The Loneliness Of The Long Distance African-American Pilot

When I find I unexpectedly have a black doctor, I get nervous, because I know that seven out of eight blacks admitted to medical schools in the United States benefit from substantial affirmative action and that their test scores on average fall below those of rejected white and asian students.

If I were to board a plane and find a black pilot or to learn that my air traffic controller was hired with the help of affirmative action, I would become as nervous as if I were boarding a plane filled with imams. Perhaps this is a serious moral flaw in me that will be remedied with re-education.

I wonder how many people would fly a hip-hop airline boasting of black pilots and engineers and maintenance staff and supervisors?

In his novel The Coup, John Updike refers to those servicing the Air Kush 727 as “the indifferent, wraithlike mechanics in sagging gray coveralls drifting through the haze of hunger, heat, and jet fuel fumes.” That’s not a description that would fill me with confidence if I were a passenger.

Africa has more airline crashes than anywhere else in the world because its citizens are so incompetent, worse than the Arabs, when it comes to maintaining first world equipment.

From HuffPo:

In 2004, current comedy superstar Kevin Hart made his debut as a lead actor in the movie Soul Plane. In the film Hart plays “Nashawn Wade,” an everyday guy turned airline owner as a result of receiving a $100,000,000 settlement for getting his buttocks stuck in an airplane toilet during flight. Wade (Hart) decides to use this settlement to start his own airline which specifically caters to African-Americans and hip-hop culture.

In his effort to create the most African-American airline possible, Wade gives his best friend and business partner “Muggsey” (played by rapper Method Man) the task of finding an African-American pilot. Moments before the airline’s inaugural flight is set to take off Wade expresses his concern to Muggsey as the pilot has yet to show up. Muggsey then tells Wade to calm down and points out the pilot (played by rapper Snoop Dogg) as he enters the plane.

Wade immediately becomes perplexed after taking one look at the pilot, questioning his ability due to the lack of “professionalism” in his appearance. Muggsey responds to Wade’s concerns by sternly saying, “Look, I did what you asked me to. There ain’t but two black pilots around, and one of them is [already] flying for Puffy (Sean ‘Diddy’ Combs).”

While this was indeed an example of hyperbole, the reality is that the statistics for African-American pilots are quite bleak. As this demographic makes up just over 2 percent of commercial airline pilots, it is no surprise that despite my flight frequency, I (and possibly you) have yet to receive a greeting from an African-American pilot when deboarding the plane after arrival.

About Luke Ford

I've written five books (see My work has been covered in the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, and on 60 Minutes. I teach Alexander Technique in Beverly Hills (
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