I once had the privilege of meeting director Kathryn Bigelow, and must admit I was in awe of her. Most of us know she won an oscar for her film, The Hurt Locker. Her latest film, Zero Dark Thirty has drawn a lot of accolades and controversy; mainly because it has touched a nerve with our government and the powers-that-be regarding how war and sensitive classified information is handled. She is super-duper sweet, humble, kind, beautiful, intelligent, gracious and many other positive/ descriptive adjectives. I’ve flown with many famous people throughout the years but she’s one of the few that have left an indelible mark on me. We should all strive to be like her; she’s genuinely nice, compassionate and caring of others. She has a calming presence about her. It must be an absolute pleasure to get to work with or for her. She has my utmost respect and admiration. I will always be a fan of hers.
I’ve been a corporate flight attendant for 16 years now and my job allows me to meet and interact with many famous people. Celebrities, Rockstars, Politicians, Foreign Dignitaries, former Presidents, Professional Athletes and Billionaire Internet Entrepreneurs to just name a few, without actually naming them. I get to live vicariously through my clients. If they are going around the world promoting a new movie then the flight crew is typically invited to some, if not all the premieres. If we’re flying around a band on tour, then the crew is generally invited to the concerts, given backstage access and attends many of the after parties.
These are just some of the experiences and events we are afforded by being a crew member on private jets. The celebrities allow us into their worlds, often treating us like friends or family. (Check out a previous post regarding me having Thanksgiving dinner at Sting & Trudie’s house one year.) Private jet flight attendants and pilots can become spoiled because we truly live above our means when on the road. We stay a great hotels, even luxury ones…we are given a daily per diem, our rental cars and other means of transportation are paid for etc.. It’s like getting paid to go on a vacation. I’ve been blessed to have been able to travel the world, see some amazing sites and have some unbelievable adventures, all the while getting paid to do it! Corporate flight attendants and pilots get paid for every day that we are away from our home base, mine being Los Angeles, whether we are actually flying or not. Cool, right?!
I’ve given you some of the pro’s of what I do, now let me give you some of the cons.
On the flip side, I’ve missed out on many events with my friends and family over the years…birthdays, weddings, births, funerals, showers, receptions etc… So much so that many are not in my life anymore. I live out of a suitcase and I’m on-call 24/7. It’s hard to plan vacations or even getaways because of my spontaneous work schedule, plus I work for myself so sometimes it can feel like a constant hustle.
It can be a lonely existence on the road. Sometimes you are in romantic locales like Bora Bora, Tahiti (which I was in last week) but you have no one to share the moment with. I’ve seen hundreds (if not thousands) of places over the years that I wished I had someone I cared about to view them with. Most private jets only have 1 flight attendant so you’re constantly by yourself. Another downside, if you’re single it’s impossible to have a pet, specifically a dog and I’m a dog lover!
Being a corporate flight attendant is more of a lifestyle than a job or career. It gets into your blood, when your feet are on the ground too long we become restless and are ready to take to the skies again. It could be compared to an addict that starts to “jones” if they don’t get their fix. Therein lies the rub with this profession.
If anyone is interested in learning more about becoming a corporate flight attendant and the requirements, check out my company website @ http://www.jetsetaviation.com. We train and certify those wanting careers as corporate flight attendants.
Talk about the saying: “have bags, will travel!” The Christmas/New Year’s holiday is always a busy time for all private jet flight flight attendants, pilots and other crew members. Within in the past two months I’ve been to the following cities and countries:
Johannesburg, south africa
Puerto Plata, Dominican Republic
Miami & Ft. Lauderdale, Florida
New York, New York
EVERYONE in private aviation who’s ever been to Montreal or Toronto, Canada knows Markus Brucks. He is the definitive go-to guy in FBO services. His outgoing personality and knowledge of how to utilize every inch of cargo space has earned him an excellent reputation with professional sports teams and other operators carrying heavy cargo loads.
I met Markus 15 years ago when I starting flying with the NHL Carolina Hurricanes hockey team, back then he was working in Montreal, Canada at St. Hubert airport (CYHU). He was truly a one-man show at that tiny airport. He’s professional yet fun-loving and truly enjoys his job. He has worked with every major NHL and MLB sports team over the years. He’s the best at it and his passion shines through in his work! Besides working with sports teams, he’s responsible for interacting with all foreign dignitaries, including the royal families of Saudi Arabia.
