By Jay Wischkaemper
I think I’ve finally figured out why I’m not any better pilot than I am, and the reason is simple. It has nothing to do with training, or education, or experience. It has nothing to do with what kind of plane I fly. It has nothing to do with whether or not I have an instrument rating. It has nothing to do with weather conditions. My problem, you see, is that I wear the wrong watch.
This revelation came to me today while reading an ad for Breitling watches. John Travolta wears one, you know. That’s why he’s able to fly a 747, and that’s why he’s standing in front of his G-IV. The ad said something about wearing that watch making him safer, so I know it has to be true.
And then I thought of all those ads I’ve seen showing Chuck Yeager wearing his Rolex, and talking about how it helped him break the sound barrier. I’m sure if Chuck hadn’t been wearing a Rolex when he piloted Glamorous Glennis to that record (and we know that military pay for a captain would have been enough to afford a Rolex), the flight would never have been successful and the cause of aviation progress would have been set back by decades. The Concorde would never have flown had it not been for Chuck’s Rolex. And isn’t it amazing that the Swiss are given so little credit for their contribution to the cause of aviation progress.
The battery quit on my watch a few months ago, and I tried to convince Dianna I finally deserved a Rolex. You know that old line about the time it takes to make one is nothing compared to the time it takes to deserve one. I figured 31 successful years in a career was long enough for me to deserve one. She pointed me to the place that sold watch batteries and told me she didn’t care what I deserved, because with two kids still in college, I couldn’t afford one, and even if I could afford one, Mickey’s hands operated the same on my watch as they would on one costing 100 times as much.
The battery was 15 bucks.
I guess the reason I’ve never pressed the point of getting a $10,000 watch is because when I’m flying from point A to point B, it seems that when I look down at my seven year old, $100 Pulsar with the $15 battery, the time is always right. It’s the same time as my cell phone shows, and that’s always right. I’ll have to admit it doesn’t have those other two or three dials on it that make you look like a cool pilot. I had a watch a long time ago that had all those little dials. Got it at a pawn shop. Never did figure out how to use it, but boy did I look cool crawling into my rented Cherokee 140. In looking at that watch, people would never suspect I only had 27 hours in my logbook. In fact, when I walked out the door, they probably wondered which jet I was headed for.
I do use a watch a lot in my flying. When I’m about to leave the ground, I look at the time, and I make a mental note as to when I’ll arrive at my destination. I do time when to switch fuel tanks, but we have a timer on our new transponder, and that’s easier to use than my watch. When I’m flying with either John Frullo or Craig Alley, two of my partners, I look at my watch when they start the engine and note that it will be 30 minutes before we are ready for takeoff considering how meticulous they are. I’m sure I’d be safer if I were using a Rolex to do all that.
Even though I don’t own a Rolex, I have seen one up close. I have a retired doctor friend who has one. Have you ever wondered why a doctor would need a watch in the first place? Especially a Rolex. They obviously never look at them, but I’ll bet you 90 percent of them wear a Rolex. A doctor’s Rolex should be better than a new one. It’s never been used. But then again, if there were something wrong with it, the doc probably wouldn’t ever notice. That brings up another point. I wonder how many doctors who have been killed in plane crashes took their Rolex to the ground with them? I guess none, come to think about it, because if they had been wearing a Rolex, they wouldn’t have crashed. The tail and wings would have stayed on that Bonanza. You never crash if you’re wearing an expensive watch. Maybe those doctors who crashed should have been wearing a Breitling like John or a Rolex like Chuck.
But there has to be more to it than that. I mean, I trust Chuck Yeager, and if old Chuck says wearing a Rolex makes him a better pilot, it’s got to be true. And if John Travolta says he couldn’t have gotten that 747 type rating and couldn’t fly his Gulfstream without his Breitling, who am I to question them?
Since I can’t afford one myself, and since none of my partners wears one either, I think what I’m going to suggest to the group is that we buy a Rolex or a Breitling for the plane. It can just stay in the plane, and whoever is flying can take off their Timex and put on the Rolex or Breitling, whichever we decide to go with, and they’ll automatically be better pilots. The needles on the ILS will act as if they are glued in place. All landings will be soft as a feather. Controllers will fight over who gets to control our airplane simply because of how professional we sound. I can hear them now. “Thank you 745. You must be wearing a Rolex.” We should be able to offset some of the cost by insurance savings, as I’m sure our insurance company will lower our premium once I show them the receipt for the watch along with the ads from Chuck and John. I’m going to vote for one of those cool ones with the three extra dials. Maybe this time I can learn to use them.
Texas native Jay Wischkaemper is a successful MassMutual life insurance agent based in Lubbock, Texas. He is a long-time partner in a Bellanca Super Viking, which he uses for business and pleasure.