Sunday, February 24, 2013

Breech Training Academy

As flight attendants who graduated from Breech Academy, it was a sense of achievement to have graduated from the "top" flight attendant airline school in the nation. To this day, those who graduated from Breech Academy say that no flight attendant is as well trained as those who had graduated from Trans World Airline's Breech Academy.

On a cold January day over thirty years ago, I boarded a TWA flight from Logan Airport in Boston to Kansas City for TWA flight attendant training. I was twenty one years old, and I can remember looking out the window of that plane and feeling that my life was beginning. I don't think I'd ever really been alone before. I certainly had never flown alone, or even gone anywhere that I didn't someone. In a way, my life did begin that day. My love of independence, my nomadic personality, my bravery and confidence all took root at 35000 feet.

I spent the next five weeks at the Breech Training Academy, getting rigorous training on everything from evacuating 747s to fixing broken coffeemakers to applying make up. We had to wear high heels. We had our hems measured and the dangle of our earrings. We learned how to pack a suitcase, calm a crying baby, open a wine bottle and cook chateaubriand to order. I loved every minute of that training, even though I was sometimes seized by homesickness or terrified of failing one of our many many tests. When an American Airlines DC 10 crashed on take off out of Chicago and DC 10s were grounded, TWA's fleet of Lockheed 1011s took on the extra flights and we were forced out of training a week early. My first flight was to LA. The actor who'd starred in ROOM 222 on TV was on my flight. I didn't know we could change from our heels into flats for the service and my legs ached so much I worked part of the service in my stocking feet. The crew of seasoned LAX based flight attendants paid no attention to me, and when the plane landed they all went home, leaving me to find my way to the hotel alone. It took me some time to navigate that airport and find the shuttle, but when I did, I felt about as good as I'd ever felt about anything. I remembered to tip the shuttle driver a dollar as we;d been taught, then went to bed with my sore feet pressed against the wall. The next morning, I put on my uniform and went down for breakfast before the flight, only to realize I had forgotten to adjust my watch and so was three hour early! Thus began my career...

And now I'm in Kansas City for the Winter Institute, a meeting and celebration of independent booksellers and writers. I have traveled many miles to get here. But the person who sits writing this only exists as she is because of my years with TWA. So sad to me that my beautiful airline is gone. But oh! how it reigned!