The Kind of Folk Who SUCK to Fly with

Estimated reading time: 5 minutes 21 seconds

Pilots sitting on the dock in the Maldives, finishing up boarding.

I’m writing this for two sorts of people. The pilots who are going to nod along the whole time through the article and feel extra validated, AND the ones who are going to turn around from this feeling like, “…is this me?”

Whether you’re the employee at a large commercial airline, or the pilot ‘stuck’ flying at a Canadian 703 or American part 135 operation… this all applies regardless. Read on, and see what you think for yourself.

The fellow who introduces themselves with a long list of what they hate. Policies, people in your company, your current crew, their spouse, their cousin, just whoever.

Nothing escapes this guy’s poop-list. There’s little to gained from a in-depth conversation with this fellow, so don’t be discouraged if you try – and fail – to discuss just what is bugging him. This guy sucks to fly with because it sets a negative tone for the entire flight. It’s like you’re being told, “things suck, they’re so terrible! But there’s nothing I can, or will do to fix it.” YOU’RE the punching bag now, and buddy expects you to just stay silent and listen. But don’t you dare contribute anything but more negativity! Solutions will set him off, and place yourself squarely on the arbitrary poop-list too.

The DO-IT-ALL. “DON’T HELP ME – but also – DON’T TOUCH THAT!”

He runs to the plane, balancing his flight bag, his carry-on man purse, two coffees, and a water bottle. The coffee is seconds from spilling all over his stuff. You pack a little lighter, and didn’t grab a coffee, so you only have one bag slung over your shoulder. Why, oh WHY, doesn’t he ask for a little help with carrying something? He seems stressed now to top it off.

He’s fine to fly with for the most part, but occasionally breaks SOPs to do what should be your job. When confronted, he brushes it off as, “oh, it’s just easier if I do it.”

When you walk away from a flight with this fellow, you feel less like a crew member and more like someone who just watched a boring sitcom. We all work hard to be good pilots, and it’s annoying as all heck when someone takes your moment away from you, sometimes for no good reason. And if you’re a little SOP-monster like me (you all should be!), your hair is also standing up because of the break in SOPs.

What the heck? The guy who is off in complete la-la land.

You’ve never said “what the heck?” so much during a flight. I sort of divide this into two subcategories. The la-la land guy who has something going on in his life that’s distracting him, or maybe he really IS in some sort of make-believe land in his head, is the first type. You have to ask him the same question twice, maybe three times before he responds. He seems deeply startled when you speak, like you’re pulling him out of another, higher dimension. You’re a little concerned that if there was a real emergency, how fast would he take to respond and act? This guy sucks to fly with if you’re the person who likes to stay alert and prepared – who knows if this guy is ready to do the same when a surprise arises – and minutes matter. Now instead of relaxing, you spend the whole flight extra alert, and wind up feeling truly exhausted afterwards.

Type 2: this guy IS in another world, but he’s trying to give you a passport to coo-coo land too too! Aliens visiting him 10 years ago, 911 conspiracies, weird comments about marginalized groups, how vaccines inject mind-control devices, fake facts abound in the cockpit. Your head is internally screaming, “I want off this wild ride!” but at the same time, you’ll know this will make for a truly hilarious story when you re-tell it later.

His Royal Highness King Pilot of Canada, Prince of Aviation

Otherwise known affectionately in pilot circles as “God’s gift to aviation”. This man (or woman) is the standard for all pilot’s everywhere in their own minds. No move, no button pushed, no radio call, by this pilot could ever be a mistake. If something happens during the flight, it is always the fault of outside sources. Some of these folks have a short fuse for those who do not agree with and acknowledge their greatness. These guys generally will micromanage your every move to death and use it as an opportunity to teach you how bad of a pilot you are, and how amazing they are in comparison. Not only that, but because you are not them, you actively cannot be trusted. If you have anything to say, and it doesn’t match what the Lord King thinks about the topic, off with your head! CARs and AIM be damned.

Mr. “How do you NOT know this?”

People of this sort are real peaches when it comes to sharing knowledge in the cockpit. If you dare ask a question, or admit that you don’t know/forgot something, be prepared to feel like a fool. I saved the worst for last here, as I truly believe this kind of person is not only horrible to work with, but that they have NO place in the cockpit. Especially not in a position of leadership, such as sitting in the left seat. To create an atmosphere where people are afraid to point something out (hey, what’s that light for?) or ask questions (what would you do if the runway is super iced up?), is actively dangerous. You’ll be able to spot these people not visually, but in your gut. Questions will be met with an audible, dramatic sigh, they’ll be curt in their responses, and overall super rude that you DARED to not know something they consider obvious. Take these folks, open the emergency exit, and throw them out of the airplane.

Just kidding. But don’t be afraid to point out to them that their attitude isn’t conductive to a safe environment. I have a sneaking suspicion a lot of these types are never confronted – hence why they persist at all workplaces.


