The funny airline pilot stories I am about to share are true stories from the past.
In these days, aviation news is constantly peppered with bad news about airlines in lieu of the COVID-19 crisis. Therefore, here’s a story that should put a smile on your face.
Funny airline pilot stories from the past present airline life as it was, as experienced among airline pilots of that era. Personally, I had the privilege of entering the airline industry as a pilot at the very end of that Golden Era.
Welcome to a bygone era of airline pilot life
Back then there was no “political correctness”. Yet, it was all about having innocent fun, not offending anyone. Pilots, although being professional and safe at all times were having a blast!
Of course, the development of corporate “political correctness” has also resulted in great opportunities for everyone to thrive in today’s world. However, funny airline pilot stories have become increasingly difficult to come by.
Airline pilots from the Good Ol’ Days
Frankly, as a young new-hire Second Officer (Flight Engineer) airline pilot on the DC-8, then the B727, I had a blast. Many of the captains I flew with were “Lee Marvin-type hellraisers” dating back to first flying in the Korean and the Vietnam Wars.
Other pilots were former World War 2 (WW2) pilots as old as in their 70s. They had down bid from their airline captain position to become second officers (flight engineers). The mandatory age for pilot retirements at the time was 60.
Pilot personalities then and now
“Political correctness” was not yet invented within the corporate airline cultures. Your Captain was still “God” in his cockpit, commanding a lot of respect from his co-pilots. Crew Resource Management training (CRM), pilot training on how to work together for safety, was not yet introduced.
By the way, we called it “cockpit” back in those days. The word “cockpit” is no longer the “politically correct” word to describe where pilots work.
Today, the cockpit is called a “flight deck”.
Another word that has been changed is the word “jetway”, which is now called “jetbridge”, that maneuverable walkway allowing entry and exit of the airplane to the terminal.
Furthermore, there were few female pilots and only a handful of non-white pilots back in those days.
Captains placing his right hand on the throttles for takeoff thrust was often accompanied by his lit cigarette between his fingers unless firmly affixed to his lips.
Learning by Intimidation
The sometimes unjustified and needless yelling and screaming at new pilots was a Captain’s prerogative. If you were the co-pilot you respected that abuse. The co-pilot would simply respond with a good old military-style taught “Yes Sir”.
The same yelling and screaming was also the norm during flight simulator training and check rides. I lost count of how many rulers my instructors broke by slapping the ruler on my seatback in the simulator.
One instructor, in particular, looked like pre-WW2 German Kaiser Hindenburg. A former Colonel of the U.S. Air Force Reserve and a WW2 veteran, this instructor ran his DC-8 flight simulator like so many of the other instructors did:
Teach by intimidation!
This, in turn, was a carryover-style from military flight training of the old days, as well.
However, this hellraising, no bs, no-nonsense generation of pilots are long retired and gone from the airline crews of today.
However, one thing that will live forever is the many funny pilot stories they left behind. Today, some of those stories have become true classics, told and retold among those of us pilots who experienced the fun.
Funny and true airline pilot stories from the Good Ol’ Boys’ Era
The following stories are true. The pilots you are about to read about were real. These stories have become classics among pilots, still creating laughs.
All the pilot names in this story have been changed into fictitious names. This to protect the identity, confidentiality, and the names of my fellow pilots involved, alive or dead.
1. Captain Rubalkowski and the “F-word”
Captain Rubalkowski was one of those 70-year old former WW2 fighter pilots. He was one of those airline captains who had «down bid» to the second officer (flight engineer) position on the B747 upon reaching his mandatory age 60 captain retirement age.
Every second word coming out of Rubalkowski’s mouth was the “F-word”. He wasn’t ticked off at the world or anything like that. With a heart of Gold, the F-word was simply part of his personality, no pun intended!
So, one day a flight attendant complained to the Chief Pilot about Rubalkowski’s foul mouth.
The Chief Pilot calls him into his office for a consult:
Chief Pilot: So, Rubalkowski, I understand you’ve been using the F-word again?
Rubalkowski: (Long pause, then…) What the F*** is the F-word???
Chief Pilot: Get the F*** out of here, you have been consulted! Now, let’s do lunch.
Of course, back in those days, written reports or consulting-notes seldom ended up in a pilot’s employee files. Human Resource (HR) departments weren’t even invented yet! Pilots did not turn in fellow pilots to the company.
Just like the old Vegas-saying “what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas”, what happened between pilots stayed between pilots. That would be the unwritten rule whether you were a chief pilot or a line pilot.
2. Chief Pilot Meeting
Pilots must always show up in the cockpit well ahead of push-time. This is to get everything ready and safe for the flight.
However, my pilot base had an increasing problem with captains showing up right before push-time.
As a result, the late show-problem by the old-timers became so widespread that our Chief Pilot called the base pilots in for a pilot meeting to address the issue.
The first thing the chief pilot did was to address the worst captain-offender of the unacceptable practice in our pilot base:
Chief Pilot: “Hey, Captain Pete, how would YOU feel if YOUR co-pilot showed up for the flight five minutes before airplane push-time???”
