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Airline Pilots: Is Anybody Interested in Being One?

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Captain X is a training Captain for a well-known regional airline and occasional correspondent to AVweb and our aviation publications. We're publishing his compelling observations as a guest blog. --Paul Bertorelli

We can't quite put our fingers on what's occurring in the industry right now. I've talked to my counterparts at other regional airlines and they all are seeing the same thing. For lack of a better description, a large percentage of newly hired airline pilots just aren't as excited about their career prospects as they used to be.

During our last hiring boom in 2007 and 2008, it seemed as if we had people climbing all over each other just to get an interview. Now, we'll frequently call 10 for an interview and only five will show up. I don't know if other airlines are hiring them before we can interview them or what, but it just seems the level of interest in our industry isn't there.

Of those who do come to the interview, we are appalled at how many show up and can't pass a written test. Our interview test isn't that hard. It's straight out of the FAA commercial pilot written. We have a couple of questions we took straight from the AIM. I'm amazed at how many people who want to be airline pilots struggle to interpret a TAF! I mean if you want an airline job, wouldn't you at least review the rules on holding pattern speeds and what an ILS Critical Area sign looks like?

Then we send them on to a basic instrument proficiency checkout in an Elite PCATD. Again, it's shocking how many people can't scan a basic six-pack. Is it because Cessnas today have G-1000's? I actually interviewed one candidate who got so slow on an ILS that he stalled and went out of control. He probably would have gotten lost in the holding pattern, except he never got there because he turned the wrong way when I told him to go directly to the VOR. He couldn't read the HSI well enough to know whether he was TO or FROM.

Even those who do get hired seem to lack a basic knowledge of operating in an IFR environment. One of my instructors came to me one day in the middle of a lesson and he was extremely frustrated. He said he couldn't introduce any emergencies to the crew he was working with in the procedures trainer because they were struggling so hard just to navigate. And this was with the FMS fully functional!

It seems that there are a lot of students who think "close enough" is close enough. We tell them on day one of Basic Indoc (and every day thereafter) how important it is to learn their callouts, flows and profiles. Twenty-one days later, they're still arguing with us that they have the callouts down "pretty well." In our program, they don't even go to the simulator until they've spent 13 days in the procedures trainer, and we still have students who struggle to get ready for the sim.

We've discussed this amongst ourselves and think there are many issues at work here: (1) Maybe the younger generation just has a sense of entitlement. I know I sound like an old man here, but there really is a perceptible difference in work ethic from young pilots today and new pilots just four years ago. One of my most senior ground instructors mentioned that it's just different this time around.

(2) The industry has driven the good people away: The last four years have not been kind to the airline industry. Maybe today's best and brightest have decided to go to medical school instead of pursuing their real dream of aviation. I live in the midwest and I think everyone around here knows someone who used to fly for either Delta or Comair who has been devastated by what happened at Delta over the last few years. A friend of mine on furlough tried to get a state grant to get re-trained with a 737 type rating so he could apply to Southwest. In the past, other pilots have been able to do that. This time around, the state of Ohio denied his request by saying that basically they didn't think there would be enough flying jobs in the future to support him and that his retraining grant needed to be spent pursuing another career. It doesn't take long for word to get around that flying isn't exactly the positive career choice it used to be.

(3) The upcoming 1500-hour / ATP minimum requirement for all airline pilots might be scaring away good people. The ATP rule won't go into effect until 2013, so this is a perfect time to get an airline job. In two years of flying 85 hours a month, it'll be easy to beef up the logbook. This may be the last time in history that a guy with less than 1000 hours has a shot at an airline career. But I'm concerned that some pilots have only heard part of the story and have given up, thinking the rule is already in effect.

(4) Now that we're all wired and connected to the cloud, we just process information differently: My company is taking a hard look at our training procedures to see if we can present the information in a way that's more exciting for tech-savvy pilots. Unfortunately, many regional airlines see their training departments as expenses rather than investments, so there's not exactly an open checkbook for new training initiatives.

(5) Economic hard times have made it difficult for instrument pilots to stay proficient if they're paying for their time themselves. I'll be honest; I don't know if I could have afforded to get all my ratings in today's fuel environment. I paid between $50 and $85 an hour to rent most of my training planes, and I struggled to do that. That was when avgas was about $1.50 a gallon. Throw in reduced hours at work or downright unemployment, and staying proficient takes a back seat. We're seeing a lot of people coming in the door who haven't touched an airplane for three years!

(6) No one is getting commercial pilots' licenses any more. The FAA will tell you that the number of commercial pilots licenses issued has plummeted in the last three years. It is only a fraction of what it was four years ago. That means that the regionals are going to be competing for a smaller and smaller pool of pilots. When that happens, the quality of the candidate pool remaining quickly drops.

Everyone on the inside of the industry sees it, but none of us knows exactly what "it" is yet. I personally think it's a combination of all the above factors.

I'm not sure what the answer is, but we are working hard to find one.

Comments (159)

It's the FAA, it's idiot management and their golden parachutes, it's the TSA. I enjoy flying, been doing it for 34 years, 16 with an airline. Yet our POI has flown nothing bigger than a Cessna 310 and has no clue what I do for a living. I work 4 out of 7 days because our idiot in charge of scheduling thinks 8 is greater than 12 and actually argued about that with me in front of a Federal Mediator during contract negotiations. Everytime I try and get to my office I have to be strip searched in front of the very people I'm supposed to command respect from. Why should a young person starting a career come here? In my grandfather's day (started with Pitcairn in 1928), Captains were god. If they want more fuel or had a concern about the weather, they were listened to. Now, I spend most of my time answering second guess from morons who have half the facts and much more time than I did to make a decision. The writer mentions the 1500 hour rule, a brillant idea from Congress, who knows jack about aviation. Instead why didn't they bring up the Colgan POI who had been relieved of his position for pointing out how bad Colgan's training was -- BEFORE the crash? So much for oversight. Look at what Wolf did to USAir, look at the recent mergers and backruptcy and how they turned out for the employees. And, of course, the TSA confiscates cupcakes in dreams of keeping us safe. I can't wait to get out and go fly my warbird at my local grass strip.

Posted by: John Hyle | January 2, 2012 5:59 AM    Report this comment

There are two major forces at work here:

Airlines: The profession has gone downhill in both the tangible areas like pay and job security and in image and prestige. Would you really shell out buckets of money and time to get a job at a major? Would you work for years at a regional in hopes of getting that job. The simple fact is that with the Internet, it easy to research and most are simply answering no.

Pilots: I laugh when some low time, zero to hero, pilot puppy mill grad starts telling me that it's too hard to become an airline pilot. As a civilian trained pilot myself, I had to get almost 1800 tt before someone would trust me to fly cancelled checks in a single engine piston plane. Flying was a craft and those skills couldn't be learned overnight. I don't have the answers as to blame the pilot or the whole training system that evolved, but I do know that no one seems to appreciate exprenece anymore, until a plane goes down.

The thing I do know is that most professional pilots I know would not recommend becoming a professional pilot and while I don't share that opinion, I can understand why they feel this way

Posted by: John Pursell | January 2, 2012 6:56 AM    Report this comment

I still part time instruct and I see no enthusiasm in my students who actually want to eventually go to the airlines. They don't eat and sleep aviation like my generation did 40 years ago. We would sit around the flight school office and pick apart Jeppesen plates. Now these students can't even find the frequency box. And God forbid that you make them buy current charts. Forget extras like an airport facility directory. I recently gave an instrument proficiency check and the future airline pilot had no idea what an ODP was, and his NDB approach in to the York airport (THV) was a disaster. The needles on his ILS looked like windshield wipers. Forget holding since we just went around in circles. What really scares me is that my grandkids will be passengers on these regional jets. Jimmy Doolittle once said..."I could never be so lucky agian." And we older pilot's could never be so lucky again to be around really enthusiastic students again. You know where we would wait for the mail person to bring your Jeppesen revisions so you could pick apart any changes made. And if you didn't understand something you would write Jim Tepstra (chart guru at Jeppesen) and he would graciously answer your question.

Posted by: Jody Keydash | January 2, 2012 7:02 AM    Report this comment

Gentlemen:

Great comments - all of them. I'm 53 years old, way too old to start flying professionally but still have that aviation passion, so I decided to get my CFI and take my vocation skills as a Technical Trainer to the airport. My wonderful wife thinks I'm nuts. I'm having a real problem getting Complex time since many flight schools have pulled their complex trainers off the rental line - not enough demand, insurance is too high, repairs and annuals are too expensive. Looking at the above comments my skills are waaay above the current crop of candidates, but I'm not willing to work for dirt-poor wages that the regionals are willing to pay. My grandmother was right: you get what you grow.....but I'm sure back then she had better seeds to start with !! Happy New Year everyone.

Posted by: TRACY SMITH | January 2, 2012 7:15 AM    Report this comment

This is really not new news. I've noticed this trend for a while now. This brings up an interesting couple of questions - will demand for air travel decline over the next couple of years ? Answer: most assuredly NOT. Will the number of QUALIFIED pilots increase or decline over the next couple of years ? Answer: DECLINE. Hmmmmm what does that mean for those airline pilots currently in their late thirties early forties with a couple of jet type ratings and large aircraft experience ???? I already get at least two very credible offers via email every month to come work outside of the U.S. I can only imagine this trend makes qualified applicants look more attractive.

Posted by: RANDOLPH PALMA | January 2, 2012 8:14 AM    Report this comment

Cost.I was a broke kid in the Detroit suburbs who was fortunate to have a CFI mentor who owned his airplane and did my commercial and CFI for $500. After loans for my private and instrument I could not afford to get any other ratings otherwise.

I spent 4000 hours as a flight instructor to earn enough for a multi-engine rating-I made $7,000 a year, flying 1000 hrs a year (1991). When others paid the regionals $10,000 for training ("buy a job" program) I flew freight single pilot in the middle of the night in MU-2s for 38K a year.

students are now sparse as the cost has increased, making building time old school difficult. A university flight program is well over $100K. Out of reach of many.

When I was hired by a regional I made 20K my first year (2000) and 32K my second. I eventually upgraded to captain and made $60K. Next year things went bad. Downgraded to first officer as people were furloughed. Pay was reduced 60%. The airline declared BK and fired all 2000 pilots as it liquidated. Got a job making 48K a year flying a Challenger jet all over the world. Left when I obtained an instructor at a 142 school catering to corporate flight departments, nearly doubling my salary.

Love to go back to flying and enjoyed flying at the regionals. I'm 41 and cannot afford the salary, the commuting, or the potential furlough being at the bottom of the seniority list brings. Many of us out here refuse to live in poverty-like conditions at a regional. You get what you pay for.

Posted by: Shannon Forrest | January 2, 2012 8:18 AM    Report this comment

A great topic, sure to get a lot of comments. I am retired from 30 years of airline flying, plus 6 in USAF. When I started the airlines offered a future hard to match in almost any other walk of life. I consider my career as having spanned the very last of the best in the industry, ending in the general decline of every meaningful aspect of the profession. I am grateful to have had the career I had, but I am also SO glad to be gone. I have three children, one with a PPL, but none have any interest in flying for a living. That is a realistic assessment, in mt view, and telling for the future. However, you must place this discussion in the context of virtually all American life. It is hard to see any line of work that hasn't suffered considerably. But, the predatory nature of the airline industry today sits in a class of its own, I believe.

Posted by: BILL MCCLURE | January 2, 2012 8:37 AM    Report this comment

I do a few intros for kids with SJS every year. I always ask what got them interested in flying. Most say they've always wanted to fly, a few say they want to fly for the airlines. After I get done explaining the process and costs to get there part 61, and quote the $20k/year starting salary at a regional, I never see them again. We keep hearing about this "epic pilot shortage", but the laws of supply and demand don't seem to apply to the airlines. You want high caliber, well qualified, motivated applicants for a highly technical job? Increase the pay to the point where a person can actually move out of the parents' house. Imagine if Google hired people at $20k for the first year.

Posted by: Jerry Plante | January 2, 2012 8:50 AM    Report this comment

If you want to make a generational comment, you should point out how little respect the younger have for seniority based systems. Good for them.

There are all sorts of things making the career unattractive. No single one is key. One not mentioned here is that people now are likely to have multiple careers in their lives. Airlines are set up for the lifetime employment model. Great.

Some more issues. Could the uniforms be any worse? Will all your co workers be senior citizens? Are any of the management people like me, or are they all heartless bean counters. Will airplanes be taxed/regulated out of existence? Does the company own anything or is it a financial nightmare? What is this PB&GC thing and what does it have to do with cutting hair? What is a pension anyway?

Posted by: Eric Warren | January 2, 2012 9:07 AM    Report this comment

It makes me sad to read Captain X's essay. He is caught between the way things used to be, and whatever future is out there for the folks who will still choose to fly for a living. The old reality was a person who loved flying, who kept his nose fairly clean, who commited to the profession, and who had some luck could work their way up to a job flying for one of the majors. A job with a major airline was a secure, well compensated position that any aviator could be proud to hold. Pilots were willing to work jobs at regionals, or fly cargo to get the experience necessary to get that interview at a major.

Captain X's problem is that the regional airlines built their recruitment (and training and compensation) policies around the old assumption that qualified applicants will choose to work at a regional as a stepping stone toward finding a good job at a major airline. Those good major airline jobs are pretty much gone, as any rational individual who does a little homework is aware. Who does that leave?

Folks who love to fly, and folks who have not done their homework.

