Thanks for your editorial, “Airline Pilot Shortage?” in the February 2023 issue. As a career aviator with over 50 years in the “Wild Blue,” both a corporate and airline kinda guy, I have some insight I’d like to share.
You are right that the road up to the Bigs through the commuters is or was long and often cumbersome, and really didn’t pay so well. But the commuters are giving Covid raises now, along with signing bonuses and sometimes a guaranteed flow-through to the Bigs.
The cost to become a pilot is somewhat up there, you’re right: A pilot needs around $100k to get on the flying ladder. However, the airlines have recently removed the college education requirement (sorry to see that), so the cost is cut in about half. And one of the majors just announced that pilots with three- and four-year seniority will be flying left seat on the Boeing 757 and 767. (Sorry to see that, also.)
Sometimes the relationships between management and its employees are downright nasty. Heck, when we flew for Northwest, they fired our mechanics! That was a difficult time, and mergers are always painful to at least one group or the other. The best example of employee/management problems is the Southwest situation, that went from a great, fun place to work to the name calling and finger pointing of today. I’m glad co-founder and later CEO Herb Kelleher is not around to see it.
However, on the other side of the wing, it is the best job on the planet, bar none. It is a “way of life” and yes, the schedules, hotels, delays, the whole thing is just part of the career. When looking from the outside-in, it may look not so appealing; but viewing from the inside-out, it’s a heck of great experience. We get to fly the biggest, fastest and most beautiful aircraft. The people we work with are truly all awesome professionals, we get the job done and you never have to know your boss; really cool. Plus, we get a lot of time off, and the big bucks.
Will Rondeau – Mt. Juliet, Tenn.
Thanks, Will. I know a few current and retired airline pilots, and their views range all over the map. Looking at it as I do from the outside-in, and from the back of the bus, it’s never seemed that romantic. I guess I’ve been lucky to have other, more attractive opportunities.
Great article (“Long-Range Defense,” August 2020)! I agree with most of it but would even go beyond. First time I did a real cross-country on my own, I was awakened to all the stuff you don’t learn during dual cross-countries. My instructor told me nothing about tie down fees for overnights, courtesy cars, finding food, ramp fees (don’t park over there with the Learjets and Kingairs), bring a can of oil with you, etc., etc. Like other aspects of life, this shouldn’t be learned “in the locker room.” This would be a great subject for a book or a series of articles but, alas, I’m not flying any more and am not the best author. Bet someone on staff here could do a good job of it.
Don C. – Via web
LONG-RANGE DEFENSE II
Yup—my primary training was at a school that had line service and rented “wet.” You called a number if the plane needed fuel and that was rare because the CFI on the last lesson tended to do it. First time solo in my own plane, I pulled up to a self-serve fuel island. I knew you needed to ground the plane. But then I got my first lesson in the many and varied types of self-serve facilities, each with their own peculiarities. I even discovered that sometimes—if you really did want to ground the plane—you needed to get your toolkit out to repair the snarl the last user left in the ground reel.
The whole “Things My Instructor Never Told Me” is a genre ripe for the picking, especially when it comes to visiting other airports. We’ve been fortunate to have spent a lot of time hanging around FBO pilot lounges and listening to transients ask about things like courtesy cars and nearby restaurants. It’s easier these days, thanks to the Internet, but it can be very confusing for solo students.