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Thoughts? new job, pay for experience issue..

clr4theapch

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With this new world economy emerging on a daily basis, the closing, merging and shutting down of airlines... it seems to me that the OLD standards of employment no longer should exist as it relates to union mandated "starting" rates of pay based on "senority" or date of hire..

As we get older, aquire more debt, start or have growing families, it becomes very hard to face the realities of these old school ways of doing business especially when one is forced this direction because of reasons out of the persons control..

I am pretty sure many of us have experinced the fear, shock or have been forced to start over as if a young student just entering the field, only to financially fail.. or have to greatly affect the core family QOL...

I know we have seen discussions in the past about this matter in one form or another, we have seen national senority list discussed.. and I have observed the constant disposition of this discussions in that "it will never happen", "it won't happen", "it's too tough to make the change", etc, etc. etc.... all feelings that in the past might have been true... Nothing is impossible if everyone gets behind it!!

I make this post because I firmly believe that the times have changed to such a degree that we (I) can no longer work under such old standards.. This is a primary reason I have not returned to the business and I am sure many others have gone elsewhere, not because they hated dispatching, only due that they could not "afford" to start all over at the bottom pay scale.. or feel they are worth much more than they are being offered, and they are!!

My store is simple.. I had a 20 year career prior to coming to dispatching.. having worked for a few companies until the post 911 downturn.. I have been a GA pilot for 30 years as well..
Since 2002, I have interviewed with over 30 airlines, some 2 times, having job offers from more than half of them, only to run head-long into current union run work rules, (which by the way, the airlines love to follow as it keeps their payrole down), rules that have really no good reason to exist other than they just do.... I dont ever see returning.

For the benefit of those in the business, I would however, like to see changes made that would prevent this from happening to you younger folks in the future.. Nothing could be more frustrating, more demoralizing, more distructive than to work many years for ABC airlines and then have them go under leaving you forced to start over like a raw rookie... you're experience totally wiped out as if worthless, it's just not doable for most people.

I know this is a long post, but I think its a subject that could not be more important to you all still in the business.. Many options can be explored, de-unionize, merge union rules, establish a nationally recognized value for experience built into union contracts.. many ways this can be addressed, but I think its a matter that everyone of you out there should really consider as a very important issue and take action now..

For the first time, I see this subject as one of the most productive things a unionized industry could actually force onto the companies... however for me, nothing is better than getting paid for personal performance and contribution, but thats just been me..

What are you're thoughts... I wish you will as I observe the discussion...
 

shooter

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Ahhh, the "problem". As long as there are people that are willing to do it for less, you will always face the same problem. I have reached that point where my carrier either faces a shut down or I am just too low to fit in seniority to to be afforded a position within the new smaller airline. I have peaked as as Dispatcher because I cannot afford to start over again, not willing to uproot my family to move to another city to do it and to be honest, I don't even want to. I have seen this happen over time and again and I will ride the wave to the end and look for something out of aviation. Something that can't be outsourced. I would really like to work for myself.

As far as the fix to the problem, I don't think it will ever be fixed. Not because I would have not liked to see it, but the reality is it just will not happen because there are people willing to do it without fixing it. Good luck.
 

clr4theapch

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Dispatchers should stop sell out on our value..

Ah yes, the crux of the problem.. so if this industry is bound to remain a unionized business.. then with that.. would'nt the unions best serve their membership to a higher standard in that the starting pay scale is the same for all these newbies with a green license? and then to adjust the pay scale up based on related experience, i.e. pilot license.. of course the 2nd, 3rd, 4th... year dispatchers would be paid based on that as well... each airline could add to this pay based on individual company size etc.. but a base standard..

And lets not forget one BIG thing.. we are "NOT" baggers, or customer service agents.. this is a skilled position!!, it's time that the dispatchers remind the company, that we are just as required as the pilots sitting in the front of the can.. we have FAA mandated responsibilities that can not be passed to the boss.. we have real dollar value to the company making money or not in a real time way..
Dispatchers need to stop selling out on their worth and demand the respect that comes with the responsibilities blessed on us by mother FAA..

