It is a little humiliating to share my first P.A. with you as a new pilot with Air Canada. Being a Fighter Pilot, this skill was not part of my portfolio. You can imagine, I was anxious to do it just right. The plane was a Boeing 727 and I was the third pilot. Sitting sideways as a Flight Engineer wasn’t the biggest thrill after the ethereal excitement of flying F-18’s but it was a starting position in a great new career. Our 137 passengers were enroute from Ottawa to Edmonton and I was going to provide them with an update on our route. Being prepared, I wrote my script about an hour early so I would have time to practice and complete my many systems checks prior to the grand oration.
‘Ladies and Gentlemen, boys and girls, I would like to give you an update from the cockpit. We are at 35,000’ over Lake Winnipeg and our time to destination is 2 hours and 10 minutes. The latest weather is … blah blah blah.’
It was written, read and rehearsed in my head until I was certain I would do the company and most of all my entire crew, proud. So, time passed and I eventually picked up the mic – and gave it my best. I was quite proud, as it went well with no uhhs and or lengthy pauses. I even did the translation into French. So feeling relieved, I continued my duties and light conversation with the other two pilots.
Then the flight attendant came up and asked if we had a map. A map? We’re pilots! Of course, why would she ask that? They were actually aeronautical charts but they provided us our position and we knew exactly where we were. This was before GPS, I might smugly add. Then she said, never mind – it is just there is a German tourist onboard and he thinks of himself as a pretty good navigator and wondered where we were.
When she left, I leaned forward to glanced outside from my heavily instrumented side panel console.
My heart sank.
We were not anywhere near Lake Winnipeg – yet! I had picked up my personal script early and rattled it off while over the numerous tiny lakes of Northwest Ontario.
I can’t remember if I confessed my error to the others. I think I did and they laughed it off – but I never forgot that day. Could that be a lesson for prepare and then prepare again? Or was it simply a lesson to prepare, then sit back and assess all of the environmental and external variables before pick up the mic?