"For us let it be enough to know ourselves to be in the place where God wants us, and carry on our work, even though it be no more than the work of an ant, infinitesimally small, and with unforeseeable results."
-- Abbé Monchanin

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Bush Pilots and Airliners

A friend just called me on his cell phone from an airplane. He told me that he got on the flight to go to New York City. All the signs at the boarding gate and all the attendants there said that the flight was going to New York. When the flight was in the air for some time, the pilot came on the intercom and said that the flight was going to Chicago instead. The flight crew was as surprised as the passengers at this information. The chief of the flight crew spoke with the pilot while the rest of the attendants tried to reassure the passengers on the flight.

The pilot informed the chief of the flight crew that they had all been mislead by the people who posted the signs and took the boarding passes. It was important that the flight go to Chicago rather than New York. Since the crew and passengers had boarded the flight, they had consented to Chicago as their destination and were obligated to support the decision to go to Chicago.

No one was happy with this explanation, but the flight crew, as loyal employees of the airline, tried to calm the passengers and convince them that everything was OK. The passengers were promised that arrangements were being made to get them to their desired destinations and their flight would actually be better with a stopover in Chicago.

Later, the pilot came on the intercom to inform the passengers and crew that they were not going to land at Chicago afterall. The flight had already bypassed Chicago and was headed toward its destination making good speed.

At this announcement, everyone became very upset and tried to find out from the pilot where, exactly, they were going. They demanded that he land at the nearest airport that could handle a jumbo jet and let them off the plane. He refused, saying that it would be catastrophic if they did not reach their destination. When they asked what the destination was, he replied that they would know when they got there. He assured them that they were making good time and would soon be arriving.

After several more hours of flying, the crew was worried that fuel might be running low. They tried to get the pilot to tell them what signs indicated that they were nearing their destination. He responded that he did not set arbitrary sign posts and that they should trust him to get them there. They responded that, so far, he'd started a flight to New York City and diverted it to Chicago. He'd overshot Chicago and was now taking them to who-knows-where. Why should they trust him? His response was: "I'm the Pilot!"

Just before my friend phoned me, the pilot announced that they were increasing the fuel flow in order to guarantee that they arrived at the destination. It was imperative that they not run out of fuel before landing. That would be a catastrophe. He argued that a surge in the fuel flow, would make the plane go faster. As they burned fuel more rapidly, the plane would get lighter and would therefore go further and faster for each gallon of fuel burned. This would guarantee that the last drops of fuel would allow them to land safely.

The last thing my friend said before his phone went dead was, "That's what we get for letting a Bush pilot fly a jumbo jet."

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