Monday, February 17, 2014

Reply to Anonymous:

Almost immediately after I wrote Pigs with Four Stripes [click here to read it] I regretted the title I gave it and moreover reckoned I should have added the fact that I have flown with some hefty pilots who were very good at their profession. I also realized that some of my readers may be, in your words, “ individual who weighs more than "normal" (whatever that is)."

Actually, there is a “normal,” and the FAA—as I trust you are well aware—is very concerned about it these days. (Read about it here.) If they get their way many of us who don’t even appear overweight but have BMIs not to the Fed’s liking will be selling insurance, or something, instead of plowing contrails through the heavens. (I expect a  shot will be fired at me for that.)

 But on to your premise:  “Here's the point I want to make... You cannot look at someone and make a judgment about his or her health, personal habits or aeronautical prowess.” I concede I did make a judgment on the first two accounts and I maintain that it was a correct one. Ask a doctor if a simple look at an excessively obese person can fetch a general judgment about that person’s health. Physician I am not, but I do watch “Doc Martin” on PBS. As to “aeronautical prowess,” if you’ll re-read the post you’ll see that I made no comment on that.

You can understand me better—and maybe then cut me some slack—if you know that I have been wearing uniforms since I was nine years old. Cub Scouts, Boy Scouts, CAP Cadet, ROTC, USAF, USAFR, and finally the airlines. That's 86% of my life! Seeing somebody bring dishonor to a uniform really annoys me.

Here’s my point: Let’s remember that, like it or not, our profession is a quasi-military one. We wear uniforms; we are compelled to follow strict rules; and the responsibilities we shoulder daily would make most people shudder at the thought. Maybe this is the reason that this statement is embedded in the ALPA Code of Ethics: “He [the airline pilot] will realize that he represents the airline to all who meet him and will at all times keep his personal appearance and conduct above reproach.” Based on my descriptions do you really think the two guys I saw that day in the food court were “beyond reproach” in their appearance and conduct? Or do you believe our Code of Ethics just a passé dogma leftover from yesteryear’s stereotypes?

To be sure, obese pilots are nothing new. I have flown—back when I was a right-seater on the DC-10—with some hefty captains. The ‘10 was their kind of airplane. BIG. I once performed a control column check without checking to see if the captain’s belly was in the way. I hooked his shirt and popped a button off. But you never saw him and most of the others of his size walking around in slouchy uniforms, coatless and hatless, with shirt tails spilling over their belt. They had some pride in their profession and they cared about the image they projected. I think there is a bad trend in our ranks away from pride in our appearance and demeanor. We either forget that the traveling public is watching, or else we don’t care.

As to your statement: “Even if you do know why someone is thin or fat, what business is it of yours? None.”  You’re right. That’s why I didn’t go up to that guy and tell him he ought to lose weight. I kept it to myself. Of course I blogged about it, but I believe that is still a Constitutional right. Anyway the FAA will soon be making it their business.

And lastly, this statement: “What happens when you find out that the fat one is a loving father of three and the thin one was a former Air Force Reserve pilot who is now sitting in prison for collecting and disseminating child pornography?”  I’d say that first guy needs to get his weight under control so those kids will continue to have a father. As to that thin guy who got busted for child porn, I know him. We called him the “Surfer Boy Captain” at ORD because he was always over-tanned and wore his blond hair down to his shoulders. A creepy type—he was—and kept to himself. I don’t know if he was in the USAFR though. Hope not. The Marines would have a field day on that revelation.

So, Anonymous, you may or may not be overweight. But I don’t believe you would have taken the time to post such a thorough and well thought-out comment if you were in the category of the two guys I wrote about. I believe you wear your uniform proudly and fly a good, safe airplane. I would be honored to fly a trip with you, and you would be welcomed to do much more than swing gear. 

You may not know this but I once went through carrier qualifications, USAF style. The "deck" was lubricated with, what else, beer. Unfortunately the wire tenders were not impressed with my first approach and lifted it as I slid by. 

(Not me in the photo.)


Douglas R. said...

