After starting college a year early, at 17, and completed his BA in English at 21, Benjamin Middleton has done a wide variety of things from education and counseling at risk youth to sales to eventually doing freelance video production and filmmaking.
Three years ago, Benjamin decided to go out on a limb and walked into an “info session” for an airline. Just a short time later, he was on wings, and the rest is history.
In his free time he likes to run…a pastime he only discovered in the past few years. Benjamin likes to think he’s pretty simple. A quiet guy with many thoughts and few words.
I’d like to think life is pretty simple too. Do good to others and be your best self. The rest is details.– Benjamin Middleton
Check out my interview with him below:
Hey Benjamin! Would you like to introduce yourself to our readers?
Well, hello. I’m Benjamin, and I’ve been a flight attendant and vlogger for about three years now.
Talk me through an average day in the life of you?
An average day starts between 4-7pm the day before which is when the next days assignments are usually handed out. If I get assigned RAP (a 12-hour Reserve Availability Period), I usually just check where I am on the call-out list and wait for the phone to ring during my time on duty. If I get a standby shift, which is a 6-hour shift in the airport, I’ll pack a variety of clothes in my suitcase so I’m ready to fly anywhere. If I am assigned a trip, I’ll check the flights, overnight locations, and things to do in the area, and then I pack accordingly.
The morning of a trip, I leave for the airport about an hour before my sign-in time. It takes 20-25 minutes to get there, and it leaves me time to deal with airport traffic and clearing security. Sometimes I’ll visit the crew room to see if any of my friends are around, then I head for the gate to meet the crew. After scanning in with the gate agent, I get briefed by the Captain and the lead flight attendant. I put away my luggage, check all the equipment, catering, and flight essentials, and prepare for boarding. When I’ve greeted all the boarding passengers, I brief my exit row and secure the cabin for takeoff. I strap into my jumpsuit after the safety demo and a security compliance check…you know the part where no one has listened to any instructions and you have to tell them to buckle up, put their bags under the seats, and have their electronics in airplane mode. That’s probably the most annoying part. Once we take off and clear 10,000 ft, we get carts ready for beverage service. Depending on how big the plane is, it usually gets done fairly smoothly. We clean up service items and prepare for landing. Then we repeat the process for however many legs we have that day.
Once work is over for the day, we call transport to make sure they’re ready to take us from the airport to the hotel. As soon as we get checked in, I head up to my room and get changed. Sometimes I’ll go get a workout in, other times I’ll explore whatever sights there are in the city, but always, always, I find some good food. After that, it’s back to the hotel. I lay out my uniform and head for bed, and the whole thing start again bright and early.
What institution(s) did you attend and what did you study?
I attended Wright State University and earned a BA in English.
What made you want to be a flight attendant?
Honestly, I never dreamed of being a flight attendant. It just sort of happened. I’ve worked a lot of different jobs and I was in a transitional period just looking for something different. Seems as though I did a good job finding a change of pace.
Your YouTube channel is called “On Wings”, when did you start your YouTube channel and what’s the main focus of the channel?
It actually took me a while to come up with the name. I didn’t want my channel to be like a lot of others. Not specifically about me. Not specifically about travel. Not glamorous. Just real life. Real experiences. Raw. I wanted something simple. I told myself it should just be a normal life…except on wings. Because it’s the wings that make this life amazing.
Will you say it’s your exposure to freelance video production and film-making, that made you decide to become a YouTuber?
I think it was a natural progression. Production and film-making have been a part of my in some way, shape, or form for half of my life. With each transition in my life I’ve had to find a way to make space for artistic expression. Starting a YouTube channel was the perfect solution.
What camera/gears do you always use in the production of your videos?
I’ve always tried to keep my YouTube video equipment minimal. I’ve carried heavy equipment on my back through jungles and it teaches you pretty quickly to only carry what you need. Since I already have to carry plenty of stuff for work. Right now I shoot all of the episodes on a Garmin VIRB Ultra 30. It’s incredibly compact and shoots up to 4K quality. It’s worked really well for me.
