Friday, July 04, 2008

A Meditation on Pilots

I like airplane pilots. They come across as strong, gentle, fatherly men (and they’re always men… how odd), their voices calm and confident on the loudspeaker. Not like recalcitrant airline ground employees or snippy flight attendants, I never get the sense that the pilot is my opponent in some miniature battle. He’s a lawyer, combating dictatorial air traffic controllers and gnarly turbulence on behalf of his charges—a fellow human, fighting for you to be treated with the dignity you deserve, but rarely receive as a passenger and customer.

But pilots all have a peculiar tic that makes them seem a little removed from the common man. Every pilot I’ve ever flown with is obsessed with the wind. Whenever you take off and land, and sometimes mid-flight, the pilot will always—always—let you know which way the wind is blowing, and how fast, both just outside the plane, and at your destination. Sure, I’m glad they know about wind—I suspect it plays a role in how they fly the plane, and without this knowledge, we’d probably end up in a charred wreck. But they don’t seem to realize that nobody else knows or cares much about the wind. I don’t even really know how fast a knot of wind is. Would one knot make it difficult to read a newspaper? Would three knots be enough to fly a kite? I find it hard to imagine that many vacationers make any plans based on current wind conditions.

(Hey Chuck, the long fairway on the 15th hole at Pebble Beach heads right into the setting sun! With a four knot tailwind out of the south-east, I just might birdie that son of a gun!)


Post a Comment

<< Home