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The mysteries that are hidden behind the cockpit door of a commercial airliner or corporate jet are rarely contemplated by most travelers. After boarding, we conduct business, are excited to be on vacation or are concerned about whether they are on-time. We make our last call, send an e-mail or text, and settle down to either a nap or an anxious takeoff. We know little about the engineering magic that makes a 400 plus ton machine on a tricycle gear lift itself towards the sky. We think very little about the two strangers sitting in the cockpit wearing crisp company uniforms with striped epaulets on their shoulders. We don’t know where they learned to fly, whether they were at the top or bottom of their class, what problems they suffer in their lives, or other factors that may affect their competency during your flight.

Yet, we routinely allow them to take us hurtling down the runway at 150 miles per hour or so, then 5 to 7 miles above Earth into the stratosphere, a remarkably hostile environment often with hurricane force winds and Arctic winter temperatures, flying at speeds of 500 miles per hour or more. A place where the air is so thin most of us would be rendered unconscious in a very short period of time. When given a moment’s thought, it is a remarkable leap of faith routinely taken by millions of travelers worldwide.

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