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Old Stuff…

January 7th, 2009 · 2 Comments

I’ve got a thing for old stuff. Old books, for instance. I’ve got a small collection of first-edition hardbounds to prove it. I find it fun to sit and leaf through the books, wondering who’s hands they’ve been in…how the little scratch got onto the back cover…what brand of tobacco was smoked by a man long ago as he sat and read, unknowingly leaving the faint scent of his pipe’s smoke hidden within the pages for people to wonder about three generations later.

I got to looking at my “brain bag” the other day. The term “brain bag” is common, I imagine, but we pilots use it to refer to the kit bag that contains the necessities for operating an airliner in revenue service. There’s all kinds of stuff inside, but most of the space is taken up by books full of Jeppesen navigation charts and the company’s operations manual. What’s in it isn’t important to this post, however. It’s what’s on the outside of the bag that I’m on about.

This bag is a Scott Leather brand bag. At just a little over three-and-a-half years old, it has already outlasted every other brain bag I’ve owned. The leather is dyed black, but the years of use show through nicely as tan-colored wear marks. This means that the effects of what could be called nothing less than “abuse” turn into “character” over years. Because these bags are built-to-last, you can often tell a pilot’s approximate experience level just by looking at the brain bag he’s toting. Assuming its their name on the bag’s gold nameplate (instead of their father’s or grandfathers…yes these bags have been known to last that long), a shiny, black, dust-free bag could indicate the pilot’s status as that of a newly-hired probationer. A bag that has most of its jet-black dye worn off, and maybe a sticker that says “Convair 880″ on it would probably belong to a seasoned Captain with years and years of experience. My point is that, over time, every scratch, every ring-shaped coffee cup stain, and every scuff in that leather tells a story of that pilot’s career. That pilot put those “character marks” on that bag, starting the day he pulled it out of its delivery box and packed it with the gear he uses to ply his trade, and he is undoubtedly proud of every mark and blemish on his bag because they distinguish his from everyone else’s. At the end of a thirty year career, the only thing that might tell that pilot’s story better than the pilot himself or his logbook is his 30 year old Scott Leather Jumbo Flight Kit.

Old things tell stories. Those stories are often impossible to accurately read, but that’s part of the wonder of old things. “I wonder where this bag has been?” or “I wonder who’s library this belonged to?” or “I wonder who has played this vintage instrument?” You wonder about the people who have owned and cherished old things, about their lives, when the things were made or purchased. Was this given as a gift by a loved one? Was it saved for over weeks or months or years before it was purchased? Did someone have to sacrifice something else in order to keep this? All kinds of material items can be looked at this way, and human beings (the nostalgic bunch we are, mostly) find ways to make old things new again.

Tags: Gear

2 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Phony Old Stuff… | Rant Air - Welcome Aboard! // Jan 7, 2009 at 11:20 pm

    [...] WordPress.org ← Old Stuff… [...]

  • 2 Sam Weigel // Jan 10, 2009 at 6:23 pm

    My first flight kit, purchased on a freight dog’s salary, was a vinyl chart case that was the $30 special at Office Depot. I was amazed that it lasted 5 years; I only recently replaced it once it was clear that it would fall apart within a trip or two. Now, the cheapskate in me feels that $6 per year of use was an excellent value; I’d need to use one of Scott’s fine products 50 years to get similar bang for my buck! On the other hand, I won’t have a gracefully aged and cherished memento of my career at the end if I replace cheap cases every 5 years. I compromised by buying a rather sturdy $70 vinyl flight case built by Purdy Neat with the intention of buying a leather case upon being hired by a major, to give me the appropriate neophyte appearance.

    Unfortunately I lost a pretty good collection of stickers with the old flight bag, but that gave me the option of how to decorate the new one (*whether* to decorate wasn’t even a consideration; our FOM contains a ridiculous prohibition on flight bag stickers that screams to be violated). I settled on aviation stickers (airplanes I’ve flown & companies I’ve worked for) on the ends and euro-style country stickers for all the countries I’ve visited on the sides (with room for new additions).

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