Guest Post: I Am My Own Worst Intern, or “On The Wings of LOOOOVE!”

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.

Intern

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.

F-18

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?”

“Yep”

“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.*********************

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17 Responses to Guest Post: I Am My Own Worst Intern, or “On The Wings of LOOOOVE!”

  1. Christian says:

    I’ve been on a flight or two that must have had interns at the helm.

    I think you gave those people their money’s worth, like a really scary, exciting roller coaster ride. But I have always wanted more honesty from pilots on the intercom. Think of how awesome it would have been if you had gone on the intercom a second after the landing and said”

    “Holy #*%& that was a hard landing. My goodness folks, I do apologize, that was a very bad landing. That was NOT supposed to happen. My dear, that was my worst ever in the 4 months I’ve been doing this. Frank will you check to see how much of the landing gear is broken and for any fires going on down there? Ok folks, it looks like I have some poop in my pants. Oh boy. Frank, can you take the wheel here, I need to get to the bathroom. Folks before I go I want to thank you for flying with us and ask a favor of a personal nature. We’ve shared some neat ups and downs together on this flight and if you could all just keep those within the group here, that would be best for everyone. Thanks so much. ”

    My only internship was 6 days for my friend’s dad’s magazine publishing company on Lake Tahoe. It was awesome. I made some calls, got a free patagonia jacket, and spent my lunch breaks doing back flips off the big granite boulders into that gorgeous lake. Best internship ever.

  2. Rebecca Bell says:

    That’s really funny and I definitely think you should’ve taken Christian’s approach. I’m always hoping that one of these days, I’ll get to fly on one of your flights so as to see how good a pilot you really are.

  3. Braden says:

    Very funny, Skew. And it’s nice to see a picture of you to go with all the names. I am laughing but am vaguely unsettled. I sort of thought that this kind of thing was all done before they actually let you fly my children places. What airline was this again?

  4. Christian says:

    Braden, you misunderstood. The landing incident wasn’t while he was an intern, it was while he was a co-pilot. Co-pilot!

  5. Layne says:

    Great story Skew. I love how the cycle of corporate life works. You start out brand spanking new, fetching a Pepsi for the big dog, then pretty soon, you’re the big dog with someone fetching you a Pepsi.

    Your skidmark on the tarmac surely gave some of the customers skidmarks.

    Having read this, I’m pretty glad that I have never had an internship.

  6. Davis says:

    It’s funny to realize that airline pilots are just people, and they make mistakes like everyone else. No, wait, actually that is terrifying.

  7. Braden says:

    Kook, I didn’t misunderstand! That’s what scares me. I assumed that by the time someone was a co-pilot they had already made all of these mistakes and wouldn’t do it again.

  8. Serene says:

    I recall a time my brother and I were flying when I hear my brother say from his window seat, “Uhhh… I don’t think we’re going to make the runway…” Suddenly, the plane went into a pretty good nose dive in an attempt to make the runway. But after a moment the plane pulled up suddenly, went in a big circle and back in for a proper landing.

    That wasn’t you…. was it? 😉

  9. Jeff says:

    This article completely made my Friday. I’m sitting in a cubicle trying not to make a scene while I hold back laughter. Awesome.

  10. Ben Pratt says:

    Alongside the No-Fly List, I think the TSA should create a G-Force List, and whenever a majority of passengers on a plane are on the list, the pilot gets to pretend he’s flying a Fokker Triplane.

  11. Hey, I am checking this site from my Blackberry and it looks kinda funky. Thought you’d want to know. It’s a great post though, didn’t mess that up 🙂

  12. Ryan says:

    Great post Skew. I disagree with the commenters that think this sounds scary. Everyone getting on a plane has to understand that there are humans at the helm. That’s exactly what I tell myself when I get on a plane, just to feel like I’ve got at least a chance that something fun could happen.

    Anyway, I don’t know why you won’t name your employer here. From what I hear, Oceanic Airlines has a lot bigger PR problems than one of their co-pilots flubbing a landing.

  13. Skewbet says:

    Chris, “Ok folks, it looks like I have some poop in my pants.” LOL, poop jokes at still funny at age 30.

    Rebecca, when there’s someone I know on one of my flights I usually make up things about them to embarrass them. “Ladies and gentlemen, this is the captain speaking, I’d like to recognize a VIP passenger on board with us today. She’s sitting in 8A, a personal friend of mine, child star Rebecca Bell who played Vicki the Robot in the 80’s sitcom Small Wonder!”

    Braden, remember the movie Fight Club? When the main character-Joe is telling someone that he works for car company and its his job to determine when a safety problem kills enough people to justify a recall. And the person asks what car company he works for, to her discomfort he responds “A really big one.”

    Thanks Layne, some events that we have to endure up being worth it just for the story telling alone. Just like that time you got that body piercing by a street vendor right?

    Davis, it is hard to believe that us airline pilots are fallible isn’t it? What, with our dashing looks, high intelligence, charming personalities, and all. Its like when you first learned that your dad wasn’t perfect.

    Serene, no, probably wasn’t me. But on the other hand, there likely isn’t a pilot in the entire industry that hasn’t has to circle around again to loose the necessary altitude to make the runway. Often air traffic control will leave us too high and wont let us descend till its too late, sometimes however–and its very rare–the pilot plans poorly for the runway and has to eat humble pie while they circle again for the runway.

    Thanks Jeff!

    Ben, 10 points for an aviation history reference to the nearly impossible to land Fokker Triplane! Your points are redeemable for DDDT goodies.

    Ryan, yes right on, pilots are just humans. “If you cut us, do we not bleed?”

  14. Christian says:

    Ya, Braden totally remembers Fight Club. Like you and I remember Madame Butterfly.

  15. Dallin says:

    So on my frequent travels “across the pond,” as we Aussie’s say, I have the distinct privelage of flying this unamed airline, of which coincedentaly I too used to work for as well, on a regular basis. The events of my domestic leg from San Fran to Salt Lake City goes something like this…After landing hard, the pilot gets on the PA system to explain the arrival: “Sorry for the hard landing folks. It wasn’t the pilot’s fault, and it wasn’t the plane’s fault. It was the asphalt.” Great joke to soothe the sore heads of those who hit the overhead bins. Funy enough though, the voice sounded like a certain Skewority, but the clearly ashamed fligh crew didn’t dare venture out of the cockpit on our arrival into SLC, probably for fear of the individual wrath of a procession of 50+ passengers disembarking the CRJ700. This concluding leg of my 36 hour exodus from Australia back to Utah reminded me of an airline joke which fits this post perfectly.

    An airline pilot hammered his ship into the runway really hard on a certain flight. The airline had a policy, which required the pilot to stand at the door while the passengers exited, give a smile, and a “Thanks for flying XYZ airline.” He said that in light of the bad landing, he had a hard time looking the passengers in the eye, thinking that someone would have a smart comment. Finally everyone had gotten off except for this little old lady walking with a cane. She said, “Sonny, mind if I ask you a question?” “Why no M’am,” said the pilot, “what is it?” The little old lady said, “Did we land or were we shot down?”

  16. Nate says:

    Catching up on DDDT is perfect for a long work day after a relaxing weekend. There were so many classic lines in this post AND the comments.

    Definitely love the guest post.

  17. Oh my freak, this had me rolling. Urinating blood and your incompetent could-be response to the jerk lady were sooo great. The comments were so great too – I could only get through Christian’s one line at a time, with intermissions for wiping tears and catching my breath. I totally feel for you and love slash hate that your captain didn’t warn you strictly for the great story potential.

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