Back in the days when airliners had propellers and raucous, oil-spewing, avgas-guzzling radial engines, there was normally a third person on the flight deck.

This was the flight engineer whose main job was to look after the engines — the very things that kept the aircraft airborne and moving forward — nursing them so they did not drink too much avgas (aviation gasoline), use too much oil or overheat and catch fire. In-flight fires are often catastrophic, especially when they occur in the proximity of a wing full of avgas.

Flight engineers were the unsung heroes. Not for them the glory and adulation — or the pay, for that matter — heaped upon the Ray-Ban-wearing pilots, but instead frown lines and nervous tics, and a world view of quivering gauges. Temperature. RPM. Manifold pressure. Alarms. Fire warnings.

About eight minutes into watching episode 2 of Zooming with the Zumas on YouTube, my attention drifted to the right hand side of the screen where the other videos are: Im cockpit der Super Constellation: Rundflug in schönsten Flieger aller Zeiten (In the cockpit of the Super Constellation: sightseeing flight in the most beautiful plane ever)".

The four-engine, tri-tail Super Constellation was the Jacinda Ardern of airliners.


Distractions are YouTube’s thing. Also more conspiracies than you can shake a stick at, so Zooming had at least landed in the right place.

That’s the problem with unfiltered social media — the blowback can be as scorching as a petrol fire. Just ask "Angry, White House". Or, worse: it could be nothing at all.

The balm that might ease this country’s soul is not a conversation between former president Jacob Zuma and his son but the arms deal trial — which he has repeatedly said he wants.

Until then, one thing we know for sure is that what the Zuma presidency really needed was a great flight engineer. You know, to keep the plane in the sky and the passengers safe.