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The day I took my daughter to work

by Captain Dave Smith Retired Captain and BALPA rep

Today is take your son or daughter to work day. This is a practice that has increased in popularity over the recent years, but it’s not that easy if you are an airline pilot. Before the locked flight deck door policy came into force after 9/11, I would regularly take my daughters on trips with me and allow them to sit on the jump seat in the cockpit, so they could see Dad at work. It must have made an impression on them because they both grew up to become airline pilots as well.

This in turn led to the ultimate ‘take your daughter to work day’ in July 2004 when my daughter, Senior First Officer Ruth Smith, and I operated a Boeing 747-400 from London to Boston. I believe this was the first instance ever of a father and daughter pilot team in British Airways.

There were some funny looks from the cabin crew when we boarded the crew bus as all they knew was that the captain and first officer had the same name, but they were not sure what our relationship was. Once assured we were father and daughter, Ruth drew a lot of praise from them. I must say I was extremely proud to introduce her to the passengers in my opening cabin address. I was also really looking forward to operating with Ruth as, for the first time in her life, she would legally have to obey my instructions!

The main problem, for both of us, was not the usual one of having to get to know the person you are going to sit next to for the next six hours but the exact opposite. We both had to guard against over familiarity and keep things on a very professional level. I needn’t have worried though, Ruth is a very competent and professional pilot and the trip over the Atlantic went extremely well. An added benefit of having your child with you at work is that we managed to have some fun together in our time off in Boston as well.

It was a real treat to fly with Ruth, so much so that we repeated the exercise several more times over the next five years until finally Ruth was the co-pilot on my last flight back from Hong Kong when I retired in March 2009. After that of course I was locked out of the flight deck, never to be allowed to return, not even if they invented ‘Take Dad to Work Day’!