Trop Glasses ¹

by Capt. Ken Kahn

Jet airliners can fly in both the lowest layer of the earth's atmosphere, the troposphere; and the layer above it, the stratosphere. Most weather events, except for thunderstorms that rise into the stratosphere, occur in the troposphere. The boundary between the troposphere and stratosphere is the tropopause. Its height varies, particularly with latitude, within a few thousand feet of thirty-six-thousand feet. It is near the tropopause where the jet stream, with its high wind speeds, and often turbulence, is found. It was therefore sometimes desirable to climb "above the trop."

One of the first DC-8 passenger trips was commanded by Capt. Practical Joker (PJ). He possessed great situational awareness and was very perceptive at detecting the slightest hint of gullibility. Before the trip, he and the rest of the cockpit crew bought stylish, wrap-around sunglasses. After they reached cruise altitude, one of the flight attendants (F/As) came into the cockpit. The dialog went something like this:

F/A.  Those are interesting sunglasses, PJ; I've never seen any like that.

PJ.    (Without missing a beat) These are trop glasses.

F/A.  What are trop glasses?

PJ.    They are special sunglasses you have to wear above the trop. Otherwise, the radiation will damage your eyes.

As soon as the crew got back to New York, the F/As marched into the office of the Chief F/A or Chief Pilot and declared that they would not fly any more trips on the DC-8 until they were issued trop glasses.

¹Pronounced like rope

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