Friday, July 15, 2011

Number 100

This is the 100th Decision Height―a good place to pause and consider where to go with it. I ask you.

The first was December 28th, 2007. It began when my sons urged me to blog so they could keep up with my whereabouts and ramblings. I wanted to know what a blog was and why it had such an ignoble name. (I never found out about the name.) The first readers were friends and relatives, but most of them lost interest and fell out. Yet Decision Height spread out and developed a sizable audience, most of whom I have never met. I suppose that's a natural evolution of this sort of thing. Last week I was riding a regional jet and showed the captain my ID badge. He said, “I read your blog!” Cool.

Google keeps blog statistics for only two years, so the complete history isn't available. But the blog has seen over 50,000 page reviews in that period from the world over, mostly the US, Canada, Australia, and the UK. The most popular posts in the last two years have been:

I would not have picked those as my top three.

The top three drawing the most comments:

I set out to make Decision Height not just another “I Went, I Saw, I Did” chronicle, but rather a tone poem of the airline world, seen from where I sit, in the left seat of a Boeing 757 or 767, (depending on which straw I draw on any given day). I have tried to stick closely to the theme of the blog, which is it's very name: The decisions an airline pilot daily makes that effects so many people. I figured this theme would draw two types of readers, interested enthusiasts and the others out there making the decisions. I think it's done that.

Also, I vowed not to whine and to leave politics, both corporate and national, out of it (a vow I have infringed upon occasionally). And I wanted to focus on the good qualities of the folks I have met and had the pleasure to fly with.

I ask those of you who dare make comments what topics and writing style you like best.

Do you prefer commentary on current affairs of the airline world? Ex: No Kids Allowed 03/13/2010 and About Sully 03/02/2009.

Or do you like people stories better? Ex: Judging Jenny 10/28/2010 and A Blue Moment 08/11/2009.

How about trip stories? Ex: Groundhog Days 01/24/2011.

Do like reading about what has happened to me in the bygone days, such as the recent three part story of how I got hired?

I enjoy writing in a lyrical, style, if the subject supports it. Example: Aiming for the Dawn 07/07/2009. Is that your preference too?

For those of you who don't comment, you can vote in the poll I've put up on the sidebar.

One day soon I'll bow out. Which of you left-seaters out there—or left-seaters in-the-making—are interested in taking over the controls of Decision Height? Shoot me an e-mail.

Finally, I've been considering a book about the airline pilot's world, written in the similar flavor and tone of my book Tail of the Storm, which was a memoir of military flying in the Persian Gulf War. Decision Height has helped me accumulate much material for that. Will I find a publisher for that subject? I don't know, but am inclined to write it anyway.

We'll see.

 Eastbound on NAT X at dawn.
We have plenty of company.

Because I fly.

I laugh more than other men
I look up an see more than they,
I know how the clouds feel,
What it's like to have the blue in my lap,
to look down on birds,
to feel freedom in a thing called the stick.
Who but I can slice between God's billowed legs,
and feel then laugh and crash with His step.
Who else has seen the unclimbed peaks?
The rainbow's secret?
The real reason birds sing?
Because I Fly,
I envy no man on earth.

Grover C. Norwood


Brandon said...

I enjoy your writing, and propose that you continue to write about whatever suits your fancy.

FYI... Blog is a shortened, mashed together version of "web log".

Wayne Conrad said...

Alan, I hate to tell you this, but I like everything you write. You're one of those writers that can make anything interesting. I swear, you could describe vacuuming the carpet and have me following every word, wondering how it will turn out.

I'll vote, but it's a touch choice.

lowflybye said...

Blog is short for weB LOG. In our never-ending quest for slothful superiority the term BLOG was created because web log took 2 extra key strokes.

I vote for a good mix of all options...a blog cocktail. Keep up the good work captain. See you around the patch.


Wandering Justin said...

I'm a new reader ... I've only seen two or three new posts, but I went back and read a bunch of others. Where should you go? Wherever you feel like going. I'd stick to the vow you made, and only bend it when you must. Focus is a good thing, but it's also good to stray from time to time.

Rob said...

Write what you enjoy obviously, but my favourites are the trip stories or stories from the past. As you mentioned you don't write them in the diary entry style but more like a character in a novel and this I enjoy.

It's blogs like yours that inspire me to write my own, then I realise I would never have the same command of language as you!

Dave said...

I agree with Brandon. Keep doing what you're doing! For me the variety of topics and stories makes this blog one of the few blogs I can't wait to read.

kt said...

I like all of your posts! Variety is the spice of life, or something. I have to say, my favorite of all was Ode to the Trash Hauler. I only recently discovered your blog and I've been slowly reading back all the way to the beginning. I love reading pilot blogs, as it gives a little glimpse as to what is going on on the other side of the mic.

Frank Van Haste said...

Captain, you write about whatever you care to, for as long as you want to. I'll read it. I'd rather trust the impulse that the muse sends your way than any pre-determined a theme or style.

When you write the next book, I want to buy a copy. Signed, of course.



Steven said...

I really enjoy your blog and I agree with Frank: Write about whatever comes to you, we'll find it interesting regardless of topic.

JP said...

As a long time reader, I like the variety. Write for yourself...that's what makes the stories so good. We're just along for the ride.

