34 years

In February of this year I turned 34 years old. I think I’m not the only one who hopes this is only the first third of my life. I know my dog wants me around longer to take him out and around the block. He’s currently protesting my prolonged placement in front of my laptop by holding a vigil beside the front door. Sometimes I wonder if maybe he really wants me dead…

I remember when I left Idaho for flight school in 2005 and I thought I would be the oldest new pilot there. I was 22 years young but I felt like I had a whole lifetime of experience behind me already. I couldn’t convince my young fiancé to make the trek across the country to Florida to join me in my new life as an aviation student. I had worked a few different jobs as an IT professional and even been laid off. I wrecked my first car my parents gave me, I bought another car that quickly broke down and sat sheltered, and then I wasted even more money on a car I bought on the internet.

Before any of that I made the wise decision to quit high school early because I failed to earn enough credits to graduate. Sometimes, when I tell this story I blame my friends but the reality is I hated high school. I didn’t fit in, there wasn’t a group I felt like I belonged to, and there was almost no place I felt comfortable. I enjoyed working on computers and building computers and playing with computers and that’s what sort of propelled me out of high school. My group of friends were very tech-savvy and they inspired me to be more like them. I wanted to be as smart as them. I wanted to be as cool as them.

So when I left Idaho for flight school in 2005, at the ripe old age of 22 years old, I really felt like I had already lived a full life. I think it’s the plight of every 22 year old on the planet, the stories are the same the details are just different. Perhaps every decade we perceive our struggles and experiences as the most diverse and dramatic as any human that has ever lived.

As a direct result of my poor performance in high school, I felt compelled to work harder in flight school. I had a few things going for me this time around. I fit in there. All around me were people that were my age (surprise!) with my interests and my same goals. I finally belonged and felt comfortable with my peers. Better than all that hippy crap, I was genuinely interested in the content I was learning. I had a strong desire to be a good student. Being a good student meant I would be a good pilot. Later in life I would learn that’s false though.

That isn’t to say I didn’t struggle. I had some learning plateaus. I had a hard time learning instrument flying because it tended to involve some math. Being the high school dropout and GED owning person I was, math wasn’t exactly second nature for me. Reciprocal headings and courses became the bane of my training and a focus for my instructors. I got through it because I had good teachers and because I wanted to get through it.

There was a time in my life where giving up was easier. I proved that in high school. I could have gone to summer school and got the credits I needed to graduate with a high school education but I chose to take the easy way out and quit. I don’t want to say that I regret that decision but it was definitely the wrong decision to make.

Eventually I made it through all my training and earned my instructor ratings and was immediately hired by my flight school. Once again, I was motivated to be a better pilot at every opportunity. I volunteered for extra work, I volunteered to learn new aircraft, and I volunteered to work in any program I could. I taught the same aircraft 4 different ways. Because each program wanted the students to learn it their way. I became a check-instructor. I gave check rides to students. I learned a lot. I failed a lot of students. I was the iron fist of my flight school and my reputation wasn’t based on fluffy kittens or lollipops.

In 2008, after I had instructed for a little over a year, I decided I was ready to try and find a job outside of instructing. I loved teaching, but I knew it wasn’t the career that I wanted for myself long term and it certainly wasn’t going to give me the lifestyle I thought I wanted. Lucky for me the global economy was collapsing and airlines were furloughing and going out of business. I had the esteemed privilege of interviewing at several airlines in 2008 and getting hired, only to be told later that no such position existed anymore. Classes were being cancelled. Pilots were being furloughed. One airline told me I lacked the confidence to be an airline captain.

The exact day I interviewed with Airnet Express in Columbus Ohio, the company announced they would be furloughing 55 pilots. The first time in the existence of the company that they would be laying pilots off work. There I sat in the crew room in Columbus with a giant “pilot applicant” sticker on my chest, while pilots walked by and laughed. A few brave ones took pictures of me. I finally asked what all the commotion was about and I was handed the form letter placed in every pilot mailbox regarding the layoffs. Airnet is now out of business.

Following that disaster, I was flown to New York for an Interview with Colgan. I studied more than I think practically necessary and I couldn’t sleep at all the night before my interview. My interview was in the morning and I think I woke up around 4 am and resumed studying. I ironed my suit a few times, paced around my roach infested La Guardia airport hotel room, and talked to the walls about aviation regulations. All that preparation served me well in about half the interview. Turns out they wanted to know why I wanted to work for Colgan, what I felt my strengths were, why I would make a good airline pilot, and whether or not I was a good fit for the company.

