Jakarta, Tuesday 6-13-95, 0200 local (Z+7)
Unwinding before going to bed, very tired. Came back to find everything changed schedule wise. All I know is I'm not doing what I was scheduled to do. Have to wait till mid-morning to find out what's happening. I think I'm just going to start ignoring what's scheduled. The schedules don't mean anything until you're within 24 hours of their actual happening.
p.s. C.J., yes, I've been getting your messages, or at least I've gotten 2 of them: 6/10/95 12:16 and 6/11/95 12:02, and, boy, will I be glad to see you.
Jakarta, Tuesday 6-13-95, 1400 local (Z+7)
C.J., I'm headed home, I hope. My ferry of an aircraft got cancelled because they decided to move the two airplanes going to Singapore earlier than planned. I was still returning from Jeddah. So, two of the four airplanes are now sitting in Singapore for maintenance, one in Tel Aviv, and one is waiting out at Halim Airport to take all of us to Honolulu (12.5 hour flight) and then on to New York (9.5 hours). There's supposed to be about 75 of us and 100,000 pounds of spare parts, catering carts, office equipment - in short, all of the equipment that Tower brought over to run their part of the Haj.
Just finished a 7 lap run around the hotel grounds. That's as much as I can do in the heat of the day. I was the only one on the track until a young guy joined me. He showed a distinct lack of respect for his elders by passing me at high speed. I considered that for a moment and thought that if he's in really good shape, he'll be able to keep up that pace, but he didn't look like he was in THAT good a shape, so the possibility of revenge for his impertinence came to mind. In this heat, if you once exhaust yourself, you're pretty much through. Sure enough, I found him slowed to a walk within one lap. After I passed him, he made three attempts to catch up, but he'd been had. I then lapped him twice. Very good for my ego. Revenge is sweet. <g>
I tried to get crew scheduling to release me here, but they said New York will have to make that decision and they won't look at that until we're all in the air headed toward Honolulu. They're trying to fix it so we can clear customs at Honolulu. If that happens, I'll call crew scheduling from there and, if released, get off the Tower airplane and try to find a jumpseat to the West Coast. The only problem is that several other guys are planning the same thing, and we may collectively overload the jumpseat availability out of Honolulu. If U.S. customs won't clear us at Honolulu or crew screw won't release me, I'll have to go on to New York.
Just took a final run in the heat of the day preparatory to the long ride home. Could only get seven laps around the track this time of the day. Unfortunately, I am now going to have to pack my running clothes wet, which means they'll probably start to mildew.
Everybody take care...Terry
one hour east of Jakarta, 29,000 feet, 2100 local (Z+8)
Well, lots to tell and I'm in a reflective mood with a lot of time to kill (the 12+ hours to Honolulu). The battery power may run out first, but maybe not.
When I tried to send the previous part of this message from the hotel, I found that, since I had already settled my bill, they had turned off outside phone access. Oh, well. The hotel people were all most gracious EXCEPT the cashier's office. I had trouble with them last time and again this time in that they wanted to charge me for some of my breakfasts, but we got it straightened out.
I can't really blame the hotel's financial people for being leery of us. For example, a lot of the people on board stole sheets and pillows from the hotel to make their trip back more comfortable. Part of the "New York attitude?"
Anyway, there are a total of 59 of us aboard (not the 75 I had earlier been told). Garuda supplied two large buses to take us from the hotel to Halim Airport, then we had to wait three hours while the immigration people unraveled a passport mess. They couldn't understand how everyone on the airplane could possibly be "crew", but it was finally resolved and we're on our way. We've got about a dozen full cockpit crews with the rest being pursers and mechanics. Curious note: with all this talent on board, somebody had forgotten to decide which flight engineer would operate the Jakarta-Honolulu leg. The lone crew scheduler with us finally simply said, "Decide among yourselves, just let me know who does it." The reason she needs to know is that we're paid half time for deadheading, full time for operating.
The cargo holds are completely full of equipment, and the overflow has been stacked in center seats between the mid and forward galleys - boxes and boxes of god knows what. At least they've had the present of mind to throw a cargo net over the stuff. The boxes reach the ceiling.
