“… Freight dogs famously fly decrepit, “clapped-out,” analog-only hand-me-downs from the passenger airlines, and brushes with the reaper, duly embellished, make for great table rants over pitchers of Watney’s at dog hangouts like the Petroleum Club in Alamaty, Kazakhstan; the Cyclone in Dubai; Sticky Fingers in Hong Kong; and the legendary Four Floors of Whores in Singapore, which, according to the dogs who frequent it, is a model of truth in advertising. It’s an article of faith among freight dogs that George Lucas based Star Wars’ famed cantina scene on the scuzzed-out cargo skippers at Bryson’s Irish Pub, a flyboy Rick’s Cafe adjacent to Miami International Airport through which generations of pilots have passed in a sort of demented finishing school. “We tend to be the rogues of the airline world,” Tony Baca, a 747 cargo captain, told me recently. “The airline pilot is all prim and proper. We’re not. It’s a whole different culture.”
It’s a culture that represents the last gasp of the butt-kicking, globe-trotting, hell-for-leather pilot worldview. Brutal labor relations, increasingly automated aircraft, and the dispiriting post-9/11 environment have torched whatever adventure and romance remain in aviation. But freight dogs never got that memo. Yes, they gripe endlessly about the hours, the food, the lack of sleep, the death-trap airports of Asia Minor and West Africa .
But talk to true dogs for more than five minutes and they betray themselves as hopelessly, permanently, passionately in love with flying and the particular esprit that hauling cargo allows. “All I ever wanted to do is fly,” says Tom Satterfield, an MD-11 freighter pilot. How much? Satterfield worked as a successful chemical engineer for 20 years before chucking it to become a freight dog when he was 41…”