Why I am a Pilot

Why am I a pilot?

  • It’s to give each passenger the safest and best experience possible on my aircraft – it’s to “Make Their Day”
Santa with Elf and Helpers delivering presents on Christmas day 2014

Santa with Elf and Helpers delivering presents on Christmas day 2014

It’s not for the seven licence recertification tests that I must pass each year to continue in my profession. It’s not for the time and energy it takes to become confident and prepared to expected the unexpected.  It’s not for the 20 hour “duty periods” and jet lag that shreds my circadian rhythms that takes days to recover from.   It’s not to meet the occasional stressed passenger who boards the aircraft having taken prescription drugs then later mixes them into a dangerous alcoholic cocktail that transforms him/her into a Jekyll and Hyde.

  • It’s for the joy to command the largest most advanced, comfortable, powerful, smooth and quiet flying machine on the planet and to share my passion for flight with like minded passengers.
  • It’s to share the treasures with passengers, when they lift the light shades to view the earth below as few others have the privilege to see it.
  • It’s to give each passenger the safest and best experience possible on my aircraft – it’s to “Make Their Day”.

I am not alone.  Culture creates actions, and action creates reputations.  Company’s with a world-winning culture breed world-winning service.

Sunrise between the Pacific marine layer cloud and upper level cloud. Taken from 39,000 feet,24 October 2015. 300 nm west of Los Angeles. (Photo: RDC)

Sunrise between the Pacific marine layer cloud and upper level cloud. Taken from 39,000 feet,24 October 2015. 300 nm west of Los Angeles. (Photo: RDC)

Here is a photo taken from the observer’s seat in the cockpit yesterday morning when I flew into London’s Heathrow airport.

How can I describe this view?   I can’t.   So I will again refer to the poetry of James Dickey, who was inspired by the Apollo space program. James’s poem called “Apollo” expressed the thoughts of one of the Apollo astronauts looking down from space who was also lost for words:

[There are] no–no words. No words to describe it! Poetry! They should’ve sent a poet. So beautiful. So beautiful…

(Photo ) Click to exand

View from the cockpit observer’s seat – 7,000 feet to the north of  London, looking south  at 0630 am,  20 December 2014. Click to expand to high resolution.    Free usage if acknowledge “Richard de Crespigny”

I will be happily airborne in an A380 heading home for most of Christmas day.    There will probably be children on board my flight who will be sad to not be with family and friends on this day.   There is an excellent chance that we will encounter a transonic red sled also busily navigating the skies.  Pack the Christmas stockings!

Merry Christmas  and Happy Holidays

Richard and Coral

Report of  flight from Dubai to Melbourne on Christmas Day  25 December 2014

Culture creates actions, and action creates reputations ~ Tim Burrowes

It was Coral’s idea.   She bought forty metal iridescent tin cases and inserted a pencil set into each.  All we had to do was to give them out with the assistance of Mike (the elf  who also played the Ukulele) and two beautiful singing santa helpers.

Santa Clause, Elf and helpers delivering presents on Christmas day 2014childresn

Santa Clause, Elf  (Mike) and Helpers (Tracy +) delivering presents on Christmas day 2014


See also

What Air Crash Investigations didn’t tell you about QF32 & Airbus


  1. missy · · Reply

    What do you do for a personal guarantee on a flight ?

    1. During my welcome address to my passengers at the start of every flight, I tell them we want this flight to be “the best flight that you have ever had.”. This is my goal. It is also the closest commitment to a personal guarantee I give before every flight.

      “our aim is to give you the best flight you have ever had”

      After I make these announcements, my co-pilots return expressions that show they think I have promised the impossible.

      This expectation to give “the best flight they have ever had” provides a challenge for the cabin crew. It also provides a challenge for the pilots. This challenge can only be met if the cabin crew, pilots and passenger support services at head office come together to perform as a unified team to achieve the almost impossible.

      Probabilities would suggest that I have set up my crews to fail. However great things happen when preparation meets opportunity. Great things happen when we set ambitions that require we do our best. People follow you when they share your values. I find the pilots and cabin crews embrace my goals, and I am proud of the genuine and honest service we provide.

      Setting the goal to give passengers “the best flight they have ever had” gives passengers reasons to complain when the service is not ideal. It also provides opportunities for pilots and cabin crew to identify and fix failures.

      Bill Gates said: “Your most unhappy customers are your greatest source of learning”. So I converse with the passengers during my flights. I walk the cabins and stop to talk to every person who wishes to converse with me. I consider complaints as challenges to fix problems and opportunities to turn a negatives into a positives.

      Win Win!

