Cockpit Chronicles: It’s official. I’m moving to Germany

Apparently I’ve run out of things to complain about, aside from the occasional gripe about the glossiness of the paint on the office walls which was supposed to be flat. There is little in my life that I can truly complain about, especially in light of the current events unfolding after the earthquake in Japan this week.

Let’s live a little, shall we?

Both my wife and I have discussed changing things up a bit lately-doing something more radical than switching to LED light bulbs in the living room, for example.

I even agonized publicly about a few new flying options on my personal blog last month.

Fortunately for airline pilots, there’s an easy way to thoroughly turn your life upside down-at my company, all it takes is a simple keystroke on the computer: 3P/LGA/767/FO/I.

For those of you who aren’t fluent in SABRE codes, that means that I have officially transferred to NY. I’ll be flying the same airplane, thus saving myself six weeks of simulator and ground school training. Nevertheless, it’ll add some commuting time to my day.

I’ve been fortunate in my career to fly from an airport in Boston that’s just an easy hour drive from my home in New Hampshire. I heeded the advice of my brother, a former commuter from Seattle to Chicago.

“Commuting turns a good deal into an or-deal.” He’d say.

But my wife and I aren’t stopping there. Since New York is rather nearby to our home in New England, we decided to do something really extreme (for our family at least), and move to Germany.

For a year.
Paying back a debt

When I asked Linda to marry me, she was more than half way through a degree at Swansea University in Wales. She gave up her degree aspiration temporarily to join me in Alaska. And then Queens. Then Long Island. Followed by three places in Dallas. And on to Denver, then New Jersey before finally landing in New Hampshire which we’ve enjoyed for the past twelve years.

But now it’s payback time. Linda has been attending a nearby university part time, but she wants to study full-time to get her German and English teaching degree sooner.

Studying in Germany, where her mom could watch the kids while I was away at work and she was attending classes, seemed like a surprisingly logical idea when she mentioned it. Not only that, the kids, ages 9 and 5, could really hone their German language skills (i.e. be able to say more than “guten tag.”)

As a pilot, it’s possible to live pretty much anywhere in the world. We have crew members based in New York who live in Anchorage, and a few who live in Europe and fly out of the northeastern United States.

“I can do anything for a year.” I told Linda. And deep down, I know I owe her. She never complained about our moves while I was chasing flying jobs for cargo and passenger operators around the country.

How about the rest of the family?

The kids are surprisingly excited about the temporary relocation. Every night at dinner we’ve been practicing our German vocabulary and they’re able to retain what they’ve learned far better than I can.

To be honest, my German language skills are limited to about ten words. But this experience can only help me get serious about learning more, I’m sure.

So the plan is to rent our furnished house for a year, pack up the pets and just a few ‘comfort’ items and move to the village where Linda herself grew up, near Cologne.

The 3,700 mile commute

My plan is to back up my trips, so that I’ll fly two, three or four three-day Europe flights in a row, with 26-hour breaks after each Atlantic crossing. Instead of a crashpad or hotel near the airport, I’ll be staying with a friend in Manhattan, where I can keep some clothes and do laundry.

If I align my schedule right, I may be able to fly nine or twelve days in a row, followed by nine or twelve days off. This will limit the time spent in the back of an airplane and train riding to and from Brussels or Frankfurt and New York.

It sounds tiring, but commuting responsibly, with 26 hours off before starting my trips should make it easier.

The logistics

Of course there are so many questions about being an ‘expatriate.’ Do I have to pay taxes in the U.S. and Germany? Will my health insurance cover the family overseas? Will the pets have to be quarantined? How do we even transport two cats to Europe? What kind of car should we buy? (Linda has vetoed my choice of a used Alfa Romeo, unfortunately).

As I searched online, one website, How To Germany continued to pop up that answered almost all of my questions.

We’re still looking into those questions, and Linda is currently in Germany signing up the kids for school. I still expect someone to throw a wrench into the whole process at any point.

“You can’t do that. It is verboten!” I imagine someone saying as we apply for a residency permit. But so far, we haven’t run into any roadblocks.

Alas, the perfect writing cubicle

So you should see more posts now that I’ll be spending more time in the back of an airplane, a place where I’m the most productive when writing, since there’s no internet available and few distractions.

And I suspect I’ll have some things to talk about, especially since the two European destinations I’ve been flying to from Boston, London and Paris, will expand to so many more out of New York such as Rome, Barcelona, Budapest, Milan, Madrid, Manchester, Brussels, Zurich and even Rio.

Since today’s Gadling theme is focused around Europe, I’m looking forward to reading about the other parts of the continent I’ll need to visit according to the rest of the Gadling team. In exchange, I’ll be sure to let them know where they can score some LED light bulbs.

All photos by the author.