I didn’t even make it to the simulator evaluation. The human resources representative asked me so many questions that made me look at my feet and wonder, “what?” that she ended the interview. She pulled me out of the holding tank room where we all were waiting in between the various phases of the interview and told me “We are going to end the interview here, we don’t think you have the self-confidence to become an airline captain.”

I remember getting my suitcase and walking outside and wondering to myself what the hell I just got hit with. In the years since I’ve realized that I prepared for the technical portion of the interview but failed to prepare for the HR part. I would argue that my failing that interview was one of the better things to ever happen to me, however, at the time it was exceedingly difficult to find any silver linings. To this date, to the best of my recollection, this interview remains the sole interview I’ve had where I didn’t get the job. Colgan is no longer in business.

At the suggestion of a friend, I flew up to Milwaukee for an interview with Air Cargo Carriers to be a pilot in a square shed with wings and engines. I interviewed on a Wednesday and I remember the interview very well. It was extremely informal and I simply sat in the office of one of the chief pilots and we talked about regulations and flying and the color of runway lights. I specifically remember reciting with precision part 91.175(c). He was impressed. Then I flew a “simulator” which was an old computer with flight sim 1985 and a paper panel of their flying shed. The simulator was of a King Air, but I was told “don’t mind that.” He hired me on the spot. The reason I remember it was a Wednesday is because by Friday I was called and told the class had been cancelled and all future classes were probably cancelled. Amazingly, ACC is still in business today.

At this point, I was pretty discouraged. It was hard to stay motivated when I seemingly was un-hirable. I loved teaching and instructing was very rewarding in every way except monetarily. So there I stayed, teaching my way around the Florida airspace for another two years. I was actually on the precipice of quitting aviation for a while in favor of returning to school when I got my next job.

I had applied to and been accepted by Boise State University in 2009. I had planned on attending classes starting in the spring of 2010 and even had my financial aid lined up. My friends lived in Boise and I was excited to get back in school and maybe fly on the side. I looked up teaching jobs in the area and there were a few places I could teach at part time while I went to school. I was 26 and thought it would be a great time to get my degree and maybe take a break from full-time flying.

As a last-ditch effort, I got my ATP in a Seminole in Florida in the summer of 2009 and decided I would update my logbook and my application to a few airlines. I wish I was joking when I say I updated my application the day before a large regional announced they would start hiring for the first time in two years.

The. Day. Before.

I had literally just put myself on the short list to get hired by a large regional airline. By January 2010 I had an interview scheduled in Dallas with American Eagle.

I had a little more experience this time to draw from but I also knew that I needed to spend a little more time studying some HR questions like: why did I want to work there? Why would I be a good airline captain? I might have studied that more than I studied what color runway lights were.

I can’t remember how many people started that day, but it was over 15. By the end of the day only two of us were hired and I couldn’t believe it. I thought for sure it was some trick or perhaps a mistake. Had I finally got a flying job that didn’t require me to teach? One that had earnings potential? I came back the next day for a hearing test and then flew home in first class and ate pasta for dinner.

In April of 2010 I was in training on the ERJ-145 and life was going pretty well. I mean, besides the ground school instructor who was bi-polar and yelled at me for no reason, locked people out who were late, and called on the same person to read-aloud every day, even though they read like an 8th grader. My first simulator instructor didn’t actually teach me anything, he just said, “show me a V1 cut.” I remember turning around in the seat and looking at him replying “I don’t know what that means, sir.” Shortly thereafter we were upside down and the screen of the simulator went red.

Luckily for me the policy was for the instructors to change students about half way through and our second instructor actually knew how to teach. In no time at all I had completed my simulator training and I was off to operating experience in the actual jet. I remember thinking, surely the days of poor instruction are behind me! Ha! My OE instructor was a pilot examiner for the FAA and had been one for about as long as I had been alive and he was pretty good at yelling and telling me how bad I was. At least that’s the way I remember the experience.

