Some People Really Are Above It All

A stopover in the pilots' lounge at the Santa Monica Airport serves up some Type A's who enjoy talking about their high-flying pastime. Are pilots really flighty or is that just a stereotype? We asked a few sky kings.


Bruce Sidlinger

45, Phone network designer

Manhattan Beach

Where did you come from today?

I'm based in Hawthorne. I drove in today because I'm buying one of these airplanes.

What makes a pilot a pilot?

Your first solo differentiates you for life. Even airline transport pilots, if they hear you even soloed once, say, "Oh, you're a pilot."

Can we talk about pilot romance?

Pilots are romantically involved with flying and their airplanes. Petting their airplanes, admiring their airplanes. Every plane has a distinctive fragrance. Flying puts a nice, sharper edge on your life. And that nice, sharper edge probably leads to more passion in other areas as well.

How has flying changed you?

I was a pilot first and became an entrepreneur. I think the courage to be alone in a plane translated into courage to start my own company.

What have you seen that most people don't get to see?

From Aspen, I have flown past climbers summiting the Colorado Fourteeners. That's an amazing thing.


Joshua Griswold

28, Actor

Beverly Hills

Where did you fly to today?

Catalina Island. It was kind of bumpy and we had some clouds, so it kept us busy.

You become a pilot because . . . ?

It beats traffic.

Who should not take up flying?

Someone who's really impatient. If you're not patient and the weather's coming in and you take off, not good.

Is there a pilot personality?

They're usually extroverted, go-getter "I can do it" personalities.

Can we talk about pilot romance?

The ladies like it.

Your scariest moment flying?

I flew in Wisconsin once and had a partial engine failure and had to land the airplane immediately back at the airport. It woke me up.

What precautions do you take?

I fly as high as I can and double-check the weather. I kiss the wing before I fly.

What have you seen that most people don't get to see?

The sun setting over the clouds when you're above them. It's white, black, blue, red, orange.


Scott Burgess

39, Software developer

Santa Monica

Returning from?

Parker, Ariz., on the Colorado River. I met with people from the Hash, a drinking club with a running problem. (A running group.)

What's the dumbest thing a pilot could do?

Run out of gas. And it happens.

Can we talk about pilot romance?

Actually, if I meet a new girl, I don't tell her I'm a pilot. I don't want to be one of those guys who has a red Porsche, trying to pick up girls.

Your scariest moment flying?

Flying back from Oakland, I had a total electrical failure. I had to manually crank the landing gear down.

Do you have any superstitions?

My buddy's mom from Malaysia sent me a Ganesh, the Hindu god of travelers. I bring Ganesh sometimes.

What have you seen that most people don't get to see?

I flew my plane across the country to Key West over the islands. There were parasailors, and we were next to them waving.


Tom Marshall

65, Retired biochemist, aircraft dispatcher


Where did you fly in from today?

Van Nuys.

You become a pilot because . . . ?

A number of years ago, I was in Alaska and was a passenger on a flight to climb Mt. McKinley. You fly onto the glacier in a Cessna on skis. That was such an experience--landing and taking off on a glacier. After I retired and came out here, I thought, "If I don't do it now, will I ever?" I soloed on my 56th birthday.

Is there a pilot personality?

A person who likes to plan things to make them come out right. A command personality.

Can we talk about pilot romance?

A nice date is to get a rental plane from Van Nuys, fly over with a date, have dinner at the Typhoon restaurant [at the Santa Monica Airport]. Then fly back to Van Nuys by way of a scenic flight over downtown.

What have you seen that most people don't get to see?

Flying from Catalina over an undercast Long Beach harbor with the sun in the west, looking down there'll be a shadow of the plane with a white-and-yellow halo. It's called a glory.

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