As a modern airline pilot, I am thankful to be able to communicate within seconds with my loved ones and friends when I am thousands of miles away. It is much different than when I started out, using calling cards, pay phones and hotel land lines and hoping someone would pick up when you called or that the hotel desk would recognize your existence and forward your call or messages. As anyone who travels knows, the dung only hits the fan when you’re gone. Thanks, Murphy.
But, instant communication is also one side of the proverbial sword. Reaction times are quicker and less thought out, and often-times less factually-based when emotions are high. Social mediums can quickly become a firestorm and add a lot of unnecessary negativity in our lives.
I think the world could benefit from a lesson in flight deck etiquette. As airline pilots, we are constrained in just a few square feet of real estate (within striking distance, mind you) for literally upwards of 15 hours per day. Oftentimes, we are working together for the first time and probably have never met or even heard of each other (there are up to 15,000 pilots at some companies. So, when you say, “Oh, you work for X Airline. You must know John Smith.” Maybe, but probably not.) Like all relationships, we initially seek some common bond to grow upon. Where are you from? Where do you live? Where did you go to school or do your flight training? Married? Kids? Etc. We don’t bring up hot button issues like religion or politics because we are on a mission, to take you safely from A to B. Our goal is to work efficiently and with as much open communication as possible. Getting along is not just delightful, it is mostly imperative. Open lines of communication not only make it easier to work together, but they keep you out of trouble to begin with because of the ease of transfer of information. And you know what, it works!
Look for the good in the people you meet, seek the common thread and if you can’t find it (and in 23+ yrs and over 12,000 hrs of time in the flight deck, I have never been let down), then just be polite and carry on with your business.
This is not to say that these topics are banned or that they can’t be discussed. But, just remember, ultimately, we are all going to the same destination and our success depends on our ability to work together.
As we say in the flying world, “Leave your emotions on the ground.” Also remember another similarity to the flight deck. This is all being recorded for someone’s enjoyment.