Now it’s YOUR turn my dear friends. Is there any type of co-worker that I left out in this article? Share in the comments, let’s get the conversation started and see if we can make out a few more hair-pulling types.

Lots of love, Shavonne

The World’s Worst Flying Job Interview

Estimated reading time: 3 minutes, 5 seconds

I once interviewed for a company where the interviewer’s goal seemed to be to bang off every single illegal job interview question in one sitting. Have a gander at this list.

“How old are you?”

“Are you married?”

“Do you guys have kids? Are you going to?”

“Are you from Canada?”

The questions themselves seem harmless enough, almost as though someone is taking a personal, neighborly interest in you. However, it’d be incredibly naive to take them as anything other than a blatant attempt at discrimination. It was one of those moments where you’re answering the questions without hesitation because you’re young, dumb, and desperate for a job. Those questions, those grabs at finding a reason to deny my application should have been taken as a major red flag for what was to come, but again, young and dumb.

Female applicants were more likely to report being asked about their desire to have a family than male applicants (32% vs. 3%, respectively, p = 0.041)… gender discrimination in the residency interview has not been eradicated… Community and academic programs appear to ask similar numbers and types of potentially illegal questions.

Hessel, Kara, et al. “Have We Come as Far as We Had Hoped? Discrimination in the Residency Interview.” Journal of Surgical Education, vol. 74, no. 6, 2017, pp. 939–945., doi:10.1016/j.jsurg.2017.04.003.

We know that women are far more likely to be asked illegal questions in job interviews than men. And in my case, asked outright, with no sugar-coating or hiding behind flowery words. And the person interviewing me was a woman as well (!), which gave it even more of a what the hell factor.

I’m saving the best for last though. That by far was not the worst question I was asked.

It started off innocent enough. “Do you have any siblings?” I’m sort of 50/50 on whether I answer this in a grey zone, or if I’m completely honest. Sometimes you just don’t want to get into having lost your only sibling with a total stranger. On this day though, I chose to be candid.

I explained to the interviewer that yes, I have a brother, but unfortunately had lost him in an aviation related accident.

She stared at me, and without skipping a beat or expressing an ounce of sympathy said, “Well, will this affect how you work? Will that happen to you?”

Just, what. The. Heck.

How can someone, a stranger no less, without knowing any information or details surrounding my little brother’s accident, ask me if I was going to have an accident too?

I don’t at all like to paint people, even seemingly insensitive people, with the same color brush. Labeling others on the first meeting can be a BIG detriment to yourself, as it closes you off from expanding your mindset and being open to having it challenged. But you do have to wonder, what life experiences has this woman had to make her so uncaring? What happened to make her a person who so blatantly disregards the same laws that this country has put into place to protect women such as herself?

I suppose we’ll never really know the answer. My lesson was learned: cheer on and support the companies that avoid dabbling in the wrong side of the law, and who conduct far more professional interviews. Be an advocate for women and men in the industry, teaching them what they do and do not have to tolerate in order to get, or keep, a job.

Those companies and chief pilots are out there – and man are they awesome! God bless ’em.

As always, big THANK YOU to those reading! Slap me with a comment down below, I absolutely adore reading through them.

xx, Shavs

The real, no-bullshit reason why I became a pilot, part 2

An old family friend, and someone actually once very close to my little brother, reached out to me. She asked if I wanted to go for a plane ride.

This is part two of my story on why I actually became a pilot, complete with photos at the end. For returning readers, thank you for reading part 1. For all those who reached out and let me know how my tale has impacted you, your words greatly touched me and gave me the motivation to keep on writing.

If you’re new here, welcome. Read part 1 at this link. Warning: it’s sad. This part is by far the happier part, so try and make it this far once more.

And so it begins…

You’ll remember from the previous half of this story that, at this point in my life, I was in a deeply bad place. I was zombie-ing my way through my university studies, avoiding anything social, and especially not doing anything to heal from my loss. Each day felt like a painful, pointless blur.

So when someone meaningful to my family reached out and offered to take me up for a joy ride in a C172, I was floored. I could not comprehend sitting behind the controls of the same type of aircraft that my brother’s life ended in. Flying again as an expression of joy, and not grief, was a distant, foreign concept. I was not ready, and did not want to be ready. Yet, I accepted the offer.

To this day I am actually not positive about why I agreed to the flight. It might have been a thoughtless choice, out of impulse, as many of my decisions around that time period seemed to be. Maybe a deeper feeling was at play beneath the surface. Whatever it was, I’ll likely never fully understand. That single, simple “OK,” changed my life.

The flight was stunning. The clouds held a special warm glow for me, their shape swirling up in shapes I had never witnessed before. We had the GoPro rolling on this morning, a third witness to the majesty of flight before us. Circling over our home airport, I joked about spicing the flight up, maybe doing a loop. My pilot laughed, but wouldn’t oblige. Dang it, I thought.

And just like that, I was having fun. Laughing AND enjoying myself for the first time in years! I had never have felt more closer to Heaven and the souls of our dearly departed. It was a very moving moment for me, although complicated emotionally.

