Stupid Pilot Tricks
This next part may have more to do with flying during the era before 9/11 but I associate it with flying the -200. Flight attendants would routinely come up front to chat before armored doors and protocols made it so onerous. We might be flying a 40 minute leg completely full, but the flight attendants would still manage to come up to give us our beverages if not to chat for a minute. It’s a rare occurrence today. I’ll fly a five hour flight and never see or hear from them. Ah well, at least I got to experience some of the more relaxed times.
One of the favorite tricks was to float a lightbulb on the gasper vent and to then call the girls up front. We had a store of small lightbulbs to be used to replace burnt out bulbs in the cockpit, and also an air vent called the eyeball gasper much like the overhead vents in back only this one pointed up. Well, the airstream would float the bulb in midair as a hairdryer will float a ping pong ball. We’d then explain that it was voice activated. I’d give the command to stop as my F/O would discretely turn off the switch and the bulb would drop. When offered to give it a try, it wouldn’t work for the visiting F/A. We then concluded that it must be tuned for male voices only.
Other fun tricks were to explain that the overhead map light was really a telescope and oh, would you like to take a look? This meant having the gullible F/A lean way over to have a glimpse. Great fun.
Time Marches On
The -200 was a fun airplane to fly in a fun era but her day came to an end. What ultimately killed off the -200 was economics. The new -300s launched in the early ’80s were much more fuel efficient and much more capable than their older siblings. It became rare that we had to accomplish a bleeds off takeoff and the aircraft burned significantly less fuel.
The last of the -300s are themselves being replaced by the “next generation” or NG series 737s, introduced in the late ’90s, which themselves will eventually be replaced by the Max series aircraft now undergoing flight testing in Seattle. The airplanes I fly today all have large flat screen digital displays, integrated flight management systems and all the geegaws you expect to find on the most modern airliners.
What became of all those old airplanes? Well some of them went to Eastern Europe or Africa to fly around before being retired. I remember one of our airplanes which had flown for us for decades was wrecked by some fly-by-night outfit perhaps months after leaving our fleet. Most of those airplanes, though, were probably made into soda cans.
An ignominious end to a glorious flying machine, but the memories of that time still remain. And while the gig isn’t perhaps as good as it once was, it’s still pretty good. And as I always say, it still beats working for a living.