I'm Batman

This is an unedited draft I wrote a while ago when I was thinking about how funny I think I am. It's recommended for adults who don't mind a few slurs and swears, so consider yourself warned.

 

Airline pilots get a bad rap about their drinking habits. God forbid we have a solid 24 hours off in the shittiest hotel on the planet. Oh and thank you Denzel for ruining all the strange I was getting and coke I was snorting.

(IF there is anyone from the FAA, NTSB, FBI, DEA, DOT, here: I would just like to point out that is a joke…) Next time you’re in an airport I want you to count how many hot flight attendants you see. They’re like the white rhino of Africa. That shit is practically extinct and the few that do exist are actively being hunted 24 hours a day. I remember the first time I watched that Denzel movie. I didn’t even want to watch it. I had seen the previews. I’m sure most doctors don’t like watching ER, because most of us are cynical assholes. When you do something professionally that required years of training and you do it every day, first of all you’re probably not watching a show about it and second they likely fucked something up because “IT LOOKED BETTER ON CAMERA.” Well imagine how pumped I was to watch a movie about an addict pilot that brazenly saves the day by simply FLYING UPSIDE DOWN. Wow. Yea, get me some popcorn can’t wait to see this drama unfurl.

 

[teaserbreak]

Ultimately I didn’t want to ever watch it but I was living with my best friends and they were both non-aviation types so they were REALLY interested in watching ME watch the movie. I’ll never forget the look on my buddies face when the movie started. He’s just staring at me, with this huge grin like “HOW BAD WAS THAT? IS THAT EVEN REAL?” Because he knows what an asshole I am. He knows. He was right. For those of you who haven’t seen the movie, I won’t ruin it, but I will say this. In the first few minutes of the film you see Denzel who is the captain, he is walking around the airplane in the pouring down rain. Few things: Captains are old as fuck and don’t do walk arounds. People always ask: how do you know which one is the captain? Walker. When they do the walk arounds it is either because they smoke and they want to sneak under the terminal and smoke, or because they have training coming up and they haven’t seen the outside of the airplane in about a year, or it’s sunny and 72 and they feel like taking away the only time I get to walk around outside and curse under my breath about how shitty the captain that I’m flying with is. Sometimes the only thing between me and homicide is that walk outside. Imagine if you were at work and they moved you to a new desk. This desk was the size of two milk crates and it was inside a bullet proof chamber. Your boss said to increase productivity you need to remain at your desk for no less than 5 hours at a time and that you’d be sharing that desk with the worst person on the planet. That’s my job in a nutshell, sometimes. You get to work with a lot of different people but sometimes you’re stuck next to someone in this cramped workspace crucible for long hours on end that the thing that keeps me from just snapping and ending that persons life in a fit of rage and a first class spork is my little walk around the airplane. There’s generally a nice breeze out there, sun is shining, airplane noise in the background, smell of jetfuel killing whatever braincells I haven’t already permanently disabled, and nobody can hear my mumbles of “swear to god if he keeps talking about his ex-wives I’m gonna kill him. I’m gonna fucking kill him.” So if you are sitting on a plane and you see a pilot walking around, look closely, you’ll probably see him mumbling something. Just know that it’s a process and it’s keeping you safe.

Most people I work with, when we spend 16 hours at work, 8 of those hours flying people from point A to point shitty, we just want to have a few drinks and forget about the life choices that brought us to Dayton Ohio.

If you’re from Ohio I apologize, it’s just that I dated a real whore from Ohio and I’ve made it my life mission to ruin that states reputation in hopes it will come full circle back to her. I know what you’re thinking, but no, I don’t hold grudges. Slut. The funny part about her story is I was warned about her years before I even met her. My parents were travelling a lot while I was in flight school and my dad got like super into my training. It was weird because I wasn’t use to that attention and every time I had a big training thing coming up or a test, he was always the first to call me to ask how it went and all that. So apparently when my dad was travelling one day he sat next to a pilot and told him all about me. Let me tell you, as a guy who travels in my pilot uniform on airplanes, I don’t want to hear about your kids flight training. One lovely old lady asked how I liked my career and I smiled and said it’s amazing and I love it but that the training costs have crippled me financially and that I wish it wasn’t such a burden. She looked me dead in the eye and said “well you can always join the military, they’ll pay for it, of course it might kill you. My first husband died in the military.” So I should be dead instead of broke? That’s your advice? Ok, move it along granny.

