Yesterday I was sitting in the airport waiting for my plane to arrive. The airline representative came on the loud speaker to let us know the incoming pilot was coming in for his last flight before his retirement and they were welcoming him with… something I did not hear. Turns out it was three fire trucks spraying the plane as it taxied to the gate. She did not want us to be alarmed by the spectacle surrounding the aircraft we were about to board. Smart, Southwest Airlines. I would have been very concerned. Is my plane on fire? What’s the problem? Is it safe? Nevermind, I’ll drive.
Once the plane made it to the gate, the passengers deplaned, and the pilot finally exited the tunnel greeted by cheers and hugs from his family and friends. It was nice.
The guy behind me in line must have known more about aviation than I do because he was very curious about the number of trips the pilot had completed. He asked several members of the flight crew, and one of them was not sure of the trip number however he reported the pilot had exceeded one million passengers.
Let’s think about that for a moment. One million passengers were under this man’s care while he assumed responsibility for their safety from gate to gate. That’s a big deal. This pilot had willingly spent every day of his career with lives depending on his ability and skills to maneuver his aircraft safely.
I felt a sense of pride in my career choice when I realized we had similarities in our professional lives. We both assume life and death responsibility every time we go to work.
It’s no wonder these jobs are well-known to have high rates of burnout. Not only are we responsible for not making a mistake, we are also responsible for outcomes of things that are completely out of our control.
Despite the occasional overwhelming fear associated with my career, I am proud of what I do. I was more than a little proud of the airline captain who had safely transported over a million passengers too.