“Hi guys, I’m…”
He really didn’t need to say his name.
When I turned around from my pilot seat, I instantly recognized him as one of the greatest sports figures of my lifetime.
Having flown countless famous folks over the years, rarely do I find myself starstruck. That morning, I got a little taste of the feeling.
He was standing about a foot behind me shaking the captain’s hand.
He immediately turned and shook mine.
“Guys, is it going to be bumpy today?” he asked. “I’m a bit of a nervous flyer.”
After the captain answered his question, our visitor looked at me for my response. He must have liked my answer better… his follow-up inquiries were directed at me.
The captain didn’t seem to mind.
After detecting multiple concerns about the safety of our upcoming flight, I decided to play the family card. I’ve used it before with nervous flyers. It always achieves the desired effect.
“I don’t know if this will make you feel better… But, I have a wife and young kids and they’re counting on me to come home to them after this trip.”
“THAT’S what I’m talking about… Oh, I feel so much better.” As he blurted out his approval, he reached out and gave me a high five.
Please don’t miss the significance: One of the greatest sports figures of all time gave me a high five. Better yet, he initiated it… all because I have a family.
In his eyes, I transformed from pilot to family man. Or, a real person who recognizes the huge consequences for not operating safely.
That’s not just me… that’s ALL airline pilots.
Sometimes, the public forgets that pilots are real people.
There are no daredevils flying transport category aircraft. We are just as concerned about our safety as yours.
Once most people discover we are men and women with responsibilities, they feel better about us flying the airplane. Not everyone has children… however, most have a mother, father, sister, brother, niece, nephew, cousin, dog, cat or ninety nine other reasons to stay alive.
Fearful flyer courses have become popular in recent years. One suggested technique to help flyers get over their fears is to visit the flight deck before departure. By meeting the pilots, the passenger can put real faces to the people responsible for their safety.
The former player and coach was obviously a graduate of one of those courses.
About six hours later, I stood in the front galley with him while we waited for the aircraft door to open. He seemed much more relaxed than during our pre-departure meeting.
I asked how it was possible to be a nervous flyer after a lifetime of constant traveling. He smiled and said, “It’s just one of those things. Thanks for helping me with it.”
He shook my hand and walked off the aircraft.
I was more than grateful for the opportunity to help.
I appreciate each and every one of the few hundred of you who read this on a regular basis.
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