GoFaresBoy's first flight trip report


Aug 8, 2004
Athens, WV
I posted this last night on Flyertalk as many FFOCUS members knew I was going to take my son on his first flight with our friend BoeingBoy on Saturday. The reaction on FT has been so positive, that I thought I should share this with the Aviation community also, as it was because of many of you that this was such a special weekend for my son and I (and the best use of 50K miles I could ever imagine).


For those who don't know of my 5 1/2 year old son Tanner, aka "GoFaresBoy", T has Asperger's Syndrome, which is a high functioning form of autism. People with AS have "quirks" including problems with social interaction, fears such as heights and loud noises amongst others. On the other side of AS, aspies are highly intelligent, as is T. He's reading at about a 4th grade level at 5 years old, for example. In the reading we've done with T's diagnosis, I have it (though not as bad as T). I state this all of this as a prelude to our TR, as that was what made this trip special, it was T's first flight and we had no clue how he'd handle it. My wife had fears that T would freak out for one reason or another (loud engine noises, tight spaces, 30,000 feet up). She was unable to join us since someone had to run her store.

I had talked about T to BoeingBoy back at FFOCUS' get together at Deb Thompson's retirement and in subsequent email discussions, I asked him if we could join him on one of his upcoming flights as T's first flight. Looking at BB's schedule, we found a Saturday CLT-BUF flight that worked into our schedule (and had 25K RT availablility with a next day Sunday return), so off to BUF we went. After telling Sue that we'd be going with BB, she also signed off on our trip with the usual motherly apprehensions.

After T got out of school on Friday (9/15), we stopped at Sue's store to say goodbye and headed off to CLT (Concord, for those who know CLT area) to spend the night with Sue's youngest sister and her family. I had set the alarm for a 6:20 AM wakeup, but ended up being awake at 6 to get a shower. Just as I stepped out of the shower, T walks in to the bathroom, fully awake, ready to get around to leave for the 30 min drive to CLT.

We leave Sue's sister's house at about 7:20, drive to CLT, park the van, hop a parking shuttle and get into the terminal a bit before 8. We check a bag and head to TSA on the C concourse entrance. I had briefed T about our TSA friends just enough that he knew they were the good guys and everyone had to listen to them. (In fact I basically told him we all had to listen at the airport and on planes, even daddy.) He had a little problem getting his shoe back on, but that was quickly fixed. (First hurdle cleared, TSA.)

We went over to the windows by the moving sidewalks to planespot when my phone beeped telling me that I missed a call from Kudzu, on a MR of his own, was waiting for us in the C club. A quick return call and he was out to meet us and get us into the club. T enjoyed getting breakfast (a muffin, little tub of yogurt and glass of OJ is great to a 5 year old) and planespotting from the back of the C club. While T ate, Kudzu and I caught up on things. T got antsy and we walked around the club, checking the monitors and the other ins and outs of the club. He doesn't remember it, but he had been in there almost 5 years ago when I was still a club member. Sue and I flew him when he was 10 months old to visit Sue's folks in PBI for Christmas when they still lived there. (So yes, this wasn't technically his first flight... but he doesn't know that.)

Sat 9/15, US 860 CLT-BUF 733-400, aka GoFaresBoy's first flight.

About 8:25, we headed down to B-1 where we were to meet BoeingBoy when he got in from BWI. While talking with Kudzu, I see this guy in a green shirt who acted like he was looking for someone in our gate area. As he got closer, I kept saying "I think I know this guy"... sure enough it was AtlanticBeach, who I hadn't seen since RoachFest. What a surprise for both Kudzu and myself. Even more ironic was that AB flew down from BWI with BB, so he knew T and I would be at B-1.

BB showed up shortly thereafter and was pleasantly surprised to see Kudzu with us. After our FFOCUS reunion, it was time to go on the plane. BB let T and I go on with him so T could get comfortable with the plane. He got a tour of the cockpit and had the run of the plane. BTW, here are pictures from the trip including T's cockpit tour and practicing to be a FA. ;) The 3 FA's loved him.

