Updating enlisted record brief
Silhouetted against the deep blue horizon of the stratosphere, Trans-United Flight 52 cruised westbound toward Japan.Below, Captain Alan Stuart could see pieces of the sunlit Pacific between the breaks in the cloud cover.
They would fly south of the original planned routing to stay away form the worst of the newly predicted headwinds. "Some idiot in public relations thinks I come across good. Everyone took a plastic cup, and she handed Stuart the pastry dish. "Carl, see if the passengers' flight-connection information has come in yet." Stuart glanced down at the blank electronics screen on the pedestal between the two flight chairs. "Some of the first-class passengers are getting nervous.Stuart picked up a clipboard from the flight pedestal between himself and the copilot, looked at their computer flight plan, then glanced back at the electronic readout of position: 161 degrees, 14 minutes west, 43 degrees 27 minutes north--2100 miles west of California, 1500 miles north of Hawaii. First Officer Daniel Mc Vary, the copilot, glanced at him. He'd done a television talk show the previous morning. When O'Neil reached the top of the staircase, she frowned."We should be landing at Chicago within the hour." Stuart managed a smile. He'd been anxious about it and, like an instant replay, snatches of the conversation kept running through his brain. Thorndike." She introduced herself with the automatic manners of the old, not recognizing or caring that modern travel didn't require it. Three of the male passengers stood arm-in-arm around the piano. But she knew that whenever men acted openly chummy while they were still sober, they were certain to become especially loud after they began to drink. O'Neil knew they would soon get their chance, since she was supposed to open the bar in a few minutes.But there had not been even the slightest turbulence at those altitudes. He was a multimillion-miler, although supersonic speeds had made that yardstick meaningless.Stuart would have welcomed a little bump, the way truck drivers did on a long haul across endless smooth blacktop. There was one thing to see that never ceased to fascinate him: the rounded horizon line that separated earth from subspace. Now he was losing count of his hours, miles, and number of crossings.Time en route would be only slightly greater than usual, at six hours and twenty-four minutes. Not that I would have gotten up that early…" The junior pilot in the cockpit, Carl Fessler, who sat behind them at the relief copilot's position, laughed. I'd rather fly through a line of thunderstorms than face a camera." Mc Vary nodded. "Maybe we missed it on the screen." Fessler looked over his shoulder toward the right rear of the cockpit. Having a printout of connection updates works even better than giving them Valium." While she spoke with the Captain, O'Neil could see out of the corner of her eye that Fessler and Mc Vary were looking at each other in a peculiar way, evidently conveying some sort of signal.
It was still impressive; grist for the media's mill. Stuart remembered the time he had been candid during a magazine interview. Alan Stuart was every inch the image of the competent captain, from his gray hair to the crease in his pants. "I'll suggest it to PR." He looked around the flight deck. I have to go down to the pit pretty soon to help Barbara Yoshiro." She nodded toward the service elevator that led to the lower kitchen. Terri realized that the First Officer and Second Officer were playing a game--and that she had become part of it. After everyone mumbled his thanks, O'Neil left the flight deck and closed the door behind her.
Stuart had been called in to speak to the Chief Pilot about his candor. The usual mid-flight routines had laid their blue veil over the crew. The doldrums, as they were called by seamen--but this ship was not becalmed as a ship caught in the doldrums. Mc Vary picked up the ship's interphone and pushed the call button. Of the three of them on the flight deck, only Stuart remembered when everything they ate was served on real china.
It was ripping along at close to the velocity of a bullet. well, you have ten left to wonder about." He laughed again, then glanced at Captain Stuart to read his mood. Flight attendants Sharon Crandall and Terri O'Neil were in the first-class galley in the main cabin below when the light blinked. After a brief exchange with Mc Vary, she hung up and turned to Sharon Crandall. It's a wonder they don't turn brown with all they drink." "They're just bored," said Crandall. Walking all the way upstairs every time the cockpit crew needs a diversion is no fun." O'Neil took out a dish of pastry and poured three coffees. The utensils then were silver and the food was a little less plastic as well.
Across seven time zones and the International Date Line in less than a working man's day. He had honestly explained the technical problems of supersonic flight at 62,000 feet, like the subtle effects of ozone poisoning and the periodic increases in radiation from sunspots. Behind Mc Vary, Fessler was typing into a portable computer--an electronic equivalent of a ship's log--with backup data from the instrument panel. Captain Stuart had waited for the coffee and pastry as though it were a special event--a milestone along a straight desert highway.
The interviewer had latched on to some of his points, exaggerated others, and had written an article that would have scared the hell out of a Shuttle astronaut. Mc Vary had returned to staring blankly ahead, his mind, no doubt, on personal matters. Coffee and a pastry." "Coffee for me," Fessler said. He ate the pastry slowly, then sat back to sip at his coffee.
In the old days, there was much more work, but much more fun. At cruise speed it would take him nearly four-and-a-half minutes to turn the 797 around, and during that time the ship would have flown sixty-seven miles.