In 1939 President Franklin D. Roosevelt proclaimed August 19 to be National Aviation Day to celebrate the history and development of aviation.
Nancy and I did our part to celebrate!
Like we needed a reason to enjoy fresh strawberry soft serve ice cream at the Bush-N-Vine Produce Stand in York, South Carolina . . .
Sunday, August 7, 2016
When I was a new hire flight engineer at Eastern Airlines the junior captain had eighteen years with the company. Seat progression was agonizingly slow for the first officers and flight engineers that preceded me. Most of these guys were hired before airline deregulation, so the pay was pretty good. In the early 1980s a 727 captain at a major airline earned the equivalent of a Cadillac a month. A first officer would bring in sixty percent of that number; slightly less for a flight engineer, once off probation. A livable wage, but no matter how you slice it, eighteen years is a long time to be pulling gear and doing walk-arounds for someone else!
Dark Humor . . .
With little route expansion to speak of (Frank Lorenzo's Texas Air Raiders rode into town shortly after I was hired) upward movement was driven mainly by retirements. Occasionally someone would lose their medical certificate (a lot of these guys were smokers) and every once and a while someone would just up and die. On my first trip after training the first officer turned to me and asked if I knew what to do if the captain should have a heart attack. When I confessed that I hadn't given it much thought, he said: "You get the dead guy outta my seat!" Even the captain laughed! In the months to come I would be asked that same question many times.
The dead guy jokes were only the beginning. Every first officer you flew with had a flight bag full of high adventure sports brochures promoting the Skipper's next great hobby. Motorcycle ads were plentiful; and somewhat effective. A 727 captain would read a Harley-Davidson sales brochure from cover to cover---and actually entertain buying one! (Who can resist the call of the Iron Horse?) Hang glider brochures, on the other hand, had no effect whatsoever. Even the insufferable types knew they could bust their butt in one of those jobs!
Thirty years down the road, and six airlines later, I can't remember the last time I heard a dead guy joke in the cockpit---or been handed a brochure for a high risk adventure, now that I think about it. I suspect part of the reason is because I fly a two pilot airplane. Without a flight engineer, there's no comedy duo to antagonize the captain. Maybe the wide body international folks, with their augmented crews, still practice the art. One can only hope.
Speaking of hope. To all the folks senior to me at Big D: I'd like to recommend The Flying Trapeze School . . .