In general, aviation travel in the U.S. is extremely safe. Studies have proven that flying is statistically safer than walking on the freeway, or even driving down a sidewalk.
Even so, it can’t hurt to be “on your guard,” whilst soaring through the air at (when you think about it) alarming speeds. Fight the temptation to doze, read a book or magazine (unless it’s this one, obviously), chat or daydream of the days of train travel. Remain alert at all times, as the senses can be a type of internal radar.
Here are a few warning signals that something is “a little off” in the cockpit:
“Good evening, this is your pilot speaking. We’re climbing steadily to our cruising altitude, so please don’t look at the engines. Call me superstitious, but just please don’t.”
Smiling gregariously, Pilot briefly emerges from cockpit, says he is doing an informal poll for a research project, and asks all Jews in First Class to raise hands. After taking a count, he returns to cockpit, chuckling ruefully and shaking head.
Pungent aroma of cannabis, hashish and/or crack cocaine emanating from cockpit, followed by the announcement, “Folks, we’re breaking in a new ventilation system, so please ignore any odd smells.”
After every stretch of turbulence, pilot/co-pilot can be overheard snickering.
“Thanks again for choosing to travel with us, and now please sit back, relax, and enjoy the flight attendants. If there’s anything we can do to make your flight a little more pleasant, please don’t hesitate to shoot me an email.”
After a particularly harsh bout of turbulence, Pilot gets on intercom and apologizes, adding, “but if you think that was rough, you haven’t seen my childhood.”
During cross-country, red-eye flight, Flight Attendant delivers fresh-brewed pot of coffee to Cockpit – every 15 minutes.
“Well folks, it looks like clear sailing, you can get up and move around, but when you’re in your seats please keep your seatbelts fastened, in case we hit any unexpected turbulence or human error.”
Flight Attendant emerges from cockpit, loudly closes door and has angry look on her face. She huddles with another Flight Attendant, and can be heard saying something about if they do that one more time she’s going to throw the coffee right in their eyes.
Haggard looking pilot is seen ducking into lavatory. After a few minutes, he emerges, rubbing hands energetically, muttering something about being the best damned pilot in this whole airline, if not the entire sky!
“Evening, folks, this is your Captain speaking. Can’t tell you how great it feels to be back in the cockpit, and I want to thank each and every one of you for your trust in me. I won’t let you down, this time.”
Although your flight is scheduled to be heading due west, plane feels like it is alternating between sharp, right-hand and left-hand turns. When you ask a Flight Attendant about this, she says, “Oh, that’s just his way – he’s old.”
“Some of the flights up ahead of us are reporting some choppiness, so I’m going to go ahead and turn the ‘fasten seatbelts’ sign on . . . although it could be a trick.”
After straining forward in his seat, listening for something with intense concentration, Passenger in first row of First Class pushes Flight Attendant button. Flight Attendant huddles with him, insists against his protestations that it isn’t snoring, it’s just the way the Instrument Panel sounds. He asks why she is whispering, she shrugs equivocally, presses finger to her lips, winks and tiptoes back to her jump seat.
“Little up-date for you back there: Looks like we’re going to be running just a touch late, due to some pretty robust head winds – I know many of you are on a tight schedule for connecting flights, I myself have an Anger Management class that there’s going to be hell to pay if I miss.”
Co-Pilot emerges from cockpit, plops down in empty First Class seat. Flight Attendant hurries over to him, whispers something seemingly encouraging. He shakes his head firmly, is heard mumbling something about being sick of some smelly alcoholic bastard as he fastens seatbelt and reclines.
When Flight Attendant delivers food to Cockpit, door cracks open. It’s just a glimpse, but you could swear Captain, Co-Pilot and Flight Engineer are wearing Star Trek uniforms.
“This is your Captain again. We’re still cruising along at 30,000 feet, or about 6 miles . . . coincidentally, that’s the distance I have to keep from my ex-wife, even though I was never really going to do anything except scare her a little.”
Cockpit door opens. Tray comes flying out, scattering food. Cockpit door closes.
“O.K., I’m going to go ahead and turn off the ‘fasten seatbelts’ sign, so feel free to get up and move around. Just be careful, I will turn the ‘fasten seatbelts’ sign back on immediately if I see that weird thing again.”
The in-flight movie is actually good – maybe too good. You notice the Pilot keeps drifting back to the cabin to watch, for longer and longer stretches of time.
Flight Attendant emerges from Cockpit, rolls eyes dramatically, then walks through First Class, asking if anyone has any extra Xanax.
“Those of you on the right side of the plane, if you look out the windows you’ll see an absolutely breath-taking view of the Rocky Mountains . . . Oh, did I say right side? I mean left side. Ha ha! Darn this dyslexia . . .”
Mid-way through a long, uneventful fight, passengers in First Class wonder why they keep hearing sharp sounds, following by piercing cries of “ow!” and giggling. “Oh, they’re probably playing ‘the slap game’ again,” Flight Attendant explains.
Flight Engineer emerges from Cockpit with cell phone pressed to ear. He ducks into First Class galley, is heard to say something like, “It’s O.K., I can talk – nice to have a conversation with someone who doesn’t have the attention span of a 2-year-old . . .”
“Well, that little equipment repair set us just a tad behind schedule, we’re currently running about 45 minutes off our estimated arrival time, but now that we’re finally in the air there’s a good chance we can make that up. We’ve got a real strong tail wind, and I’m going to open this baby up and see what she can handle.”
“Fasten Seatbelts” sign keeps going on and off. Something about the pattern vaguely rings a bell . . . calling on your military training, you think it might be Morse Code for “let . . . me . . .out.”
Flight Attendant picks up phone connecting to Cockpit, has brief discussion, during which she is head to ask “Why?” several times, followed by “Well what do you mean ‘because I say so’?” She disconnects, composes herself, asks “If any of you flying with us today are attorneys specializing in living will, and you can spare a few moments in the cockpit, please hit your call button.”
“As we make our final approach, I’m going to dim the lights and ask everyone to be as quiet as possible. I’m really not supposed to be using this runway, but I for one don’t feel like waiting, so just hang tight.”
Flight Engineer emerges from cockpit, and, with an obviously forced smile, discreetly asks around to see if any of the passengers have a socket wrench set.
“We’ve been cleared for landing, so please join with me in singing ‘Mine Eyes Have Seen the Glory (of the Coming of the Lord).’”