If you are a fan of the movie Office Space, you may remember how Peter took down the wall of his cubicle in order to get a view. After receiving his managerial assignment, it was a self-empowering move. It underscored the value of his upgrade in status at Initech.
I thought of that scene after climbing out over Manhattan one night. My F/O said, “We have the best office view, bar none!” I couldn’t disagree. It was a clear night, and despite the bright lights of Times Square below, the stars were quite visible above. It gave me pause to consider that, as pilots, we don’t have the typical “office” that many professionals enjoy. Below us were countless skyscrapers and office buildings where people from across the commercial spectrum had claim to “corner offices”, or “offices with a view.” Many of them had direct reports that were not so lucky — while they had natural light and a view, others were stuck in cubicles.
But one thing that Peter Gibbons in Office Space didn’t want was all the responsibility that went with his new status. He didn’t want to be bogged down with supervising others doing task work. Despite the charisma the consultants saw in Peter, it didn’t chalk up to true leadership skill. He didn’t want the work — he just wanted the view.
Coming down the jetbridge, the gate agent was clearly under stress. The flight was already delayed, and now if it didn’t get off the gate soon, it could cause the next inbound flight and turnaround to get behind as well. She marched right onto the airplane and up to the flight deck. “Captain, any update? We need this gate very soon for an inbound. Can we at least board and get you off the gate?”
The first officer rolled his eyes at the request. They had been waiting for crucial information from maintenance control on how to proceed after receiving an odd combination of system status messages. It bothered him that she kept bugging them and pushing them to go. “You know, we are still waiting for maintenance, like we told you before?” the F/O snapped.
The captain raised her hand slightly to keep her F/O from exasperating the gate agent further. What she would say and do next would display the level of leadership she had within her and affect the flight, her crew, and people she didn’t even know.
There I was, cruising along above the plains of the upper midwest at FL360. The bright, cloudless skies illuminated the fields below as the sun reflected randomly from tiny points in the towns dotting the landscape. My first officer turned to me and said, “How do you build rapport with people you hardly know? Leading perfect strangers seems impossible.”
It was an odd way to break the silence, but he had a great question, and a statement that needed course correction. We launched into a great conversation that eventually gave rise to the basics of the leadership model I write about in my book, Pilots In Command: Your Best Trip, Every Trip. And, it all started with what it means to “build rapport”.
Image from Lufthansa Flight Training
21 August 2017 Weekly Debrief
- A Word on Vigilance
- Eclipse Mania! Will You Be Flying?
- The “A” in IMSAFE
- Tight Quarters at JFK Causing Problems Again (Always)
Every trip I fly, there is always the question of what is going to happen (or not happen) socially during the layover. Sometimes, it’s not even an issue — either the entire crew is dead tired, or the weather is too disgusting, or the layover is simply too short to have some personal time and social time all included.
But for times when the opportunity is right, it can seem like a no-brainer. And the inevitable question always comes up at some point prior to each crewmember heading off to their respective hotel rooms:
It is inevitable, especially given our busy skies and the prevalence of inclement weather to slow things down at busy airports, that airline pilots will have to deal with delays that are imposed by air traffic control.
Staying ahead of these delays is a crucial skill for pilots. By keeping yourself, your customers, and the co-workers working your flight informed with the most reliable and updated information regarding delays, your flight will operate more smoothly and possibly not suffer as much of a delay in the long run.
Young Starfleet Cadet James T. Kirk nonchalantly gives orders during a Kobayashi Maru exercise, as depicted in Star Trek (2009)
Recently, a Star Trek movie marathon was on. I was excited to be reintroduced to the storylines of these classics — some almost thirty years old now! As I watched Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, I found myself drawn in by something called Kobayashi Maru, which any Trekkie will tell you was the infamous test that Capt. James T. Kirk notoriously passed. Actually, it was characterized in the series that he didn’t just pass the test, but that he beat it.
It occurred to me that the Kobayashi Maru scenario is actually the ultimate test of TEM — Threat and Error Management. And while some may argue that the evaluation has much more to do with command leadership (and I wouldn’t disagree), the actions of any leader in a “no-win” scenario are judged by how the threat of a no-win is managed, and if errors occur, how the leader traps and mitigates them.
Current events, driven by social media frenzy hype, seem to be making more headlines as of late when it comes to airline passengers in unfortunate circumstances. Myself and many colleagues have been peppered with requests for comment and reaction to many of the scenes we have witnessed of passengers being declined service, being unseated/deplaned, or just plain old being distressed because of rolling delays, cancellations, or other mishaps that disrupt travel.
A passenger is removed from a Delta flight by airport police in 2016.
Flight crews, pilots and flight attendants alike, are on the very front lines of these events. Despite the fact that we get caught up in them operationally, we oftentimes have little control over the development and outcome of many passenger situations that have to do with what are commonly (and sometimes mistakenly) being referred to as “Passenger Rights”. Hopefully, I can shed some light on these “rights” and share some advice on how to work with potentially difficult passenger situations.
On January 7th, 2017, there was an amazing incident that occurred over the Arabian Sea. An Emirates A380 “Super” passed 1000 feet overhead of a Challenger 604. A short time later (1-2 minutes) the aircraft encountered wake turbulence sending the aircraft in uncontrolled roll turning the aircraft around at least 3 times (possibly even 5 times), both engines flamed out, the Ram Air Turbine could not deploy possibly as result of G-forces and structural stress, the aircraft lost about 10,000 feet until the crew was able to recover the aircraft exercising raw muscle force, restart the engines and divert to Muscat.
Lufthansa A380 westbound over Newfoundland after passing within 1 mile and 1000 feet of the author’s flight path.
Back in 2014, my book Pilots In Command: Your Best Trip, Every Trip hit the bookshelves. Since then, Aviation Supplies and Academics (ASA) has sold out of most of the first printing! When ASA contacted me last spring to let me know that a second printing was in the works, they asked if I had any changes or additions I wanted to make. Naturally, I did!