And now, a word from your pilot |

And now, a word from your pilot

Andy Stone

Last week I wrote a column that was critical of the United Express flights operated by Mesa Air that serve Aspen (and Vail) with the propeller-driven DeHavilland Dash-8.In that column, I compared Mesa’s Gate B 61 at the Denver airport with the gates of hell and suggested that the rough flights on those prop planes were the kind of experience one might expect after passing through those gates of hell.My cheerful comments have triggered an avalanche of e-mail expressing – by a 10-to-1 margin – the opinion that I am an “idiot.” (Some writers preferred the term “ignorant.” Others chose “stunningly uninformed.” At least one felt that the proper word was “retard.”)A lot of those messages came, not surprisingly, from Mesa Air employees – although I had been careful to limit my criticism to the gate setup at DIA and the planes themselves.But most of the messages came from Dash-8 pilots all over the country. One pointed out, “Pilots, like myself, get a little too personal when people write negative towards the equipment we fly.”And it’s true, I did refer to the Dash-8 as a “dinky little prop plane” and I did comment that it “may be safe, but it flies lower and slower than the jets and it gets blown all over the sky.”And – ignorant, uninformed retard though I may be – I think I’ll stick with those comments. (Although I certainly need to apologize for referring to a flight attendant as a “stewardess.” Damn me for being so careless and politically incorrect.)And I suppose the Dash-8 pilots will gladly stick with their low opinion of me. But never mind that. I figure that dishing out a certain amount of abuse and getting a certain amount in return is part of my job description.What’s interesting is the fact that the letters from those pilots – those Dash-8 pilots – revealed something else.Those guys don’t just hate me. They hate you – they hate the flying public in general and they really, really hate people who fly to Aspen. Here, I’ll let them speak for themselves. Following are some direct quotes from e-mails I received this week:• “Stop your whining!!! You get what you pay for. When you pay 1970s ticket prices, what do you expect. … Your ignorance is typical.”• “I suppose you feel you deserve hourly service to Aspen in a 747-400, first class, champagne service with a full meal and movie for $39 each way.”• “It would be great if the airlines raised the prices on tickets as to weed out the people that should be riding the bus anyway.”• “I hate to be the one to tell you sniveling fuss-budgets (read: the flying public) that YOU GET WHAT YOU PAY FOR. I’m sure that United Airlines would be happy to fly a Boeing 737 to Aspen or Telluride if the general public was willing to pay what it truly costs to fly. The fact is, they ain’t.”• “Aspen passengers verbally harass our flight attendants the most, demand special treatment from our gate agents the most, and have the least respect for our equipment by leaving trash and food on board when they deplane. On more than one occasion after a flight to Aspen had been delayed or canceled, angry passengers have approached me, the captain (in uniform no less) in the terminal (and in full view of other passengers) and questioned my judgment using profanity and extreme disrespect. … I had a woman uncage her lap dog in-flight so it could urinate on the floor of my aircraft.”• “Aspen passengers are in the top 3 most obnoxious passengers I have ever flown. … You are a dumb ass. You simply reiterated all the stupidity that streams from passengers’ mouths all day long.”So, that’s how the people who fly Dash-8s feel about their customers.And finally, here’s a pilot’s heartfelt advice for all of us in the back of the plane: “Passengers like you make this job miserable. The smartest thing you can do on an airplane is sit down, buckle your seat belt and be silent at least until the engines are running and I can’t hear your stupidity any more.”So maybe I can sum it up for all of them this way – and, no, no one sent this to me in an e-mail, but it seems to be the general message I got from the men who fly Dash-8s:”Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. From the flight deck, this is your pilot speaking. I hate you.”Andy Stone is former editor of The Aspen Times. His e-mail is