Finding my place in the sun

The view from my downtown St. Louis apartment — my eighth home in eight years.

Eight years ago today, I was living with my mom in the town I grew up in just south of the Twin Cities. I was a year-and-a-half out of college, working two part-time jobs—day shifts at FOX Sports North and weekend overnights at KARE 11 News—and I had been dating a guy named Scott for about six months. Kind of funny that I ended up marrying a DIFFERENT Scott, huh?

Calm down… I’m kidding—it was the same Scott.

Anyways, I wouldn’t land my first full-time job for another six months, but I never could have dreamt up the journey I was about to embark on… never.

In these eight years, I’ve moved seven times, changed jobs six times, lived in five different cities, worked in four different states, gained three siblings, raised two cats and followed one big dream—one really big dream that I didn’t even realize I had until a few years back.

Even though it sounds like I had a lot going on, not much about my story is unique, at least not for a millennial.

I graduated with a degree in broadcast journalism, which offered a lot of flexibility in terms of what direction I could take my career. Naturally, I started in news… my first full-time gig was at KCTV in Kansas City, and before long I accepted a similar position back home in Minnesota with WCCO.

Alas, a few years of working as an assignment editor was enough for me to realize that news wasn’t my jam. I had a lot of fun and met some amazing lifelong friends, but my heart just wasn’t in it.

I switched to communications—still unsure what my “dream job” really was. I first worked for a nonprofit, before jumping ship to a corporate gig where there was more money to be had (almost 50 percent more, to be exact). I wasn’t really happy there, though. Yeah, yeah… insert your “money can’t buy happiness” comment here. I know, I know, you told me so. I get it.

I then did one more switcheroo from the private sector to government. I had heard from several people that working for the state was a lot more “chill,” and at the time, a low key gig was just what I needed. You see, it was during my first post-news job at the nonprofit when I had my “aha” moment: I loved airplanes… I always had.

So, throughout those few years of uncertainty, stress and not making “enough” money in various communications positions, I was also trying to figure out what the heck I could do with my love of aviation. I tossed around a few ideas in my head, and picked the brains of my family and friends.

Simultaneously, I was on two huge journeys: one with my head (trying to find my place in the working world) and one with my heart (trying to make something of my passion). I knew though, that if I really, really wanted to, I could rekindle the romance between my head and my heart, and weave these two stories into one epic saga.

I started small… I went out to MSP Airport a couple times a week to watch planes coming and going—I took pictures and quizzed myself on the manufacturers and models of the various aircraft. On January 1, 2017, I started this blog and launched my @thegreatplanes Instagram account.

Shortly thereafter, I began working with a mentor who critiqued my writing, cheered me on and helped me to get my name out there. I then did some freelance writing for Airways Magazine, which—between the many interviews I conducted and trips I took—was completely life-changing in the best possible way.

I was a few months into my job with the State of Minnesota when I got “the” call. It was Boeing, wanting to interview me for a position on the Executive Communications team in Chicago. No ifs, ands or buts… I knew I was taking it.

The job itself was a great experience, but it was pretty demanding and, on top of that, I was living alone while Scott finished school back in Minnesota. Despite the challenges, I did my very best… I made friends, I learned as much as I could and I kept a smile on my face even when times were tough. I had no idea that just one year after moving to Chicago—and before my husband even moved down there—I’d be packing my bags once again, this time for St. Louis.

And so, today, I find myself a Missouri resident once again. I’m working on Boeing’s historical archives team, where I’ll get to tell the story of all the amazing people, products and events that helped Boeing to become the industry-leading aerospace company it is today. That’s pretty remarkable, to me at least.

If my story isn’t enough to prove to you that YOU CAN DO ANYTHING, then I don’t know what is. At 31 years old, I’ve had a lot of jobs, I’ve lived in a lot of different cities and I’ve put myself first more than once, but all of it was because I was following my heart… and I’m glad I did. Plus, millennials are supposed to be selfish job hoppers, right?

Fly on, my friends… fly on.

Goodbye, Chicago… I’ll miss you!

I can still hear the “ding dong” alerting riders that the doors are about to close on the CTA train. I miss it already, even though just hours ago I was on my early morning train ride from downtown to the airport.

