Paris, France – Reaching For Heaven: An Observant Jew Navigates the Skies

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     David Price, 47, who has the distinction of being the only Chabad commercial pilot in the world.Paris, France – In the cockpit of an Air France Airbus 330, about an hour after takeoff, on a flight from Paris to Senegal, with the plane safely on auto-pilot, the pilot finishes studying the two daily portions of Chumash and Tanya. He then keys his mike: “Good morning! This is your Captain speaking. I hope you are enjoying your flight . . .”

    Meet David Price, 47, who has the distinction of being the only Chabad commercial pilot in the world.

    A native of Paris, Price’s initiation into the world of aviation began when he was just a child. Late one night, his father woke the six-year-old David to watch the first manned lunar landing. For years, the boy dreamed of becoming an astronaut.

    Price’s initiation into the world of traditional Judaism happened later. He was eleven years old the first time he set foot in a synagogue. The year was 1974, and the Yom Kippur War was raging in the Middle East. The chilling news reports inspired Jews around the world, like Price’s mother, to show their solidarity with the Jewish people in Israel. Soon enough, the boy’s mother (his parents had divorced some years prior) began taking on an observant lifestyle, and decided to give her son a Jewish education, which she did, with the help of Chabad of Paris.

    Price visited the Lubavitcher Rebbe twice as a young boy, first with his mother, and later as part of a group of teenagers traveling to the Rebbe. The visits were both memorable experiences, and made deep impressions on the young Price.

    After graduating high school, David enrolled in flight school in Toulouse. Five years later he became a co-pilot, and ten years later – with two thousand hours of flying time under his belt – he earned his pilot’s wings.

    For the last ten years Price has been a transatlantic commercial pilot, flying long routes, which give him, in his own words, “plenty of time to marvel at Hashem’s creation.”

    A father of three, Price often takes his wife and daughters on trips to the U.S., and his family enjoys seeing him seated at the controls.

    It’s not always easy to be an observant pilot, says Price, who admits he must constantly struggle for his religious rights. French law gives pilots many days off and Price uses to them all for Shabbos and Jewish holidays. Even so, he is always careful to check and make sure his isn’t mistakenly assigned a flight that runs into Shabbos. He also takes care to avoid flight assignments that are scheduled for take-off before ten o’clock in the morning, freeing him up to conduct his morning prayers on the ground.

    His is not a practical, or ideal choice of a career for an observant Jew, he concedes. But spending much of his time in the skies, he has plenty of opportunity to ponder matters spiritual and existential.

    Interviewed during the worst travel disruptions when the volcanic ash cloud recently paralyzed European air travel, the Chasidic pilot says the situation served as a useful reminder to him:

    “An eruption of this magnitude has not occurred for many tens of years,” he said.“I have no doubt that this is a sign from Heaven, to teach us not to take the fact that the skies are open to us for granted.”

    “Besides, an amazing thing happened as a result of the volcano,” the Shabbos-observant pilot says, unable to resist the thought. “Thousands of Jews did not fly on Shabbos . . .”

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    44 COMMENTS

    1. He must have nerves of steel. The average person would not be able to deal with the stress of arranging flight schedules according to the Jewish religious calendar and ending up in strange airports without anything to eat (should he get diverted or delayed). Flying is hard enough WHEN NOTHING GOES WRONG. But any seasoned traveler will tell you, anything can (and does) happen, except of course to people from Boro Park.

      • There is a Syrian Jewish man from Deal NJ who is a pilot for United and bec of scheduale concerns of Rosh Hashanna his flight for 9/11 was given to another Pilot

        • Not exactly –
          1. he’s Morroccan
          2. While it’s true that one of the 9/11 planes was his regular route, he was switched out of it months before – not Rosh haShana related.

          He indeed IS a frum commercial airline pilot.

        • You responded to the query: What does he do for shabbos? Your comment: Read the article.

