Wednesday, March 30, 2016

How Far Along Are You?

My company recently bought a new airplane for our fleet. I may have blogged already about the previous owner and his son watching it go like it was a child going off to college. We told them we weren't sure exactly when we would arrive, so to leave it out on the ramp for us to collect, after the payment cleared. But they preferred to make the trip from town out to the airport on our schedule, to open their hangar and tow it out for the last time. The ops manager and I flew it to its new home, and then it sat in our hangar for a while, which maintenance discovered and rectified decades of idiosyncratic repairs. The wiring for the wing strobes was literally wrapped around the aileron cables, because there's nothing better than abrading through electrical wiring right by your fuel tank, while restricting the movement of your flight controls. There were a coupled of days I was alerted for an impending test flight, and then waved off, because the final run up had turned up a new leak or suspicious behaviour. The right side brakes weren't working. Even though I fly it single pilot from the left, and right brakes are optional on the type, a problem with the brakes is a problem with the braking system, and cannot be allowed to stand.

Finally, I was to instructed to fly it to another airport for a specialty refit. The avionics haven't been addressed yet, so I waited for the weather to improve to VFR and then grabbed the minimum plot equipment and flew it up, to take an airline flight back. The first officer stood at the foot of the airstairs as I boarded the commuter airliner, and he spotted the VFR charts sticking out of the pocket of my headset bag.

"You're an aviator," he observed. Not one to interfere with the linguistic process that is eliminating gendered terms for professions, I answered in the affirmative. (I also don't mind, guys, if you want to call yourselves aviatrices. It is a cooler word). "How far along are you?" asked the first officer.

I was halfway up the stairs by then, almost entering the cabin. What's the answer to that? Ten different jobs, an ATPL, eight thousand hours ... I ended up saying something condescending, telling him I likely had five times his hours. It could actually have been ten or twenty times: they're hiring FOs pretty green these days. I didn't mean to be condescending. I don't think he intended his comment that way either. I took it cheerfully, like being IDed at the liquor store. I was planning to apologize on the way out of the aircraft at the end of the flight, but it was windy and noisy and he was busy, so I just said goodbye with the other passengers. If you're reading, dude, this is your apology. If he's not, that's okay. I remember some pretty rude pilot passengers who thought they were better than me, from when I was flying airline, but now they're all just funny stories, so I don't mind being one of his.

To him, professional aviation is a progression from VFR to IFR and from small airports to big airports, so someone with a headset and VFR charts boarding a plane at a little airport was perceived to be near the beginning of the chain. I should have answered "oh maybe three quarters of the way there" based on the number of hours I estimate I'll accumulate before I retire. On the other hand, someone has to teach him that it's a bad idea to ask a woman "how far along are you?"


Sarah said...

> someone has to teach him that it's a bad idea to ask a woman "how far along are you?"

Ha! Absolutely.

Though I totally understand both why you were a tad short with the 1st response, and your regret afterwards. Not churlish at all, just short.

Unknown said...

I was at an exhibit in click hereportland: and was amazed by all that was there. I took a small flight with my fiance and the pilot asked about the baby"there was no bun in the oven" He was so charming and quick witted that he turned it around and spared us all an uncomfortable flight. I bumped into him at the exhibit and he was with FlyHaa. After some discussion I decided to take airplane flying lessons there. Life is too crazy!

Unknown said...