I sat tiredly in a daze on the Orange Line. I leaned against the window and looked back toward downtown—the buildings were dimly lit against the dusky mauve sky. I thought I’d realize my dreams in Chicago… and I guess in a sense I did, but I just didn’t think my time here would be so short. It was so, so short.

I made the decision to look back only once more. I turned my head and stared in awe at Willis Tower. I vividly remember sitting outside of what was then the Sears Tower as a 12-year-old, proudly holding my geography book as I posed for a photo to bring back to my seventh grade class as part of our “Where in the world has your geography book been?” project. And even now as a 31-year-old, that building never ceases to take my breath away, if only for a split second.

I passed Willis Tower every weekday morning as I walked from my South Loop apartment to Boeing’s world headquarters, and every evening as I returned home. I remember exactly how it looked at sunrise and sunset. I remember exactly how it looked in the rain and in the snow. I remember exactly how it looked in my “favorite light” (the golden hour) and exactly how it looked when clouds completely engulfed the structure from the tippy-top of its two antennas all the way down to the 80th or 90th floor.

I really love that building… and I’ll sure miss seeing and living within the Chicago skyline.

I was now about halfway to Midway Airport. I was loosely holding onto the luggage tag on my suitcase as I noticed it still showed my Chicago address. I then realized that our downtown St. Louis apartment will mark our eighth residence in eight years—Jeez Louise. But I’ve loved each and every place that my husband and I have together called home.

Before I knew it, we were pulling into Midway. It took me all of 20 minutes to get from my seat on the train to my seat at the gate, coffee in hand. After a last-minute flight change yesterday evening (from 6:50 tonight to 7:45 this morning) I was certain I’d get a boarding number in the C30-60 range, and was astounded to see A32 on my boarding pass. This told me two things, I’d get my coveted window seat and our flight would be really, really empty. Turns out we had a total of 45 passengers, meaning we had about 100 open seats and everybody got their OWN. ROW. Now that’s what I’m talkin’ about.

I hopped on board the pitifully empty Southwest 737-700, situated myself in seat A7, and waited for pushback. The MDW-STL flight has us airborne for a mere 45 minutes. Now for most folks… that’s awesome, but for me… I find myself wishing I had just a little more time in the sky. Once we hit our cruising altitude of 26,000 feet, we were up there for only 10 or so minutes before beginning our initial descent into St. Louis.

I’m of course so happy to have been able to get back to my new home ahead of Winter Storm Gia, but I hated having to leave The Windy City so hastily. However, my quick exit was so in line with how my one year in Chicago was… it was always go, go, GO!

I had visitors seemingly every other weekend, which helped make Chicago feel a lot homier. I took seven day trips to six new cities. I traveled to Florida once to see my dad, made it back to Minnesota several times to visit family and friends, and made one trek each to Los Angeles and Seattle. I explored so much of Chicago on foot, and even more of it on my bike. And that’s all on top of doing what I was there to do in the first place—work for Boeing.

Working in Executive Communications was fun at times, difficult at others. I worked mostly 10 hour days, but plenty of 11, 12, or even 13 hour days too. I was never truly unplugged… I almost always had my work phone in tow, and some days I found myself spending more time on my work computer than on my own iPhone. That’s not to complain, that’s just how it was… it was an adjustment for sure, but it’s an experience I wouldn’t trade for the world. I gained so much knowledge and so many skills. I made lifelong friends and I learned a lot about Boeing and a lot about myself. I’m so thankful for that.

I think my new adventure in St. Louis will be a bit more my pace, but only time will tell. Several of my coworkers told me they couldn’t think of anyone more fitting to work in the Boeing Archives… which is music to my ears and makes me that much more excited to start on my new team.

I’m really glad that I’m the type of person to go wherever my dreams take me… wherever life takes me. Not a lot of folks are fortunate to live that type of lifestyle, so I do consider myself extremely lucky. So, for now, here’s to fond memories of Chicago, new beginnings in St. Louis and following your heart. Right now mine is in the sky—literally and figuratively—and I couldn’t be happier.

Peace Out, 2018!

My 2018 Top Nine

Wowzers, 2018 has been one heck of a year. As most of you know, I spent the majority of it in Chicago in my new job with Boeing. My brief stint in the Windy City was great, but living apart from my husband was—and still is—quite tough. I made the best of it though… by exploring new neighborhoods, making new friends and spending a heck of a lot of time out at O’Hare—my happiest place.