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. Have any questions for Kent? Check out the Cockpit Chronicles Facebook page or follow Kent on Twitter @veryjr.

Cockpit Chronicles: Come along and enjoy the view

“Descend to 1-3-0.”

“Descend to 1-2-0.”

I found myself listening to London Control while admiring one of the all-time greatest views I’ve ever seen.

“Slow to 220 knots. Fly heading 1-7-0.”

As we banked to the right, I looked over my right shoulder at the London eye, a blue ferris wheel that stands out among the amber lights struggling for relevance against the sunrise.

No one should be up this early. Most of London is still asleep, and even if they were awake, they wouldn’t be seeing the view we were witnessing. The lights of the city, the bridges crossing the Thames river and the sunrise that blankets the buildings with more light after every turn of our holding pattern makes me pause for a moment to realize just why this job is the most visually rewarding of any occupation.

As we turned to the right one more time, I began to ponder whether an astronaut would actually prefer the variety of these spectacular sights that a mere ‘low-level’ pilot can see.

A 777 ahead of us was still dark enough to cover the city lights. Even Mike, the captain with close to 40 years in the air, was taken by the scene. “That’s just incredible” he said as the airliner banked to the right and peeled away from us a thousand feet below.

I had to resist the temptation to pull out my camera. I had taken some photos earlier, at 12,000 feet, above the 10,000 foot floor where we can’t allow a camera to distract us during the more critical ‘sterile period’ of our arrival into Heathrow.

So often I wish I could save the five most interesting things my eye sees on a flight. I have to try to capture whatever I can and post them here or on Flickr.

It was a couple of well timed views like this that inspired me to post a picture from every flight with a small caption on a blog years ago. Then I’d write more. And then more. Finally leading to the Cockpit Chronicles.

It’d be so much easier if I could just bring you along in the cockpit jumpseat.

That morning I filmed a few clips while above 10,000 feet that are almost like being there. Here’s what spinning around Guildford, England looked like.

Coming home from London, three and a half hours into the flight, we came upon a view I hadn’t seen yet in the eight years I’ve been flying across the Atlantic.

Our route of flight was far more northerly–nearly 200 miles north of any track I’d been on, in fact. We would be crossing directly over the southern tip of Greenland. This time I’d be ready. Should the clouds allow, I was sure to get some pictures or a video clip of the landscape below. In the past, I’ve seen Greenland from 59 and 60 degrees north latitude, which put the ice covered island just off in the distance. Unfortunately, clouds usually cover most of the island.

This time we were at 62 degrees north, passing over jagged mountain tops that weren’t obscured by clouds, but surrounded by silky glaciers that resembled low level cirrus clouds. In fact, it was hard to tell if the snow below was actually cloud cover.

The captain made a PA and I called back to our flight attendants. They needed to see this. A view of Greenland they’d likely never forget.

Of course, you’re welcome to take a look as well:

A piloting career may not be what it used to be. Speeds have changed. The technology has changed. Security procedures and threats have changed. But one thing that has always remained remarkable in this job, even in my grandpa’s era, has been the view.

Those lower altitudes may be filled with more detail, but the higher flight levels can give a wonderful sense of perspective. And sometimes a little perspective is just what we need. I certainly got my fill on this trip.

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. Follow him on Twitter @veryjr

Photo of the day (5.5.09)

What the heck is going on in this picture? Actually, I can tell you. That’s our very own Kent Wien from Cockpit Chronicles and Plane Answers shooting a photo of himself in the airplane lav. Why, you might ask? He’s actually taking part in a social experiment hosted by our resident flight attendant, Heather Poole. In one of her recent posts, Ms. Poole called on the loyal Gadling readers to take (appropriate!) shots of themselves at 30,000 feet.

The resulting gallery, which you can see on Heather’s recent post is a funny/creepy/interesting look into the lives of a small faction of Gadling readers. We love you guys!

Got any cool photos that you’d like to share with the world? Add them to the Gadling Pool on Flickr and it might be chosen as our Photo of the Day. Make sure you save them under Creative Commons though, otherwise we can’t use them!

Cause for Turkish Airlines flight known: Dutch Safety Board issues warning

Last Wednesday, a Turkish Airlines flight crashed in a field just 1 kilometer short of the runway at Schiphol Airport in Amsterdam. The report as to what caused the accident has been released. After reading through it myself, and thanks to the paired down version of Gadling’s own Kent Wien, pilot and writer of Cockpit Chronicles, here are the details.

According to the report, there was a malfunction of one of the radio altimeters, the device that displays the distance of the airplane from the ground. The left altimeter, instead of reading the Boeing 737’s actual height at 1950 feet when the plane was descending, it read 8 feet.

