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When love takes flight, the sky's the limit

Two couples tell how they were swept off their feet even before their planes landed.

December 20, 2009|By Judy Mandell

In these days of jampacked flights and weather delays, it may be hard to believe that anything aviation-related can bring people together, but Edie Lambert and Lloyd Levine are living proof that love conquers all. So before you slug your seatmate, consider these two stories.

It was the Monday after Thanksgiving, November 2005, at Sea-Tac airport. Lambert saw Levine in front of her in the Southwest line and thought he was cute and tall. "I'm 5 feet 10 inches, so I notice height," Lambert says.

"He was on his phone. I normally would have been in the C boarding group because I generally forget to print out my boarding pass ahead of time, but my mom had done it for me, so I had an A pass. That put me in the same line as Lloyd.

"When I walked onto the plane, I immediately sat next to him -- the beauty of Southwest and their unassigned seating. I was suddenly appalled at myself -- it totally violates etiquette to sit in a middle seat, next to someone, before every window and aisle seat is taken. But there I was. So I picked up a book and started to read, thinking any other move would have to be up to him. I have no idea what I was reading.

"In the meantime, Lloyd was still on the phone, talking to his chief of staff, getting briefed after the long weekend and strategizing for the week ahead." (At the time, Lloyd Levine was a California assemblyman, a Democrat representing the San Fernando Valley's 40th District.)

"He says he noticed me -- 'this tall, attractive woman,' as he tells the story -- as I walked onto the plane and was excited that I sat by him. He got off the phone quickly and tried to think of an opening line. He saw the cup of Starbucks coffee I brought on board and said he wished he'd thought to buy a cup of coffee in the airport, which is funny, in retrospect, because he rarely drinks coffee.

"We chatted all the way to Sacramento. The conversation turned to our jobs -- in spite of two public careers, neither of us recognized the other." (Lambert worked as a news anchor for a Sacramento TV station.)

"Lloyd says about halfway through the flight, he began to feel the pressure of our impending landing," Lambert says. "I think it was just seconds before the wheels touched down that he asked me if I would like to have dinner sometime."

Lloyd proposed two years later on a Southwest flight to Seattle on Thanksgiving 2007. "It was a total surprise. I took a nap, and when I woke up he offered me a peanut from an open bag of Southwest peanuts. I ate a few before I noticed a sparkling engagement ring in that bag. It was a fairly full flight, but somehow we had the row to ourselves. As public as a plane ride is, it ended up being a very private moment. No one else on the plane knew we got engaged."

"Whenever I fly with Lloyd, it feels like a celebration, an anniversary of sorts."

Sara Bratcher and Troy Hartman

Sara Bratcher and Troy Hartman met in December 2006 while working on the set of the TV movie "Final Approach." They were hired as stunt doubles for an aerial scene in which Bratcher's character (a flight attendant) is taken hostage by Hartman's character (a hijacker).

"The year prior to landing that job had been a tough one for me," she says. "My boyfriend was killed in a sky-diving accident while we were vacationing in Belize. I was on that sky dive with him and watched as he was unable to deploy either parachute. At that moment, my world completely fell apart. . . . Sky-diving had been my greatest passion for so many years, yet with the death of my boyfriend, that passion for flight died too.

"A few months passed, and I knew I needed something to make me feel alive again. I had always dreamed of pursuing a stunt career, so when I was offered the 'Final Approach' job, I couldn't pass it up.

"Troy had been in the stunt business for many years, and every sky diver knew his name. He was the host of a hit MTV stunt show and was a sky-surf gold medalist. The first thing I noticed about Troy was how incredibly humble he was. We connected right away and had a blast shooting our scene. We exchanged numbers at the end of the day and went on our first official date about a week later."

Hartman vividly remembers the day they met: "I met Sara at the commercial airline graveyard in the middle of the Mojave Desert," he says. "We showed up on a movie set at 6 a.m. in December, and it was freezing. It's always exciting on the first day of a shoot to see who you are going to be working with, but I would have to say that meeting Sara that morning was the most memorable of any first-day introductions."

The couple married July 18 at Mammoth Lakes.

travel@latimes.com

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