In one of my books, I wrote a story called, “Goodbye 751.” Airplanes have tail numbers and 751 was the tail number of the airliner featured in this story. The story deals with the emotional reactions of a 35-year veteran airline captain facing forced retirement at age sixty, and this was his last flight. Of course, the airplane was also just about ready for the bone yard so there was a sort of double entendre involved. Truth is, it was a triple entendre, if that’s possible, because there was at that time, much talk about political correctness and some outer edge extreme feminists were lobbying to abolish assigning gender to inanimate objects like airplanes, ships and certain pipe fittings that were so designated because of how they fit together. Our captain of the clouds couldn’t get his head around not calling 751 she. The story was pure fiction and I snuck it into the manuscript without the publisher knowing that I was playing Scott Fitzgerald. That particular publisher made a point of declaring to submitting authors that they would never publish fiction, so I felt pretty smug about slipping this epistle into a book based otherwise on factual true life events taking place behind round engines.
Back to 751: My retired airline pilot gets the feeling that his co-pilot is too keen to occupy that left seat even before the leather cools off, so he takes over all procedures during the roll-out and following the little blue lights to the terminal. The bullet-proof door is opened and the stewardess, who is also the union’s shop-steward has arranged for the passengers to all file past the flight deck as they disembark, congratulating the captain as they go. Our hero is pleased and there is a play on the difficulty he and others including the stewardess-shop-steward have in not calling an airplane a she or/her. We don’t get into pipe-fittings.
As the new retiree walks to the car park he observes 751 being cleaned and readied for another flight and is reminded of all the little things he will miss. He contemplates what will be a lonely home-coming as his wife is now with a nine-to-fiver having long succumbed to the exigencies of a marriage in which her airline captain husband was most often absent.
751 was once re-told in an airline magazine and I received some touching responses from those who once warmed that left seat; the most significant from my retired airline captain friend in England who was to illustrate the article—his pencil drawing reflecting his own sense of the described loss when any of us gives up the comforts of a love affair albeit with that other she in his life.
Who is Jack Schofield, BC Pilot?