Back Again

The period after my recall from furlough is what I now look back on as my Eastern career. Due to the vagaries of what is called a "system bid", where you bid for your base of assignment, I ended up flying out of New York for a few months before I could bid back to Boston. I remained in Boston until the end of my flying days.

The Good Years at Eastern

The recall I finally accepted put me in a position to hold decent line of flying in Boston and I trundled off to Miami to get requalified in the back seat of a 727. If the original training was less than optimum, this training was pathetic. At this point, though, I really didn't care - I just wanted to get back in the front of an airplane. After a whirlwind requalification, I found myself on reserve in New York (due to the scheduling of my training, I missed the monthly bid and was assigned after the rundown.) for a couple of weeks. After that, I was able to hold a line and things got a little better. (There is almost no fate worse than sitting in a room at the King's Inn at La Guardia waiting for a phone call to go fly.) Still, I had moved from a suburb of Boston to southern New Hampshire while I was furloughed and commuting from New Hampshire to New York to go to work made for some very long days. I tried to bid for trips that left in the late afternoon so that I could fly down in the morning and go right out. I also tried to bid trips that got back early enough to catch one of the last Shuttle flights back to Boston. At that time, Mass Port hadn't gotten too greedy with the parking at Logan, so at least I was able to get an employee parking permit. The time based in New York dragged, but it was only a few months and I was able to bid back to Boston.

Once back in Boston, I was able to arrange my flying to interleave nicely with my contracting work. I continued to work for the same company, but as a contractor rather than as an employee. I bid trips which left as late as possible on Thursday and returned on Saturday. Once you had enough seniority, you could generally get a line like that (3 on 4 off, usually with one or two "stuffer" turnarounds in it). This left me Monday through Thursday afternoon to work at my other profession. I was generous with myself and tried to take Sundays off.

Once you are able to hold a line, the seniority system tends to dictate that you fly with the same crews month after month. You end up with people in the other crew positions with about the same relative seniority and interests in flying. Almost everyone liked flying to the Caribbean and Boston got precious little Caribbean flying, so those trip were always very "senior". Ever since my Air Force training days, I had an attachment to the Southwest, so I tended to try for trips to Texas, New Mexico, and Arizona. Early after the recall, I settled on a night freighter trip which left Boston for Atlanta as a passenger trip in a B727 QC (Quick Change) aircraft. Once the passengers had deplaned, the aircraft was towed to the air cargo area and the seats were removed to turn it into a cargo aircraft. The cargo was then loaded and we were off to Los Angeles. The changeover and loading rarely took more than about an hour. We would get to the hotel at about dawn, but we had a 24 hour layover which left a lot of time for sightseeing and other diversions. At that time, Eastern had a lot of UPS business and had a fleet of 25 727 QC aircraft. Fully loaded with cargo and with a fuel load for Los Angeles, often the aircraft could only make it to FL260 (26,000 feet above the standard reference plane) on initial climb and, as we burned off fuel, we would "step climb" our way across the country. By contrast, the C-141A I had flown in the Air Force could always make it to FL350 out of a max gross weight takeoff and could usually make it to FL370.

More to come........

Revised: 24 March 1999