My favorite story from the two trips we did together was when we were going through security in Cincinnati. I went through the metal detector a few times and set off the alarm each time. Soon I was removing pieces of clothing, keys, watch, shoes, belt, anything I thought could possibly contain some trace amount of metal that kept setting the alarm off. After my third or fourth iteration of trying to get through this machine my instructor remarked “You know, Jared, you’re going to be doing this every day now. You really need to figure out a better system.”

All right, thanks for the tip. Jerk. I finally made it through and began the process of putting myself back together beginning with my pride and dignity. While I slowly re-assembled my uniform my instructor tried to get through the metal detector gauntlet and guess what; he wasn’t very good at it either! I stood there with probably the biggest grin of my entire sarcastic life and just watched him do the same dignity disassembly of his uniform. He finally made it through on the third or fourth try and I just stood there and smiled at him. “You know Bob, you’ve been doing this a long time, you probably should have a system figured out by now.”

Oddly enough, he didn’t find it to be as funny as I apparently did.

Long story long, I got off OE and was sent to the line as a reserve first officer in Dallas. I spent a little over a year there before I transferred to Chicago to be closer to my then flight attendant girlfriend. That memoir will have to happen another time.

Since early 2011 I have been based in Chicago and in late 2013 I switched airplanes. Late last year I upgraded to Captain on the CRJ and that’s where I currently reside on the seniority list. A junior CRJ Captain trying to figure out why my 2,000 hours of experience on the jet haven’t translated 1:1 to the left seat. It has been an interesting experience, being the boss man. People always ask me how I deal with the stress of holding the lives of so many people in my hands and I always had the same answer: it’s easy, I just worry about me, I’m very selfish like that.

Turns out that feeling is just a little bit different while sitting in the left seat. The best description I can offer is that I live in a constant state of panic wondering what I’ve forgotten to do. My instructors told me this while doing OE as a Captain, you will constantly wonder what to do and sometimes you don’t have anything to do, and you have to be OK with that. I’m not OK yet.

My very first day with an FO and no Check Airman babysitting me from the right seat, I decided that the weather was so beautiful that I drove the airplane right past my assigned intersection for takeoff. I was just staring out the window, totally ignorant of the fact that I had passed right by my turn off. Lucky for all of us I didn’t cut anybody off and it was Chicago where it takes an act of God or a four alarm fire to cause alarm.

In a few days I will make the move once again, between aircraft, between companies, between seats, to join the ranks at United Airlines. Behind the scenes of all this flying I went back to school and got a degree. For three and a half years I worked as an airline pilot and moonlighted as a college student. In December of 2015 I graduated with my Bachelor’s degree and in December of 2016 I interviewed with United Airlines.

United for me has always been special. My grandfather worked for United and my father grew up travelling the world and I grew up hearing all about both. I remember hearing about how my grandfather flew to Holland every year (or about) to have a Dirkmaat family reunion and I always wondered how they could have afforded that trip so often. My father told me how when he was a teenager he would fly to Hawaii for the weekend to surf. Before that he backpacked around Europe with his pre-teen younger brother. Alone. I had to ask if I could go across the street and my father was gallivanting around Europe.

Beyond United, my grandfather inspired me in many ways. My IT jobs most likely came from my passion for computers through my grandfather. When I was 10 or 11 he gifted me an old Apple II computer. 512k of RAM and no hard drive, but it did have two floppy drives, which was excessive. It was monochrome and had MacWrite and MacDraw. In fact it is only in this very moment that I’ve realized while I write this on my MacBook that perhaps my grandfather fostered yet another love in my life: writing. Damn. I tried to keep a journal on that computer and would often write about nothing, trying to sound smart. I wish I could read those journals now.

One of those floppy disks had Microsoft Flight Sim 1.0 on it. It practically lived in the disk drive. It was awful and yet it was everything. Monochrome lines split the screen and made a poor horizon. The instrument panel took up 60% of the limited screen space and I stared at every instrument with wonder. This began my love affair with flying that has lasted to this day and hopefully for the remainder of my days. I remember trying to fly the airplane with the keyboard and single button mouse with the assistance of my best friend. We took turns operating the ailerons and elevator and flew all around San Francisco trying to stay aloft but with no destination in mind. Sometimes simply finding San Francisco again to land at was an accomplishment.

