Several decades ago, author Arthur Hailey wrote a great book called "Flight Into Danger". It was such a good yarn that it was also made into a movie. It was also titled "Runway Zero Eight" which was the title of the book that I read back then. It concerned a Canadian commercial carrier flight from Winnipeg to Vancouver in 1956, the unusual happenings on board and the exciting conclusion where an ex WWII spitfire pilot and a Flight Attendant (Stewardess back then) saved the day, their own lives and the lives of all on board. The emergency on board stemmed from the fact that because the flight had been delayed, a substitute caterer was pressed into service and the fish meal choice was tainted. The other meal, chicken, was fine. So, all who chose the chicken were OK but all who chose the fish, including both pilots, became so ill that they were rendered unconscious or otherwise completely incapacitated. I am not clear whether the book theme prompted the regulation or the regulation provided the idea for the book. It matters not now. The regulation I'm referring to is the one that prohibits the pilots from having the same meal. At Air Canada, (and I assume all other world class carriers) that not only can they not have the same meal, the meal must be warmed up in different ovens as a further precaution. Meal trays were prepared with cutlery, condiments, salads, desserts etc and kept refrigerated while the "casserole" style hot meal choices covered with aluminum foil were warmed up after take off until ready for the flight meal service. Unlike passengers who have raised complaints about airline food to an art form, I was usually quite happy with the food but that's just me. When you think about it, being served a hot meal with nice wine at 35,000 ft while traveling at 8 miles a minute is a minor miracle. Not only that, now you can have gluten free, kosher, low cal, low fat, or vegetarian variations of the same meal. People who whine about this should try the bus next time. I digress.
We ate a lot of chicken. Plentiful, available, inexpensive and flexible, the flight deck choices were almost always "something and chicken". Beef & chicken, fish & chicken, pasta and chicken, lasagna & chicken, etc.
Captain; "What's for dinner?"
F/A; "Um...something that looks like it might be fish, and chicken."
Captain; "Chicken please."
Most crews operated on the unwritten rule that whoever was doing the flying got first pick. That's the way I always did it. Some old Captains, if offered, always took the beef or steak regardless. Others would offer the choice to his F/O even if he was doing the flying himself.
You've heard of breast of pheasant under glass?
We used to call chicken "breast of bird strike under foil"
Passenger; "I've had this same chicken meal for my last two flights. I demand to know why."
Senior F/A; "Lady, I've been eating this chicken for 30 years. I'm sure you can handle it twice."
I'll finish with a yarn that didn't make the book.
A little boy was ushered into the flight deck to visit the pilots and he stood in shy silence behind the centre pedestal between the pilots' seats. The Captain was sitting with his arms folded, scowling straight out the front windscreen and he did not acknowledge the little boy. In contrast the F/O was the perfect host, welcoming the youngster with a big smile. Soon they were having a grand conversation and it became apparent that the little boy really wanted to be a pilot when he grew up. This went on for several minutes with the little boy asking very intelligent questions about the airplane and the F/O answering with much patience and good nature.
Suddenly the Captain turned to the boy and boomed;
"So! You wanna be a pilot eh!?"
The little boy was startled and looked up at the Captain with saucer eyes.
"Er...ye...yes sir" stammered the little boy.
"Do you like eating chicken!?"
"Wha? Um yes.Yes, I like chicken."
"Then you'll do just fine!"
And he turned back to staring out the window. Maybe he offered the choice, his F/O scooped the steak and he just finished the chicken...again!
Until next time over 'n out