As the cost of flying runs away from the average wage of a young person, the only folks still flying for fun are those wealthy enough to be uninterested in a regional airline career. That leaves Captain X a dwindling number of poorly qualified applicants who were not motivated enough to see through the snake oil the airline industry persists in trying to sell. I wish Captain X success in his alchemy. N601PE

Posted by: FORREST WARD | January 2, 2012 9:09 AM    Report this comment

Many regional pilots are changing careers and increasing the retirement age certainly had an impact. If you were 59, you hit the lottery being at the high end of the pay scale for the next 5 years. If you're 30, living pay check to paycheck spending Christmas in a truck stop restaurant in Scranton as a 5 year turboprop first officer you just realized that it will now take another 5 years to upgrade or go to the majors. Another five years figuring out how to keep the car from being repo'd and to keep asking for student loan payment deferrals.

Posted by: Shannon Forrest | January 2, 2012 9:23 AM    Report this comment

When I was a little kid in the 40s, I wanted to be either a doctor or an airline pilot, because either would mean I could be rich and drive a Cadillac. The doctor idea fizzled when I learned in Jr Hi that I hated biology. Then I made a deathbed promise to my Grampa to go to law school, so I became a lawyer--and I've been pretty happy with that career. But I still had a dream to be an airline pilot.

While still in the USAF, I had the time and money to learn to fly. After I got out, money became tighter, but I started to go up the ratings ladder. But already the childhood dream of becoming an airline pilot was looking harder to achieve. Military transport pilots were coming out of Viet Nam in droves, glutting the airlines with highly skilled "big iron" drivers. So I instructed, flew SE charter, and enjoyed flying.

Posted by: Cary Alburn | January 2, 2012 9:35 AM    Report this comment

Meanwhile times changed. When the federal essential air service money dried up with deregulation, the airlines started cutting back, or worse, folding. Salaries for even experienced pilots but without seniority became less than living wages, and scheduling made normal family life impossible. You had to love to fly more than anything else, to put up with those conditions.

Money, time, family, seniority, scheduling--all these and more are discouraging factors to today's "instant gratification" society where a talented computer type can earn over $100K in a normal 40 hour work week and still enjoy flying on his/her own. Why put up with the downsides of airline work, under the circumstances? Is it any wonder that those few who apply seem to fit into the substandard category?

Posted by: Cary Alburn | January 2, 2012 9:36 AM    Report this comment

While, I appreciate your concerns about the quality of new hires, I must ask a question: What do you expect for a job that pay's $17K a year and requires a new hire to spend in excess of $125K just to qualify for the job?

If you consider the question dispassionately and in pure economic terms, you are not going to get the "best and brightest" to fill a position with that type of cost/benefit ratio.

A commenter suggested that it is a sense of entitlement, or disrespect for the seniority system that keeps the good guys away. That cannot be further from the truth.

The fact is, there are so many fantastic pilots out there. Guys with thousands of hours and perfect training records. Some have left the business, others that are hanging in there making $60-$70K year at a regional with good seniority. Some of my friends that are still in it are either thinking about getting out or considering going overseas to make $15-20K/month, risking divorce or not seeing their kids for months at a stretch.

Bottomline, and not to be disrespectful, I hope that it gets worse and worse for the airline you work for. May the day come when you invite 10 to the interview and none show up. Then we can revisit the basic economic rules of supply and demand. Only when payscales in the US rise to the level of those found in the rest of the world, will you begin to see the good pilots return from stints overseas, or the desks they are flying to fill your ranks. Until then, best of luck!

Posted by: DAVID COLEMAN | January 2, 2012 10:28 AM    Report this comment

Hay Cap How about a proper cadet training system? You know, when you sign them from high school, pay them $10,000 a year for the first year and teach them to fly from scratch. That way you train them to meet your standards. There are enough clever lawyers to tie them in working for you for at least the equivalent of the training period (or pay you lot a golden escape). If you really want to, you can make them wear uniforms and salute you! Think about it -- it is the model used, more or less, for hospital doctors and most large law firms. They do not say you have to be fully qualified and then start on not much more than $10,000.

Posted by: Brian McCulloch | January 2, 2012 11:16 AM    Report this comment

It's quite simple. You spend your entire life doing the things that keep you alive in the aviation environment. Problem is pilots have lost control of their profession and industry, to bean counters and people who do not know how to fly. This started well before the events of 9/11/2001. De-regulation was the nail in the coffin in 1978. Things will continue to decline for the airline profession, until the men and women stand up for their rights. I know first hand what discrimination and oppression looks like. Any one in their right mind will not spent a lifetime maintaining proficiency and health, to be denied access because of TSA or a public mandated piss test. Pilots need to stand up and take back the profession period. It's either their way OR the highway. I am dreaming however, because that's not gonna happen . I retired in 2009 after 34 years. I wouldn't recommend the piloting profession, unless you are willing to give up your freedoms as an American Citizen. There is just no reward for the sacrifice in todays airline environment. It's better to "sell shoes at Sears" and be home every night, than to be oppressed and discriminated against. Being a product of the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960's, I know.

Posted by: John Dyer | January 2, 2012 11:24 AM    Report this comment

It's quite simple. You spend your entire life doing the things that keep you alive in the aviation environment. Problem is pilots have lost control of their profession and industry, to bean counters and people who do not know how to fly. This started well before the events of 9/11/2001. De-regulation was the nail in the coffin in 1978. Things will continue to decline for the airline profession, until the men and women stand up for their rights. I know first hand what discrimination and oppression looks like. Any one in their right mind will not spent a lifetime maintaining proficiency and health, to be denied access because of TSA or a public mandated piss test. Pilots need to stand up and take back the profession period. It's either their way OR the highway. I am dreaming however, because that's not gonna happen . I retired in 2009 after 34 years. I wouldn't recommend the piloting profession, unless you are willing to give up your freedoms as an American Citizen. There is just no reward for the sacrifice in todays airline environment. It's better to "sell shoes at Sears" and be home every night, than to be oppressed and discriminated against. Being a product of the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960's, I know.

Posted by: John Dyer | January 2, 2012 11:24 AM    Report this comment

A person would have to be a real aviation enthusiast to spend a small fortune to get a chance at a $12.00 an hour job with very little future.

Posted by: Glen Anderson | January 2, 2012 11:50 AM    Report this comment

Mr. Smith, you missed the whole point. Pointing to the guys who choose aviation isn't telling you much about the ones who didn't. You are correct that pay is an issue, but you miss that the seniority system is a great part of that equation. Young potential career pilots expecting to get the huge pay and benefits that older pilots are getting are foolish (most aren't actually expecting it but fly anyway). . Most of them are not fools so many quit even before they begin.

We could recruit lots of pilots if we paid each of them for the value they provide as pilots rather than asking them to gamble their futures in a union system that fleeces the young to pay the old and may stop paying out any day now.

Ask a few young, ambitious professionals what they think about taking a position where the senior workers get paid a lot more based on seniority rather than merit and see how many want to play. Sure, experience matters, but that's not what the union systems really pay for is it? Certainly it's not based on merit at all. Kids talk a good game about the equality based stuff they were socialized with in public school, but the ones I talk to actually appreciate individual merit in their own work place.

Posted by: Eric Warren | January 2, 2012 12:05 PM    Report this comment

Mr. Warren: Yes, you are so right to point out the shortcomings of the seniority system, which is why only the young and ambitious can afford the abuse of low pay and lousy work rules in the dreams of moving up the seniority ladder - irregardless of their individual merits. When the young & ambitious stop knocking on the door, then what? Steady (or growing) demand + a shrinking pool of candidates = higher wages. Supply & demand, folks. The 'Academy' system as proposed earlier? Maybe...sounds like a good idea. But remember, aviation just doesn't have the panache it once had. Good luck recruiting for THAT Academy.....

Posted by: TRACY SMITH | January 2, 2012 12:37 PM    Report this comment

What a loaded subject! Let's start with the government agencies. FAA over-regulating and TSA treating pilots like criminals. And the ever escalating cost. The cost issue alone would make me wonder how anyone can afford just to get started much less staying current. So maybe the supply of pilots who are actually willing to fly for nothing is starting to dry up as the author seems to be suggesting. It's about time. Still,I am not holding my breath on this. This industry is it's own worst enemy. The fractional company I fly for still has no problem getting resumes, although some of the training issues brought up by the author has been talked about when I went though my last recurrent training. I have been though or heard of the alleged pilot shortage cycle at least three times in the last 25 years and as far as I can see nothing has changed. Starting pay for regionals and for other flying jobs is still lousy to say the least. I have posted the following comment several times before and for now see no reason to change it; in the US there never has been, is not now, and never will be a shortage of pilots, only a shortage of experienced pilots who are willing to work for nothing! Until the amount of pilots who are willing to work for nothing dramatically drops, nothing will change in the industry as far as pilot pay is concerned.

Posted by: matthew wagner | January 2, 2012 12:49 PM    Report this comment

I was fortunate to be able to fly fighters in the Air Force. At times I had airline recruiters ask if I was interested in flying for them. My answer was always, "No."

At the time, flying an airliner would have been a good source of money, but I never saw it as a really enjoyable flying career -- especially compared to strapping on a real jet.

I kid not, it was common to land after a particularly satisfying or exciting mission and while walking back to the squadron with big S-E grins on our faces saying to each other, "Can you believe someone actually pays us to do this?"

I'm guessing not many airline pilots have every said that while riding the shuttle bus to their hotels.

Posted by: Gary Dikkers | January 2, 2012 2:14 PM    Report this comment

The difference with this "Pilot Shortage" vs. others rumored in the past is twofold - One is the 700 or 1500 hour requirement, this really slows things down even if they go with the lower 700 hour number. And two, the huge number of retirements that will occur withing the next fourteen months. Additionally if you factor in that military pilots have for the last couple of years been made to sign a TWELVE year commitment to begin after flight school. Considering the LARGE pay differential that exists between a senior O-3/ junior O-4 vs. starting airline pay it is all but certain that pipeline is dried up, especially when you consider the increased number of military flight school grads that get stuck flying UAVs nowadays. Actually the fewer people coming into the pipeline make those of us remaining all the more valuable.

Posted by: RANDOLPH PALMA | January 2, 2012 2:19 PM    Report this comment

I can see why Captain "X" doesn't want his name used. He's full of "Ka-Ka." I was one of over 1,000 pilots hired who had only a commercial license at UAL. No instrument ticket. Very few had a commercial license when we were offered employment. We were offered employment on condition that we got a commercial license within the next year. If we did that, we went to Denver and United paid for us to get our instrument tickets. A three week course, followed by a check ride in a C-150 shooting a VOR approach. We all went on to the flight engineer seat and then on to full airline careers. Not one of us ever had an accident. (one went to jail for drug running on his days off). Let's see, 1,000+ pilots at 23,000 hours each is more than 25 million hours with no accidents. BUT, we were well trained by UAL. Sure, the Fudpucker Airline and Aluminum Storm Door Company can hire people who have accidents. That (generally) is not the pilot's fault, but rather the fault of that airline's training program. I had 145 hours when UAL offered me employment in 1966. I flew from 1967 to 1997.

Posted by: FRED WILSON | January 2, 2012 2:23 PM    Report this comment

Wow, 12 years and they stick you in the UAV program? I think that will last about 4 years and they will be figuring out how to get rid of pissed off pris... err...pilots. Wonder what the army and navy are doing.

Posted by: Eric Warren | January 2, 2012 2:40 PM    Report this comment

Yes Fred, I am very familiar with the Clinton School of Aviation over at the old Stapelton Airport. But your example points back to the days when airlines actually saw the wisdom of spending money on flight training. Under the regulated system they could in fact actually afford that "luxury". Now it is looked upon as an expensive waste of time and the bare minimum is the order of the day. As long as they can get the POI to look the other way as the bean-counters shave days and days off of training programs.

Posted by: RANDOLPH PALMA | January 2, 2012 2:46 PM    Report this comment

Captain X wrote: "Everyone on the inside of the industry sees it, but none of us knows exactly what "it" is yet"

What it is may be that airline flying is mature, boring, and that the title of airline pilot should be re-named as systems monitor. There are no unique skills needed in day-to-day operations. All facets are pre-calculated, pre-loaded, and pre-determined. The PIC is hardly more than a passenger himself who's job description is basically "don't screw up what has been proven to work".

The attitude of applicants reflects that. They show up and expect everything from loading, fuel and flight plans to be done FOR them.

Posted by: Mark Fraser | January 2, 2012 3:49 PM    Report this comment

Hard work, irregular hours, nights and weekends, low pay, time away from family, dealing with the fickle public, challenging weather, and pressured always to cut costs. Reminds me of my youth picking asparagus at harvest time. I chose a different career.

Another non sequitur that might go to one of the authors' points is my 15 year old son wanting his driver's permit, tho I have suggested he learn to drive first. "No problem Dad, I already know how from watching you and playing video games. It's really easy." And his friends concur.

But I say this subject is moot anyway, because when the Chinese and other emerging countries buy up all our aviation assets eventually (they own 2/3 of my state's buildings in the Capital city now) they'll provide all the pilots necessary- who are being trained as we write at my local airports' International Air Academy, and they are very enthusiastic, disciplined, English-speaking young pilots.

