In 2008 I accepted a job working as a flight attendant for Colgan Air. I had been trying to get an airline job for a couple of years. I had previously been applying exclusively to legacy carriers based out of my local airport. I had just attended an airline trade school as a last resort to make this dream become a reality. Once I commit to a goal, I will achieve it eventually.
I attended flight attendant training in Albany, New York. I had to study my flight attendant manual, emergency procedures, federal aviation regulations, and airline operations. After several weeks of classes and successfully completing emergency drills, I got my wings.
I ended up being based out of Newark Liberty International Airport (EWR) . I had actually made EWR my first choice, as it was a hub and I figured it would be easier to travel on my days off from a hub than from an out station. Prior to relocating to New Jersey, I had been living in Athens, Georgia. I had moved up from Florida before that. I’m always up to relocating for the right opportunity. That being said, the largest city I had ever lived near before moving to Newark was Columbus, Ohio. It was a certainly a new experience living in such a crowded city. I adjusted over time. Eventually I felt at home enough to start taking the train in to NYC and wander around.
During my time as a flight attendant, I had several challenging work days. I had several medical emergencies. I had to deal with maintenance and weather delays. I had to handle passenger complaints and utilize diplomacy when flight crew members didn’t always get along. The days were long, but it’s still one of the greatest jobs I’ve ever had.
I frequently worked on our flagship. One of the Dash-8 Q400 Aircrafts was named after Senator Charles Colgan, the founder of Colgan Air. I referred to this particular aircraft as “Bad Luck Chuck”. According to galley gossip, the Aircraft had been struck by lighting more than any other Q400 in the fleet. The nose cone of the aircraft had a number of chips from lightning strikes. I was present during two strikes. Believe it or not, a lightning strike is not a particularly dangerous occurrence during flight. The aircraft has to be signed off on the ground by an aircraft mechanic, but generally the aircraft can continue flying on the same day. It can still be, understandably so, a little unsettling for the passengers. I was seated in the back of the aircraft when a loud strike to the nose caused the cabin lights to flicker. Turbulence shook the aircraft’s cabin and the overhead bins shuttered in protest. The plane went silent. I couldn’t hold it in. I chuckled, in an evil villain kind of way. The passengers looked back at me in disbelief and several of them laughed in return. I was relatively used to the summer storms. I always tried to make passengers feel safe and tried to ensure I never looked frightened.
One of the most memorable days occurred when we had an issue with the landing gear. I was on an aircraft where the the tires on the front landing gear popped during take off and we had to prep the cabin for an emergency landing. Initially the front gear wouldn’t come down. Luckily, it eventually did. The pilots did a great job of doing an easy landing. Although the aircraft’s nose gear was in no condition for us to taxi to the gate, we were not in any danger and a bus came to ferry the passengers to the terminal. During this situation and others I was able to keep a cool head. I’ve always been told I have a calm, serious demeanor. I found this quality was an asset to my duties as a flight attendant.
During the course of a person’s life it’s very likely they’ll have to step foot on an aircraft, whether they are afraid of flying or not. If a passenger didn’t tell me (frequently they did) I could always tell if they were afraid of flying. I would always kneel down to make eye contact and reassure them. I would tell them to not hesitate to press the flight attendant call button if they needed anything. I was comfortable in the air, but to those not used to it I could understand their fears. I still believe flying is the safest form of transportation.
I eventually became promoted to Check Flight Attendant. I conducted Initial Operating Experiences (IOE) for the new flight attendants. I ensured that they had properly learned everything they should of in ground school and signed them off if I was confident in their abilities after a number of flights. I also was responsible for ensuring that flight attendants were in compliance with Federal Aviation Regulations and company policies. I took great pride in my work and enjoyed mentoring new flight attendants.
I enjoyed my time working for Colgan Air. The airline ultimately ceased operations due to poor financial planning and a tragic accident in 2012. I went on to work for another regional airline before leaving the friendly skies to focus on college. I improved my leadership abilities, my communication skills, and became much more self reliant. I often recommend that people who do not yet know what they wish to do for a living should consider becoming a flight attendant. It’s a really great transitional role. I had the opportunity to meet lots of different people and visit lots of new places. I even was able to travel on my days off. I once took a solo trip to Japan for a week. It was during my time as a flight attendant that I wrote my first business plan and decided to go to college.