Why do I always forget the Key?

Cockpit Door Key (pre- 9/11)

CptnDancard And True Stories

In todays world of political correctness it doesn’t seem like there is the camaraderie in the work place like there once was. It’s like any behavior other than being a drone is some form of harassment. When I started my airline career, crews would quite often fly for a whole month together. That could be a good thing sometimes or it could make for a long month if you were paired with a crew member that you just did not enjoy working with.

Pilots and Flight Attendants live and die by their seniority. They bid for the positions they work in and they bid for their monthly schedules. Before computer bidding became a reality the airlines would close the captains monthly bids first so first officers could bid to work with someone they liked to work with.   They also could bid to avoid working with someone that they just would rather not spend a month with.

Where am I going with this? Well when you work together as a crew for a while there gets to be a bit of familiarity. With this familiarity comes a comfort level. It is nice to know how certain people react to different situations. Along with this comfort level is also a sense of whether a particular crew member would be offended by a practical joke. There is a long list of jokes pilots and flight attendants pulled on each other that were harmless and good fun.

Cockpit Door Key (pre- 9/11)
Cockpit Door Key (pre- 9/11)

One of jokes that we would play with a new flight attendant involved a key. Pilots and flight attendants at an airline that I once worked for were required to carry a cockpit key. (this was pre 9/11) The key had Boeing stamped on it. This was just begging us McDonnell Douglas drivers to abuse new hires with it. When I was flying the DC-9 we would often get new hire flight attendants.


Part of the preflight ritual was the captain briefing the flight attendants about the flight. He would let them know about fight times and forecasted turbulence etc. The lead flight attendant would share information about their service in the cabin with the flight crew. If there was a new flight attendant in the crew, he/she was fair game for the key joke after the formalities and preflight duties were complete. Keep in mind that airliners don’t have keys for the ignition.


The joke starts by the lead flight attendant introducing the new flight attendant to the captain usually telling him/her that it was the flight attendants first trip. New crew members are always on probation so they jump at the chance to go above and beyond their regular duties to make a good impression. The captain would take the lead and ask the new hire if they would do him a huge favor. The new hire flight attendant would always say yes. Then the captain would ask if the new flight attendant would mind running back to check-in and get the “key” for the airplane which of course he “forgot.” It was usually a very long walk back to check-in from the gate.


The people who worked at check-in knew the joke so they gave the flight attendant a cockpit door key which said Boeing on it. The new hire hurried back to the plane and would proudly present the key to the captain. The captain would look at the key and say “oh no they gave you the wrong key”.  He would go on to say that this flight is on a DC-9 so he needs a McDonnell Douglas key not a Boeing key. If the new hire hasn’t caught on yet, they would be off again to check-in to get the right key for the plane. The kind people at check-in would have another key ready for the new hire when they got there. If the new hire still didn’t catch on, this would go on until it was time to depart because the key that they brought back would always be wrong. After we ran out of aircraft manufacturers we would tell them that the key is for a model type like the DC-10 not a DC-9.  Of course we always had the individual ship numbers to go through so the poor new hire didn’t have a chance if they didn’t figure out that this was all a practical joke.

Do you ever wonder why flight attendants are crabby sometimes?





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About Dan Ashbach 792 Articles
Meet the Dan behind Dan330. He started a Pinterest account in December 2011 while off on a leave from his day job as a captain on an Airbus A330. While traveling the world, Dan practiced his longtime hobby of photography and developed his eye for natural beauty and appreciation of great photography. Continuing his love of exploration and great pictures, Dan added Pinterest to his daily routine; especially during the long Minnesota winters. His eye for great photography was recognized by the Pinterest community and in just under one year, Dan330 had attracted over one million followers. Dan and his wife Laurie have three children, seven grandchildren and two grand puppies. When not pinning, Dan loves to travel and participate in just about any outdoor activity. There are a few exceptions to this, but to find out what they are you have to go to the Dan330 board dedicated to “Things he won’t do”.