I haven't posted a blog on here yet. I actually have another blog over on wordpress where I write about this stuff. I'd like to link to it eventually but not until I get a chance to make it look a bit better. Still, I wrote this post in response to a blog I found here, so I thought I'd post it on this site too. Feel free to comment, agree, disagree or ignore as you see fit :)

I’ve just read a blog here http://fearofflyinghelp.flyingwithoutfear.com/2012/04/fear-of-flyin... that I found really interesting.

This quote

“…imagine that you are describing your job to someone who is nervous about what you [do.] I’m sure you’d make it simple, routine and straightforward. Imagine though how someone would describe what you do…they’d see it as difficult and complicated and needing a lot of skill and knowledge.  And if there’s a perceived element of danger on what you do…their mind and thoughts could go anywhere.”

It really made me think.

I teach English as a Foreign Language (overseas). Lots of people tell me they think I’m really brave for going to foreign countries, usually arriving on my own, not speaking the local language, and managing to live there and to teach people. They think it must take a lot of courage. They think I must have some magical ability to learn languages. I’ve certainly heard the phrase, ‘I could never do that,’ several times. My own family are scared to write to me because they think my knowledge of English grammar is so good that I’ll judge their writing. But it’s not like that. I’m not courageous; in fact I’ve been known to cry in order to get through border control. And the locals of the places I’ve worked have NEVER been impressed by my mangling of their language. I still make stupid mistakes in my writing, just like everyone else. In short I think the way I see my job, and the way everyone else sees it, is very different.

So let’s apply that to pilots. I think pilots must be phenomenally clever, not only to understand the maths and physics behind aviation, but to be able to apply those to calculate everything they need to know while they’re flying (multitasking and everything!) I think they must be brave to take what is essentially a giant lump of metal and fly it through the air at hundreds of miles an hour, also taking responsibility for the lives of hundreds of passengers. But this blog would suggest that they don’t see it that way.

So now let’s put 2 and 2 together.

I’m not brave. Rocking up in a strange country with little or no idea what I’m doing is not a big deal to me. I’ve done it before and I know how to look after myself if things go wrong (and usually they don’t.)

So perhaps pilots aren’t brave. Flying a plane-load of passengers is not a big deal to them. They’ve done it before and know what to do if things go wrong (and usually they don’t.)

I have a certain amount of specialist knowledge that allows me to do my job. Pilots have specialist knowledge that allows them to do their job. I know nothing about aviation physics, they know nothing about epistemic modality (unless they do, of course.) I think I could teach them what I know. Maybe they could teach me what they know. Maybe none of us is a genius.

When I live abroad I still lose my keys, I still forget family birthdays, I trip over laundry I’ve left on the floor, I burn the dinner. And from what this blog is saying, pilots do the same things.

Maybe it’s true. Maybe pilots are human after all.

PS: I'm not suggesting teaching and flying are in any way comparable. After all, if I screw up the worst thing that could happen is that I lose my job and have to live under a bridge in Bangkok (as happened to an aquaintance.) It's just that thinking about things this way adds a new perspective to how I view pilots and the job they do and makes flying seem more... normal.

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Comment by Sarah on October 3, 2012 at 12:20am

I couldn't help but be reminded of this this evening.

A question in my students' textbook

"A lot of pilots, ________ were very experienced, have got lost there.
A: many of whom    B: some of which    C: all of them        D: whoever"

Every single student chose answer B. I had to explain to a class of Ukrainian students that pilots are in fact human and should really be referred to as 'who' rather than 'which.' It took a while, but I think I convinced them.

Comment by Captain Keith on July 18, 2012 at 12:50pm

Thank you Sarah,

As Mark Twain said, and as I've repeated here,we're all ignorant...but on different subjects.



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