Anyways, after my dad gushed about my training and about how I wanted to be an airline pilot so badly, he somehow got this guy to call me for “career advice.” I remember being a bit skeptical when my dad called me and told me what he had arranged. “I talked to this pilot and he’s going to call you with some pointers on how to get into the airline industry.” Ooook. Strange.

I remember this phone though. I wish I had recorded it, I really do. Picture me, I’m in this tiny dorm-room at flight school and I’m sitting at my tiny desk with a tiny pen and tiny paper waiting for my tiny phone to ring. Couldn’t afford real flight school, I went to tiny flight school. Anyways, guy calls and we start talking. He’s asking me how my training is going and this and that. Now I’m super naïve at this point when it comes to the airlines and the industry as a whole. I mean I was 23/24 and just about halfway through getting my flight ratings. I had some high hopes that this random guy that my dad convinced to call me was going to give me the keys to unlock my career. Ready for his advice?

“Don’t fuck flight attendants.”

Come again?

“Don’t fuck flight attendants. They’re disease bag whores who only want to get pregnant and get your money. Just let them suck your dick. Seriously. Blow jobs only, that way they can’t get pregnant, you can’t get a VD, and you still get off.”

Like, what should I have written down? I’m on the phone nodding along “uh huh, oh okay, right, of course. I see. Gotcha.” But I’m staring at my pad of paper with literally nothing to write down. I mean, I had questions for this guy. First of all, what’s the name of the flight attendant he knocked up and is getting alimony or child support? Maybe I could just not fuck her because she seems to be the devil, according to him. Like after thinking about the phone call all these years later, having been through some different relationships at the airline, I can just imagine that his wife or girlfriend cheats on him, the next day he meets my dad, and he agrees to give me advice based on his rage and he made the conscious choice to warn me about “Cynthia.”

Furthermore, I was concerned about his understanding of VD. Like, is this guy legitimately out there getting blow jobs from hookers thinking “hah, can’t give me any diseases!” Like, wow! One cross-eyed and broken toothed blow job from a homeless guy could ruin that dudes life and he has NO IDEA! I’m actually a little jealous of that bliss. Even after all that, that isn’t the worst part about this phone call.

The worst part was inventing some intricate lie to tell my dad when he called me next. Here was my dad, super excited about my flight training, excited enough to talk to random strangers about me, and zealous enough to convince that stranger to call and “advise” me. He was pretty stoked to hear this career advice and insight and how I was going to put his info to good use.

That, for me, was one of the first times I felt like I really lied to my dad as an adult. I mean, I had lied to my parents as a kid a lot. You name it I was lying about it. But this was different. This was some real shit that I couldn’t tell my dad. I mean first of all I don’t have that relationship with my parents where we talk about everything. The last thing I’m going to talk about with my dad is blowjobs because god forbid he mention something about mom. “Ah yes, that’s why I married your mother.” Because this would have been a suicide note 10 years ago. “Dear dad, you know why I did it. Jared.”

I pretty much just made up stuff about this random guy to tell my dad. “Oh you know, he was like ‘don’t crash airplanes’ and ‘stay in school’ and ‘no drugs’” and I just casually left out the blowjobs and money grubbing whores.

Anyways, when you’re in a hotel bar, you will often find the same 5 people. Businessman, woman, person, whatever. They’re the same people that you see flying in first class with their laptops and blackberries just typing away at who the fuck knows what. Do you know how annoying it is to fly these pretentious assholes around who complain about everything like “are we gonna get there safely?” and “my salmon is cold.” Like, those are the two worst complaints you could possibly put together. One is a completely unnecessary – but common- concern on planes, the other identifies someone who doesn’t understand the irony and the blessing of eating fish while flying through the sky.

But now after dealing with people like that all day, you sit at the bar and captain productivity is there next to you just clickity-clackity on the keyboard making presentations about how much it costs to produce a vacuum cleaner.

