Top 10 Things to Never Say to a Pilot

Fist Pump baby

Me Cockpit TIW Book Best crop


Today is the official day for the print release of

There I Wuz!

Direct Link:

…and don’t miss our

Book Release party at Aviation Universe @ ORD on

Saturday, July 26th at 12pm!

aviation universe

Come join me, along with owners Lora, Richard, and Wilber and Orville at Aviation Universe!

Visit for directions and details!

And now . . .

mean-pilot-meme 2

Special thanks to Brent Owens of for letting me use this awesome pic from his blog!

Excuse me while I punch you in the face.

Below is a list of lines that, for an airline pilot, sound like nails on a chalkboard.

Most of the statements carry an implied insult that keeps the pilot grumbling for hours afterward. If you’re in the profession and have been on the receiving end of one of these, you know exactly what I’m talking about.

Of course, the majority of the statements or questions are innocent and carry no malice. They simply come from an innate misunderstanding of the profession, and are not intended to cause insult. For you landlubbers, however, I encourage you to bite your tongue before uttering one of these faux pas, and consider rephrasing the question . . . or, better yet, using the onboard wifi to Google the answer!


10. What route do you fly?

This one baffles me, but it’s the most common question I ever get. This seems like a throwback to the golden age of the railway, gone now for nearly 100 years, when trains could only go where tracks took them.

Look, an airplane doesn’t have this limit. A mile of runway will take you anywhere in the world!


Of course, what they are really asking is, Where do you fly—short hops, Domestic, or International? Once again, however, the question can carry an unintended insult: the implication being the shorter the hop, the lesser the pilot you are.

To answer your question, once and for all: my routes are up and down, and all over the place!


Fellow pilot-blogger-author Mark L. Berry wrote a song with the exact same phrase. (Yep, it’s universally annoying!) Here’s the link:

What Route Do You Fly?

mean-pilot-meme 3

9. Are you a pilot or a copilot?

Grr…bang, zoom, to the moon, Alice!

Like most in this list, it’s not so much the question, but the implied insult.

1254935948_how_to_be_a_pilotFirst of all, the term “copilot” carries a false implication: that one is sort of a “pilot in training” or an “apprentice.”

Absolutely, 100% WRONG!

EVERYONE up front in that cockpit is 100% trained, qualified, and experienced enough to Captain the ship. They have all the required flight ratings and experience.

The SOLE reason the Captain is in command: s/he has more Company Seniority—not necessarily more experience—than the other fully qualified pilots in the cockpit.

Do us a favor and use the proper terminology: Captain And First Officer.


Dog ain’t my Copilot—he’s my First Officer!

9.1 Corollary: You’re the copilot? Do you wanna be a pilot some day?

See answer above.

And excuse me while I punch you in the face.

9.2 Corollary 2.0: Some day, do you wanna fly for the big airlines (variation: big airplanes/ big jets/ International)?

Nearly every pilot in the business hopes to fly for the biggest, bestest, worldwidest airlines, for the top pay and position, flying the biggest toys. But we are all at different points in our careers working up the ladder, and completely at the mercy of this fickle business. We are either on our way to that dream spot, or got stuck where we are, due to fate and economic whims completely beyond our control.


It has nothing to do with our “abilities!”

And excuse me while I punch you in the face.


8. So, those autopilots pretty much fly themselves, right?

So, your Cruise Control is pretty much your Designated Driver?

Autopilots are extremely sophisticated.  They can fly from here to TOM (Timbuktu) with uncanny precision. Yep, just like a robot vacuum cleaner, which you can program to traverse every inch of your carpet . . . but don’t dare move the furniture!

Autopilots are nothing more than a 3D cruise control. They can process, but they can’t think.

For more, see my post, “Busted Aviation Myths: Otto is My Copilot”—

pax mayhem

“Ladies and gentlemen, not only are the pilots unconscious up front…but we’re also out of coffee.”

7. Oh, you fly for Brand X? I flew them once. (Insert melodramatic Flight From Hell story here.) I’ll never fly them again!

Gee, lemme break out my mini-violin.

Yes, yes, we all have our sob Flight From Hell stories. And, for airline crews, I’m convinced we’re all required to have one at least every 6 months to remain “current and qualified.”

Every airline in history has had their bad moments, but many of the factors are completely beyond their control: the weather, random mechanical, delay on  a previous flight, etc.

In case you didn’t know, with a million parts per bird, even the most stellar of machines break from time to time.

If you really suffer that much on our airline, go back to covered wagons.

OK, so some airlines have worse rep’s than others, sometimes deservedly so. But please don’t whine to us about it. We have no control over it, and the implication is that, since we’re associated with that airline, we must suck, too.

If you really suffer that much on our airline getting from EWR to SFO, you can always go back to covered wagons.

And excuse me while I punch you in the face.


6. Is this thing safe?

If it wasn’t, none of us would be here, the airline would be out of business, and there wouldn’t even be an airline industry.

