Chapter 2, "The Pilot" Summary and Analysis
Frank runs away from home at age sixteen. Despite his father's healthy attitude towards his new financial situation, Frank cannot stand to see how far his father has fallen. Frank leaves without saying good-bye or even leaving a note. He has a $200 account in Chase Manhattan Bank, set up by his father a year earlier. He stays in New York where he is comfortable. He convinces a boy his age that he is an orphan. The boy's parents allow Frank to stay with them while he looks for work. Frank applies at stationery stores, where he has experience, and is hired at $1.50 an hour. He soon realizes he cannot survive on such a salary and decides to alter the birth date on his driver's license from 1948 to 1938. Frank has always looked older than his true age, and hopes to earn a man's salary instead of a boy's. However, as a high school dropout, he is not able to earn more than basic survival wages. Frank continues to spend money freely on the girls he meets and frequently taps into his $200 checking account.
Within a few days, Frank has overdrawn his account. He still continues to cash checks at grocery stores, hotels, and other businesses which cash small checks without verifying funds. He is soon writing two to three bad checks a day. Frank convinces himself that he will not be in much trouble if he is caught, as he is still a juvenile. He also tells himself his father will pay for the insufficient checks. Having thus rationalized his criminal activity, Frank quits his job and supports himself entirely with bad checks. Two months into his new routine, Frank knows the police must be looking for him. He decides he must leave New York. The thought of truly leaving his parents and hometown behind frightens him. He also wonders how he can support himself in a strange city with kited checks; after all, in New York he has a checking account and a driver's license that are real even if they are overdrawn and doctored.
Inspiration strikes him when he sees an Eastern Airlines flight crew walking out of a hotel. The women are lovely and the men in their uniforms are handsome and confident. Frank looks up and notices the Pan American World Airways Building at the corner of Forty-second and Park Avenue. The narrator will refer back to this bumblebee analogy frequently throughout the book. This is an example of how Frank uses euphemisms to soften the nature of his crimes. Whether he is trying to con the reader or himself is unclear, but Frank never truly addresses the darker side of his crimes. His perspective, firmly established in the early chapters of the book, looks at his crimes with glee and pride.
The next day, Frank calls Pan Am posing as co-pilot Robert Black, based in Los Angeles. He tells them his uniform was stolen and asks where he can obtain a replacement for tonight's flight. The helpful Pan Am employee refers him to the Well-Built Uniform Company, promising to call ahead to the proprietor. He is greeted by the proprietor, Mr. Rosen, who asks his rank; when Frank tells him he is a co-pilot, Rosen refers to him as a first officer and sews three gold stripes onto each sleeve cuff. Rosen sends him to the Pan Am stores department for the wings and emblem, and then tells Frank the $289 for the uniform will be deducted from Frank's employee account. Frank makes up a fake employee identification number and fills out the paperwork for Rosen. Back in his room, he calls Pan Am again and finds out that the Pan Am stores are kept in Hangar 14 at Kennedy Airport, a secure hangar. Frank takes a taxi to Hangar 14 and notices the heavy security. He also sees that most of the uniformed crew members are able to enter without being questioned. The pilots wear ID badges clipped to their breast pockets and the stewardesses have similar IDs usually clipped to their purses.
Nonetheless, Frank plunges in, walking past the guard with studied casualness in his new uniform. He tells the stores clerk his two-year-old has made off with his wings and hat emblem and promptly receives replacements. Frank hangs around the hangar for a while, studying the pilots and their ID cards. He realizes he needs to learn pilot terminology and begins to study at his local library. He also calls Pan Am again, posing as a high school newspaper reporter, and interviews a nice captain. The captain gives him an idea of the career path involved in achieving the various ranks and what a pilot's license looks like. Frank gets salary information and learns about Pan Am's domestic and international flight paths. Most importantly, he learns about deadheading. Any time a pilot is needed in another city for a flight, he can catch a free flight to his destination from any airline. This is called deadheading and it is a courtesy frequently provided by one airline for another. Deadheading pilots usually occupy the jump seat in the cockpit, which is an extra fold-down seat. Frank is assured deadheading pilots do not have to fly the planes since they are off duty, although they may be asked.
Frank dresses in his finest business suit and visits a firm on Madison Avenue. Pretending to be Frank Williams representing Carib Air out of Puerto Rico, Frank tells the sales representative that his airline needs to order two hundred laminated, plastic-enclosed ID cards with the company logo. The man shows him a catalogue of samples; one of the models appears identical to the Pan Am ID card. Frank asks for a sample to take back to his company and suggests the representative mock up an ID using Frank as the subject. Frank leaves minutes later with an ID under the name of Frank Williams with his correct age, weight, and eye color, the fictitious rank of co-pilot and an equally fictitious employee number; the card even includes a color head shot of Frank himself. The only thing missing is the Pan Am logo, but Frank quickly takes care of that. He buys a Pan Am model plane from a hobby shop and uses the logo it contains to finish off his ID card.
Now Frank needs only a pilot's license. In the back of a flying publication, he finds a plaque-making firm in Milwaukee that duplicates pilot's licenses and mounts them on decorative plaques for thirty-five dollars. Frank orders a plaque over the telephone and, for a change, sends a valid money order in payment. His plaque arrives soon and Frank takes it to a local print shop where it is photographed, reduced, and printed on card stock. Frank laminates it himself. Frank is now ready to pass himself off as a pilot. In his uniform, with his ID and pilot's license, he takes a bus to La Guardia Airport.
is that your summary? You might want to cut it. It's a bit too long.