Christian here. When the fellas and I started discussing signing on guest contributors we asked ourselves what gaps we wanted to fill in our collective expertise. The first we came up with was the Mormon Single Scene. Enter Ron. And after watching Jake on this last season of the The Bachelor, we decided we had to have a pilot. Enter Skew (who wishes to remain only as “Skew”)…
In Corporate America’s caste system, the position just above the untouchables is the unpaid intern. I should know–I’ve done it twice (intern, not untouchable. Although I did see Slumdog Millionaire, so I can relate with them as well). Both internships were essentially the same. Months of hanging out in an airline office with the admins (i.e. regular employees, or anyone who isn’t an intern). Simultaneously trying to look busy while trying not to steal the admins already-limited work. In both internships I was to put in about 30-40 hours a week. Unfortunately there was only about 15-20 minutes of actual weekly work for us to do. And by “us” I mean myself and the two other interns, making the work load actually closer to 6 minutes per person per week.
In the highly competitive airline pilot world one way to get an edge on the competition and land the first job is to do an internship. In exchange for a semester’s worth of free labor the airline will give you a shot at a pilot interview, as long as you don’t end up being a tool. For obvious safety reasons, an airline just can’t put highly-educated pilot interns in cockpits to gain their real work experience. So the alternative is to stick them in any office that is willing to take on a few workers they have absolutely no use for. The intern hides in the corner, occasionally filing something or fetching the admin a large ice tea with lots of ice. “In a few weeks you’ll be so bored that you’ll be begging me to let you get me a drink,” was the only orientation training I received from my boss.
Ready for another Iced Tea, Sir? My pleasure!
Years ago as a copilot I experienced some humiliation that reminded me of my internship experience. I fly regional jets. I’m qualified to fly three different versions of the regional jet. For all practical purposes the only major difference between the three airplanes is size. We’ll refer to the airplanes as follows: Baby Bear, Mama Bear, and Papa Bear. While they fly very similarly the landings are quite different.
You see, Mama and Papa Bear are longer and taller than Baby Bear so the pilot is much higher off the ground when the wheels touch down. After a long, boring flight at the end of an even longer trip I was preparing to make a nice landing on a very calm Fall evening. As we neared the runway I made every control input perfectly for a Baby Bear landing. The problem was I was actually flying a Mama Bear. As the aircraft nears the ground it makes audible call-outs indicating the distance from the ground. That night it sounded like this: “Fifty . . . . . . . Forty . . . . . . Thirty . . . Twenty . . . Te”—SLAM! My unintentional attempt to fly the Mama like the Baby resulted in a no-flare landing. Much like an F-18 fighter jet would make while landing on an aircraft carrier, simply allowing the landing gear to absorb the full impact of the landing descent.
How not to land an airliner
But unlike the F-18, Mama Bear’s landing gear is not built to absorb such landings. Also my aircraft weighs ten times more and carried 60 plus passengers–old ladies, old sleeping business men, suckling babes–all of whom didn’t pay for the excitement of a carrier landing. What I remember even more than the hard impact is the sound the airplane made on impact. When 30 tons of aluminum, fuel, baggage, and human cargo hit the runway at downward rate of 14 feet per second it makes a very loud noise. My first response was to curse. Loudly. With feeling. It was a hard landing to be sure, not quite hard enough to break the airplane or bones, but plenty hard to destroy my pride. As my captain started laughing at me I felt a little relief and then asked, “Did you see that coming, did you know I was going to do that?”
“Then why didn’t you say flare? Or say anything?!”
I knew from his smile that I had given him a gift of a great story to harass me with for the rest of my career.
When we arrived at the gate he invited me to stand at the door to say goodbye to the passengers as they deplaned. “Ummm, no way. What will I say? Ba bye, thanks for flying with us. Urinating blood or spotting is going to be normal for the next few weeks. Ba bye now.”
One woman wanted to talk to the pilot responsible for the creative landing. “That was a really hard landing, that scared me, that was a really hard landing” she said. I responded by telling her that I was sorry, that I didn’t do it on purpose and I felt really bad. The next moment was one of those times that make you wonder if you’re on the Truman show. You know the feeling where all this is just a big game and everyone is in on it but you? She wasn’t satisfied with my response. She wanted me to feel really terrible, and somehow she knew how to cut me deep with a laser guided attack. She came very close to me and looking over me as I was sitting she asked, “are you new or something, are you some kind of intern or something?” What could I say? No I’m not new, I’m just incompetent. Or, yes I’m an intern, can you believe they let me fly this thing? Pretty rad, right? Seeing no good option I repeated my apology and she eventually left in disgust.
There is one silver lining in this story. Now when my first officers feel bad about pounding one in, I give comfort by saying, “yes, grasshopper, that was a hard landing, but let me tell you a story about the hardest landing I’ve ever known…”
Now I’m a captain at an airline, and for the next while I have an intern of my own. Having felt the humiliation of being the professional butt kisser I’ve committed to give my intern the best experience possible. After he fetches my Big Gulp.
So tell me. When have you felt like an intern?
********************Note: If you know my real name or the name of the airline I fly for please don’t mention it in your comment, as they don’t take kindly to employees talking about their work on the internet.*********************