The Captain referred to in the previous few messages was easily the most memorable of any that I flew with at Tower Air. When I later told others that I had flown with him without first having been told of his idiosyncrasies, their reaction was always something like, “Oh, my God, nobody warned you?”
He seemed normal enough when we met in Dispatch for our first flight together. The fun started when we were settling into the cockpit. The Flight Engineer, knowing this was my first time with this Captain but not knowing that I hadn't been warned, deliberately set him off by expressing an opinion he knew the Captain would disagree with.
I can't remember what the Engineer said, but I'll never forget the Captain's reaction. He whirled in his seat and delivered a shouted tirade of two or more minutes, all the while shaking his finger in the Engineer's face, coming within an inch of his nose each time. The Engineer did not at all retreat; he just kept looking straight at the Captain with bemusement, not saying a word. When the outburst was over, the Captain became immediately calm and turned back to performing his cockpit set up. The Engineer looked at me, smiled, and went back to his work. I was left wondering what kind of personality disorder the Captain had. To that point, I had never seen behavior like that or anything close to it in a cockpit in my life.
During the flight he delivered frequent criticism directed at my performance and just about every aspect of Tower Air's management, hiring standards, training, and operational procedures. At the hotel after the flight, thoroughly discouraged, I asked the Engineer in private if my performance had been that bad. He said, no, that in fact I had done fine, and he assured me that as the trip wore on, it would get better. When it came to light that I had had no prior warning about this Captain, the Engineer apologized for having set him off. Believing that I had been told what to expect—and being a mischevious sort—the Engineer had decided to give me a demonstration right off the bat.
As the months passed, I flew with this Captain numbers of times. It did get better, but slowly. However, two things became clear: he really knew the airplane, and he was the most situationally aware pilot I had ever known.