In 2003, while being recruited by several companies, Landmark Aviation (back then it was Piedmont Aviation) in Toronto offered him a management position as Director of Operations and he’s been there ever since. Markus is considered the “go-to guy” because he can assist you with anything in Toronto, not just aviation related.
As with all of us in private aviation, we have some stories we can tell so I asked Markus if he had a favorite client or story he could share. This was his reply.
“That’s a good one. I have so many but one that sticks out is when I was able to meet Tina Turner. A number of years back she was in Toronto to promote a new album and the night she was flying out I found out she and her passengers had to get screened before boarding the aircraft. She was the last to get screened and because the ramp was a bit slippery I asked if I could assist her. She said yes and I gave her my arm and she wrapped her arm around mine. I walked with her for about 300 feet to the aircraft and I felt…I can’t even describe it. Except. WOW. I had Tina Turner on my arm.” ~ Markus Brucks
I have to say that in all my years of being in aviation, Markus is hands-down one of the nicest people I’ve ever had the pleasure of meeting and working with.
In recent years Markus has finally met the woman of his dreams, gotten married and started working on growing his own family. He tells me he’s 2 kids short of a hockey team. How apropo.
I recently read about this new product called the Rebound Tag, which is a microchip baggage tag. Here’s what the website http://www.reboundtag.com had to say about it.
“ReboundTAG is integrated with global baggage handling systems so that when your bags has been found you receive updates by phone and email. It is designed to incorporate every available technology that is authorised by airlines.
The ReboundTAG has two RFID (radio frequency identification) microchips inside, one of them has a permanent identifier while the other is programmed to take flight details whenever you travel through an airport using microchips; airports using a standard IATA microchip system will automatically encode the flight details onto the ReboundTAG (you do not need to do anything). ReboundTAGs also have a barcode and number printed on them so that they work where there are no microchip readers, but currently 80% of hub airports, where most bags are lost, use microchips.
When your bag gets lost, an airline can identify it using either the microchip, barcode or number. You then get updates by SMS to your phone and also by email as ReboundTAG is integrated with baggage handling companies. They can also see your flight details encoded on the tag if you have been through a microchip enabled airport.
You can choose to keep your details anonymous so that no airlines can see who you are, but you will still get automatic updates through our secure web system.
In addition to this, you can go to your ReboundTAG Member’s Area and enter your lost bag unique number, given to you by your airline, which we will then forward to our baggage handling company partners. They will then look through the global lost luggage databases to find your bag and keep you updated by phone and email when the bag is found. Airlines often enter lost bag data incorrectly (colour of the bag etc); our partners will look through the databases to find your lost bag in places where automated computer systems would not find it if it has been entered incorrectly by an airline.”
Here is my question. What happens if your tag is removed from your bag, such as being lost or stolen? Then what? If its stolen can that person then turn around and use my tag for themselves or is it like an Iphone that you can disable it from working all together? That is not being explained as far as I can tell by the website. Many of us, including myself have experienced losing the tag from our suitcase. Since this tag roughly costs $48.00 (I say roughly because the website sells it in Euro’s and that fluctuates regularly) I would be highly upset if it went missing. Also, each year you’re required to pay a membership fee of roughly $14.00.
I think its a cool concept but would want my questions answered and the price more affordable before I bought it.
People are always asking me about celebrities and any stories I may have about them. Questions like, who is your favorite celebrity passenger? who was your worst celebrity passenger? etc…
All of us in private aviation sign non-disclosure agreements, so talking about what happens onboard a private jet is a no-no…just like what happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas..same motto. What happens in the air, stays in the air. 🙂 Many of us crew members may share our stories with each other but not with the general public. If we did we wouldn’t have a job for too long. In fact, we as crew members go out of our way to protect the privacy of our clients.
I can tell this story because it was many years ago and NOT onboard the plane. Plus, it’s a great story!
My pilots and I were flying around the amazingly talented music artist Sting and his band, for his Brand New Day Tour. It was many years ago now and we ended up being in Manhattan, New York for Thanksgiving. Sting asked me what the crew members were doing for Thanksgiving and I said “…its Manhattan, we’ll find plenty of places to eat”. I was actually so excited to be in NYC, as I LOVE that city!! The lights, the people, the energy!