Posted by: David Miller | January 2, 2012 4:05 PM    Report this comment

I have no experience with the military so I can't comment there. I have seen magazine articles that have said that the airlines are doing everything they can to delay replacing some the upcoming retirements due to the age 65 rule. One article said that Delta instead of replacing the DC9's outright, they are using the DC9 phase outs as a way to just park the airplanes when the crew members flying them do retire and not hire or delay hiring replacements. I did see an ad for FO positions at USAirways online. This is the first time I have ever seen a major airline advertise for pilot openings. Ads that I have seen for the regionals still advertise poverty level pay, so I it still makes me think that the regionals don't feel that there is a pilot shortage either. As far as the quality of current new applicants, I have heard similiar complaints come from the training dept of my company.

Posted by: matthew wagner | January 2, 2012 4:08 PM    Report this comment

Well the way I foresee it playing out is the majors will absolutely decimate the regionals, taking anyone from them can identify a 737 on the ramp(as they are really the only viable source). It's the regionals that will really be reeling intially and that's when it's going to get interesting. They are going to have to recognize that they either need to pay more, or start some kind of training academies or some combination of both. But they WON'T be able to keep bringing in 300hr wonders anymore as they have in the past.

Posted by: RANDOLPH PALMA | January 2, 2012 4:32 PM    Report this comment

I am assistant chief instructor with a large flight school in southeastern Florida. I am appalled at the marginal to poor quality of people walking through the door seeking to learn how to fly. Start with poor education. Most have very weak arithmetic skills, poor understanding of even basic science and a distinct lack of hunger for aviation knowledge beyond watching a King video. Getting deep into the AIM, FARs and all that just isn't in their playbook. Their study habits center around getting through the written, not actually looking at aviation knowledge as a joy to pursue. I remember desperately wanting to be a pilot. I dug deep into the regs, seeking to understand the why behind them. The AIM was a novel I couldn't put down. I carried the PHAK everywhere. Plotting a trip with a whiz wheel was a delicious problem. I scored in high 90s on all the writtens I ever took. Where has all that gone? People don’t want to work anymore; they want precomputed flight plans from flightplan.com and the answers to pop out with a few taps on their electronic E6-Bs. They want John and Martha to spoon-feed them from start to finish. I am intensely proud to be a pilot and especially a flight instructor. Some of my “kids” have airline ambitions and even flying jobs. I fly their Embraers and RJs vicariously because I helped them get there. Being a pilot is an honor and a privilege. Let’s all remember that.

Posted by: Unknown | January 2, 2012 9:41 PM    Report this comment

Back in 2008, I started flight school with the ultimate goal of becoming an airline pilot. Six months, 25 hours (3 solo) and $5k later, I put my flight bag in storage, and gaze wistfully at it from time to time.

Why? Certainly not because I didn't like flying anymore. Not simply because my wife told me she was expecting our third child. Mostly it was from reading. Reading blogs of other airline pilots. Reading about months spent on furlough, wondering when you'll go back to work. Reading about regional FOs spending 25 days a month away from home while their wives make do on food stamps because the right seat of a regional pays only slightly better than a job at McDonald's. Reading all that, then asking myself if pursuing a dream of shiny wings and a white uniform was worth the cost to my family.

So I shed a couple tears, went back to making software for a Souless Global Multimedia Mega-Corp, and resolved to get back to flying when I could afford a very expensive side-hobby.

Posted by: Aaron Giddings | January 2, 2012 9:42 PM    Report this comment

Let's face it. There is no glamor flying an airliner. It's a job in the transportation industry -- moving people and/or cargo from Point A to Point B -- little different than driving an 18-wheeler for Schneider International, or a bus for Continental Trailways, or the Chicago Transits Authority (CTA). (And the truth be told, a driver for Schneider will likely make more money than a regional pilot. Reportedly, they are a fine trucking company to work for that takes good care of the drivers.)

It's the job of the airline owners to provide a safely-run service people are willing to pay for at a price that will make a profit for the company and its stockholders. It's not the airline company's job to massage its pilot's egos and make them feel good about their chosen careers -- the romantic era of pilots as "Knights of the Sky" ended long ago.

My advice: For young people who really want to fly airliners, when people ask what you want to do, your answer should be, "Work in the transportation industry."

If you want to fly for the love of it, be an airshow pilot, be an aerial applicator, become a military pilot, or learn to fly helicopters and become an emergency medical services (EMS) pilot.

Of the active pilots I know, the EMS pilots seem to enjoy their jobs the most. They get a lot of job satisfaction flying to auto crashes and farm accidents rescuing people. The EMS helicopter pilots are the civilian aviation world's "Knights of the Sky."

Posted by: Gary Dikkers | January 2, 2012 11:14 PM    Report this comment

I agree with Gary as I sit waiting for a EMS call writing this. Even so it still requires a couple thousand hours to get into HEMS. Most come from military retirement or Law Enforcement, both exciting flying that changes day to day. Some others come from the Gulf or a Tour flying gig. So is it really the hours? Thought about the airlines with a drop in required hours back in the 80's during the Eastern Airline Pilot Strike and realized that it isn't all that. With the mergers, financial failures and strikes and automation of the cockpit... In short, once there, it appears the romance with flying fades. Friends that have been successful with airline careers, seem to find happiness in the local GA flying and look at the airline job as a means to that end. They keep that aviator spark alive at the controls of an Extra or a Pitts. Once heard the Air Bus cockpit of the future will have a dog and a pilot. The dog is to bite the pilot if he touches anything, the pilot is to feed the dog...

Posted by: Chuck West | January 2, 2012 11:52 PM    Report this comment

What is happening here is a paradigm shift: I'm sorry folks, but I'm one of the growing number of people believing that physical transportation of humans is on the verge of a massive decline. Call it "the iPad effect". Just as ocean liners succumbed to cable communications, and the railroads fell to the interstate, airliners are now falling to the Internet. The emotions espoused on this blog are reminicient of those stated by 'liner Captains, and locomotive engineers 50 or 70 years ago. Nothing lasts forever. You can't stop the march of time.

Posted by: Phil Derosier | January 3, 2012 2:45 AM    Report this comment

Paradigm shift is correct. The job has changed and the men and women who are there now are the unfortunate pawns in the global changes that are, in fact, changing America. The airline job is only a piece of the puzzle.

Almost everyone one has this outdated view of the job of airline pilot. It may have been largely true in another time, but that time has passed. The airlines are not immune from the ravages of capitalism and wall street greed. What we are witness to is the inevitable decline in the standard of living and working conditions that almost every middle-class job used to support.

When capital can go anywhere it pleases and workers are just something to exploit to maximize profit we are seeing the result. The titans of the world are now capitalists who respect no national boundary in the pursuit of wealth and power. They own the various governments and mercenary politicians that do their bidding.

The answer to the question posed in this discussion is simple: there will continue to be plenty of applicants. Ab Initio training will fill any personnel requirement. There will be plenty of applicants with unemployment at record levels, levels that the global capitalists deem healthy in order to maintain downward pressure on wages.

Cockpit automation, ab initio training, and lack of other choices will keep the in-basket of the airline HR departments filled.

Jeff

Posted by: JEFFERY DARNALL | January 3, 2012 6:24 AM    Report this comment

If there is more of a demand for seats/year between various U.S. city-pairs than qualified captains and first officers to fly said seats, my answer is: Allow Lufthansa, British Airways, Air France, et cetera, to fly between those city-pairs as well as their usual U.S.-to-overseas routes.

An analogue to the qualified pilots situation may be found in medicine. My primary care physician, an internist, who inspired me to lose weight and who directs me to specialists as needed, is from India rather than a native-born American.

Posted by: Alex Kovnat | January 3, 2012 7:24 AM    Report this comment

The insulting pay FOs and even captains make in the Regionals is definitely one factor in the equation. Another is the upcoming 1500-hour rule (though from what I understand, it used to be that way anyway).

However, the biggest issue that I see is actually all of the negativity about aviation out there. Not just the negativity the media presents aviation as, but also the insiders who say "don't go into aviation, it's a lousy career". I think everyone is doing the industry a disservice in dissuading potential aviation enthusiasts from going into the industry. What do you expect when you all but tell the best "don't come here"?

For as far back as I can remember, I always wanted to fly, and knew someday, somehow, I would figure out how to. I have been fortunate enough to find a well-paying job that allowed me to fund my own initial training, then my instrument and now my commercial ratings. In another life, I probably would have become a professional pilot, but certain events lead me to my current career. However, I am now going full circle and working my way into getting paid to fly (starting as a part-time instructor). Why would I do this, when my current job pays so much better? Because I am an aviation enthusiast, and despite all the naysaying going on, I still see it as a path toward personal fulfillment that nothing else can provide.

Posted by: Gary Baluha | January 3, 2012 10:50 AM    Report this comment

I'd love to be a pilot for a living but I'd like to be out from under my student loans in the next 5 years. So I took my commerical instrument rating and got an engineering degree instead. I make what a regional Capt. makes right out of school and I've got a pretty good understanding of what makes a airplane work when I get around to building an RV. Since GA is where the fun part seems to be anyway.

Posted by: Brian Gronholm | January 3, 2012 11:27 AM    Report this comment

Gary, There will always be guys like you. The question is will there always be enough guys like you.

The nightmare scenario is that the standards will fall rather than the pay, benefits, and quality of life improving. Once all the lousy hires are in the system it will be hard to get them back out.

Dropping demand, as some posters predict, would IMO really help rather than hurt. Prices Are so cheap demand won't fall, but raising prices a certain amount would, IMO, cause a shift towards quality as some carriers would abandon the commodity battle for more sensible biz plans.

Posted by: Eric Warren | January 3, 2012 11:29 AM    Report this comment

Gary, I wish you all the best in your pursuit of your dream. I did the same thing until after earning my commercial, when I discovered how poorly regional FO's starting pay was. At that time I had a well paying full time job and was not willing to starve to fly. Over 11 years and 2 layoffs later pilot pay in the on-demand freight business rose enough to make it worth it to quit my job at Goodyear. When pay cuts wiped out 6 years worth of raises I got a position in the fractional business where I am still employed making decent money. With no disrespect intended, Gary's willing to fly for little pay is the exact reason pilot pay has gotten worse not better, and the airlines know this. They practically prey on that very notion of pilots flying only for the love of aviation. I too know of many former airline pilots who finally got fed up aviation and went on to more lucrative careers. My company that I fly for now has many pilots who have told me that this would be their last aviation job after they either left or were furloughed from their previous airline position.

Posted by: matthew wagner | January 3, 2012 12:11 PM    Report this comment

Eric, Agreed.

In fact, in speaking to a number of flight instructors, I am somewhat of a rare case. Most flight students tend to be either in their early-to-late teens with the goal of being a professional pilot and having someone else paying their way, or in their late-30s to early-40s pursuing an expensive hobby.

The declining pilot population and the current state of the airline industry are two inter-related issues. Unless we fix the issues with pilot training (we have plenty of people starting training, but too few completing the training), the airline industry will continue to get lackluster candidates. And until the pay and conditions improve at the feeder Regionals, fewer pilots still will be signing up for those jobs.

Posted by: Gary Baluha | January 3, 2012 12:16 PM    Report this comment

Matthew, I should have been more clear in my original post, but my future in aviation doesn't include working for the Regionals or majors. The Regionals pay too little, and even if I continue at the pace I have been, it will still be years before I ever gain enough hours to be considered by a major.

I have no illusions that I'll be able to leave my current career and go full-time into aviation. However, there's no reason why I can't reduce my hours (and pay) in my current career to spend more time in aviation as a flight instructor. I believe the head end of turning around the aviation industry back into a worthwhile career starts with the flight instructors putting a positive spin on aviation, and getting students truly interested in the art and science behind it all.

Posted by: Gary Baluha | January 3, 2012 12:25 PM    Report this comment

I'm 28, and I earned my ratings through CFII throughout the 2000's but I dropped professional flying for engineering because:

1) The costs are tremendous, though still feasible. But today you usually can't do it without a loan. Unlike other professional fields that require substantial investment in education, the pay for the first few years at a regional doesn't support that loan. Someone my age looking at an airline career is realizing that you're going to be spending 5-10 years AFTER you get hired struggling financially to just get by.

2) Airline pilots of all experiences communicated to me that the job wasn't enjoyable anymore. It's all the same stuff that current airline pilots say to each other, and the same content that I'm reading in others' posts. Extended periods away from home and family. Bunking in crash pads and lousy hotels. Dealing with a union work environment. You guys can populate the list yourselves.

3) Long term job stability: the field has usually been cyclical. Airlines appear to be lousy at turning a profit, and pretty good at going bankrupt. Couple that with a seniority system that 'resets' your pay if you change employers, I wonder whether that financially good seniority position will ever come to justify all the hard work and expense.

Personally, it was that second issue that really did it for me. My generation isn't lazy/stupid, we just have more historical hindsight and a potential career field that really is worse than it used to be.

Posted by: Brian Cooper | January 3, 2012 12:29 PM    Report this comment

PAY PEANUTS, GET MONKEYS.

Posted by: Manuel Cazorla | January 3, 2012 12:49 PM    Report this comment

I pray I never lose my love of flying. The other day I landed my tailwheel airplane in the bean field behind my cousin's house just to have a cup of coffee and chat. I noticed cars slowing down to watch. I can only hope there was some young kid in one of those cars that will think it was the coolest thing he/she ever saw and sparks that flame to learn to fly some day.

