Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Who is Your Hero?

According to Merriam-Webster, the definition of hero is this: a man admired for his achievements and noble qualities or one that shows great courage. So it makes me think, who are our heroes and what qualifies them as a hero?

Some people consider a hero to be their favorite musician or maybe a sports celebrity. I don't know about you but whenever I hear about how Brittney Spears hit a car and drove off or how OJ Simpson got arrested for assault with a deadly weapon it makes me wonder, are these who people are looking up to?

I don't think you have to look very far to find a hero. Walk through your neighborhood and talk to your neighbors. Are there any teachers on your street? What about a policeman or fireman? What about soldiers who are serving in the war?

I learned the other day that teachers on average spend between $500-1000 each year buying supplies for their kids. The average teacher salary in Minnesota is $49,906. That doesn't seem like a lot of money for someone who is responsible for the education of our future, yet people still teach with a passion despite their small wages. Are teachers heroes? I think so.

What about a policeman or fireman? In 2000, the starting salary for a Minnesota State Trooper was $39,396. Someone who is driving hundreds of miles everyday, standing on the side of the road with cars flying by at 70 MPH, helping someone change their flat tire, walking up to a car not knowing if the person driving is a known felon and has a gun, searching a house for a guy who is high on meth. Are these people heroes? I think so.

I learned after the I-35W bridge collapse in Minneapolis that one of the men that died was from the town I live in. I consider this man a hero, not because he died on the bridge but how he died. You see, he survived the collapse of the bridge, yet he saw some other people who were struggling and examiners believe he died trying to save someone else.

I recently read a newspaper article that talked about a soldier who threw himself onto a grenade that landed in their truck in order to soften the blow to his fellow soldiers. With a split second decision, he sacrificed his life for the life of others. Whether you agree with the war or not, this man is a hero.

Even if you don't know a teacher or a soldier. Everyone should have a hero in their life, someone to look up to. I'm fortunate to have two heroes, my mom and dad. Two people who taught me everything I need to know about life and still loved me when I screwed up. Two people who sacrificed time and money in order for me to succeed. Are these people heroes? I think so.

Who is your hero?

Saturday, September 08, 2007

I Flew Under the Golden Gate Bridge!

A few days ago, I was in San Francisco, CA sitting in the cockpit of the 737 I fly. We were about to take off on runway 1R. It was my leg and I was excited to go flying! The tower controller cleared us for takeoff. As we started rolling down the runway, a huge smile came over me because I knew what we were about to do.

As soon as we lifted off the ground, we put the landing gear up, retracted the flaps, and I leveled off about 400 feet above the ground and accelerated to over 300 MPH. We flew over the San Francisco Bay for a while. After that we buzzed the downtown area, coming within 100 feet of the buildings going over 300 MPH! After we got back over the bay I dropped the plane to the deck and aimed for the Golden Gate Bridge.

As we approached the bridge I got the plane down to 30 feet above the water. I was being careful not to bank too much because I didn't want the wings to hit the water as that would mean a sure disaster. As we approached one of the most famous bridges in the world, we were now going over 350 MPH! As we passed under the bridge I can only imagine what the people watching this were thinking, "Did I just see a 737 fly under the Golden Gate Bridge?" After we flew under the bridge we had a lot of built up speed (which equals energy) so I pulled back and banked to the left. Now we were climbing at over 6000 feet per minute! What a thrill! Probably something I'll never get to do again!

You may be asking yourself, "Is this legal?" No, it's not legal and I would have been fired for that little stunt had I not been in the simulator for my annual recurrent training. As you can imagine, flying under the Golden Gate Bridge is not part of recurrent training. After we had finished all the training required for the day, we had some extra time and the instructor asked us if there was anything else we wanted to do. I said, "I've always wanted to fly under the Golden Gate Bridge." So, they repositioned the "airplane" to the runway in SFO and I got to live another one of my dreams!

Play the video below to see what flying under the Golden Gate Bridge looked like!


Thursday, September 06, 2007

Going to the Doctor

This morning I made a visit to my favorite AME (Aviation Medical Examiner) to have my aviation medical certificate renewed for another six months. For some reason I always find trip a little amusing.

My favorite part is the urine sample you have to give. There's always so much pressure to........um.....well.......to go. You know that on the other side of the door the nurse is standing there just waiting for you to fill up the 2 ounce jar they give you. I know there's only one nurse but for some reason, when I'm in the bathroom I think that my nurse has called over all the other nurses and they have little bets going on how long it's going to take me to fill up the cup.

That brings me to another question, how much of a sample do they need? Do they want a whole jar of urine? I can give them a whole jar if they need it but that seems a bit excessive. Obviously they need more then a couple drops though. Today I split the difference and gave them half a jar. Is there anything more humiliating then walking out of a public bathroom with a cup of your own pee and handing it to the nurse? And then they get to do there own little science experiment with it, sticking all sorts of different Ph papers into it to see what kind of horrible disease I might have. You're just standing there waiting for the nurse to look at you like you're about to die.

Then they say, "You can wash your hands if you'd like to." I wonder to myself, "Does anyone ever not wash their hands at the doctors office when a nurse is watching?" My hands are never so clean as when I just finished washing my hands at the doctors office. I scrub them like I'm getting ready to perform surgery. I use soap twice, I'm lathering up my arms, after five minutes of scrubbing my hands the nurse finally says to me, "Ummmm, are you about ready?"

Then comes the hearing test, where they put you into a sound booth and give you some headphones and say, "just click the button whenever you hear three beeps." Oh, I try so hard for this test, like my life depends on it. Some of the beeps are obvious but then you start thinking, did I just hear one and by the time you think you heard one you click the button during another set of beeps. The rest of the year I couldn't care less how well I hear stuff but all of the sudden I'm trying to be the bionic man in this booth listening to a squeal so high a dog can't even hear it. Then my stomach growled and I thought I missed a beep because my stomach was louder then any of the beeps. After they tested my right ear they started testing my left ear although I could swear I could still hear beeping in my other ear.

Finally after all the testing with the nurse, it's time to see the big man, the head honcho, the doctor! When he first walks in, I put down the latest version of a magazine I'd never think of subscribing to. We have a little chit chat about life, sports, whatever, trying to have a grown up conversation when all I'm thinking about is how in 5 minutes this guy is going to ask me to pull down my pants.

After a quick check with the doctor I'm on my way for another six months! I better start studying for my next hearing exam!