Friday, February 1, 2008

First Officers' Club

Flying has begun to slow down again after the holidays, which is a nice respite but does not provide much fodder for travel tales. Over the last few trips I've been on though, it has seemed like the first officers were the ones providing the most material for interesting character sketches.

Two weeks after New Years, for example, I was on a trip to D.C. with a first officer called Dusty. He's the type that is so cute you'd want to make a Ken doll out of him, but one sideways look told you he could do some serious damage to your face with one hand tied behind his back given the right motivation. The best part about him was instead of bolting out the cockpit door in an attempt to beat the passengers out of the airport, he would thank each passenger as they exited and then...wait for it...he would walk to the back of the plane and pull down each of the flight attendants' bags for them. Anytime a pilot walks past, oh say, the emergency exit row of the cabin, my little "this is unusual" hairs go up on the back of my neck. Now I purposely pack light to save my limbs and back the strain of lugging my suitcase so I'm more than capable of hefting it in and out of the storage bins, but thank you Dusty. That simple act earned you a spot on my all time favorite to fly with list.

Next comes the female first officer who started out as a flight attendant and happened to be four months pregnant during our trip to Las Vegas. I managed to ask Donna the right lead-in question and she told me her whole history from college through today in about three minutes. Her dad is a retired United pilot and her sister is a current United pilot. Donna started as a flight attendant for United, but soon realized that she was getting much too impatient with the passengers and much too interested in what was going on in the flight deck to stay on that side of the cockpit door. So, thanks to her private tutors, she made it through flight school and is in her current position today. I feel like this is something that almost never happens, which is too bad. If the pilots had to experience our job duties and interactions with the passenger first hand, I think they would have a greater appreciation for flight attendants as a whole, as well as a greater appreciation for their own career where they are allowed to sit behind a locked door and not interact with the passengers if they don't want to.

And last, but not least, is first officer Travis. You might remember him from an earlier post. We flew to Portland together a couple of months ago and he usually referred to himself as "the fat kid." When I was flying the couch at the airport last Monday, the other reserves and I were watching Knocked Up on a TV in the corner of the crew lounge (their cinematic choice, not mine). Travis was sitting on a couch behind us and would titter at all the inappropriate or unnecessarily graphic parts, but otherwise not acknowledge or engage us. As a self-described redneck hillbilly from the South, this behavior painted such a classic picture you'd have to be there to fully appreciate it.

I'll be flying the couch again tomorrow, which will make it nearly two weeks since I've been at cruising altitude. Disappointing, but airports are such great venues for people watching, you never know what you'll witness.

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