Posted by: Jay Manor | January 3, 2012 5:51 PM    Report this comment

I've got around a thousand hours, multi-engine, stay instrument current, and know my way around a holding pattern. But I'm not in the market for a full-time commercial flying job. The computer business just pays so much better. This URL pretty well explains why the airlines are a crappy career: http://thetruthabouttheprofession.weebly.com/index.html

Posted by: Tracy Reed | January 3, 2012 7:43 PM    Report this comment

Well shoot. avweb is blocking the url. :( It was totally apropos too. Let's try this, for lack of anything better:

thetruthabouttheprofession dot weebly dot com slash index dot html

Posted by: Tracy Reed | January 3, 2012 7:45 PM    Report this comment

Thanks for doing that, Tracy. (We eventually had to block URLs entirely to keep the spam to a minimum here on the blogs.)

Scott Simmons webmaster

Posted by: Scott Simmons | January 3, 2012 8:08 PM    Report this comment

Just go ask a 17-year-old near you: thanks to the internet & Google, they all know that airline pilots get paid 17K/year. Great in 1955. Sucks ass in 2012.

Young people like money just like everybody else. Nothing's worse for a 20-something than to have all your friends make more $$$ out of the gate while you struggle. You can't hang out, you can't date, you can't keep up, you're dead.

Solution: Pay more & advertise that. When you pay peanut, you get monkey work.

Posted by: Nick Prudent | January 4, 2012 4:18 AM    Report this comment

I do not know in the U.S but in Mexico is as simple as this. Too much responsibility (40, 60 80 million airplane and hundreds of lives) 90 hrs a month and a salary of about 57 k per year for an Airbus captain? . Half for the first officer? Most of them will end divorced. No way Jose. In México many pilots are using the experience in the airlines and leave to Asia and many countries around the world. Think.Airlines are not that attractive any more.

Posted by: Teórico A OLEA RODRÍGUEZ | January 4, 2012 7:23 AM    Report this comment

For the cost, time and effort (other than glory), you are rewarded with the worst working hours and maybe 30 - 40 cents annually compared to any industry including truck drivers who actually make more money. True Story! Today, future airline pilots are from the military and or families that can afford high end hobbies. True Story again!

Posted by: Joeseph Gawlikowski: JoesPiper | January 4, 2012 8:44 AM    Report this comment

I find this a fascinating discussion and I want to add my thoughts. I have a background as a military aviator (both Pilot and Navigator) and a civilian aviator (Comair Airlines and GA).

The airlines used to be an industry that had a lot of prestige. People wanted to be pilots to see the world, be treated with respect, and have a good lifestyle with good pay. Most who became pilots loved flying in general but the above didn't hurt. They were able to get most or all of these. The price was weird work hours, time away from your family, and no guarantee that you would be home for the holidays (at least until you had enough seniority to get the schedule that you bid). On top of that, you have a check ride every six months to a year and a medical review every six months. A bad report on either one of those were grounding events and could be a loss of income. You also had to spend a LOT of time getting your prerequisites to have an airline even look at you. So there were some significant costs to the individual but there were significant rewards to be had. Now, you have all of the significant costs and threats to your lively hood but you have few of the benefits.

Posted by: KARL VOGELHEIM | January 4, 2012 9:12 AM    Report this comment

I am probably 1-3 years older than the entitlement generation. It's not a false perception of older people, it's a reality people are taught over and over in school that close enough is passing and if you argue strongly enough you can increase your score. I've ran into it trying to find people to fill positions where I work. I develop software for a living, so it requires a precise focus also.

As for your point 4. It's beyond how we access information its how we use and retain it that has changed. I no longer have to memorize every bit of a programming language because I can "google" it and find an example in 1-2 seconds. This allows me to work in many programming languages. No one is taught to specialize in something any more. Memorization is a skill that is dying. I have even noticed it in myself, I don't memorize as much as I use to because I can look so quickly. I have started memorizing things just to maintain this skill better.

Also since computer technology changes so rapidly what is best practice for this project may not be for the next. As a pilot old, tried, and true is the life style and even though glass, and ipads are creeping in pilots don't have the same information on demand, nor do they always have the extra seconds looking it up requires.

Posted by: Joseph Chambers | January 4, 2012 9:27 AM    Report this comment

Continued thought... Now there are several reason I didn't choose to become a professional pilot, I love aviation. The ultimate one was a stable career, I can look on the job sites right now even in this economy and find 15-20 jobs that I am perfectly qualified for and is reasonably close to where I live as a software engineer. Sure this may and has shifted over the past few years but there are always related technology jobs out there. If you get burned out there is always project management, sales, or online marketing (even consulting). As an airline pilot you have a very limited career path, and even less related options if say you loose your medical, or the economy hits a down turn.

Unfortunately the romance of flight isn't enough to attract the most talented and brightest among potential pilots. Especially when you look at it from a work environment, schedule, and income point of view. As the military tools down from the last few conflicts you will probably have a decent crop of ex-military pilots to choose from, but from a civilian point unless the airlines set up their own schools and recruit from the graduating high schools offering grants etc to pay for the first 1500 hours (maybe have them fly cargo or something as part of the training). They should tie this in with management or other useful degree courses. The task of finding good pilots will only get harder.

Posted by: Joseph Chambers | January 4, 2012 9:28 AM    Report this comment

Can we take a "wider view" of this issue? This topic is ultimately a "sailing the seven seas" dream that mankind has held for all time! And the ultimate costs of travel during earlier times was ... shipwreck! But brave travellers accepted the risks for the chance of returning home with treasures from afar and stories to tell! These (fool?) hardy types came from every walk of life, took lowly positions as deck hands, kissed their loved-ones at the port, and sailed on! ... some never to return ...

There's an analogy somewhere in this ...

My suggestion is for those aspiring (perspiring?) aviators to place all this into perspective. Either love every aspect of what this business has to offer, or bail-out ... NOW!

... lest you end up on some deserted isle ... with the vultures loitering above ... waiting to feast on your carcase ...

Posted by: Phil Derosier | January 4, 2012 9:42 AM    Report this comment

@Joseph Chambers: "...unless the airlines set up their own schools and recruit from the graduating high schools offering grants etc to pay for the first 1500 hours..."

Not gonna happen. As long as airlines are setup to go bankrupt (leasing airplanes from separate entity, handing all profits to unions, etc.), they cannot invest in the future.

Also, if they won't pay their new pilots decently, why would they pay for their schooling?

Posted by: Nick Prudent | January 4, 2012 9:49 AM    Report this comment

Please include this in your thinking....The pilot shortage that is now materializing will lead to our politicians (yes both Rs and Ds) to want to once again raise the retirement age and to push for more foreign ownership of U.S. airlines. This will play out with foreign nationals flying U.S. airliners as well as foreign airlines flying domestic U.S. routes. Please be careful how you vote and try to "Keep A Gringo Up Front". Thanks

Posted by: Richard Starzyk | January 4, 2012 9:54 AM    Report this comment

I am not surprised. Young people are not stupid. In the current environment an airline career looks like a really inferior choice compared to a great many other career options available. Like it or not, we as a society have for the time being accepted that airline travel better serves the public as a commodity rather than a luxury. The "glory days" of high salaries, prestige and short, flexible work hours for most (not all) airline pilots are long gone with no prospect of return. A number of attempts to resurrect a higher cost/better service airline business model have failed to attract sufficient customers to be profitable. In fact, whenever a young person captivated by flying asks me about aviation career prospects my response is, "Make a career for yourself in some field other than aviation that will create the resources enabling you to fly."

As others here point out, we get what we pay for. Nonetheless the overall airline safety record post-deregulation is markedly superior to what we had before. Those who long for a return to the regulated era ought to reflect on this.

In my opinion the domestic airlines will have to establish ab initio flight academies as many foreign carriers have done, and offer pay that is competitive with other, equally challenging and exciting career choices in order to attract better quality applicants. Or, they can just import their new pilots from third world countries where this career choice stacks up better vs. other options.

Posted by: Kevin Moore | January 4, 2012 10:08 AM    Report this comment

When the first true shortage of pilots materialize because of the 1500 hour rule,changes will be made with the FAA to circumvent the rule, to allow, lower time pilots to fly anyway. Maybe with a check airman until 1500 hours is reached. When the rules start to create economic hardship, the dollar will prevail. One only has to look at a true day in the life of a regional pilot to know it is a lousy job. Don't make plans for the evening of the day you are supposed to be done with a trip, as soon as you do reroutes due to weather, mechanical issues, crew issues etc. will change them. Oh and if you actually finish your day three hours later than scheduled, do you think they call and ask you nicely to stay and finish the job for them? Is there overtime pay involved? Hardly. Just the other day two of our pilots were suspended because they flew an aircraft back to a hub, after one of the ground personnel saw a dent in the airplane. The CA and FO decided it was safe to fly, and the dent had probably been there a long time. They would have it checked at the hub where maint. was available. Well the ground person called the FAA. These pilots may well be terminated. And where will they find a job if that happens? Who will even look at them? Why didn't the company back them? They don't dare look weak when the FAA gets involved, you are on your own.

Posted by: Robert Haines | January 4, 2012 10:27 AM    Report this comment

I must have been dropped on my head. I work as a Regional Captain. My career path previously as an Electrical Engineer although lucrative was not fulfilling. I changed careers in 2005 to fly Airplanes because I love it. My aviation career path is similar to almost everyone's. Private, instrument, multi, commercial, CFI, CFII, MEI, and I paid dearly for them all myself. I work with the most wonderful people who share my love of flying. There is nothing more satisfying than looking at the landscape and scenery from up high. Nothing gives me more satisfaction than getting my passengers to thier destinations safely and on time. Yes, there are a few who take pride in this work. The financial reward comes with a 30 year career at a major. It's worth between $6 and $8 million dollars. If you are lucky and work for FedEx or UPS it can be as much as $12 million. I am content to wait my turn and pay my dues. I'm not a bit concerned with those who have not done there homework and throw the towel in early, I have met some of these wannabes on the flightdeck and they are no fun to fly with. I can say from experience, if you are doing a job you don't like, find another you love as life is too short. For those of you who have a dream, I would encourage you to persue it. Ask anyone on the planet what an Airline pilot is.. They all know what it is and what it means. Welcome Aboard! Capt. M. Kelly.

Posted by: Martin Kelly | January 4, 2012 10:32 AM    Report this comment

As any steel worker can tell you, your airline reward will surely be protected by your union. Just stay positive like Mr. Kelly!

Posted by: Eric Warren | January 4, 2012 10:47 AM    Report this comment

I really enjoy my career as an airline Captain. I've been through a few bankruptcies, had my seniority abrogated in an acquisition, spent time away from family and been gone on holidays and birthdays. But; my expectations were such that I knew that going in. My father was a pilot, and as children me and my siblings longed for those days when he would come home to see us. Sometimes those periods of absence were months long, and Dad said that many of his friends had no family, whatever they could throw into the trunk of their cars were their possessions and they were essentially drifters. Out of that growing experience I determined that if I flew for a living, that IF I got LUCKY and was hired at a major, and IF I was hired EARLY in a HIRING PERIOD, I MIGHT have as a great a career as my father had when he got LUCKY at TWA. I think that the expectation is grossly out of proportion to the reality. The industry now is kind of like the period in the 30's, where jobs were thin and didn't pay all that much.

Posted by: chris mcmillin | January 4, 2012 11:19 AM    Report this comment

I really enjoy my career as an airline Captain. I've been through a few bankruptcies, had my seniority abrogated in an acquisition, spent time away from family and been gone on holidays and birthdays. But; my expectations were such that I knew that going in. My father was a pilot, and as children me and my siblings longed for those days when he would come home to see us. Sometimes those periods of absence were months long, and Dad said that many of his friends had no family, whatever they could throw into the trunk of their cars were their possessions and they were essentially drifters. Out of that growing experience I determined that if I flew for a living, that IF I got LUCKY and was hired at a major, and IF I was hired EARLY in a HIRING PERIOD, I MIGHT have as a great a career as my father had when he got LUCKY at TWA. I think that the expectation is grossly out of proportion to the reality. The industry now is kind of like the period in the 30's, where jobs were thin and didn't pay all that much.

Posted by: chris mcmillin | January 4, 2012 11:19 AM    Report this comment

The 50's and 60's is where the PROFESSION started. Before then it was a job for people that were on the fringes of society. Aviation is at a crossroads now. The expense of General Aviation being squeezed like that of Europe because of energy and regulation doesn't allow the same training ground as earlier times. I cannot say that the aviation universities produce better applicants or pilots, either. These aren't good economic times, but to those that want to fly, they'll find a way. I will hire those that qualify, and I will find them no matter how many people I need to interview. There are those in the industry that see that it is different. They will hire the best they can find, and if there aren't enough to fill the classes, the industry may well need to revert to the 60's training programs that taught the pilots after they agreed to a contract.

Posted by: chris mcmillin | January 4, 2012 11:20 AM    Report this comment

Cliff Robertson in "Sunday in New York" it isn't, anymore. Or is it? I believe that today we are just as respected as in the past, that is if we command respect. As professional pilots, it is ones duty to put on an air of command. It's up to us to do more than the minimum. If one wheres a uniform, walks upright and speaks well, one is respected. If one looks like a hobo and bad-mouths the industry while his passengers board, well that doesn't seem very professional, does it? It's up to us to have the proper attitude to fly the airplane, and command the crew. Nothing has changed there, but some peoples perceived expectations. The airplane will kill you just as it always would. The airplane is still flown by the Captain and the First Officer, and anyone that thinks differently is a fool. Any fighter jock that thinks my jet isn't a real jet need not apply. Anyone that is more interested in a family life than an airline job is setting oneself up for failure.

Posted by: chris mcmillin | January 4, 2012 11:21 AM    Report this comment

I think one of the main problems in this industry is the seniority system and unions.