I invision, that is all the dispatch unions were to adopt a unilateral agreement that an experienced dispatcher with "X" years will earn that "X" pay as a minimum if hired somewhere else!

If we have to have unions, then should'nt the memberships around the country, demand that their union contract contain that language to adopt a national pay standard... ? JMHO
 
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shooter

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I agree. Airline unions are a joke. If you look at trade unions, you get to be journeyman then that seniority follows you across the country no matter what company you work for. With regard to pay, of course.
 

clr4theapch

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I would like to hear more comments on this.. maybe it's possible to start a grass roots effort to unite the unions on this matter.. it might be the only "real" thing they could do to benefit everyone..

Making this similar to other skilled trades as you mention would be a great positive step.. good Idea.. maybe there are more..
 

airbrush

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Preaching to the choir

clr4theapch,

I agree completely with your sentiments, as we have discussed directly in the past. My concern is that airline management may never be convinced of our value.

I can't count the number of times that I, as a dispatch supervisor, could save the company $$$ in fuel NOT burned, deicing fluid NOT expended, overtime NOT paid to station and other personnel, pax NOT inconvenienced (or at least minimally so), crews NOT timed out or stranded with an aircraft out of position, flights NOT cancelled because of proactive co-ordination of resources, not to mention maintaining a HIGHER overall completion factor by selective cancellations so that the whole operation didn't melt down and spin out of control, using imaginative aircraft rerouting to buy time for maintenance to get an aircraft back in service, or shuffling crews from one trip to another, to avoid cancellations altogether, and numerous other things I could think of if I took the time to do so.

Unfortunately, you can't quantify what DIDN'T happen, or $$$ NOT wasted, on a balance sheet and show it to a bean-counter....so all they see us as is another "cost center" to be minimzed from their perspective. Let's say we actually had a national seniority list as you suggest, that specified pay based on X years of experience. When an experienced veteran and a newly-licensed dispatcher both interview for a position with ABC airlines, the airlines would probably still hire the new kid because he would be on the low end of the pay scale.

Like you, I'm disgusted at taking my experience into an interview only to recieve an offer to uproot my family to move to a higher cost-of-living area (at my own expense), and endure a lousy schedule and sweat being furloughed for years to come, all for the same hourly wage I made in 1989 (NOT adjusted for the current cost of living). Unfortunately I feel that the airlines have become addicted to the wages that they are currently paying (even trying to lower THOSE) and don't see the value that our experience represents. And now, with the airlines furloughing again or shutting down completely, the pool of even experienced people willing to work for those rates is going up again.

I have sadly come to the conclusion that, save a couple of possible options that have yet to play out or some major shift in the business sometime down the road, my airline dispatch career is probably over. It breaks my heart, but I can't afford to hold my family hostage to my passion for the industry and force them to endure a lower standard of living.

I hope someday things will improve. Best of luck with your idea.
 

airbrush

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A typical example...supply and demand doesn't matter

I wasn't going to bother mentioning this, but it might be instructive to the younger folks out there, as to what to expect after you've been at this game for a few years.

After 18 years at my regional airline, with 12 as a dispatch supervisor, my airline was merged in 2005 with another wholly-owned carrier. With the prospect of a forced move and paycut (not to mention the poor health of our major carrier), I felt it was in the best interest of my family to resign and take another aviation job that had been offered.

Long story short...the new job didn't work out; nor did the non-aviation job I tried next. Finally, after over 2 years of hating everything else, I returned to the merged airline, but in a lower paying station ops job with zero seniority. This was more of a "regrouping" move than a career plan, and I didn't plan to stay forever.

A few months after my return, the company was DESPERATE for dispatchers...they only had 7 of the 12 they needed. They were literally paying rampers and gate agents, most with ZERO aviation background, to go to dispatch school (at a cost of about $7K per person), while paying DOUBLE TIME to the overworked dispatchers to keep the airline going in the meantime. This went on for several months, as some of the students either failed or quit school, and a couple who finished couldn't hack the job once they got back.

