Michael Moore, NY Times Address Pilot Pay

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In the first post of a new blog on his Web site, filmmaker Michael Moore this week addressed the issue of pilot pay, and The New York Times also explored the topic in a lengthy Page One story on Wednesday. "I have a whole section in my new movie [Capitalism: A Love Story] about how pilots are treated," Moore writes. "In the movie I interview a pilot for a major airline who made $17,000 last year. For four months he was eligible [for] -- and received -- food stamps. Another pilot in the film has a second job as a dog walker." The Times story focuses on Bryan Lawlor, a pilot for ExpressJet who was one of 130 captains downgraded to first officer in a cost-cutting measure. He took a 50-percent pay cut, to $34,000 per year. Click here for the full NYT story, or here for an audio slideshow. Moore's movie features interviews with several pilots and excerpts from Capt. Chesley "Sully" Sullenberger's testimony before Congress in February, when he talked about the pay cuts and pension reductions taken by pilots. Click here for an audio podcast of Sullenberger's testimony.

In his blog post, Moore says that on a recent airline flight, the pilots -- who were unaware that pilot pay was addressed in the new film -- asked to talk to him after they landed. One showed him a letter from the airline noting that he had already taken three sick days in the past year and warning him not to take any more. The other pilot showed Moore a pay stub for $405 for a week's work. "My life was completely and totally in his hands for the past hour and he's paid less than the kid who delivers my pizza," Moore writes. At least one of the pilot interviews in the film was apparently shot at Wittman Field in Oshkosh, though it wasn't identified -- the airport's distinctive new control tower was visible in the background. The young pilot who was interviewed said she owes $100,000 in student loans but tried not to think about it. An older pilot said the airlines take advantage of the fact that pilots love to fly and thus will put up with poor treatment. The film also mentions the Colgan Air accident and the poor pay of the pilots involved. During the final credits, a note appears asking viewers to donate to "Pennies for Pilots," but we were unable to find any further information about any such effort.