Apr 3, 2009

Crabby Old Captain?

Sam at Blogging at FL250 recently posted an excellent article about our mutual love of flying and how over the years many professional pilots seem to lose it. His thoughts inspired a response that was getting too long for his comments page - so I've posted it here instead:


Sam, I don't know if I avoided becoming a Crabby Old Captain... but there are certainly some parts of the job that never become tedious.

You mention the Lift Off as a great point where the fun really begins. Over the years I've discovered a few more break points. The first occurs after clearing all the noise and activity of the flight planning room, the security checks etc.. and actually walking towards the aircraft with nothing else in the way. "Now it just keeps getting better and better," I think to myself.

The next great moment (which I discovered after moving to the Captain's seat) is when all the preparations are finished, and I can finally push up the power and feel the aircraft begin to roll under my control ... that is a sweet feeling.

There's the anticipation as we move into the takeoff position. Followed by the risks and thrills of the takeoff roll and yes - that sweet instant of transition to the air! Then the joy of efficiently cleaning up the gear and flaps and getting headed in the right direction.

I enjoy the moment of "letting her rip..." once clear of the 250 knot speed restriction. Best of all is when we "happen" to do this just on top of a cloud layer where we can see the speed!

And finally there's that moment of locking into cruise level, clicking my seat back a notch and settling in for what will hopefully be an uneventful few moments or hours.

All the ancillary issues that increasingly surround the job are unfortunate and endemic to our society - our world. But over and through all this I've also found one other thing that keeps the job always fresh and interesting. People.

Once you've mastered a piece of machinery it's always that same piece of machinery. Always with the same repetitive sets of inputs/outputs. But people are always different, growing, challenging and worthwhile. More and more I find that the real satisfaction in life comes from learning about people, how to understand and communicate with and enjoy them.

Getting a good performance out of a piece of machinery is one challenge but once learned, it is easily repeatable. As an airline captain, inspiring a good performance out of a flight crew and surrounding support teams - consistently -in all sorts of conditions. That is the real and never-ending challenge. And it comes with an even deeper satisfaction when achieved.

Thanks for a fine article and for reminding me to think of all the good points in a day's work. They do so easily get buried by the "ancillary Bravo Sierra!"

And finally, Anonymous@9:14 said: "I love my wife, not my job. I need a job I can tolerate."

I agree completely with this thinking. We all need to decide if we Live to work - or Work to live. The world seems to be run by the Type A personalities who fall into the first category. I believe that ultimately this mindset causes many of the problems we face as a society. Those who discover we have a greater purpose to life than "just working," who discover the true importance of family, friends and community, will find a satisfying life no matter what career they need to work at to put food on the table.

Fly Safe! Thanks again, Sam.


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Free Flying Mom... said...

Great post! As a FA I definitely get that burn out you are talking about but something happens and I get a re-newed love of my job. I still think what you do is great, but can see how the years and dues paid to get where you are can cause those feelings. You have a nice way of remembering why you love it though, well said: )

The Flying Pinto said...

OOPS...my mom has been on my computer again and signed in...the last comment was from me: )

Aluwings said...

Your Free-Flying-Mom seems like a true adventurer!

Finding a sense of renewal in a career becomes important the longer we're at it. I suspect that one way pilots achieve this is by moving upwards to a new (hopefully bigger/better) aircraft every now and then. Which is one reason why moral takes a hit during the slow times when there is no growth - or worse.

Another way that works for me is by sharing the experience with others. Flight deck visits are no longer possible (Thanks for nothing, Osama!), but for pilots who have access to the flight simulators, it can be fun to take an aspiring young pilot in for a "flight," and share their enthusiasm.

Others fly "little planes" on their days off to renew the art and joy of being sky-borne. Nothing recalls my original excitement for aviation like the sound of a small aircraft engine passing overhead on an idyllic summer's evening. Those are the times when the air is smoothest and the scenery the most lovely.

And after landing and shutting down the engine at a quiet airstrip just before sunset, there's almost a sacredness to the ensuing silence.

AARIKA said...

i agree with your view about live works..good thought..carry on..

Anonymous said...


How hard would it to get into the sims for a tour? I live in the YOW area, not far from YUL.


Aluwings said...


Thanks to Osama Bin Laden et. al. it's a lot harder than it used to be. I think there are some commercial operators offering "Introductory" sessions on full flight simulators though... perhaps you can find them with Google?

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the quick reply. I work for TC so maybe I can ask around and see if anyone knows anything. I fly out of YKZ (E NE of YYZ) when I'm at home, and our sim is boring at best. Do you still fly the A320 series?


Anonymous said...

Love the blog by the way.