Like the song says, I have been pretty much everywhere. I should rather say, I have flown to everywhere. Starting from the bumpy ride from Atlanta to Gainesville in the propeller driven apology of a plane to huge Boeing or airbuses for coast to coast or transatlantic sojourns, it has been a long ride, in the true sense of the term.
And like all folks who pretend to be geeks, I love to find out how things work. No, not how that giant metallic structure stay afloat midair, that is trivial. Rather I love to know what goes in behind the scenes. Some of my experiences in all these years, not always exactly pleasant though, helped untangle some mysteries. I would take this chance to bask in the glory of my acquired wisdom now!
"Taking over the plane" : Not as alarming as it may sound. The first time I encountered the phrase when having missed an earlier flight, I was trying to get a standby seat on the next flight five hours later, and the agent at the gate told me she can give me a seat only when she takes over the plane, which would happen an hour or so before the take off. Then I learnt before that, the check in counter controls the plane. I was trying to book a flight within a day, and I could not get a seat assignment, either online or by phone. They simply said, the airport has taken over the plane. So that is that.
All those "special" seats: United has premium economy seating, with a little bit of extra leg space, and they try to sell it to you before the flight. The best way to get them? In a full flight, just do not choose any seats. They would be forced to hand them out eventually- I managed to fly on those quite a few times without paying an extra cent. Same with Northwest, they charge for those spacious seats at exit rows, and often times try to force people to buy them so that they can seat together. Again, traveling solo has its own advantages and checking in late often means they have no choice to give an exit row seat to you. Feels less like a herd of cattle packed in.
And finally, "Channel 9": The only reason I love United. For those uninitiated, channel 9 broadcasts the communication of the pilots with the control. Again, there are different controls taking over the plane at different times - starts from ground control who directs it till take off, then to successive "centers" as it flies by and finally to the ground control where it lands. And it is so much fun listening to the exchanges. All the code names and jargon's, how I love them. It also gives you a sense of power, listening to the instruction to turn right by some degrees and then actually feeling it turn or the warning of "weather" up ahead and then seeing the seat belt sign come back to life. They have intersections in the sky, and routes precisely documented by altitude and angles. And on ground, its pretty much like the traffic on roads, "follow the heavy American jet" or "stay close to the pack". Fascinating stuff.