Longhaul always presents it’s unique issues. One if which is sitting next to Joe Bloggs copilot for hour upon hour. It’s amazing the connections you make, sharing the stand out moments of your shared passion. Sometimes you can walk away from a flight enjoying the company more than the flight itself.
There are however occurrences where the reverse occurs. I’ve endured 14 hour flights of awkward silences. Be it an issue someone has brought from home, or found in the cockpit; these flights can make you feel as awkward as Kevin Rudd’s ‘ I’m proud ‘ speech.
To help avoid making hundreds of trips to the lav to evade your copilot, a Captain gave me a pneumonic to assist in creating some casual conversation with an awkward offsider. I’ve used it with great results, including today’s LAX – Melbourne sector.
F : Family
“So are you married?” can start a plethora of conversation. Even the answer ‘no’ opens conversational doors. Failing that, ask about family. Finding out about your offsider’s family creates a more personal connection, showing your interested in more than a copilots flight experience. It helps to alleviate cockpit competitiveness and perceived authority gradients.
O : Occupation
“So what did you do to raise money for you pilots license?”. Every pilot has had a past. Some can be quite proud of efforts put towards funding their vocation. Additionally pilots can have projects outside of the job. They can help provide motivation to pursue your own extracurricular ideas.
R : Recreation
“So what do you do for fun?”. Surfing, sailing, music.. The list goes on. It can be quite a nice surprise to find that the recluse copilot has similar interests.
M : money
” How do you invest your money?”. This question should be left until last. Some may see it as inappropriate, however if you’ve only received a few grunts from the first three (F, O & R) questions strangely this question opens up the lines of casual conversation.
An effective cockpit relies on the harmonious communication between First Officer and Captain and in turn promotes effective team coordination.
All of the above being said, support cockpit discipline by maintaining the sterile cockpit ideology. Keep the casual stuff always above the MSA and minimize chat when within 1000ft of an approaching altitude. Never let chat effect the SOP’s and non-primary crew should keep communication levels to a minimum.
Apply the F.O.R.M model and see if it works as well for you as it has for me.
Be safe up there!
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