Looking back on the past year, I’m so glad I did all those things, and I’m really proud of myself for making it a priority to embrace being a Chicagoan… as I had no idea my time there would be so short.

A couple months ago, I was offered a position working on the Boeing Archives team—an opportunity that I truly believe would have been foolish to turn down. And even though it meant packing up and moving to St. Louis (even before my husband made it down to Chicago!), it felt right, and I’m all for doing what feels “right.”

So, this New Year’s Eve, I’m once again a Missourian—for those who don’t know, my first full-time job was at KCTV in Kansas City, so this isn’t the first time I’ve called the “Show-Me” state home. Having only lived in St. Louis for a few days, there are things I like an awful lot: rent is dirt cheap, it’s a bit warmer, I have my car back, there’s a lot of neat little neighborhoods and I’m quite fond of the arch AND the fact that I can see it from our ninth-floor windows. There are also things I don’t like at all: it’s SO spread out, it’s the most dangerous city in the U.S., it doesn’t have even close to the same vibe as Chicago…much less the awesome donuts and pizza that I loved to veg out on, yada yada yada.

But, one of the greatest lessons I’ve learned from my other half is to always make the best of things… and that’s exactly what we’ll do here together. I’m working for the greatest aerospace company on the planet, and now I get to truly embrace my inner AV geek and tap into my writing skills to help tell the story of this company that’s been going strong for more than a century—it’s a complete honor and privilege, and I can’t wait to embark on this journey with my family, friends and all of you fellow AV geeks.

Thanks for the support and here’s to another solid year of peace, love and airplanes!

Meet Me in St. Louis

I’ve actually never seen “Meet Me in St. Louis,” but with my love of classic movies, and given it stars none other than fellow Minnesotan Judy Garland, I can’t believe I haven’t! More to come on that…

Today is important, because I’ve officially worked at Boeing for a year now. I’ve learned a lot about the company and the industry, and even more about myself. Living alone in a new city has been telling—sad at times, exhilarating at others—but I wouldn’t trade this experience for anything.

To be honest, the last couple months have been really tough. The loneliness of living alone has really started to set in, and a few other things here and there had led me to feel a bit hopeless and unsure of what my future held. But I did my best to “keep calm and carry on” with a positive attitude… and that, coupled with the love and support of my family and friends, kept me going.

And believe it or not, as much as I love the city of Chicago and the amazing friends I’ve made here at Boeing World Headquarters—and despite having only been here for just more than a year—I’m moving on. Heck, I’ll just say it: I’m movin’ on up!

Well, technically I’m making a lateral move career wise… and I guess I’m moving farther south… but to me, this new adventure is a huge step up. In approximately three weeks I’ll be moving to St. Louis to work in the Boeing Archives.

I’ve always been fascinated by the history of The Boeing Company, and to be able to work with a team who shares that passion and in a building that houses and preserves such remarkable artifacts… it’s incredible. Man, I’m excited!

To add to that excitement, I’m currently onboard Spirit Flight 737 from ORD to LAX to celebrate my great friend Chris Sloan’s 50th birthday at the PAN AM EXPERIENCE! And… AND… this morning I got a call from one of my favorite people on the planet: my mentor, Benét Wilson. She said “I told you so…” with regard to my new adventure, and she’s absolutely right.

She DID tell me so.

She knew that despite my having to deal with some tough stuff over the past couple months, everything would ultimately work out for the best. And it did.

With that, here’s to perseverance, positivity and new adventures. Cheers!

If you never try, you’ll never know

A year ago tonight—a Thursday evening in the third week of October—I sat at home with my husband in our downtown St. Paul apartment, frantically preparing myself for what I considered to be the biggest opportunity of my life. The next day, on October 20, 2017 at 12:30 p.m., I was to board American Airlines flight 2455 from Minneapolis-St. Paul to Chicago O’Hare—a 400-mile, 80-minute flight. Upon arrival, I’d board the CTA Blue Line, exit at Clark and Lake, walk one block south and five blocks west to get there… to get to Boeing World Headquarters to interview for a spot on the Executive Communications team.

