Red-baiting? No, realism

As spoilt a brat as ever broke bread.

Imagine, if you will, a youngish looking female, appearing on one of the many social media video networks to announce to all and sundry who had tuned in that she has just left her job as a first officer on a Boeing-747 Jumbo Jet.

Her announcement has a history: only a few months earlier, she appeared on that same network, to tell all who wished to watch and listen that she had just passed her final tests that would make her a first officer on a Boeing-747 Jumbo Jet.

She used to fly smaller aircraft for regional airlines, but, she said, she had always wanted to make it to the bigs.

You can hardly make it bigger these days.

The ambitious European Airbus-380, though bigger than its Boeing counterpart, was conceived on the ill-conceived and somewhat ill-concealed ambition to show the bloody Yanks that others can build huge planes, too. Except: the Boeing people looked further ahead. They realised that the era of huge passenger planes criss-crossing the world would end one day soon. They designed their Queens of the Sky to make them relatively easy to convert into cargo versions. The idea never crossed the Airbus crowd’s minds. They are now stuck with orders rejected by former customers, tearfully curtailing the entire project. Meanwhile, Jumbo has been experiencing a revival.

Still, to get into a Jumbo flying crew course, and pass it, and get a first officer’s stripes, none of it is a piece of cake.

List of headaches

What happened for the new 747 first officer to call it quits?


First of all, she blamed the schedule.

Crews on cargo aircraft don’t fly to a destination on the other side of the globe, enjoy a day or two of a layover, and fly back home, to another well-deserved rest. They bring a plane full of stuff to a city, hand the machine over to a crew that had brought a previous company machine in and now were waiting to fly onwards wherever the cargo manifest tells them.

The crew that had brought the plane into town heads for its designated (and usually quite luxurious) hotel, to spend a day or two. They can use the time any way they wish. Enjoying the sights, checking out the local entertainment venues, watching how the other half live, whatever.

When the time comes, they are driven back to the airport where they take over another plane that had just landed. While the loadmasters are busy filling the cargo hold with new goods, they read the cargo manifest to see where the heck they are landing next, put together a flight plan, and off they go.

Basically, they are away from home about 20 days a month on average, and if the 20-day monthly period happens to extend through the last day of one month and the first day of the next one, the days away from home can add up.

The former first officer didn’t like it either that she had to take her rest on a flight sleeping in a bunk.

A simple explanation: most of the flights take longer than the time permitted for pilots to be in the cockpit. That’s why companies assign more pilots than two (captain and first officer) to each trip. They take turns resting, and airliners have been built with bunks to accommodate them. Not good enough for the former B-747 first officer.

How she could not notice that this was the arrangement while taking her training sessions remains a sweet mystery.

The cargo aircraft flight crews are paid handsomely for their sacrifices.

They include most of the flying happening over nights, too: airports they frequent are busy 24 hours a day, and the idea is for the huge cargo birds not to crowd the taxi ways and runways during the peaks of passenger traffic. It is expected that the cargo crews are aware in advance that this is the flying routine.

In the case of the young lady, the expectation is even more obvious: she used to fly for an airline, after all, she must have seen the cargo crews now and then.

That’s why her statement announcing her abrupt departure from the dream job was so surprising: too long away from home, missing her family, and so on.

Now, missing one’s family, this is a serious matter. But when you hear that she has two dogs in mind, that is, not children, but dogs, the picture darkens somewhat.

Shocking? Not really

And here comes the most important and crucial question of them all: just how, for crying out loud, could it happen that a person could be as short-sighted (a polite substitute for another word) that she does not know what job she is getting into, and that her values put dogs before children?

The answer is as simple as it is NOT shocking: this is a result of decades-long developments in education, of changes in values, of deteriorating morality, of the me-first values that embrace it all.

China’s Great Helmsman, Mao Zedong himself, said famously almost three quarters of a century ago that he sees no need to fight the west, America in particular. These societies, he explained, are so decadent they will fall into his country system’s lap like over-ripened fruit.

His Soviet foe, Nikita Khrushchev, had been thinking along the same lines. Yes, his sentence that communists will bury America was the one that made the headlines, but it was what he had said earlier that mattered: America will wake up one day and see it has become communist. And he explained the same thing Mao Zedong had said, except in a language much less colourful.

The two mightiest communist leaders of the time three quarters of the century ago saw all of what we’re witnessing today. Those who would at the time try to explain all this to western politicians and western public, and those in America especially, would be called anti-Commie red-baiters and conspiracy theorists (the system repeats itself: raise doubts about the current pandemic hoax, and you will get called the same names).

Did it really have to end up like this?

History hasn’t much time for ifs and buts, but still: if, about three decades ago, parents threw out school boards that were trying to censor such classics like Mark Twain’s Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn books, the picture of today could have been much different. Yes, the teachers would have had to learn how to explain that offensive words are but words, and that it is the action that is important.

Of course, to be able to do that, they would have had to learn proper teaching methods, including the subjects they were about to teach, rather than critical theories about pedagogy.

Human brain? How perfectly old-fashioned!

The gullibility of western (North American in particular) populations was (and remains till this day) spectacular. It said so on TV, in the newspaper, on the radio, therefore it’s the Gospel truth.

All of that instead using their critical faculties.

Unfortunately, the sharp thinking that could have been expected of civilised societies has been dulled by shameless consumerism: this phone is way too old (say, six months), and I see that there’s a brand new one on the market, will they accept my old one for a trade-in, or will I have to buy the new one outright?

That’s whence the former Boeing-747 first officer is coming.

Not to worry, she told her social media audience, she has another job lined up: flying helicopters commercially.

Of course, if she works for a company that provides fast transportation for corporate clients, her time won’t belong to her. Again. If a client needs or wants to be flown somewhere, she will have to be ready to fly even if her beloved dogs had been thinking of an outing in a nearby park.

If it happens more than once, she will again announce she’s quitting.

And she will be living with the acquired certainty that this world embraces quitters.

Today’s society may. The world doesn’t.

She is as spoilt a brat as ever broke bread. Unfortunately, the problem we’re facing is that she’s not an exception. She’s the rule.

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