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Atlantic Barons

Old 8th Jun 2019, 19:40
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Atlantic Barons

Dear All
I enjoy PPRuNe and try not to comment but am intrigued by various views from former and current pilots, and of course spotters.
Thought I’d start a thread dedicated to the old chaps who used to fly and were in need of a good dose of CRM.
I’ve been long haul for many years and have been lucky enough to occupy the left seat for many years too (right place, time, luck)!
Chatting to new FO’s it seems that things have changed slightly since I started years ago. Some of the old Captains, I’m one of them now although don’t feel it, would address the cabin crew through the FO. Some wanted to be called Captain, some spoke about ‘their’ crew, ‘their’ First Officer and ‘their’ flight deck, “Don’t call me mate”, “I only want a china cup”, “as you’re on the jump seat please don’t interfere”!
Why did they make it so difficult not just for others but for themselves.
Hope this will be an entertaining thread and hope that some of us learn how not to be!!
Happy flighting.
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Old 8th Jun 2019, 20:35
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You’re on the verge of opening a can of worms ! I hope it doesn’t deteriorate to people just vilifying their cohorts. People can be and are influenced by new inroads into training and human factors like CRM. This is certainly good but I maintain that humans are firmly immutable to a great extent.

I retired in the early 2000s having flown 35 years of airline stuff; I can think of examples from my career matching most of the issues you mentioned in your opening remarks ( or matching in spirit) but they were relatively few in number. I suspect the same percentages would be true today if such data could be produced. Some cultural differences outside my experience may skew the data a bit. I can only speak from my own US experience.

I began my airline flying with some WW2 era captains and a few from shortly thereafter. In the main, I was treated with respect (more than I deserved on an occasion or two ) if not kindly tolerance by the captains I worked with. They would listen to my input and even solicited it on occasion !! The ones who didn’t were comparatively few in number. I learned from every one of them.

I suspect my experience, if truth were told, isn’t all that different over all. Humans !!

Last edited by bafanguy; 8th Jun 2019 at 22:56.
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Old 8th Jun 2019, 20:37
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Eric Woods has some nice stories in his book Climb to and Maintain about the North Atlantic "Gods"
He thought that the Stratocruiser crews had an airline all of their own.
His first trip on one was after they had been relegated to West Africa.On arrival before leaving the flight deck he was startled when a stewardess appeared with a tray of champagne cocktails,apparently the wind down procedure.
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Old 8th Jun 2019, 21:37
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This is a potentially interesting topic. I also got my first job with late lamented Dan Air in the 70s. I flew with former wartime captains and the concept of CRM was not a twinkle in anyone’s eye. I think it is fair to say that the bad ones were really, really bad and the good ones were great and would have been in any era. While Dan Air did not have the perceived status of the national carrier the pilots were the same mix of military, Hamble, self improvers etc. However, as has been already said the vast majority were decent grounded people, yes we had lady pilots even then, who just got the job done as effectively as possible. Of course political correctness was also a twinkle etc and Dan even had an all female cabin crew policy which continued into the 80s. Smoking in the cockpit was common although very unpleasant and ‘banter’ was the Lingus Franca of the cockpit which would probably make the more sensitive types of the modern world shudder...

I came across the last era of the real Atlantic Barons when joining the woolly pullover airline in 1990 as a first officer. The retired 747 captains from BA were extending their careers; there were some real shockers in that group,but the vast majority were good guys.

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Old 9th Jun 2019, 01:18
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North Atlantic Barons.

In the early days of BOAC, North America was the only location that then paid overseas allowances in local currency, i.e. US Dollars, because of course US hotel contracts didn't include meals. The hotel may have had an attached Coffee Shop or restaurant under separate mangement, but meals could not be charged to a room in the adjacent hotel, so crew had to be provided with cash. In other parts of the BOAC worldwide routes crews were usually accommodated under Full Board arrangements, and had to turn up for scheduled hotel meals, which were charged to their room, so BOAC reckoned that they didn't need extra cash and if one wanted to have local money to spend in the bar then that was the crew members' own responsibility to take with them, and remember that the UK than had restriction on the amount of cash could be taken out of the country. BOAC provided their own equivalent of Travellers Cheques for crew, known as BOAC Currency Coupons, which one bought on departure and which the overseas local staff would then exchange for local currency at a more favourable rate than the bank.