Anyway, he then invited us to his home and said Trudie was cooking. I’m pretty sure my mouth dropped open at his invitation. This was Sting inviting us to his home for Thanksgiving, pretty awesome, right?! That’s just the generous, caring person Sting is. He truly cared about his flight crew having a place to go for the holiday since we were away from our own families.
My pilots and I were like giggly little school kids as we made our way up Central Park to their home. Once there, Sting & Trudie greeted us at the door and invited us in like we were old friends. They were extremely gracious, kind and giving as they showed us around their home and made us feel welcomed.
There were other celebrities in attendance and the whole experience was so surreal. We were just an ordinary flight crew surrounded by famous people in a beautiful home for Thanksgiving.
So I have to say, Sting is definitely one of my most favorite people that I’ve ever had the privilege of flying. Not to mention, he invited us to his concerts; after parties and dinners while on the road. It was an absolute blast!!!
Many of us may already know that Russia has the worst aviation safety history, but it’s now coming to light that airline pilots for small regional carriers may have obtained fake pilot licenses.
Why any sane person would think they could fly a plane without extensive instruction, skill and practice just boggles my mind! There are some professions that you CANNOT fake, being an aviation pilot is at the TOP of the list!!! (the other would be a fake sign language interpreter in South Africa, but I’ll save that story for another article) 🙂
It’s already incomprehensible to many including myself, how aircraft get off the ground and are able to fly in the first place. Aircraft designers and engineers have my utmost respect! All hail the Wright Brothers and other aviation pioneers who’ve now made global travel an everyday experience.
This disturbing news about fake licenses is now being investigated after the recent commercial crash of Tatarstan Airlines earlier last month that killed all 50 onboard. The captain is believed to have had a fake pilot’s license!!!!
Here’s how the debacle breaks down. First, there’s been a shortage of new qualified and trained Russian pilots; that coupled with the demand for more travel within Russia and neighboring countries lead the government to outsource pilot training & certification to sometimes shady companies. These local flight centers may have cut corners for profit by essential giving unqualified people a pilots’ license, in essence you could buy your license without having the skill or training so inherently required.
In an earlier article I talked about the passing of my good friend Josef Vasicek, who was killed along with his hockey teammates in a plane crash in Russia in 2011. The cause of his crash was deemed pilot error and it seems his pilots were also inadequately trained on the aircraft they were flying. They were pushing the brakes for take-off instead of giving it the speed needed to get off the ground!!! A stupid freaking mistake that killed many wonderful and deeply missed people. It breaks my heart.
Current reports are saying the fake licenses may be limited to small regional russian carriers, but I believe with further investigations it may be found out to be more widespread and not limited to russian made aircraft. The Tatarstan Airlines aircraft was a Boeing 737, a reliable American made aircraft but in the hands of incompetent wanna-be pilots.
Has anyone ever seen President Putin getting off a commercial aircraft? I would almost wager a bet that Russian President Vladmir Putin travels exclusively on private jets….and that his pilots are either American or British.
Warning to all reading this article: Don’t book the cheapest airline carrier when traveling in that region, find a reputable (non-russian) operator to fly with, your odds of getting to your destination may be greatly increased.
I recently had the privilege and pleasure of flying around the charismatic and compassionate, Mr. Jon Voight! I adore and respect this amazing man and actor immensely. I’ve probably seen every movie he’s ever been in from Midnight Cowboy (one of my favorite classic movies) to his most recent project Showtime’s Ray Donovan…and everything in between! What a great actor!
We are not allowed to ask for pictures with celebrities but sometimes the universe smiles upon us and we are asked to take pictures with them. That is the case with this photo. The person who took it was kind enough to send it to me, therefore I can share it with everyone. Mr. Voight was so gracious and caring of everyone onboard, making certain others were taken care of before himself. I only have praise for him and could ramble on way longer than I’m going to but I will say… this man is a true gentleman and a class act!
I first met Bates or (Bates-cee as I call him) back in 1999, when I was a flight attendant for the NHL Carolina Hurricanes and he was a player on their team. Back then he had long shoulder length hair, that he would sometimes slick back and look like a true guido (Italian-American). With his good looks, status as a pro-athlete and his “fat paycheck” Bates has been considered by many to be a “player”, no pun intended. Why not? He’s young, single, handsome and extremely charming, I say make the most of it!