I’ve wanted to be a professional pilot since I was in high school, but I always looked at the long term risks of the profession. Such as the risk of the company I end up working for going bankrupt and having to start over at the bottom of the pay scale, IF I can get another airline to hire me.

In any other profession, I can work my tail off and through the merit system move up and move laterally between companies. I even have good transferrable skills.

It’s ridiculous! If I’m a great pilot with more hours and better performance reviews than my peers and more ratings, I should be able to make more in the free market that those who don’t have the same qualifications and performance.

What intelligent person would sign up for that kind of nonsense? Actually, if money were not important, I’d probably sign up for it. If I had other sources of income or a rich family, I might.

On the flip side, what kinds of people do you think are left to sign up for this nonsense?

I guess I’m glad the non-aviation profession I chose afforded me ownership of two GA airplanes that I enjoyed immensely. Wish I could fly every single day like a professional. But the current system is too fraught with hidden landmines to pin mine and my family’s financial future to.

Posted by: Mark Travis | January 4, 2012 11:21 AM    Report this comment

The expectation should be to become the best professional pilot one can be, and that drive to become that professional pilot is that which should be present when at the interview at the major airline, regional airline, or getting one's first interview to flight instruct, or to pump gas while hoping to get an instructors job. I guess what I see is people with an expectation of making what I do without doing it for 25 years first. I didn't expect to make Major Airline Captains pay when I started flying night freight, nor did I when I started as Flight Engineer at that Major Airline. So it's an expectation of the modern young person that needs a change, the economy will sort the rest, as well as the professionals at the airline that hire and train. Don't worry, it'll all work out.

Posted by: chris mcmillin | January 4, 2012 11:21 AM    Report this comment

I think one of the main problems in this industry is the seniority system and unions.

I’ve wanted to be a professional pilot since I was in high school, but I always looked at the long term risks of the profession. Such as the risk of the company I end up working for going bankrupt and having to start over at the bottom of the pay scale, IF I can get another airline to hire me.

In any other profession, I can work my tail off and through the merit system move up and move laterally between companies. I even have good transferrable skills.

It’s ridiculous! If I’m a great pilot with more hours and better performance reviews than my peers and more ratings, I should be able to make more in the free market that those who don’t have the same qualifications and performance.

What intelligent person would sign up for that kind of nonsense? Actually, if money were not important, I’d probably sign up for it. If I had other sources of income or a rich family, I might.

On the flip side, what kinds of people do you think are left to sign up for this nonsense?

I guess I’m glad the non-aviation profession I chose afforded me ownership of two GA airplanes that I enjoyed immensely. Wish I could fly every single day like a professional. But the current system is too fraught with hidden landmines to pin mine and my family’s financial future to.

Posted by: Mark Travis | January 4, 2012 11:22 AM    Report this comment

Mr Mark Travis, Professional Captains will determine if you're a great pilot, then you'll move up the list like everyone else.

Posted by: chris mcmillin | January 4, 2012 11:27 AM    Report this comment

Have you people forgotten that aviation is a "service" industry? With a shrinking economy, workers (in every field) will begin "feasting" on each other.

From the sound of it, there are many excellent pilots responding here. But the question is, "will this industry be "excellent" to you in return? What's the liklihood that *you*  — great aviator, that you are — will be the next "sacrificial lamb" as this industry constricts and re-organizes?

Aviation employment is a lot like politics: the best person isn't guaranteed to win.

Posted by: Phil Derosier | January 4, 2012 11:40 AM    Report this comment

"Anyone that is more interested in a family life than an airline job is setting oneself up for failure."

Well, that's a dismal look at being an airline pilot, and probably another factor in why there are so few good, qualified pilots signing up for the job. And it's not just a "family life" that suffers, but one's personal life as well.

When you include the low starting pay and quality of life of a Regional FO, even a great love of aviation is not going to get your fed with a roof over your head. The only reason I'm in a position to consider transitioning to aviation as a source of income (and even at that, not my sole source of income) is because I chose an alternative career path that values the skills I have and pays appropriately.

Posted by: Gary Baluha | January 4, 2012 1:04 PM    Report this comment

Wow, great thread. I am not going to go into my history, way too long, and have been in most facets of this industry since the late '60's. 2 basic points I would like to bring up.

1. Now, with all sensitivities set aside, airlines started out flying mail and charged by weight. For example, mail and cargo today is based on weight calculations. An airplane lifts weight and burns fuel to produce thrust to lift that weight. My proposal to airlines is to have a blind scale, have a passenger shows up with his bags/freight and is given a price of what it would cost him to take this particular flight (hence payload). This way an 80 lb 75 year old lady is not subsidizing the 350 pounder sittining next to her. This would take away all the ticket pricing problems and guarantee the airline to make a profit...notice I prefaced this statement with all sensitivities aside. This would address the economics of the industry..

Posted by: Lawrence Hansen | January 4, 2012 1:20 PM    Report this comment

2. Regarding pilot pay....money is nothing more than an instrument of exchange for "bartered time".... Whose time is worth more, yours or mine? How much time out of a Brain Surgeon's life to he take to learn his skills? How much time did an airline pilot take out of their lives to learn the skill,of taking throngs of passengers safely from point A to point B so that his passengers would now be able to use their time more efficiently? Do you think a passenger getting on one of our aircraft would have an issue of paying a pilot $2.00/ hr, and FO $1.60 to fly them in a 160 seat airplane from the West Coast to the East Coast? (doing the math, on a full airplane, that would be about $1320 for the skipper). I wouldn't.. My point is this....we have to get back to the basics of simplicity. Accountants, politicians, lawyers, corporate greed,...are now arriving at a point they created, kind of a perfect storm. As we try to align ourselves with the world economy, we will always be in a state of decay as our standards are constantly being lowered to remain economically viable in this market. Simplicity and back to basics is the only philosophical solution.

Posted by: Lawrence Hansen | January 4, 2012 1:30 PM    Report this comment

Chris, I agree that Professional Captains will move you up the list. But only within their respective carrier. If you have 20 years experience, and the carrier dissolves, you have to join a new carrier with a new Professional Captain that will move you up the list from the bottom.

My point is that in a free market that doesn't recognize seniority, you wouldn't have to start over from scratch every time you moved from one carrier to another.

Posted by: Mark Travis | January 4, 2012 2:11 PM    Report this comment

I believe we are too focused on the negative. I know many people, myself included, that have done well flying professionally and not just at airlines. For a young person coming up, I say follow your bliss! If you love something enough you'll find a way. It's too easy to focus on the negatives. I actually embrace the fact the industry isn't setup as an entitlement program passing out checks to anyone willing to half-heartedly sign up....makes my victory all the sweeter!

Posted by: BRENT OWENS | January 4, 2012 2:24 PM    Report this comment

Brent,

I am sorry to say that it looks from the above that you may be part of the problem (supposing you are a senior pilot). It's the guys who made out well that keep suckering new guys who then become more malcontents. This wouldn't be so bad except that It's the senior guys who are dependent on more and more recruits propping up the system by playing along for their own higher pay, privileges, and pensions. I suspect the unions are controlled by the senior guys as well.

Look back at the old Chrysler bail out. Two generations of new workers were suckered into the same trap and then we had to bail them out again so it could start all over again.

TINSTAAFL - someone has to pay.

It won't get fixed until new players fail to join the scheme.

Posted by: Eric Warren | January 4, 2012 3:03 PM    Report this comment

Yeah Mark, I understand where the position you have described comes from, actually. The problem with a competitive pilot group comes from the fact that a group of professional fleet pilots are supposed to be standardized to the level that the difference between them is negligible. That way the stress is just operational and political. Everyone passes the same checkrides to the same level, etc. One must remember that the corporation that operates an airline is doing so to provide safe commercial travel for innocent people, not produce a playing field for guys showing their stuff.

Posted by: chris mcmillin | January 4, 2012 3:05 PM    Report this comment

Chris and Mark,

Why would a business choose this sort of system? If a pilot walks in with twice the experience, passes all the tests, integrates into the new systems, etc., why is he now junior to someone with half his experience or less?

Where is the benefit of that system? Who is it benefitting? It made sense 40 years ago, but not anymore. Why does it persist?

Posted by: Eric Warren | January 4, 2012 3:18 PM    Report this comment

I can not speak as to the quality modern training produces because I lack the experience to judge. I am currently starting my check ride for private. For kicks I went up with steam gauges instead of the G1000 I am accustomed to. If I had not been with a trustworthy trainer I probably would have at a minimum seriously bent the airplane. After several flights I am now comfortable with round dials but in no way proficient. Based on the revocation of GI Bill benefits (passe as the "GI Bill improvement act")as one of Mrs. Pelosi's last acts in a midnight sessions before Boehner took her job. I and most Veterans on a similar path will not be pursuing commercial or even advanced licensure. It is beyond cost prohibitive, career outlook is offputting, coworkers are likely to be unprofessional or unqualified, and on and on. Management and by extension the FAA are an insult at best and allow for unsafe atmospheres to thrive. My enthusiasm for flying has not waned. I will be more than happy to fly for pleasure and find a career elsewhere to fund flight.

Posted by: Michael Hopkins | January 4, 2012 3:19 PM    Report this comment

One of the reasons for the failure of the level playing field and the lack of power of the work force of pilots in the direction of pay, benefits, and the standard of service is that the pilot unions are not one, and ALPA never achieved what founder Benecke sought to provide. That was that all pilots work under one union with one seniority list. ALPA's MEC's and National separations were an interim that never progressed and so instead of, for instance, the pilots being able to stop bad legislation with a real threat of Supension of Service, the factions all do what a factionalized group will, unltimately fail to come to an accord. The legislation knows it and continues on unencumbered by any real threat by those actually doing the work they legislate over, and the industry has worked it's way into the "unregulated" business model of robber-barons, then robber-boards, running the corporations from a money standpoint and not seeking to actually perfect and operate a finely tuned transportation system. I assure you that every FO wants to be a Captain, and the idea of a Ponzi scheme perpetrated by senior Captains is ridiculous. every pilot gets the same level of benefits and his seniority affords him pay and schedule.

Posted by: chris mcmillin | January 4, 2012 3:21 PM    Report this comment

Chris and Mark,

Why would a business choose this sort of system? If a pilot walks in with twice the experience, passes all the tests, integrates into the new systems, etc., why is he now junior to someone with half his experience or less?

Where is the benefit of that system? Who is it benefitting? It made sense 40 years ago, but not anymore. Why does it persist?

You mean if a guy from one airline goes to another? It would be because there is no real union, there are unions for each seniority list. Beside that, the guy that has been at say, Continental for 10 years has ten years more experience at Continentals operation. So the guy with twice as much time, which is no way to indicate quality anyway, would be new to that operation regardless.

Posted by: chris mcmillin | January 4, 2012 3:25 PM    Report this comment

To bad i cannot edit these, Mark I meant that the standardization of pilots is to keep the stress operational NOT political. Sorry. Chris...

Posted by: chris mcmillin | January 4, 2012 3:33 PM    Report this comment

Chris, I see what you are saying about different unions, but how doe it all persist. Perhaps I am under a false impression but I thought there was a lot of benefits to seniority as far as scheduling, pay, and basing.

Back to my example, the AA pilot leaves for UAL with 5000 hrs in the exact same plane. Of course he has to start as an FO in a new airline , fine. However, if after say a year he is acing all his tests and reviews, why is he behind the guy hired the day before him with no time in type and a fraction of the hours? And, if he makes captain, will his pay reflect his experience or just years in service like the military?

Hell, even the military allows out of zone promotions and pays accordingly. What I hear you guys describe is just crazy.

Posted by: Eric Warren | January 4, 2012 3:53 PM    Report this comment

As to your comments disparaging the collective seniority based system one of the reasons that's it's like that is it takes very little management to oversee it. In an operation in which we had 5000 pilots it literally only took about 8 managers to run the flight operations/pilot management end of it. If everybody were hired in on their own separate little employment contract it would be a great deal more difficult to oversee and administer to, what with all the individual performance reviews, ratings and direct observations.

Insofar as having to start over at another airline at the bottom - that USED to be true but not really any longer - Asian carriers will hire you right into the Captain's seat at a fairly attractive rate if you have the right experience. Not as good as a senior captain here makes but way better than starting F/O pay. Also as a former airline pilot I could always go and work corporate. Rich guys love bragging about how "their" pilot flew for the airlines. Whereas corporate pilots can't really move in the airline direction without starting over.

Posted by: RANDOLPH PALMA | January 4, 2012 4:01 PM    Report this comment

As a young pilot, I can say I have less issue with the seniority system and more issue with the fact it doesn't transfer laterally and the starting pay sucks.

Straight out of college with an engineering degree one makes 50k a year and has say 50k in debt. Straight out of flight school one makes 40k a year (high side) and has 100k in debt. In an economy cash is king having a high debt load and a very slow means of lowering it why would I become an airline pilot. If you told me I could make 50k a year flying regionals and was reasonably sure of continuous advancement over my career with minimal backward moves I'd be all over it. I work in the airplane building business and the outlook for jobs is still better over here.

Posted by: Brian Gronholm | January 4, 2012 5:04 PM    Report this comment

Edit: an economy where cash is king

Posted by: Brian Gronholm | January 4, 2012 5:12 PM    Report this comment

Brian you won't make 40k on the high side.