In the midst of all of this, with money flying everywhere, I got a call from the Dispatch Manager (NOT the guy I had worked under), offering me the "opportunity" to come back to dispatch. Now remember, I had detailed knowledge of their computer systems, their aircraft, half of their crews, half of their route structure, the dominant part of their ATC environment (PHL/LGA/BOS), and all of my years of experience running the system. I could've gotten 20 letters of recommendation from captains I'd worked with for years at the drop of a hat, and with a few days of groundschool and a hop in the jumpseat I would've been current and ready to go.

What did they offer? $13.67/hr, essentially the same hourly wage I made in 1990, before I acquired a wife, three kids, and a mortgage, and when gas was about $1.20/gal. And that was the EXPERIENCED rate, up from the standard of $12.43. This was also at a time when the airline was so short of pilots that they were paying a $2500 signing bonus to any bright-eyed grad from one of the pilot puppy mills (a number of whom couldn't make it through ground school), with another $2500 after their first year. Could I, just one guy, score any of that just to make the transition doable? Not on your life. Allegedly their hands were tied by the union contract, so I passed.

I continue to hear from pilots complaining about the lack of knowledge, foresight, strategy, and situational awareness they get from some in dispatch (NOT all, to be fair, just certain ones), and they wish I could go back. So do I, but financially its just not feasible for me, and the company would rather pinch pennies and go with the lowest common denominator, even in a time of dire need when you would think I would have some leverage. But I hear similar stories from others at other airlines as well.

I'm all in favor of a system that would give us professional Dispatchers the ability to negotiate salaries commensurate with our value. We are such a small, yet vital group that you'd think the airlines would at least be able to pay us a livable wage without breaking their piggy banks. But I have yet to see evidence of that, and in the current environment, they have many excuses not to change.
 

airbrush

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One last point....

I'm don't want to be the forum windbag here, but I think we all need to remember that there are some larger forces at work here.

A quick check of the TV, newspaper, or Internet will remind you that all is not well out there in the economy, and the longer this lasts, the less demand there will be for the service that airlines provide, much of which is "non-essential". If any of the Big 3 autmakers tank, that's hundreds of thousands of direct and indirect jobs lost; no trips to Disney World for them. Even if they get a government bailout, those heavily unionized autoworkers making $45/hr may have to take steep wage and benefit reductions to compete with the new cars coming from China and India, where workers make roughly $1.67/hr.

Add to this all of the closings of retail stores (or entire chains) and other indicators, and I personally think the airlines are in for a period of downsizing that could take years to recover, regardless of the price of oil. A friend of mine who is a pilot for Southwest is very concerned about the codesharing deal SWA just signed with Volaris (Mexican airline), and some people believe that cabotage laws may be relaxed in the years ahead, as is already happening with Mexican truckers driving in the US. IMHO, we're heading into uncharted waters in which the world my girls find when they grow up will be much different than the one I had when I graduated from high school, with many previous assumptions thrown out the window.

Not trying to depress anyone here, just trying to get clear-eyed assessment of the challenges that lie ahead as I navigate the minefield of my career!
 

Pull To Guns

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Airbrush, you make many good points and I have a lot of parallel experiences, but supply and demand ALWAYS makes a difference. It's a law of nature. Airline mgt. is just trying to circumvent it.

At my last airline, a regional, there was the same problem of finding qualified dispatchers to hire (HQ is in an expensive area to live) so instead of raising the pay to entice good candidates (which would have raised every staff dispatcher's pay), they created the same scheme your airline did--- to give interested internal candidates free tuition, free housing and a wage while attending dispatch school.We also got a wide range of quality from these "ab inito" dispatchers and the attrition rate was very high. One even asked me to interpret a TAF for her. It cost the company ~$10K per person.

What the company did was to create their own supply of hirable dispatchers by this method rather than raise the payscales as they should have done to attract quality in the first place, but we all know that airline mgt would rather put a bullet into their own heads than raise an employee group's payscale, no matter how badly needed.