Consequently the NAB's ensured that they only flew to North America, where they could organise their daily eating habits and locations to also save sufficient dollars out of the then $10 daily meal allowance - yes, breakfast, lunch and dinner could be purchased for that vast sum - to either drink or bank, and were senior, and powerful, enough to ensure that, and were horrified when the Stratocruiser was assigned to West African routes, and had to impose their seniority on the roster system to ensure that they never found themselves in Kano, Lagos, or Accra ! This had come about because Nkrumah, then Dictator ( sorry, President ) of Nigeria, had insisted that BOAC used their then most prestigious aircraft, the Strat. on UK / Nigeria routes to maintain their then traffic rights.

I recall on one of my early trips to New York, the NAB I was flying with offered to show me where to get a full breakfast for $1.00, and of course the Tad's Steakhouse outlets offered a full steak dinner for $1.19. Plenty of chance to save the meagre allowance dollars for a few Budweisers, a facility denied those flying on the Eastern Routes to Australia for instance.

Not excusing them, but had I survived four years or so of being shot at every night, then I might also have displayed the sort of arrogance and superiority that some later displayed. Maybe ?

Although I was engaged as a pilot, I had to start my career initially as a navigator on the Strat. and one day, realising that the co-pilot had missed the Selcal chime, I tapped him on the shoulder with my ruler, and said "Selcal, Dave". The NAB swung around and said "We do NOT use Christian names on the flight deck, MR. XXXXXX !!!

On another occasion, the F/O, realising that our NAB was a stickler for flight deck cleanliness, ensured that the flight deck was as clean and tidy as could be expected, but when the Captain arrived he asked the F/O if the flight deck was in fact clean enough to his satisfaction ? When the F/O answered in the affirmative, he pointed out that there was a toffee wrapper under the F/O' seat. When the F/O slid his seat back to retrieve it, the Capt. said NO, you're not a cleaner, ring for the steward. The F/O had to leave the flight deck to allow the Ch.Steward to get in and remove the offending paper !

On the other side of the coin the NAB's were by and large superb handling pilots. Some had difficulty with the the more complicated NDB let downs to an ILS approach, being somewhat alien to them after wartime procedures, but pop out of cloud not lined up, too high, too fast, not correctly configured, and say " The runway's over there, Sir" ( never forgetting the Sir !) and they would straighten up and fly a magnificent handheld approach to a manual landing. Ask some of our current pilots more used to playing Space Invaders than handling an aircraft, to do that ? Just sayin'.

I'm glad I had the opportunity to fly with the breed, and learned a lot about flying from them, albeit at the expense of some exposure to uneccessary pomposity and arrogance, from some of them.
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Old 9th Jun 2019, 02:56
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this happens when people take their name and company assigned title too seriously, take the job and responsibility seriously, yes, but not yourself so much..you'll find life much easier
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Old 9th Jun 2019, 03:26
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this happens when people take their name and company assigned title too seriously, take the job and responsibility seriously, yes, but not yourself so much..you'll find life much easier

I spent 18 years as a pilot in the Royal Australian Air Force. Started as a Sergeant Pilot in 1952 and finished as a two and a half ringer with much of that time as a QFI. Often that time included dual instruction on various Commanding Officers and even the occasional Group Captain. I was mortified to have to fail my own CO during an instrument rating test in a Lincoln. All he said to me was "OK - so I need more dual." This from a former Beaufighter pilot who was shot down while strafing Japanese Zero floatplanes in Timor and spent the rest of the war as a PoW of the Japanese.

