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It stands to reason that only the Northwest Airline pilots who checked out in the middle of a flight last week and missed their Minnesota airport exit would provide the necessary salaciousness to …
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It stands to reason that only the Northwest Airline pilots who checked out in the middle of a flight last week and missed their Minnesota airport exit would provide the necessary salaciousness to knock Colorado’s own balloon boy out of the headlines.
In fact, the only twist that would have made the story more compelling would have been if the plane landed and they discovered there weren’t any pilots in the cockpit at all (You hear me, Heene? When you get out of jail, think bigger). When it became clear that this was not a pilot’s attempt to - wait for it - land on a reality television show – then the question became what in the world were they doing?
The rumor mill spun. Were they asleep? Were they drunk? Were they engaging in some good old-fashioned hanky panky with a stewardess? (Sorry, let’s be politically correct - flight attendant.)
But this isn’t Vegas. What happens in the cockpit doesn’t stay in the cockpit. The NTSB and FAA, proving to be equally deft when working with live bodies and a fully-intact aircraft, quickly got to the bottom of the fiasco.
And discovered – the pilots were on their laptops.
That’s right. When tray tables should have been being returned to their upright position, the pilots of Northwest Flight 188 were playing a spirited game of Farkle.
That’s presumption, of course. It beats the alternative. I’d really hate to believe pilot Richard Cole stopped talking to the control tower because he was trying to complete level 51 of Mafia Wars or fellow pilot Timothy Cheney just realized he’d been tagged in Uncle Dick’s 80th birthday party photo album.
But, before we get outraged thinking about all the time those air travelers lost when they could have been sitting in a queue on a tarmac, let’s think about it.
Commercial airline pilots don’t have the plumb job like the good old days. Years of sexual harassment training have stripped the cockpit of the gregariousness that its sheer name used to imply. Customer satisfaction surveys have repeatedly shown that airline customers - on a scale of 1 to 10 - prefer not to be involved in deadly mid-air collisions. We’ve also made it clear that we would rather pilots not taxi at the airport terminal bar before they fly the airplane or conduct pre-flight tailgate parties in the one hour airport parking lot.
And, thanks to the tragedy of 9/11, they don’t even get visitors in the cockpit any more. No more Timmy coming to see how they fly the plane.
Factor all that in and replace cockpit with cubicle and their job starts to sound a lot more like our jobs. I don’t know about you, but I lost about six hours of my life a couple weeks ago watching television news choppers chase a helium-filled shower cap. I haven’t wasted so much time since I took that journalism ethics course in college.
When we think about all the time we waste at our desks everyday watching singing squirrels on YouTube or checking our fantasy football/hockey/cribbage league, is it any wonder that it finally transferred to commercial airline pilots?
Pilots, nifty caps and snazzy uniforms, and finally, after all these years, just like me.
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