18.6.09

Day 217. The Pilot One.

Ok. I know I've used "pilot" before but it must be used again. To summarize a very VERY long and painful process, on my way home last night I ended up delayed, sitting on a plane, with no air conditioning for two hours while mechanics tried to diagnose and fix a problem with our plane.

I was exhausted, and luckily, this put me in a state of mind where I was just happy the problem was found before we were 10,000 feet in the air. But, as the situation dragged on and on, it was the kind of event that was ripe for drama. We all remember the stories of the flights that sat on runways for hours with no food and drink and people filed class action suits blah blah blah...

But I would like to highlight our captain because throughout the entire experience, he kept us updated in just the right intervals, with just the right words. He never talked down to us, he even explained choices he was facing and how he was making them. When he was told maintenance was going to take 15 minutes, he told us that his experience told him that minutes were like dog years and not to believe the 15 minutes ;). He also took the time to repeatedly walk through the cabin to assess how truly uncomfortable we were (or weren't) and help decide how to handle the situation.

When I look back now, even though we got in two hours late, and were quite uncomfortable in the heat for the last hour on the ground in particular, I am more and more pleasantly surprised as to how little griping passengers did and how very NOT rowdy we all became. Other than folks calling/texting to update loved ones after each status update, the cabin remained extremely calm and "go with the flow". When you look at the circumstances we were facing, it was quite astonishing. I attribute this 100% to our captain's amazing communication skills.

As we exited the plane, I prepared to let him know he'd be on here shortly and thank him (also as a defensive move against the number of folks I expected to growl or grumble at him as they walked by the cockpit. But, not only did the Captain stand right by the door to thank and apologize to each of us, but I heard many other passengers thank the crew for taking care of us, for getting us to our destination safely, for keeping us informed. I was pleasantly dumbstruck - not only because it wasn't only me that was calmed by our Captain's leadership but also that they too, took the time to let him know.

Situations can suck - communication can get you through.

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