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

Published on: May 4, 2010 09:59 PM
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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.

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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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Read Comments (44)  —  Post Yours »

1

 May 04, 2010 at 10:05 PM Anonymous Says:

Wow-beautiful...a real kiddush Hashem!

2

 May 04, 2010 at 10:07 PM Anonymous Says:

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.

3

 May 04, 2010 at 10:11 PM Anonymous Says:

what a Kiddush Hashem - what does he do with Shabbat?

4

 May 04, 2010 at 10:16 PM Anonymous Says:

Whats wrong with flying in the morning?? He can daven before takeoff or after the flight is airborne.

5

 May 04, 2010 at 10:30 PM Anonymous Says:

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

6

 May 04, 2010 at 10:36 PM Anonymous Says:

He is not the only frum commercial Pilot.

7

 May 04, 2010 at 10:41 PM I just gotta know... Says:

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?

8

 May 04, 2010 at 10:42 PM twersky Says:

20 years ago i met 2 frum y.u girls who were stewerdeses on american airlines!

9

 May 04, 2010 at 10:53 PM 9/11/2001 Says:

Reply to #2  
Anonymous Says:

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

10

 May 04, 2010 at 10:55 PM Anonymous Says:

Reb Dovid, Don't forget a Tzedaka Pushka and Chitas in the cockpit. Hatzlach Raabah!!

11

 May 04, 2010 at 11:08 PM Dovid Says:

The pilot who flies the US Airways route from Philadelphia to Israel is also a frum guy.

12

 May 04, 2010 at 11:19 PM Anonymous Says:

Reply to #7  
I just gotta know... Says:

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.

13

 May 04, 2010 at 11:28 PM Babishka Says:

Reply to #11  
Dovid Says:

The pilot who flies the US Airways route from Philadelphia to Israel is also a frum guy.

No kidding! I took that flight!

14

 May 04, 2010 at 11:53 PM Milhouse Says:

Reply to #3  
Anonymous Says:

what a Kiddush Hashem - what does he do with Shabbat?

Did you not bother to read the article?

15

 May 04, 2010 at 11:55 PM Milhouse Says:

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.

16

 May 05, 2010 at 12:16 AM Frequent Flyer Says:

Reply to #6  
Anonymous Says:

He is not the only frum commercial Pilot.

There used to be 2 of them flying out of BWI or IAD on United Express. One was from B'more and the other was from St Louis.

17

 May 05, 2010 at 12:20 AM Ex-kollel man Says:

Reply to #12  
Anonymous Says:

"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????

18

 May 04, 2010 at 11:38 PM Anonymous Says:

Reply to #11  
Dovid Says:

The pilot who flies the US Airways route from Philadelphia to Israel is also a frum guy.

So let's get him on VIN.! Its all ways nice to see religious Jews who are observant and have these interesting careers.

19

 May 05, 2010 at 12:22 AM Lucky charms Says:

Reply to #10  
Anonymous Says:

Reb Dovid, Don't forget a Tzedaka Pushka and Chitas in the cockpit. Hatzlach Raabah!!

What is the point of having a pushka in the cockpit? Is it a good luck charm??

20

 May 05, 2010 at 06:27 AM Anonymous Says:

I know of a frum steward working for Delta.

Elal must have frum workers, pilots, stewards etc..

21

 May 05, 2010 at 07:21 AM srg Says:

Reply to #19  
Lucky charms Says:

What is the point of having a pushka in the cockpit? Is it a good luck charm??

its a custom for frum jews to givea few coin tocharity before you go on a very long trip. just like you say tefflas hadrech

22

 May 05, 2010 at 07:34 AM Shlomo Says:

There is also a Chabad Qantas pilot I believe......

23

 May 05, 2010 at 09:51 AM Anonymous Says:

Kol Hakavod lo! Very big Kiddush Hashem & not an easy task. :)
Ps Keep posting more positive news like this VIN.

24

 May 05, 2010 at 09:59 AM knowitall Says:

The Yom Kippur war was not "raging in 1974". The war was in 1973. Wonder how inaccurate the rest of the post is.

