It was on the M1, about ten miles south of Luton, where I spotted him.
The roads were quiet and he was exercising decent lane discipline at a moderate, near-limit speed.
His uniform caught my eye as I neared: the dark jacket, stripes at the wrist. A pilot. He didn’t have the hat on. Obviously.
He was probably in his 50s. Grey hair. He was even rocking a Chesley “we’re going in the Hudson” Sullenberger ’tache. In short, he looked the sort of bloke you’d be reassured to see to your left as you boarded through the forward doors. And the car? A dark grey, decade-old Ford C-Max. Disappointed? I was, a little.
I feel bad about that. But, captain, or first officer (I’m no expert on these things), a C-Max is just not very interesting, is it?
For better or worse, piloting is still seen as a rather glamorous career. Muscling 200 tons of jet-powered machine at several hundred miles an hour, through all that nature can throw at you, these skilled, über-intelligent men and women at the controls are heroes. And heroes do not drive C-Maxes. Where is the Porsche 356 Speedster? The Kawasaki GPZ900R?
I know he might have something more exciting in the garage, and I know having a sensible pilot is an extremely good thing. I also know full well that being a pilot is not as glamorous as it’s cracked up to be, what with average starting salaries, long hours and rubbish hotels, because we all want to fly to Portugal for 30 quid.
I just think it’s best we don’t know all of that. I like the idea that piloting is something normal folk like me – folk who drive ten-year-old C-Maxes because they’re affordable, reliable, practical and ergonomically excellent – can’t do. Enough of the glamour has disappeared from flying. I’m not sure I want another reminder from the middle lane of the M1.