Delta Air Lines

I worked with and trained a lot of crews for Delta Airlines. Delta was a very professional airline. Lots of standardizations. In fact, when I first started teaching ground school at Lockheed, I must have taught about 30 ground school classes with Delta crews.

One day while teaching the flight guidance (autopilot) system in ground school which took all day, one of the Delta Captains sitting in the back row who was having hard time grasping the concepts of the new autopilot, threw down his pencil and said “…Damn it Ralph, why did Lockheed have to go and change the autopilot? Why didn’t they make it like the autopilot on the (Convair) 880? It’s a good autopilot…”.

Delta’s chief pilot at the time Captain Jack McManhon was in the class monitoring it as he had already gone through the L-1011 training program and got his type rating on the aircraft stood up and looked at me and then at this Captain and said “…Bob, just give it a month or two…get some time under your belt and you’ll want to throw rocks at the 880′s autopilot…”. Bob replied “…No, no…the 880′s got a good autopilot…”.

Well, Bob finished the class and the training and got his type rating. A few months later he and Captain Jack were back in Palmdale to pick up a TriStar to fly back to Atlanta and I saw them both in the hall way. I asked Bob what he thought of the autopilot now that he had some time with it under his belt. He looked at Jack and said “…Well, I hate to admit it but Jack was right, I do love this autopilot now and in fact, I want to throw rocks at the 880′s autopilot…”. Jack and I just smiled.

For those of you who don’t know it, comparing the autopilot of the Convair 880 to the L-1011 is like comparing the Ford Model T to a Ford Mustang…there is no comparison.

The lesson I learned that afternoon in that class in ground school was that, human nature is resistant to change. They don’t like it…unless it absolutely just comes right out and grabs you.

Captain Jack by the way was the first Delta pilot to be type rated and current in all three wide bodied aircraft at this time that Delta flew: the B-747, the DC-10 and the L-1011.

The only sour note I can recall about Delta was one of the new second officers (FE) in one of my ground school classes who was just hired by Delta told me, that as a Navy fighter pilot, he liked flying solo. He said he didn’t like flying with a ‘bunch of people in the back’. I remember thinking then why did you take the job?