Things I Should Teach My Son IV

So you want to be a pilot. That’s great. It is a superb profession. I’ll give you an anecdote. I start with the worst thing that happened to me in aviation: getting laid off from my airline job in 2003.

To pay the bills I sold health insurance. I got my license, started making cold calls, and drove all over California’s Central Valley to pitch health policies to my clients. Early in this game, I had a meeting in Kingsburg with a family. Before leaving our house, I called to verify our 4 p.m. appointment. Still on. They lived in a modest single family, single story home near the 99. I rang the doorbell. No answer. I rang that doorbell five times more. No answer. I called their number. Total disavowal of any meeting! This family was home, and lying to me about having agreed to a meeting. I could hear them! So I drove home.

I complained about this to my manager. I was very bitter about it. He just laughed. “Happens all the time,” he said. And it happened a few times more before I changed jobs.

The point: I had enjoyed living in a moral hot-house my whole career, namely, aviation. In the Navy, integrity was taught as the essential ingredient in becoming an officer and pilot. This was pounded into our skulls. Dishonesty would inevitably get your wingman, squadronmate and shipmate killed. Open, frank and honest discussion about everything on the job was the “go juice” that made aviation possible. No integrity, no flying.

I got used to this and forgot to appreciate it. It’s still true in the airline business. I find that at least in terms of the job, dishonest people are vanishingly rare.

Become a pilot. The greatest good is the awesome people you’ll meet.

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