What editing software do you use and How long does it take you to edit your videos?
I edit all of my videos using Final Cut Pro X. I try to do a lot of my editing in pre-production, imagining what shots I need to tell a story and recording the succinctly. Most of the time, aside from importing, transcoding and rendering, I can edit an episode in an hour or two.
Tell me more about your love for Vlogging/storytelling and how you use it to communicate through being a flight attendant?
When I was a kid, my brother and sister and I got our hands on a cassette recorder and immediately started making tapes telling random stories. We would add in background music and sound effects. It was a whole production. The content was just whatever we would imagine on a given day. Now, years later, the content is whatever is happening in my life as a flight attendant. It’s a lot different because I’ve always been a very private person, so I’m not used to sharing my life like that. I actually never even told anyone that I started the channel. I’ve never promoted it. I’ve never once asked people to subscribe or share. I just try to put out positive messages to whoever feels like listening. Over the years, it’s seems to have done a little good.
What is the strangest thing you’ve ever experienced on the job?
That’s a very hard question. We see a lot of strange things every day. One of the oddest was as I was about to secure the cabin for departure. There was a woman with a bonsai tree on her tray table. I was at a loss for words. What do you even say? I completely ignored the tree and just informed her she needed to close the tray table for takeoff. I finished my walkthrough and as I headed back towards the front, I slowed down to see what she had done with the tree. And there it was…sitting in the seat next to her…tightly strapped in with a seatbelt buckled around it! I tried so hard not to laugh. The very next flight I had to tell some parents several times that they can’t let their kid walk in the aisle while the aircraft is moving. People will buckle up their trees before they take care of their own children!
What will you say motivates/inspires you to stay dedicated to what you do?
One of my biggest motivations is the understanding that we each have the power to make every moment in this life better or worse, not by changing what has happened in the past but by controlling our response in the present. It’s something my parents passed down to me and it has served me well in life.
What’s your 5 Dos and Don’t when it comes to being a Flight Attendant?
1. Don’t take anything personally.
2. Don’t bring your personal life onto the plane.
3. Don’t take work back home with you.
4. Don’t assume what people know or understand just because it makes sense to you.
5. Don’t hit the snooze button. Ever. Just get up.
2. Do look people in the eye when you are speaking to them.
3. Do listen to people, even if it has nothing to do with your job.
4. Do stop and do things just for yourself.
5. Do find a silver lining before the end of every day.
What do you do to stay in shape, do you go to the gym?
Before I became a flight attendant, I was an avid runner. This lifestyle makes any type of consistency difficult,especially when it comes to exercise. I found the best way to keep in shape is to simplify my workouts. Anywhere you end up, you can find either a sidewalk or a treadmill, so that makes running an easy fit. For strength training, I’ve found that high-intensity interval training works very well. I’ve found a set of exercises that require no weights or accessories, that can be done in 20 minutes in any hotel room or park. Eliminating the possible excuses for not working out helps keep me on track.
How do you balance your personal and professional life?
That can be quite the struggle when it comes to flight attendant life. As a commuter, the number one thing for me is to go home at every opportunity, even if it is just for a day. Sometimes it’s those little moments that can mean the most. Work is work, and I do my best to never bring it home. Another important thing is trying to regularly schedule family time and personal time. Sometimes you really need to unplug and unwind. That’s one thing that can’t be compromised.
How would you describe the airline industry in the United States, when it comes to encouraging new faces?
I’ve found the U.S. airline industry to be very welcoming. Management has recognized a lot of growth, and wants to expand even more. Opportunities are great, and all the senior crews I have had the pleasure of working with have been very welcoming.
What do you consider the most common stereotype about the being a flight attendant?
Probably the biggest one I hear is that we are a bunch of singles and swingers looking for sex in a different city every night. It’s hilarious to me because the vast majority of people I’ve gotten to know in the industry are quite the opposite.
What aspect surprised you the most once you started as a YouTuber?
My biggest surprise was how welcoming the community has been and how quickly the channel grew. I never advertised or promoted. I never even told anyone it existed, but somehow it kept growing into a positive, supportive network. It’s always an awesome surprise when a viewer stops me in the airport.
