Regional Jet.

Year Two. Month Eleven. #TWF.

Regional life doesn't look so bad from here.

It's eight forty-three local time somewhere over central Idaho. I am kneeling on the ground in the galley of the incredibly tiny Canadair Regional Jet 200, attempting to retrieve one last sticky soda can from the far reaches of the back atlas. The atlas is stuck. My legs are falling asleep and I stop to wipe a trickle of sweat that is threatening to fall off my forehead. I glance at my watch. We should be going into sterile flight deck mode at any time, and landing into Boise in a matter of minutes. I need to move faster if I'm going to finish up stocking all the carts, ordering supplies off the inventory list, cleaning out the coffee pots, collecting trash, sorting recycling and tidying up the galley.

And once we land, I get to do this three more times today.

Welcome to regional life.

Even for me, it's been a while since I was on an airplane this tiny. The CRJ 200 is the smallest aircraft in our fleet. With only fifty seats, one lavatory and one flight attendant to deal with everything, "the fifty" is not a popular plane to work on. More and more, these aircraft are becoming our "back-up" planes for when our nice shiny big planes are in the maintenance hanger. Normally, I'm lucky enough (and senior enough) to avoid these planes, but today is an exception.

The "First Class" of the Barbie Jet.

As I'm putting the last soda into the drawer, I hear a chime from the flight deck indicating that I should pick up the phone.

"Hello?" I ask breathlessly, distracted by the sudden thought that I am now out of ginger ale.

"Hey there, this is the Captain. Bad news, we've got a bit of surprise weather moving into Boise and we didn't bring on extra fuel. Looks like we'll be diverting to Twin Falls for a refueling stop."

Diverting to Twin Falls? Great.

I repeat the info back to him and hang up. I turn around and face the fifty passengers on my tiny airplane. Half of them are asleep. The other half are waving their empty coffee cups at me.

"Ladies and gentlemen, the Captain has just informed me that we will be making a refueling stop in Twin Falls, Idaho. It should be a quick stop on the ground and then we will be continuing on to Boise. If you have a tight connection in Boise, please ring your call button and I will stop by to answer questions."

Twelve call buttons go off, almost simultaneously. I sigh. I know that none of these people are connecting in Boise.

My face when people ask if they need a passport to go to Twin Falls.

I walk through the aisle, collecting trash and answering questions from passengers. No, you will not be charged an extra fee because your flight is making an extra stop, Ma'am.  No, your checked bags will not end up in Twin Falls.  No, you may not get off the plane in Twin Falls because the airport is closed for the day.  No, you do not need your passport for Twin Falls, Idaho, Sir.

And on and on. I keep smiling, trying to elicit a pleasant tone, as if this was an everyday thing. Diversions aren't always the scary things that we see on television. Sometimes some fog just rolls into Boise, Idaho and we didn't plan on loading on extra fuel to circle the airport.

Finally, the cabin is ready for landing. I sit in my jumpseat and go over my safety procedures. I remind myself where the first aid kit is and where the fire extinguisher is.

Almost two years ago, I worked entirely on these little planes. I was fresh out of new hire training and still proudly sporting high heels. I was based out of Minneapolis and got to spend exciting overnights in places like South Bend, Williston and Pellston, Michigan.

The airport in Pellston, Michigan. Not even kidding.

My daily work life consisted of anything and everything. Weight and balance issues, where I had to move people and bags around. Strange weather, from hail to flooding to lightning. Reflows, strange passenger issues, inoperable lavatories and stolen seat belt extenders.

We used to land in northern Wisconsin and open the main cabin door to hordes of mosquitos that would devour my arms and face in minutes. In Dickinson, North Dakota, someone made a bomb threat that brought in the FBI and SWAT teams. Once, in Sioux Falls, a funnel cloud began touching down on the tarmac just yards away from the plane. We evacuated the plane and ran to a tornado shelter.

It was only six weeks of my life but I think I saw everything. And it was all on the CRJ 200. And I handled it all by myself.

Those six weeks of "boot camp" were followed by my transfer to Seattle. In Seattle I always work on the larger planes. We have cabin cleaners most of the time and catering stocks our planes for us. Instead of International Falls, Iron Mountain and Lansing, I now fly to San Francisco, Vancouver and Salt Lake City. I feel like I'm living the easy life.

My usual ride, the lovely Embraer jet.

Except today. Today I'm back on the "fifty."

And I'll tell you a secret. It's sort of fun.

Happy Regional Flying!


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