After a short mechanical delay (replacing a brake pad that was due for maintenance), the flight was boarded (almost full due to a cancelled flight to BUF the night before), we settled into 8E and 8F (gave T the window) and we were on our way. So far, so good.

We get into the air and all went well until we got to about 10,000 when T said "I don't want to be on a plane. I don't want to be on a plane." Luckily he wasn't screaming or panicing, so trying to defuse a situation, I said, do you want to lower the shade on the window, which he then did. He then brought down his tray table, pulled out the USAirways magazine and SkyMall magazine and he was fine. He liked getting a drink and ate two packages of pretzels (I miss the Snyder's pretzels, at least they didn't have corn syrup in them) and all was very good in the world.

On our decent, he opened the shade, and looked out at the low cloud deck until we finally got underneath a couple of minutes before we landed in BUF. He noted how things were small high up and now are getting bigger as we got closer to the ground... cool! We land and once we get off the active runway, I pulled out the cell phone so he can call Sue and tell her how much fun he had. We waited for everyone else to deplane, said goodbye to the FA's, and walked out with BB and said goodbye to him. So far, very good! :)

Once we got our checked bag, we got our rental car (a Pontiac G6 which he thought was very very cool). We had some time to kill before my stepbrother and his family would be home, so we got him good Buffalo food for lunch (pizza and mooching off my Beef on Weck) and drove around the Buffalo area. He had a great time with his cousins. The only note to end this wonderful day was when we went to bed, I think l4pi must have been communicating with him telepathically this last week as T made a comment to me "Daddy, I don't want to fly on a Barbie Jet."

We wake early again (6 AM) and the first two lines out of him this morning area again "Daddy, I don't want to fly on a Barbie Jet." Thanks, Greg. :p So, I spent my time in the shower trying to think how to defuse this situation. I tell him we'll get breakfast at the airport and he can get a magazine to read on the plane. Today, bribery worked, and he was ok. We said goodbye to the cousins and headed to BUF, only about a 15 minute drive this morning. We stopped and got some Tim Horton's for breakfast and dropped off the rental car about 8.

There was no one at the ticket counter, so I let T do the kiosk with my help as needed (I didn't do OLCI this time), got our BPs then had to wait while the only 2 gals behind the counter were assisting, er, flirting with another customer at the other end of the counter (just this guy and us at the counter). After waiting about 3 minutes, two other TAs come on board and finish our bag check.

I was impressed with the positive attitudes of the BUF TSA folks. We had two carryons on our return, as I didn't want to check my stash of good rye bread going through PHL... and I wouldn't trust my CPAP with the terminal F'ed goons either. So, my duffel got SSSS'd while T and I put our shoes back on. Just as we finished, the TSA agent brought my bag back over to us telling us we were all set. I joked that all she was doing was really inspecting the rye bread to make sure I was taking home fresh bread. She laughed (and a couple of other TSA folks did also). :D :up:

So, as promised, we found the gift shop for another Buffalo souvenier (he picked a "I <heart> NY" shirt) and a magazine. We walked around a little bit and headed down to the gate, where I took the last pics of him. He looked so comfy as a road warrior now. ;)

The incoming from PHL was about 10 minutes late, but they turned it around on time. He loved watching it land (and another Barbie Jet from LGA shortly thereafter). We were first to board, down the steps to the tarmac and then up the steps onto the Barbie Jet, a Chautaqua E-145.

US 3181 BUF-PHL 9:20A E145, aka a Barbie Jet ;) (I feel I need to put a TM after that to give l4pi due credit.) Seats 6D and 6F (again, T chose window).

