Pilot Rockstars?

Wings Level

Active member
Jan 23, 2002
Total Time
"It's not the same as it was in the '20s and '30s," says Anderson, of Middletown, Pa. "Which is why a lot of us think we were born too late. Pilots and aviators (back then) were up at the level of today's sports heroes and rock stars."


Was it ever really this good? I remember my dad when he was an DC9 FO in the early 80's. He seemed to have the life back then. Later in his career as a 757 CA, all he would ever do is complain how things just weren't the same and that he could not wait for retirement. I would always hear things like "They took away our duty rigs". Now that he is retired, he does not seem to miss flying. I wish that I had even half the success he had. I guess everything is relative...


Well-known member
Nov 26, 2001
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Aviation glamor

Don't forget, back in the '20s and '30s aviation was fraught with danger - which made it glamorous. Pilots were regarded as daredevils and cheaters of death. Of course, the helmet and goggles bolstered that glamor image!

Consider Charles Lindbergh. His flight across the Atlantic in 1927 was regarded as an amazing, daring feat. He was a real American hero and icon, comparable today to rock stars. But, you're right. Times have changed. The only comparable aviation feat that I can think of today offhand is the Voyager. It seems as if people were very ho-hum about Steve Fossett's balloon trip around the world.

During the '30s through the '70s, there was a great deal of glamor connected to airline flying. Not to start another union, Frank Lorenzo and deregulation discussion, but the unions, which did much in the '30s through '70s to make flying safer and better-paying for pilots, lost a lot of their clout in the '80s, thanks in part to the conservative (read that as anti-union) mood during those years. Pilots were forced to give back much of what they fought for and won. New carriers started and hired pilots at lower than scale. That capped or drove down wages. Many of the glamor airlines, such as Pan Am, shut down. The long and short of it is while airline flying is still a cool job, it has lost much of the glamor and romance it had during the years of Fords, DC-3s, Connies and even the late 707 years.

Everything is relative. I, too, would have liked even a quarter of the success your dad enjoyed.


May 15, 2002
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I would never degrade a pilot and compare him to a rockstar. Pilots actually provide a valued service to society, whereas rockstars just act like jacka@ses, provide no substance to society and collect insane amounts of money from the fools who support them.


Well-known member
Dec 6, 2001
Total Time

Your response is correct. The comment refers to the time when the exploits of individuals such as Lindbergh, Earhart, Doolittle (even Howard Hughes) were front page news, and high-profile aviators were often photographed in the presence of politicians and movie stars. Many who later became professional aviators trace their initial inspiration to these larger-than-life figures of their youth.
The comparison to rock stars or sports heroes does not in any way equate equivalent social value; it more references the level of awareness among those who may be influenced by their example (for better or worse). Ask a few teenagers about who their heroes are, and I doubt you'll hear the names of Rutan, or even Yeager. As mentioned, times have changed.
I know all of this because I'm the guy who made the statement. Actually it was a quick comment in the midst of about a 30-minute discussion, but I think Julie did a great job on the article.