Posted by: Robert Haines | January 4, 2012 5:50 PM    Report this comment

>>Also as a former airline pilot I could always go and work corporate. Rich guys love bragging about how "their" pilot flew for the airlines. Whereas corporate pilots can't really move in the airline direction without starting over.

I wouldn't count on that, Randolph. The "rich guys" and CEO don't hire the pilots that work at the large corporation that I fly for. The pilot applicants are vetted by the pilot group and Chief Pilot/Director of Flight Ops; and a committee consisting of some pilots, the chief pilot, and representatives from HR make the final selection. HR will not overrule a thumbs down from the pilot representatives. Pilots with an airline background raise a lot of red flags, and are definitely at a disadvantage to the pilot with a strong corporate background. We've had some furloughed airline pilots in our operation. Their chief attribute was that they liked to B*tch, B*tch, B*tch. I don't know many corporate pilots who want to move to the airline side. We're smarter than that.

Posted by: Dennis Crenshaw | January 4, 2012 7:21 PM    Report this comment

Yes Dennis I realize that is the case in some operations. However in my case I have two friends (both retired airline pilots) that fly a Falcon 900 out of Macau that would like me to come on board so they can create more of a rotation type schedule. They understand however when I tell them that I would like to wait at least a little while until after I get my 787 type rating in the spring of this year.

Posted by: RANDOLPH PALMA | January 4, 2012 9:50 PM    Report this comment

I've flown Navy Fighters, unremarkable bug smashers, and high tech airliners. All required massive amounts of work and sacrifice to gain and keep access. In every one of them, I keep reminding myself that flying is a joy.

Despite the negatives involved in all forms of professional flying- expense, uncertainty, even unfairness, I still love it.

Keep these quotes in mind-

The airplane is just a bunch of sticks and wires and cloth, a tool for learning about the sky and about what kind of person I am, when I fly. An airplane stands for freedom, for joy, for the power to understand, and to demonstrate that understanding. Those things aren't destructable.

— Richard Bach, 'Nothing by Chance,' 1963.

Never stop being a kid. Never stop feeling and seeing and being excited with great things like air and engines and sounds of sunlight within you. Wear your little mask if you must to protect you from the world but if you let that kid disappear you are grown up and you are dead.

— Richard Bach, 'Nothing by Chance,' 1963.

Posted by: Max Buffet | January 4, 2012 10:15 PM    Report this comment

@Harry Alger,

Literary quotes don't pay the rent. In fact, they don't pay for anything. The fact is that given all the information available, an airline pilot career is not attractive to those with options. Smart, talented people always have options & don't need unions.

Here in Canada the flight schools that are thriving cater to a large clientele of Chinese students -- who still see airlines pilots as an acceptable option. In 20 years, they will be the senior pilots.

Posted by: Nick Prudent | January 5, 2012 12:26 AM    Report this comment

"Brian you won't make 40k on the high side."

Or maybe even 30. The e-mail I've gotten on this topic from regional pilots describes appalling pay and working conditions.

Posted by: Paul Bertorelli | January 5, 2012 9:21 AM    Report this comment

The newest way to maximize profits is to run very "thin" on pilots. Even the reserve pilot who historically did not fly until required, (by a sick call, or other absence from a line pilot) is now flying 75 hours or more a month by design. So dropping a turn, or swapping trips, or getting that critical time off for a family function, becomes difficult. "Denied" for what ever reason, usually lack of reserve coverage, becomes the standard answer.

Posted by: Robert Haines | January 5, 2012 9:52 AM    Report this comment

Phillip Greenspun has an excellent detailed Airline Career Plan (philip dot greenspun dot com slash flying slash airline-career).

This is based on his own experience as an MIT-educated software engineer turned airline pilot & CFI.

Here's a short sample: --------------------------

The Basic Path

* Year 1: Getting Private, Instrument, Commercial, and Flight Instructor Certificates; roughly 250 hours of flying costing $30,000.

* Year 2-3: Working as a flight instructor, logging hours while with students; roughly 750 hours of flying earning $5-25 per hour.

* Job 1: Working at a regional airline as a first officer (copilot) earning $20,000 the first year.

* Job 2: Working at a regional airline as a captain earning $45,000 the first year, building up at least 1000 hours of Pilot-in-Command time (1.5 years) before moving to Job 3.

* Job 3: Working at a major airline as a first officer earning $50,000 the first year.

* Job 4: Working at a major airline as a captain earning $80-200,000 per year.

* Age 65: Mandatory retirement from any scheduled airline job.

Note that the job does not become a high-paying one until Job 4 is obtained. If salary is important to you, it therefore becomes critical to minimize the time spent at intermediate jobs.

---------------------------

Posted by: Nick Prudent | January 5, 2012 10:13 AM    Report this comment

It is very discouraging reading though this blog. My history is very similar to many here. I began flight lessons in the early 80s and obtained INST/COM/Multi in the 90s. I always dreamed of flying for a living (hoping for an airline job) but due to several factors (marriage then having 3 kids) I put flying on hold for the past 8 years. With over 1400 hours logged, my flight bag is sitting in my basement storage room waiting to be opened again someday. I have been setting aside funds for the past few years to try to get flying again, however, I am shocked how much costs have increased. I was hoping to get recurrent on my ratings and possibly get my ATP but $10K will not buy much time these days. On the other hand, I am thinking of getting a tail-wheel sign off then doing some aerobatic training in a Pitts....just to enjoy pure flying. For the responses on this blog, it seems the majority would advise to put my $$ to simply enjoy flying and not pursue a flying career.

Posted by: mark schroeder | January 5, 2012 10:27 AM    Report this comment

(Part 1) As I eluded to in my previous post, if the controllers of capital can keep unemployment (and dept) high enough, workers (in this case, pilots) will have little choice but to do as told.

There are not enough "software engineer" or similar jobs to employ enough workers to make up for the millions of, formerly middle-class, jobs lost. Those lost jobs are not coming back due to technology and globalization.

The US has eroded its industrial base and along with it, its economic base. US consumer demand is permanately down due to the upward concentration of wealth and the erosion of spending power of the shrinking middle-class.

While this is an airline dialog, a micro economic discussion, however, its root cause is the macro economy. The macro trend is continued downward pressure on wages and a workforce with an ever-growing desperation to find any job.

Jeff

Posted by: JEFFERY DARNALL | January 5, 2012 10:59 AM    Report this comment

(Part 2) Over the years, to mask this trail of decline, we have become an economy of bubbles. With each burst bubble, the concentration of wealth gets more pronounced. The next/current bubble is "education". You heard it here first!

All the pundits and talking heads (D's and R's) are calling on workers to get "educated for the 21st century jobs". As if there are millions of good paying jobs just begging for the "educated" worker to walk into. Hogwash. As we are seeing, the education industry is getting rich as the young (and desperate) try to position themselves for a decent job where they can either have a career and/or support a family. What are they finding in the real world: a degree or certification - the attendant educational debt - and NO JOB...or one that pays poverty level wages.

Jeff

Posted by: JEFFERY DARNALL | January 5, 2012 11:01 AM    Report this comment

(Part 3) This education bubble will eventually burst under the real-world reality and heavy dept, with little payback. The 1% will have been further enriched and the poor suckers who bought the fantasy will be left with the resultant debt and little, if any, upside.

In the current discussion, the "pilot profession dream" has been just that, a fantasy, for quite awhile. The reality is just beginning to be understood by those on the outside (heck, on the inside too). It is not a job that is/was worth the investment, in both time, energy, and money. The majority of those chasing the fantasy will live the reality of harsh schedules, low pay, very poor family relation prospects, and a debt bill that will be a burden for years. Unfortunately, there are few places to flee for worthwhile alternatives. In the future, the airlines, if necessary, will set-up programs to train future pilots directly into the seat...probably making the applicant responsible for the training cost. The result will be plenty of applicants and continued low wages, with the further worker constraint of paying back the debt to the company for the priveledge of a job..

Jeff

Posted by: JEFFERY DARNALL | January 5, 2012 11:02 AM    Report this comment

(part 4) One last comment on personal debt: it is a prison. Debt will force you to make decisions, and endure working conditions, that you would not otherwise tolerate. This, people, is by design! If you are in debt you cannot afford to make decision that are in your best interest. You cannot strike, quit, or move...or any number of other decision, because you will always be dependent upon your regular paycheck and cash-flow. It is a financial trap that, in another time, could not have been sprung. The present system has transformed dept into a commodity and now practically everyone is harnessed to its yoke. It is now the norm, and the average US worker is poorer for it.

Jeff major airline pilot 3-time major airline bankruptcy experience business major saver no-debt small-business owner graduate: school of hard knocks

Posted by: JEFFERY DARNALL | January 5, 2012 11:07 AM    Report this comment

Jeff your comments are right on. As the national debt grows, so does the down side of a burst bubble.

Posted by: Robert Haines | January 5, 2012 11:32 AM    Report this comment

(Part 1) - National debt is but a symptom of the larger disease. A nation/empire in decline is the last to realize the fix it is in, until it is too late. A large, fairly compensated, labor force creats the economic and tax base that allows a Nation to manage its spending and debt!

Unfortunately the 1% have created a rigged world. The political system is rigged. Crony capitalism is a rigged system. Short term gain/profit is the sole motivatation of the current system, both business and political. The "market" is so distorted that any self-correcting tendencies are either inaccurate or nullified.

Without a national industrial policy and a regulatory environment that keeps the playing field level, a robust middle-class will be/is the victim. A healthy economy needs to reward the risk-takers and be designed to share the rewards with workers. The Nation has to have a broad and fairly administered tax base in order afford the National standard of living. Absent the basics, which have gone by the way-side, a continued concentration of wealth only fuels the National decline.

Jeff

Posted by: JEFFERY DARNALL | January 5, 2012 12:42 PM    Report this comment

(Part 2) The aviation sector is a microcosm of the Nation. The airline managements get rich by concentrating on share price and reducing costs (read: wages) while ignoring the long-term

Posted by: JEFFERY DARNALL | January 5, 2012 12:43 PM    Report this comment

(Part 2) The aviation sector is a microcosm of the Nation. The airline managements get rich by concentrating on share price and reducing costs (read: wages) while ignoring the long-term implications of managing the airline's assets to protect the brand and broad stakeholders, i.e., workers, creditors, customers, and shareholders.

The same is true of the Nation. Congress caters to the monied interests in order to pay (read: win) for the next election. Their interests are given great weight while the Nation's, i.e., average citizens', suffers.

All in all, a receipe for failure/decline. With no fundemental change, the only question will be how far and fast the decline will occur...airline or Nation.

Jeff

Posted by: JEFFERY DARNALL | January 5, 2012 12:43 PM    Report this comment

Is it not only a matter of the screening process? Europe introduced the “integrated Pilot Training System” Within 1 year , you flew “the right seat with about 200 hours”, holding a frozen ATPL . Those Student pilots spent USD 128.000,00 to become a Copilot maybe a captain. If you go to University you finish off with a degree. Your job should be secured In case you lose your job as a pilot, if you got lucky a PPL.. Is there a motivation to become an Airliner Pilot? No job securing! We have to put the question forward whether the Industry “ticks right”??? To become an ATPL = love and passion for aviation. Aviation – Sustainability? How can you support your family not knowing whether you still will fly in 2years? Will you still need me will you still feed me when I am 64? No future if we do not change the set up in our industry. Gerard Binnendijk

Posted by: Gerard Binnendijk | January 5, 2012 1:33 PM    Report this comment

Jeff what about inflation? Will we be able to keep it in check?

Posted by: Robert Haines | January 5, 2012 1:54 PM    Report this comment

Inflation is something to manage. A little inflation is a good thing. Currently we are experiencing something even worse...deflation. A deflationary cycle, to keep with the aviation theme, is akin to a death spiral, it feeds upon itself.

Even the Fed maintains there is an optimal level of inflation.

In a normal, sustainable market, increased productivity is what allows for raises and improved standards of living (SOL). Believe it or not, the US workforce has been consistantly improving its productivity. What we have been experiencing the last 30-years or so, however, is a rigged system where the improvments in productivity have only been going to the holders of capital and not shared with labor. That is why wages have been flat in a time of significantly increased productivity.

Make no mistake, one of globalization's outcomes is the evening out the world's SOL.. Even with increased productivity, there is no way the US SOL can be maintained if the US worker has to compete against a Chinese worker making $1.50/hour.

The developing world's SOL will improve somewhat, but if the developed world is going to compete in the long run, its SOL will, by neccessity, have to decline. The upturn in the fortunes of the developing world's economies will be somewhat mitigated if there are no impediments to capital flows, as that same capital that went to China and India, can just as quickly go to someplace even cheaper!

Jeff

Posted by: JEFFERY DARNALL | January 5, 2012 2:43 PM    Report this comment

I have to admit - I guess I'm probably one of the guy's that cause some of the starry-eyed influx. I have been with the same airline now for almost eighteen years and the worst thing that ever happened to me was getting kicked off of the 757 and having to fly the 737 for eighteen months (but hey, I got another type rating out of it). My house, cars and little airplane are all PAID for. I have been off work now since the 22nd of December and I am actually starting to miss it. I start back to "work" this Sunday with a short three day trip to Frankfurt Germany then I have nine days in a row off after that.

I could NEVER handle a five day a week cubicle job requiring me to line up in a traffic jam to AND from work every day with every other moron in the world. I sometimes see the roads clogged with traffic as I land at the airport and wonder to myself "how do they do that twice a day five days in a row ?" - no thanks. No sucking up to anyone or "face time" is really required in my "job". Heck, my immediate supervisor could walk in the room right now and I wouldn't know it - I've never met him. Been meaning to go and introduce myself to him but there's really no requirement to do so. I'm really glad all you cubicle guys like your jobs because I know I sure wouldn't. And yes, flying the big airplane AND my little airplane is still fun to me.

