This week the public was stunned when a Jetblue captain lost it and went off aboard an aircraft. The subject of pilots "losing it" is, in the aviation community, of similar ilk to sleeping in the cockpit. It happens, but we're never supposed to let the public know. Of course when a Section 8 runs screaming down the aisle it's a bit hard to hide.
That said, here is my best Section 8 story...
I was flying as a First Officer (FO) for a regional carrier in the Midwest. I'd passed up my first chance to make captain because the bid was for the Jetstream 3100 and I wanted nothing to do with that animal. So, I just held out for my chance to come up on the Saab 340. When that happened, however, my vacation bid had just come through and I'd been awarded two weeks back-to-back, in July! THAT never happens. But, if I kept my head down and waited it out, screw-scheduling may just not catch it and I'd get 14 days off in mid-summer. If, however, I took my captain's slot, I'd have to re-bid my vacation. I kept quiet and let "captain" slide past.
So, as summer started, I was the second most senior FO in the company and the number one FO in the northern system. Lots of guys went to captain ahead of me. Of course, as soon as I got out of captain's school, I'd leap-frog all of them anyhow- so, no loss as far as I was concerned. What was important was to protect that vacation bid. One side effect of being the number one FO was that I got top bid on lines, so I rode the sweet-line train all summer and into fall. Along the way, I also seemed to get assigned the newbee captains from down south off and on as well.
On one leg, we picked up a newbee in MSP to take him to CDR where he'd fly with me the next morning while my regular captain, Tim, went to do IOE with another newbee. He strapped into the jumpseat and we blasted off. As we're cruising along making small talk, he leaned over and asked, "Who's this guy I'm flyin' with tomorrow?" Tim looked at me and smiled- this newbee didn't know it was me. I casually reached up and flipped my ID over backward. Tim said, sluring my name, "Oh... Olzlwoski... oh man, didn't they warn you about him?" "No," the newbee murmured puzzled. "He's got a seniority number way higher than mine, how come he's not a captain yet?" "They won't let him." I answered. Tim played along, "Oh yeah, he's a real Section 8." The newbee put his head in his hands, "Don't tell me this man." he moaned. "He's a bad apple," I pressed, "He friggin' slugged a captain once." Tim went on, "They fired him, but the union brought him back." "Is he nuts or somethin'?" the newbee asked in a near panic. "That's puttin' it mildly." Tim sighed. "How nuts?" the newbee asked with growing concern. "He's worse than Brain." I quipped referring to a well-known company Section 8. "Aw shit," the newbee spit, "I gotta fly with this guy and I'm fresh otta IOE!" Tim, of course had to rub it in, "Just guard the crash axe with your knee." he said.
A few agonizing moments passed- then suddenly you could see that the newbee realized that he'd been had. He reached over and flipped my I'd back over and read my name. "You f#%kers." he laughed with relief.
After we explained about my vacation bid and my disdain for the Jetstream, he understood.
For those of you who may be wondering, I kept quiet until July 4th and the last leg of my trip before starting vacation. In fact, everyone in the system kept quiet and screw-scheduling did not catch on until we were on the ramp taxing in after that last leg. Then the local operations called the aircraft and tried to give us the message that I was to call screw-scheduling. For some reason, were were just not receiving that radio call... lots of static and stuff. I came off the aircraft and dashed directly to my UAL jumpseat home. These were the days before many of us carried cell phones- so I was GONE! The first day of my vacation screw-scheduling put 43 messages on my machine, 31 the day after and 22 the day after that. Too bad I just was not there so they could contact me and cancel the second week of my vacation. After vacation I put in my captain's bid and got a class two months later. I don't think that newbee ever forgave me for that GOTCHA, of course I was senior to him too.