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Old 08-01-2006, 01:03 PM   #1  
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Post Great story from an international airline pilot

Hello all,
The following is a story of an experience that happened out on the road to a pilot who has penned many a story and personal articles, that I read a while back ago. This is not informative for those looking for information, but in my honest opinion, quite an eye opening read that I thought would be nice to share.

NIGHTS IN A NOODLE SHOP

One of the prerequisites of the international airline pilot's trade is the opportunity to explore many of the world's cities. That is, if one has recovered from the aggregated hours of flight across assorted time zones. True rest is difficult to come by, so most of us inhabit a kind of twilight zone in which we appear to be alive and well but underneath the perservering exterior remains a numbness that clings like paint. In this altered state of awareness we carry on weary conversations that eventually make no sense, snore through a motion picture, fall into our food over dinner, exude loud speech and wilder actions in some sort of compensatory behaviour for knowing we are not one hundred percent, perhaps not even fifty percent. This demeaner is part of us, and always will be until we hang up the hat and finally achieve a decent night's sleep, over and again, and the business card says' "retired".

Not everyone partakes of the adventure. For various reasons, from "I don't like the food here" to "it's dangerous out there", they become what are known as 'slam clickers', this term derived from the sounds we hear as their hotel door is closed and the lock set -- for the duration. Room service trays eventually litter the floor outside. Long distance phone calls and computer hookups rule their day. I prefer to explore a foreign city rather than be it's prisoner. With an open mind and a sense of wonderment, you can find riches that will linger and even last a lifetime. The journey is fun. It is what we are all about.

This time it was Osaka, Japan, following a nearly ten-hour flight, landing just after dawn. Turbulence had made a long flight even more fatiguing, and the lengthy drive into town across the amazing bridge from Kansai airport put us to sleep. It was ever so pleasant to finally reach the hotel , take a long, hot shower, then drop into bed. But care must be taken -- setting an alarm is critical as sleeping through the day usually means sitting up at night. And with a long trip to go, it was best to slip into the local routine. But when that alarm went off in the early afternoon, it was all I could do to fight the natural response to go directly back to sleep. But that was for the night.

I was solo --- my cockpit mate firmly into 'slam-click' mode -- and decided to wander around an enticing area I had explored on other trips; also anticipated
was a continuing adventure begun on my last visit. So, a few stops down the line on the efficient subway and I was there. Couldn't tell you exactly where, but no matter, as it was somewhat amusing to feel mildly adrift in this sea of Japanese culture. Knowing the train station's local was one anchor. A favorite little noddle shop was the other. And that was adequate.

Some lovely hours were spent poking first in the antique shops then the model stores. I even added to my unbuilt model airplane kit collection, representing some 300 years of modeling ahead. Then, finding the narrow sidestreet that led to the noodle shop I had discovered previously, I embarked on an almost mystical adventure. The preceeding month I had entered this tiny restaurant on a whim, or I thought of it as by chance. A Japanese noodle shop, so called, is fairly typical, and if you have ever been in one you know what I mean. There are a few diminutive tables and chairs but the focus is on a counter behind which is the cook administering his trade directly in front of the customers, conjuring such delicacies as gayoza and a number of savory noodle and rice dishes. All this is accomplised against a tapestry of cooking smoke, the crackle of hot oils, and occasionally some resounding vocal accompainiment.

On that particular day business was slow, it was early, and I was the sole customer. And the owner-cum-cook started a conversation in somewhat broken but understandable english. Names were exchanged, my green tea was poured, the gayoza was set before me. Then he found out that I was an airline pilot. He nodded, smiled and said, "I have friend to meet you. I will call him now. Please talk with him. Maybe find what you both looking for."
Now that was a bit cryptic as well as enticing. What WAS I looking for? How would this man know? Where would I be led? Why?

Within a few moments a young fellow entered the restaurant. Pleasant, well in his twenties, so young to me. His english was also flawed but navigable. The restaurant owner said a few things to him in Japanese, then left us on our own. "I very pleased to meet you", he said. There was a great deal of bowing, an almost constant inclination of his head that I thought was somehow beyond polite. Yes, it is the Japanese way of showing respect, but this bordered on reverence. Then he saw my big bag of airplane model kits. His eyes lit up and his smile was broad. I took them out for his inspection.
"Yes, MD-11, Douglas Company, now Boeing Company. Scale this model 1/200" Well, he knew his airplanes and his models. "And Lockheed Constellation", he went on, fondling the other kit. "Most beautiful airplane". He handed them back with another little bow and told me again, "I very pleased to meet you". And I thought there were perhaps tears welling up in his eyes. He backed out, bowing again several times, and was gone into the night.
I turned to the noodle shop owner who was smiling, nodding to me. "What was that all about?" I asked. "I feel like I am missing something". He poured more tea and sat beside me. "He always want to be airline pilot. But," and he patted his chest, "have bad heart. So no can do pilot. In my country, airline captain is man of high honor and position. He very much honor you talk with him."

