Not only to fly, but to bring the world's eyes...skyward.

Friday, February 15, 2013

Going with the Flow

I got two great presents for St. Valentine's Day this year and - wouldn't you know it - they both had to do with FLYING!

By now you've almost assuredly heard about the first: my airline is merging with another, creating the world's largest in the process. Most of my family and friends who aren't in the airlines have asked me what it's going to do for - or to - me, and judging by the reactions, my answers so far seem to have been either too short or too long.

While it's not going to be easy or pretty trying to integrate about 14,000 pilots from four companies (each company has unresolved integration issues from their last merger) into one seniority list, the positives far outweigh the negatives, both for the companies involved and us, their employees. A year ago, many of us were losing sleep wondering if we'd even have a job in a year or two, and now we can pretty much all quit counting sheep and, as Van Hagar once sang, "Dream Another Dream."

In the macro-est macro view, it's a lot like coming to work every week. I put on my uniform and pack my bags, trying hard not to forget to wear and/or pack anything (contacts/glasses, clothing - appropriate for a different culture, often one experiencing the OPPOSITE season from us, license/medical certificates, passport, company i.d., epaulets, tie, belt, sunscreen, vitamins, snacks, stuff to do) - or take so long remembering that I miss my flight. Then, as well-prepared as I can be and in full knowledge of the risks and rewards of certifying, merely by appearing at the appointed place and time, that I'm fit for duty as an airline pilot...

...I jump.

Into what? The Flow - or so it's called by those whose job it is to control the levies, locks, and levers that make 600+ airplanes and 8000+ pilots act like an airline. I always come to work knowing what They're planning for me to do - and that, like a woman, They reserve the right to change Their minds at odd but frequent intervals. So coming to work as a pilot starts to feel like slipping into an inner tube and jumping from a bridge (a nice low one, not one of those Golden Gate or Verrazano things) into a pretty wide and spirited river. I never know for sure when or where I'm going to make landfall, and my control is pretty limited, but I know I have every reason to believe I'm not in any imminent danger (call it a puncture-resistant and self-sealing inner tube). If something big enough changes, often without my even knowing what, They can "reflow" me to do something entirely different. I've come to work for a day and been out for two nights. I've gone to Paris with nothing but my books and the uniform on my back. And I can't count how many times I've gone somewhere like Tucson packed for Calgary or vice versa. But I can't remember ever being hungry, thirsty, or tired for very long without relief, and I've never wondered if I was going to be ok or not.

Just like the merger - I may get some kind of windfall from it, I may feel like I was cheated somehow, but I know beyond the shadow of any reasonable doubt that in one, two, five, probably even ten or more years from now, if I can maintain my health and competence, I'm going to have a job as an airline pilot - and everything else can be fixed.

So to me, this piece of work Pam made for me perfectly captures that feeling. The shading is mysterious and foreboding, but warm overall. Looking at it, you feel uncertain, but not endangered. It has that ticking clock in the center - right where it is in our Life on a Schedule To Which the 200 People in Closest Proximity to You - Including Your Boss - Have All Agreed.

Pam placed elements of charts and diagrams into the background, just as they form the substrate of our days and nights of flying (I personally love that she chose them from the DFW area, since that's now both our company's headquarters and our home), and right there in your face is the first of countless paradoxes that have smitten my Asperger's-riddled mind, both in aviation and in Life: the phrase "INTENTIONALLY LEFT BLANK" printed across a sheet of paper that would have been blank - if they hadn't printed that it was - which it now really isn't. (See what I mean?) The people who print our manuals usually use both sides of every sheet of paper to cut down on their heft, but once in a while there's just no more info in that section, and in that case the oxymoronic "INTENTIONALLY LEFT BLANK" gets slapped on, just to assure us we're not missing anything - and that our Obsessive Compulsive and Literal-minded tendencies are still in full swing.

If you like Flow, I hope you'll swing by Pam's new public Facebook page, Pam Carriker's Art (finish reading this first, though...) and tell her.


  1. Beautiful post and it means the world to me, knowing you like I do, that you love this piece as I love you to pieces:-)

  2. I wonder where we will be when there is only ONE airline! As a dealer for Randolph Engineering sunglasses I wonder if there really is a pilot shortage.


An aviation love story...

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