Cockpit Chronicles: Haiti after Hanna

Cockpit Chronicles takes you along on some of Kent’s trips as an international co-pilot on the Boeing 757 and 767 based in Boston.

New on the schedule for us this month is a two-day trip to Miami. The first day is rather easy with just one leg from Boston to Miami. The second day involves a trip to Port-au-Prince, Haiti, then back to Miami and up to Boston.

We’re required to sign in for our trip in the pilot operations room at least one hour before departure time. That give us enough time to check the weather, pull up paperwork and check our mailbox. Even though we ‘sign in’ an hour before, we don’t get paid until we’re pushing back from the gate.

Our pilot operations is a place where you’ll regularly run into captains and co-pilots who you may have flown with on a different airplane and hadn’t seen in years. I ran into my longtime friend Russ on this morning’s trip. Russ and I worked in a hobby shop together in Seattle when we were both in high school, so it’s always nice to visit with him. He’s currently an MD-80 first officer (co-pilot).
While walking to the gate later, I saw Russ checking over his Super 80 at the gate with the sun coming up behind our airplane. I just had to take a moment to capture this shot.

A few minutes later I was inspecting the tires of the 757 we would be flying to Miami. Russ’s flight began to taxi past the tail of our airplane so I pulled the camera from my pocket and snapped him going by. It’s a pain to get up at 2:30 in the morning to go to work but I always enjoy the sunrise at Logan and sights like this:

The morning departure to Miami was uneventful. The original captain was sick, so they called out a reserve captain to cover the trip. He would fly down to Miami with me before getting on an airplane to deadhead back to Boston.

So I was on my own for the layover, but fortunately my friend Dave from Ohio would also be staying at the hotel by the beach. We decided to meet up with the rest of his crew for dinner.

One of the pilots knew a great Cuban seafood place up the street. He didn’t steer us wrong, as the food was fantastic. We sampled appetizers that were rather good before eating the main course of sole, which we were able to inspect before ordering.

It was great to catch up with Dave and meet the other co-pilot on his trip, Joe, who plans to begin commuting from Anchorage, my home town, to Chicago soon. That’s a commute I wouldn’t wish on anyone, but I can understand the draw for some to live up in Alaska. For Joe, it allows him to be closer to his sport fishing business outside of Anchorage.

That’s one of the advantages this job provides; the ability to live just about anywhere and commute to and from your base free of charge. The only cost is the extra time you’ll spend on an airplane each month.

Dinner was great and I hope to go back there on the next layover.

I met the next captain at the gate the next morning for our flight to Port-au-Prince, Haiti. He was a Miami-based pilot who was called out on reserve to continue the trip with me. Occasionally, when one pilot calls in sick, the trip is covered by more than one pilot from different bases.

The weather was nice as we were descending over Haiti, and I was interested to see if the effects of Hurricane Hanna could be seen from the air.

The town of Genaives was the hardest hit and it’s easy to see from these pictures. This is just north of Port-au-Prince as we were coming through 20,000 feet.

What looks like a river flowing out to sea below…

…well, there’s a town in the middle of that river.

Just past Genaives, we were cleared to 10,000 feet, which takes you right by some ‘naked’ mountains which are a big part of the reason for the flooding that occurs in Haiti.

No country in the western hemisphere has had worse fortune than Haiti. They just can’t seem to get a break, and their plight hasn’t adequately captured the attention of the rest of the world.

I’m constantly amazed at how friendly the Haitian passengers and ground crew are. And you won’t find a cabin of nicer dressed people than the Port-au-Prince passengers.

On approach we flew over a U.S. Navy ship which was full of supplies that were being delivered to Genaives. Two of the helicopters based on the ship were idling on the ramp when we parked, and a third one landed by the time we were loaded again for our return back to Miami.

I’ve been flying to Port-Au-Prince for years now and I don’t really feel like I’ve actually been to the country. Arriving at the airport, doing a walk-around inspection and then departing an hour later doesn’t really count, does it?

I even arrived on the day Port-au-Prince was under a coup, but it was impossible to tell from the activities at the airport. Here’s a gallery I made up from that trip:


As I flew back to Miami and then Boston, I couldn’t help think of the challenges for those living in Haiti. If they’re not trying to survive a political uprising, then they’re likely dealing with the aftermath of a major hurricane.

While I can’t say I’ve really been to the city of Port-au-Prince, flying international trips like this has given me a perspective that wasn’t possible when I was working the transcon flight from Boston to Seattle years ago.

We may not get a chance to fly to Haiti for some time, since the airline has canceled the PAP trip that has been flown lately by Boston crews, and I’m not sure if we’ll see the trip come back anytime soon.

Here’s hoping things look a little better for Haiti if and when we go back.

Cockpit Chronicles takes you along on some of Kent’s trips as an international co-pilot on the Boeing 757 and 767 based in Bosto