Thinking just about the pilots who have the job to transport celebrities, the CEO and other executives, or the passengers on an airline flight - - What’s the best way to judge how well they might do their job? You don’t have the chance to talk with their co-workers, or check out the scores they got on their last evaluation. Just look at that pilot and tell me how much faith you have that he, or she, will get you where you want to go, safely and on time. What clues do you have to help you make this judgment call? I think the big clue is the wrinkles in the pilot’s shirt.
I get to see a lot of pilots as I fly to different airports and wait for my corporate passengers to finish their business before we fly back home. During that waiting time, I often work near other pilots to check out changing weather, or to file a flight plan. I get to see who has a good work habit, and who is just barely getting the job done. Wrinkled shirts are a pretty big tip-off.
A pilot who has a freshly pressed shirt, probably also arranged his schedule to get a good night of sleep before his day of flying. His conversation is usually crisp and decisive. But, you say, “Just because he is alert, well organized, and has a pressed shirt doesn’t mean he knows how to fly well, or that he can handle the plane well in an emergency.” Well, I have to say you’re right. But, if the pilot is alert, he has a better chance to avoid the emergency in the first place.
Beyond that first instinctive judgment about your pilot, what did you expect him to look like, anyway? There is an image that the pilot needs to project. It’s not an image about how much the pilot is being paid, or how the company wants the pilot to look. The image is a personal thing that belongs to the pilot. It should project how he takes ownership of the safety of every passenger and piece of cargo on board. It should also project what the pilot’s family wants them to be as they earn their living and provide food for the dinner table. Finally, it should project how much the pilot loves doing his job. If you are a competent pilot who cares about your job and loves doing your job, a wrinkled shirt isn’t part of your image.
Just iron your shirt! Do it for yourself!
I make my living by flying professionals and top executives around the country. If my passengers aren’t wearing “suits” as a fashion statement, you can be certain their shirts have no wrinkles, and their pants are well-creased, without wrinkles. If I am going to be caught flying these executives around, I want to look like them. They take pride in their job. And looking the part is never compromised.
As their pilot, I take ownership of the responsibility the executives have to the company they work for, the jobs they create, and effect they have on the global economy. I am part of their team and I should look the part.
Occasionally, a pilot needs to say "no" to some pretty powerful people. That responsibility should not be taken lightly. When you have to tell the CEO of a major company, or the higher-ups at your airline, "No. It is unsafe to fly." That is a moment when you will be judged. Do you want to be wearing a wrinkled shirt?
I didn’t think so …