This is an exerpt I read about Dick Nelson. I think you will like it here.
‎Dick Nelson‎ to The awesome F-8 Crusader
30 April at 21:31 ·
I had to take a psych test to fly F-8s, and those results were finally released through my Freedom of Information Act request:
"Summary of test results for Nelson, Richard J.L., LTJG USN:
1. Inclined to take excessive risks, even where none exist.
2. Appears to be chronically narcissistic, and has high opinion of himself---for no apparent reason. One instructor's comment: "Thinks he is God's gift to Naval Aviation."
3. Frequently displays lack of respect and deference to authority figures.
4. Believes that any landing approach he can walk away from is a good one.
5. Has a false and unsupported feeling of superiority, especially after consumption of alcohol.
6. Apparently has political ambitions, and states that he aspires to be the Mayor of Olongapo.
7. Not well suited for any other career path, after F-8 squadron assignment; does not get along well with superiors, Black Shoes, Submariners, and shows only grudging respect for U.S. Marines---especially those who are Naval Aviators.
8. Overly aggressive---states he wants to have a full ordnance load, even while flying in CONUS on training missions. He once zoomed to 50,000 ft. and fired a Sidewinder at the sun, to see if he could hit it.
9. Resists complying with established Naval protocols and etiquette---once left a calling card in the tray at an admiral's home that said: 'Hot Dog Nelson----have parachute, will travel.'
10. After receiving a poor Fitness Report, instead of promising to correct his deficiencies, pointed out to his CO several misspelled words in the report.
11. Fails to use proper decorum in wardroom or officers' mess. Instead of politely asking the senior officer at a table if he could be seated there, he grabbed a spoon and simulated a ship's bell on the Commander's water glass, saying, "Fighter pilot---arriving!"
12. When invited to join a senior officer's family for breakfast, he replied, "I've already had a Fighter Pilot's Breakfast---a puke, two aspirin, and a cigarette. Thanks anyway."
13. When the interviewer inquired what he usually wore to bed, he replied, "Nothing but my g-suit and flight boots. You never know when you have to launch."
14. When asked what approach speed should be used in the F-8E, he replied, "Whatever is necessary."
15. According to his statements, he thinks night refueling is asking the O'Club bartender for another round.
BOARD CONCLUSION: This man is expendable, but highly qualified for a fleet F-8 squadron."

Arunaksha Nandy

Unknown said...

Sorry I forgot to make my link clickable as per your instructions.
click here

Frank Ch. Eigler said...

"it's a bad idea to ask a woman "how far along are you?"

(Just curious why - or what other wording you might suggest to express such curiosity, and whether this is specific to a woman?)

Aviatrix said...

Frank, "how far along are you?" is another way of asking "when are you due?" and you never want to ask a women about the status of her pregnancy when she isn't pregnant.

Frank Ch. Eigler said...

"how far along are you?" is another way of asking "when are you due?"

That is -one- possible use of the phrase. Another one is "how far along are you with contextual activity X", such as X = "career in aviation".

Aviatrix said...

That's right, Frank. He intended the comment to be about my aviation endeavours. I answered it that way at the time, regretting that the result was not more gracious, as he hadn't intended to be condescending. Then I made a joke on the blog about the other common way that men make assumptions about women, using that same question. Sarah laughed.

Frank Ch. Eigler said...

So it was clear in context exactly what he meant, but you still think men should police their language further, just because their conversation partner is a woman?

Aviatrix said...

No, Frank. It was supposed to be funny. I didn't notice until writing the blog entry that the phrase was exactly the same as the one often used to pregnant women. I thought that was funny. You shouldn't ask a woman how far along she is just because her tummy is bulgy. Women tend to be insulted by that. That's a joke so old it was probably on the Flintstones. You're welcome to ask student pilots of any gender the extent of their progress towards a licence.

This kind of double entendre is a pretty common kind of joke that I make. I wasn't going for a deeper message here, but if you want to me to attach one, let's say:

Monitor yourself to ensure that you're not assuming that a white man is in charge or correct, and that a woman or a person of colour is wrong or is junior, because it's a common assumption, based on an older society where only white men were allowed to be in charge, but when it's frequently repeated it can become irritating and the recipients begin to wonder if it's an honest mistake or whether the perpetrator is deliberately implying that the person who is not a white man is not qualified. It is actually incredibly difficult to treat everyone exactly the same, because everyone is different. I try to assume up: talking to everyone with a wrench with the respect I'd give the director of maintenance, and let them tell me they're an apprentice, but I think that approach makes some people feel badly: that I expected them to have achieved more than they have. What's your best strategy for speaking to people whom you may have to overcome prejudices about?

Frank Ch. Eigler said...

"What's your best strategy for speaking to people whom you may have to overcome prejudices about?"

I don't spent mental energy on worrying about unconscious biases, so this question is kind of moot. (Conscious biases, I enjoy testing, until they become boring well-founded stereotypes.)

Aviatrix said...

The same day I wrote that, I happened to see this account of a black woman being assumed not to be a doctor, even as she was attempting to treat a patient.

Aviatrix said...

He thinks he's virtuous for spending no effort wondering who his society has trained him to subconsciously discount, doesn't he?