I've been inviting a lot of kids up to the cockpit lately. I get a kick out of watching their eyes grow big as dinner plates when they see it. The parents are astounded when I invite them to take pictures of their kids sitting in the cockpit seats. They must think our jets are secret. Most people think the cockpit is off limits, but such is not the case as long as the engines are not running and you ask permission or get invited.
On one long ground delay I had lately I shut down the engines, opened the door and invited visitors up. No one came for a while and my co-pilot, Jennifer, and I kicked back and read newspapers while listening for the tower to tell us to "start 'em up." Then six year old Stephanie waltzed into our lair.
She made our tight cockpit feel like a ballroom as she twirled and swung on her tiptoes like a ballerina, seemingly practicing her dance lessons, while she chatted with us about subjects far unrelated to planes. Categorically uninterested in the trappings of the cockpit, Stephanie seemed intrigued with us, particularly Jennifer.
She lingered for half an hour chatting, twirling and singing, eventually climbing onto Jennifer’s lap. Earlier Jennifer had told me she and her husband had no children and were leaning toward keeping it that way. But I saw a yearning surface when Jennifer started caressing Stephanie’s blond hair and straightening her ribbon. I told her Stephanie looked good on her and she should get one of those. She flashed an agreeable smile.
Then we heard a roar as a big jet in front of us revved its engines and rolled down the runway. Stephanie stretched high in Jennifer’s lap to see the plane. I was reading the newspaper when I heard her yell, “Look! Look! A green one!” Then I realized she was trying to tap my shoulder to get my attention. I looked at her. “Driver, driver,” she yelled. “Look at the green one!”
Jennifer’s hand went to her face to hide the snicker. She looked at Stephanie. “He’s the captain, Stephanie. The captain.”
Stephanie looked at me and I saw her lips form the word captain but no sound came out. Then the tower gave us our five minute warning and we sent Stephanie back to her seat, but she insisted on administering big hugs to both of us before scurrying away.
After the engine start Jennifer picked up the checklist card and said, “Are you ready for the checklist…Driver?” The driver word came out low toned with a biting wit. I antticipated it, but I figured Stephanie’s charm had momentarily clouded Jennifer's judgment so I decided I would allow this shameful act of insolence pass.
I've got a lot of other kid stories, but later.
I've also got a new link on the right side menu, called "Just Fancy Us." It's a story of mine that was just published in the Military History Journal in