FA was named Sharon. She said hi to T as he boarded the plane first of anyone. Once all were aboard and she was doing her checks, she stopped at our row, and said hi again to T. Told us her name was Sharrie, and to let her know if we needed anything while onboard. This was the first I'd ever seen an FA do this with a child... an Express FA nonetheless. This gal was great. Once in flight, she told us due to the 49 minute flight, she would not be able to do a full beverage service, but if anyone wanted anything, ring our call bell and she'd do her best to accomodate. Then after about a 15 second pause, she said "Listen, I'm being paid to serve you guys, don't any of you want anything?", to which call bells went off like crazy, including ours. :up: Everyone got what they wanted, including some guy in row 4 who wanted a beer this early in the AM. She then did a second pass to see if anyone needed a top off. There were no pretzels/snack mix, but who cared. She was the best express FA I'd seen in a long time, if not ever. Too bad I didn't have any A&B cards on me... she deserved the whole stack. Even though she's a Republic/Chautauqua FA, she was a prime example of the service we've come to know on US over the years.

Back to T, for being apprehensive about being on a Barbie Jet, he loved the ride. It was clear most of the way (a few scattered clouds in PA) and he got a beautiful view of the PHL area, including the stadiums, on the decent. Any signs of fears were now gone... and he was looking forward to the connection to CLT.

Arrival was early and we pulled into F-3. We got off, and went to the shuttle bus line. Yes, line. I'd never seen a line for a shuttle bus back to the pizza place (and I think going down the side) before. However, we were crammed into this bus like sardines. T was standing (as was I) and we were sandwiched 6 deep in front of the door. I heard people really complaining about this... "There are like 9 buses parked over there, why can't anyone run more busses than pack us in?" Welcome to terminal F'ed, folks.

We survive Terminal F'ed, go up the escalator to terminal C and take the moving walkways to B (both the escalator and walkways are favorites of T). After getting a couple of PHL postcards and getting some Philly pretzels, we head off to B-15. After a short wait there, they begin to board our 757.

US 1815 PHL-CLT 11:30A 757, seats 4D-4F, I took 4E and gave some shocked guy an aisle upgrade, and T took window again.

By now, he's completely settled. Flight pushed back on time, were number 2 for departure (a shock for PHL). Got into the air, he finished the rest of his cheese pretzel with his ice water and ate some cashew mix. Of all things, he enjoyed watching TV on the 757... the little trivia show that US inherited from HP. I know he didn't understand many of the games/questions, but it was the idea of watching TV that he loved. He also enjoyed the view coming into CLT. We landed early and came into B-15. On the way to the gate, I pulled out the cell phone and he called Sue to let her know we were in CLT and how much fun he had. :)

We got our bag, got our van and headed back to WV with a lunch stop. After lunch, I looked back and saw T fast asleep with a smile on his face. I'd say he's hooked. :)

After he woke up, I asked him where he wanted to go next with Daddy... SAN was his answer. Guess we'll have to plan this for sometime when he and I both have school off.

Tonight when Sue was putting him to bed, he told her he was going to be dreaming he was flying.

Thanks again to BoeingBoy, Kudzu, AB and the flight crews for helping make these last two days very memorable to a 5 year old and his daddy. I'd say, this was the best use of 50K miles I've ever had. I wish I could record how many times today he told me that he loved me... and I wish all of you could see how big a smile I have on my face.
That was the probably the greatest sroy i have EVER heard !!!!
that was awesome, im happy your son got used to the flying, im plane crazy since i was a little kid, my dad tells me i was screaming "usair" at london airport when i was a kid, which i still remember, at 17, im WAY more plane crazy than ever !!!
but beautiful story anyways !!!
I am glad to hear T enjoyed himself.

It is these kind of Heart Warming Stories that keep us old timers hanging around.
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Smart young man......and you're welcome. :D

I was waiting to see how long it took for you to come out of the weeds on that one. :lol:

I had to laugh... on that flight, there was a husband in 7A and wife in 7C sitting behind us. He goes to his wife "How do you pronounce the name of this plane?". I turned and said "We just call them Barbie jets... or the flying pencil."
What about lawn dart? (NO reflection on the fine people who fly them by the way)

Jim a great story--fantastic you got to fly with BB.

Great you saw AB too--I gotta run into him one of these days.