My cousin was a private pilot and I remember excitedly showing her my accomplishments on my computer and even asking her serious questions about VORs and how they worked and what the compass rose really meant. I don’t know if she was impressed or just scared of my obsession with planes and computers but I remember feeling like I was a pilot.

My grandfather worked for United for 34 years when he retired on May 31, 1985. I will be 34 years old when I begin working for them this March. Maybe it only feels poetic to me, and maybe it’s only powerful to me, but it definitely feels like both. A man that unknowingly influenced my entire life hasn’t lived long enough to see any of it, let alone appreciate the irony of it all.

34 years. I can’t imagine the road he traveled before he started at United like I have traveled before United. The trials he went through before World War II, emigrating to the United States, traveling across the country, and everything in between. Maybe everything I went through to get to this point means nothing or maybe it’s simply the same story with different details.

Write More

Write more. 

It's good for you. It's therapuetic. It's a process that requires brain power and creativity. It's something that can be enjoyable and frustrating and invigorating and exhausting and other verbs. It's a far better way to spend time freely as it provides a view in retrospect. It's hard to look back over a few hours of watching TV or surfing the web with anything other than regret.

Write more.

You want to. It's something you've always said "one day" while smiling just thinking about it. Imagine all that writing I'll do one day. One day is today. It's here. It's now. Like putting feet to pavement, put fingers to keys. Eat that elephant.

Write more.

Practice makes perfect. I wasn't writing sonnets and soliliquies as a toddler and I probably won't be Stephen King anytime soon. Between today and perfect is a long road of revisions and strike outs and underlines. Don't reach for perfect, reach for achieving perfection knowing perfection is only an idea. It doesn't exist. What does exist is some really great writing done in an effort to be perfect.

Write more.

There are so many ideas and thoughts and words worthy of writing down. You have to simply put words to paper. Bleed them into life via a .doc and let it live. It's possible nobody will ever read it but the words will exist and that's all it needs to be alive and real.

Write more.


I'm working a crazy schedule this month. Crazy awesome, that is. For the first time in my five plus years at the airline, I'm working three days followed by four days off. It's crazy having four days off in a row every week. It hasn't exactly been as much of a boost to my homework productivity but it has been a boost to my Netflix queue. Currently, I'm avoiding homework to write about something that happened on a flight last week.

"When something does happen that accellerates the pulse we usually have the ability to problem solve or otherwise mitigate said accelleration."

I've recently crossed the 5,000 hours logged threshold and I'm getting pretty comfortable in my "new" airplane that I transitioned to in 2013. I've got about 1,200 hours in the jet and there aren't a lot of things happening for the first time anymore. Rigamoral and boring is the ideal as a pilot. We strive to limit the exciting or abnormal happenings. When something does happen that accellerates the pulse we usually have the ability to problem solve or otherwise mitigate said accelleration.

Recently on our return flight to Chicago from El Paso, we were in search of a smooth ride at 31,000 feet. Our dispatcher had filed us down low in an effort to avoid the turbulent air above, however, we were bouncing along the cloud tops right at 31,000 feet. I try to reiterate to the passengers whenever we're in turbulence that it's nothing more than an annoying inconvenience, but we still try our best to avoid it. So up we went, 33,000, and eventually 35,000 feet. Even all the way up there we were still grazing the upper reaches of the clouds.

We had only been in flight for about 30 minutes by the time we made it up to 35,000 feet and the ride was finally starting to smooth out as we progressed towards Chicago. As you can imagine, the airspace up at these altitudes is usually pretty busy with airline and business jet traffic. Today was a little less busy as it was mid-day on Sunday, but we still had a decent amount of airplanes crossing our path. When another airplane crosses in front of us, air traffic control will alert us so we can be aware of them. They'll tell us which direction from us they are, which direction they're travelling, and their altitude and aircraft type. This helps us locate them, and ensure they're where they should be and that no collision threat exists.

"Traffic at your 2 to 3 O'clock, north-west bound, leveling a thousand feet below you, is a Phenom."

"Traffic at your 2 to 3 O'clock, north-west bound, leveling a thousand feet below you, is a Phenom." An Embraer Phenom is a very light jet that some private operators fly as well as some corporate and charter companies. This call from ATC was nothing out of the ordinary, we get these types of alerts from ATC probably a hundred times a day. We look outside for the airplane, make sure we're going to miss them, and then we resume reading the instruments (newspaper).