Looking back to when you started as a flight attendant and Vlogging, is there anything you would like to change about those sectors?
I don’t mean it to come across in any kind of a bragging way, but looking back, I really don’t see much to change in the way of how I started off or grew. I’d already had my feet in production for years, so half the battle was already won. As I think back though, I had one main objective, produce consistent content. To do that, I wanted to keep my recording and editing process as simple as possible, that way I could be sure I’d be putting out at least a weekly video. From the time I started until now, with the exception of a couple of brief pauses for understandable reasons, I’ve let the channel grow on its own consistently, and as it grows itself, I invest a little more time and energy into it. As a result, it’s rarely ever felt like a burden or a duty. It’s still fun for me, and that’s the way I want it to always be.
Which brands, clients, airlines, YouTubers, etc, have you worked with?
Believe it or not, I’ve never really partnered with anyone. I’ve met quite a number of YouTubers and I have at times been approached by groups wanting me to become an affiliate or things like that. I’ve never really been interested in those promotions and things because that was never what my channel was about. As for partnering up with other YouTubers, it’s more been a time factor than anything. Who knows, maybe one of these days we’ll have some crossover episodes.
What do you consider your biggest professional success so far?
In this industry, where seniority can run up to 40-60 years, it’s very difficult to call anything you’ve accomplished in a year or two to be a great professional success. A lot of what we do can be incredibly repetitive. The names, faces and places change, but we consistently perform the same tasks. I have had a remarkably uneventful career so far. I’ve never had to throw a passenger off. I’ve never had a medical emergency. I’ve never been required to evacuate an aircraft. Those are things I feel like I would look at as accomplishments. Those aren’t the kinds of things that you ever want to happen, but they are defining moments in a career, moments that show what you’re made of on the deepest level. When my day comes I will be ready for it. Until then, I’ll just hold on to the success of being able to do this job. Of all the millions of people who apply year in and year out, very few in proportion are selected to become flight attendants for Legacy carriers. It is not an easy thing, so I am very thankful to be here.
Who do you want to work with that you haven’t yet?
As far as crew-members are concerned, I still have high hopes of some day working with Bette Nash. She is the worlds oldest flight attendant, having flown over 60 years. I have always loved working with senior crew members because of the wealth of knowledge and experience they have, and every chance I get, I love to ask questions and listen to their stores.
What has been your biggest challenge?
I find the biggest challenge was to not give up when I got my first rejection from my airline. I had planned and anticipated so much. The face-to-face interview was the best I have ever had in my life. To this day, no one in the company has any idea how I didn’t get hired. That was deflating. To have had your all-time best performance but it’s not enough. I thought about giving up completely. Holding on to the dream, even when it hurts was a massive challenge. I am forever grateful to my former self for not letting the setback of a moment become the setback of a lifetime.
Tell us two things people don’t know about you?
I’d like to think my life is pretty open and straight-forward. I don’t really have any secrets or little known things I can think of off the top of my head… Maybe I’d say it’s the fact that I am an introvert. 9/10 people genuinely believe that I’m an extravert. The truth is, I’m a very quiet person, stuck in my head more often than not. I have a strong resistance to unknown or uncertain situations. Generally, I’ve had to think of how I’m going to interact with people so that I can appear comfortable in those situations. That preparation evidently makes me look like an extravert, but at the end of the day, I’d usual prefer to be alone or with a very small group than with a crowd.
And, well I guess there is one other thing about me not many people know. I can lick my elbow. That’s probably the oddest thing. I just remember when we were kids, someone was reading this “Did You Know” fact list from somewhere, and it said that it’s impossible for people to lick their elbows. Of course, being kids, we all had to try it, and sure enough, no one could do it. And then I tried. And I did it. So if anyone ever tries to tell you that, know for a fact that there’s at least one person on the planet who can.
You are very active on social media. Do you think its important to be online and if so why?
