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figure 1


freight dogs. Cargo pilots.

In his March 2008 article for Men's Vogue, Michael Walker describes a cargo pilot as someone who is “proudly and defiantly, a ‘freight dog,’ a nom de guerre freighted, so to speak, with many connotations, not all of them positive.”reference 1 Walker paints a picture of these dogs as devil-may-care rough-hewn characters who eschew the more prissy life of an airline pilot. In one of his typical long-winded, run-on, hyphen-laden sentences he tells us that, “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.”reference 2

A September 2000 article in Air Line Pilot (the official organ of The Air Line Pilots Association, International) confirms the broad usage. Author Chris Dodd paints a more nuanced and less roguish picture of freight pilots than Walker. Quoting a DHL pilot, he describes two categories: “the ones who’ll fly literally anything, including hazardous materials, and the time-sensitive carriers like DHL and others, whose business historically has been the overnight letter.”reference 3

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Others suggest that the term applies to a specific caste of cargo pilots. In his personal reflections on aviation, William Rawl, or Cap'n Billy, as he names himself, offers this description: “some pilots just wear raggedy old clothes and hang around airport ramps at 2:00-3:00 o'clock in the morning. They are the young guys, freight dogs, trying to get a foot in the door. Never mind the weather, if the airport is open, they go.”reference 4 Rather than flying the gutted 747's or the made-to-order FedEx cargo planes, these freight dogs haul small time-sensitive loads around in small Cessna 310's and the like.reference 5

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Freight Dogs is also the name of a flight simulation game made by Aerosoft. The game's scenarios reinforce the image of a marginal operator. The DHC2 Beaver—one of the featured aircraft—“is the perfect aircraft for the smallest strips and as it comes in an amphibian version (for water and runways) and a tundra wheel version (for real small strips) you will be able to land anywhere. Incredibly strong and versatile, this aircraft will get you into the smallest field...Freight Dogs do not need a 300 feet wide runway, with lighting, ILS, VASI and approach maps. A strip of flattened bush and they’ll land there.”reference 6

1. Walker, Michael. 2008. Frequent Fliers. Men's Vogue. Accessed Mar 30 2008 from http:// business /blackbook/ articles/ 2008/ 03/ freight_dogs.



2. Ibid.


3, Dodd, Chris. 2000. Freight Dogs. Air Line Pilot 69 (8):10. Accessed Apr 22 2008 from http:// internet/ alp/ 2000/ sept00p10.htm.

4. Rawl, Billy. 2007. Freight Dogs. Cap'n Billy. Accessed Mar 30 2008 from http:// freightdogs.htm.

5. Larry. 2008. Scanning Your Money to the Bank: Comment. S. Hansell, ed. New York Times. Accessed Mar 30 2008 from http:// 2008/ 02/ 07/ scanning-your-money-to-the-bank/ index.html#comment-99639.

6. Aerosoft Flight Simulation. 2008. Freight Dogs. Aerosoft. Accessed Mar 30 2008 from http:// cgi-local/ us/ iboshop.cgi? showd,4835746780,DFS02404.

About the illustrations: Figure 1 shows a Boeing 747-121 freighter. Figure 2 is a Cessna 310. Figure 3 is a screen shot from the Freight Dogs computer simulation.

see also: screw the pooch; dogfight Last updated: July 25, 2012
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