Moreover, people seem to forget the Number One Reason “this thing is safe”: it’s MY butt driving the pressurized metal tube hurtling at Mach .8—you think I’m gonna risk my tushy?

6.1 Corollary: “This plane’s so small!”

(said while boarding anything not a Boeing 747 or A380)

Yeah, lady, machines the size of cruise ships tend to have a little trouble on the takeoff roll.

And excuse me while I—uh, ahem. Welcome aboard!

pilot do tell

5. (Said to the Flight Deck): Just so you know, I’m a Private Pilot, and I’m in back in case you need anything.

ngbbs4c8fd4ffa3bf5Uh, yeah, if we need to know the Vfe speed of a Cessna 172, we’ll make an emergency PA for ya!

Most times #5 is said with a smirk and we all just laugh, trade handshakes and welcome you aboard. But you can’t believe how often said Private Pilot announces it with a serious, straight face.

Don’t get me wrong, we all have 100% respect for the incredible accomplishment of achieving any pilot’s license. But this statement sounds kind of like a 1st-year Medical student telling a heart surgeon he’s available to take over. Or like punkass Wesley lecturing Cap’n Picard on the nuances of the Jeffries Tube Warp Drive plasma conduit—well, ok, that could happen, but you catch my drift.


4. Have you been drinking?

pilotJust like the statement at a TSA checkpoint, “What, you think I have a bomb in my suitcase?” this one is just . . .


Believe it or not, morons have actually said this to crews as they approach the gate.

Result: the pilots stop everything to demand a pee pee test, and the flight is delayed for hours. And of course the offending passenger, if he knows what’s good for him, slinks off to catch another flight before being lynched by his fellow seat mates.

4.1 Sorry, no crew discount.

Say what, Bartender?

OK, we are human, and some of us do occasionally drink on overnights to wind down. But we are EXTREMELY aware of our safe and legal liimits, and of our report time the next day. We know that the most minor slip up would destroy our career.


Oh, Stewardess, I’ll have a double gin and tonic and a line of blow. Trust me, I’m a pilot! (Thanks, Hollywood, for this absurd flick. And excuse me while I punch you in the face.)

So, bartender, pour me a double—and no tip for you!


Cap’n Baby Face, o’er the skies of Alaska!

3. You’re too young to be a Pilot!

You got me, Ma’am. I’m really a burger flipper at McD’s, and the airline is playing a cruel joke on you.

This implied insult negates the years of training and thousands of hours of flying your pilot no doubt already has under his/her belt. Whether 3 stripes or 4 on those shoulder boards, rest assured they earned every one.

LBP book-cover-with-award 350dpi Lo

I used this line as a standing joke that burdens the main characters DC and Allen in The Last Bush Pilots. I’ve never actually heard it, but for 35 years I’ve read it in the horrified faces of my passengers—and I still do! For some reason, the traveling public expects all pilots to be elderly grandpas, born in the crib with 20,000 hours of flight time. Knock on wood, my silver hair still hides behind the blondish ones, all cut short to accent my perpetual Baby Face!

Oh, and speaking of which . . .


Visit Matt and hear his story at:

Congratulations to 19-year-old Matt Guthmiller who, on July 14, became the youngest person to fly solo around the world!

3.1 Corollary: You’re a girl—girls don’t fly!


An actual note left for a female pilot. I pity the fool who tries this one on Karlene Petitt!

Believe it or not, there’s still moronic, backwoods, uneducated Neanderthals (feel free to add more insulting epithets) out there who believe this. Welcome to the 21st Century, pal!

You don’t like it, feel free to crawl back into the cave from which you came. By the way: two of the best pilots I’ve ever known were—gasp!—female!

Here’s a story from a recent incident:

1000x10002. I’m Pregnant.

OK, I just had to throw that one in there for kicks. But, to answer the question that I KNOW is ever-looming in your dirty little mind . . .

NO, pilots and flight attendants are NOT running around sleeping with each other. Just like the environment at the office, however, they do work closely together, we’re all human and the opportunity is there, so it does occasionally happen. Just not nearly as much as Hollywood or the gossiping busybodies would have you think.


1. You’re a Pilot? You must be rich!

Grr. Bang, zoom, to the moon! Where to begin? A lifetime of debt paying off those flight training bills, years spent eating top ramen with your fellow crash pad buddies while flying for peanuts at the regional of your choice . . . Even today, many pilots literally live on food stamps. Only the tippy top of the tippy top in this career ever really “make it” to the point where they’re not living paycheck to paycheck like the rest of humanity!

That’s why today’s pilot must always remember: it’s not for the money, it’s for the love of flight. And, it’s not the goal, it’s the journey!

Relish every moment of your aviation career, no matter how “successful” it may be to others’ eyes. For, from the moment you step into the cockpit for your first introductory flight, you’re already

living your dream!

—  —  —  —

Just for fun, we’ll end this series with my video, Zen and the Art of Landing:


—  —  —  —

Honorable Mention: “Go Around! . . . Just kidding.”

You’ve probably heard this one in the news. Yep, it actually happened!

