From the beginning of my aviation career, I dealt with unwanted advances. I’m reluctant to talk too much about it in my blog, because I just don’t want to ruin anyone’s life. Maybe people have changed. Maybe I’m just a wimp. I am definitely going to talk about it in my book, but not here in my blog.
A few days ago, we got a death notice from the Delta Air Lines retired pilots network, and the person who died was truly one of the most obnoxious people I’ve ever met. As I read his obituary, I wondered whether this was the same person whom I banished from my flight school and did everything possible to avoid at Netjets.
Let’s call him Steve. The first time Steve came into the flight school in 1997, he was wearing a flight suit. His smile was more like a leer than a friendly greeting and he had dog breath. “You must know who I am,” he said. No, I really didn’t, and based on this greeting I didn’t want to know who he was. “Maybe I can take you out to dinner tonight.” No, not in this lifetime he wouldn’t. It wasn’t just his bad breath that was revolting. It was the lewd and lascivious way he looked at me and how he couldn’t keep his eyes on my face. I declined and said a silent prayer of thanks when my phone rang. I ran into my office.
He always found reasons to come into the school. We had a deli inside the flight school, the only food concession on the field. We were also required by our lease to have a retail shop for charts and pilots supplies. Most days I was able to escape, either by going flying or taking a phone call in my office. Eventually, however, our paths crossed and I couldn’t escape. Everyone else was out flying and I was manning the front desk. In came George.
I’ll leave out the details but I ended up speaking with a member of the Airport Authority. I told him what had happened. This is where I was at an extreme disadvantage. This individual had greater status than I had and was highly respected. He was connected with literally everyone. It would be my word against his, and I could potentially lose a large block of business and even my access to the mechanics. But I wouldn’t compromise.
Soon he disappeared. I began to relax. Maybe he had found a new target for his crude behavior. I didn’t give him another thought. He was gone and I was safe.
Or so I thought. Three years later I was an airline pilot and was on the ramp at Teterboro. By now I was accustomed to the bad behavior of a lot of pilots, and there he was in New Jersey. In one of Nelson DeMille’s books, he said the only difference in pilots and pigs is that pigs don’t turn into pilots after two beers. In George’s case, it didn’t even take one. Right there on the ramp, he greeted me like we were old friends. I was polite until he grabbed my tie and said, “You need a good man to show you how to tie this thing.” I slapped his hand away and walked back into the FBO. I did not report him. All I wanted to do was fly. I could handle this.
We would periodically cross paths on the road but he was based in Savannah and I was based in Atlanta, so it was infrequent. “Another empty kitchen” was his favorite line. Eventually enough flight attendants complained about him and he was let go from the airline. I didn’t give him another thought until I read his obituary.
Maybe he turned his life around. Maybe his children are responsible adults. Maybe he is remembered as a loving husband and a loving father and grandfather. He was apparently active in his church and in multiple community organizations. Whatever. I wish his family the best, but I will breathe a sigh of relief and gratitude that I can go with Bob to Delta Retired Pilots activities and know I won’t run into this creep, ever again.
#MeToo No More.