THE PROFESSIONALS by Corwin Dodge, PAA Captain, 1975.
You see them at airport terminals around the world. You see them in the
morning early, sometimes at night. They come neatly uniformed and hatted,
sleeves striped; they show up looking fresh, well-slept, crisp.
There is a brisk, young-old look of efficiency about them. Except near dawn.
Then there may be a faraway expression in their eyes. They may carry an air of
aggressiveness about them, for it is hard to be in New York and Paris, Rome
and Rangoon, Seattle and San Antonio, only hours apart.
They arrive fresh from home, from hotels, carrying suitcases, bags, battered
briefcases, always briefcases, black or brown, pregnant-looking, bulging,
bulging with a wealth of technical information, data, filled with regulations,
rules, overflowing. Overwhelming in abundance, mass; every last period,
every cipher, sacrosanct. All of it.
They know the new, harsh sheen of Chicago's O'Hare and immediately think of
Midway. They know the cluttered approaches to Newark; they know the tricky
shuttle that is Rio; they know, but do not relish, threading the needle into Hong
Kong. They respect foggy San Francisco. They know the up-and-down walk to
the gates at Dallas, the Texas sparseness of Abilene, the Berlin Corridor, New
Orleans' sparking terminal, the milling crowds at Washington. They know
Butte, Boston, and Beirut. They appreciate Miami's perfect weather, recognize
the danger of an ice-slick runway at JFK.
They know the crowded vastness of our airways. They pray the situation will
be rectified, and soon. They note that planning, and more planning, produced
London's airport. They have high hopes for Houston's Jet era, now building.
They understand about short runways, antiquated fire equipment, inadequate
approach lighting, but there is one thing, they will never comprehend: poor
airport maintenance. Nor complacency.
They remember the work-horse efficiency of the DC-3's, the reliability of the
4's 'and 6's, the trouble with the 7's. They discuss an old gal named Connie,
pro and con, depending. They recognize the high shrill whine of a Viscount,
the rumbling thrust of an 8 or 707. And a Convair. They know how the Electras
were lost, but they still fly them with confidence.
The speak a language unknown to Webster. They discuss ALPA, EPR's, fans,
mach and bogie swivels. And, strangely, such things as bugs, thumpers,
crickets, and CATs, but they are inclined to change the subject when the
They also discuss stewardii. And "The Probable Cause." They have tasted the
characteristic loneliness of the sky, and occasionally the adrenaline of danger.
They respect the unseen thing called turbulence; they know what it means to
fight for self-control, to discipline one's senses. They buy insurance-life
insurance-but make no concession to the possibility of complete disaster, for
they have uncommon faith in themselves and what they are doing.
They concede that the glamour is gone from flying; they deny that a man is
through at sixty. They know that tomorrow, or the following night, something
will come along that they have never met before; they know that flying, like
making love, requires perseverance they know that they must practice, lest
They realize why some wit once quipped: "Flying is year after year of
monotony punctuated by seconds of stark terror." They laugh, but are not
As a group, they defy mortality tables, yet approach semi-annual physical
examinations with trepidation.
They are individualistic, yet bonded together. They are family men, yet rated
poor marriage bets. They are reputedly overpaid, yet entrusted with
equipment worth millions. And lives, countless lives.
At times they are reverent. They have watched the Pacific sky turn purple at
dusk; they know the twinkling, jeweled beauty of Los Angeles at night; they
have seen snow crawling up the Rockies. They remember the vast, unending
mat of green Amazon jungle, the twisting silver road that is the father of
Waters, an ice cream cone called Fujiyama. And the hump of Africa. They have
sat watching a satellite streak across a starry sky, seen the clear, deep blue of
the stratosphere, felt the incalculable force of the heavens. They have
marveled at sunstreaked evenings, dappled earth, velvet night; spun silver
clouds, sculptured cumulus. God's weather. They have viewed the northern
lights, the Southern Cross, a wilderness of sky; a pilot's halo, a bomber's
moon, horizontal rain. Contrails.
They have learned to accept the physical challenge in every day, realized a
complete removal from earthy attachments, and reveled in a sense of high
Only a pilot experiences similar moments of grandeur !!!!!!!