A very experienced ATL Tower controller, apparently bored with the graveyard shift, jokingly told Delta to go-around—that is, abort the landing, climb out and circle. A few seconds later, he added, “Just kidding.” But it was too late. Delta, dutifully and correctly, instantly aborted and did a go-around—costing the Company who knows how many 100’s of $ in fuel costs and inconveniencing passengers for another 15 minutes.

Go-arounds are common maneuvers, but they are no laughing matter. When a controller says, Go around!, you don’t question it, you do it. You may initially have no idea why you’re going around—a truck on the runway, a NORDO (no-radio) plane heading your way, who knows.

So, you shoot first and ask questions later.

Screen Shot 2014-06-29 at 3.32.29 PM

Link to story:

Despite the typical melodrama the TV News Talking Heads spew about this sort of thing, however, there was absolutely NO risk to passengers during this very routine—if costly—maneuver.

We did a poll on Capn Aux Facebook page (

Screen Shot 2014-06-29 at 3.26.17 PM


By a margin of 2-1, you voted to let the controller keep his job—after a little trip to the spankin’ machine.

I expect Delta will be sending him a fuel bill as well . . .

I highly doubt the attached note will end with, “Just kidding.”

—  —  —  —

Some more great things not to say to a pilot, that you’ve Tweeted in with:

  • @BabyGorilla143: “Delta 214 go around……. Just kidding…” (Thanks, added as an Honorable Mention, above!)
  • @ShawnChittle: Nomination for #1: “Where is that missing Malaysian plane?”
  • @Judge613: Hi, Jack!
  • @CaptJCKidder: We are from the FAA and we’re here to help you! (One of the longest-standing jokes in the industry!)
  • @AZAviator: Can you put the instructor on the radio, please? (said to the instructor!)
  • @AirlineFlyer: Are we there yet?
  • @SmurfPilot: Maybe you’re that way because you’re not getting enough oxygen way up there.
  • @FlightChops ( Know it all friend says, “Why do you study so much to fly on instruments? it’s easy; I do it in Flightsim all the time!” (facepalm!)
  • @ComeBackDaddy ( Where’s Baggage Claim? (Said while standing beneath the giant arrow pointing to Baggage Claim!)
  • Corollary: “Where’s Flight 386?” (Said while standing beneath the gate info monitor. Lady, the only way I’d know off the top of my head where 386 was, is if I’m drivin’ it!)
  • @JR_justJR ( When does this flight stop at the SkyMall? I really do wanna some shopping.
  • @JR_justJR “Hey man, do you need to crash at my place tonight?”
  • @Jayson_David Where did you get your wings; from a cracker jacks box? …(at FL 390) gonna open the door; stuffy in here ;D
  • @Millenia: “Are you the Pilot?” I always answer with: 1. Are you the passenger? 2. No, but I play one on TV! 0r 3. No, but I stayed at a Holiday Inn Express last night!
  • (Multiple Tweeters): Private Pilot says to the Captain: “Hey, I think I could give you some landing tips;” “Why didn’t you do a proper run-up?”; “There’s a funny noise over-wing. I’ve never heard it before.”  “You know, your flaps were down for takeoff.” etc. etc. etc., ad nauseum . . .


Let’s end this odyssey with a joke I came across doing my diligent research for this post:

A 777 departs LAX under the control of a Jewish captain. His co-pilot is Chinese. It’s the first time they’ve flown together and an awkward silence between the two seems to indicate a mutual dislike.

Once they reach cruising altitude, the Jewish captain leans back in his seat, and mutters, “I don’t like the Chinese.”

“You don’t like the Chinese?” asks the co-pilot, “Why not?”

“You people bombed Pearl Harbor, that’s why!”

“No, no,” the co-pilot protests, “The Chinese didn’t bomb Pearl Harbor! That was the Japanese.”

“Japanese, Chinese, Vietnamese…doesn’t matter, you’re all the same!”

There’s a few minutes of silence.

“I don’t like Jews!” the co-pilot suddenly announces.

“Why not?” asks the captain.

“The Jews sank the Titanic.”

“Jews didn’t sink the Titanic!” exclaims the captain, “It was an iceberg!”

“Iceberg, Goldberg, Greenberg, no matter…they’re all same!”

—  —  —  —

Related Cap’n Aux Posts

—  —  —  —

Lined up & Waiting

Departing July 25

Screen Shot 2014-06-14 at 6.59.49 PM

OshKosh 2014—a Pre-Party Extravaganza!

—  —  —  —

Taxiing for Takeoff

July 28-August 3

Team Aux will be posting ALL WEEK LONG at Oshkosh during our very first trip—

Beginning with a 2-HOUR LIVE BROADCAST at Oshkosh on

Simple Flight Radio!

Screen Shot 2014-07-12 at 4.43.20 PM

Join me and hosts Al and Marc, Sunday evening, July 27th @ 8-10pm CST!

—  —  —  —  —

Now Boarding

Departing August 1

Blogging in Formation Logo

Blogging in Formation!