If you play a game of word association with a group of pilots and yell "red eye!" there are a host of words that might ring out: dread, misery, sleepy, hungover...you get the picture. For my money, resignation is the most accurate descriptor. You are likely resigned to poor sleep the day before your flight, coffee chugging fatigue at some point near the end of the flight, and some more inadequate rest the day after. And even after your rest you might wander about in a period of pseudo consciousness. On those mentally fogged mornings following your late night flying you are more likely to forget a belt, wear mismatched socks, or leave your fly open when you exit the restroom. You just aren't 100 percent for couple of days. Despite my generally sunny disposition, I haven't found much upside to a single, disruptive flight during the wee hours of the morning unless you are committed to keeping your body on that time for a few days. Luckily, I haven’t flown many red eyes as a percentage of my total flying. The intersection of those flights and my interest in photography is even smaller. Well today may be the beginning of a beautiful new relationship between me and the dreaded early morning flight. After a relatively quick jaunt across the US at O-dark-thirty, my crew needed to remain in place for a couple of hours after landing in Teterboro, NJ. We took turns minding the jet (the APU was running) and rotating in for coffee and fresh air. At some point I noticed how nicely the morning light was shaping up. I stepped onto the passenger stairs to get a better look and found a captive audience of beautiful flying machines smiling back at me in the soft morning sunlight. Only God’s majesty can frame up pictures with such splendor. I grabbed my iPhone and set about grabbing some images. If you have to be up early and there's a gorgeous sunrise lighting up the field there are many worse places to grab shots. I think I've even coined a term for these occasions: The Red Eye Rewards Program. So next time you have an early morning flight I've given you one positive thing to hang your hat on. All you need is another cup of coffee and a camera.
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