$60 per month – it’s a rented piece of crumbling asphalt in the Los Angeles World Airport’s Parking Lot B, directly under the approach end of Runway 25L. This prime spot is great if you’re a pilot. You can hear the alluring whisper of a high bypass turbofan jet engine (or four) passing directly over your head every couple of minutes. Or the subtle concussion of a 747 taking off from the adjacent runway. Never mind if one of these airborne aluminum marvels should happen to land short and send trailers skittering like silver balls across the tilted horizontal plain of a pulsating pinball machine. As an added bonus, Jim gets to live away from his family for much of the time in his luxurious 2001 Tradewinds trailer, parked among a bunch of other airline types who also live the glamorous life in Lot B. Jim dreams of going home to Seattle on the “weekends” – although maybe that dream is a kerosene-induced chimera, brought on by the constant smell of combusted jet fuel gently rolling between his and the other trailers like a romantic San Francisco fog.
|Click on the graphic for a larger view of the LAX environs|
Jim is one of the many pilots who “commute” to work – living in one place but being based somewhere else. These pilots, when their work week ends, seek the nearest congested gate with the fastest jet to get them back home, wherever that might be. Sometimes they do this because they don’t want to uproot their family, or they can’t afford to live where they’re based, or their base is a crime-ridden metropolis where no one wants to live. At any rate there’s a whole lot of commuting going on. These pilots, if the back end of the airplane is full, sit in an uncomfortable extra seat in the flight deck called the jump seat. (The only good thing about this is that it's free.) There’s no week that goes by where I don’t have one of these forlorn pilots, trying to get where they need to go, sitting in my jump seat.
So the next time you see your pilot showing up for work and looking a little harried, well maybe it wasn’t really his or her first flight of the day. My, what we won’t do to fly for a living! And if you're feeling particularly sorry for your displaced pilot, chocolate is always a nice gesture. Fortunately, I’ve never commuted, having always been blessed with a decent place to be based (although chocolate is still a nice gesture).
The Lot B denizens have been the subject of more than one newspaper article, including this one written by Daniel Weikel in the Los Angeles Times in 2009, from which I drew a little of the information used to write this post. Happy flying!
map courtesy of Google Maps