It is generally conceded that the “Golden Age of Aviation” is in the past. As the previous blog post indicated, the subtle nuances of a pilots understanding and awareness of multiple factors is of paramount importance. The following anonymously published elucidation of that element of aviation will result in romantic nostalgia from the more elderly pilots who were totally absorbed in the process of being a pilot. This author also elaborates on the aesthetic pleasure of having a wonderful view from the office. This poignant and insightful discussion of pilots will provide inspiration for the novice aviator and enhance the layman’s respect for all professional pilots.
You see them at air base terminals around the world. You see them
in the morning early, often at night.
They come in Nomex flight suits and hatted, wings over their left
pocket; they show up looking ready to fly.
There’s a brisk, young-old look of efficiency about them. They
arrive fresh from home, from hotels, carrying hang-up bags,
battered book bags; bulging with a wealth of technical information,
data, and manuals filled with regulations and rules.
They know the new, harsh sheen of Charleston ‘s runway. They know
the cluttered approaches to McGuire; they know the tricky shuttle that is
Travis; they know but do not relish the intricate instrument approaches to various foreign airports; they know the volcanoes near Sigonella.
They respect foggy Travis. They know the up-and-down walk to the
gates at Dallas, the Texas sparseness of Abilene, the very narrow
Berlin Corridor, New Orleans ‘ sparkling terminal, the milling crowds
at Washington. They know Butte, Boston, and Beirut. They
appreciate Miami’s perfect weather; they recognize the danger of an
ice-slick runway at JFK.
They understand short runways, antiquated fire equipment,
inadequate approach lighting, but there is one thing they will
never comprehend: Complacency.
They marvel at the exquisite good taste of hot coffee in Anchorage
and a cold beer in Guam. They vaguely remember the workhorse
efficiency of the DC-3s, the reliability of the DC-4s and DC-6s,
the trouble with the DC-7 and the propellers on Boeing 377s. They
discuss the cramped beauty of an old gal named Connie. They
recognize the high shrill whine of a Viscount, the rumbling thrust
of a DC-8 or 707 on a clearway takeoff from Haneda, and a Convair.
The remoteness of the 747 cockpit. The roominess of the DC-10 and
the snug fit of a 737. They speak a language unknown to Webster.
They discuss ALPA, EPRs, fans, mach and bogie swivels. And,
strangely, such things as bugs, thumpers, crickets, and CATs, but
they are inclined to change the subject when the uninitiated approaches.
They have tasted the characteristic loneliness of the sky, and
occasionally the adrenaline of danger. They respect the unseen
thing called turbulence; they know what it means to fight for
self-control, to discipline one’s senses.
They buy life insurance, but make no concession to the possibility
of complete disaster, for they have uncommon faith in themselves
and what they are doing.
They concede the glamour is gone from flying. They deny a pilot is
through at sixty or a flight engineer at sixty-five.
They know tomorrow, or the following night, something will come
along they have never met before; they know flying requires
perseverance and vigilance. They know they must practice, lest
They realize why some wit once quipped: “Flying is year after year
of monotony punctuated by seconds of stark terror.” As a group,
they defy mortality tables, yet approach semi-annual physical
examinations with trepidation. They are individualistic, yet bonded
together. They are family people. They are reputedly overpaid, yet
entrusted with equipment worth millions. And entrusted with lives,
At times they are reverent: They have watched the Pacific sky turn
purple at dusk and the stark beauty of sunrise over Iceland at the
end of a polar crossing. They know the twinkling, jeweled beauty of
Los Angeles at night; they have seen snow capped Rockies.
They remember the vast unending mat of green Amazon jungle, the
twisting Silver road that is the father of waters, an ice cream
cone called Fujiyama; the hump of Africa. Who can forget Everest
from 100 miles away, or the ice fog in Fairbanks in January?
They have watched a satellite streak across a starry sky, seen the
clear, deep blue of the stratosphere, felt the incalculable force
of the heavens. They have marveled at sun-streaked evenings,
dappled earth, velvet night, spun silver clouds, sculptured
cumulus: God’s weather. They have seen the Northern Lights, a
wilderness of sky, a pilot’s halo, a bomber’s moon, horizontal
rain, Contrails and watched St Elmo’s Fire dance on the windows.
Only an aviator experiences all these.
It is their world. And once was mine.
And remains in memory…
This blog is prepared by Allen Morris/aka Ace Abbott, a retired commercial pilot, aviation author, and aviation talk show host: http://webtalkradio.net/; The Rogue Aviator: http://therogueaviator.com/