Anyways, next to that guy is almost always someone who isn’t dealing well with being in whatever hotel we’re in. Be it because their flight was cancelled, or their flight was supposed to land in Orlando but they diverted it to Pittsburgh for weather, even though their self proclaimed weather experts. Do you know how pathetic it is to try and convince a pilot that quote “the weather’s fine! We should leave now, we’ll be fine!” Trust me, it’s pathetic, and it happens a lot more than you would think. People will point at their phones and their fancy weather apps and yell and scream about delays or cancellations. Just once, perhaps on my last day, I want to just walk up to them in the crowded gate area and scream back.

“This airline does billions of dollars in revenue a year and operates thousands of flights with millions of passengers and you think your PHONE is the glue that binds this operation together? You don’t see me coming to get a car loan from you and then insisting I get a better interest rate because my PHONE said it was fine!”

Like that moment, that exchange, telling off some asshole passenger for a million different reasons, that’s what pilots spend those long flight hours dreaming about. Well thinking about. Because we never sleep.

Anyways, so this person who’s so not dealing well with being at the hotel, they’re the loud drunk one that everyone else is avoiding eye-contact with. You made eye contact with me? LET’S BE BEST FRIENDS! “Dude….dude….dude. Can you believe it? This bullshit? The plane, was fine. I was on it, we were all on it. Then they said it was like broke, bullshit. Something about a fire or something, but I mean, I didn’t see any smoke! It’s fine!” Do you know how hard it is to keep not only my cool while dealing with this person at every single airport hotel, but also to keep my disguise?

Most pilots at the bar won’t walk in wearing their uniform and aviator glasses, announce their arrival “HELLO I JUST FLEW IN FROM CLEVELAND AND I WANT TO GET SO DRUNK I FORGET ABOUT MY THREE EX-WIVES!” we don’t do that. Well the ex-wives part is true and I don’t understand it. More than two? Either stop fucking or stop getting married, but one of them isn’t working out.

Walking into a bar though, pilots, we’re like Batman. Well, Bruce Wayne really. We’re in street clothes so no-one will recognize us. We get that really deep raspy growl. “ugh. WHERE IS THE BEER LIST?! WHERE IS IT?!”

But that’s seriously how I feel. If I don’t hide my identity from these people there will be questions that I’m not prepared to answer. “OMG. You’re a pilot? Like, OMG. So. What’s it like flying a plane with peoples lives in your hands? Like at any second, like everyone could just die. What’s that like?”

It’s pretty simple actually. Because if you think the pilots are up there flying the airplane and god forbid something catastrophic happens and we have some sort of in flight emergency that requires the decades of experience, years of schooling, thousands of hours of training, all to safely land the airplane, and we’re up there thinking about all the people? Is that really somebody you want in control? Because that person is basically an emotional wreck. I’ve been flying for over 10 years with thousands of hours of experience in all kinds of different airplanes but I’ve never had the airplane do something out of the ordinary and immediately thought “OMG. That woman in 3B is pregnant and travelling with her ill and dying grandmother. I BETTER NOT FUCK THIS UP!” You don’t want that person in charge! You don’t put an emotional train-wreck at the controls of a flying missile! Yet that’s the first thing everyone assumes we think about. Hell, I think most people assume that’s why pilots drink so much is because of the pressure of all the lives in our hands. It isn’t. We’re all selfish assholes who only think about ourselves and we drink because most of the time our job is pretty fucking shitty.

That sounds bad on the outset but the reality is, it’s pretty good to have a selfish pilot who only cares about himself and I’ll tell you why: you’re all sitting behind me. You can’t back an airplane into a mountain like you can a car against a telephone pole. Doesn’t work that way. The day the put the cockpit in the tail of the airplane and all the passengers sit in front of the pilots, that’s the day I would stop flying as a passenger. Because then, pilots would be like “think we can walk away from that one? Yea, fuck it. BOOM.” But as it stands, we’re the first mother fuckers to eat dirt and statistically the highest fatality rate, so we’re pretty keen on not killing ourselves, which in turn works out nicely for everyone else.

Anyways. The bar. The other person that’s at the bar is the family. Dad, mom, and usually miserable fuck 1 and 2. This is the family that booked their vacation on orbitz like 10 months ago and saved $12 bucks by staying 3 hours away from the theme park. Dad’s trying to point out all the things that ROCK about the hotel, mom’s 3 martini’s into her hangover and miserable fucks 1 and 2 are locking in nightmares that will cost them thousands of dollars later in life.

