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Why Can't Flight Crews Have Fun?

(May 2, 2003)

Furloughs, pay cuts, displacements, loss of pensions, the morbid list of airline employee woes is just too long and depressing to list. It's no surprise then that in order to survive all this bad news some employees are turning to humor. The recent firing of two Southwest Airlines pilots for stripping in the cockpit reminds me of the good ole' days of aviation. Not that naked pilots is normal, but the pranks airline crews play on one another is aviation tradition.

During my flight attendant years, I was involved in more than my share of sophomoric pranks: snakes flying out of cans, whoopee cushions, fake rattlesnake eggs, vandalizing male crewmember's luggage with the plane's feminine hygiene products, the list was endless. It was crew bonding and it helped us vent a bit. After all, spending 180 plus days on the road gets old without a little humor. Looking back, the more memorable incidents never fail to make me laugh.

Captain's Birthday

On one particular trip it was a favorite Captain's birthday. To celebrate, we decorated the DC-9 cockpit with streamers; however, we didn't have streamers, so we improvised with toilet paper. My partner in crime (another flight attendant) and I did a thorough job. We weaved toilet paper in and out of the yokes, switches, around the seats; it was a mess! We even made a Pepperidge Farm Milano® cookie cake complete with candle. During boarding we closed the cockpit door from view of the passengers and awaited the Captain's arrival. We were all giggly until a tall older man boarded and handed us his ID - he was an FAA inspector. And, he was going to do an inspection and check-ride in the cockpit. I was horrified! As he opened the cockpit door, visions of re-writing my resume danced in my head. Fortunately, the FAA inspector had a sense of humor and joined in the festivities. He subsequently gave the Captain the best present of all: a passed check-ride.

Porno In The Cockpit

When I first started flying it was a common sight to see porn pictures hidden all around the cockpit. Open the door to the cockpit escape rope and you were likely to get an eyeful of Playmate of the Month. On one particular trip with a notorious Penthouse packing pilot the female co-pilot and myself decided to have a bit of fun. We decorated the cockpit with hunks from Playgirl, plus we threw the rest in his overnight bag. What a surprise he found later on!

Demo Equipment Fun

Have you ever watched a flight attendant do their oxygen mask demo and suddenly get that 'deer-in-the-headlights' look across their face? More than likely they have a little present staring right back at them in the mask: dirty pictures. Another tactic is demo card graffiti. There's nothing more humiliating then a planeload of passengers laughing at you while you hold up a card with big bold letters declaring - "I need a date."

Smeared Banana

A really funny prank played by International crews involves food. On one trip we smeared a little banana on the Captain's flight bag. Why did we do that? Sheer animal magnetism, so to speak. There's nothing funnier than watching a U.S. Customs agricultural dog barking up a storm around the pilot's bag. Needless to say the bag was torn apart by those friendly customs agents.

In the end, this highly unprofessional behavior pays off. How can that be you ask? If the call comes that you have to prepare for an emergency situation, there's nothing more sacred than trusting your colleagues. Getting to know the people behind the uniform even through tasteless jokes can make all the difference in the world.

Take Our Poll: Naked Pilots - Did Southwest Airlines do the right thing by firing two pilots that stripped in the cockpit?   

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