Don’t stop till you drop….

With yet another two weeks of the internship completed, I have passed the midpoint of the semester and cannot believe that in five weeks I will be headed back to the east coast and leaving Dallas behind.

Two weeks ago we got the chance to visit our Alliance Maintenance Base near Ft. Worth, T exas. Getting a chance to walk around and see, touch, and ask questions about every part of the aircraft was a really great opportunity to see a lot of the parts and pieces that as a passenger, or even as a pilot you normally don’t get to see. The base services 777 and 767/757 aircraft and getting a chance to walk through the engine repair station was one of my favorite parts of the tour. From individual fan blades to the completed engine, we got a chance to see every step in between that it takes to building one of these awesome pieces of machinery.

The next day was my big presentation to my boss’s boss. With everything set up I won’t hesitate to mention that I was a bit nervous. But confident in my research, the presentation went off without a hitch. Some additional research areas were suggested, but overall I believe that he was very impressed and everything went as well as it could have. One thing I took away from the experience was the way corporate-level decision-making works. With my boss and I on the same page about how we wished to proceed with the research and how we wanted to present the research to our employees, once the door of our meeting was closed, all the decisions were up to my boss’s boss. At first I found this a bit frustrating, thinking to myself, “well I did the research why does it have to be presented another way th a n the way I envisioned,” but soon remembering where I sit on the food chain, I acknowledged the new possibilities without hesitation.

All was forgotten in an hour though when I was on an ERJ-145 headed to Charleston, S . C . to see family and friends for the Fourth of July. Getting a chance to spend a weekend doing the things I normally do during the summer was just the break from Dallas that I needed. Hanging out at Kiawah Island with my family and friends that I had not seen in almost two months, getting a chance to eat some home-cooked food, and just relax, I cannot think of a better way to have spent the Fourth. Getting a chance to take one of my friends that I have grown up with since second grade fishing and watching her hook into the biggest fish of her life, I cannot describe to you how exciting that is, or how much trash talk I had to listen to all the way home about her catching the biggest fish of the day. I might be slightly biased since I grew up in South Carolina, but in all of my travels this summer I have not found anything like Charleston, and I highly recommend visiting if you ever have the chance.

This past week in the office, I spent most of my time getting caught up on some work I had put aside until after the presentation. Getting new retirements updated and working on the new quarterly magazine that goes out to our employees, it was a rather straightforward week in the cubical. However, we did get the chance to do two – I guess we can call them “field trips” this past week, both of which were awesome experiences. On Wednesday we got the chance to go out to DFW and get a behind the scenes look at how we handle all the bags and cargo that ride in our planes. Looking at both our sorting system, as well as what happens out on the ramp, this tour continued to give me the bigger picture of what all goes into making American Airlines run.

In continuation with taking a look at the bigger picture, the chief pilot at DFW then took us up to our ramp control tower facility. American has been testing a new piece of equipment on the ramp at DFW called Digital Guidance System or DGS. This system allows aircraft to park at their respective gate, without the need for personnel to marshal the plane in. This creates a more efficient parking system as well as allowing for the planes to park in inclement weather when service personnel are not allowed out on the ramp. Having this system explained to us, and seeing exactly how it works, was very interesting. Also getting a chance to go behind the scenes of how parking assignments for planes are decided and how much trouble it causes the overall system to switch gates was very insightful to the overall process.

This past Thursday, all of the interns got the opportunity to go to Oklahoma City to receive high altitude training. As we were receiving ground training on the physiological aspects of what is happening to the body at altitude, we talked about what we could expect when we went into the chamber and took our masks off at 25,000ft. We also learned about how to use the oxygen mask and the oxygen system. After several hours of ground school, we proceeded to the chamber, an orange reinforced steel box. With probably 25 seats in the chamber, our entire group, as well as a group from Boeing, all went in at the same time. After going over the important things again, we put our masks on and just sat and took in pure oxygen for about 10 minutes to get us used to the masks and also attempt to get most of the nitrogen out of our bodies so we would have a less likely chance of getting bubbles building up in our joints. Our instructors then took the chamber up to 8,000ft to make sure everyone was going to be ok with the pressure. After coming back down and then back to 8,000ft we did a rapid decompression to 18,000ft….talk about ears popping. From here we worked our way up to 25,000ft.

At this point, the other side of the box took their oxygen masks off. For the next 5 minutes my side sat and watched as our friends developed symptoms of hypoxia and one almost passed out. The thing about hypoxia is that everyone has different symptoms when they are deprived of oxygen. So as pilots it is really important to know what your symptom is, so you can recognize it if your aircraft ever depressurizes. So then it was our turn to take off our masks. Within a few minutes I was light headed, hot, and dizzy. Receiving a little coaching from one of the instructors to put my mask on, I was able to do so under my own power, but another minute and I would most certainly have passed out. This class and chamber exercise is put on by the FAA in Oklahoma City and it is FREE. If you ever get the chance you should definitely take advantage of this opportunity.

This past weekend I traveled to Colorado with three of my fellow interns. With plans to fly into Colorado Springs to go rafting, it was to our surprise on Saturday morning that our flight, which had plenty of seats the day before, was packed solid. After getting bumped from the flight the adventure began. With laptops going crazy, we soon found out that we could get into Montrose, CO which is near Telluride, CO and we were certain that we would be able to find some sort of rafting adventure there. With our flight an hour late leaving DFW we encountered another hour penalty when we attempted to pick up our rental car.

After giving up on Thrifty (which we, as interns, have now sworn off for life) we secured a jeep from another company and were off to Telluride. This place is awesome! A small town tucked back in a valley, this was some the best scenery I have seen yet. Exploring all day, with plans of rafting the following morning we were shocked again when our return flight the next day became over sold! Scrambling online once again we noted an open flight out of Grand Junction, CO on Sunday afternoon, about a 3 hour drive away. For the rest of our time in Telluride we continued to explore and drove up a single lane, dirt/rock road up the side of a mountain to an amazing waterfall, an amazing turn of luck on the Jeep and 4-wheel drive!!! Continuing up the mountain we actually stumbled upon some snow. People it is the middle of July and this was no more than 10,000ft. Global Warming??? Your call….Carefully making our way down the side of the mountain, we stumbled back into town and had an amazing dinner before trekking northwest to Grand Junction.

The following morning, before our flight, we went exploring one more time, this time to the Grand Mesa. According to Google the Grand Mesa is the world’s highest plateau. This is a must-see if you are ever in Grand Junction! The views of this untouched National Park are amazing. One side note, however, stay on the large dirt roads or on the pavement! Our GPS showed a shortcut down a tiny dirt road and while it was fun to get bounced around on rocks and holes, if this had been my personal truck and not a rental I would have been freaking out. Also a car will not return if you were to take it out there, just FYI.

With so many once-in-a-lifetime experiences this summer, I don’t know what I am going to do this fall when my travel benefits expire. But until then I plan on continuing to make the most out of this opportunity and do as much as possible.


Jacob Velky