I wish I had brought my camera. I'm going to put it back in my flight case in spite of its extra weight. I would have liked to have taken pictures of our departure from the hotel and also now in the airplane. It is exciting in a low key kind of way. When we lifted off, some people cheered, others clapped - especially the ground support personnel who had been here for nearly 3 months. The pursers (they're acting as flight attendants for the trip) got on the p.a. and started kidding everyone. One gal came on and said, "Okay, you guys, you have now left the land of yes. You are no longer studs, just ordinary little boys." The reference was, of course, that the Indonesian young ladies find (for a price?) our young men very attractive. A general repartee followed with remarks about making sure the negatives are destroyed, etc.
Everybody has a full row of seats, although a few had to settle for 3 seat rows. I lucked out and have a 4 seat row. They piled blankets and pillows at the L2 entrance door (the most used entry/exit to a 747) and you just grabbed what you wanted when you came on board. There really wasn't any need for all the thievery from the hotel. They came on the p.a. a few minutes ago and said the food was hot. Anybody who wanted it just went to the mid-galley and got what he wanted. It's too bad all airline flights can't be run this way.
If the FAA were aboard, they'd be dismayed. This is, of course, a Part 91 flight, not a Part 121 flight. There are no paying passengers or paid cargo aboard. Thus the rules are much more relaxed, but we're breaking even the relaxed ones in the name of common sense. Nobody bothered to put their seat backs upright for takeoff, whether or not they had their seat belts on was their own business, bags were put in secure places but there was no requirement to have them under a seat, nobody bothered us with an inane safety briefing, and a few people were still up and around while we taxied. I think everybody did take a seat for takeoff, but nobody really cared. All in all very refreshing.
This would be more fun if I knew more of the people. There are, including myself, four guys from my ground school class and then there are the few that I have flown with. Other than that I don't know most of the people, but everyone is generally friendly. You hear a lot of reminiscing about past Tower operations, past Hajjes. This was the 19th Haj for one the flight engineers - he worked 15 years for Saudia.
Found out a little more during the talking while waiting to depart about what happened to the two first officers who were let go just before their probation was up. One essentially just couldn't get comfortable flying the airplane and was viewed as a braggart to boot. The other gave the crew schedulers a hard time. Offhand it sounds like both dismissals were warranted. I just hope no reports go in that say something like, "Liittschwager can fly the airplane, but he can't understand foreign controllers." It is a problem, but I'll keep working on it, and I am getting better.
Saw an unusual sight on the way to the airport. Right in downtown Jakarta an elderly woman was naked in the street. Some of the guys had been down that way a couple hours earlier doing some last minute shopping. They said she had been in that general area then as well. Their impression of her was that something was mentally wrong. The interesting thing was that everyone appeared to be ignoring her. Who knows what the story is.
The captain flying this leg is one of three that I have heard negative things concerning. One I have already flown with. He was number 2 on the "bad" list. This guy, I'm told, is number 3. Apparently he talks to himself in a low voice while flying. While odd, that in itself causes no problem, but when he wants to communicate, he doesn't raise his voice. Thus, his crew is never quite sure whether he's talking to them or to himself. Further, he apparently gets quite upset when he's talking to you, but you don't realize it.
Oh, I almost forgot about the zam zam water. There's this well in Mecca that dispenses holy water. All the pilgrims want to bring some back. They used to be allowed around five gallons apiece. Now, however, they get only about a gallon. Before boarding the airplane on the way to Jeddah, they grab an empty plastic jug supplied by Garuda. On the way home, they're all carrying their holy water. What's it good for? Well, it seems that if you're having a problem with ghosts, sprinkling the zam zam water around can help drive them away. If you're sick, a little zam zam water can make you well. Sounds like a helluva racket to me. Anyway, when they unload the pilgrims at Halim, they roll up only a single stairs, and everybody has to exit through the one door to the stairs - takes forever. We were mixed in with the crowd last flight, trying to get off the airplane. This little old woman, no, ancient would be a better word, was in front of me with her zam zam water in one hand and her carry-on in the other. The problem was she couldn't negotiate the stairs that way. So she would put her water jug down on the step, use the freed hand to hold on to the rail to negotiate the next step, and then reach down and move her zam zam water down one step. This was going to take awhile and there was still half a plane load behind us, so I reached down and offered to carry her zam zam water. She probably didn't understand me, and from her look she was definitely not happy about trusting this foreign devil with her precious water. However, her fellow passengers started talking rapidly to her, and she finally let me lift her zam zam water and carry it down for her. However, she must have turned around half a dozen times just to make sure I was right there with the zam zam water.