It's also not uncommon for a climbing aircraft to trigger a traffic alert from our anti-collision system called TCAS (Traffic Collision Avoidance System). This alert sounds an aural caution "TRAFFIC! TRAFFIC!" to let the pilot know that an aircraft is approaching and could become a collision threat. At lower altitudes these alerts are very common and almost always never become a resolution advisory (actual collision threat exists). At higher altitude however, these alerts are almost non-existent. Not today.

As the aircraft approached their cleared altitude of 1,000 feet below us, we recieved the "TRAFFIC! TRAFFIC!" alert. Up at 35,000 feet this is acutally pretty rare because climb rates are usually reduced in reduced vertical seperation airspace (RVSM). This alert got our attention and started that accelleration we try to avoid. The TCAS system is designed to alert us of traffic visually, aurally, and if needed, also provide vertical escape guidance both aurally and visually. It's a tiered system that escalates the alerts as needed based on the threat of collision. The system had shown us this aircraft visually at first, as just another airplane near us. Next it will show you an airplane that has a potential for a collision by changing the color and symbol on our display and giving the first aural alert of "TRAFFIC! TRAFFIC!" Finally, when an actual collision threat exists the display changes again to a red symbol and the aural alerts now give commands on what manuever to begin in order to avoid the collision.

"As a testament to the limitations of the human body during times of stress, I never heard the first aural RA."

"CLIMB! CLIMB NOW!" was the resolution advisory we received. The display also modifies our vertical speed indicator to show what rate of climb or descent is required to vertically navigate away from the threat. This was actually a corrective resolution advisory as the first one told us to descend. As a testament to the limitations of the human body during times of stress, I never heard the first aural RA. I think it was "MONITOR VERTICAL SPEED" – even though the aircraft was in level flight, we were experiencing some light mountain wave turbulence which causes the aircraft to oscillate a few hundred feet. Our vertical speed indicator is an instananeous indicator and will sometimes show a climb or descent as much as 1,000 feet per minute for brief moments. This tricked the TCAS into thinking we were in a descent when the RA was triggered.

"The tricky thing here is getting the aircraft away from the threat expeditiously while simultaneously avoiding loading the wing too much and inducing a high altitude stall. Yay we missed them! Boo now we're falling with style!"

After initially commanding us to maintain a rate of descent to avoid the aircraft, the system calculated that our descent was no longer an option to avoid the aircraft and it then commanded us to climb. The tricky thing here is getting the aircraft away from the threat expeditiously while simultaneously avoiding loading the wing too much and inducing a high altitude stall. Yay we missed them! Boo now we're falling with style! Up at this altitude the airplane has a much smaller margin of "too fast" and "too slow," it is inbetween these speeds that we must remain in order to be considered still flying. Entering a high rate of climb at this altitude is usually non-sustainable (and non-habit forming). Our goal in this situation was to climb fast enough to avoid the conflict, but not so fast or too quickly to deplete the energy on the wing to induce a high altitude stall.

Luckily for me and for all the people behind me, we managed to avoid all the pitfalls of the event and complete an uneventful flight. It did take a few minutes for the reality of the situation to register. We spent quite a few moments recollecting what happened and why. It's very rare for this type of event to happen, especially at such a high altitude where aircraft are meticulously seperated from each other.

We never heard the other aircraft on our frequency, so it's likely he had already been switch to a new controller. We don't know if they had the wrong altitude programmed or if they were simply climbing so fast the computer calculated a collision risk. What a lot of people don't know is that scenarios like this one is how our modern day FAA got started. 

I'm Batman

This is an unedited draft I wrote a while ago when I was thinking about how funny I think I am. It's recommended for adults who don't mind a few slurs and swears, so consider yourself warned.


Airline pilots get a bad rap about their drinking habits. God forbid we have a solid 24 hours off in the shittiest hotel on the planet. Oh and thank you Denzel for ruining all the strange I was getting and coke I was snorting.