          The article says he uses his days off for shabbos. the article is silent about what he does with shabbos when he arrives to some far-off location on Friday – does he spend shabbos with the local community (if there is one) or in the hotel – and if so, what about food (challah and wine: does he bring them with him?), or does he always plan to be home for shabbos?

          The question was legit, the responding comment was not.

          • Next you’ll ask whether he eats gefilte or fried fish, chicken or beef, sweet lokshen kugel or salty. Lemai nafka mina? He keeps Shabbos however suits him best. The question was obviously what does he do about flying on shabbos, and the answer is clearly in the article.

            • “Lemai nafka mina?” Uhmmm…let’s see…a minyan? Kriyas hatorah? Lechem mishne? Seudas shabbos? There is more to shabbos than simply the issur melacha of not flying on shabbos. How he manages is of general interest to many, except yourself.

    2. I remember for sure another Jewish guy, can’t remember his name or which airline hew flew, but he was definitely a shomer shabbos. Kudos to Mr. Price

    3. Photo caption claims that he “has the distinction of being the only CHABAD commercial pilot in the world” – are there b’chlal any other FRUM commercial pilots anywhere in the world?

      I would love to know if any of them do their Daf Yomi on trans-atlantic flights!

      This pilot does his Chumash and Tanya while flying – I was wondering if he also does his Rambam?

      • “The photo caption claims that he “has the distinction of being the only CHABAD commercial pilot in the world” – are there b’chlal any other FRUM commercial pilots anywhere in the world? “

        Obviously, you are not going to find many misnagdim working on an airplane. I suspect there may be a few modern orthodox but not any frum yiden from Litvashe backgrounds.

        • “Obviously, you are not going to find many misnagdim working on an airplane…not any frum yiden from Litvashe backgrounds.”

          Why not? Are they all in kollel?? What’s wrong with a job flying an airplane??? Is it beneath their dignity????

          • Just a clarification. A private pilot may not take money for flying. He can at best share flying expenses with his passengers. In order to take money for flying one needs a commercial license (minimum 400 hours). He would still need additional certification for multi engine, Instrument (IFR), and turbine engine aircraft. In order to fly scheduled commercial airliners one needs an ATP – air transport pilot certificate (minimum 1500 hours), even with those he still needs a seperate certification for every aircraft type that weighs in excess of 12,500 pounds. a 747-200 and 747-400 would need seperate certification.

            • Obvious! If “a private pilot may not take money for flying. He can at best share flying expenses with his passengers”, however, nothing wrong if passengers fill the pushka, hence, a pushka in the cockpit! As a commercial pilot he may even ask for tips – all going to tzedakah!

          • Tzedakah is a mitzvah and also a shmira – we all know that!

            It is wonderful if he gave tzedakah before each flight (and even be a shliach mitzvah to give tzedakah on arrival) – but why keep a pushka in the cockpit??

            The “pushka” isn’t the mitzvah or the shmirah – it’s not like a mezuzah! Therefore I ask, is the pushka a lucky charm???

            • Would you walk around all day with a pushka in your pocket? I don’t think so! You give tzedaka before or during davening, but you don’t keep a pushka with you at all times. So, I repeat: why keep the pushka in the cockpit? Is it a lucky charm? Your response is evasive and somewhat misleading (- “that will guard him”, surely not the pushka but the tzedakah, so why shlep around a pushka)!

    4. I don’t know what qualifies someone as “Chabad”. Do they have to wear a kapote on Shabbos/Yomtov? Go in water and learn chassidus every morning? Or just show up at a Chabad House once in a while? In any case, there’s a frum commercial pilot in Australia who’s connected to Chabad.

    5. When Air Canada inaugurated their Tel-Aviv Montreal route they were looking for Hebrew speaking flight attendants. My friend Howard who is frum was hired by them and became the 1st Canadian anglophone/tri-lingual on the route.
      Howard then went on to pursue a successful career in law as well as federal politics.
      I know many frum private pilots in general aviation.

      For those who know any Jewish pilots out there, refer them to the website: http://www.jewsinaviation.org and encourage them to join!!!

      Aaron
      retired GA pilot

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