Jet Pack Power (Full Flight Gripping Stories )
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Who do you call? Whom do you call? We take orders. The private-jet tarmac can also be a place for private meetings. For instance, in June , toward the end of the presidential campaign, former president Bill Clinton hopped from the private jet he was on at a Phoenix airport to the private jet used by Loretta Lynch, then the U. It certainly was an awkward meeting at best. H ow did we get to this place, where a private jet is the ultimate aspiration? Vick likes to remind people that the Wright Brothers made their first successful flight in , that the first nonstop transatlantic flight was in , and that man landed on the moon in There are now six manufacturers of private jets and some 40 different models.
About 14, private jets—a small club—are now operating in the United States and Canada. They realized that it was a productivity tool, allowing executives to travel around the country safely and unimpeded, visiting plants and facilities not easily reached by commercial jets. If we had our own airplane, how would this work? Slowly but surely, these people were making ungodly amounts of money and were suddenly able to afford the luxury of a private jet, which can cost tens of millions to buy new and then millions more each year to operate, between the cost of pilots, flight attendants, housing, and maintenance.
Then, of course, there is the cost of the helicopters needed to get from Manhattan to airports in such places as Farmingdale, Long Island, or Teterboro. Lee Partners, which had just bought and sold Snapple, making a fortune. The Lee guys had flown down to Bermuda on their own private jet. We flew on ours. Another time, still at Chase, I was trying to sell Airfone, the business owned by Bell Atlantic that provided exclusive in-flight phone service on commercial and private jets.
It was an interesting moment in time, before cell phones were ubiquitous and commercial airlines agreed to allow their use.
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But the fear, correct in the end, was that the business would disappear. The question was how quickly that would happen.
Forstmann and his partners wanted an early look at trying to buy the company and agreed to pay full price if they liked it. Off we went together to Chicago, where Airfone was based. This was before Forstmann got his own jet. It was quite the experience: plush leather seats, anything we wanted to eat and drink inside a powerful jet that seemed to take off by going straight up, before reaching a cruising altitude of something like 45, feet.
The Airfone deal was a bust, but the memories of playing gin rummy, for high cash stakes, with the two late Forstmann brothers in that luxurious private jet linger on and on. The g-forces a high-end jet can produce sexualize wealth. Straight up! What a feeling.
Jet Pack Power (Full Flight Gripping Stories) by Zucker, Jonny Paperback Book
All that money has been turned into power you can feel, that you can summon on a whim. And everybody does it. Remember when Jay folds his shirts in the armoire? Same idea. No one else has them. No one else can afford them. Even more so, private jets mark the superrich as a separate class, insular, at a remove from everyone else, just like Wolfe envisioned. But Jughead shows up day after day, pushing the traffic and clocking his overtime with merry abandon. Most guys, they come back from their breaks a couple minutes late to get an easy position. I come back five minutes early to get the busy scope, but Zack usually has it—that jerk!
They shut off the overflow runway!
I was crushed with traffic! Supervisors are pacing back and forth behind the scopes, barking at the controllers like drill sergeants.
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But the job can change a controller in other ways, as is painfully evident whenever Gary Graswald shows up for work. Graswald—alternately known as Graz, or The Grizzled One—has been working Newark traffic for ten years, which makes him the senior controller in the sector.
Yeah, sure, Jughead can do it now. But let him be in the Newark sector for ten years! Quiet and sweet-tempered, Graz seemed more like a high-school music teacher than an air traffic controller when he came to the Tracon ten years ago. From the start, his plan was to learn radar controlling, then transfer to a less-stressful facility somewhere in New England.
For years Graz applied for other jobs, but when he finally got accepted at another facility, the Tracon refused to release him. Another is his mastery of the Newark airspace, which has grown so convoluted over the last 15 years that only a few dozen controllers in the country know how to work it. Until the late s, the Newark sector was actually the slowest in the Tracon, with only three scopes, eight controllers per shift, and an airport nicknamed Sleepy Hollow.
But with the passage of the Airline Deregulation Act in , everything changed. In , People Express made Newark its hub. Newark—and Graz—have never been the same. Bounded on the east by the Hudson River in order to stay clear of Kennedy and LaGuardia traffic, the Newark airspace is fed by 27 different arrival routes from the south, west, and north. And it is used by every imaginable aircraft—commuter jetlinks rushing to make Continental connections at Newark; corporate jets flying in and out of Teterboro, a small airport ten miles to the northeast; pleasure aircraft cruising the Hudson River, and dozens of eastbound jets passing overhead on their way to Kennedy and LaGuardia.
Over the years, the Newark airspace has grown so Byzantine that it takes two years for new controllers to learn its many dangerous shoals and eddies. And fully half the trainees flunk out during their training. Gone is the mild-mannered controller who arrived at the Tracon long ago, eager to learn radar controlling. I want off the scopes! Then Zack and the Boys drive past the Westbury golf course, wait for someone to lift his club, and blow the horn just as the poor sucker takes his swing.
Few do. But in other respects, controllers are—and have always been—treated like hired help. They are government employees forbidden by law to strike and on April 1, depending on the outcome of Congressional legislation, they may lose their right to form a union. They must drop everything to work overtime, no matter what they had planned with the wife and kids.
And as soon as they sit down at the scopes, they are at the mercy of lousy equipment, absent-minded pilots, reckless colleagues, bad weather, or maybe just the traffic getting heavier and heavier, like a hand constantly pushing at them from behind. Operational errors occur for many reasons—a pilot turning his plane too slowly or a radar screen going dark.
Eating a deal is not a tasty experience. Zack, for his part, has little patience with by-the-book controlling, considering it his right—by dint of his talents and the strain the FAA puts on them—to have some fun on the scopes. I need you to descend in a New York minute, not a hillbilly minute! Boom—Zack had one near midair collision. Frantic, Zack descended the prop away from the jets and into the path of another propeller plane. Boom —another near midair collision. Flailing helplessly, Zack had racked up two near midair collisions in less than 30 seconds.
And the planes roared past each other, missing by less than feet.
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Alas, Wayne is not alone. Several years ago, another controller was working Newark departures. The planes were shooting off the runway like a burst of startled pigeons, the controller scrambling to keep them separated as they climbed into the sky. He froze at his scope, actually moved his cursor to each blip, and deleted them from his radar screen.
Time to get off. A new nickname entered the lexicon: Dr. So the question that haunts the Newark controllers is: Who will be the next Wayne, the next Dr. Graz, his colleagues agree, could go at any time. You got to worry.
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But in the Newark sector, where the threat of spectacular flame-out is as inescapable as the overtime and the greasy Chinese food, the controllers not only prepare for it but participate in it—eagerly—as if they were performing some ritual sacrifice. For a while, the controllers even had a doll, shaped like a witch, that they stowed in the panel above the intimidating Newark final scope. When someone went down the pipes on final, the controllers would pull a switch and down came the witch on a string.
A few days ago, Fitz—who by his own admission tends to struggle on the scopes—was working a busy final sequence. The planes were streaming into his airspace one after another and, though he was trying to maintain three-mile separation, he was feeding the planes to the Newark tower for landing with too little room in between.
The tower controller called Fitz over the intercom to complain. There shoddy maintenance program is catching up when them. And now they are trying to blame us. At over miles a hour. Which step do you want me to skip so you can leave on time? Good for American Airlines mechanics. Every worker in America should be this tough on management.