Passenger Declares Trans States Flight Crew “Santa’s Angels and Elves”

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“Santa’s Angels & Elves” (Captain Richard Gittings, First Officer Jason Lawrence, and Flight Attendant Dana George) pose for a selfie with passengers on Christmas Eve

The holidays may be over, but we couldn’t resist sharing this passenger’s story of how the kindness of one of our flight crews turned a stressful situation into a flight that she and her family would never forget.

I wanted to tell you about a Christmas miracle that three of your crew members helped bring about. Captain Richard Gittings, First Officer Jason Lawrence, and the amazing Flight Attendant Dana George were Santa’s elves and angels for our family on the evening of December 24 on a flight from Denver to Dickinson, North Dakota.

In order to understand how much their kindness and generosity meant to us, I would like to give you a little background.  My husband is a chemical engineer and works away from home half the year.  For the last two years, we have missed every holiday together.  It has been very hard for my three children, my husband, and I.  After a lot of thought, we decided to splurge on plane tickets. This would mean we could be together for Christmas, even though it was in a work location. There was no tree or presents, but what really mattered was that we would be together. We don’t fly much or have the opportunity to go on vacation—this was a big deal!

Our flight out of Casper, Wyoming was delayed by over an hour and a half, and we had anticipated a two-hour layover in Denver.  I prayed that we would have 30 minutes to get to our gate. Many of the passengers expressed that they would have to get a flight out on Christmas Day because they had already missed their connection.  I was very anxious.

When we exited the plane onto the tarmac in Denver, it appeared I had 10 minutes to get my children and myself to the next gate.  I didn’t know how far it was, and I was panicked. When we entered the building, I was crying.  All I could think was that after two years of no holidays, missed birthdays, and missed events, we were going to spend Christmas at the airport!

As I entered the airport I gave my boarding passes to the first person who appeared to work for the airport and asked where our gate was and if they could help me.  Your crew was there!  All three of them said, “You are here! You can board the plane with us!”

The Captain and Flight Attendant reassured me it was okay, that I had made it.  Honestly, I think I had only three minutes after getting off the previous flight.  After your crew talked to me for a minute, and I knew we definitely were going to get to Dickinson, I started crying tears of joy!  Not knowing our history, I am sure some people thought I was nuts, but your crew was so gracious.

Once we boarded the flight to Dickinson and were in the air, Dana George started getting refreshments. She was so kind, and my daughter and son joked with her.  My son even said, “Ms. George treated me like a king.”  Their kindness meant so much to us.  It has been a rough year, and they literally brought a miracle to our family.  We were able to be together!

My family was desperately in need of kindness and we received it from your crew.

When we arrived, the Captain generously gave a tour of the aircraft to my kids.  They loved it!  He was such a fun guy!  Thank you for these incredible people.  Their kindness meant so much to my little family.  I will forever remember this crew.  It really was a Christmas miracle!

Thank you so much for this amazing experience.

Winter Wonderland in Sioux Falls

 

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First Officer Chris Ashbach

My name is Chris Ashbach, and I’m a First Officer with Trans States Airlines. If you’ve ever flown with me and tried to lift my bag out of the closet on the aircraft, you know that I bring around 20 pounds of camera gear with me whenever I fly.  Before joining Trans States Airlines I was a professional travel blogger.  Now that I’m a First Officer at Trans States, I’ve combined my love for flying and my love for travel into a monthly blog article highlighting some of the amazing destinations that we serve, along with not-to-be-missed activities for overnighting crews.  First up … Sioux Falls, South Dakota. 

 

Falls Park in Sioux Falls

Sioux Falls is a thriving city in southeast South Dakota. The city is famous to Midwesterners as a stopping point along Highway 90 for road trippers before they get to the infamous Corn Palace in Mitchell as they continue on their way through the plains and the Black Hills toward the Rocky Mountains. For tourists, the city of Sioux Falls is most famous for its rambling waterfalls that stretch over a rare quartzite rock formation in what is now Falls Park. But the city is much more than just a rest for weary road trippers. Trans States serves Sioux Falls with regular flights supporting the vibrant economy of this little-known gem of a city.

While most people don’t think of the Dakotas as a particularly exciting winter destination, if you do make the trip, the warmth of the people is all you need to survive the cool weather. For a perfect day in Sioux Falls, I recommend a visit to Winter Wonderland in Falls Park, followed by a chance to warm up in Downtown Sioux Falls with some great barbecue. Both are an easy walk from our crew hotel.

Winter Wonderland in Falls Park

Falls Park is one of the most searched-for attractions in South Dakota. Visitors can find Sioux Falls’ namesake here as they watch the Big Sioux River tumble and toss through the rocky outcroppings of the park. The below photo was taken just after sunset, truly one of my favorite times of the day.

These falls are the gem of Sioux Falls, and are the very place the city was first formed. A stone building where the first settlers milled their crops still stands by the bustling river. Today the city celebrates its history and the natural beauty of this place through what is now called Falls Park.  With lighted, paved paths, Falls Park is the perfect place to walk, bike, or run around historic sites and waterfalls, day or night.

