Soloist Of The Week
Many of us regularly put our lives in the hands of the brave men and women who pilot the world’s airlines. Soloists at heart, they are trained to make life or death decisions in an instant. Each is also part of a tight knit Ensemble of co-pilots and flight attendants.
Walking through security at Denver’s International Airport yesterday, I happened upon one such pilot. My eye was drawn to a worn, leather bag at his feet. He had a new, generic carry-on for his clothes. But he also had this squat, tattered satchel. On closer inspection, I saw that it was plastered with wild stickers.
“I’m a biker,” Captain Z explained of his quirky motorcycle stickers. And what about the pink stickers on the bag?
He smiled and said: “Those are for my daughter.”
He called it his flight bag, designed to carry all the maps, manuals and other flying fundamentals that help keep him and his passengers on course and alive. It struck me that this bag had personality. What's more, it reflected who he was as a Soloist.
I didn’t say it, but I wondered whether Captain Z viewed it as his lucky bag. The one that reminded him who he was as he rocketed up 30,000 feet into the sky, and why he flew and why he wanted to come safely back to earth at the end of the day.
I shook his hand and figured I’d never see him again. They say there are no coincidences. Four hours later, as I disembarked in San Francisco after a remarkably smooth flight, there was Captain Z standing out front, saying goodbye to his passengers.
He remembered me and I thanked him for telling me about his bag and stickers. From now on I’ll be looking for those flight bags, judging the pilot in part by the worn leather and the color and flair of his stickers.
Pilots are natural Soloists, of course, but I wonder what else we might learn from how they approach the craft, responsibility and discipline of flying a jetliner.
— Jonathan Littman
What Soloist rituals do you find inspiring?