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Everyday Heroes Who Don’t Make the News

August 31, 2016
Bobby the birthday boy.JPG

Bob trying hard not to look like a pointy birthday hat kind of guy.

Last week my sister-in-law flew me back to Pennsylvania to celebrate my brother Bob’s birthday.  (I am lucky beyond belief to be part of this family.) I do have a photo of Bob in a pointy birthday hat, but I’m not posting it because I’m fairly certain he will hunt me down and kill me if I do. But, I’m keeping it in case blackmail is ever necessary.


I got in some great bonding time with family, including adorable great nephews and nieces I never get to see. And I ate too much — again.

The flights were mostly uneventful, although I did have the good fortune to sit beside a very entertaining guy, named Fred,  who sells nitrile gloves.  They’re like rubber gloves only better, especially if you’re allergic to latex. Fred said he would send me some gloves that would protect my fingers when I went blackberry picking and he actually did!  Now I have cool red gloves and can’t wait to head into the brambles.

My family was only a little concerned when I pulled one of Fred’s blue nitrile gloves out of my purse. If you’re a surgeon, a blackberry picker, into kink, or an axe murderer with a latex allergy, here’s a link to Fred’s site:  QRP Gloves and Fingercots.

On the way back, I was lucky enough to run into my brother Bernie and his wife Donna at the airport.  They bought me a glass of wine and a proscuitto sandwich at this cool little Italian store at the Pittsburgh airport. (God love them!) I never even knew the place existed, but Bernie’s internal GPS (Global Proscuitto Sensor)  can sniff out an Italian store no matter where on earth he is. It’s his sixth sense, which proves he is my mother’s son.

It was a good thing I had the wine because I needed it on the final leg of my flight from Las Vegas to Burbank. A ridiculously drunk young man  in front of me kept hitting on the girl beside me, who was dressed in a skimpy hot pink dress and heels. I leaned toward the girl and told her this was one of those times I was thankful I was too old to be noticed. The drunk guy was so drunk, he sloppily peered around the seat to see if I warranted any attention, then drunkenly turned away, disproving the theory that everyone is beautiful if you’re drunk enough.

Then we took off with a loud, visible, too close for comfort, thunderstorm in the distance. It felt like the plane was being batted around by a giant toddler who just wanted to have fun.  I kept seeing lightning flashes, and the pilot announced he was sorry, but the flight attendants would not be able to serve refreshments due to turbulence.

I kept repeating to myself,  “God, please don’t let us die…I have way too much left to do.”

After the first 20 minutes, the plane climbed above the clouds, the toddler stopped batting at our plane, the stars were dancing, the drunk fell asleep, and life felt possible again.

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Southwest Flight 2810 safely on the tarmac in Burbank.

When I got off the plane, I looked at it on the tarmac and thought, that could have ended really badly. Lightning could have struck and caused something to malfunction — although this story in the Washington Post says that improvements in plane construction mean that seldom, if ever, happens.

But it made me think about the pilots who do this work every day.  Taking off in ugly weather, because schedules are everything in air travel, must be scary as hell. When I think of all the flights I’ve been on where there was turbulence, or lightning, wind, snow, or ice on the wings that had to be removed, I realize how lucky I’ve been to have had such good pilots and how I take them for granted.

So, although (thank God) this was not a “Sully” Sullenberger moment, I’m dedicating this blog post to you two pilots of Southwest Flight 2810, departing Las Vegas Monday, August 22, at 8:05 p.m. and arriving in Burbank at 9:05 p.m. I just got a response from Southwest saying that Captain Lewin was responsible for our safe flight and landing. But I’m sure his co-pilot helped. (And just in case you ever happen to read this, Captain Lewin,  I really was OK with no beverages.)


The pilots are behind those little windows somewhere.

I tried to get a shot of you from outside the plane, but I couldn’t get close enough. I wish I’d had the presence of mind to try to meet you and thank you in person for allowing me to continue to enjoy my family and live my life. I would have loved to post your photos and give you both a big hug.

You don’t get called a hero for doing your job well every day, but you are both heroes to me because your skill and a little bit of luck made that flight uneventful. They say any flight you walk away from is a great flight and I heartily agree. I applaud you and all pilots who do a fantastic job keeping us safe day after day.  Thank you so very much!

  • Reply
    Pat Gram
    September 15, 2016 at 3:04 pm

    Hi Fran! This is wierd to say, but I remember you from that flight! No, I wasn’t the drunk, the nitrile glove guy, but the guy sitting up in the cockpit (the First Officer) watching you take pictures of the aircraft at the gate in Burbank. Captain Tony Lewin and I were reflecting on the events of the previous flight (2810) in anticipation of our final leg of our three day trip, which when completed, meant we could commute back to our home towns and be with our families.

    First of all, thank you for the note to the company about your experience! Believe it or not, it does trickle down to the little guy here at Southwest and knowing we made a positive impact on someone goes a long way with us, and it’s much appreciated!