At the point of the glitch, the auto-throttles went to idle because the reading said the plane was just above the runway thus about to land. This caused the plane to slow down more than it should have. The pilots didn’t have enough time to recover the speed needed to pull the plane out of a stall to a higher altitude in order to achieve a safe landing.

Along with determining the malfunction in the radio altimeter, the investigation also found out what happened to the plane upon impact. The tail of the plane hit first, then the undercarriage. When the plane hit the ground it was going at 150 kph. A normal landing speed is 260. Because the ground was soft, the plane had a “rapid halt” within 150 meters.

During landing, the tail broke off and the plane ruptured at the business class section which is where most of the fatalities and injuries occurred. Eighty passengers in all were injured and nine people died (4 crew, including the pilots and five passengers). The area of the plane around the wings was the most intact.

There are still investigations being made surrounding the altimeter’s malfunction and the Dutch Safety Board has issued a warning to Boeing.

For the report, click here. Prior to these findings, one theory about the cause of the crash was wake turbulence caused by a larger plane landing right before this plane’s attempt. (See article.)

Galley Gossip: SFO airline museum, LAX airline show & a request for photos!

Here are two different letters I recently received from two different guys named Ken concerning two different airline themed topics you may be interested in – the San Francisco airline museum and the airline show that is now on tour…


Thanks so much for your blog and Galley Gossip, I’m a regular reader! As a matter of fact I gave your blog info to a pilot I met today (through my regular course of work) who actually has flown with and knows Kent Wien (and his brother) but was unaware of Kent’s Cockpit Chronicles on Gadling, which is where I found your site. Since you have a mini airline museum perhaps I will email you a few things from my Pan Am collection some day that would be suitable for framing! Don’t worry, no pictures of me! If you ever get a long layover in SFO check out the Airport Museum in the non-secure part of the International terminal. It’s pretty impressive and free!

All the best and I will continue to read and enjoy your work.

Warmest regards,

Ken A.

Ken A.

Thank you for reading my blog! And thank you, thank you, thank you, for telling me about the San Francisco airport museum located in the international terminal. I went to the website and found myself amazed. The museum is so cool, in fact, that I don’t know how it is I’ve never heard of this museum.

“I told you about that museum!” my husband exclaimed when I mentioned it in passing.

I looked at him like he was crazy. “You did?”

“Don’t you remember when I told your friend Stephen he should donate a couple uniforms from his collection to the museum?”

“Oh yeah!” I exclaimed. As for Stephen, he’s a flight attendant who has an amazing collection of flight attendant memorabilia that may just rival any museum in the world.

Anyway, next time I find myself at the San Francisco airport I will definitely make the extra effort to visit the exhibits on display. I’m bummed that I missed Take Your Seat, A History of Passenger Airline Seats, as well as Cathay Pacific Airways, Six Decades of Service, but I do hope to catch Cabin Comforts: Photographs of Airliner Interiors, which will be running until May 2009. And to think something so amazing is actually free!

Like you mentioned above, Ken, most airline enthusiasts have a mini airline museum of their own. I’d love to see your Pan Am collection. As you already know, I have my own collection of anything and everything airline related located in my guestroom closet. Gadling writer and pilot Kent Wien apparently has a pretty big collection, too, and my guess is a lot of his memorabilia has his name on it due to the fact that Wien Air, which folded in 1985, was the second oldest airline in the United States. So what do you say we – me, you, Kent, Stephen, and anyone else who has a collection – take photographs of our personal airline museums and share them here on Gadling? I’ll create the gallery. All you have to do is take a photo, just one photo, and email it to me at the address posted below.

Thanks for writing, Ken!

Heather Poole


I just thought I’d let you know, that the airline memorabilia show will be held Sat. Jan.24th 9:00a-3:00p. It will be at the Hacienda Hotel on Sepulveda just south of LAX. I know you’re in NYC this month on reserve but i thought I’d let you know just the same. Hope you make it through reserve!!! UGH!!! Keep well. Fly Safe!!!!

Ken J.

Ken J.

Thank you for the reminder. I’ve been meaning to check out that airline show for two years now. After five scheduled days off, I’ll be on-call in New York on the 25th, so I’ll be commuting from Los Angeles to New York on the day of the show. Just my luck. But I did go to the website and saw that the show will be in New York at the LGA Marriott hotel on March 21st, so perhaps I’ll catch it then. Are you going to the show in Los Angeles? If so, let me know what it’s like, and more importantly, what is sold, because as you know I’m interested in anything with a flight attendant theme that I can add to my own airline museum, the one I will be photographing for the gallery I mentioned above. My husband recently boxed up my museum and put it in storage while I was away from home on a layover. Hey, that’s okay, just means I have more room for more stuff! Thanks again for the reminder.

Happy travels,

Heather Poole

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All photos courtesy of Telstar Logistics –