January 1, 2022•2,259 words
Beloved family and friends,
As with 2020 before it, 2021 has been another mixed bag of a year. On one hand, despite triple vaccination, the pandemic continues to dictate what I can and cannot do (or feel comfortable doing). On the other hand, this past year has provided me with a collection of the greatest memories and experiences I've ever had, not to mention considerable personal growth.
2021 was off to a slow start, and began as 2020 ended: Locked inside, the potential for vaccines on the horizon but still too distant to be considered "soon."
I celebrated Tiffany's 24th birthday with her in Charlotte. We found a local hiking trail and enjoyed a typical-of-Charlotte warm, sunny March day outdoors.
By the end of the month, both Tif and I had received both of our shots and were eager to begin loosening our (mostly) self-imposed travel restrictions.
In the second half of the month, Tiffany flew to Dayton to (finally!) begin her training as a First Officer at PSA, ending the long year of uncertainty that plagued the whole airline industry. She would be in Dayton for about two months for the first phases of her summer-long training.
By this point, vaccines were becoming widely available and summer forecasts pointed to strong demand for airline travel, which meant a strong demand for airline pilots.
I celebrated my 26th birthday this year in Charlotte... by myself. However, the date of my birthday is just a day on the calendar. A few days prior, my college friend Jordan flew in from Atlanta to help me celebrate (via brunch). Then, by the end of the week, I was back to work.
June was a huge month. On the 2nd, I was out enjoying an afternoon with Tiffany in Uptown Charlotte when my phone began to flood with congratulatory texts. I pulled up my work email and saw that (finally) I had been awarded a position as Captain at PSA with class beginning less than three weeks later.
I was thrilled!
Prior to the pandemic and its associated freeze on airline career progression, I was on the precipice of upgrading to Captain. This email signaled that, finally, I had made it.
Shortly thereafter, I planned a semi-surprise trip to California. I told my parents that I would visit again (for the first time since the start of the pandemic) the moment they were both fully vaccinated. Mom knew about my visit, for Dad it was a surprise. It was a short trip, but tremendously alleviative.
On one of my first flights back after visiting California, Tiffany joined me on the jumpseat for two of my flights. This was valuable as she was able to see the pace at which things occur in real world operations. She said this was especially helpful on the ground while setting up the plane's computer before flight, since this is when the bulk of the work we do occurs. And according to her, it all happened way faster than she was expecting.
The flights she witnessed were part of a single-digit countdown of flights I had left to complete as a First Officer. By the end of the month, I was in Dayton beginning Captain Upgrade training. Tiffany was now in Charlotte completing her simulator training... sigh, star-crossed.
When I got back from Dayton a few weeks later, I was met with an unfortunate call from Tiffany; her catalytic converter (and that of another nearly identical Prius owned by a classmate of hers) was stolen in the parking lot of the hotel she was placed in for training in Charlotte. Thankfully, her hotel had a shuttle service to-and-from the training center. But this set into motion a series of heartaches related to Tiffany's college cruiser.
Once I was sure Tiffany would not need any rides in the following week-and-change, I headed on a short electric road trip to Atlanta, GA where I would be staying while I completed the simulator portion of my training.
Atlanta was a great host, including the handful of local friends I was able to meet up with while I was there. Over the course of the month, I ventured out to the Delta Air Museum, Piedmont Park, and countless restaurants, walking trails, and one stellar British pub.
I drove home from Atlanta victorious, freshly-printed certificate in-hand. The relief I felt on that drive home is impossible to describe. My drive was occupied (and shortened) by congratulatory calls from my parents.
Initially, I was based in Philadelphia. It was uneventful and lasted but a week. Beginning in September I was based at Ronald Regan National Airport in Washington, DC. It's not this way anymore, but in September and October, our DC flying was sparse.
All new Captains and First Officers are placed on what's called "reserve," which means they're on-call with a predefined maximum report time. In PSA's case, two hours. While not flying, all I need to do is make sure I'm within two hours of the airport in case they need me.
At first, not flying was novel and nice, especially after two months of endless studying and stress. But after a week, I was starting to get bored. Every time I looked out the window of my hotel room, I saw DC's famous monuments peppering the horizon. One day, empowered by DC's fast and reliable Metro system, I decided it was time to go and visit them.
The strategy: I went to the airport in the morning shortly after sunrise, dropped my bags in our crew lounge in case I was called into work, then took the Metro into the city. I figured out I could be at the airport from anywhere in the city in 30 minutes or less, which gave me plenty of confidence to roam. I've been to DC a few other times in my life, but now that I could explore at my own pace I had time to take in the limitless smaller details, and pose as a local from time to time.
On one particular September day, my company realized I could be better utilized in Charlotte and granted my request to be on reserve in my hometown for the week. Shortly after granting this request, I was notified I would be working a three-day trip. About 5 minutes later, Tiffany was notified that she would be working the same three-day trip!
What followed was one of my favorite trips since starting at PSA, and in all respects what I needed after enduring the stress of being a new Captain, and Tiffany the stress of being a new First Officer. We even — by total luck — had a nice, long overnight stay at my favorite PSA destination: Scranton, PA (seriously!).
