I'm further south today, in more civilized climes. We're coordinating with a second crew that operates at different altitudes, a different range of speeds, and has set up the job with totally different parameters. They are from a sister company, but they must be that distant sister who moved out before we really knew what was going on, so we have different SOPs, and oh yes a different language in the cockpit. Coordination takes a career's worth of communication skills, and I'm not sure we all like each other at the end of the day.
After five hours aloft I'm descending out of the flight levels like a bat out of hell. There are no fuel endurance issues, no speed limits and no turbulence, so I'm pitched down at cruise power driving the airspeed indicator into the yellow arc. The yellow speed range denotes caution. It's okay to be here, as long as I don't make abrupt control movements or otherwise stress the airframe. I'm outside controlled airspace and plummeting towards a controlled airport where there will be food, avgas, washrooms, an oxygen fill and taxicabs that take us to hotels. Forty miles out I pick up the ATIS. Or maybe it was an AWOS. The difference is that the content of the ATIS is determined by human beings while AWeOS is created by bored robots. The bored robots at this airport tell me the density altitude and give the winds as "variable." They always say the winds are variable here. I think they are programmed to so that the tower controller can make up whatever wind makes the runway he asks me to land on seem reasonable. I swear I am not kidding when I tell you that once I was coming in here and successively given clearance to all six runways. (To be fair, I called up a long way out and there was a thunderstorm passing right through the airport at the time). I'm given no more than two different runways on this occasion, and land without event on the second one.
There were taxicabs, and I believe sangria.
A lot of the time things like this do the opposite of inspire me, because I feel I have so much but haven't achieved in proportion, but Jessica just looks so darned cheerful. It must be intensely frustrating sometimes to be constantly celebrated for what you don't have instead of what you do. "Shut up about my arms already! I'm going to Ethiopia to help children!" I can achieve the tiniest slice of empathy from the times that people can't get over the fact that I'm a woman and I fly airplanes. I wonder if anyone ever treats Jessica as if her lack of a penis is a greater handicap than her lack of arms. As a Tae Kwon Do black belt I'll bet she considers kicking them in the balls, but I suspect she has better social skills than to follow the thought through.
I'd feel a little voyeuristic watching her do everyday things so naturally, but she's raising money to make a documentary in order to help handicapped kids in less privileged countries. If you'd like more information or to contribute, here's the project page.