Please stop asking everyone who was in the Air Force if they were pilots! We hate it, and if I was a pilot I would be working for an airline, not in a school as a teacher! So in discussing fears and flying, people often wonder why you see service men and women in pictures, dressed in full gear, at times with weapons, sleeping soundly while flying on military aircraft. Aside from some people being able to sleep anywhere no matter the conditions, it’s simple, we trust the flight crew. The primary goal is always the “mission” and that involves getting everyone to that final destination safely. The attention to detail that comes from being active duty is a skill that never leaves you, that skill is exceptional when we begin to look at flight crew.
When you work with flight crew (pilots, navigators, engineers, medics, loadmasters, mechanics) you know who is a real asshole, who cheats on his wife everytime we leave for a temporary duty, who is respectful to the enlisted, and who drinks a bit too much during lunch. We know who talks entirely too much, who everyone talks about and how each of them smell when they get off the plane. We know who doesn’t wear deodorant, not enough and who never wears drawers because their ass is always eating their flight suit! We love pilots who were previously enlisted Marines, they are usually lots of fun in flight and have a great sense of humor.
Maintaining flight records, you have a first hand look at live data about their performance in that plane! Depending on where the office is located, you have a live view of takeoffs, landings and how well they bring down a plane with an inflight emergency. We spent 8-12 hours per day watching them planning and working to be the best and train those trusted in their care to do the same. While I saw many sketchy training landings, I never saw a crash, heard many emergency in flight situations on the radio, but all were handled without injury. The reason I love hurricane season is because I had the pleasure of working with hurricane hunters, the most interesting aspect of flying! Now if they can fly into the eye of a storm, why the hell would I fret about a typical flight on a sunny morning to South Carolina for a training exercise and barbecue?
This is why we can rest easy flying in the continental US or overnight to Europe, we know the crew has done their job and we trust it has been done with fidelity!
Next time you board a commercial flight, ask the cockpit crew if they are veterans, I guarantee the answer is yes, more times than not.
Airman Nyri Hylton Rhodes