Sunday, December 14, 2008

A pilot's lament for the way things used to be

Such a strange year’s end we’re living through. There’s lots of bad news out there and, conversely, lots of hopeful talk as well. You hear many ‘experts’ saying things will get worse, and just as many saying things will get better. Who knows which way it’ll go in ‘09.
You also hear lots of grumbling about how everything’s falling apart in the 21st century, and much yearning for the way things were back in the 20th.
For instance, read the following lament by an ageing pilot about the glory days of aviation. An un-named flyer who once commanded Boeing 707s - presumably in the US, given the American references - he vents a heap of rage about a time when pilots were kings, check-in queues were short, security barely mattered and flying was a whole lot more fun.
You might find some of his views dated (even offensive!) but there you go... that’s another of the differences between then and now.
Thanks to local former aviator Len Mills for passing on this anguished piece. It’ll ring bells for you not only on air travel, but also on political correctness, gender relations and social attitudes that have all changed radically in the last decade or three.
That's John Travolta's own 707 in the picture, painted up in old Qantas livery. I reckon that secretly, most men want to be like him. and the guy who wrote the following piece, probably once was like him.
“Those were the good ole days. Pilots back then were men that didn't want to be women or girlymen. Pilots drank coffee and whiskey, smoked cigars and didn't wear digital watches.
“They carried their own suitcases and brain bags like the real men that they were. Pilots didn't bend over into the crash position multiple times each day in front of the passengers at security so that some government agent could probe for tweezers or fingernail clippers or too much toothpaste.
“Pilots did not go through the terminal impersonating a caddy pulling a bunch of golf clubs, computers, guitars, and feed bags full of tofu and granola on a sissy-trailer with no hat and granny glasses hanging on a pink string around their pencil neck while talking to their personal trainer on their cell phone.
“Being an airline captain was as good as being the King in a Mel Brooks movie. All the stewardesses (a.k.a. flight attendants) were young, attractive, single women who were proud to be combatants in the sexual revolution.
“They didn't have to turn sideways, grease up and suck it in to get through the cockpit door. They would blush and say thank you when told that they looked good, instead of filing a sexual harassment claim.
“Passengers wore nice clothes and were polite, they could speak AND understand English. They didn't speak gibberish or listen to loud 'gangsta rap' on their iPods. They bathed and didn't smell like a rotting pile of garbage in a jogging suit and flip-flops. Children didn't travel alone, commuting between trailer parks. There were no mongol hordes asking for a "mu-fuggin" seatbelt extension or a Scotch and grapefruit juice cocktail with a twist.
“If the captain wanted to throw some offensive, ranting jerk off the airplane, it was done without any worries of a lawsuit or getting fired.
“Axial flow engines crackled with the sound of freedom and left an impressive black smoke trail like a locomotive burning soft coal. Jet fuel was cheap and once the throttles were pushed up they were left there. After all , it was the jet age and the idea was to go fast (run like a lizard on a hardwood floor).
“Economy cruise was something in the performance book, but no one knew why or where it was. When the clacker [a flight-deck warning sound] went off no one got all tight and scared because Boeing built it out of iron, nothing was going to fall off and that sound had the same effect on real pilots then as Viagra does now for those new age guys.
“There was very little plastic and no composites in the airplanes or the stewardesses' pectoral regions. Airplanes and women had eye-pleasing symmetrical curves, not a bunch of ugly vortex generators, ventral fins, winglets, flow diverters, tattoos, rings in their nose, tongues and eyebrows. “Airlines were run by real men like Juan Trippe [the founder of Pan Am] who had built their companies virtually from scratch, knew many of their employees by name and were lifetime airline employees themselves...not these pseudo financiers and bean counters who now flit from one occupation to another for a few extra bucks, a better golden parachute, or a fancier title, while fervently believing that they are a better class of beings unto themselves.
“And so it was back then....and sadly, will never be again.”


argieella said...

Please oh please! Who was the writer of this great articulate picture of life as I knew it as a stewardess? I was on the first American Airlines 707 from L.A. to N.Y. I am just now getting my blog together. Let me hear for you! Argie Hoskins


Hi Argiella
I don't know who the writer is. the piece came my way from a former New Zealnd airline pilot, who'd been sent it by an American friend. I suspect it will have done the rounds of airline communities everywhere!

argie hoskins shumway said...


I just placed your blog's address on my blog. Take a look at my blog. I think you will like it:


What great photos and a career full of good memories, Argiella. Yeah, flying was much more graceful and pleasant way to go back then. Best wishes, Lindsey