Monday, May 31, 2010

Airline pilots - stereotyped

Picture from the movie, "Catch Me if you Can." It did a great job putting the airline pilot up on the pedestal.

This post, originally called "Twelve hours from bottle to throttle" was put on the shelve to make room for another post. Since then, I modified it to talk more about perception.

Just received this from a fan. There's been many 'alcohol' skits like this one (see below) throughout the years. It always seems to strike a chord. We airline pilots have many stereotypical images. Here's one for the list.
Transport Canada states no pilot will consume alcohol at least eight hours prior to flight. At Air Canada, it's 12 hours from "bottle to throttle."

Reminds me of an interview question. 
"What would you do if you saw your captain drinking in the hotel bar exceeding his cut off time for alcohol."

Answer (from a quick thinker).

"Go and join him. Obviously the flight was delayed!"

Many perceive (especially Holywood) the airline pilot to be a tall, slim, heterosexual, Caucasian male with a "John Wayne" persona coupled with drop dead handsome good looks with a beaming smile that could woo any female. Well, the modern flight deck is a changing.

Air Canada is no exception. The pilot group is made up of four percent female with many visible minorities. The average new hire age is 35 so that dapper young 20 year old in a brand new airline suit does not exist. CRM (Crew Resource Management) has also toned things in the flight deck. No longer is the show entirely run by the captain.

One company I flew for shunned pilots for eating ice cream in view of the public. Many companies also shun pilots to eat in an area where alcohol is served while in uniform. At Air Canada we must walk with our tunic buttoned with our hat on. Many carriers have thrown the hat away with the tunic open for many to accommodate their equatorial spare tires. :)

When I went for an interview with United Emirates five years ago, I was asked whether I would have an issue with so many nationalities in the flight deck. "Not a problem," I said. Although, I'm wise enough to know this is an issue for some airlines around the world.

Speaking of perception. Here's another interview question: See if you can answer it honestly before looking at the answer:

"What would you do if you saw your captain in the hotel lobby wearing a dress on their layover?"

Answer: "I would say nice dress, because obviously the captain is female."

Skit by Dean Martin and Foster Brooks
Foster Brooks is sporting a beard. For one thing you will not see a North American pilot with a beard. Some European companies such as Lufthansa allow beards.


Daniel Asuncion said...

What about ice cream in the flight

Speaking of Dean Martin...have you
seen the original Airport movie

Does it ring true to you? Keeping
in mind that it was a different

From the Flight Deck said...

Dan. We do get to reap the benefits of leftover "J" (Business class) food and with many of the "transcon" flights, that includes fresh baked cookies and ice cream. When the flight attendant calls from the back asking whether we would like some leftovers, my answer is, "No thanks, but I really mean yes."

I can't remember seeing the original Airport movie.
Although I've seen the spoof, Airplane.


whywhyzed said...

I remember many years ago I happened to be in Collingwood (ON) for some reason and I had to stop for gas. The gas jockey and I stared talking about airplanes because at the time I had a COPA sticker on my back window.
Of course, I stuck my chest out all proud and everything, and told him that I had a Commercial Pilot's Licence, and that I rented planes at the Brampton Flying Club.
Whereuopn, he stated that he flew the DC-9 for Air Canada... sheesh.

He did go on to say that he was on Reserve, and that he pumped gas as his regular job. At the time I don't think I really knew what "on Reserve" meant, but I do now.

Anyway, just kind of blew my stereotypical perception of what an airline pilot is supposed to look like, as you say!


From the Flight Deck said...

Whywhyzed. Thanks for sharing your story. In one of my recent posts, Fate:The Fork in the Road I told the story of one F/O. On my very next pairing, the F/O shared the same plight with jobs. (Unfortunately, his marriage succumbed to an aviation induced separation). He pointed out, after being with Air Canada for two and a half years, it was the longest he had ever been with an aviation company. During the lean years, he worked at Home Depot and as a security guard.

Sometimes the stereotypical image is tainted with reality.

Captain Doug

whywhyzed said...

Yep -- on the other hand, I clearly remember one guy who was hired on at AC right out of the Brampton Flying Club (he was an instructor), mind you this was around 1980 or so. I think he's a 67 skipper now. Never looked back.

From the Flight Deck said...

Whywhyzed. Those were the good ole days when kids were hired at 19,20,21 with 200 to 250 hours.
It sure is a different scenario nowadays.

whywhyzed said...

I guess the question is, is it any better or worse now, in terms what the airline is?
Seems everyone wants min 5000 hrs.
does it really matter?
Was the airline any less safe back then?
Or is just a question now of the fact that these pilots are available with that kind of experience, whereas before there weren't any?

From the Flight Deck said...

Whywhyzed. Good point in saying, "does really matter?" True there were "250 hour wonders" flying, but the left seat was undoubtedly occupied with
a seasoned captain. I've been flying with F/Os that have been recently checked out on the 'bus' and I'm amazed how most of them fly the Airbus with ease.I guess that says something about our training and who we have hired. But remember it's also the infrastructure, requiring about 65 departments to make things work.We are just part of the equation.

Speaking of equations, our second equipment bid for the year has been released. It's flatter than a pancake. We are nearing 2800 pilots down from 3600 a few years ago. True there are pilots retiring but the overall numbers are dwindling.

Flygirl said...

Love love LOVE this blog! And this entry in particular! As a female aspiring pilot it's really great to hear of the more open minded pilots when I have been told by many that it's still such a boy's club!

During my flying lesson the other day, ATC continually referred to me as a "he". How frustrating! And even some of the guys at the flying club have been guilty of believing me to be an instructor's girlfriend. "Wait, you TRAIN here? Oh..." :) All I can do is roll my eyes and laugh.

Can't wait for more entries!

From the Flight Deck said...

Flygirl. Thanks for the great feedback. Things are changing so go get your qualifications. Enjoy the journey! Captain Doug

Daniel Asuncion said...


Just remember that, in nature, it's
not just the male birds who fly...

May I suggest that you rent the film
G.I. Jane. The main character en-
counters attitudes such as you

In the film, the masterchief has a
great line that he says to another
Navy Seal- about the Demi Moore

"She's not the problem...we are."

From the Flight Deck said...

Daniel. Well said. I hope flygirl reads your words of wisdom. Doug in Ottawa