25

 May 05, 2010 at 10:54 AM Anonymous Says:

does he say tefillas haderech for each flight?

26

 May 05, 2010 at 11:20 AM Aaron Says:

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: www.jewsinaviation.org and encourage them to join!!!

Aaron
retired GA pilot

27

 May 05, 2010 at 12:56 PM not so knowitall Says:

Reply to #24  
knowitall Says:

The Yom Kippur war was not "raging in 1974". The war was in 1973. Wonder how inaccurate the rest of the post is.

the Yom Kippur war started October 1973 and continued into 1974.

28

 May 05, 2010 at 02:03 PM avi Says:

Reply to #9  
9/11/2001 Says:

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.

29

 May 05, 2010 at 03:15 PM Anonymous Says:

Reply to #27  
not so knowitall Says:

the Yom Kippur war started October 1973 and continued into 1974.

Absolutely wrong. It actually ended October 24, 1973. Such ignorance!

30

 May 05, 2010 at 03:17 PM Anonymous Says:

Reply to #27  
not so knowitall Says:

the Yom Kippur war started October 1973 and continued into 1974.

Absolutely wrong. The war ended on October 24, 1973. The ignorance is appalling.

31

 May 05, 2010 at 03:27 PM Milhouse Says:

Reply to #19  
Lucky charms Says:

What is the point of having a pushka in the cockpit? Is it a good luck charm??

Yes. Tzdokoh is a shmira. צדקה תציל ממות. Or don't you believe in that?

32

 May 05, 2010 at 03:28 PM Milhouse Says:

Reply to #25  
Anonymous Says:

does he say tefillas haderech for each flight?

Look in Shulchon Oruch. This is not an obscure din.

33

 May 05, 2010 at 05:06 PM Lucky Charms Says:

Reply to #31  
Milhouse Says:

Yes. Tzdokoh is a shmira. צדקה תציל ממות. Or don't you believe in that?

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???

34

 May 05, 2010 at 07:03 PM Lucky Charms Says:

Reply to #32  
Milhouse Says:

Look in Shulchon Oruch. This is not an obscure din.

Is it a "continuous" trip for which one tefilas-haderech suffices, or is each trip it's own nesiah - THAT was the question! If the answer is not obscure - point to the citation!

35

 May 05, 2010 at 07:54 PM Lucky Charms Says:

Reply to #14  
Milhouse Says:

Did you not bother to read the article?

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.

36

 May 05, 2010 at 11:11 PM Aviation Professional Says:

Reply to #17  
Ex-kollel man Says:

"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.

37

 May 06, 2010 at 02:50 AM Milhouse Says:

Reply to #33  
Lucky Charms Says:

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???

The pushka is there so he can put money in it, obviously. And that will guard him.

38

 May 06, 2010 at 02:50 AM Milhouse Says:

Reply to #34  
Lucky Charms Says:

Is it a "continuous" trip for which one tefilas-haderech suffices, or is each trip it's own nesiah - THAT was the question! If the answer is not obscure - point to the citation!

Look it up. It's not obscure.

39

 May 06, 2010 at 02:52 AM Milhouse Says:

Reply to #35  
Lucky Charms Says:

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.

40

 May 06, 2010 at 02:53 AM Milhouse Says:

Reply to #36  
Aviation Professional Says:

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.

And all of this is relevant how?

41

 May 06, 2010 at 04:59 PM Lucky Charms Says:

Reply to #38  
Milhouse Says:

Look it up. It's not obscure.

Indulge us - provide the citation! (IF - a big if, indeed there is one).

42

 May 06, 2010 at 05:02 PM Lucky Charms Says:

Reply to #39  
Milhouse Says:

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.

43

 May 06, 2010 at 05:07 PM Lucky Charms Says:

Reply to #37  
Milhouse Says:

The pushka is there so he can put money in it, obviously. And that will guard him.

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)!

44

 May 06, 2010 at 06:46 PM Lucky Charms Says:

Reply to #40  
Milhouse Says:

And all of this is relevant how?

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!

45

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