Never during all that time, did I strike any personality problems with crew members of senior military rank to myself. We didn't use titles such as "Captain" or "Commander". We were addressed as a position in the crew. The captain was called "Skipper" - be he a Sergeant or Group Captain. If the copilot was a Group Captain, anyone in the crew would address him as "Copilot" as befit his crew position. Once he stepped down the ladder of the Lincoln on to the tarmac in his sweaty green flying suit with his parachute over his shoulder, only then he became a "Sir."

It wasn't until later years flying as a captain with an Australian airline and then with a British operator, I became aware of occasional examples of professional snobbishness where airline seniority number was the equivalent of social "class." I will always remember my first day in 1990 with what was then Paramount Airways based at Bristol Airport. I was given a warm and friendly welcome by the operations room staff when a great-coated four bar character strode through the room and with a booming Oxford accented voice said "Who shall I sack today?" There were nervous titters and rolling of eyes all around. Of course he was joking I am sure, but I later was told he was a real tartar as an aircraft captain. I can well believe that. Personally, I saw him as an over-blown class idiot.

Last edited by Centaurus; 9th Jun 2019 at 03:42.
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Old 9th Jun 2019, 03:43
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“Be the kind of Captain you would want to fly with”

That’s the advice I was given when I changed seats and I’ve found it to be the most simple but effective way of doing things.


I have noticed a lot at my company that FO’s refer to “the Captain” but from Day 1 checked to line in the left seat go with “MY first officer”

Recent crew room conversation I heard:

FO: “Are you happy with (fuel figure)?”
CPT: “No I’m the Captain and I want to take (minutely different fuel figure) so that’s what we are doing”

Everyone hates that guy. So many better ways to achieve the same result.
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Old 9th Jun 2019, 07:36
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Upon promotion, having experienced some autocratic Captains, I said that I didn't have a knighthood, but if the crew found it difficult to call me by my christian name whilst on Duty, then I was "Captain", but off duty my name was XXXX
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Old 9th Jun 2019, 07:57
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When I was promoted, a number of people told me "The ****** in the left hand seat is now you." So true.
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Old 9th Jun 2019, 12:50
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I said I don't mind what you call me, it's the tone of voice that matters.
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Old 9th Jun 2019, 14:15
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I joined Big Airways as an F/E just at the end of the NABs reign, after a couple of years the Tristars were sent to Caledonian the charter arm of the company, on a trip one day the cabin crew came in to ask us about lunch, the Captain ordered and said he wanted it on a china plate, no problem, she came back 10 mins later with the china plate on which was his lunch in its tin foil tray! Much tittering from the F/O and myself.
But as said earlier, most were very good handling pilots.
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Old 9th Jun 2019, 14:50
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In my experience, the only people in BA that refer to “my crew” or “ their crew” are the CSD’s and CSM’s.
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Old 9th Jun 2019, 15:06
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Originally Posted by hunterboy View Post
In my experience, the only people in BA that refer to “my crew” or “ their crew” are the CSD’s and CSM’s.
You need to get out more often then!
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Old 9th Jun 2019, 20:27
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Years ago, I flew frequently with a senior CC member who had the rank structure right. The drill was to give a confirmation of pax numbers and doors closed, and I would reply with flight time and cruise level. It would go "xx passengers, doors closed, Captain" "Thank you, x hours/min, x,000'" "Thanks, Peter" To combine rank and Christian name in the one conversation somehow seemed normal.
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Old 9th Jun 2019, 20:47
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There are quite a few baronial idiots around outside of the world's questionably favourite airline. The breed continues to replicate, sadly, with new recruits often coming from the ranks of newly-promoted F/O's with overblown egos. I think a 10% level of people with inadequate abilities in the CRM area is fairly constant. (There are also a few nice folk with short-fuses, one or two unqualified "Trainers", and occasionally under-confident individuals), Happily the majority of folk in the left-seat are confident well-rounded people who show due respect to all they work with.
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Old 10th Jun 2019, 12:36
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Australians are known for their assertiveness or Jack is as good as his Master approach. 737 crew on IMC descent to a Pacific island where limitation was not below 8000 until inside 20 DME of destination VOR.. At 20 DME further descent to 4000 is available prior to instrument approach.
Captain was a former 1942 US Navy World War Two veteran of the Guadalcanal campaign with a no nonsense uncompromising attitude to first officers. A classic one man band personality. The first officer was a quietly spoken Australian Vietnam war veteran who had been shot down in Vietnam and survived after ejecting .
The captain set 4000 into the MCP instead of the 8000 limit which was the MSA until 20 DME. Descent commenced from 35,000 towards destination VOR.