When the new company-sponsored dispatchers hit the floor, they became even more disenchanted with the low pay vs the cost of living that they left in droves because they had nothing personally invested in it. Short term planning by mgt at it's best! By the way, this was at a non-union company so there were no contractual obligations not to pay more.

Scarce essential resources will always command a higher pricetag. the examples you gave about dispatchers getting paid double-time and pilots getting signing bonuses proves this The airlines will eventually have to pay us more but they are trying to postpone the inevitable by these crazy schemes. I don't know how many newbies the dispatch schools are cranking out recently but it can't be that much with the prospect of starting out at $14/hr for a position responsible for human lives. I would rather sell paint at Home Depot.

I estimate there are ~2000 actively employed dispatchers in the US. That is an extremely small number and with people like you and the OP getting fed up and leaving and the retirements at the majors, the airlines are facing a shortage of qualified people to man their OCC's. Mgt's heads are in the sand for now, but it will catch up with them.

However, with all the automation and connectivity in today's world, I wouldn't be surprised to see the airlines lobby the FAA to dispense with the strict legal requirement for licensed dispatchers altogether, cost savings, you know. The rest of the world already works this way.

So in a few years' time we may be considered as redundant as the extinct on-board Flight Engineer.
 
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abxdx

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Have any of these concerns ever been brought up to Congressman Oberstar, the transportation committee head( not sure of the name of the committee he chairs, but it oversees transportation)
or the FAA for that matter. Whatever happened to safety first? Not having enough dxers or for that matter qualified dxers seems like a prime candidate for a visit from the FAA.

I'm don't want to be the forum windbag here, but I think we all need to remember that there are some larger forces at work here.

A quick check of the TV, newspaper, or Internet will remind you that all is not well out there in the economy, and the longer this lasts, the less demand there will be for the service that airlines provide, much of which is "non-essential". If any of the Big 3 autmakers tank, that's hundreds of thousands of direct and indirect jobs lost; no trips to Disney World for them. Even if they get a government bailout, those heavily unionized autoworkers making $45/hr may have to take steep wage and benefit reductions to compete with the new cars coming from China and India, where workers make roughly $1.67/hr.

Add to this all of the closings of retail stores (or entire chains) and other indicators, and I personally think the airlines are in for a period of downsizing that could take years to recover, regardless of the price of oil. A friend of mine who is a pilot for Southwest is very concerned about the codesharing deal SWA just signed with Volaris (Mexican airline), and some people believe that cabotage laws may be relaxed in the years ahead, as is already happening with Mexican truckers driving in the US. IMHO, we're heading into uncharted waters in which the world my girls find when they grow up will be much different than the one I had when I graduated from high school, with many previous assumptions thrown out the window.

Not trying to depress anyone here, just trying to get clear-eyed assessment of the challenges that lie ahead as I navigate the minefield of my career!
 

WalterSobchak

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I estimate there are ~2000 actively employed dispatchers in the US. That is an extremely small number...
...with a higher "Souls:Impact On Operations" ratio than any other workgroup in the industry.

I've often wondered what would happen if all the dispatchers at all the passenger carriers called in sick/unfit for duty one morning...just the morning shift, just enough to disrupt all passenger air traffic.** Would we have more leverage once we've shown our impact?...or would airline management, indeed, find a route to push us the way of the flight engineer?




** - Disclaimer - I'm not suggesting we do this...at the moment, anyway.
 

airbrush

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As far as bringing it to the attention of the FAA, it may depend on who you contact. We had a situation back in the mid-90s where we got a new president, who then promptly fired our Director of System Control so he could replace him with his empty-suit buddy. This guy had the reputation (we later discovered) of being a real prick from two previous airlines, and he lived up to it in spades. Oddly enough, he had been a dispatcher early in his career, but when he got to us he seemed to hold us in complete contempt.

At the time we were working about 12-15 aircraft per dispatcher, which worked out to about 60-70 flight releases per 10-hour shift. Well, he claimed we could work up to 30 aircraft apiece, saying that they had done so when he was a dispatcher before all this fancy computerized equipment (I would like to have seen him prove that). He threatened that "if we couldn't do it, he'd replace us with people who could." Some of us covertly contacted our POI, citing our safety concerns, and he seemed interested at first. But before long he told us he was not interested in discussing the issue, and our boss, obviously pissed at having to answer the POI, was an even bigger jerk after that.