    I’ll give you a little more about the flight itself from OUR perspective…

    First of all, when we decide to take an aircraft and it’s precious occupants off the ground, we are no less than 100% positive we can complete the flight safely. Selfishly, (as stated above) we want to finish that last leg of our trip and go home to be with our families, and if we do that well, everyone else has a safe experience as well!

    So, before we pushed off the gate and while passengers were boarding, Tony and I gathered information, discussed and briefed the flight, the weather, and reports from other departing aircraft and made plan A: What we can expect, plan B: What possible anomalies that could take us from plan A, and plan C: What to do if the fecal material comes in contact with the reciprocating air movement device (emergency). We do this beforehand so there is no guesswork about IF things are straying, and HOW FAR things are straying from plan A, allowing us to continually work and react quickly together to keep things on track.

    I guess what I’m getting at is that, rest assured, we absolutely can NOT rely on luck to complete our mission, but rather the 35 years and 35,000+ hours of flight experience and training between the two of us. If there is any doubt beyond that, we simply won’t go. Again, we all have families to go home to… 🙂

    Again, thanks for the comment and the great blog….you are a very entertaining and colorful writer! A special thank you as well for putting your trust in us for air travel, and for supporting people like Tony and me to have a great career doing the job we love!

    Firs Officer Pat Gram

  • Reply
    August 31, 2016 at 4:41 pm

    I so enjoyed this post. Yes, we do take for granted the wonderful flight crew that takes care of us in the cabin while the pilots try to get us to our destination safely. I loved the drunk passenger peering around the seat. Yes, when a glance in the older person’s direction by the drunk produces no response of him to you, that made me laugh out loud. Thankfully for all around him, he fell asleep.
    Thank you for your posts. They truly “make my day!”

    • Reply
      Fran Tunno
      September 1, 2016 at 6:09 pm

      My sweet Marianne, so glad I can bring a smile to your face. I wouldn’t have wanted the drunk anyway, so it all worked out. Another reason to embrace aging…no skimpy dresses, heels or drunks! Love you and thanks for responding and always reading!

  • Reply
    Mary J Tunno
    August 31, 2016 at 4:03 pm

    Gee, didn’t realize you had such chaos in the sky. Glad it settled down & Tweedy flew home safely! Great picture of Mr. Bob too on his milestone Birthday! he was a good reason for a trip. 🙂 Hey, we ALL were! Thanks again Patricia!!

    • Reply
      Fran Tunno
      September 1, 2016 at 6:05 pm

      Yeah, that kind of excitement I can do without. It was a great trip. It’s good to have great family!

  • Reply
    Monica Muehsam
    August 31, 2016 at 1:37 pm

    An axe murderer with a latex allergy- now THAT made me laugh out loud! Glad you got home safely, Fran!

    • Reply
      Fran Tunno
      September 1, 2016 at 6:04 pm

      It would be an unfortunate combination wouldn’t it? Clearly, I have a very dark side. Thanks for reading Monica! You rock!

  • Reply
    Karen Zigler
    August 31, 2016 at 1:25 pm

    I’m getting my husband on a plane in November to fly to Texas. I had to pay extra to get non stop because if we touched down once on the way that may have ended up being our destination. A trip to Germany many years ago did him in as far as flying goes. Sorry Fran, I will not be sharing this blog with him but I thoroughly enjoyed it!

    • Reply
      Fran Tunno
      September 1, 2016 at 6:03 pm

      If you don’t think about it, you are Ok. They say sleeping pills really help. Or you can go the route the drunk guy did, but I don’t recommend it. Thanks for always reading and taking the time to respond. Good luck on your flight to Texas!

  • Reply
    Mandy Gustafsen
    August 31, 2016 at 1:09 pm

    A very enjoyable read Fran – didn’t realize all that happened on the way back!! Wow!

    • Reply
      Fran Tunno
      September 1, 2016 at 6:02 pm

      Yes Mandy, my life is a whirlwind of excitement and nitrile gloves!

  • Reply
    August 31, 2016 at 8:07 am

    Good one!!!!

    From: At Frans Table To: Sent: Wednesday, August 31, 2016 9:22 AM Subject: [New post] Everyday Heroes Who Don’t Make the News #yiv0201551313 a:hover {color:red;}#yiv0201551313 a {text-decoration:none;color:#0088cc;}#yiv0201551313 a.yiv0201551313primaryactionlink:link, #yiv0201551313 a.yiv0201551313primaryactionlink:visited {background-color:#2585B2;color:#fff;}#yiv0201551313 a.yiv0201551313primaryactionlink:hover, #yiv0201551313 a.yiv0201551313primaryactionlink:active {background-color:#11729E;color:#fff;}#yiv0201551313 | Fran Tunno posted: “Last week my sister-in-law flew me back to Pennsylvania to celebrate my brother Bob’s birthday.  (I am lucky beyond belief to be part of this family.) I do have a photo of Bob in a pointy birthday hat, but I’m not posting it because I’m fairly certain h” | |

    • Reply
      Fran Tunno
      August 31, 2016 at 12:03 pm

      Thanks Bee-nardo. You helped make it! Thanks again for your GPS, the yummy sangweech and wine.

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