      Stating my aims of customer excellence before the flight requires a degree of vulnerability. Although accepting that service providers can never guarantee excellence, I have the confidence and pride that we will try always to give our best, and step-up and outside the box to take risks on behalf of the customers to recover situations when things go wrong.

      Most people don’t expect perfection, but they do expect respect and care. Honesty, empathy and execution beats marketing and insincerity every time. As a result of giving a guarantee, the threat of exposing ourselves to the situations where things go wrong, is more than countered by our sincere commitment to look after people.

      When I farewell my passengers at the end of every flight, there is at least one passenger who volunteers “thanks – that was the best flight that I have ever had”.

  2. Zac Johnson · · Reply

    Hi Mr de Crespigny,

    Would you please tell me what qualifications I will get in terms of becoming a airline pilot through the air force. How long it will take?

    Yours sincerely Zac


      Click here to read the answers to your questions.

      Good Luck!


  3. Found this via a LinkedIn article – what a story!

    Fantastic that you’re still writing here.

    The Dickey quote is interesting. It’s exactly the same as a line that Jodie Foster says in Carl Sagan’s “Contact” movie.

    I couldn’t find the poem’s date or text online, but I wonder which way the attribution lies. I understand Sagan was writing his book for some time.

    Keep it up!

  4. Francisco Miguez Vaca · · Reply

    What a great pilot and wonderful person you are, Richard.
    Even though I haven’t had the pleasure to meet you personally I put you together with Neil Armstrong (R.I.P.) as my two most admired characters in Aviation and Astronautics

  5. Joshua Willis · · Reply

    Hi Richard,

    I wish you and your family a safe happy Christmas holiday and all the best for a new safe year ahead.

    I’m currently training to be a pilot myself and just wanted too say a HUGE thank you for being such a great wonderful mentor although you don’t me and we never met.

    I read your book “QF32” and always am encouraged to keep on going for my wings and to never give up the big one. I have also never forgotten to ALWAYS be prepared for the unexpected.

    I hope one day I can be a great airman just like you – to be a mentor/role model for the next generation of aviators.

    Thank you again and many more safe happy landings to come

    Best Regards Josh W


  6. Great post!

    Are you going to tell your children passengers to be on the lookout? Actually, thinking twice, that may present an insomnia problem for parents!

    1. Touche James. I think that there might be a high probability of an inflight docking and exchange of cargo. We have to be careful though as it’s hard to make an in-flight approach and dock in the dark and there are not many tie down points for animals on the roof of an A380. The windows are also rather small to be passing sacks through. Perhaps we might realise after crossing the Australian coast just north of Perth with four hours to go that the slight turbulence was the result of footsteps moving along the ceiling. To mitigate the extensive risks, Coral came to the rescue with 40 kits that should Make 40 Childrens’ Day!

      1. You have it all thought out! I’m sure they’ll be super happy.

  7. Alan Ross · · Reply

    Oh I have slipped the surly bonds of Earth
    And danced the skies on laughter-silvered wings;
    Sunward I’ve climbed, and joined the tumbling mirth
    Of sun-split clouds, – and done a hundred things
    You have not dreamt of – wheeled and soared and swung
    High in the sunlit silence. Hov’ring there,
    I’ve chased the shouting wind along, and flung
    My eager craft through footless halls of air
    Up, up the long, delirious burning blue
    I’ve topped the wind-swept heights with easy grace
    Where never lark, or ever eagle flew –
    And, while with silent, lifting mind I’ve trod
    The high untrespassed sanctity of space,
    Put out my hand and touched the face of God

    John Gillespie Magee, 1942, 412 Squadron RAF (American volunteer – was killed soon after

  8. Leslie Pongrass · · Reply

    Thanks for the reminder of the beauty of flight. So many vistas to enjoy!

  9. Many thanks for your posts throughout 2014 – may you keep the “wind beneath your wings” in 2015 and beyond. Happy Christmas.

  10. An incredible post – keep ’em coming Rich! I love the fact that we form part of this ‘cloud’ of over 2K followers who share your on-going experiences – and who are forever championing and caring about you. Give our love to Coral and your family too on our behalf at Christmas – and with every good wish for you all in the New Year.
    Carrie, Derwyn and Ivor our dog – (pictured)

    1. To Carrie, Derwyn, Ivor and the 2K,

      Thanks for your support throughout the past year.

      The internet and social media enables us to share our passion for people, flight and STEM in a closed but energised community. Though I have not met most of you, I feel like we are a small “user group” of passionate “die hards”, a technical extension from the impressionist painters who met at the Café Guerbois in Paris the 1860s to share their ideas and help each other.

      It’s been my pleasure to present my side of my industry to you all and I have welcomed your friendship and feedback.

      2015 will be a great year for us all.

      Merry Christmas and Happy New Year


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