Before long, the flight was over. The plane’s wheels softly touched down once more onto the pavement, my heart and soul left above. My mind was racing with the decision it had made. I wanted to fly again, and to carry on what my brother had started. I would become a private pilot like he had dreamed of becoming.

On an interesting and slightly unrelated side note: it was also on this day that I met my future life partner and husband Chirag. This day just held so much good for me and I didn’t even know it at it time.

With my parent’s very generous financial backing, and their blessing, I began flight lessons in earnest. Some flights were very, very hard for me. There were times where my imagination would wander off to my brother’s last moments, and I could not do much but cry. On solo flights, I would stubbornly head out west, circling over his crash site mindlessly.

Other flights were an absolute joy. Spins for example became a happy obsession of mine. I wouldn’t want to finish a lesson without a few! Other lessons I found incredibly frustrating (diversions, ugh!), but all flights held meaning for me. Each flight was a leap closer to my brother Lorne’s dream.

I crossed the emotional mountain range in 2015, finally earning my private pilot’s license. Our private pilot’s license, for it felt like Lorne’s achievement too.

I was immensely grateful for all of the trials and tribulations I had undergone, as the end result was a calmer, happier, and more adaptable pilot. There wasn’t, and still isn’t, too much that can rattle me save for running out of coffee before takeoff. Flying holds deep meaning for me. It brings me closer to Heaven, fuels my own self-confidence, fills me with wonder, and is carrying on the dream of someone I very much hold dear. I think I’ll always be a part of this world of aviation, I cannot imagine it any other way.

Thanks for reading everyone – and God bless. Enjoy the photos at the end!

xx

Shavs

The real, no-bullshit reason why I became a pilot, part 1

(Estimated reading time: 3 minutes, 30 seconds)

That is the most common question you’ll hear as an aviator. “So, why did you get into flying?” “What made you decide to become a pilot?”

I have my generic, canned answer, and I have my true answer. You are going to come to know the true answer.

Truth be told, I have not shared with many my journey to becoming a pilot. The road was not particularly easy or pleasant, and maybe that makes it more worthwhile to share. I’d like to add my voice to the multitude out there to show you that people from all culturals, traumas, and struggles can become a pilot. You do not need to have the perfect life or have amassed incredible wealth.


My Dad had once worked as a pilot in his younger years, and was trying very hard to pass down his love of aviation to his teenage kids, my younger brother and myself. Truth be told, I wasn’t too interested at first. I had school to worry about, and it didn’t align with my career goals. However, when my little brother started flying, it didn’t take long for me to become jealous. It looked cool, fun, and challenging. I wanted to get in on the fun too! And so, in Grade 12 of highschool, I began flying C152s and working on my private pilot’s license.

I was a lost soul in highschool. Self-conscious and depressed, in my mind I has nothing that made me special. Flying changed that. For the first time in my life, I was special. I was going to be a pilot. I was unique! I had something that maybe, just maybe, I would be good at and enjoy the rest of my life.

However, this feeling of bliss was not going to make its home with me for very long. Throughout my life, my parents had struggled with unresolved anger problems, and finally it was coming to a head. Shortly after I had graduated Grade 12, one small mistake culminated into a violent confrontation, and I got out. I left my home.

A newly graduated girl with no home, no money, and no education, had no business dreaming about being a pilot. I stomped on that dream, putting it far away for the time being. It was time for me to focus on getting back on my feet.

Misfortune was not done with my family and I just quite yet. For the second time, tragedy came around and reared it’s ugly, raw maw. My little brother, my perfectionist, my hilarious little annoying-as-heck but you love them all the same younger sibling, the only human who shared some traumatic experiences with me and understood my struggles, went missing. I got a call while on a mini vacation, and immediately made my way home. Time slowed.

Search and Rescue, as well as a group of civilian volunteers, searched by foot and air. These people are honest to God angels, and I am touched to this day how many pilots volunteered to scour the rough Canadian country for any sign of the wreckage.

And I say wreckage, for my brother went missing while flight training.

It felt like much, much longer, but as far as days and hours go, it wasn’t long before the crash site containing what once was the funniest and most remarkable person in the world to me was found. And that’s it, he was gone. No more would we reminisce about flying aircraft on Flight Simulator together as kids, or talk about how we used to play in the wild woods of Northern BC. God had ‘im now, and I was madder than hell.

The next few years are numb. I stopped wearing any colour, I was in and out of therapy. I hated people, I hated pilots, I hated airplanes, airports and flight schools. I hated enjoying myself and having fun, betraying the memory of my little brother by daring to live. Life stopped, and I would not let it go on any further.

Even so, winter does not last forever, and neither did mine. My spring eventually came, and the first metaphorical blossom on my tree was one, singular event.

An old family friend, and someone actually once very close to my little brother, reached out to me. She asked if I wanted to go for a plane ride.


To be continued…

xx

Shavs