Fortunately, our president got a new job after about 3 grueling years. Shorty thereafter, after screwing over a good, competent guy at the next airline to create an opening, his buddy trailed along after him. What a great system, but at least we were glad to be rid of him. And my mother wonders why I never went into "management".
 

Pull To Guns

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As far as bringing it to the attention of the FAA, it may depend on who you contact. We had a situation back in the mid-90s where we got a new president, who then promptly fired our Director of System Control so he could replace him with his empty-suit buddy. This guy had the reputation (we later discovered) of being a real prick from two previous airlines, and he lived up to it in spades. Oddly enough, he had been a dispatcher early in his career, but when he got to us he seemed to hold us in complete contempt.

At the time we were working about 12-15 aircraft per dispatcher, which worked out to about 60-70 flight releases per 10-hour shift. Well, he claimed we could work up to 30 aircraft apiece, saying that they had done so when he was a dispatcher before all this fancy computerized equipment (I would like to have seen him prove that). He threatened that "if we couldn't do it, he'd replace us with people who could." Some of us covertly contacted our POI, citing our safety concerns, and he seemed interested at first. But before long he told us he was not interested in discussing the issue, and our boss, obviously pissed at having to answer the POI, was an even bigger jerk after that.

Fortunately, our president got a new job after about 3 grueling years. Shorty thereafter, after screwing over a good, competent guy at the next airline to create an opening, his buddy trailed along after him. What a great system, but at least we were glad to be rid of him. And my mother wonders why I never went into "management".


Sad but all too typical. Sometimes as a dispatcher I wonder if I have "Kick Me" written on the back of my shirt.

What did we do wrong to deserve this kind of treatment? It seems to be universal. I am working for a foreign carrier now and it is the same here. WTF!?!?
 

abxdx

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It is very easy for you to say these things and suggest sick-outs, rattling the FAA's cage etc.... because you have nothing to lose. You are no longer in the industry and will not be affected. In these uncertain times(not only in the aviation industry) some of us are hanging on by a thread. Maybe our spouse has already been laid off... our house mortgage is more than we can afford, we are having trouble paying our bills. You want us to stick our neck out and tell "the man" we deserve better. There are thousands of pilots, dxer's out there right now that would gladly take my place in a minute. Now is not the time to go on a crusade for the dispatch community. Safety and having enough dispatchers that are qualified is one thing but pay is something that everyone needs to understand going in. If you are unhappy with how you are compensated, leave the regional. There are good paying dispatcher jobs out there(or there were) you just have to look for them. If you spend your time working for a regional you will make regional money. Go for a big carrier, go for a cargo carrier, go for the Part 135 carrier.
I have been at cargo carriers the majority of my career and have always made decent money. I also work with people that came from regionals that now make good money, so it is possible.

Hmmm, judging by the replys thus far, or lack thereof by the masses, we see that these posts are just some of the reasons that dispatchers are treated like this... everybody just ends up taking it in the shorts... and it's unerstandable if only one office or worse, a few people makes a complaint..

I think this MUST be a very large and universal airlines formal complaint to the FAA administrator and the POI's.. it needs to be brought to the attention of our congreesman, senators to gain real attention this it deserves.. one or two POI's are not going to make waves and stir the pot needed to make changes.. it's going to take a FAA mandate.

This is a matter of safety, respect and recognition of the work we (you guys/gals) do.. if the uproar is larges enough, and a few well planned sick outs hit the companies in the mouth, across the country, then maybe they will step up to the plate..

I would highly suggest that we get pilots to write letters of support, get their unions help, I know that Washington has some big problems to deal with right now, so I am not say this has to be done right now.. but this will take large amount of carefully planned talks and coordination with unions and members.. unofficial sick outs.. and the plan presented all at once at the right time..

I don't envy you guys anymore.. I used too.. but I finally got tired of kissing a$$es to do what I loved to do.. management knows we do this work because we really enjoy the work, like pilots, they take this emotion to their advantage and beat us over the head with it..

