AVmail: February 15, 2010
Each week, we run a sampling of the letters received to our editorial inbox here in AVmail. One letter that's particularly relevant, informative, or otherwise compelling will headline this section as our "Letter of the Week," and we'll send the author an official AVweb baseball cap as a "thank you" for interacting with us (and the rest of our readership). Send us your comments and questions using this form. Please include your mailing address in your e-mail (just in case your letter is our "Letter of the Week"); by the same token, please let us know if your message is not intended for publication.
Letter of the Week: The Best Airline Pilots Want to Be Airline Pilots
After 37 years of flying for major airlines, including 15+ years doing line indoctrination, I have some observations on the issue of airline pilot training.
The best pilots want to be pilots. They are not there for the money or ego boost. A pilot who has varied experience brings more to the job at the beginning and adapts more easily to changing circumstances. Military pilots lack varied experience in many cases, but can be adaptable if they are not convinced they are the most brilliant types around.
Once working for an airline, a relief pilot position is a good place to learn for a short period, and the right seat is a good way to learn what to do and not do in varied situations. Pilots who learn constantly are the best.
Customer service is a huge part of being an airline pilot. If you are too important to help someone with directions in the terminal or with a bag if you happen to be in the cabin, then you are the wrong person for the job. Be a freight dog, or get a life!
Low-time pilots with a good background are often better candidates than high-time pilots who are full of themselves, embittered, or set in their ways. You have to want the job, and it is not for everyone. Training cannot overcome [the] lack of the indefinable mix of art and science that constitutes flying.
I've flown combat, cropdusters, and as a test pilot, instructor pilot and major airline pilot. Sadly, the best answer to safety in the regionals is not going to happen. That's because regionals exist because of low wages and good, old-fashioned greed and greed rules.
Regional captains should be the highest paid, most experienced airline pilots in the industry. They do the most with the least, and no hours in other types of flying are going to make up for that experience. Six months in the simulator before going on the line would help, but that costs money, too, which negates the point of having these low-cost operations. Money talks, safety walks.
Luck of the Draw
I was dismayed to learn that the AOPA sweepstakes airplane was "donated to AOPA for the sweepstakes by philanthropist and longtime pilot Lloyd Huck" for the purpose of promoting aviation and expanding the pilot population. If this was the goal, then he failed completely.
How is giving one active pilot (that already has a nice airplane) a $250,000 aircraft advancing aviation? He would have been better off giving ten $25,000 reconditioned Cessna 152s to ten student pilots, older inactive pilots, or partnerships who promised to stay involved in aviation. Give Young Eagle rides, and promote aviation in their towns. (Yes, that would be me.)
So now we have one more wealthy guy that can afford to pay for insurance, taxes, and gas for a new airplane that is financially out of reach of nearly everyone else in the country. This reinforces the idea that flying is "only for rich people" and discourages new people (and inactive pilots). Maybe that perception is true.
Perhaps I should give up my search for affordable flight and take up something cheaper and more accessible, like golf. Then I could join the ranks of others that have families, obligations, and merely above-average salaries who have quit flying. Oh, wait — I already have.
There has to be a winner, Scott, and AOPA is made up of active pilots who have made choices to include aviation in their lives. Hanging on to existing pilots is just as important as attracting new ones, and if promotions like AOPA's sweepstakes are more appealing because they get help from those who can afford it, I don't see how that can be a negative thing.
Super Cool Demonstration
We've all been told that water can exist, as a liquid, in a super-cooled state below 32 degrees, until it touches something or is otherwise disturbed. This ability is what makes freezing rain so dangerous to us pilots.
Well, this week I had a graphic demonstration of just how that works. The temperature was in the mid-20s, and I went out to my car in the morning. In the cup holders were two 20-ounce bottles of crystal clear water, about 70 percent full. I picked one up for a drink and in 3 to 5 seconds after I popped the top and moved it toward me, the water clouded up and turned to a solid block of ice in my hand. The second bottle did the same thing. The speed of the change from water to ice was dramatic and served to reinforce the concept of avoiding freezing rain at all costs when flying.
I am writing in response to today's "Short Final." Either the story is a complete fabrication, or else it's been in your mailbag for a very long time. The last time that Michigan managed to beat Ohio State, as the author makes reference to in his last paragraph, was in 2003. Yes, that's seven years ago; the Buckeyes have won the past six. While it does make for an amusing story, it's either untrue or an old story.
We heard from many Bucks fans. You can stop now.