Aviation’s Answer To ‘Mad Men’

Times have certainly changed as have the attitudes toward drinking while on the clock.

Usually they reported for work the next day. Nothing would happen since you weren’t ever likely to spot the man at two consecutive shifts. But it made for a terrible time when the local manager tried to enforce discipline and every single member of the staff could point to the company’s role model.

I was unlucky enough to be challenged by him during the company’s morning briefing. I had just had an APU fail in a spectacular way during an engine run-up. It started to burn and the aircraft automatically shut it down and discharged the first fire extinguisher. The fire alarm kept going so I discharged the second extinguisher bottle. That put the fire out.

He criticized me in front of everyone for “panicking.” This, I hotly denied since I was a fire chief in my community and knew a thing or two about such situations.

He then challenged me about the aircraft automatically discharging the first extinguisher. Even though everyone knew I was in the right, I could feel people pulling away from me. Later, I sent him marked-up pages from the applicable manuals and the wire diagrams to prove my case. (I think he may have fired me, too.)

Well, times have certainly changed – and no doubt for the better. Still, there is a time and place ... on one cold and windy night in the 1940s, the night crew at LaGuardia came together in the wee hours to wish each other a Happy New Year.

They were surprised to see an erect figure wearing an overcoat and a fedora walk into the hangar. It was Captain Eddie Rickenbacker, himself, president of the airline.

“Hello boys,” he said. “Are the airplanes all ready?”

“Yes, sir,” said the lead.

“Do you have to move any of them for the morning departures?” Capt. Eddie asked.

“No sir. All positioned. Aircraft fueled. Everything ready.”

“Good!” said the Captain pulling out a bottle of fine Scotch. “Let’s celebrate the New Year.”

Imagine that scene now!

We Recommend

  • Article

    Soiled Hands

    Unless a company’s managers all have clean hands, they cannot control pilferage, outright theft and any other type of bad behavior.

  • News

    Taking Orders

    Ruminations from the Ramp Taking Orders By Tony Vasko September 2000 I have worked with a lot of aviation and ground equipment mechanics and have found they come in a variety of sizes and...

  • News

    Loading Bridges and Inflatables

    Ruminations from the Ramp Loading Bridges and Inflatables By Tony Vasko March 2001 I deplaned at Newark the other day arriving back from Zurich and took a connecting flight out two hours...

  • Article


    of random alcohol and drug testing.