Airline Pilots and the Rest of Us

By Robert Mark on October 9th, 2007

An airline pilot career has a few more thorns sticking out of it these days. Pay scales are down, duty days are longer, schedules stink and passengers are easily riled. But even with all that said, I still think it makes for a pretty incredible career.

The airline pilot profession has evolved since 9/11 with a few twists I still don’t understand though. Perhaps you do. 

Most airline pilots began their careers learning to fly in much smaller general aviation airplanes and sometimes business jets as charter and corporate pilots before they made it to American, or Continental or AirTran.

So to me, it would seem proper to give little airplanes – sorry, anything smaller than a 737 is little to most airline folks – their due.

Yesterday’s Washington Post ran a Letter to the Editor by former ALPA president Duane Woerth in which he made it clear that some ALPA pilots support the airline’s and the FAA’s perspective that business aviation airplanes are the root of the airline’s problems. 

“The most critical issues in the public debate on airline and airport delays are first, that most of these delays that frustrate consumers are airspace delays and not airport delays or even airline-caused delays,” Woerth said. “And second, the huge contribution to airspace congestion of corporate aircraft. Why is the effect of corporate aircraft on congestion so often disregarded?” Woerth also wonders.

In a way, this perspective from an airline pilot really isn’t a great shock to me. After all, their companies do own these people.

But what I do find difficult to swallow is how a bunch of union rowdies that many airline pilots are – and I actually mean that in a nice way – can sleep at night knowing that the people who run their airlines and their own union are shooting themselves and the future of this profession in the foot.

If it were not for general aviation airplanes, those airline pilot ladies and gents would never have learned to fly. And where are the people supposed to come from to replace the thousands of pilots who are retiring each year? 

In an era of everything being “all about money,” and “all about me,” many airline pilots seem have forgotten where they came from.

Hopefully some of you are going to figure out that if you can harangue your management for the money you think you deserve for your efforts and if some of you are tough enough to confront ALPA about a variety of their shortcomings, you might at least make the effort to think about leaving something valuable behind for those pilots still climbing the ladder.

I guarantee you everyone in the airline biz is going to sit up and take notice when the pilot shortage hits the majors like it has the regionals.

Tell ALPA and your airline it’s time to start treating  general and business aviation as if it were part of the solution to the airline’s problems rather than the cause of everything that’s wrong with that broken-down airline model you covet so much.  

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7 Responses to “Airline Pilots and the Rest of Us”

  1. Wes Leighton Says:

    Absolutely correct. As an air traffic controller, son of a retired UAL captain, and brother of a Jet Blue captain, we have this discussion frequently.

    And we all agree that the airlines and to some extent, ALPA, are not helping their long term cause. Maybe that is why a some pilots are going the expat route and flying overseas.

    The money is substantally better, work enviroment is not hostile. It just exacerbates the pilot shortage coming down the road.

  2. GeraldZ Says:

    I fly for a regional 4 days per week and very rarely do I hear a corporate jet on the radio. And they are seldom seen at O’Hare. This is just a ploy for airlines to shift costs.

    Airlines are short-sighted in calling for users fees. Fees will only drive up the cost of flight training and exacerbate the pilot shortage problem. Which, from my perspective, may be a good thing for commercial pilots.

    I wouldn’t expect much common sense from Mr. Woerthless. There’s a reason ALPA membership booted him out.

  3. GeraldZ Says:

    The advertising banner at the top of the page reads:

    Venture With Confidence

    This may not be an appropriate time for such advertising.

  4. Norman Rhodes Says:

    ‘Tiz easy to slam the door behind you and forget from whence you came. Better by far to poke your boot in the door and help ease a few more through – maybe take the occasional peek past the crack to refresh the memory. We have far more to lose than gain by being selfish, and greed rots you from within.

    Happy trails fellow aeronauts….

  5. Steve Erickson Says:

    “Jetwhine is sponsored in part by a grant from Cessna Aircraft Company” and who might you be beholden to?

    Biz av has exploded over the past few years and seems to have less to do with the training of future airline pilots than it used to. For many, its a much better job than the airlines.

  6. Robert Mark Says:

    Sorry but I don’t understand your question.

    I’m honestly not beholden to Cessna in any way. They simply believed in the new media aviation connection enough to be involved.

    And while I agree that business aviation as a whole should be more involved in the training of new pilots – and I’ve told the NBAA folks that – I think you need to find a better candidate to pick on than Cessna.

    These people have developed the Cessna Pilot Center program with King Schools 30 years ago that half the country uses to teach people to fly.

  7. Whose Side Was Past ALPA Duane Woerth On? - Jetwhine: Aviation Buzz and Bold Opinon Says:

    […] of you might recall a post from a few months back in which I expressed disdain that former ALPA president Duane Woerth had in a Letter to the Editor […]

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