Wednesday, October 17, 2007

When the King Air Captain asked for our catering, I knew we were screwed.


As a favor to an Ops Mgr friend of mine, I was pinch-hitting (or perhaps, pinch-Captaining?) on a jet operated by another company, technically competitors of ours. Again, what?

//We were totally covered at my company - all our other pilots were in the air, so I knew I wasn't going to be needed by my employers. I had gotten approval from my boss, the owner, and the fee for my services was going straight to my company rather than in my pocket. Like I said, I was doing this as a favor to my Ops Mgr pal rather than any attempt to line my own pockets//

Anyway, we were going to fly a politician to a meeting a couple of hours away. Most likely you have heard of this person.

Before we fired up, I got a call on the Crackberry; it was a member of the politician's security detail. We were briefed by him on what to expect; the car containing the politician would be coming through the gate at such and such a time, and we should have one of the engines running by the time the cabin door closed behind the politician etc. It was all very exciting and glamorous.

There were several members of the politician's entourage already at the airport; after we loaded their boxed lunches aboard the plane we made small-talk with them, letting them know the weather was fine for the flight, and that we were happy to have them with us and if there was anything we could do to make their trip more enjoyable, just speak the words and it would be done. I guess it didn't hurt that the politician's entourage consisted of young, attractive women, but we would have done all this anyway, in the interests of good charter relations.

About 5 minutes before the time we were told to expect the politician, I got another call on the crackberry; the security officer said they were on time and to expect them momentarily. Then he asked what kind of turboprop a 550 was. I explained that it was a light jet. There was a long pause; finally he said he'd see us soon.

We took the initiative and loaded the entourage on board the aircraft in anticipation of our imminent departure.

We waited. And waited. 5 minutes became 10, which turned into 15, which turned into 20. The ladies started to fidget, as did the flight crew.

Then we saw a government King Air taxi up to the FBO and shut down.

My F/o, knowing more than I about such things, said "That's not good"

The King Air Captain walked over to us and motioned at me to open the storm window. I did, and he said "Can I have the lunches please". I looked at him, and said "Ahh crap. I can see where this is going". He looked back and me and smiled. "Oh, nobody told you? There's been a change of plans. We are doing the trip now"

We meekly complied, and told the ladies that they had to disembark and board the turboprop right next to us.

5 minutes later, the politician arrived, boarded the turboprop and departed. We taxiied back to the hangar and sulked.

So what happened? Well, the F/o and I had showered that day so it wasn't us.

In fact, what happened was that the politician didn't know that a jet had been chartered for this flight, and wasn't pleased with the optics of the situation. Suppose someone took a pic of the politician boarding the jet and it found it's way into the newspapers. Instantly, the politician is seen as an unapproachable rich elitist. But if the politician is seen boarding a propeller airplane, he/she is still seen as a man/woman of the people, and their public image remains down-to-earth and warm and fuzzy.

So the politician made a phone call. As it turns out, a turboprop owned by this politician's government happened to be in the air about 20 minutes away, heading to another city with another person on board. Our politician pulled rank, and the King Air immediately diverted to our airport with their hapless occupant, who was dumped on the ramp and told to find an alternate method of transportation for the day.

Now here's the funny part - at least it's funny to me. The company I was flying for still billed the politician for the canceled trip in the jet, and the politician's branch of government paid. The company had turned down other charters to do this one, and it was only fair. And because I had showed up to do the flight, and had wasted half the day, I got paid also. Well, my company did but you get the point.

So in order for the politician to avoid any possibility of looking like a rich bigshot, they paid for 2 aircraft, and probably paid for whatever aircraft eventually flew the underling to the meeting he/she was heading for when the King Air was re-tasked while enroute. At least they saved money by using our catering :)

I definitely chose the wrong career. Would you vote for me? Sully for President! :D


Paul Tomblin said...

The jet was already paid for, why didn't they let the flunky go in it? No doubt because he wasn't high enough rank to be allowed to fly in a private jet, even though it undoubtedly cost more to give him alternate arrangements.

phil said...


Anonymous said...

Politics... whee! Maybe if they focused on being productive rather than who's gonna take a picture of them things would bet a lot better around the world?

Anonymous said...

I say Sully for Pope. And /or Emperor/Tsar.

Shane said...


Great story, and it's nice to have you back!

Pedro said...

Sully For President!!

Anonymous said...

It's the people's fault. Who would pay attention to any kind of explanation?

Anonymous said...

Our tax dollars at work. Even so LJ come...