If you visit from early November through early January, you’re in for a special treat.  The city’s “Winter Wonderland at Falls Park” adorns the beloved falls with holiday cheer, and features over over 25 miles of lights and colored LED spotlights.

From the crew hotel, head north about one block on Phillips Street, and then catch the trails from the park entrance. Find the plowed walkway through the field on your right, and you will descend into a rare quartzite patch worn bare by the river. After a short walk, the falls will appear in front of you as they fall away into the lower levels of the park.

The largest part of the falls’ drop is found near an observation deck down this path. Don’t miss a stop here. It’s beautiful.

Perched on a nearby hill you can stop at the Falls Park Visitors Center and observation deck to warm up before you continue on. The city built this outlook to take advantage of the beautiful park and downtown area past it. Outdoor speakers play holiday music, and I saw more than a few couples out walking, just enjoying the fresh nighttime air and magical views.

Warm Up In Downtown Sioux Falls

After your walk through Falls Park, head downtown to warm your belly at one of Sioux Falls’ fantastic restaurants. On your way, don’t just take the streets back. Enjoy the rest of the Winter Wonderland by walking the paths south to 10th street and then cut west one block to get downtown.

Downtown Sioux Falls is loaded with great restaurants and eateries. The downtown area starts one block south of our layover hotel on Phillips Avenue. Some of our crews’ favorite eateries include JL Beers for a good craft burger and MacKenzie River Pizza. During my most recent layover, I stopped at BackYard BBQ, right in the heart of Phillips Avenue, for some authentic BBQ.

On the way back from dinner, don’t miss CH Patisserie for a French macaroon or another tasty treat to enjoy back in your room.

After a good nights rest, we were back as a crew for our hotel pickup headed for Joe Foss Field. A few legs later and we were ready to explore another city the following night.

Learn More About Working At Trans State Airlines

Culture.  Community.  Camaraderie.  You’ll find it all at Trans States.  Click here to learn more about careers at Trans States and to apply online. 

This article was written by Chris Ashbach, MA; a First Officer at Trans States Airlines, professional speaker, blogger, and photographer. You can learn more about Sioux Falls Tourism on Chris’ travel blog. Chris also owns LiveDan330.com and his brand has been recognized by the Wall Street Journal, Investment News Magazine, and IZEA, Inc. You are welcome to read more about Chris on ChrisAshbach.com, or enjoy his food blog, FourKidsAndAChicken.com. Chris is also a featured gardener in the upcoming book on Straw Bale Gardening by New York Times best-selling author Joel Karsten.

Trans States Mechanic Becomes a U.S. Citizen

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Trans States mechanic and new American citizen, Julio Vaia

St. Louis-based mechanic Julio Vaia recently accomplished a pretty special milestone.  After living in the United States for a number of years, he officially became a U.S. citizen.

Julio is originally from Peru, but later moved to Puerto Rico.  After discovering that he enjoyed working on cars, Julio decided to pursue a career in aviation maintenance.  As a green card holder, Julio was eligible to join the United States military, and he received his initial aviation maintenance training with the Coast Guard.

After leaving the Coast Guard, Julio went on to study aviation maintenance at Spartan College in Tulsa, where he received his Airframe & Powerplant (A & P) license.  Shortly thereafter, he was hired by Trans States as a St. Louis-based Line Mechanic.  At Trans States, Julio’s outstanding work ethic and attention to detail caught the attention of management, and he was quickly promoted to Floor Inspector.

However, earning his A & P and working for Trans States weren’t the only things on Julio’s plate these past several years.  He was also working on completing the requirements for U.S. citizenship.  Becoming a citizen can be a complicated process that can take years, and Julio remembers the day when he officially received his American citizenship as both humbling and exciting.

Julio’s citizenship ceremony took place in St. Louis, where a number of local dignitaries were on hand to greet the new citizens.  “At my ceremony, two judges, the President of Saint Louis University, and the President of the Saint Louis University School of Law were there to welcome me to my new life as an American citizen,”  Julio recalled.  The highlight of the ceremony came at the end, when Julio exchanging his green card for his certificate of citizenship.

But even though he’s crossed becoming a citizen off his list, Julio’s to-do list isn’t complete just yet.  He plans to obtain his Associate’s Degree in Aviation Maintenance, and then work towards a Bachelor’s Degree.  He’d like to work in maintenance management some day, with a goal of eventually working in safety investigations.

“Trans States is still my first job in my aviation maintenance career,” Julio says, “but the opportunities I have received have already prepared me for my future.”

We’re proud that Julio has chosen to call Trans States home, and we can’t wait to see what he accomplishes next.

Trans States Partners with Women in Aviation to Promote Aviation as a Career Path

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Did you know that only 5% of all pilots are women, and less than 2% of aircraft mechanics are women?  Women In Aviation International (WAI) aims to change that.  WAI is a non-profit organization dedicated to the advancement of women in aviation career fields.  One of the organization’s top priorities is encouraging young women to consider aviation as a career.

