Skip to comments.Pilots learn to speak with care, but still be themselves
Posted on 02/11/2004 9:10:26 AM PST by Libertarian444
Pilots learn to speak with care, but still be themselves
By KIRSTEN TAGAMI The Atlanta Journal-Constitution Published on: 02/11/04
When he was hired as a Delta Air Lines pilot 18 years ago, Bob Morus got some basic advice about talking on the intercom: speak slowly and avoid jargon or words that might upset passengers, such as "thunderstorm."
No one told him not to talk about Jesus. They didn't have to.
"That's just common sense," said the 47-year-old Morus.
Passengers on an American Airlines flight from Los Angeles to New York were alarmed last weekend when the pilot asked all passengers who were Christians to raise their hands, then suggested that those who didn't speak to those who did about their faith.
The pilot had just returned from a Christian fishing trip to Costa Rica and wanted to share his excitement, according to the airline, which is looking into the much-publicized incident.
Other pilots have been shaking their heads ever since.
Elgin Wells, a Delta pilot from 1946 to 1977, recalls just one pilot saying anything about religion in all his years of flying.
"One of our pilots had become very, very religious," said Wells, 86, of Buckhead.
"We hit a rough patch of turbulence and he got on the intercom and said: 'Well, folks, we're doing all we can do. It's in the hands of the Lord now,' " Wells said, chuckling.
Nowadays most pilots stick to a succinct script of flight progress reports and weather at the destination, delivered in a reassuringly relaxed tone. Some, however, try to be a bit more engaging or entertaining without offending anyone in their captive audience.
At Southwest Airlines, employees are encouraged to ad lib and crack jokes about everything from the weather to flotation devices. Southwest pilots aren't given a list of prohibited subjects, but "the rule is that you only say things that are appropriate," said spokesman Ed Stewart.
One of AirTran Airways' most popular pilots is Michael D. "Mad Dog" Watson, who plays the blues-rock song "Bad to the Bone" on his harmonica at the beginning of flights.
"He makes passengers want to fly with him," said AirTran spokesman Tad Hutcheson. Regular customers "all know who he is."
In general, though, AirTran aims for something less flamboyant in pilots' public announcements during flights.
"We encourage our pilots to be cheerful, professional and friendly ... but not to give their opinions," said Hutcheson.
He said pilots are encouraged to give weather and flight updates, point out landmarks and give updates on developing news.
"We have some pilots who give the Braves scores ... and you occasionally have a Mets or Yankees fan who is offended," he said. "We still do it."
Many pilots were once in the military and were trained to say very little when they fly, said Ken Adams of Cartersville, who retired from Delta nearly two years ago.
"It's a source of pride if you don't say much during a mission," said Adams, a Navy pilot in Vietnam. "When you get shot at, you want the radio to stay clear so you can warn others."
Since Sept. 11, 2001, and the airline financial slump that followed, some pilots have been a bit more talkative to try to reassure passengers and thank them for their business. But they are also aware that saying much more can quickly put them on thin ice.
Morus, who is based in Los Angeles and doubles as a spokesman for the Delta pilots union, said he thinks very carefully before bringing up any subject besides the weather, landmarks and arrival time.
Recently he noticed a couple of uniformed soldiers boarding his plane. As a former military officer, Morus wanted to recognize the soldiers in some way, but at the same time not show support for the Iraq war, which he opposed.
"So what I said was, 'No matter how you feel about these controversial times, we can all give thanks to the soldiers serving our country,' " Morus said. The passengers applauded.
Delta pilots are given guidelines in their training manuals on what to say and what to avoid, and they also get feedback from other crew members, spokesman John Kennedy said.
"Humor needs to be addressed with great caution," he said.
Kennedy said he isn't aware of any customer complaints regarding pilot announcements and declined to say how Delta would deal with any that arose.
Delta's low-fare unit, Song, tries to generate a more offbeat atmosphere and refers to flight attendants as "the talent." Pilots are also encouraged to show their individuality but not to go overboard, said spokeswoman Stacy Geagan.
"We're fun. We're not funny," she said.
Russell Grantham contributed to this article.
Morus, who is based in Los Angeles and doubles as a spokesman for the Delta pilots union
As a former military officer, Morus wanted to recognize the soldiers in some way, but at the same time not show support for the Iraq war, which he opposed.
Funny how when little Kirsten needed a pilot's opinion for her story, the first person she found in her rolodex was the spokesman for the union
But, with reference to the underlying story of a pilot who asked passengers to talk up Christianity, if I had been a passenger I would have been Very Negative. I am nervous enough about flying ... if the pilot suddenly expressed his strong desire that I promptly "get right with God", I would start to think that the plane was gonna crash!
They need either aural feedback or more training. Far too often I can't hear what the pilot is saying, sometimes he's way too loud.
LOL - I don't know that I'd want get on a plane piloted by someone named "Mad Dog."
I might agree that it was inappropriate under the circumstances, but how can you assume that he's a poor pilot from his statements?
I disagree - the guy made an error in judgment and should suffer the consequences. Yet he may be a fantastic pilot. The two may be connected but not necessarily. I'll say he's a bad pilot if someone presents evidence that he is. Bob Knight is an unstoppable jerk, but his worst enemy agrees that he is a fantastic basketball coach.
With regards to the hijacking, I haven't heard that, but I have no idea why someone would assume the plane had been hijacked.
I echo your sentiments concerning the pilot's judgment. Had I been on that flight, I don't know if I would have grabbed my cell phone, but I sure as heck would have thought, "and what does THAT have to do with anything?" I'm a Christian, as well, but there's a time and place for everything.
Disclaimer: Opinions posted on Free Republic are those of the individual posters and do not necessarily represent the opinion of Free Republic or its management. All materials posted herein are protected by copyright law and the exemption for fair use of copyrighted works.