I truly believe it is a double-edged sword. On the one hand, our world is massive. The present generation has the unique opportunity to have global networking opportunities the no generation before it has had. The internet has made our world increasingly smaller. That gives us an unprecedented ability to connect with, share with, and learn from people from all backgrounds and walks of life. That’s a thing worth being a part of, and it is worth it for all of us to be contributors. The downside is that this gives up the opportunity to alter our social-media lives in ways that are not reflective of our true lives. We crop, we edit, we share and then redact, and the stories we tell, the things we present have an air of truth, but fall short of sharing our actual reality. In the end it comes down to us having the greatest chance to learn from and share with one another and at the same time the greatest likelihood that what we are sharing isn’t even real. Social media is an amazing tool, but we should be forever careful to be responsible in our use of it.
You are originally from Ohio. How is that working out for you?
I always tell people, Ohio gave the world two things, the airplane and me. So far the airplane is better liked and appreciated, but I’m working on it. When I transitioned from being a regional flight attendant to mainline, I had to be based in a larger city. I picked Charlotte, NC because it had the best flight options for me to commute back home when I wasn’t on duty. Almost a year into it, I can say the area has really grown on me. I tend to like more open spaces. I love hills, mountains, and fresh air. I really can’t imagine myself based in a city like New York or Los Angeles, so it’s really turned out the be a much better fit than I could have ever anticipated.
As a flight attendant I know you travel alot, so what will you say are your must visit travel destinations?
I’ve been fortunate to have traveled either for work or for pleasure of getting to a few countries so far. I want to give my answer a little twist. For me it’s more about experiences, so I’ll pair my recommended experiences with where I fulfilled them.
Wander the ruins of an ancient civilization. My favorite moment was exploring the massive ruins of Chichen Itza, Mexico.
Watch a sunrise or sunset in a wilderness. One of the best was silently watching the sun disappear into the horizon in the Savannah of Zimbabwe.
Share an ethnic meal with people who don’t speak your language. For me, that was the best with the Mangyan tribe of Mindoro, Philippines.
Stare down an apex predator in its natural environment. Most unforgettably was a moment staring into the eyes of a fully grown crocodile in north east Australia as a tour guide tossed chicken into the water.
How would you describe your style?
I’m going to try to answer all of these at once. I’m pretty simple when it comes to style. Early on, my style was dictated by my activity. I didn’t really care what I wore as long as I was comfortable. I didn’t care about size, fit, or trends. In college I was known by all as “scooter dude” because in between classes, I’d been seen flying across campus on a kick-scooter. I was reckless, a daredevil for sure. In my sophomore year, I tore my ACL and shredded my meniscus, mostly because of my reckless nature. The summer before my junior year I had surgery on my knee, and the doctor adamantly insisted that I cease from my regular shenanigans. To remind myself to not go and do stupid stuff, I started wearing suits and ties to classes and to work, because let’s face it, you’re not going to climb a tree or jump off a rooftop wearing a suit.
That was the moment when I realized that not only does what we wear say something about us to others, it does something to the way we carry ourselves. That is a fact a lot of people don’t understand. Our style choices aren’t just about how people see us, it has a personal effect as well. I found that when my style changed, I began to carry myself with a lot more class and dignity. Within a couple of months, I was known throughout the university as “The Best-dressed Man on Campus.” I’m not even entirely sure that people who had known me as scooter dude knew it was still me.
Fashion trends and fads seem to come and go pretty quickly, and I’ve never been much into trends. My style is simply to be a well-dressed man. Interestingly enough, while trend chasers have had to alter their styles entirely at least every few years, what constitutes a well-dressed man has been largely unchanged for almost a hundred years. Suits, button-up shirts, ties. I started to adapt my wardrobe to try to fit into those categories. It’s rare now for me to ever leave the house in anything less than business casual attire. The funny moment that made me realize it was last year when I was in training for 6 weeks. I wore at the very least slacks, a dress shirt and tie, every day. Friday was our casual day and even then I usually just didn’t wear the tie. The very last Friday I walked in wearing skinny jeans and a polo, which is my usual casual attire, and people hardly recognized me.
