My First Flight…No Passengers!

In 1989 Jack came home one day and said he’s been offered a temporary assignment with Pan Am in West Berlin, Germany. Since I A) loved Germany and B) I was always up for an adventure, I told him to grab it!

At the time Jack was the #1 First Officer on the A-300 Airbus. So when he bid for any line, he got it. Thus in May of 1989, our adventure began.

First, getting the plane to Berlin was a bit tricky. It could not be flown with passengers because it did not have the ability to fly from New York, JFK Airport to Berlin, Tegal Airport with a full fuel load and passengers. So, the crew was to ferry the plane over. Seeing as I was married to one of the crew, I was authorized to fly along.

Meals were loaded in the galley for us, and the Flight Engineer gave me a crash course on how to make coffee, cook the meals, etc. It was pretty exciting stuff for a 30-year-old, who really had not done a lot of traveling by the seat of her pants before!

Taking off out of JFK was so exciting. I was strapped into the cockpit pass riders seat, sat straight-forward and for the first time in my life, experienced what a pilot goes through at take-off! The plane went speeding down the runway and then I felt the front wheels leave the ground and then we were flying! I mean, it is so different to be in the cockpit and feel and see the changes. I was in awe!

(Please note here, since that flight, when I dream of flying it is always from this vantage point. And oddly enough, I’m not in a plane!)

We had daylight for a bit, and I was thrilled at what I saw down below. Once again, the perception is different in the cockpit, as you see everything head-on, not to the side of the plane.

Flight Engineer, Ray and I made the dinner meals and served them up. Do you know they all eat different meals? A built-in safety so that the entire crew doesn’t get food poisoning.

After dark, I went back and tried to sleep a little, but you know, I have never slept well on airplanes no matter how tired I am.

Eventually, I stumbled back into the cockpit and just watched the nighttime sky. St. Elmo’s Fire danced across the wind screen, the Northern Lights, over Iceland, and eventually, the sunrise over Shannon, Ireland. All so beautiful, and all I would have missed if I had slept.

In the morning we were flying over Europe, and then over the very beautiful and neat fields of Germany. That flight was the start of the adventure and I still can see so much of the beautiful countryside in my mind.

Before I knew it, we were setting up to land at Berlin, Tegel Airport. As strange as it was to take off, the landing was an experience! We were lined up on the runway, and we floated down, down, and I thought okay the wheels should touch…but it was a moment or two more before the back wheels touched and then the front!


This is the plane we flew over from New York, JFK Airport!

After landing, we taxied to the gate, and a ground agent popped on board, and saw Jack and smiled and greeted him by name. Jack had flown in the IGS (Internal German Service) for Pan Am for 11 years, so this was all familiar to him.

It was all new to me, and I was a wide-eyed youngster back then, but by the end of the summer I was taking the S-Bahn and U-Bahn and buses all around town and I think that was the summer, I learned how to do everything all on my own.

I would find a destination in West Berlin, and then figure out how to get there. It was a summer of fun, adventure, good German Beer and did I mention the wursts, cheese, bread, and pastries? Oh my goodness! It was marvelous all of it!


Me and Jack

2 thoughts on “My First Flight…No Passengers!”

  1. What an adventure. I didn’t realise the Airbus had been around since 1989. Very funny about you dreaming of flying without a plane. 1989 was the year the wall came down. What a time to be in Berlin.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.