First Officer politely reminded the captain of the necessity of levelling at 8000 until inside 20 DME and went to reset the MCP to 8000. The captain bridled at this advice and rudely told the F/O to pull his head in. Approaching 8000 on descent, it was apparent the captain was intent on continuing below 8000 in IMC and still outside 20 DME. Reason for 20 DME limitation was high terrain en-route and on track. The F/O stated his objection to the limitation being ignored and in turn was again told to pull his head in. The F/O then unstrapped and grabbing the crash axe from its holder in the flight deck, raised it above the head of the captain and coldly stated "Your choice, Joe - 4000 or 8000 on the MCP..

Faced with this threat and calling upon his Threat and Error Management skills, the captain levelled the 737 at 8000 and neither said a word after that.
A good example of multi-crew cooperation backed up by an axe. You won't read about that in the manuals
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Old 10th Jun 2019, 15:23
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A reservist QFI chum on our UAS in the early '90s was ex-BOAC, ex-ba and had worked his way up from DC-7 F/O to Concorde captain. His tales of the early days were fascinating; apparently everyone used to stand up when the captain came down for breakfast at the crew hotel; he would then decide when to leave for the airport. In flight the Captain was certainly God, but my chum had never been on the receiving end of a Baron's nastiness. Although he was once hauled up before management for telling the cleaners to get off his aeroplane until he had left. He did have other brushes with management, who appeared to be his only foe! Our students loved flying with him (apart from the deafening levels of radio and intercom he set) - and the old rogue was an utter villain who would enjoy a bit of illicit dogfighting when the Boss or CFI weren't around!

There were some 'Baronial' types in the AAR world. One Sqn Ldr, ex-Victors, had co-pilots who might as well have been named Bader - because they had no operating legs! Whereas the rest of us would normally split the flight 50/50, so one pilot would do the take-off and first half of the flight and the other would do the second half and landing.

When 'crew co-ordination' was reinvented by the airlines and termed CRM, the late RFK once remarked "CRM? That's for poofs!". He didn't really mean it though.

I wonder what the Barons would have thought about the recent EasyJet TV documentary and the flight deck standards displayed by some of the pilots? Instant cardiac arrest, probably - but that documentary has certainly stiffened my resolve never to fly Orange again....
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Old 10th Jun 2019, 16:19
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….children of the magenta line.....and I mean children.
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Old 10th Jun 2019, 17:32
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A notorious BOAC Captain know as ‘The Razor’ due to his surname required everyone to address him as Captain G*******sir. Never just Captain or just Sir.

On boarding the VC10 Cabin Crew we’re required to ring the flight deck and introduce themselves and what working position.
He was so ‘popular’ that he would not put his suitcase in the hold he took it on F/D with him.

Operating from Nairobi crew would purchase baskets of fruit, label them, and place in hold for collection at LHR his were usually run over by ground equipment and reduced to fruit salad!

He was taken to court for allegedly striking his dustman for not showing due deference. When asked by the magistrate what commission did he hold he replied none I am a BOAC Captain the magistrate said “right Mr G*********”

He would not normally mix with crew but as I once sat in a hotel bar he sent me a beer but would not join in drinking with me!


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