AlaskaAir Aviation Geek Night

A Night With @AlaskaAir

This week I had a unique and truly awesome experience thanks to the good people behind @AlaskaAir’s twitter presence (Most specifically Elliot).  I was one of 12 people chosen to participate in Alaska Airlines Aviation Geek Night!  We went out to their Seattle flight operations center -the training center for pilots and flight crew.

Our night began with some traditional “in flight snacks” of peanuts, pretzels and and a selection of Jones Sodas while we watched a nice promo video on Alaska Air’s customer service culture.  Marketing hoo-haa you say?  Perhaps, but I can tell you that the flights I’ve been on have lived up to the image they portray in the video.

Then we split into small groups for the big fat geeky fun part of the night.  The first activity for me was flying their multi-million dollar 737 flight simulator.  This thing is so realistic that the pilots train exclusively in it… the first time they fly an actual plane it’s full of passengers!


One of my compatriots @imperfectsense videoed my landing on her iPhone (watch it here). It looks worse than it was, honestly, but I did hit pretty hard.  She called out that it felt like a carrier deck landing, and I think I flatted a tire, but hey I got it down in one piece!  🙂   I flew it all the way in on manual, didn’t use the autopilot at all, so I was pretty proud of that – lining up on the runway was the toughest part IMO.   Actually, harder than landing was driving the plane across the tarmac!  Holy cats!  You steer with your feet (one pedal for each) and you break with your toes, plus there’s a little hand wheel near your left hip that’s VERY touchy.  I about got motion sick from that part of the simulation.  Once I was stopped at the gate the trainer told me to do the “Airplane (movie) thing” and drive the plane through the terminal, which was quite honestly creepy, that simulator is so realistic that both the co-pilot and I winced as the wall of the building approached!

After having fun in the sim we went off to flight attendant training.  Our first order of business was to learn to put out an airplane fire.  They had a little computer controlled fireplace and a big cart full of extinguishers and turned us loose one at a time to put out a fire.  After watching us bumble they gave us some training and had us try again.  The first time very few people got the fire out, after the training most of us got it in under 10 seconds.

13910394 Next up we boarded the plane and got a “crash course” (HA!) in removing airplane over-wing doors. Each of us getting a chance to try both the older style (aka “classic door”) and the new spring-assisted ones (soooo much easier).  We then learned how to open the main forward doors and once the emergency slide inflated we got to evac the plane.  SUHWEEEEEET!   I had so much fun that I went back and did the slide again!   We also learned the proper technique of exiting the wing without a slide – a process that requires the pilot to put the flaps down and you to sit on the wing and slide off the side about 15 feet above the ground.  FUN!

We learned about the kind of safety, self defense, and first responder training that the flight crew goes through.  If you ever thought of them as in-flight waiters and waitresses – then stop it, these guys and gals are hard core!

We ended the evening with a sharing of photos, stories, and videos before heading back into the real world, each of us a bit more confident as travelers and a bit more impressed by the men and women who haul our privileged butts from one end of the globe to the other.

Thanks so much to Elliot, our hosts, pilots, flight crew, and everyone at @AlaskaAir that made this happen.  I had a great time!

Certificate of Geekiness

P.S. To see what the other attendees thought, check out the #ASAGN twitter stream and the photos from the Seattle Social Media Club.

Late breaking news – I was quoted twice in Harriet Baskas’ story about her experiences at ASAGN.  Thanks Harriet for the nod!  🙂

Harriet Baskas writes’s popular weekly column, The Well-Mannered Traveler. She is the author of the “Stuck at the Airport” blog, a contributor to National Public Radio and a columnist for

~ by brianherman on July 6, 2009.

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