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Donald Flies The Jet

shuttle simulator


by William Thomas


Assume the crash position. Tuck your head between your knees and kiss your ass goodbye. The new "pilot" taking over hasn't ever visited a cockpit, not even a Piper Cub. Like him, we are all about to discover that buying a Jr. Jet Pilot's cap, dying your hair orange, and telling everyone what a hot pilot you're gonna be does not impress gravity.


Especially not when it's clear that this GUFUS (Guy Up Front United States) has zero notion of what all those flat screens, knobs, warning lights and switches are for. And even less of a clue how to get anything done aboard something as bewilderingly complex as the world's biggest nation – which even a doofus can tell is already running rough.


We've just got time for a quick call home while our new student pilot receives his first frantic lessons from the veteran he's replacing. When our real pilot steps briefly back into the cabin to pinch himself and dab his tears, a passenger named Steve Colbert tweets that he looks like he's just passed a 55-pound kidney stone. Also that he's buckling on a parachute. Too bad there's only enough 'chutes for First Class.


The intercom inadvertently clicks on. 


“… pull your nose up,” the first pilot's saying. “No no! The nose of the airplane!"


A loud feedback screech is followed by several amplified clicks. Someone blows experimentally into the microphone.


"Hello? Hello? Can anyone hear me back there?”


A new voice. Shaky.


"This is your, ah, new captain spea... What? 'Don't touch that'? Sorry... your new captain and I just want to let you know that everybody up here's real nice and everything's really really great. So don't be afraid. It makes me sad when people are afraid..”


"The real captain must have been telling him not to disengage the autopilot," I tell the kid sitting next to me. He's squeezing both armrests so hard, I can see indentations in the metal. "As long as he lets the computers do the flying, we're good," I assure him. "Machine intelligence and sheer momentum will keep us aloft."


The kid's looking hopeful when I add, "For now."


"Jerk," he says.


Everybody around me is still stunned by the surreal enormity of what just happened. We knew there was going to be a crew change – regulations require it. And it turns out that most passengers preferred an elderly woman who, despite some serious health issues, was totally qualified to fly the jet. She only wants the job so she can drop atom bombs on “deplorable” regimes. Trouble is, they have nukes, too.


While everyone was still arguing, this freaky-looking dude just walked out of the passenger waiting area claiming the real pilot was an incompetent illegal immigrant and that he was taking over.


Someone sitting across the aisle later told me that he was a four-times bankrupted billionaire who likes to hear himself yap. Which doesn't seem much of a recommendation for tackling such a tricky task. Not with so much at stake. And not just for the few of us up here. A lot more people live along our flight path.

Hopefully, this new guy – who apparently has trouble with impulse control around women and other situations he's just encountered – will refrain from touching the flight attendants or any other buttons. Because as soon as this pretender attempts to take manual control of our jet and change course, even slightly... it's over.


Traversing high altitude thin air at high Mach, all "heavies" balance on the edge of their performance envelopes. Abrupt control inputs can trigger a high-speed upset. A progressively deepening side-to-side Dutch Roll will roll us helplessly onto our backs. Or a high-speed stall will instantly delete lift, flipping us into an unrecoverable inverted dive. Crash statistics show that the average interval between a fledgling flier getting in over his head and cratering is under 60 seconds.


Chanting, "He's not my pilot!" distraught passengers are already shoving and shouting in the aisles. Others are clapping and cheering in their seats, as if they've just been freed from decades of abuse and oppression.


If death is the ultimate release, they have! Regardless of what anyone thinks about giving the controls to an angry six-year-old, our shared fate is now in the hands of an imposter whose loudly proclaimed intentions are the OPPOSITE to what's needed to keep the wings level. And attached. So I guess I'll join you for that final drink.


Hemlock please.


We're going in hard.

passerby cratered jet

Author’s Note

Hooked on airplanes at birth, William Thomas soloed a Cessna at the age of 16. Fulfilling a lifelong dream, he was later chosen by the US Navy for flight training at Pensecola - before resigning his commission over the slaughter in Vietnam. 


 发件人     William Thomas 2019