Chatting with a United Pilot over a Beer at McCormick & Schmick's

Over the last couple months, United and other carriers have given out $20 McCormick & Schmick's gift certificates in their airport lounges. In the case of US Airways and UA, there is usually a stack of them sitting on the counter as you enter the lounge.

I picked up a few of them last week and decided to dine at M&S last night in Philadelphia. The only restrictions on the certificate were that it had be used after 5pm and could not be used for alcohol or gratuity.

There was a long wait for a table, so I grabbed a bar stool and ordered a salad + salmon ($27-$20=$7!). A guy from Georgia was sitting to my left, having a conversation with his children on his mobile phone about how his flight to Atlanta was cancelled and he would be stuck in Philadelphia till Sunday (must not have elite status...). The bar was crowded and the only open seat was to his left. A few minutes later, a guy walked in, sat down, and ordered a beer. I was reading my Wall Street Journal but I listened in as the two men started to talk. Turns out the guy two seats down was a United pilot who runs an art business on the side and was in town for a trade convention.

I interjected myself into the conversation and we spent the next 30 minutes chatting about United and aviation in general. The captain, a SFO-based 757/767 pilot named Don McMahon, turned out to be a very interesting guy.

A former Army helicopter pilot, he has flown for United the last 20 years, primarily on Hawaiian routes. In addition to his career with United, he is also an artist who markets a line of bird-related art (this is where the real money is he said).

We talked about Glen Tilton, a merger with Continental, ALPA issues, the increased use of regional jets, Denny Flanagan, and channel 9 (he always leaves it on). He told me that a big concern among pilots today is that United and AerLingus are working on a partnership to serve Dublin under the United name, but they plan to use outsourced, low-wage pilots to do the flying. Anyone else heard about this? It was news to me.

When the bills came, the pilot asked for a airline discount for the three of us, so I got another 25% off the bill!

McMahon will be flying to OGG the day I'm flying to HNL later in the month and we'll also miss each other on the return, but I hope to fly him in the future. Keep an eye out for a captain carrying artwork with him at SFO. Chances are, that's Captain McMahon.

Be sure to check out his website, Birds on Things.



Andrew February 14, 2010 at 02:52 am

The "real" money. Good Stuff. I have met with a pilot in the cockpit who announced 9 has been banned, but see much more anecdotal evidence it is still used. SIN-NRT-IAD Tuesday, so Ill follow up then. Save Travels Matt.

gluedtothewindow February 15, 2010 at 02:24 am

Wow, professional pilot/artist. Wonder how many of those are out there?

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