Posted by: RANDOLPH PALMA | January 5, 2012 3:31 PM    Report this comment

It all comes down to money. It is far too expensive for most individuals with the dream of becoming a pilot to put out the thousands of $$$ when it will take a lifetime of flying to make it back. I would love to learn how to get paid to fly, no matter if it is cargo, regional, or anything else. I just don't think I would be able to survive the low wages for the first few years and the no wages for the entry level ticket.

Posted by: Nicholas Riegel | January 5, 2012 3:59 PM    Report this comment

If you love to fly, do it part time. Become a private pilot, and get approved to teach ground school. Work up to commercial and instructor or even sport pilot instructor. Just don't do it full time unless you really weigh the outlook and still choose it.

Posted by: Eric Warren | January 5, 2012 9:47 PM    Report this comment

"Can you believe someone actually pays us to do this?" I'm guessing not many airline pilots have every said that..." At my current airline, that actually happens quit a bit...and often it's ex-military guys.

"The PIC is hardly more than a passenger himself who's job description is basically "don't screw up..." This is not true at all at the airline I work at, and others like it. We often go to new places, and the Captain (and crew) often have to do a lot of stuff to make the trip work.

"the Chinese (will take over)...they are very enthusiastic, disciplined, English-speaking young pilots." I was reading about an instructor who works with foreign students (from a country similar to China) here in the US. He said they are undisciplined, unwilling to put in any time, and just want their licenses handed to them.

"This will play out with foreign nationals flying U.S. airliners..." There are not any foreign pilots available to do this, even if it was legally allowed. The pilots shortage is great-to extreme outside the US. Only here in the US are some people not noticing it.

""Anyone that is more interested in a family life than an airline job is setting oneself up for failure." My CEO (the Wife) likes my airline schedule much better than when I was home all the time. Our relationship has improved significantly when I went back into flying.

I think if you want to fly, you should choose an aviation career. If you don't want to fly, then try a different career.

Posted by: Cliff Lapp | January 6, 2012 2:24 AM    Report this comment

"Can you believe someone actually pays us to do this?" I'm guessing not many airline pilots have every said that..." At my current airline, that actually happens quit a bit...and often it's ex-military guys.

"The PIC is hardly more than a passenger himself who's job description is basically "don't screw up..." This is not true at all at the airline I work at, and others like it. We often go to new places, and the Captain (and crew) often have to do a lot of stuff to make the trip work.

"the Chinese (will take over)...they are very enthusiastic, disciplined, English-speaking young pilots." I was reading about an instructor who works with foreign students (from a country similar to China) here in the US. He said they are undisciplined, unwilling to put in any time, and just want their licenses handed to them.

"This will play out with foreign nationals flying U.S. airliners..." There are not any foreign pilots available to do this, even if it was legally allowed. The pilots shortage is great-to extreme outside the US. Only here in the US are some people not noticing it.

""Anyone that is more interested in a family life than an airline job is setting oneself up for failure." My CEO (the Wife) likes my airline schedule much better than when I was home all the time. Our relationship has improved significantly when I went back into flying.

I think if you want to fly, you should choose an aviation career. If you don't want to fly, then try a different career.

Posted by: Cliff Lapp | January 6, 2012 2:25 AM    Report this comment

i got all my certs & ratings, wanted an airline job, but that pay scale at the regional airlines just won't pay back the flight school loan and basic bills (rent, food, heat, gas, car insurance, car maintenance, phone bill, electric, etc.).

i think part of the problem is that people drive reality and desire together with the airline career. reality has to come first. if you can't afford to live on the pay, it doesn't matter how much passion you have for aviation or love of flying. bills has to be paid. no bank i know of accepts my passion for flying as a form of payment. but they do understand cash. and airlines don't pay very well.

all the issues surrounding the realities of the airline pilot career addressed by other posters are valid. if you're on the top of the seniority list, you're golden. if you're trying to get in at the bottom, not so much.

thanks to the internet and social media outlets, young people have access to information. if i saw what they're seeing (cost of entry, pay scale, career instability, restricted lateral moves, even more restricted vertical moves, time away from home/family, work on holidays, eating like crap on the road, etc.), i'd seek life elsewhere myself.

it'll be interesting to see how this all plays out.

Posted by: Amy Zucco | January 6, 2012 12:47 PM    Report this comment

The question is irrelevant. As soon as we can wrench pilots out of cockpits and disband the FAA, all commercial flying should -- and will -- be done by bots.

Posted by: Dave Brough | January 6, 2012 1:39 PM    Report this comment

My how times have changed. I applied to all major and minor carriers in 1978 with 3000 hours, ATP, DPE and couldn't get an interview. Continental had 5000 apps with 4000 military heavy jet experience for a class of 28. So, I switched careers to engineering and just retired with a good pension and benefits - better than if I had gotten that left seat job. The industry is shooting itself in the foot.

Posted by: rick worthen | January 8, 2012 12:09 PM    Report this comment

Cliff Labb said, "Can you believe someone actually pays us to do this?" I'm guessing not many airline pilots have every said that..." At my current airline, that actually happens quit a bit...and often it's ex-military guys."

Cliff~

It's good to hear that some pilots still feel that way and I'm not surprised they came cane through the military. My advice to anyone who thinks they want the be a profession a pilot is to go military, Coast Guard, TSA, Forest Service, law enforcement, emergency medical services (EMS), etc. Flying is a lot more fun and enjoyable when you get paid to accomplish a mission -- and not just the hum drum of haul PAX or cargo from Point A to Point B.

In my time, I always thought the best of worlds would have been to fly fighters in the Air National Guard (ANG) while also flying for the airlines. The ANG for strapping on a jet, pulling G's, sense of mission, and the camaraderie; and the airline job for...who knows why?

Best.

Posted by: Gary Dikkers | January 8, 2012 6:09 PM    Report this comment

Cliff Labb said, "Can you believe someone actually pays us to do this?" I'm guessing not many airline pilots have every said that..." At my current airline, that actually happens quit a bit...and often it's ex-military guys."

Cliff~

It's good to hear that some pilots still feel that way and I'm not surprised they came cane through the military. My advice to anyone who thinks they want the be a profession a pilot is to go military, Coast Guard, TSA, Forest Service, law enforcement, emergency medical services (EMS), etc. Flying is a lot more fun and enjoyable when you get paid to accomplish a mission -- and not just the hum drum of haul PAX or cargo from Point A to Point B.

In my time, I always thought the best of worlds would have been to fly fighters in the Air National Guard (ANG) while also flying for the airlines. The ANG for strapping on a jet, pulling G's, sense of mission, and the camaraderie; and the airline job for...who knows why?

Best.

Posted by: Gary Dikkers | January 8, 2012 6:09 PM    Report this comment

Author: by Frank L. Stanton (1857-1927)

If you strike a thorn or rose, Keep a-goin'! If it hails or if it snows, Keep a-goin'! 'Taint no use to sit an' whine When the fish ain't on your line; Bait your hook an' keep a-tryin'-- Keep a-goin'! When the weather kills your crop, Keep a-goin'! Though 'tis work to reach the top, Keep a-goin'! S'pose you're out o' ev'ry dime, Gittin' broke ain't any crime; Tell the world you're feelin' prime-- Keep a-goin'! When it looks like all is up, Keep a-goin'! Drain the sweetness from the cup, Keep a-goin'! See the wild birds on the wing, Hear the bells that sweetly ring, When you feel like singin', sing-- Keep a-goin'!

Posted by: Rafael Sierra | January 9, 2012 9:42 AM    Report this comment

Will,

Good for you, but you represent the past. You also were very LUCKY with timing, US Gov't paid training, and where/when you were offered employment.

Circumstances beyond your control, for the most part, allowed you to have a career that "had definitely been worth it".

When you entered the market things were different. What we are discussing now is what awaits those considering a pilot career NOW. It is incumbent that they get a true picture of the cost/benefit of any choice. The smart ones will get as much real information as possible and make an informed choice.

Many of us in the industry know, all too well, the choice many are considering is based upon dreams and recruiter hyperbole. The real world is starkly different.

If someone chooses to make piloting their career, with their eyes wide open, more power to them. However, for someone who hit a sweet spot in the training and hiring lottery, I think that encouraging someone by your example creates a huge window for disappointment.

Jeff

Posted by: JEFFERY DARNALL | January 9, 2012 2:19 PM    Report this comment

Will,

As you stated, you took a chance (read: gamble). Fortunately for you, it turned out fine.

Just like in Vegas, there are a few winners, however, the vast majority walk away disappointed. In fact, some love gambling so much that they keep doing it, even knowing the house is the only consistent winner.

This is a good analogy of the airline career. It is a gamble and, as you state, you cannot know if you made the right choice "until your last day on the job"...or like Vegas, until your last quarter.

Reasonable people will want better odds than a casino approach to their future. The facts argue against being a pilot. Cost of entry is high, odds of success low, shrinking wages, and the lack of control of one's destiny a given. Coupled with the negative impact on interpersonal relationships and family the airline lifestyle dictates, and you have a decidedly negative outlook for those with a choice.

Jobs? Sure. How many will be a factor of automation and demand. The airlines, in the globalized labor marketplace, will have all the applicants they desire. If it takes ab inition training into the right seat, that will not be an unfamiliar path. Management will have a tight reign on costs, and thus, continued downward pressure on wages.

Glad you had a comfortable career and with the added bonus of an additional 5-year bite at the apple. You were one of the few winners...as in Vegas, many other had to lose to support your windfall.

Jeff

Posted by: JEFFERY DARNALL | January 10, 2012 7:08 AM    Report this comment

Wow! This is a long, insightful, and brutally honest blog on the problems all of us have been observing for several years now. It's an unfortunate situation to say the least.

However, I'm still of the opinion that at some point the airline industry is going to have to take the bull by the horns and turn the profession around to make piloting once again a desirable profession. With the recent mergers and a pending American Airlines merger (no, they haven't announced it yet but it's going to be difficult for American Airlines to avoid it), I believe the industry is finally headed for a viable financial model that will work in the free enterprise system. I never would have thought it would take 34 years for the airline industry to adjust to a de-regulated environment, but it has and there will no doubt be additional economic hurdles ahead, let's pray they aren't as severe as in the recent past. In the meantime the industry needs to recognize their problem and start making changes accordingly, e.g., better wages, benefits, working conditions, etc.

I'm still optimistic primarily because I don't think the industry can ignore this problem much longer.

Posted by: Mark Madden | January 10, 2012 3:25 PM    Report this comment

Jeff D "nailed" it. End of conversation.

Posted by: Phil Derosier | January 10, 2012 3:28 PM    Report this comment

Could be time for regulation?

Posted by: Robert Haines | January 10, 2012 5:29 PM    Report this comment

Jeff D: Vegas is a good analogy. And they make sure the winners are well-advertised to enforce our "confirmation bias". Everyone thinks pilots make big money. They only know about the 59 year old 747 captain. The rest all moved on to other professions before they reached that age.

Posted by: Tracy Reed | January 10, 2012 5:37 PM    Report this comment

This post has been very discouraging to me as a new private pilot.

So basically the only way to get into a career flying airplanes for a living is the Military, major debt or a wealthy relative? Assuming you are lucky enough to land an entry-level aviation job, who can maintain a family household on $30k a year when you have to pay back the huge loan for advanced training?

The message I am receiving is the reality of an aviation career is mostly hype. The economics just don’t work for the average pilot. I guess saving a few $ and flying GA on the weekend will be the extent of my aviation career unless I hit the lottery.

I thourally enjoy flying and the experience has been great but the message I am receiving is to keep my day job and just fly for fun.

Posted by: Rick Lettow | January 11, 2012 9:33 AM    Report this comment

This post has been very discouraging to me as a new private pilot.

So basically the only way to get into a career flying airplanes for a living is the Military, major debt or a wealthy relative? Assuming you are lucky enough to land an entry-level aviation job, who can maintain a family household on $30k a year when you have to pay back the huge loan for advanced training?

The message I am receiving is the reality of an aviation career is mostly hype. The economics just don’t work for the average pilot. I guess saving a few $ and flying GA on the weekend will be the extent of my aviation career unless I hit the lottery.

Posted by: Rick Lettow | January 11, 2012 9:33 AM    Report this comment

I agree with Will Will and Mark Madden. One must want it, qualify, then line up, push and have a smart and harmonious attitude, nothing is free or easy. Bring your mind into the game, the rest will follow.

Posted by: Rafael Sierra | January 11, 2012 9:34 AM    Report this comment

Rick: ultimately this blog is about the laws of supply and demand that we all learned in school. So, get a career that has a better chance of making scads of money, and go buy yourself that SR22 or Cessna TT ...

Posted by: Phil Derosier | January 11, 2012 12:09 PM    Report this comment

Rick, It can be done, you just have to decide if it's worth it. If you want to fly, and you think 60 to 80 k in today wages is acceptable then go get a commercial license. You might make a lot more if you are competent, work hard, lucky and good at pleasing the boss. OTOH if you could choose to be an engineer or other profession that makes twice that, then it's likely a safer bet.

Nothing is totally a safe bet, but shooting for a top paying airline job like some guys have today means accepting that success isn't a much in your control as other paths. Even joining the military to fly isn't guaranteed to lead to flying anymore.

