Culture Shock

From '95 to '99, I flew left seat in the 727.  It was a good gig, and became one of the highlights of my flying career.  It was real, stick-and-rudder flying, with lots of legs, de-icing, decisions to be made, and issues to deal with.  Of course, the relatively larger number of cycles every day also made it work.  I recall once flying three Cat II approaches--all of them down to minimums--all in one day.     

One particular occasion had us starting the day at an out-station, and flying to DTW first thing in the morning.  On arrival at the hub, we parked and shut down before starting our obligatory bag-drag from the F Concourse to the C Concourse.  I don't recall where the co-pilot was, but the second officer and I arrived at the new gate together.  He headed right down to start his preflight, while I stopped at the podium to review the new flight plan and sign the release.  A few minutes later, I was also headed down the jetway to the airplane. 

As I approached the airplane, from about a dozen feet away, I heard a clattering commotion.  This was followed by a loud, angry voice exclaim "F*** you!"  A couple of seconds later, a mechanic stormed out of the cockpit, blew past me, and noisily went down the jetway stairs to the ramp.  Puzzled, I stepped into the cockpit to see the Second Officer looking just a bit shell-shocked. 

Unlike the earlier era, when all of our new-hires were fresh-faced young kids, we were now hiring a wider variety of ages.  In fact, this particular new-hire was in his 40s, and was a retired Marine Lt. Col.  A good guy named Tom.  "What's going on Tom?", I asked.  He explained that, on arrival in the cockpit, he saw that there was an open write-up in the logbook.  It was a relatively simple burned out wingtip light, and he called maintenance to come out to the airplane.  The mechanic arrived, looked at the logbook and stated that he was going to MEL the write-up.  Tom looked at his watch and saw that it was quite a while before departure time, so he said, "MEL it?  You've got 45 minutes . . . get your a** out there and fix it!"

by Doug Fee


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