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Erika Armstrong presents A Chick in the Cockpit

“Ladies and gentlemen, welcome aboard your flight with multiple destinations. As you step off the jet bridge onto my aircraft, take a quick glance into the cockpit. Yep, that’s me sitting in the captains’ seat and that’s my first officer laughing about how he accidentally locked himself out of his hotel room. Naked. Again.

We’re both a little ripe from flying for the last five days, and this is our fourth trip leg today, but you’ll also notice that we’re still smiling. That’s because we have spent years and thousands of hours training and living an uncommon lifestyle to be up here for you. We know what we’re doing, so we have time to enjoy the here and now. We hate all the bureaucracy and company politics that go with the job, but we love being in our pilot seats. That smirk you saw on all the pilots’ faces as you walked through the terminal is from years of humble arrogance.

As you walk down the aisle and bang the heads of other passengers with your carryon bags, look for an open bin to stow your bags. You’ll be carrying baggage for the rest of your life, so might as well learn how to stow it properly. Make sure it’s small enough to fit and that it’s secure because if it falls out when we encounter a little unexpected turbulence, others could get hurt. Turbulence is only dangerous when it’s unexpected.

 Locate your assigned seat and strap in. You are now our passenger. For the next few hours, you have to turn your life over to us. It’s hard to trust others, but it must be done if you want to get somewhere quickly. We will hand over control of our lives many times without giving it much thought because it’s what we must do as humans in a complex society. Trust and doubt, give and take are endless cycles that are part of our human experience and there are moments when you don’t have a choice about being in control. During those moments, you’ll just have to tighten your seatbelt and trust that others will get you through the storm.

 Those flight attendants hustling up and down the aisle are part of our crew. You probably ignore their safety briefing, but as always in life, we don’t realize what we don’t know until there is an emergency. Those emergency exits are actually really heavy and hard to open, and I’ll bet most passengers sitting in the exit row couldn’t get those emergency exits open. But, they won’t figure that out until there is an actual emergency, and then it will be the flight attendant, who they ignored, who will save their life.

 Our route today will take you through a segment of a life up in the air and you will see things you could never imagine. Since I have been locked in the cockpit with men for several thousands of hours over the years, I have been given a perspective few get to experience. To help you see a different perspective too, I am giving you a checklist to use as we move along our route. It will take you from gate to gate and when we’re done, we will have both learned a little more about what it takes to fly.

Now…just sit back, relax and enjoy the flight.”

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