Some of the people on board have been wandering around looking for hiding places. They don't want to pay customs duty on some of the stuff they've bought, and they'll hide it on the airplane against the off chance that customs officers will come on board the aircraft while we're clearing customs. Crew members (which we're all traveling as) are not allowed the $400 (or whatever it is) deductible that passengers are allowed since it's felt that they're always travelling and it would be unfair to allow them the deduction each time they came through customs. I told one guy that if he's really serious, he can go down into the E&E where some great hiding places can be found (just like Duncan does in Wrongful Act).
It's 9:05 p.m. Jakarta time and my body time. Things are beginning to quiet down a little on board, and my reflective mood has passed without my lapsing into any kind of a deep philosophical discussion. You're lucky that I'm going to now try to get some sleep.
Who knows when this will get sent. I don't.
Honolulu, Tuesday 6-13-95, 1630 local (Z-10)
Well, I had mentally set myself up for disappointment, and that's exactly what happened. We cleared U.S. Customs here at Honolulu, and I immediately called crew scheduling. Instead of releasing me as I had hoped, they assigned me a trip on the 16th. I did some quick calculating and decided that if I could get a jumpseat in the next couple of hours, I would at least be able to get a day at home. However, about 15 other guys had the same idea, and they all are senior to me. It turned out I wouldn't stand a prayer of getting on until tomorrow morning. The only logical decision was to get back on the airplane and head for New York. So it's operate New York to Amsterdam (cool weather and my uniform coat is sitting at home) on the 16th, then commercial to Athens, then operate back to New York. Hopefully THEN I'll get to go home. It does make me feel better that, since I have now exceeded my 50 hour guarantee, I get paid for every extra hour I fly. At Evergreen I wouldn't have gotten paid.
While we were in the air, we went from Wednesday to Thursday, but then we crossed the international date line and went back to Wednesday. We should reach New York some time between 8 and 9 tomorrow morning. That will have been 2 nights on the airplane, and the "grease factor" will have reached critical proportions. They have mini-rooms with showers here at Honolulu which I have used before. I considered a quick shower, but I didn't have time after checking out the jump seating possibilities. At least I'm not alone. Everybody's beginning to drench themselves in cologne to cover the lack of a shower.
Most of us changed from our grubbies to more formal clothes for the stop here. It seems to help clearing Customs, and for those trying for jumpseats, the formal clothing is a necessity. We're all back to grubbies now. Nobody wants to rumple the uniforms by sleeping in them.
The airplane looks like hell from the outside. The whitewash paint they used to cover the Tower Air identification had already begun to come off just from flying, and as we arrived at the airplane in Jakarta, they were just finishing removing the Garuda Indonesia decals. This left the outline of those letters clean against the surrounding dirt.
I found out a little more, possibly, about the nude woman on the street in Jakarta. One of the mechanics said he had seen this kind of thing a couple of times and had enquired as to why it happened. He was told that women sometimes do this as a protest against maltreatment by their husbands. I wonder if it is in any way connected with the fact that in Indonesia, four wives are legal since it's a Muslim country.
I wasn't the only guy that didn't get to go home. One guy got sent to Tokyo and another got sent to Tel Aviv to layover there four days. Now that's a bummer, because Tel Aviv is not considered a nice place and because you don't get paid if you don't fly. Layovers in nice places are okay to some (like me) but are a definite no-no to everyone when it's a bad place. I haven't been to Tel Aviv yet, but I've heard it referred to by several as the arm pit of the world.
From my standpoint, I was misinformed as Tel Aviv became one of my favorite layovers. It's a sophisticated, vibrant city in spite of the religious constraints. We always stayed right on the beach, usually at the Sheraton Hotel, and I almost always ran on the beach. If we had a full day's layover, I'd take a taxi or walk to Tel Baruch beach, the northern part of which was a nude beach.
We're about to take off on the reef runway at Honolulu. The Pacific is off to our right and the surf is up, even occasionally cascading over the rock wall that protects the runway. While we were in the terminal clearing customs, I noticed a headline on a local paper saying that people were being advised to stay away from the water due to the extremely high surf.