“Go direct GRITY. Keep the speed at 250 for as long as possible. Let me know when you slow… you’re leading the pack.”
FedEx and UPS were closing in quickly from behind. At 5:30am following red-eyes, pilots just want to land and go to the hotel.
We were cleared for the visual to 4R after we called the field “in-sight.” As we slowed, the gear and flaps came out on script. At 1000′, we were treated to a surreal view: the sky was bright orange behind the Freedom Tower and the rest of the iconic skyline. A glance below at the heavy New Jersey Turnpike traffic snapped me back to reality.
I’d just returned to Newark for the first time in four years.
New York was my first base when I started with United. The base was officially named JFK, but included flying that originated out of LGA and EWR. As a reservist, it was challenging. I had a crash-pad in Queens and rode the subway and bus whenever I was called for a Newark trip. Once I held a line on the 727 engineer seat, it became easier to plan. I bid mostly Newark trips since I found the commute easier and more reasonable hotels near the airport. Even as I moved on from the base, I continued to fly into Newark with both the airline and the fractional during my first furlough.
Newark is a very busy airport. Although red-eye flying isn’t optimum, it was nice to skip the extended downwind for landing. I was also a little amused when the tower controller said, “Taxi to the ramp on this frequency… good morning.” A blank check taxi clearance from a runway exit that far from our gate? I knew we wouldn’t be so lucky that evening.
Kudos to our hotel committee for selecting a nice hotel. When stuck between the tangled web of interstates, billboards and smokestacks, the hotel room becomes a bit of an oasis. The shades were pulled shut and I slept for a full eight hours.
The evening flight back to LAX started just as I’d predicted. After pushing a little late due to a belt-loader malfunction, we began our slow crawl towards the departure runway. At first, we were told to hold short of “November” while the very busy ground controller optimized the departure sequence. Then came the official word: “At ‘November,’ follow the United 777. You are number twenty five for departure.” I had not counted how many aircraft departed between the time we pushed and received those instructions.
After what seemed like an eternity, I pushed the thrust levers up to the FLEX position for takeoff. Once in the air, I commenced the typical Newark departure: first, straight… then, right… then, back hard left… climb quickly for TEB at 2,500′ but level at 3,000′. (Given the choice, I’d rather be over TEB than operating out of it.)
Thankfully, there were unusually low headwinds heading west. Even after landing on the south complex at LAX, we arrived at our gate only five minutes late.
I then walked through the parking garage back to the south complex to catch my flight home to Nashville.
I’m going to have to be a little more selective how I bid trips.
It is important for our airline to serve the Newark Airport. However, it is equally important to me that I’m not the one flying it.
You may have seen my tweet that I finally have time to write a little more on this blog.
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