I’m really still not big into fashion. I don’t keep up with popular trends. I don’t change my wardrobe dramatically. I’ve adopted a clean cut, simple, true-fit style. It doesn’t stand out very much. It doesn’t beg for attention. But when you see it, you know it’s a good look. I always keep a blazer or sweater handy if I need to dress my look up a little more. And the other thing is, invest in a good shoe cleaning/polishing kit. Nothing can ruin a good look like dull or dirty shoes. I’ll let you in on another thing. When I went in for what turned out to be my first interview to become a flight attendant, I had only heard that it was an informational session. I didn’t shave, I didn’t wear a suit or tie, just a dress shirt and slacks because that was normal for me. When I walked into the room, I found out it wasn’t just an info session. It was the full interview and hiring process. I was not ready for that. I didn’t look great, but the fact that my personal casual dress was business casual allowed me to not be written off immediately. I got the job, and the rest is history. The lesson I took away is that it’s always better to be overdressed than underdressed, and I made a promise to myself to always be ready to impress, every time I walk out the house.
What is your favourite dish?
I am a fatty at heart. My whole life I’ve loved food passionately. I think though, at the moment, my favorite dish is Kushari. It is an originally Egyptian dish made of rice, macaroni noodles, lentils, spiced tomato sauce, chickpeas and fried onions. It’s really hard to describe or explain, but every single variation I’ve had of it has been phenomenal.
What songs are currently on your playlist?
I have an extremely diverse taste in music, so it’s a bit sporadic, but right now top played songs include: “What’s Up Danger” by Blackway and Black Caviar, “Runnin” by Ludwig Göransson, “Alchemy” by Above & Beyond, “StraitJacket” Raleigh Ritchie, “Earth” by Sleeping at Last, and “Ghost Lights” by Woodkid
Apart from being a flight attendant, vlogging, what other projects are you currently working on?
At the moment I’m the process of starting up a new YouTube channel. Since I became a flight attendant, I’ve had an unbelievable number of passengers and crew members stop me and ask my why I’m a flight attendant, insisting that I should be a voice actor somewhere, somehow. I’ve finally taken it to heart. I don’t have the time or even desire at the moment to pursue it as a career, but I’ve been thinking it would be a good idea to dip my feet in those waters and see what opportunities may open up. Some time in the next month or two I’ll likely be starting up a voice-over channel as I work on creating a portfolio of voice work.
Seeing you’re doing your dreams, what advice can you give others to pursue their dreams?
The best advice I can give is to constantly try new things. Too often in our lives we get comfortable. We get stuck into a rut or we get used to where we are, and we stop reaching for more. We stop exploring. We stop searching, learning, and growing. The future seems far away when we are standing in the present, but today is the moment that controls what future life we will have. Take a risk. Try a new thing. Maybe you will like it. Maybe not. Maybe it will work out the way you think. Maybe you will learn things you didn’t know before. But never, never let it be said that you didn’t even try.
Any specific plans for the future?
I’m hoping that this year I’ll get the chance to take another shot at running a 100-mile ultra-marathon. My last attempt came up short because essentially everything that could go wrong did go wrong. It was a life-changing experience and taking that moment, the first time in my life I’ve started a race but didn’t cross the finish line, taught be some massive lessons I’ll carry with me for the rest of my life. Part of me is glad it went the way it did, but still, part of me has always wanted to get back out there and finish what I started.
Any final words?
If there’s anything I can’t stop stressing, it is the power of positive thinking. I can only put it in the simplest of terms, but I am confident in the years to come, science will begin to discover more and more the powerhouse that sits between our ears. Science has only begun to scratch the surface. We’ve found that what we believe about the things we experience in life completely alters the experience itself for us, not just emotionally, but even on a physiological level. Perhaps we can’t control what happens to us in a day, but we can always control how we respond to it. That fact has shaped my life, my career, and has steered my YouTube channel as well. I tell myself, “Always find something good to say at the end of the day.” And even if it was a bad day, I find I can always make the ending better.
Where can we follow you online and on social media?