(IF there is anyone from the FAA, NTSB, FBI, DEA, DOT, here: I would just like to point out that is a joke…) Next time you’re in an airport I want you to count how many hot flight attendants you see. They’re like the white rhino of Africa. That shit is practically extinct and the few that do exist are actively being hunted 24 hours a day. I remember the first time I watched that Denzel movie. I didn’t even want to watch it. I had seen the previews. I’m sure most doctors don’t like watching ER, because most of us are cynical assholes. When you do something professionally that required years of training and you do it every day, first of all you’re probably not watching a show about it and second they likely fucked something up because “IT LOOKED BETTER ON CAMERA.” Well imagine how pumped I was to watch a movie about an addict pilot that brazenly saves the day by simply FLYING UPSIDE DOWN. Wow. Yea, get me some popcorn can’t wait to see this drama unfurl.



Ultimately I didn’t want to ever watch it but I was living with my best friends and they were both non-aviation types so they were REALLY interested in watching ME watch the movie. I’ll never forget the look on my buddies face when the movie started. He’s just staring at me, with this huge grin like “HOW BAD WAS THAT? IS THAT EVEN REAL?” Because he knows what an asshole I am. He knows. He was right. For those of you who haven’t seen the movie, I won’t ruin it, but I will say this. In the first few minutes of the film you see Denzel who is the captain, he is walking around the airplane in the pouring down rain. Few things: Captains are old as fuck and don’t do walk arounds. People always ask: how do you know which one is the captain? Walker. When they do the walk arounds it is either because they smoke and they want to sneak under the terminal and smoke, or because they have training coming up and they haven’t seen the outside of the airplane in about a year, or it’s sunny and 72 and they feel like taking away the only time I get to walk around outside and curse under my breath about how shitty the captain that I’m flying with is. Sometimes the only thing between me and homicide is that walk outside. Imagine if you were at work and they moved you to a new desk. This desk was the size of two milk crates and it was inside a bullet proof chamber. Your boss said to increase productivity you need to remain at your desk for no less than 5 hours at a time and that you’d be sharing that desk with the worst person on the planet. That’s my job in a nutshell, sometimes. You get to work with a lot of different people but sometimes you’re stuck next to someone in this cramped workspace crucible for long hours on end that the thing that keeps me from just snapping and ending that persons life in a fit of rage and a first class spork is my little walk around the airplane. There’s generally a nice breeze out there, sun is shining, airplane noise in the background, smell of jetfuel killing whatever braincells I haven’t already permanently disabled, and nobody can hear my mumbles of “swear to god if he keeps talking about his ex-wives I’m gonna kill him. I’m gonna fucking kill him.” So if you are sitting on a plane and you see a pilot walking around, look closely, you’ll probably see him mumbling something. Just know that it’s a process and it’s keeping you safe.

Most people I work with, when we spend 16 hours at work, 8 of those hours flying people from point A to point shitty, we just want to have a few drinks and forget about the life choices that brought us to Dayton Ohio.

If you’re from Ohio I apologize, it’s just that I dated a real whore from Ohio and I’ve made it my life mission to ruin that states reputation in hopes it will come full circle back to her. I know what you’re thinking, but no, I don’t hold grudges. Slut. The funny part about her story is I was warned about her years before I even met her. My parents were travelling a lot while I was in flight school and my dad got like super into my training. It was weird because I wasn’t use to that attention and every time I had a big training thing coming up or a test, he was always the first to call me to ask how it went and all that. So apparently when my dad was travelling one day he sat next to a pilot and told him all about me. Let me tell you, as a guy who travels in my pilot uniform on airplanes, I don’t want to hear about your kids flight training. One lovely old lady asked how I liked my career and I smiled and said it’s amazing and I love it but that the training costs have crippled me financially and that I wish it wasn’t such a burden. She looked me dead in the eye and said “well you can always join the military, they’ll pay for it, of course it might kill you. My first husband died in the military.” So I should be dead instead of broke? That’s your advice? Ok, move it along granny.

Anyways, after my dad gushed about my training and about how I wanted to be an airline pilot so badly, he somehow got this guy to call me for “career advice.” I remember being a bit skeptical when my dad called me and told me what he had arranged. “I talked to this pilot and he’s going to call you with some pointers on how to get into the airline industry.” Ooook. Strange.

I remember this phone though. I wish I had recorded it, I really do. Picture me, I’m in this tiny dorm-room at flight school and I’m sitting at my tiny desk with a tiny pen and tiny paper waiting for my tiny phone to ring. Couldn’t afford real flight school, I went to tiny flight school. Anyways, guy calls and we start talking. He’s asking me how my training is going and this and that. Now I’m super naïve at this point when it comes to the airlines and the industry as a whole. I mean I was 23/24 and just about halfway through getting my flight ratings. I had some high hopes that this random guy that my dad convinced to call me was going to give me the keys to unlock my career. Ready for his advice?

