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Airline Inside Scoop

WSurf

The Smack Down!
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Inside Scoop: Airline Pilots

By TERRY WARD
Pilots are cut from a similar mold. They tend to be the people in charge (and not only inside the cockpit). They’re detail oriented. And, more often than not, their outlook toward both their jobs and life in general is one of unfiltered realism. But that doesn’t mean they all have the same experiences when they take a job with the airlines.

Not all airlines are created equal. And fitting into the corporate mold today means different things to different pilots. Some swallow the pill they’re given with little protest, while others struggle not to choke on it.

We talked to three pilots from different US-based airlines -- two commercial, and one private. Speaking anonymously, they dished on life as a pilot in America today.

The Captain For A Major U.S. Airline
Our Captain flew for ten years for a major American airline before taking medical leave. She doubts she’ll return to the job.

Some people have the biological imperative to fly, which is what I had. But ten years flying for the same airline finally took its toll on me.








What I loved about my airline was the dinky places we flew. Like Trenton, NJ, and Key West. And we also flew into JFK and Atlanta, so we went everywhere. I chose commercial over cargo because I really like people. As a woman, I liked that I had a certain ability to comfort passengers who were afraid to fly.

Once, before we took off, there was a woman who wanted to get off the plane because she was afraid of turbulence. I said to her, ‘Look at me. I’m a middle-aged woman, I’m wearing sensible shoes, I’m really smart. You’re gonna be fine.’ And she said, ‘Okay.’

Sometimes, before we’d take off, I’d make some sort of innocuous joke to calm everyone down. Once I did this when there happened to be members of management on the plane, and I got called into the chief pilot’s office after the flight. They said I stood up front and talked to the passengers. That I said something funny. That I made the passengers laugh. And that it wasn’t acceptable. I thought, ‘You’ve got to be kidding.’ I thought they would pat me on the back for doing something good.

There’s a saying that the only people the airlines hate more than their passengers is their employees, and I’d say it’s true. But as soon as the door would close and we were off on our own and not tethered to the company, it was great.

Sure, there were a few of what you might consider worrisome incidents over the years, but nothing really scary.

One day, I was flying toward New York, somewhere over Ohio, and every single navigational system on the plane just -- poof -- went away. I looked at the first officer, and he backed me up and said, ‘We lost primary and backup.’ We were talking to the company, talking to air traffic control, to maintenance, deciding where to go. We had to divert to another airport -- you can’t fly into JFK without navigational equipment. I always keep passengers very well informed, but I didn’t go into details that time. I just told them the basics. They were of course all upset because they wanted to go to JFK, not Cincinnati.


More Airline Confessions







For my airline, we were allowed 14.5 hours on duty. Imagine. The pilot flying your plane might have been awake at least that long -- maybe longer -- when you factor in the time it takes to get ready and go to work. There’ve been times I’m landing the plane and my eyes are involuntarily crossing, I’m slurring my words, I’m so tired.

Even when I’d try to argue against the logic of it, they would send us out with 13.5 duty hours from a crowded airport like JFK. Of course we’d get stuck on the runway, delayed. Then, at the last minute, we’d have to turn around and go back to the gate for a crew change since we were past our duty time.

The passengers would be irate, but the people in scheduling and the management, they just didn’t care.

And even someone like me -- who really likes people and really wants to help them out -- well, the management grind you down so badly that you get to the point where a flight gets cancelled and all these people are in a major dilemma. And you’re just like, ‘Oh well.’

You are basically a bus driver, the profession has been degraded. Flying is incredible, it’s amazing, a very specialized skill. And it used to be flying was special. But it’s not like that anymore.
 

C-150ETOPS

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The Captain For A Major U.S. Airline..................
What I loved about my airline was the dinky places we flew. Like Trenton, NJ, and Key West.

I think we need to redefine what a "major, national. regional" airline is.

If I remember correctly, the $1 Billion benchmark for a "major" airline never increased for the decreased value of the dollar.

The article is confusing to me. Calling yourself a "major airline pilot" while flying for commuter pay under a commuter contract serves no ones purpose. (yes, I am aware of "major" airline pilots now flying under the same basic garbage)
 

Colonel Savage

Southern style...
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"Once, before we took off, there was a woman who wanted to get off the plane because she was afraid of turbulence. I said to her, ‘Look at me. I’m a middle-aged woman, I’m wearing sensible shoes, I’m really smart. You’re gonna be fine.’ And she said, ‘Okay.’ "

Now that, that's funny...
 

chucklhed

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Feb 5, 2007
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I think we need to redefine what a "major, national. regional" airline is.

If I remember correctly, the $1 Billion benchmark for a "major" airline never increased for the decreased value of the dollar.

The article is confusing to me. Calling yourself a "major airline pilot" while flying for commuter pay under a commuter contract serves no ones purpose. (yes, I am aware of "major" airline pilots now flying under the same basic garbage)

150-

Nice job missing the point. You and Bill Clinton can argue over the meaning of the word "fire" while the house burns down around you.
 
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