Sleeping Beauty

by Capt. Ken Kahn

Capt. Harry, a southern gentleman, was known to be inordinately fond of sleep, both on the ground and aloft. It was said that when he went out to mow the lawn, his wife put earplugs in his ears. Otherwise, if he heard an airplane fly over, he would lie down on the grass and go to sleep.

Back in the prop days, long flights carried extra crewmembers to provide relief. Harry was in command of one such flight. He was off-duty, resting in a bunk. One of the crewmembers ran back and roused him in an alarmed voice, "Harry, Harry, an engine is on fire." Harry raised one side of the sleep mask he was wearing and asked, in a somewhat aggrieved southern drawl, "Only one?"¹

Capt. Harry did not consider one engine on fire sufficient justification to disturb his sleep. His relaxed manner served him well. He lived to be 100.


When I started at Seaboard, relief pilots and bunks were long gone. In the 1970s, I participated in negotiations for a new pilots' contract. The chief negotiator for the company was Capt. Carl Hirschberg, the Vice-President of Flight Operations. My primary issue was the exhausting flight and duty-time limits we were forced to endure under the existing contract. When we took a break from negotiating, Carl told me that he was going out on the line and would check with some of the pilots to get their views on the subject. When we reconvened, he approached me with a big grin and said he had asked one of the pilots. I knew I was in for a "gotcha" and asked, "Which one?" Laughing, he replied, "Harry." I rolled my eyes. Carl said that he asked Harry if he got enough rest on trips and Harry replied, "One way or another, I do."

¹This was a story I heard. I cannot vouch for its accuracy but it perfectly fits Harry's reputation and personality.


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