Friday, April 8

The Big Event

We meet in the lobby this morning, making quite a splash with Zane in his Captain's uniform, Peggy and Jane in their stewardess uniforms, and the rest of us in colorful shirts bearing the Foundation logo. This morning there is a special check in point at the end of the American counter marked "DC-3 Check-In" with a large photo of the plane. There we receive our TSA clearance documents and are escorted through security as VIPs. We set up at a gate in the old terminalwith help from two American guys. There we meet Patti McMillan, an American flight attendant, and member of the Foundation who has taken vacation to be with us for these four days. We await the press who will take a sight seeing trip around the bay. Gene will be the pilot, Steve will co-pilot, the three uniformed members will be the cabin crew. Buff will be the ground crew, directing the plane in and out. The rest of us will man the table. Twelve members of the press arrive, many from aviation publications. We have them sign waivers, fill out a manifest, and get them to sign a slip of paper for a prize. The prize is the opportunity to sit in the jump seat during the flight, getting a panoramic view and hear the pilots talk on the radio. Gene later says it was most scenic flight he has ever participated in.
Unfortunately, the view of the plane is blocked by two jet ways and people have to walk down to the next gate to see it. Several passengers and American employees come by to see what we are about.

The event today is the opening of a new terminal to be occupied by American Airlines (and Virgin America) and so the flight will leave from the old and arrive back at the new. Once the passengers go down to the plane, our two helpers show up again and pack all our things on a cart. Sailesh comes to escort his herd of cats from the old building to the new one. We have to go out on the sidewalk and as we do, the Flagship appears to our left, taking off against the blue, blue sky.
The new terminal is a beehive of activity, the grand opening is on Saturday and folks are scurrying to get things done. There are several restaurants where food is being cooked, but they are serving it only to designated tasters and trainees. Down at the end chairs and tables are being set up for a gala event for the evening. There were conflicting messages about whether we were invited to it, and in the end we opted not to come back to the airport.

As we are setting up, Deanna looks at a passerby and blurts, "Bobbie Flay!" Sheryl says, "No, wrong color hair." Deanna explains that it was the only name she could come up with but she swears he is a Food Network Star. Sheryl takes off in pursuit and sees him disappear into one of the restaurants. As she comes abreast of it, she sees the name on the back wall, "Tyler Florence." And then there he comes right at her. So she tells him she admires his work and invites him to come and tour the plane. He is very gracious and asks her name, and shakes her hand. We later hear that Cat Cora will also be on hand.

Buff asks Sheryl to go back to the old terminal and meet Lewis Drake and his grandson, Jacob, who are arriving from Kentucky. Patti comes along as she is familiar with the terrain. With that done, we now number 13 folks. There is now a small stage and podium set up right next to our area and a platform plum full of press photographers in front. Just as our flight returns, politicians and dignitaries begin to speak. One person in attendance is Buzz Aldrin, the second man on the moon. Mary and Deanna approach and get their photo taken with him. Then Sir Richard Branson, founder of Virgin America, is introduced. Peggy has been dying to see him, but we cannot find her. When she returns, Sir Richard has gone into the crowd but she Jane and Zane, in their uniforms head in that direction. In a few minutes I see camera flashes and spot them along with two flight attendants also in vintage uniforms with Sir Richard in the center. Mission accomplished.

The only way to see the plane is to go into the nearby Admiral's Club. We go to take a look and find there is food. Small turkey sandwiches, cookies and a vegetable tray. The first of us grab a bite and go to tell the others, but alas most of it is gone and not replaced. Meanwhile all the important people and the press have also gone. Tours of the plane are being given to employees and the table crew talks to a few interested parties, but most people are here to work.

Then word is passed to us that the winds are so brisk that the plane is in danger and will be moved to a hanger along with Sir Richard's WhiteKnightTwo and SpaceShipTwo. We must pack up and board quickly. Soon we taxi out and it is evident that it is all Gene can do to control the plane in the wind, but before we know it, we taxi into a huge AA hanger. Buff remarks with a laugh that is the first time he has ever taxied into a hanger. Looking out of the plane I can see the ground crew's clothing whipping around them in the strong wind.

There we meet Rich Wood, Maintenance Shift Manager, a really nice person who proves to be very helpful to us. Rich has two vans brought up to ferry us to our hotel and promises to have them there again in the morning to get us back to the hangar to taxi her to the terminal.

Peggy, Steve and the Gorrells go into San Francisco for dinner while the rest of us go to Kincaid's, a nice place next to the hotel with a stunning view of the bay. We are almost blown away getting there, but enjoy another excellent dinner before returning to the hotel and falling into bed.

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