Lets get more comments from others.. this will take alot of support to even have a chance..
 

NSW

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Hey guys, I've been reading this interesting thread and I have a few thoughts.

I'm a career dispatcher myself and I definitely sympathize on the issues of pay, security and respect we all face. But let's not pretend we are alone in this business.

EVERY airline employee (with the exception of a Glenn Tilton or Jon Ornstein here and there -- the exceptions that prove the rule) is underpaid and underappreciated. Don't cry that dispatchers are different because "souls" are in our hands. Pilots, A&Ps, pushback operators, load planners, even TSA screeners -- every one has a link in the safety chain.

Think about the role of the dispatcher at the 21st century US airline. At most medium to large size airlines, the dispatcher's job is stripped down to the regulatory minimum. You plan fuel, check the MELs, weather and NOTAMs, and send the release if it's legal. The vast majority of what a dispatcher did when 14CFR 121 was written is now done by a computer.

JAR airlines in Europe are not required to have a dispatcher. A typical "dispatch" situation there is a single person overseeing 500 flight plans in a shift with 99% or more of the work including evaluation of legality performed by a machine. This is the direction we're headed. The evolution of this licensed position is not dissimilar to that of the Flight Engineer.

One day 121 will no longer require airlines to employ dispatchers and the remainder of the job will be parceled out to ops controllers, load planners and computers.

All this is to say that your experience, your on-paper responsibilities, whatever, they don't entitle you to anything. The American thing to do is to make your own way. To me, that means one of three things:

1. A serious and concerted effort to protect this profession. I am not going out on a limb to say that the unions and the ADF are miserable failures in this regard, but maybe it's an impossible task in this particularly effed up industry and economy.

2. You make the sacrifice to do the job. Teachers, cops, firefighters and yes, most pilots all have jobs more critical to society than dispatchers and generally get paid jack for it.

3. You use the experience. The well-rounded airline knowledge a dispatcher gets in the job is perfect experience toward advancement. Work your way into management, schedule planning or finance. Take some classes, build a resume.

Your career is what you make it. Whining never got anyone much of anything. Just my 2c.
 

airbrush

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NSW, your points are well taken, as well as accurate.

I've never deluded myself to believe that we dispatchers were saving the world or anything. In fact, I recently worked a part-time job with a hospital comm center, where we dispatched two EMS helicopters and several ambulance units, and I was amazed how little EMTs make for the literal life-and-death nature of their jobs. Most of them worked at least two jobs, enduring long hours, high stress, grueling schedules, and often insensitive management in the quest to be there to care for any one of us on any given day should we find ourselves in a life-threatening situation. It really makes you wonder about our priorities as a society.

My biggest complaint is that, with the system as it is, one glitch in your career and you are screwed, and all of the years invested mean squat. I don't expect to get rich, but the starting salaries have been pounded down to the point where I can't even support my family, especially in the high COL areas where these companies choose to locate.

I don't understand why they don't see that; I would've seriously considered JetBlue a couple of years ago when several pilot friends offered to campaign on my behalf. But New freakin' York City? Not only is it not where I want to live or raise my family, but the starting pay was well below what is supposed to be the "minimum" required to live there. Same with other airlines, located in the DC Beltway area but paying wages that are more appropriate for a small city or rural area. But that's the reality of the business today, and I doubt that will change for the better. I wouldn't at all be surprised to see the FAA pressured to change the regs and make Dispatchers go the way of the Dodo.

So, I'm doing my best to find another path. I stinks, but it seems to be the best thing to do for my family.
 

Pull To Guns

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Not only can a little "glitch" ruin you career, just think if you were sued for negligence if a flight you had Joint Responsiblity in had an accident especially if there was a FAR violation involved. The victims' attorneys will go after any and all who even touched that flight. You could lose literally everything!

AFAIK this hasn't happened before but it's not out of the realm of possibility. We don't have immunity. Companies usually provide liability insurance for pilots but mechanics and dispatchers are on their own.
 
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