“Don’t fuck flight attendants.”

Come again?

“Don’t fuck flight attendants. They’re disease bag whores who only want to get pregnant and get your money. Just let them suck your dick. Seriously. Blow jobs only, that way they can’t get pregnant, you can’t get a VD, and you still get off.”

Like, what should I have written down? I’m on the phone nodding along “uh huh, oh okay, right, of course. I see. Gotcha.” But I’m staring at my pad of paper with literally nothing to write down. I mean, I had questions for this guy. First of all, what’s the name of the flight attendant he knocked up and is getting alimony or child support? Maybe I could just not fuck her because she seems to be the devil, according to him. Like after thinking about the phone call all these years later, having been through some different relationships at the airline, I can just imagine that his wife or girlfriend cheats on him, the next day he meets my dad, and he agrees to give me advice based on his rage and he made the conscious choice to warn me about “Cynthia.”

Furthermore, I was concerned about his understanding of VD. Like, is this guy legitimately out there getting blow jobs from hookers thinking “hah, can’t give me any diseases!” Like, wow! One cross-eyed and broken toothed blow job from a homeless guy could ruin that dudes life and he has NO IDEA! I’m actually a little jealous of that bliss. Even after all that, that isn’t the worst part about this phone call.

The worst part was inventing some intricate lie to tell my dad when he called me next. Here was my dad, super excited about my flight training, excited enough to talk to random strangers about me, and zealous enough to convince that stranger to call and “advise” me. He was pretty stoked to hear this career advice and insight and how I was going to put his info to good use.

That, for me, was one of the first times I felt like I really lied to my dad as an adult. I mean, I had lied to my parents as a kid a lot. You name it I was lying about it. But this was different. This was some real shit that I couldn’t tell my dad. I mean first of all I don’t have that relationship with my parents where we talk about everything. The last thing I’m going to talk about with my dad is blowjobs because god forbid he mention something about mom. “Ah yes, that’s why I married your mother.” Because this would have been a suicide note 10 years ago. “Dear dad, you know why I did it. Jared.”

I pretty much just made up stuff about this random guy to tell my dad. “Oh you know, he was like ‘don’t crash airplanes’ and ‘stay in school’ and ‘no drugs’” and I just casually left out the blowjobs and money grubbing whores.

Anyways, when you’re in a hotel bar, you will often find the same 5 people. Businessman, woman, person, whatever. They’re the same people that you see flying in first class with their laptops and blackberries just typing away at who the fuck knows what. Do you know how annoying it is to fly these pretentious assholes around who complain about everything like “are we gonna get there safely?” and “my salmon is cold.” Like, those are the two worst complaints you could possibly put together. One is a completely unnecessary – but common- concern on planes, the other identifies someone who doesn’t understand the irony and the blessing of eating fish while flying through the sky.

But now after dealing with people like that all day, you sit at the bar and captain productivity is there next to you just clickity-clackity on the keyboard making presentations about how much it costs to produce a vacuum cleaner.

Anyways, next to that guy is almost always someone who isn’t dealing well with being in whatever hotel we’re in. Be it because their flight was cancelled, or their flight was supposed to land in Orlando but they diverted it to Pittsburgh for weather, even though their self proclaimed weather experts. Do you know how pathetic it is to try and convince a pilot that quote “the weather’s fine! We should leave now, we’ll be fine!” Trust me, it’s pathetic, and it happens a lot more than you would think. People will point at their phones and their fancy weather apps and yell and scream about delays or cancellations. Just once, perhaps on my last day, I want to just walk up to them in the crowded gate area and scream back.

“This airline does billions of dollars in revenue a year and operates thousands of flights with millions of passengers and you think your PHONE is the glue that binds this operation together? You don’t see me coming to get a car loan from you and then insisting I get a better interest rate because my PHONE said it was fine!”

Like that moment, that exchange, telling off some asshole passenger for a million different reasons, that’s what pilots spend those long flight hours dreaming about. Well thinking about. Because we never sleep.

