Not All Heroes Wear Capes: American Airlines Captain Cleans His Own Windshield

A reader was flying from Charlotte to Cleveland on American Airlines flight 1264 Thursday morning when he caught the moment that an entrepreneurial pilot went the extra mile to ensure their aircraft was ready to fly.

The reader tells me they “popped into the cockpit after the flight and told him I had taken his picture and that I was going to tweet about it.” The pilot explained the window “was dirty, so I cleaned it.”

The flight under his command pushed back 6 minutes early, and arrived 9 minutes early

Self-driving cars are here, but the biggest barrier is regulation. One day our grandchildren will ask us whether people really drove their own cars, and didn’t that cause us to get into accidents? Of course it does! Tesla ‘full self driving’ may be a bit of an exaggeration, and you have to remain in control of the vehicle, mostly for liability reasons.

Pilots remain in control of planes because the stakes are even greater, and 737 MAX disasters proved the consequences of a faulty angle of attack sensor and the need for a human being to know to hit the stab trim cutout switch (among other methods of counteracting Boeing’s MCAS system).

You want an experienced pilot in control. And you want the pilot to be able to see where they’re going. I want a pilot who takes ownership of this themselves, and doesn’t even delay passengers to get there by wiping the windshield themselves. Gettin’ the job done!

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. Seriously? *THIS* is a story?

    I’ve cleaned my windows many times. I have seen other crew members clean theirs. The only difference is that someone tweeted it.

    Find something worthy to write about.

  2. I was an AA Fleet Service Clerk for 25 years. This was routine among flight crews who did not want to wait for us when were were loading the bellies and otherwise engaged on the ramp. At least in my experience, our AA pilots were great about not asking us to do this while we were busy, unless the windshields were really bad because we had a type of chemical solution in a spray bottle that was really effective in cutting through anything.

  3. I’ve called for a bug was 15-20 times this year. I have received it once at an outstation. We do that all the time, you just do not see it 🙂

  4. I literally do this every other leg. Please let AA know that I am an outstanding employee worthy of headlines.

  5. It took lots of guts for the bugs to do that, then he cleans it off.
    Yea Delta has a 10 to 1 ratio of windshield clean request. I hung out the window many times too!

  6. This isn’t a story! As an A&P I do this kind of horse shit task on a daily. How about you write about something that matters such as the suicide rate of vets or the rampant alcohol abuse in the airline industry?

  7. @ Gary. Good call on the Stab Trim Switches. Stick and rudder skills and critical thinking are still a necessity..

  8. @William (do a better job!) Ginkins: In over 50 years of flying, I have never seen an aircraft maintenance technician (A&P) drinking on the job while cleaning an aircraft windshield on the tarmac. Are adult beverages consumed in the aircraft maintenance hangars or just in the executive suites? Please elaborate.

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