A friend of mine is a pilot and today I was flying out to Medan. She had no co-pilot so asked if I wanted to sit up front. Do I ever!?!?! I got the sweet headset, the little dials and knobby things in front of me - even that steering gizmo. If she keeled over I would have been in charge. Probably should've been frightening to the other passengers but they didn't need to know that I couldn't fly. I sensed that their respect for me went up the moment I climbed into the cockpit. Yeah, no more was I one of 'them'...now I was a pilot. Well...not really, but again, what they didn't know couldn't hurt them - unless there was a plane crash, of course. That would probably hurt them. But it would hurt me more. I digress.
Now, I learned some things today about being a pilot. I mean, apart from the actual fact that I could never, ever fly a plane. Not even if the tower was 'talking me in'. Seriously, there's a lot of stuff going on up there. No, the first thing I learned is that you can promptly take the tension up a notch on a plane by being the person 'flying' and pointing and looking puzzled out the window. I was just asking a question about the clouds but there is nothing that can cause a plane full of passengers to crane their heads faster than someone in the cockpit looking puzzled out the window and pointing. If you are a pilot, never, ever do this.
The second thing I learned was the worst words you can ever hear a pilot utter. Imagine the scene with me. We're about 45 minutes into the flight. We're chatting amiably over the headsets about...well, about holiday plans if you MUST know...but I'm sure it looked important and authoritative to those 'others' in the back. When, suddenly, my friend grabs the controls, utters the words, 'oh crap!' and starts flicking one of the dials. Flicking it! Like they do in the movies when the thinga-ma-bob that keeps the plane in the air stops working and the rest of the movie is about surviving on a desert island after a plane crash. I have never had my heart beat faster than at that moment. Turned out to be nothing but if you are a pilot, never, ever do that.
Let's recap: Appropriate pilot behaviour...
1) No puzzled pointing
2) Never say, 'oh crap!'
3) No flicking the dials
and I guess being actually able to fly the plane should be #4.