Work cultures: On airplane lavatories, turbulence, and pilots

When you’re flying and the captain makes an announcement over the PA system, doesn’t he (usually he) sound solid as a rock, like a no nonsense kinda guy, a real GI Joe?

Well, it’s true that lot of pilots come from the military. In fact pilot/blogger Chris Manno, writing as JetHead (link here), prefers to fly with Marines:

(A)s with flight attendants and felons, there are no “ex-Marines.” Once Semper Fi, always Semper Fi. That’s why in the ex-military frat I come from, Marines are great to fly with. They just never stop being hard-charging and fearless, which is a quality to be admired on the flight deck.

Junior high redux

But if JetHead is in any way typical, some of these guys also enjoy a bit of adolescent humor:

But fast forward now to my early days as captain, flying with one of my favorite First Officers who had earned the nickname “Deuce,” and now I’ll explain for the not-so-faint-of-heart how he earned that sobriquet. If you’re easily grossed out, consider ourselves done here–onto to more erudite reading; see you next post.

I won’t spoil the rest of his genteel commentary, but suffice it to say, I have never learned so much about airplane lavatories. The, uh, operational differences between a lavatory in an MD-80 compared to one in a 737 are significant. Of course, I may have missed a few details because I was laughing so hard, a sad confession that my own sense of humor remains stuck in the 7th grade.

Rockin’ and rollin’

So, is flying a jetliner simply a replay of junior high to these guys? Not by a longshot. One of the telltale signs on Manno’s blog is his post asking cabin crew not to call him as soon as the plane hits some turbulence (link here):

We’re flying along fat dumb and happy. Then, it gets bumpy. I turn the seatbelt sign on. What do you NOT do? Or more accurately, what do I wish you wouldn’t do?

…Call the cockpit. Seriously. What we get more often than not these days is, bumps, then ding-ding….But I already know what the flight attendant’s going to say: “How long is it going to be bumpy?” or worse, “it’s really bumpy back here.”

…You can trust me on this: once we encounter turbulence, we immediately go to work to find a better ride. But none of this happens while you’re calling us.

Frequent (or not-so-frequent) flyers, read the rest of his post for an excellent explanation of how flight deck crew members respond to turbulence. If you do, you’ll feel good about the folks who fly us from place to place.


For an earlier post that includes a discussion of JetHead’s response to the story of Steven Slater, the flight attendant who left his job by activating the emergency chute, go here.

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