That’s not a dig on my parents, we had some great vacations as kids, but I grew up with one older sister and she was a super cunt. Nothing says sibling rivalry like your older sister sitting on you and tickling you until you pee. And your parents just pointing and laughing at you. Yea. Jokes on her though because when I hit puberty I got fat and she got anorexic and we pretty much reached an understanding.

return

I’m writing again. As bad as it sounds, amidst a busy semester, I’m writing again for fun. I’ve had these thoughts in my head for quite some time about what I want to write about and what story I want to tell. I’ve wrestled with the ideas and the recollections and I think I’ve settled on an outline and a story.

I’m going to publish it- probably on Amazon Kindle Direct- but I’m going to get it out there. For better or worse, I’m going to jump back on this horse and hopefully tell the story I’ve always wanted to tell: me.

Stay tuned friends.

incognito

I recently took a trip with my good friend James, in a Piper Warrior. We decided to take a short flight from Sarasota to Vero Beach where we attended flight school together. He was recently checked out from a local FBO and we set out for an afternoon flight to have lunch.

It was a good day for VFR flying in Florida and it was to be my first flight back in a light airplane since I started flying for the airline. I was excited to get back in an airplane type that I spent so much time flight instructing in. It was also to be my first time returning to the airport where I instructed since leaving.

We completed the pre-flight together and set out to begin our taxi from the FBO ramp. We decided to split the duties as he would be the PIC, I would work the radios and read the checklists. An ideal model of our strict training and airline protocols.

“Ground, Cherokee 10155, taxi from FBO, VFR, southeast.”

Sarasota is a primary class Charlie airport and in my experience it varies by locale what procedure they want a VFR pilot to use. Some will request you contact clearance delivery for departure instructions, others simply want a direction, Fort Myers will ask if you even want radar services.

“Is there anything else you want to tell me?” Was my reply over the ground frequency. Not in a helpful tone. More so in a condescending, snarky tone.
“Information Foxtrot, sorry.”
“Anything else?”
“I have no idea what you want.”
We exchanged confused looks in the cockpit. We tried to determine between ourselves what he could possibly be looking for from us.

“Cherokee 10155, how about an altitude, and a destination?”
“Ok. K-V-R-B at three thousand five hundred.”
“Otherwise known to the aviation community as Vero Beach.”
Again, a very condescending and demeaning tone came through our headsets.
“After take-off fly heading 090 and maintain VFR at or below 1600. Contact departure on frequency 119.65 and squawk 5156.”
I read back his clearance and heard a reply.
“I didn’t hear a call sign, so I’m going to assume that was Cherokee 10155. Taxi to runway 14 via alpha.”
At this point I was irritated. I began to read back clearances and acknowledgments extremely slowly. We taxied to the runway and completed our run up checklists and departed without incident.

While cruising I took care of the navigation while James flew. Using a sectional chart and my experience as a flight instructor in Florida, we navigated towards the middle of the state. Unlucky for us, the Restricted areas north of Okeechobee were active today which required slight circumnavigation. We also fought a headwind on the way over which made for a longer flight than we expected. I began to think about what it would be like to be a student pilot in Sarasota. I put myself in the shoes of a new student with a typical case of anxiety associated with radio transmissions. There is a very real sense of exposure when a student pushes that mic button. They’re attempting to communicate in a language and way that can often feel foreign and strange. Overcoming this anxiety is a key step in a students training and sometimes takes quite some time and practice to achieve.

As instructors it is our job to facilitate the learning process. Sometimes outside factors can dilute and dismantle this process. I often heard instructors state on the frequency that the student made a mistake, or that they made a mistake because the student did something. What instructors don’t realize is they just violated trust between the student and themselves. I only mention this because had this situation occurred with my student, I would have taken over the radio communications and encouraged the student to continue. I would have followed with a phone call to the tower.