Anyways, so this person who’s so not dealing well with being at the hotel, they’re the loud drunk one that everyone else is avoiding eye-contact with. You made eye contact with me? LET’S BE BEST FRIENDS! “Dude….dude….dude. Can you believe it? This bullshit? The plane, was fine. I was on it, we were all on it. Then they said it was like broke, bullshit. Something about a fire or something, but I mean, I didn’t see any smoke! It’s fine!” Do you know how hard it is to keep not only my cool while dealing with this person at every single airport hotel, but also to keep my disguise?

Most pilots at the bar won’t walk in wearing their uniform and aviator glasses, announce their arrival “HELLO I JUST FLEW IN FROM CLEVELAND AND I WANT TO GET SO DRUNK I FORGET ABOUT MY THREE EX-WIVES!” we don’t do that. Well the ex-wives part is true and I don’t understand it. More than two? Either stop fucking or stop getting married, but one of them isn’t working out.

Walking into a bar though, pilots, we’re like Batman. Well, Bruce Wayne really. We’re in street clothes so no-one will recognize us. We get that really deep raspy growl. “ugh. WHERE IS THE BEER LIST?! WHERE IS IT?!”

But that’s seriously how I feel. If I don’t hide my identity from these people there will be questions that I’m not prepared to answer. “OMG. You’re a pilot? Like, OMG. So. What’s it like flying a plane with peoples lives in your hands? Like at any second, like everyone could just die. What’s that like?”

It’s pretty simple actually. Because if you think the pilots are up there flying the airplane and god forbid something catastrophic happens and we have some sort of in flight emergency that requires the decades of experience, years of schooling, thousands of hours of training, all to safely land the airplane, and we’re up there thinking about all the people? Is that really somebody you want in control? Because that person is basically an emotional wreck. I’ve been flying for over 10 years with thousands of hours of experience in all kinds of different airplanes but I’ve never had the airplane do something out of the ordinary and immediately thought “OMG. That woman in 3B is pregnant and travelling with her ill and dying grandmother. I BETTER NOT FUCK THIS UP!” You don’t want that person in charge! You don’t put an emotional train-wreck at the controls of a flying missile! Yet that’s the first thing everyone assumes we think about. Hell, I think most people assume that’s why pilots drink so much is because of the pressure of all the lives in our hands. It isn’t. We’re all selfish assholes who only think about ourselves and we drink because most of the time our job is pretty fucking shitty.

That sounds bad on the outset but the reality is, it’s pretty good to have a selfish pilot who only cares about himself and I’ll tell you why: you’re all sitting behind me. You can’t back an airplane into a mountain like you can a car against a telephone pole. Doesn’t work that way. The day the put the cockpit in the tail of the airplane and all the passengers sit in front of the pilots, that’s the day I would stop flying as a passenger. Because then, pilots would be like “think we can walk away from that one? Yea, fuck it. BOOM.” But as it stands, we’re the first mother fuckers to eat dirt and statistically the highest fatality rate, so we’re pretty keen on not killing ourselves, which in turn works out nicely for everyone else.

Anyways. The bar. The other person that’s at the bar is the family. Dad, mom, and usually miserable fuck 1 and 2. This is the family that booked their vacation on orbitz like 10 months ago and saved $12 bucks by staying 3 hours away from the theme park. Dad’s trying to point out all the things that ROCK about the hotel, mom’s 3 martini’s into her hangover and miserable fucks 1 and 2 are locking in nightmares that will cost them thousands of dollars later in life.

That’s not a dig on my parents, we had some great vacations as kids, but I grew up with one older sister and she was a super cunt. Nothing says sibling rivalry like your older sister sitting on you and tickling you until you pee. And your parents just pointing and laughing at you. Yea. Jokes on her though because when I hit puberty I got fat and she got anorexic and we pretty much reached an understanding.


I’m writing again. As bad as it sounds, amidst a busy semester, I’m writing again for fun. I’ve had these thoughts in my head for quite some time about what I want to write about and what story I want to tell. I’ve wrestled with the ideas and the recollections and I think I’ve settled on an outline and a story.

I’m going to publish it- probably on Amazon Kindle Direct- but I’m going to get it out there. For better or worse, I’m going to jump back on this horse and hopefully tell the story I’ve always wanted to tell: me.

Stay tuned friends.