I reflected on the latest manner in which airline pilots are being treated in the United States, where things are quite different. How, although in full uniform before a multitude of passengers, I was treated like a common criminal at the security area with rude and surly behaviour, had to remove my coat, hat, shoes, and had my flightbag turned upside down and everything dropped onto a table. When I protested I was told, "No lip from you! Maybe you would like a strip search?" So much for a position of high honor.
Anyway, it had been an interesting interlude at the noodle shop. I felt a sadness for the young man who had wanted to be a pilot as passion thwarted can lead to major grief and a life of torment. Was that what I saw in his tears? "You please to come again," the proprieter said.

Now I had returned, down the narrow sidestreet, back into the restaurant. We shook hands, I asked for the gayoza and noodle soup and a pot of green tea. "I call friend," he said, more as a question.
"Yes, no problem," I answered. And as before, the young fellow came along, again noticed my new bag of model kits, bowed, smiled and had green tea with me. And then he asked, "You please to come with me. I show you my home."
My friend, the chef and man of mysterious ways, said, "Yes, you go! Is very good thing." His smile had the hint of an all-knowing wisdom. So we departed down the myriad narrow streets, turned many corners, then climbed
steps to a small apartment-like residence atop some merchants' shops on the street level. As my friend turned on the light, I knew why I was there.

Not only were there airplane photos everywhere, but one entire wall held shelves of model airliners, floor to ceiling. Airplane books covered tables and chairs. And there was a delightfully simple yet effective work table upon which were several airbrushes, model tools, jars of paint, reference material, and model kits. "I make all," he said, gesturing to the wall of models. There were hundreds of them in this room! And the quality was professional, contest grade, everyone one! My smile was ear-to-ear and so was his. I too had tears, but of joy. This man's passion for flight had not been completely negated by a physical problem. Private grief had not led to some pernicious finale. He had taken anothe path and now almost lived in his special world of flight!
"I have a room much like this," I said. "We are very much the same."
"Yes," he said, bowing, "We same."
And there amongst all the sum and substance of my life, devotion to flight, we shared a feeling of being something like 'universal man', transcending space, time, geography, and cultural boundaries. He even gave me some extremely helpful tips on model airplane building.

I barely caught the last train back to the hotel and sat alone in the night, pondering this great experience. And I realized that it is the journey that really matters, not the reaching 'there', and I am not sure where 'there' really is anyway. The business of an airline pilot has it's frustrations and sorrows, but it also offers some unique opportunities. For it allows me walks down narrow streets in Singapore, or Penang, Bangkok, or Shanghai ---- and a special sidestreet in Osaka.
And in those places to discover that we have a lot of friends whom we just have not met yet. And that is truly something special.

RICHARD S. DRURY

-------------------------------------------------------------------------

Anyone read any of his artcles or have read any Antoine de Saint-Exupery?

I thought this was something worth sharing, and there are about another 100 or so stories with 'meaning' that have served to guide my thoughts over time.

Do any international guys on here have similar stories or insights into what being an international airline pilot has meant in your life?
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Old 08-01-2006, 03:21 PM   #2  
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Rick Drury is a retired FedEx MD-11 Captain, former Tigers, who wrote a monthly column for "Airways" magazine. He had a way with words, and was a very humble, very experienced and very enlightened aviator. He spoke of the romance of the skies, and the thrill of being airborne. To him, flying airplanes was a passion, not a paycheck. I read his column often, and "Airways" still hasn't found a worthy replacement.
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Old 08-02-2006, 06:12 AM   #3  
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It must have been a privelage to have flown with him.
And yes, Airways HAS NOT found a worthy replacement.....

Glad to hear that someone else enjoyed his writing.
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Old 08-05-2006, 07:01 AM   #4  
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His book, I believe it's called "Flightlines", is an excellent purchase. I hope he doesen't retire from writing.
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Old 08-08-2006, 07:30 AM   #5  
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I really enjoyed that story. Thanks for sharing that CAC737. Do you know where i could find more like that? It truly was a great read.
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Old 08-08-2006, 09:09 AM   #6  
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ERJ145FO
I really enjoyed that story. Thanks for sharing that CAC737. Do you know where i could find more like that? It truly was a great read.

Like the previous poster showed.....the book is called "flightlines". it has over 50 stories like this which has been one of my personal best reads in my library!
check out airwaysmag.com and you may be able to order it there!

happy reading!
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Old 08-10-2006, 05:20 PM   #7  
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Really nice story
Sometimes I get discouraged by posts and people who preach about how bad the pilot profession is. But stories like these give me new confidence =)
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Old 08-16-2006, 10:51 PM   #8  
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bought the book btw.
Tried to search for it on amazon first, found a book with the same title, that I stupidly enough ordered without really checking the author.
Figured out when I got the book that I had ordered some romantic novel including some spitfire pilot : /
So I ordered the real book from the link provided above
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Old 08-17-2006, 02:35 AM   #9  
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outstanding,simply wonderful
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Old 08-17-2006, 04:00 AM   #10  
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"Flightlines" is a compilation, I believe, of his "Airways" columns. They are all very insightful.

Capt. Drury has another book published, titled "My Secret War", which is also excellent reading. It is about his tenure as an A-1 pilot in Laos/Vietnam during the late 60's. I highly recommend it.
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