Of course, the men admire his conquests while the women involved are less enthusiastic about his escapades. A teammate once told me he was in admiration of Bates’ ability to attract women.
In talking with Bates, he’s always very gregarious, has a self-deprecating sense of humor and a quick wit. He also has a mischievous smile, which always makes me wonder what he’s up to.
KA: What is your most memorable moment was while playing in the NHL?
BB: “Best moment would be playing in the stanley cup finals in 2002, unfortunately we lost but it was my worst and best hockey moment. I got to play in the finals but we lost.”
KA: When did you retire from playing professional hockey?
BB: “I retired in 2012.”
KA: When did you open your bar? What’s the name of it and why did you choose to open a bar?
BB: “We opened Lucky b’s — www.luckybsbar.com in 2005. I opened it cause I knew I couldn’t play hockey forever so I needed some thing to fall back on and …oh, did I mention I like beer.”
Bates Battaglia is his name and his jersey number was #13 when he played with the Carolina Hurricanes. Hence, the name Lucky B’s 13.
Earlier this year Bates and his brother Anthony, won season 22 of the Amazing Race 2013. They split a million dollars in prize money.
KA: Did the producers tell you why they picked you and Anthony out of the thousands of contestants?
BB: “They didn’t tell us exactly why but I assume because we are awesome- haha. I do think because I had hockey hair and Anthony had hockey teeth…and we were pretty comfortable on camera.”
KA: What did you do with your winnings, if anything?
BB: “We’ve been pretty conservative with our winnings. Anthony and I have talked about possibly opening an italian restaurant… and as far as the trips we won, we haven’t taken them yet but donated one of them to charity.
It’s always heartbreaking when someone you know dies so young and tragically, my sweet friend Josef is one of those people, he was only 3o years old. I remember the first time I met him, he was a rookie with the NHL Carolina Hurricanes and he was boarding the team plane. He was only 19 years old and just came to the states from the Czech Republic. He had the “deer-in-the-headlights” look about a lot of things, since everything was so foreign to him. He was living with a host family in Raleigh, North Carolina to help him acclimate to his new environment. His first season with the team he barely spoke any English and I knew some of our conversations were getting lost in translation. I started referring to him as “little Josef” even though he was over 6ft /3in. He was just a sweet kid who was always smiling. Every time I saw him he was smiling. He had a big beautiful smile and you could see the innocence in his face. Josef tried to teach me how to golf, he would take me to the course and patiently cheer me on as I tried to hit that little freaking ball. Professional hockey players are also excellent golfers, almost all of them!
His teammates on the plane used to harass him for fun because he ate a lot of czech food that sometimes gave him bad breath. When we’d pass around the gum/mint basket the guys would tell me to give him the entire basket. They all loved “little” Josef too.
Over the 8 years that I worked with the Carolina Hurricanes, I really enjoyed watching Josef blossom into a fine, upstanding young man. Imagine watching a flower bloom but in slow motion, its a beautiful site with many layers of time passing to create the end result, a beautiful one-of-a-kind flower, that was Josef Vasicek. I know he would probably laugh knowing I was comparing him to a flower but he was a sensitive soul and would understand my compliment.
It was wonderful to see his progress every year and how he became more westernized over time. We would talk about girls, sports, his homeland and life in general. I really bonded with this amazing young man. I felt like he was a little brother to me, someone you wanted to protect and shield from the trappings of being a pro athlete. The Carolina Hurricanes did that for him. They watched over him, nurtured him and guided him.
When Josef retired from the NHL he returned to europe and began playing for the russian team, Locomotiv Yaroslavl. They were considered the premiere professional ice hockey team, having many other former NHL players and coaching staff on the team. Tragically, Josef and his teammates were killed in a plane crash in 2011. There were many other wonderful men who died in that awful crash but I personally only knew “little” Josef.
I hate to hear about any tragic loss of life but I’m extremely bothered when it involves a plane crash. It always gives me pause considering my profession but private jets are safe, as are commercial aircraft in America. The team was flying on an older model Russian made aircraft. I will leave my comments at that…for now.
The pictures I have are my personal ones. Josef laying on the couch inside the aircraft, one of his fans professing her love for #63 at a game and Josef with teammate Shane Willis at Sullivan’s restaurant in Raleigh, North Carolina.
I’ve always said that death puts life into perspective. Josef is definitely missed by many but I want to celebrate his life and the good memories I have of him.