Traditionally a male-dominated field, aviation is a career path that women often don’t consider unless they’ve been previously exposed to it, such as having a parent who is a pilot.  Since so few girls are exposed to aviation as a potential career opportunity, they usually have a different career path in mind by the time they reach their late teens.  “Aviation tends to be family-oriented,” explains Laura O’Brien, President of the St. Louis Chapter of WAI.  “The culture is usually something that you’re brought into in some way.  Very few people stumble onto it themselves, and we want to help change that.”

One of the ways that WAI aims to narrow the gender gap in aviation is by exposing girls to career opportunities in the field at a young age.  WAI’s annual Girls In Aviation Day provides girls ages 11-16 opportunities to learn about aviation-related careers through hands-on activities and demonstrations from aviation professionals.  Over 74 WAI chapters around the world hosted local Girls in Aviation events this year, drawing over 9,700 attendees.

At this year’s event in St. Louis, over 100 local girls learned about aviation career opportunities with over 20 organizations, including Boeing, the Air Force, and Trans States.  One of the event’s most inspiring guests was 13-year-old student pilot, Olivia Fabisoff.

Private aircraft company JetLinx graciously allowed their ramp to be used for static aircraft displays, allowing the participants the opportunity to see private jets and Medevac helicopters up close.

JTrans States hosted a luncheon for participants at our corporate headquarters in St. Louis, where pilots and flight attendants were on hand to talk about what their jobs are like and how they got to where they are today.

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Be sure to save the date for next year’s Girls in Aviation Day on October 13, 2018!  Click here to find out how you can get involved.

IT Systems Manager Recalls Playing for the Kansas City Royals

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You would expect a baseball player who made it to the big leagues to have grown up on the game, the star of their Little League and high school teams.  But that wasn’t the case with IT Systems Manager Eric Walls, who played for the Kansas City Royals from 1992-1996.

Eric didn’t even play baseball in high school, focusing instead on wrestling, cross country and track.  In fact, prior to college, his only experience with baseball was playing for the t-ball team that his dad coached when he was a kid.

While attending Greenville College, Eric’s roommate suggested that he try out for the baseball team, in spite of his lack of experience.  But Eric was fast, and what he lacked in experience he made up for with speed.  “As it turns out,” he recalls, “I made a perfect pinch hitter.  When I tried out, my 60 yard dash time was faster than average by several seconds.”

It wasn’t long until Eric was offered a full baseball scholarship to Kaskaskia College. While there, Eric received pre-draft camp invitations from the Chicago White Sox, the Cincinnati Reds, the Chicago Cubs and the Kansas City Royals. “The next thing I knew,” he recalls, “people started congratulating me on being drafted to play for Kansas City.”  It was the opportunity of a lifetime, and he took it, even though it meant delaying the completion of his education.

“It really wasn’t until I was playing for the majors that I truly fell in love with baseball,” Eric admits.  From 1992 to 1996, Eric was a pinch hitter and outfielder for the Royals and Royals-affiliated minor league teams, including the Rockford Royals.  During his best season, he hit .320, led the team in triples, and was one of the team’s top performers in doubles, overall hits, RBIs and stolen bases.

Eric hit his first home run towards the end of his first season with the Royals.  During a game against the Florida Marlins, Eric remembers hitting the ball as hard as he could before taking off to first base.  When he rounded second, thinking that he had hit a double, he noticed his entire dugout was cracking up. “That’s when I realized I had hit my first ever home run, and I just started celebrating and show-boating on my way back to home plate.”

When Eric’s manager reminded him that it was against etiquette to show up the pitcher, he admitted that he didn’t really care because he was so excited. “Then, at my next at bat,” he continues, “the pitcher threw at me.  As I took first base, I made sure to tip my helmet to him, letting him know I understood.”

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Trans States Airlines IT Systems Manager and former Kansas City Royals player Eric Walls.

Another memorable moment was the time that a pitch knocked him out cold.  “I was the second at-bat, and the first pitch was inside and out-of-the-way.” Eric thought he was ready for the second pitch, but it bounced off of his jaw and bruised his arm.  He was out for nearly seven minutes.  “When I came to,” he recalls, “I thought I had only been out for a few seconds. I was ready to take first base, but my teammates grabbed me and told me that I had to sit out.” It wasn’t until after Eric returned to the dugout that one of his teammates told him that he’d forgotten to mention that that particular pitcher was known for his aggressive pitches.

Eventually, Eric wanted to move forward with his personal and professional life, and left baseball to finish his academic career. “My agent and family may have been a little upset, but since I didn’t grow up on the game, I felt ready to move on.  To this day, I don’t have any hangups about walking away.”

Twenty years later, Eric is an IT professional with a family.  “My son is typical video game-loving teenager now,” he says, “but I made sure to start him off with baseball, and he played until he was 15.”  Eric also has a daughter who is a gymnast. “She is very competitive, and recently placed 15th in her national competition.”