Sunday, June 7, 2015

Adventures in Flight: Rite of Aviation

Photo of Delta Crew

A flight attendant has her photo taken in the cowling of an airliner engine. It's something that's been done thousands of times. Even before engines had cowlings for us to climb into, sexy young flight attendants had photos taken sitting on the front of a propeller. It's a rite of aviation, something flight and ground crews do for the unique privilege of having access to doing so.

But in the case of this young flight attendant, a passenger witnessed her being photographed before boarding a flight. Then lo and behold, the woman being photographed was one of the flight attendants working her flight. The passenger obtained her name, found her on social media and then went to her local news team, who ate it up, and spat out a story about the photos; questioning its safety and necessity. They released the full name of the flight attendant, surely without permission, but never mentioned the tattle tale passenger.

When the news hit social media, saying she could lose her job, I caught wind of it right away. I immediately found the photo I had of myself in an engine and sent it to the newscaster's social media page. I then suggested to the flight attendant community that we all do so, and before I knew it, a movement had started. Hundreds of flight attendants world wide sent in photos and scathing letters.

Penguin and a 737 Engine
A few nights later, perhaps under pressure, the newscaster aired a second story. At first, I thought he was going to redeem himself with a new story about how this was really nothing. He explained the support from around the world, showed numerous photos of similar nature, including the one I sent him, and even included a few soundbites from our union president. Things were looking good, and it was exciting, knowing my photo was on the news.

But then he went and interviewed passengers to drum up support for his original story, which seemed to be that something dangerous went on here. He interviewed passengers? Passengers can be quite unknowing about the goings on of things aeronautical. They are often scared of bumps and aircraft noises, leery of crew and suspicious of other travelers. After all, look at how this whole mess started...a paranoid passenger who witnessed something that has happened thousands and thousands of times, and freaking out about it to the news media! Hello!
Flight crews in support of Ericka

One thing every photo you may have seen of crew members in engines is this...someone has taken the photo. Usually a pilot or mechanic, or other crew with pilots and or mechanics present. We don't go around jumping up into engines all willy-nilly and risking the safety of the very conveyance that will be taking us to our destination. We are a trained group of professionals. We are the first line of defense on board aircraft. We are screened and trained and overseen. We are flight attendants.

Better news stories might include adequate crew rest, job outsourcing, feet dragging in negotiation of new work contracts, putting the customer experience before safety concerns, food storage procedures or the obscene salaries of those at the top. But no, we went with an aviation rite misunderstood by a passenger and a news team who failed to do a thorough investigation.

This was a nothing story about a special privilege enjoyed by countless personnel in a safe fashion. It's a shame it was put under the bright light of confusion and scrutiny, but I'm proud of having had a hand in bringing some sanity back to the fore. So next time you're at the airport and see flight crew posing for photos on the tarmac, it's all right to be a bit jealous...we've worked hard to earn the privilege of being in these photos. It's not all right to go whining to a TV station and earning the scourge of group of airline professionals.
Airbus engine


  1. Hmmm... only in the United States. I have never met a people as a whole who is that easily scared. Most people I know here in Europe, think about something for a moment before haring off and labeling something as dangerous or maybe even nefarious. Has common sense passed so many living in the US by? Or has the scare tactics used by politicians produced a population scared of the most harmless things?

  2. I think a combination. People can often be like sheep and many seem to get used to doing as told or taking things heard at their word. If more would simply take a moment to educate themselves...

    Thank you for reading and commenting!