I took Tiffany to the Scranton Trolley Museum and shared with her Scranton's role in pioneering and proliferating the electric trolley, precursor to today's electric vehicles. A few days after the trip, we appropriately celebrated the grand opening of Charlotte's Gold Line streetcar by riding it through Uptown to lunch.
On the topic of electric mobility, in September Tiffany and I proudly completed the transition to an all-electric lifestyle. After months of car drama following her catalytic converter incident, Tiffany sold her Prius to CarMax at a supply-shortage-inflated price. We now share my Tesla, which is easy for us to do as we both live and work at the same locations. And, since our apartment uses all-electric appliances, we're officially free of all fossil fuels in our personal lives. I could write for ages about how important I think this is for everyone to pursue... but out of respect for everyone's time and attention, know it's something I am tremendously thrilled that we accomplished. And please reach out if you're curious or skeptical about doing the same, I'd love to act as your electric ambassador. Up next on this front: e-bikes! Our matching pair is scheduled for delivery in January.
My company continued to grant my requests to be on reserve in Charlotte. Despite still being DC based, I only spent one night in DC in October.
Tiffany and I participated in this year's Runway 5K at the Charlotte Airport. For those unfamiliar with the concept, many major airports will close one of their runways/taxiways for a morning to allow people to run on them while aircraft and airport vehicles bustle about nearby. With the average runway at an international airport being some-10,000' long, a 5K doesn't take up much real estate.
It was a euphoric experience for me, and an awe-filled one. The same runway I regularly land on — often several times a day — and which I normally occupy for mere seconds, was now moving under my feet for minutes straight. The titanic scale of airports had never felt as tangible as when my Watch chimed the completion of my second mile as I was still huffing-and-puffing my way down the same strip of pavement.
Late October/early November brought two Purdue events at which I recruited for PSA, my first since the pandemic began. It was great (and overwhelming) seeing campus again, a lot changed in the year+ since I last visited. The best part was getting to see my classmates who were there recruiting for other airlines, as I hadn't spoken to the majority of them since before the pandemic either.
On a whim, Tiffany and I spent three days off traveling to Dallas for a comedy show. The comedian, Kurtis Conner, is a lesser-known YouTube personality that Tiffany and I enjoy. He held a show in Raleigh earlier in the month but the show sold out before we had a chance to buy tickets. Since the Dallas show had tickets available and we wouldn't have to pay for airfare, we thought, "Why not?" The show was super enjoyable, and Dallas was a good (albeit surprisingly chilly) host.
Tiffany and I both decided we'd schedule ourselves on reserve over the holidays this year, both because it pays well and because it gives other crew members with families/children a better chance at getting the holidays off. Tiffany was used all weekend long, I was not. As such, Tiffany enjoyed a professionally cooked Thanksgiving dinner at her hotel's top-floor restaurant. I fell victim to my limited culinary skills at home.
We opted out of Black Friday and instead spent Small Business Saturday exploring and patronizing our local shops. Our neighborhood of Charlotte, South End, completely transformed itself for the occasion; closing streets and hosting countless small businesses from all around Charlotte.
As has been tradition since I started my career as an airline pilot, I've invented an in-between holiday to visit my parents in California while travel lulls between Thanksgiving and Christmas. This year was no different! Expectedly, it was great seeing my parents again (and enjoying the late November/early December heat).
While in California, I was made aware of a test drive event being held in Santa Clarita for the electric adventure vehicle startup, Rivian. I'm not a fan of pickup trucks in general, but this one really blew me away. I'm confident saying that the family EV skeptic (Dad) also walked away impressed by what they managed to put together. I'm excited to watch this company grow and develop.
With recommendation from a few of the volunteers Tiffany and I work with at Charlotte's Latta Park, I had a video call with Mecklenburg County Councilman Mark Jerrell regarding the need for park space in our rapidly-growing South End neighborhood.
It sometimes feels like there is yet another construction project breaking ground every day, with little regard for what I consider "neighborhood essentials:" markets, libraries, parks, even a single post office.
My ongoing concern, and the reason for my call, is that South End is growing to become a great place to visit but a terrible place to live. And, as we all know, it's much cheaper to build something right first than to try and fix it later. Mark shared my frustrations and was sure to explain — in detail — the depth and complexity of making this happen. This conversation is ongoing and I'm excited to see where it leads in 2022.
Which brings us to this past week. I worked Christmas Day and was home with Tiffany in time for dinner. Though we didn't have anything special planned due to the uncertainty of whether or not we'd actually be home (the 28th was our fallback Christmas in case we were both working through the holiday). But opening presents on Christmas Day was, itself, a cherished gift.
Rather than more narrative, I figured I'd wrap this year's letter up by compiling a bulleted list of the things I'm most excited/hopeful for in 2022. In no particular order:
- Continued health and wellness
- Hikes! They've been on our to-do list since we moved to Charlotte
- Holding a regular schedule as a Captain (no more reserve!)
- International travel
- Ongoing conversations regarding the installation of a South End park
- Our e-bike delivery
With that, thanks for reading this lengthy summary of the past year of my life. Here's wishing you peace, wellness, growth, and belonging in the year ahead.
P.S. I know I said the 2022 list was in no particular order, but it's secretly alphabetical.