9/11: An Airline Pilot’s Perspective



This is the most awful day of remembrance and I hate it–but I will always keep faith with those we lost.

From an airline pilot perspective, we’ve lost a lot, never to be be reclaimed. On that day, I had been a captain at the world’s largest airline for over ten years. Then, I used to think of air travel as a modern miracle shared between passengers and crew. That meant freedom for all to range at will across the skies over our far flung nation, coast to coast and beyond.  Sure, we took security precautions against crackpots and even political hijackings. But it wasn’t then as it is now: we live with the realization that we are in the crosshairs, targeted by uncivilized, radical and suicidal zealots seeking to use our “miracle” as a weapon which will kill everyone on board in the process.

Now I look at everyone boarding or even approaching my jet to service it with a suspicious eye, watching for signs of malicious intent. Now I seldom if ever leave the cockpit in flight. And now many pilots fly armed with a 9mm handgun.

The shine is off the miracle of flight, replaced with a healthy dose of vigilance and defensiveness. That’s the new reality of air travel post- 9/11. I still grieve–and always will–for those we lost that day. But I go forward, flying in my thirtieth year as an airline pilot, just as I did the week the airlines returned to the air after the atrocious, cowardly terrorist act.

Today I join thousands of my fellow crewmembers, remembering that awful day but flying nonetheless. That’s what we do, that’s what we refuse to surrender to those who wish us ill. In that way we honor those we lost, and commit to overcome the darkness that brought about the tragedy of 9-11. Never forget and, most of all, never give in to those who would steal and destroy our miracle of flight.

Never, ever forget.



10 Responses to “9/11: An Airline Pilot’s Perspective”

  1. roberthenryfischat Says:

    Reblogged this on robert's space and commented:
    lets wait for saner times and people.

  2. Thanks for being in the left seat – both in the air and in our hearts.

  3. peggywillenberg Says:

    I read a wonderful book on 9/11 from the perspective of controllers, pilots and FAA administration. In one scene, a captain turns to his co-pilot and says”look at your watch and remember the time, because this is the moment aviation has been changed forever”.

    • Bill Brandt Says:

      Peggy – that book is probably Touching History – a great book. It was chilling when she – the author – describes ATC trying to raise the first plane – and she contacts the pilot of the 2nd plane just before it was taken over to see if he could make a visual ID of the first.

      I visited Manhattan for the first time in 2006 – saw the sight of the WTC – that hole in the ground – pictures never did it any justice.

      A lot of things changed that day.

      • peggywillenberg Says:

        Yes, that is correct. I have read that book at least four times. I get something new from it every time I read it. Highly recommended.

  4. […] remembrance, flight attendant, September 11. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own […]

  5. peggywillenberg Says:

    You may all find this interesting. I first read about this in “touching History”

  6. Mike in YPPH Says:

    On the first anniversary of 9/11 down here in Australia, someone, I forget who it was, suggested driving with your car headlights on, regardless of the weather, to show respect for all those that died as well as send a message that the light of dignity and civilisation will not be extinguished by acts of terror. Every 9/11 I’ve driven with my lights on. . .

  7. I stayed off blogs that day. Thanks for this wonderful post. It’s easier to read a bit late

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