Friday, October 30, 2009

Airline Pilots: rare heroes, few great, most good and deligent, and some well . . . just plain human

For young kids growing up, few professions exude as much glamour as that of Pilots. Earlier this year, this view was reinforced by the heroics of Airline Pilot 'Sully' Sullenberger, who successfully carried out the emergency ditching of US Airways Flight 1549 in the Hudson River, offshore from Manhattan, New York City, saving the lives of all 155 people on the aircraft. Media, and most of us just went ga ga heroics. And kids of this generation had yet another role model.

Bloggers and writers continue to eulogize Sullenberger and the story. (Sweating the Small Stuff: Lessons from “Sully” Sullenberger. American Mustache Institute Honors David Axelrod, Chesley "Sully" Sullenberger)

Fast forward to end of October and comes news of Pilots of a commercial aircraft that let their jet go “wayward,” prompting an intense media scrutiny, leading to FAA convening an emergency session to revoke their license. The airline has indicated that they will be fired. There way too many intricacies to the story including role of laptops in aircraft and role of technology in aviation itself (e.g, can we really trust pilots who totally trust auto-pilots?, Pilots missed Twin Cities by 150 miles - but how?) and so on.

As a frequent (business) traveler, I have learnt to trust the system, and the men and women behind the system - from ground staff to the air-crew who do a tremendous job of ensuring we travel safe. This said, a few incidents do stand etched in one’s memory.

The bottomline: Pilots and crew are just like us: rare heroes, few great, most good and deligent, and some well . . . just plain human