Posted by: Eric Warren | January 11, 2012 12:36 PM    Report this comment

Personally I don't see why it HAS to cost so much. You can buy (or get a ten year loan for) a used training aircraft such as Grumman AA-1, Piper Cherokee 140, C152 etc ,etc for less than twenty grand. You could find several examples of each if you looked right now. That's less than the price of MOST if not all the cars that most of the twenty-somethings MUST have. You then have an actual tangible asset that unlike ANY car you have ever owned is not going to depreciate through the floor. You can find a new/young CFI that is hungry for students and get everything you need up through PPL instrument and then rent a complex just for the brief times in which you need it to fulfill the requirements of your commercial and CFI.

You then have a platform that you can use to instruct in on your own and build time in with your loved ones. NOW your twenty grand airplane is business expense.

Flying jobs require EXPERIENCE above all else. I have seen part 135 bank check pilots fly the pants off of both ERAU grads AND Air Force Academy grads in an initial interview sim ride. No you DO NOT have to spend the big bucks if you're smart, willing to think outside of the box and hustle a little. Trouble is most people would rather whine than find a creative solution.

Posted by: RANDOLPH PALMA | January 11, 2012 2:23 PM    Report this comment

randolph, cost of entry is somewhat controllable as you indicated, but the end game is that airline job. the airline job isn't what it used to be, and the pay/quality of life/stability/etc. isn't there anymore, hence, why even bother getting into flying (except for fun) regardless of the cost of entry?

Posted by: Amy Zucco | January 12, 2012 1:50 PM    Report this comment

This is the tip of the iceberg and I think there are at least 10 or more discreet factors that have driven the industry to its present state but if you limit the debate to the major airlines here is what I see. When a multi-million dollar corporation fails to update its business model, suffers a huge blow on 9/11 then robs its employees blind while trying to keep the company from going under, that is the epitome of poor management. Then, to make matters worse, they never reimbursed crews for significant losses in personal wealth due to the depletion of their retirement accounts, all the while ensuring that the executives responsible for the poor management and outdated business model were lavishly compensated. Why would a young person, seeking an airline career pursue employment in such an industry when it can cost more to become an airline pilot than to become a doctor?

Posted by: Curtis Phillips | January 14, 2012 9:10 PM    Report this comment

So, if I sign up today to start flying at age 33, by the time I get to the major airlines through the regionals, with all the baby boomers retiring, will I EVER make Captain? Or will all the younger guys that come before me on the seniority list make it impossible to be anything other than a First Officer?

Posted by: Tom B | January 15, 2012 9:14 PM    Report this comment

To answer Tom B's question - it depends. It depends upon the rate of movement within the industry which is tied in many ways to the general economy. If you are at zero hours at age 33 you have thirty two good years ahead of you to give it a go. Certainly the 7 or 1500 hour requirement (whatever they decide to mandate) is going to make things less "instant" than they were in the past and slow down the pilot-mills considerably. I guess what you really need to ask yourself is how much is it going to bug you latter on in your life when you look back and wonder "What if I had tried that ?" or the worst "I wish I would have".

Posted by: RANDOLPH PALMA | January 15, 2012 9:43 PM    Report this comment

Randolph - Well said.

Posted by: Mark Madden | January 15, 2012 10:15 PM    Report this comment

Pilot pay could be fixed with little more than a tip jar... In 2008 it would have cost each passenger about $10 more per leg to pay EVERY airline Pilot, Co-Pilot, and Engineer an ADDITIONAL $80k per year. (600M pax x $10 / 76,800 crew).

Posted by: Jeff Millard | January 16, 2012 11:49 AM    Report this comment

How about a base pay + commission...... anyone??

Posted by: mark schroeder | January 16, 2012 3:16 PM    Report this comment

Simply increase the ticket cost by 1% then pass half of that on to the flight crew on top of their low salary.

Posted by: mark schroeder | January 16, 2012 3:25 PM    Report this comment

When almost every passenger will click your competitor's deal for a dollar less you can't get a hire price. Unfortunately for the pilots., they are not the ones likely to be able to differentiate their companies and services to overcome commoditization. The executives who can figure that out will get, and likely deserve, the rewards for doing that.

Posted by: Eric Warren | January 16, 2012 5:06 PM    Report this comment

Do airline pilots really only get paid for flight hours only? I understand you can be on the clock for 14 hours but are only allowed to fly a certain number of hours per day, ie not the entire 14 hours. Sounds like a bad deal to me, it seems like you should get paid for all the hours you work no?

Posted by: Tom B | January 16, 2012 6:10 PM    Report this comment

Tom B - You would make an incredibly poor Airline Executive. You may also consider that to be a VERY high compliment !

Posted by: RANDOLPH PALMA | January 16, 2012 7:24 PM    Report this comment

I don't see why a base+commission pay structure wouldn't be feasible. Has it ever been tried?? If a 1% increase in airfare was across the board (ie: all airlines) I do not see how it would effect ticket sales. On a $500 round-trip ticket, it is only a $5 increase which no-one would notice or care about. Of course there will still be the same competition between airlines, but all the flights I have taken recently have been almost fully booked.

Has anyone heard of how much the airlines profited the last couple years by charging for bags??? People still needed to go places and paid the price.

This could be a win-win for airline execs. They can pay pilots a low base salary, they generate more revenue from ticket sales then share this with the flight crew. With pax numbers on the rise, I imagine the pilot's incomes would increase substantially.

Problem solved!

Posted by: mark schroeder | January 17, 2012 9:59 AM    Report this comment

tom b., pilots get paid by flight time, but also by duty time (which is typically a 3 to 1 or 4 to 1 pay, meaning, for every 3 hours you sit doing nothing while on duty, you get paid 1 hour of what you would get if you flew). airlines also pay per diem, which is supposed to be used to pay for trip expenses like tips and cab fare, but no pilot i know of use that money for that purpose, and will consider that as part of their take home pay, even tho from a tax perspective, it carries a different treatment.

bad deal? well, if you make it big, it's not. those who made it today, made it because they got in at the right time at the right airline. will you get in at the right time at the right airline? will you see your flight training investment turn into a bright career? it's a crap shoot. if you are a risk taker, go ahead and roll the dice. if you're more analytical and money & stability is important to you, open up an excel sheet and do some projections. i did. and i discovered that i'd make over $1.6 million more than a career airline pilot in a best scenario (which isn't guaranteed to happen) in my current career path in the same time frame.

so you may find yourself saying later in life, "i wish i would have, but i also did pretty damned good by not doing it." people in the industry makes you think like you'd miss out forever if you don't, and that there is no life other than the life of a pilot. get real.

Posted by: Amy Zucco | January 17, 2012 10:33 AM    Report this comment

Amy ... you're spot-on. Let me see if I can add some content to your comment: in economics, there's a thing called "opportunity-cost", whereby the rewards of a stated goal must include time that could have been spent on other fruitful activities in order to determine a chosen goal's net benefit.

Any other approach would resemble unbalanced, addictive behavior.

Posted by: Phil Derosier | January 17, 2012 1:23 PM    Report this comment

Do the commuter airlines open and close bases more than the major airlines? Does it make more sense to just live where I want and commute? My worst feer is to buy a home, especially in this market, and have to sell it right away. I know those pilots who crashed and died in Buffalo seemed to get a lot of bad press because they commuted from different parts of the country and were tired. But I'm not sure, given the pay rates, they could afford an apartment in NYC etc.. Doesn't seem right. I just think maybe this career field is out of reach, especially if you have a family. I don't want to be taking kids out of school and moving them around all the time.

Posted by: Tom B | January 17, 2012 2:11 PM    Report this comment

tom b., consider yourself lucky if you can live in base. airlines open/close bases depends on how profitable that base is. expect to be displaced during your tenure. most of my pilot friends have to commute to their base, and pay for a crash pad ($200-400/month). this means that if you have a 4 day trip, you may be home with the family for 1-2 days, depending on how commutable your base is.

the airline career is hard on families. pilots often joke about the number of divorces they have already endured. you won't see your family much, which is the price to pay for wearing the uniform. life does get better as you improve in seniority; which is to say a lot of captains will have to either retire, move on, or die, before you move up in ranks. so if your very independent wife and kids can deal with you being away all the time, have at it.

amazing how a pilot that gets paid so little still have to deal with stuff like bills, eh? most first year pilots qualify for food stamps, though most airlines will not permit you to go on them...it's bad for the corporate image. pretty messed up, huh?

Posted by: Amy Zucco | January 17, 2012 4:08 PM    Report this comment

Yet another problem with the seniority system. Without such a system, pilots would change airlines more often and move less. At least that's how it sounds to me.

Posted by: Eric Warren | January 17, 2012 4:44 PM    Report this comment

What's a crash pad? Doesn't the airline put you in a hotel at their cost?

Posted by: Tom B | January 17, 2012 7:55 PM    Report this comment

Tom B, if you commute to your base then your base is considered your "home" by the airline. Therefore there is no requirement for them to get you a hotel room when you are at your base. A crashpad is a communal apartment or dedicated hotel room that a group of pilots share in order to avoid paying for an individual hotel room when your schedule of flying requires you to remain in base.

It's really not as bad as it sounds since rarely is everyone else there and usually you have the whole place to yourself. I've never payed more than about 180/month for one though and that was a really nice one with maid service in the NYC area. Keep in mind if your schedule of flying is commutable meaning you are able to fly into the base on your first day and fly home from base on your last day than you don't need a crashpad. Rarely is this ever the case when you are first hired. The most junior schedules require that you be on "reserve" for your first month to a year depending upon how much movement (seniority wise) there is in your company. Some people who just get lucky never have to sit reserve because they were hired during a big wave of hiring. Others spend years on reserve fearing furlough as they were hired at the end of a wave.

Posted by: RANDOLPH PALMA | January 17, 2012 8:21 PM    Report this comment

How do you get back and forth to the crash pad, food etc..?

Posted by: Tom B | January 17, 2012 9:12 PM    Report this comment

tom b., just to add what randolph palma's post, i think you're going to have better luck finding the winning lotto numbers than a crash pad that's $180 with maid service in nyc. you can safely assume that maid service doesn't mean a cute gal in a french maid costume. i've seen some of these crash pads and if the smell doesn't get ya, your crash pad mates can help add to it.

as for getting to and from your crash pad, food, etc., well, frankly, that's your problem. so you best find a crash pad that's close to the airport. or buy a cheap car that you'll use to get around at your base...yet another expense.

Posted by: Amy Zucco | January 18, 2012 8:35 AM    Report this comment

Wow, I can't believe airline pilots really live this way, I had no idea. I feel for you guys, especially commuter pilots. Hopefully this kind of stuff is only short lived in this economy.

Posted by: Tom B | January 18, 2012 9:31 AM    Report this comment

At my airline (American) pilots have been on reserve for over a decade. Over 600 pilots are still on furlough (laid off) some going on 10-years. Due to seniority integration (or lack thereof) many pilots from a past merger are on, virtually, permanent reserve.

Facts.

By all means make up your own minds about the viability of an airline career, but, please, make it up on the facts, not dreams and wishful thinking.

Jeff

Posted by: JEFFERY DARNALL | January 18, 2012 9:58 AM    Report this comment

Thnk you, Jeff (and Amy, too) ... again, I think the problem is that the newest entrants ( ans well as a sizeable contingent of veterans) are not making the correct statistical assessments concerning this industry and its employment prospects, and not arriving at logical decisions based on analysis of the available data. Pilots of every stripe need to incorporate a little more "SPSS" - level analysis, and less dreamy-eyed decisions that lurch ourselves (and our families) into the dark abyss of unstable industries and careers. What needs to be done in this 'blog and in our career is use available analytical tools to "separate fact from opinion" and arrive at more cogent and logical decisions.

Just because you can ... dosen't mean you should.

Posted by: Phil Derosier | January 18, 2012 10:19 AM    Report this comment

This plays into what I posted earlier. It will be interesting to watch how it develops. Read it and tell me what you see 2+2 equaling : http://r20.rs6.net/tn.jsp?llr=gqvqzbdab&et=1109100424575&s=16570&e=001T3HB0S9lqueNlvcN5eEo4a01Q7gVzgNC2BTtpl2QboSODv_KxxwONAIzsUQln5yjpqhV-XOhHFM_AKPMoUDXOKJDAk-sR00FDlngGHKTDajaLa3OfjCa7rrIkSuxU347PxZbOD8YPKDt29c_Mbkp-smqlvJ8mrfAsfJXRLbAV_sfubUPPkV79ECfmBD47OVvWL8nkHS37kqGD2TSDWSGVJR-RXxsjwDu

Posted by: RANDOLPH PALMA | January 18, 2012 10:47 AM    Report this comment

Unfortunately I can't cut and paste the article but the gist of it is just how worried the Regional Airlines are suddenly becoming as they are hit from two directions at once with the new fatigue rule and the 1500 hour requirement.

Posted by: RANDOLPH PALMA | January 18, 2012 10:49 AM    Report this comment

I ran across this tonight. http://soyouwanttobeanairlinepilot.com

Interesting! good article regarding unions.

Posted by: Tom B | January 18, 2012 9:53 PM    Report this comment

won't let me link. but its soyouwanttobeanairlinepilot with a dcom.

Posted by: Tom B | January 18, 2012 9:54 PM    Report this comment

In 2011 my NYC crash pad was $186 a month. It came with once a week maid service.

Posted by: Mike Doherty | January 21, 2012 9:41 AM    Report this comment

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