I suspect there were three different reactions to your post, based on the different types of people. Reaction A was complete support, someone who knew exactly what you were taking about and as equally passionate about wearing the uniform. Reaction B was that of 'anonymous', angry that you would judge in that manner, angry that you would be so bold as to not only think it but to write it and angry enough to fire back with a reply. Reaction C was that of indifference or that of not knowing enough of the context of the situation to want to risk commenting.

People with reaction C are likely pilots (airline or otherwise) or have worn a uniform of some kind, perhaps even in school, where there are some repercussions for improper attire. They may, one day, fully understand your position but it seems likely that at best they will come to appreciate it.

Those people who fall under the reaction B camp have never worn a uniform, or if they did, they rebelled against it and saw it as something hindering their personal freedoms. Those people will never understand your comments and will only ever hold disdain for having the crass to even mention it.

Those who reacted with support, what I have coined Reaction A, are those who have worn the uniform. No, not any uniform, the uniform. The uniform that has forever been implied when you say 'I wear the uniform': that of a soldier. If you have never been in the military then you will never know what it means to wear 'the uniform' for only in the military can you end up on defaulters, on pack drill or in detention barracks for an improper turn out.

I don't imagine that the Air Force would be as heavy handed as the Army was but the fact remains that no one teaches self respect and the importance of wearing a uniform properly and, well, in a 'uniform' manner as the military does. And unless you've served you just don't have the same reference for while you might be sent home, docked pay or even suspended for not looking at your best, you won't have some Sergeant yelling at you and threatening to have you charged.

And that training, unless you washed out of Basic Training (Boot Camp in the US) sticks with you forever more.

All that said, I feel sorry for those who reacted in defence of the slob pilots and for the slobs themselves. Because they will likely never know the value of self respect, at least not at the level that you learn about when you wear the uniform.

Anonymous said...

Well said, again, Captain. It did reply during the first round, focusing only on flying ability on a crunch. But you point about the uniform is well taken; I wore our country's colors for some years and most certainly took extreme care be be sure that I wore the gear properly. That bit of personal honor has remained through many years without the uniform. We'll never know whether those Pigs in Uniform have ever served, but I'd like to believe that they did not. I too have seen those disgusting sights. While the FAA may try to intervene here, I don't think they will accomplish much. Why? Skinny and 'normal BMI' folks, whatever that really is, have virtually the same risk for cardiovascular events as do the obese pigs cited earlier. The Pigs are horrible PR for their employers, I agree. That said, at the end of the day and in an urgent situation, I still expect excellent flying skills, not a trim waste.
To be clear, sir, IMO there was nothing wrong with your original post. It may have been a little incomplete and it certainly reflects your personal views - and there is Nothing Wrong with that! Readers will please remember just whose blog this is! After rading one of your books a year or so ago, I guess I understand your outlook slightly better than some, but not perfectly. Your values are based upon your own learning and experience and you need not explain them to anyone. You (or others) may wish to think of yourself as one kind of professional machine (always the on-duty professional pilot) but your writing and life experience still includes a measure of human consideration. I don't know why you've invested so much in defending your view of The Pigs, but if that is your thing - the blog space remains yours. I will welcome a return to posts about flying, but you write well enough to make almost anything readable and again, it is Your Space. -C.

Alan Cockrell said...

Via e-mail from Andy:
Tried to place comment on the blog, found it confusing.

Anyway: While our organization does not require a "uniform," divers are expected to be neat in appearance and professional in demeanor. One shirt with our district logo is offered by the district each year. Most will get them and frequently wear them.

As to the "sleep apnea" the FMCSA now requires a neck measurement for applicants and driver re-certifications who appear obese, and will be asked to get an assessment before granting a CDL license or a re-cert of their physical.
We have two individuals who are currently being treated and when renewing their "physical" must provide a statement from their physician stating that they are being treated and are able to drive.

delperras1 said...

Hey Alan,
The carrier landing site in your picture looks alot like the the one I qualified on an NKP RTAFB back in 76 just before we pulled out of Thailand.
Del Perras

delperras1 said...

Hey Alan
The carrier landing site in your photo looks alot like the one I qualified on at NKP RTAFB back in 76 or so just before we pulled out of

Del Perras