You may have read my blog from last November, proudly announcing I’d be moving myself and my two cats to Chicago to work for the greatest aerospace company on the planet. It was such a bittersweet time in my life—I was following my dream, but leaving my friends… my family… my husband… I was leaving all of them behind in the state I called home for 28 of my 30 years of existence. Lucky for me, I had a rock solid support system then—luckier yet, I have that same rock solid support system now.

While it’s been tough at times, everything about this experience has made me a better, stronger person. I’ve met incredible people and learned incredible things about the aerospace industry, the world, communications… and I’ve even learned some pretty incredible things about myself. It’s been one heck of a year, but I wouldn’t change a thing.

A few highlights:

  1. I live a hop, skip and a jump away from the second-most-connected airport in the world… it’s truly an aviation enthusiast’s dream! To say I’m out at ORD often may be an understatement.
  2. I got to visit Boeing’s Everett factory for the first time in my life. It’s an overwhelmingly huge, city-like building where incredible, beastly machines are built to connect people and goods across the globe. So. Flipping. Cool.
  3. I met one of my best friends, and her amazing partner. You know how sometimes you just connect with someone, and you immediately feel the goodness in their heart? That’s how I feel about this person—she’s a remarkable human, and one heck of a communicator.
  4. I reunited with one of my best friends… someone I went to high school with and someone I’ve always had a special bond with. She handed me an extra stick when I dropped one of mine while drumming in an emo band more than a decade ago, and today, she brought my doodle to life to create a legit logo for The Great Planes.
  5.  I started traveling by myself. I find cheap, same-day, round-trip flights to new cities and I go explore. If you have the capacity to do that, I highly recommend it as it’s helped me to break out out of my anxiety-ridden, introverted shell, and meet new people and build a sense of confidence I never thought I’d have.

Coming to Boeing taught me that following your dream is worth it. Even though being in a new city is tough, adapting to a new lifestyle can be stressful and learning a new routine can be really, really hard… it is worth it. I’m a very, very lucky girl… and I cannot wait to see what the future holds.

Be kind, be determined, be gracious and oh, meet your hero two… too…

As far as I am concerned, life is all about the connections you make. I don’t mean “knowing someone” in an industry who will put in a good word for you or having an “in” with someone at a company who will help land you a job. I mean the deep, personal connections you make with the people who are always there to help and support you on your journey.

Earlier this year I finally met my industry mentor, Benét Wilson (Aviation Queen). I first reached out to her almost two years ago, and today I’m lucky to call her my friend. We have a solid, trusting relationship and I certainly wouldn’t be where I am without her—I consider her “Hero One” in the story of my journey.

With Benét’s ongoing support and by working hard toward my goal of becoming an aviation journalist, I was brought on as contributing editor at Airways Magazine. That’s how I met “Hero Two” AKA Chris Sloan, Airways’ Managing Editor. Finally, more than a year after starting that gig, I met Chris in “real life” here in Chicago.

It’s funny, I first connected with both Benét AND Chris while living in Minneapolis… the city in which I lived for nearly all of my 31 years on this planet. However, I first met each of them in person here in Chicago as an employee of The Boeing Company—the company I’d long dreamed of working for and a place I’d never be without their help.

Yesterday, I met Chris in the lobby of Chicago’s iconic Sears—I mean WILLIS… (ugh)—Tower, where he and I toured the United Airlines National Operations Center.

It.

Was.

Awesome.

Seriously, the combination of meeting Chris AND seeing the ins and outs of how United keeps their (mostly Boeing!) fleet flying was ridiculously cool. I loved it. My favorite part? Chris and I were in the social media/de-escalation area where they had huge screens displaying real-time social data, and one of the screens had on it incoming conversations that were considered “positive” interactions on Twitter.

Chris: Hey it’s you!

Me: What?

Chris: @thegreatplanes – that’s you!

Me: Como se WHAT!? Whoa!

I looked at the screen and saw my very tweet ABOUT this tour, and the subsequent response from Ben Bearup saying I was living my “best life” (SO TRUE!). It was pretty awesome.

Aside from that, I saw firsthand the many people who are hard at work 24/7 to keep the airline up and running… air traffic controllers, meteorologists, pilots (yes, pilots!), the Airbus team and the Boeing team, among others. I also saw more pie charts, bar graphs, numbers and maps than my geeking-out brain could even handle.

