really awesome things while working at the airport during the winter. Now, classes have started up again, and those seem to be going pretty well thus far too. I will talk about that a little later on in this entry.

On December 15, I finally flew home. That morning, because of the high demand for FAA written tests and the limited capacity of the extremely convenient FAA testing center on campus, I had to take my commercial pilot written exam which, I am happy to say, I did very well on. Even though three hours is allotted for the test, I completed it in less than 45 minutes, leaving me plenty of time to eat, do some final laundry, and finish packing. Then, a car arrived at my dorm to drive me to Orlando International Airport. I was excited because I was going to fly into the airport I work at—Tweed New Haven Regional Airport (HVN)—on a commercial flight for the first time. It was really neat to experience things from the other side and I was able to surprise several co-workers when I flew in unexpectedly.

The very next day, I went back to the airport and started up again working. Since I was only home for a month, I didn’t work any shifts on my own like I did over the summer, but instead helped out people with things they had needed me to do since I went away to school in August. This kept me pretty busy but it was fun anyways. I also had the opportunity to catch up with all of my friends and colleagues at the airport after not seeing them for several months.

Christmas was a lot of fun as usual. On Christmas Eve, we went over to my uncle’s house and I got to see my cousins and other family members.  It was also nice to catch up with them. We tried out a new “tradition” this year in which we all purchased gifts and had a grab-bag exchange. It was very funny and a lot of fun with everyone arguing to get the others’ gifts, etc. I received many nice presents from my family, and gave out some nice ones too. The holiday was very relaxing and that was just what I needed after the hard work I put in the past semester.

The day after Christmas though, the 26th, was much different. Connecticut and the surrounding states got slammed with a blizzard the likes of which we had not seen in years. At the airport, the weather equipment recorded sustained winds of 60 miles per hour, enough to prompt an evacuation of the Air Traffic Control Tower. I was at the mall with my family when I got called into work, and knowing that my 30-minute drive home would be nearly impossible in that weather, plus the fact that I would probably be needed all night, prompted me to pack a bag of some extra clothes and a toothbrush before I went in. Good thing I did, too, as I had to spend the night at the airport.

When I first got in to work, the snow was still just beginning, with minor accumulations. But, what seemed like right after I got in, it started coming down hard and the wind began to pick up. As nightfall set, this just got worse and worse. Because of the blowing snow, many of the parts of the airfield were not covered in a solid layer of snow as it would blow around a lot. However, after the maintenance department hit an area with their huge pieces of machinery, it would be covered again instantly by the blowing snow. Believe it or not, two corporate aircraft were trying to come in, but we closed the airport because of the poor braking action values we were getting on the runways and taxiways. The airport bought us all food and drinks, and it actually was a lot of fun.

As I just mentioned, airport maintenance plows the taxiways and runways with their giant plows and blowers, but operations still does plow some areas, such as the Perimeter Road and the firefighting access locations. It was my first time plowing, but I got the hang of it pretty quickly. The wind was intense and was making it painful to get out of the truck. Moreover, the visibility was so poor at times that I could not see the hood of the truck right in front of me. One time, I thought I was plowing a road, but instead I was in the middle of a grass area. Another time, in this low visibility, all of a sudden a blue flash of light lit up the night sky. It was very eerie but was most likely lighting from thundersnow. I got stuck in a snowbank so deeply one time that the wheels of the F-250 were completely suspended off the ground, and another plow had to come and push me out. It was really crazy. My coworkers and I would rotate positions, and then I would be in the office issuing NOTAMS, taking phone calls, and just coordinating everything in general. We got the airport back open as soon as the storm ended, though, so it was a very successful effort in my opinion.

New Year’s Eve was nice and relaxing for me as well. While I had to work during the day, that night my family and I went out for a nice dinner. I was able to meet my brother’s new girlfriend since I had been away, and that was fun as well. I tried to relax as much as I could when I was home, and that is what I did on New Year’s Eve and Day. I purchased a new TV for my room and got an HD cable box, so I spent a lot of time on my bed watching it.

Then, just a few weeks after the first storm, another significant snowstorm came and a similar response ensued. This storm, however, had been forecast to be minor, so when it ended up becoming a significant snowfall with low winds, it took us by surprise. Many aircraft already on the ground and en route to the airport were surprised as well, so I got many phone calls that night. First, the FBO called saying there were jets wanting to depart. Then, New York Approach control called and wanted a status update on the airport condition. While I was talking to him, the US Airways station manager called informing us that one of their inbound flights, Piedmont 4507, had been struck by lightning over Long Island and made an emergency landing at MacArthur Airport there. It’s very, very rare for this to happen in the middle of a snowstorm, but everyone was safe and they were being bussed in to New Haven. In times like these is when my job is the most fun, with a hundred different things going on at once and it all being your decision. This storm was actually on my last day working, as I took the rest of the time off to relax and be with my family.

I flew back on January 11th, again out of New Haven, and managed to get back to Daytona just before a storm dumped 3 FEET of snow at home. I can’t remember ever having a winter like this at home in my 20 years of living in Connecticut. Usually, too, the snow melts in the days after the storm, but the temperatures have been so cold at home that it just sits on the ground building on top of itself.

Everything back here at school has been very good so far. I like my classes and professors, although I haven’t had a real class yet (just the introduction classes). It was nice to see all of my friends again when I got back and already we have had some fun times. Last night, we had dinner and went to see a movie, and today we decided to drive around and explore, which ultimately lead us to DeLand, a little bit inland, and to the college in the town, Stetson University. We just walked around looking at things and discovered a very nice, small town surrounding the school.

With the continuing runway construction at Daytona, we still get a front row view of jet landings on runway 16/34. I sure missed waking up to the sound of roaring jet engines at home!
You all are probably in the middle of, or just finished, your semester exams. If you haven’t taken them yet, best of luck to you. Keep working hard and please do not hesitate to e-mail me with any questions.

Talk to you soon!

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About Pete

**Concentration:** Air Transport Concentration **Minor:** Flight **Career Goals:** To work in Airport Operations at a major airport, or become a commerical airline pilot. **Why I chose Embry-Riddle:** Location, Name Recognition, Academic Program Quality.

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