After a few seconds of dead-silence, with everyone anticipating an explanation.
Captain Pete responds:
(Shrugging his shoulders)… “Well, if he beats me he beats me”.
The pilots in the room busted up in laughter from that response, so loud and intense, the amusing pilot reaction lifted the seriousness of the meeting like the roof of the Comedy Club flying off from fireworks!
Unable to continue the meeting the Chief Pilot continues…
Meeting adjourned, you have all been consulted!
3. DC-10 to Sydney
This story happened on a DC-10 flight from Honolulu to Sydney:
Captain D’Angelo was a five feet six inches tall 130-pound former Korean War Italian-American hellraiser of a pilot.
On his flight from Honolulu to Sydney, a six-foot-four tall 280-pound Australian passenger gets drunk. The passenger then creates a stink for the flight attendants.
This DC-10 was equipped with an inflight pub-area. That’s where the loud and obnoxious passenger was, drunk like a skunk.
The head stewardess informs Captain D’Angelo about the problem passenger. D’Angelo decided to go back to the passenger cabin to “kick some butt”.
D’Angelo puts his uniform hat on, borrows his 6-foot tall co-pilot’s overcoat and walks out of the cockpit. Next, he goes behind the bar-counter on this pub-equipped DC-10. There he climbs up on a chair. Now he looks like he’s 7 feet tall with the borrowed long coat on!
Captain D’Angelo: (Stern, loud in a commanding voice)… Hey you! If you don’t immediately stop bothering my flight attendants I will kick your butt so hard you won’t be able to sit for the remainder of the flight!!! No more drinks for you.
The drunk Australian guy: “Oooops, yes sir, I will sit down in my seat, right away.”
….another inflight problem solved.
4. The prune-look of a Captain’s Uniform Hat
The pilots of the airlines during the Golden Era of Flying were not the only ones with a “Lee Marvin-type hellraiser attitude”. Some airline CEO’s had the same attitude as pilots. Airline CEOs were often personally involved in the hiring and firing of pilots. The airlines pretty much operated as a small close-knit family.
One airline CEO made a surprise visit to the pilot room at a hub-airport. Discovering a badly worn captain’s uniform hat the CEO asks the room full of pilots:
“WHOSE hat is this piece of crap sorry-looking prune of a captains-hat?”
One pilot responds,
“That hat is mine.”
The CEO said,
“Walking around, looking like a piece of s*** like that is unacceptable for my pilots. You are FIRED!”
The next question from the CEO,
“By the way, I am going home to (home base next), who’s the captain flying me home?”
The captain who just got fired is responding,
“Oh, that was me, I was supposed to take you home”
CEO follows up, saying,
“You’re REHIRED! Now, go put your sorry-looking hat on and fly me home. And, wipe that smirky smile of your f****** face.”
5. Hats off to Captain Bobby!
Then it’s the “in-house” story that happened right at the Chief Pilot’s office.
This new chief pilot, Captain Bobby, was a stickler to rules. New HR and pilot conduct-policies were in place. The chief pilot was a former military squadron commander who demanded complete discipline from his pilots.
Walking the terminal, the chief pilot noticed a pilot not wearing his uniform hat.
The chief pilot immediately asked the pilot where his hat was. The pilot responded he had accidentally forgotten his uniform hat in the cockpit during the time-crunch getting the plane ready.
Chief Pilot Bobby said,
“You’re off the flight. A reprimand-note will be in your V-file.”
The pilot calmly gathers his belongings and goes home.
The problem? This was 20 minutes prior to the plane’s scheduled departure time!
The flight with almost 240 passengers ended up canceling. There was no replacement pilot available that particular evening.
The punchline of this story
The next morning when Chief Pilot Bobby arrives at the office the entire chief pilot office staff was already there. Everybody on the chief pilot staff is wearing a pilot hat from the airline, pilots, and non-pilots alike.
As Captain Bobby walks in the Office Manager leads the delegation proclaiming,
“Hats off to Bobby!”
…while they all lifted their hats high up in the air, welcoming Bobby to work that morning.
Did these true and funny airline pilot stories give you a laugh? Comments or questions? You can contact us here.
Featured Image: Boeing 727 cockpit, Flicker.
What is the Golden Era of Flying?
The Golden Era of Flying is a term generally used to describe the era before deregulation was introduced to the airline indutry in the 1980’s. This period is also described as “the Golden Years”, “the Golden Age of Flying”, and by other terms.
Why were the pilots from Golden Age of Flying different from today’s generation of pilots?
The pilots from the old era of flying belonged to a complete different generation, often referred to as the “Greatest Generation”, who were trained and flew their planes by “stick and rudder”. The era of “political correctness” had not yet set in, the captain was “God” on his plane, and received and demanded a lot of admiration and respect among his peers.
What was it like to be an airline pilot in the “old days”?
Airline pilots during the Golden Era of Flying had a lot of fun. Flying was fun, you intermingled with flight attendant crews (air hostesses), having fun as a crew during layovers, serious security precautions were not yet needed, and pilots were a bunch hellraising, no bs “Lee Marvin” hellraiser types, yet with a heart of Gold.