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Long-haul Flight Survival Tips

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Flying today with its delays, multiple stops and packed flights requires an act of discipline and a sense of humor. Even the pilots know, to mentally survive they have to on occasion bite their lip and smile.

After every flight pilots fill out a form called by many a “gripe sheet”. This sheet tells mechanics about problems with the aircraft. The mechanics correct the problem; document their repairs on the form, and then the pilot reviews the gripe sheet before the next flight. Never let it be said that ground crews lack a sense of humor. Here are some actual maintenance complaints submitted by UPS pilots. The complaints are marked with a “P” designating pilot, and the solution by the maintenance crew member is marked with an “M” designating maintenance crew.

P: Something loose in cockpit.

M: Something tightened in cockpit.

P: Dead bugs on windshield.

M: Live bugs on back-order.

P: Evidence of leak on right main landing gear.

M: Evidence removed.

P: Number 3 engine missing.

M: Engine found on right wing after brief search.

P: Aircraft handles funny.

M: Aircraft warned to straighten up, fly right, and be serious.

P: Mouse in cockpit.

M: Cat installed.

P: Noise coming from under instrument panel. Sounds like a midget pounding on something with a hammer.

M: Took hammer away from midget.

Here are some suggestions on how to keep sane when you’re tempted to curl up in the fetal position and suck your thumb while flying.

Two Drinks: Most flight attendants say it’s OK to ask for two drinks at a time so you don’t need to call them back in 5 minutes. Remember to drink plenty of water and juice to keep hydrated, and avoid caffeinated drinks, along with tea and coffee. These just make you thirstier.

Wear Shoes: Now that you’re slouching around with your belly bloated with H2O. You’ll need to go to the bathroom more often. Never, and I repeat NEVER, use plane toilets without wearing shoes. The flight attendants work hard to keep these areas clean but can’t keep cleaning the bathroom throughout the flight, so you never know what you may take back to your seat? Along with your belly, your feet can swell during the flight so wear something easy to slip on and off your feet.

Seat Belts: Always wear your seat belt, even when the seat belt light is off. There can always be unexpected jolts from take off to landing. I was on a flight where the pilot bounced the plane extremely hard twice while landing. His voice on the intercom quickly eased our white knuckles as he said “Take that you bad, bad runway!

Do Exercises: Getting some exercise is important to staying healthy and feeling good during and after the flight. Get up and stretch regularly if possible, or at least circle your ankles once an hour. If you’re really into exercising go down the aisle trying to kick the pennies out of your penny loafers.

Dry Air: Keep the air vent above you open. Dampen a facecloth, place it over your face, and aim the air vent at the cloth. This will help with the dryness--if you want your teen-ager to roll their eyes in disgust draw a smiley face on the facecloth.

Wear Layers: You’ve got to contend with busy airports at each end, and different levels of air-conditioning on the plane. Most often the cabin is so cold you can hang beef in it, so layer your clothing. Take out of your suit case excess clothing, don’t worry that the clothes are multi-colored and mismatched, and put it on. It will give you more space in your hand luggage. The down side is that you will look like a fashion consultant for D.I.

Sleep: Sleep as much as you can. Avoid alcohol and caffeine; Try eating your dinner at the airport before your flight, then once on the plane turn in for the night. Use an eye mask, ear plugs, and a neck pillow to make yourself as comfortable as possible. Think about what you’re looking forward to doing at your destination, and let yourself drift off. If you’re lucky, you’ll wake up to the flight attendant saying: “As you exit the plane, please make sure to gather all of your belongings. Anything left behind will be distributed evenly among the flight attendants. Please do not leave children or spouses.

The next time you get the urge to go blasting through the sky in a pressurized metal tube for much of the day and night I hope these hints will help you pass the time with a smile on your face.

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Jack Marshall travels the world with Fun For Less Tours. Click here to learn more.
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