Mar 26, 2007

Head Movies

I don't understand why there are so many movies and t.v. shows about doctors and lawyers and police officers and even firemen, but virtually none about pilots. Yet "Pilot" is still one of those high-profile occupations that turn up on the lists of things kids want to do when they grow up.

I also noticed something while reviewing transcripts from flight-deck voice recorders. When things start to go bad, the flight deck gets very quiet. Now, this I do understand. When I need to concentrate during critical flight conditions, I don't have much extra computing power left on my 8-bit brain.

I first experienced this phenomenon while training to become a flight instructor. We had to give explanations of flight exercises to a student as we performed them. We called it "patter." It was surprisingly difficult. Especially during more dynamic maneuvers like stalls and spins. My explanations would start out fine, but as soon as the aircraft whirled off into the spin I would trail off into silence.

And finally the flight deck gets quietest of all when disorientation sets in. I immediately think of some stress-filled approaches to minimums late at night in severe turbulence and moderate rain at St. John's Newfoundland. Sometimes I have been barely able to keep the little cross-hairs centered in the instrument face as it became my entire world. My focus tunneled in until just that one task existed. Meanwhile all around, my head was spinning and out of touch with reality. I had no time to talk about what I was doing.

I would illustrate this feeling in a movie with edgy music, bouncing rapid-cut camera images flipping from one to another and the camera sometimes going right out of focus, continually moving.

There we go - we have the opening scene for a movie. We'll call it: The Approach - a normal night landing on "The Rock" .... sounds dramatic enough.

"Quiet on the set! Roll cameras! Action!"


Flyin Dutchman said...

Then after the hero almost packing it in on the approach makes a smooth landing you fade to later in the bar with the flight attendants....and so on and so forth... I like that movie already !


Aluwings said...

"I like that movie already!"

So what's Hollywood waiting for?! I was thinking about the few good Hollywood flying movie scenes... One that gives me goosebumps is the crash scene in Cast Away. Tom Hanks is on the FEDEX MD11 and when I saw the shot of the weather radar over the pilot's shoulder I thought "Oh xxxx" (the directors did an admirable job of conveying a really bad line of t-storm weather and not just throwing up some generic, meaningless weather radar image).

Then the scenes during and after the crash really convey the sense of what I imagine it would be like. Violent, disorienting, and finally just very dark and 'lost' ...

I don't even like watching that scene because it's so realistic imo.

Soaring Student said...

There is a very short series or 2-3 one-hour shows - I think it showed on Discovery Channel - which covered an AC 767 flight from Toronto to Frankfurt. They worked in Gander and Shannon ATC, the weight&balance dudes, the dispatchers, I think some mechanics, and had a few cameras on the flight deck.

It was fascinating to me, but to a non-nut it was probably as exciting as watching paint dry.

Then there was Airline, which was basically "Stupid People who get drunk and try to fly Southwest".

Left to the TV writers, we would have a series with pilots picking up bikini babes in foreign beach bars, pilots picking up babes in far north bars, pilots playing ping pong while waiting in the ready room, or smoking cigars and playing poker. Once in a while they would fly a plane, and every flight would have a major crisis.

While Aviatrix's experiences would make a fascinating book, or a great reality series (Dirty Jobs, watch me schlep freight, install and remove seats). I suppose the reality of Real Airline Work is that it is an incredibly skilled and engaging cerebral job that makes crappy television.

When I'm flying in seat 27H, boring is good. Though I just experienced an Easyjet landing in Lisbon that made me wonder if the co-pilot has a serious depth-perception problem - I half-expected seeing the landing gear to punch up through the floorboards.

Aviatrix said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Aviatrix said...

I notice when I watch shows like "Mayday" that the actors get loud and emotional when they are reading the lines associated with the inflight emergency. Often the lines are straight off the CVR, but what they don't realize, or are directed to ignore is that they are putting far too much emotion into it.

My job would be a made for TV movie, so unbearably maudlin that you'd change the channel to watch a film about a courageous girl who is remarkably talented and has her own art exhibition in high school only as she wants to achieve the goal of buying a puppy for her little brother before she dies of leukemia.

I think aviation would makea great CBC series, like The Beachcombers. You have the little native community, naturally have people from all over the country, moral dilemnas, commercial pressures, personal conflicts, wild animals ... You could have any cockpit scenes in IFR, to make it easy on the budget, but you wouldn't really have to have any actual flying other than in the opening and closing credits. That's the easy part. Maybe I should write it.

Aluwings said...

The deleted comment is just an (inadvertent?) duplication fyi.

I'll look forward to seeing that t.v. series! Maybe along with The Beachcombers you could combine a little Corner Gas...? or AvGas? The Chief Pilot of our imaginary airline could be a mix of Bruno Gerrusi and Brent Butt. (With a name like Brent Butt you just KNOW he had to grow up to be a comedian - or a street fighter like "A Boy Named Sue" -- but I digress...)

Aluwings said...

For anyone wondering what the previous posts are talking about:
The Beachcombers
Corner Gas