Thursday, February 22, 2007
The mile high club evokes a certain something-something. Most pilots have attempted to join the club at one time or other, but I suspect that most have found that the reality is a lot less glamorous and a lot more clumsy than the movies suggest.
The founder of the mile high club is considered to be Lawrence Sperry. Notice the last name? That's right, he's the same guy who invented the aircraft autopilot in 1914. It's a hell of a coincidence eh ;) He put his autopilot to 'practical' use pretty soon after he invented it, but before (pardon the pun) all the kinks were worked out; in 1916 he reportedly was having sex with a woman aboard his flying boat over New York when the airplane flew into the water. Fortunately neither him nor his guest were injured, and they lived to fly another day.
Unfortunately, joining the club can be deadly if you insist on sitting up front.
A fatal accident occured in Florida in 1991, and an excerpt from the NTSB report clues us into what was going on in the cockpit.
"EXAMINATION OF THE WRECKAGE AND BODIES REVEALED THAT BOTH OCCUPANTS WERE PARTIALLY CLOTHED AND THE FRONT RIGHT SEAT WAS IN THE FULL AFT RECLINING POSITION. NEITHER BODY SHOWED EVIDENCE OF SEATBELTS OR SHOULDER HARNESSES BEING WORN"
The cause was listed as:
"THE PILOT IN COMMAND'S IMPROPER INFLIGHT DECISION TO DIVERT HER ATTENTION TO OTHER ACTIVITIES NOT RELATED TO THE CONDUCT OF THE FLIGHT"
I guess if you have to go, you might as well go doing what you love.
For those who would prefer a lower-risk approach, there are lots of charter companies that offer specific mile high club flights, and I am pleased to see that Canada is represented on the list.
A typical listing goes like this:
"For only $299.00 plus applicable taxes and fees,
Visa, Mastercard, and American Express accepted.
* 1 Hour Flight
* Private Curtained Aircraft
* One (1) VERY DISCREET PILOT"
As an aside, I think the worst job in the world would be the person who has to steam-clean the aircraft carpets after such a flight.
More recently, actor Ralph Fiennes had a tryst with a flight attendant aboard a Qantas flight about a week and a half ago, using the lavatory in business class in an even messier manner than the designers had intended. The flight attendant says they had a passionate, unprotected encounter, while Ralph has remained silent on the matter. The f/a was on duty at the time and Qantas promptly fired her for it. For Ralph's part, he was heading to Mumbai to promote AIDS awareness. Is that ironic or is he just a dumbass? I can't tell.
I wrote this as I look back at my logbook to an entry marked September 21st 1990 in a Piper Archer, which was incidentally the first plane I flew with a working autopilot. And no, I'm not saying whether I logged dual or solo on that flight ;)