Tuesday, May 27, 2008

No, I Don't Have a Parachute

I have a blog to recommend to you today. It's called Where the Hell Is Phil and is the hilarious and illuminating adventures of a young man working as flight attendant for a national US airline. He's exploring his country, discovering the depth of human stupidity and making me laugh like a crazy woman.

Phil is from Baton Rouge, Louisiana, and while his history includes evidence that he has both worked as an actor and received military training, he hadn't travelled much beyond Baton Rouge before this job. Read the blog from the beginning, to witness him making the happy discovery that Wal-Mart is a chain, and gradually realizing that everywhere in America has ducks. I wonder how often my own naïvité has been this amusing.

He has a talent for noticing the ridiculous, not that the ridiculous doesn't regularly present itself to flight attendants, nor that he doesn't participate. Some samples ...

On his way to Utah: "Sat next to a teenage girl with a live turtle, and she kept holding it up to the window so it could see."

On the first aid segment of his FA training: "I had done first aid before in the Army, and it's very brief there. Things along the lines of, 'if severed limb is present, transport with but out of sight of victim'."

"I think it's really cool to work on a thing that has a 'galley,' because it makes it sound like your office is a pirate ship. Having said that, the galley is a nightmare. Imagine your kitchen. Now imagine it crammed inside the back seat of a Chevy Nova."

On his duty of closing the aircraft and cockpit doors: "I don't think there's another way to mess up closing a door, but if there is, I feel confident I'll find it."

"I was already having what I call a Bad Physics Day."

"And so now it's official: four out of four pilots recommend Asahi as a painful method of suicide."

A passenger once asked him a question that assumed the flight crew had parachutes. I wish to echo Phil's statement that we don't have parachutes. I have never had a job where I wore a parachute. The only commercial pilots that wear parachutes are those who drop parajumpers, and those who perform aerobatics routines.

It's not really feasible for me to jump out of my airplane during flight. Most airplanes are not suitable for jumping out of. There have been very few air accidents ever where parachutes would have done much to improve survivability. But the passenger belief that pilots all have them gave me a revelation.

Suddenly there is sense in the popular accounts of heroic pilots fighting with the controls to land the airplane in a field instead of hitting an elementary school. The public isn't praising the pilot for choosing between slamming into a brick building or skidding across a soccer field. They're praising him for piloting the airplane all the way to the ground when he could have just leapt out, parachuting to safety while the airplane hit the elementary school.

My very favourite entry is this one on pilot's kids. If you've ever enlisted friends or family to help you study for a new type, you must read this. Oh and when Phil moved to Utah he decided to go snowboarding. Just bought a snowboard and headed for the hills. No lessons, just strapped on the board and tried hard not kill himself. This is the pioneering spirit that brought us aviation in the first place. I bet Phil would accept a Flugtag invitation.

10 comments:

zb said...

I am just through the first three months of his blog and I thank you for your recommendation. Might become a long night. Especially with the option of filling out my income tax forms instead. All you may ever have heard about German bureaucrazy is true and comes together in the tax forms. Yes, I will read the whole blog.

Ed said...

I think there have been cases where fighter pilots have stayed with the aircraft to steer it somewhere with no people when they could have ejected. Understandably they were regarded, posthumously, in a somewhat positive light.

After that, of course, dumb reporters have aped the commentary every time an aircraft crashes somewhere near a building irrespective of whether the pilot had the option to eject or had any ability to control the impact point and whether or not they had an ulterior motive for avoiding the building.

majroj said...

I prefer to think they go in trying option A, B, C, D.....

But now you little guys can put a parachute on your whole aircraft! Now, THERE'S a drogue gun I wouldn't want to tangle with as a rescueman!

GPS_Direct said...

Funny that you mention the pilots of jump planes getting 'chutes...

The -only- time I've ever worn a parachute was to video a jump from inside the plane. (Not being crazy enough to want to log more takeoffs than landings myself.)

But, being a "well used" jump plane, it was coincidentally the only time I've had a thought or two about a plane's airworthiness...

So, if they're thinking like me, maybe there's a reason why the jump pilots wear 'chutes...

viennatech said...

Simply amazing, Phil has great style and his humour rocks. The only downside is I just spent most of my workday reading his blog! ha!

Pyry said...

Thanks for the link! Fun reading this :)

I'm past the first hundred entries mark now. I'd already forgot how much fun catching up a new blog is.

zb said...

Just one more note: Thanks not only for the recommendation of Phil's blog, thanks also for mentioning xkcd a while back. I do enjoy the mix of adventures, romance, airplanes and nerdism that is to be found there. This blog is great, but its links and recommendations are also worth a look!

chris said...

@gps_direct: The truth is that most jump planes are very "well used", indeed. When faced with the inevitable question "Why would you jump out of a perfectly good airplane?", the standard skydiver response is "You obviously haven't seen the airplane." :-)

Phil said...

YEAH I would go Flugtag!

Uh, what is it?

Aviatrix said...

Flugtag. Kind of the aviation equivalent of snowboarding without instruction. Except that you design and build your own snowboard. Out of gum wrappers.