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Can Israelis and their Middle-Eastern neighbors work peacefully and productively together in a modern flight deck?

Aviation industry is expanding. Fast. And the boom in pilot jobs as a result of expansion and increasing pilot deficit in the United States, Europe and Asia is creating attractive opportunities for aviation professionals from Israel to seek employment outside of their native land. Not surprisingly same goes to pilots from many other middle-eastern countries. Naturally, the possibility of Israeli pilots sharing airliner cockpits with the sworn enemies of the State of Israel and their close neighbors is becoming very real. Should the passengers be concerned? We were lucky enough to catch an interview with one of our members and current Delta Connection airline captains, who gets to fly with Syrian, Iranian, Jordanian, and Lebanese nationals often. Here is what he says on the issue: 
"You have to understand, that first of all, pilots have a sense of community and even comradeship, if you will, which overrides all political squabbles that take place among the leaders of our countries. This happens outside of the cockpit and, therefore, becomes irrelevant and unimportant to the job. The cockpit is a safe area, a “demilitarized zone”, a “Camp David”, you might say, where foes must become friends and have a unique opportunity to talk and learn things about each other’s culture and mentality first hand. Above all, we know that we all must work together and be professional. Solid crew resource management, which is now a standard and necessary practice in airlines operating in all developed countries, brings pilots together closer then even. In the process we actually realize that our cultures are very similar: we like the same types of food, we have the same hobbies, like the same cars, music, outdorsie activities and so on. Pilots are also uniquely united by their love of flying, strong determination to achieve their life goals and competitive, but also a gentlemen like approach to their careers. And we don’t just spend time flying together or taking about work. We go on 3-4 day work trips as one crew, normally two pilots and two/three flight attendants, stay in the same hotels, talk about the same issues and even go for a drink together after work, time allowing. Unsurprisingly (and, perhaps this may be surprising to many industry outsiders), this leads to very positive work environment and good friendships. For example, one of my favorite first officers to fly with is a very competent pilot from Syria. We get on greatly inside and outside the flight deck. I think the key factor in keeping a good relationship with my airline colleagues from the Middle East is the fact that we are all non-religions people who look at the political issues logically and objectively: most of the political controversies in the Middle East are fueled by religion. As soon as religion is taken out of equation, people can start communicating without passion and prejudice, intelligently and patiently, and find reasonable compromises a lot faster. This almost instinctively happens in the flight deck between the pilots who come from Israel and other Middle-Eastern countries. So, to put passenger’s mind at ease: in my experience FO far, I don’t remember ever being in a situation where Jews and Arabs acted inappropriately and unprofessionally in a flight deck, putting passenger’s life in any type of danger.” 
Well, we think this is a great practice among pilots, and a very promising tendency. Perhaps, one days, our countries will elect leaders who worked as airline pilots in the past, and who will get together for political talks in a flight deck instead of the UN conference, for the old times sake, and finally work out all the Middle-Eastern issues! 
Photo: CA Russell Sherwood and FO Hadi Alhrab on flight deck of Delta Connection CRJ-900. 
Article by: Gene Carroll, AJAP, Tel-Aviv, © AJAP.US

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