Jlspence said...

I'd have to agree with the others who have said keep the variety. I don't see any reason why you'd want to narrow the focus down. Good job Alan.

Cedarglen said...

Congratulations on 100 blog posts. I’ve been a regular reader for just over a year. I’ve found your posts to interesting, often stimulating and always worth my time. Before considering your question(s) about the blog’s future, I reread the mentioned posts as well as several randomly selected posts from your archive. (I did not recall having read through your archive a year ago, but I recognized most of the articles so I guess I did read the works at some point. So what do I think? I believe that your usual avoidance of company and national politics is a smart move and yes, I can easily forgive the rare excursions into those territories. Still, it is better to avoid them in such a public forum. Speaking as a long-former GA pilot (about 600 when I quit in the late 70s) I enjoy the well-written descriptions of *potential* problems in flight and your reasoned descriptions about how the CRM team and the Executive Captain reasoned their way around (through) them and safely delivered your PAX and airplane at least reasonably close to the assigned target. Those play-by-plays are for more important than simple aviation ‘thrillers,’ because you discuss the processes involved in evaluating the information and assets available to you and your crew. You explain the all important HOW and WHY in reaching what is ultimately still your decision. And you write it extremely well. A also enjoy the detailed descriptions of your usually positive interactions with memorable First Officers. Again, they are interesting, informative and always well written. Lastly, you asked about the occasional ‘off-topic’ posts. Hm. While they are a bit removed from your usual fare, they are not common and I’ve yet to find one that was boring or even close to offensive. Again, all posts have been well worth my reading time. So, my answer to your broad question is probably of little help to you: Please continue writing about whatever events, encounters and Part 121 events are meaningful to you. You write and I will read. If I have any suggestion, it would be to post a bit more often. Doing so would probably increase your readership by a magnitude. The broader exposure is also a great way to increase sales of your books – if you care about that sort of thing. (I’ve read two of them. I learned a lot and I enjoyed both experiences.) If you produce another one, I’ll find it and read it. You also asked about the preferred writing style. As any teacher of writing will tell you, use your own voice. Write about what you know and love and write as if you were telling the story to someone who 1) was not there and 2) understands only some of the situational rules. In my view you’ve always followed those rules, so don’t fuss about a style; just write it as you see it and folks will read your words. Thanks again for a most worthy blog. I check regularly. But I do not see new material often enough. Regards, -Craig.

Cedarglen said...

A quick P.S. I a moment I am going tove in your poll. I hope that the poll is only a part of your evaluation process. As the blogger, you are entitled to write whatever you wish. If the previous 100 posts are a fair representation of what's on your mind, I see no need to shift the focus; every reader has slightly different tastes, but you manage to hold a substantial following. Just like an errant signal from some systems alarm, what does that tell you? You have readers. If comments about some topics are necessary, bet that you will hear them. I like what I read and I just wish that your posts appeared a bit more often. Thanks for a fun ride. -Craig.

Alan Cockrell said...

Your comments are compelling. Thanks for takling the time. And thanks to the other commentators, as well. Honestly I don't quite get the "errant signal" metaphor. I'm too shallow. But I understand your thrust; holding course seems the order of the day. But posting more often, and maintaining quality is a challenge. We'll see.

whick said...

Alan, like the others, I like most all of your blogs...very enjoyable, but I guess I like "trip reports", stories of your first officers and their acheivements, how they perform, ect..And I like the pictures of the sierra's, especially around Copperopolis ca :o).. Keep up the good work, and I see that only 36 or so have voted, but I know you have lots more followers than that..speak up people!.. Whick

Cedarglen said...

If it works for you, Alan, it will work for your readers. Thanks.

Mike Carden said...

As the old adage says, "If it ain't broke, don't fix it." I enjoy every single post, regardless of topic. I am a former ATCer and private pilot who works for a major freight hauler. Every post has some validity and interest for me. After you retire from the airlines, suggest you just keep writing about your GA flying.

Anonymous said...

you write it and i'll read it.
i simply love what you do with words.
continue writing as long as you like.

Mike Murphy said...

You note "Shoot me an email" - I cannot find a link to do so, so leaving this comment. How do I contact you?

Thanks - Mike Murphy

Mike Murphy said...

Alan - was looking for an email to write you. Please contact me at - I noted the "comments must be approved" - please do NOT publish this comment with my edress.

Thanks! - Mike

Cedarglen said...

Alan: Mike C. (above) narrowed it even better with his "If it ain't broke..." comment. Since you already have substantial experience beyond the big birds and write so well, you are a natural for an audience of GA and warbird fans - when the time comes. In the end, it is more about good writing and a topic that YOU wish to address. Hit your Send button and your readers will read your words. Thanks for sharing the wisdom, sir. -Craig

Sean said...

Really enjoy your blog! I was wondering if I could email you? I'm fly with the airlines and was looking at comuting out of HSV where my family is from. Figured you must commute up to the DC area and had some questions. Thanks for the blog..really enjoy all your updates.


Alan Cockrell said...

Response to Sean: Sure, you can e-mail me. Go to my profile and click on e-mail.

Anonymous said...

a bit late, but for what it's worth: you no longer need a publisher as such, these days, it's "easy" to publish in ebook form. i know i'd buy it.

thank you, Captain