I got the feeling that this controller was very familiar with the flight training that occurs from this FBO. He must also be familiar with the fact that there are many new students coming from this FBO, however that shouldn’t change his tone of communication. I would have requested his preference of communication for a VFR flight out of the Charlie airspace. I might have added how his tone and language have drastic impacts on new students but I don’t know if it would have done any good.

I guess my overall impression after this flight was you don’t always know who’s behind the mic, but you shouldn’t judge the pilot by the aircraft type.

still here

I have been working on some lengthy material, and the process has been somewhat time consuming. I'm not quite ready to publish it yet, but I'm letting you know it's on the way.

the life of a co pilot

It’s the little things. How you talk on the radio, using airspeed or vertical speed or flight level change to climb, the way you program the flight management, where you write the clearance. It’s the little things you do as the ‘co pilot’ that can aggravate captains.

I’ve found that none seem to have any issue with me. I’ve been far from perfect. I’ve felt more like a student pilot in last 3 months than ever before. I’m an infant in a big world. I’m bright-eyed-bushy-tailed and I feel dumb as a new puppy. I hate being new at things. I hate not being proficient and efficient.

It’s frustrating at times, yet I know it’s a learning curve that will slowly start to fade. However most of what frustrates me isn’t myself, it’s trying to appease the other crew member. Trying to adapt to the ‘right’ way and decipher what is good advice and what is not.

I’ve flown with super relaxed guys that are quiet and reserved, won’t interfere unless something catches fire. They help where they think I need it, and otherwise they just let me fly. These are the guys that are a pleasure to fly with. You don’t feel any pressure to perform or to be perfect, and when you do make a mistake(and I do) they don’t set YOU on fire for it.

There are the guys in the middle that don’t really tell you how to fly, yet they often give you ‘advice’. “Ya know, if you did it this way, I would like it better.” It’s like that moment in Office Space where he wants her to wear more flair. “So I should do it that way?” “Well if you want to do it that way, it would be better. You want to be better right?”

Except it’s not better. It’s just different. Or maybe I just think it’s different and not better. What do I know anyways? What I’ve learned about aviation is everyone has their way. Every single thing you can do with an airplane you can do a million ways. 99% of those different ways are just as efficient and effective. Unfortunately they only teach you one way. Who’s to say it’s the right way, or the best way, but it’s the way they teach you. Yet everyone has their opinion on what is better, so they feel obligated to ‘teach’ me.

Now I’m the kind of guy who wants to know the million different ways so I can choose which is my favorite or preferred, and I’m still figuring out ‘my way’. Yet it still creates this stigma that I can’t do it ‘right’. Everyone is always telling me to do it differently, and I don’t know if that’s because they don’t like the way I do things or because they know I’m new. It has quickly become the most frustrating part of my job.

Then there are the ‘other’ captains. The ones that flat out tell you to do it this way, or don’t do that. My favorite is when I’m flying and they change something and don’t tell me what. Like I get to just figure it out on my own what they changed, and why. Or they will correct my work, or just plain DO my work. Nothing makes you feel like less of an efficient worker than when somebody does your work for you. Did he think I wasn’t capable of doing it myself? Did he think I would do it wrong? Was he being nice and helping me get my stuff done? I wish he wouldn’t do that, I still need to get practice with this stuff!

I got nearly an hour long lecture on why I shouldn’t try to tell the captain where to taxi. It wasn’t my job to set the tone of the cockpit, it was merely my job to shut up and run checklists. Apparently. I was told that captains know where to taxi and they don’t need any help. Granted I wasn’t trying to imply he didn’t know where to taxi. I confirmed our route and made sure he know which way it was. I have lots of work during the taxi that sometimes requires my head to be inside while he’s driving around the airport. Guess where the most doled out violations are given? During taxi. We both get nailed with a runway incursion or deviation because he made a wrong turn. In my short time here I’ve already stopped one guy from taxiing on a closed taxi-way, a crew from crossing a hold short line while on the jump seat, and one guy from getting completely lost.

Regardless of these first world issues, I’ve been enjoying the new job and the benefits. I have traveled a ton the last few months and been able to see friends that I don’t get to see often enough. It has allowed me to make a long distance relationship feel like it isn’t long distance. It allowed me to be with my mom on her birthday for the first time in many years. I have more days off now than I’ve ever had before. I’m getting use to having days off in the middle of the week.