I’ve actually been trying to write this article for quite awhile. It was much tougher than I thought simply because I’m what my wife the psychologist would call conflicted, unsure of where I stood, or at least I was until a few days ago.
If you follow us here, you’ll by now know I wrote a couple of articles on the two Northwest/Delta guys who blew past MSP last October. The Feds quickly decided the best recourse to stem the tide of public paranoia about pilots asleep at the switch was to revoke the certificates of the two cockpit crew members. Surprisingly, even to me, I agreed with the Fed’s decision.
So what else is there to say you might be wondering if I’ve already decided that hanging these guys out to dry was the right course of action. That’s where social media all took over.
Although the responses I saw to the NWA story weren’t nearly as acrimonious as some of those from my experiences in West Palm Beach, it was pretty clear that many of you thought I’d lost my mind. I won’t mention any names but let’s just say that all of you are people for which I have an enormous amount of respect.
One said I’d turned quite cynical, another reader said I was crazy and wouldn’t have put up with the Fed’s action if it had happened to me while another said he was surprised overall at how quickly we seem ready to throw our brothers and sisters under a bus when they screw up. Actually, I believe he used the phrase “eating our young,” which made the point pretty graphically I’d say.
So here’s the deal. My job as an editor and a teacher is to comb the industry for topics and issues that Scott and I can both react to in a sort of teaching moment, which is of course, pretty convenient since Scott and I both moonlight as teachers. But a true teacher must also be a good listener. They must be open-minded enough to consider the views of others and maybe, on occasion, rethink a few of their own philosophies. In this case, I think all our readers who told me both online and off that I was goofy might just have been right.
But if I were going to rethink the whole NWA188 issue, I’d need to figure out just why I stood with the Feds, which traditionally I’d never do. Hence, the delay of a couple of months in writing this post. And seriously folks, I woke up a few nights thinking about this so I knew it was serious.
And the Answer is?
Here’s my thinking. You can all take it for what it’s worth, but it’s the best I can do.
I spent a lot of time and money over the past 35 years to win the pocketful of pilot certificates I now hold, including my flight instructor certificate. For those of you who may not be instructors, being a CFI means recertifying every two years, or you lose your ability to teach. I was actually appalled when a friend of mine told me he was going to let his CFI expire. For me, only over my dead body.
These certificates represent not just an ability to earn money as a professional pilot, but they really translate into quite a bit of what makes me … well, me. A hard worker, a professional pilot and someone who respects the talents of others.
To me, those two NWA guys took a couple of great jobs and tossed them in the toilet because they were completely out to lunch for some reason. It honestly doesn’t even matter to me why they zoned out. As one of our readers said too, “I don’t know exactly what those two pilots were doing, but I only know they weren’t doing what they should have been.” Pretty smart lady.
Having had an airline pulled out from under me in bankruptcy 20 years ago – original Midway Airlines, best job I ever had too – I think I probably did overreact to these two dopes, but only because at a time when there were so many other professional pilots on the street, these idiots essentially gave the Feds their jobs. I was angry, really angry and it obviously showed.
So to all of you – Bill, Stephen, Norman, Jim and so many others – let me offer you not an apology, because at the time I said what I did, I truly believed it.
Let’s say this is more of an explanation that confirms what my wife/shrink told me … that perhaps I was projecting a bit on these two pilots because I couldn’t imagine anyone throwing away this job. I still can’t imagine how they zoned out for so long, but as one of you pointed out, I’d still want my day in court. And it’s not right that we don’t stand together in a crisis. That happens way too much these days in too many industries.
I’ve learned quite a bit about this industry and myself over the past few months. Hopefully I’ve drawn the correct line in the sand this time. What exactly DID happen to those two NWA pilots by the way?
Thanks for reading.
Rob Mark, editor