All in all, my biggest take away from that tour was that even though it is extremely frustrating if your flight gets delayed or canceled, just know that whenever something isn’t 100 percent perfect in terms of an airline’s operations (so essentially… always), there are hundreds of dedicated people working to make things right.

Yesterday was a truly great day. I’m so happy to have finally met Chris, and I so much enjoyed spending my lunch hour with the kind folks over at United. The icing on the cake was doing some work from home later that evening as the U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds zipped past my apartment window over, and over, and over again in preparation for this weekend’s Chicago Air and Water Show.

This year’s two-day event will include parachutists, fighter jets, a C-130 and even an AMERICAN AIRLINES DREAMLINER (pinch me, please). I’ll be attending the show both days, one of them on behalf of Boeing, and as I look forward to that… I think my teammate Jane best captured my excitement in her own words:

“Annie, you’re going to lose your mind.”

Long live the Queen: VC-25A is now officially the longest serving presidential aircraft

SAM 28000, one of two current VC-25As (photo: Wikipedia)

It’s official: the Boeing VC-25A—two modified 747-200Bs with tail numbers 28000 and 29000, more commonly referred to as Air Force One—is now the longest-serving presidential aircraft. I’ve been tracking this milestone for awhile now, and to be quite honest, I actually botched it at first (don’t judge… I’m not a mathematician!).

Because I also have a strange fascination with the Kennedy family (who doesn’t?), I knew that JFK’s two modified 707s with tail numbers 26000 and 27000 (the Boeing VC-137C) were most certainly the longest serving presidential aircraft of all time… I didn’t, however, realize just how soon today’s Queens of the Skies were going to steal the crown from those two planes that first entered service when Kennedy was in office.

I originally (and mistakenly) did my calculations as follows (using the entry-into-service date for the VC-137C as opposed to the first time it actually flew as Air Force One). This had VC-25A officially becoming the longest serving presidential aircraft on Aug. 5, just a couple days ago.

VC-137C (two different modified 707s:  SAM 26000 and SAM 27000)

10,194 days between Oct. 9, 1962 (VC-137C first entered service) and Sept. 6, 1990 (VC-25A first flew as Air Force One)

VC-25A (two different modified 747-200Bs: SAM 28000 and SAM 29000)

10,195 days between Sept. 6, 1990 (VC-25A first flew as Air Force One) and Aug. 5, 2018

However, upon realizing my mistake and finding the actual date when VC-137C first flew with Kennedy on board (therefore using the call sign Air Force One), November 10, 1962, I realized that my timeline had moved up roughly a month and that this milestone actually happened on July 4 of this year (pretty cool date for an American milestone, eh?).

VC-137C (two different modified 707s:  SAM 26000 and SAM 27000)

10,162 days between Nov. 10, 1962 (VC-137C first flew as Air Force One) and Sept. 6, 1990 (VC-25A first few as Air Force One)

VC-25A (two different modified 747-200Bs: SAM 28000 and SAM 29000)

10,163 days between Sept. 6, 1990 (VC-25A first flew as Air Force One) and July 4, 2018

It is important to note, however, that this doesn’t mean the 747 (generally speaking) is the longest serving presidential aircraft… that honor still goes to the 707, at least for now. Dwight D. Eisenhower was actually the first to fly in a modified Boeing 707 using the call sign Air Force One (VC-137B) when he departed Dec. 3, 1959 on his “Flight to Peace” goodwill tour to 11 Asian nations.

The 747 won’t officially take the crown from the 707 for another three years, on June 11, 2021.

Boeing 707

11,235 days between Dec. 3, 1959 (707 first flew as Air Force One) and Sept. 6, 1990 (747 first flew as Air Force One)

Boeing 747

11,236 days between Sept. 6, 1990 (747 first flew as Air Force One) and June 11, 2021

I want to give a special thanks to our incredibly awesome historian here at Boeing, Mike Lombardi, for reminding me that it’s important to make these distinctions. And, I’ll add… that June 2021 milestone is a surefire thing since the new Air Force One planes currently on order are two 747-8s expected to be delivered (last I heard) by 2024. So even if they were delivered tomorrow, they’re still 747s and the math still works… so there.

With that, there’s only one thing left to say: Long live the Queen.

Boeing: Air Force One (read about past, current and future presidential aircraft)