The AMR Chapter 11 bankruptcy filings created nostalgia and up popped a photo of an Air Atlanta Boeing 727 from the glory days of the hope-springs-eternal era of new and exciting start-up airlines. It was also an era of rapid oscillations between the aviation penthouse and the aviation outhouse.
In the ’80s and ’90s the Chapter 11 bankruptcy was the norm in the airline business. Some were legitimate but many were created by greedy entrepreneurs “taking the money and run” as was the case at Air Atlanta. With the larger “legacy” type airlines the Chapter 11 procedure was often a result of company CEO’s and execs getting gargantuan bonuses and salaries until the coffers were empty. The standard theme would then result in pay cuts for the flight crews in particular, even though pilot pay was not the factor that caused bankruptcy.
In a Congressional sub-committee hearing on aviation shortly after the Continental Flight (Colgan Air) 3407 tragedy, “Sully” Sullenberger informed the Congressmen that inadequate airline pilot salary was a major problem and if it were not dealt with, airline safety would be diminished. It now appears that airline safety will be headed south as the American Airline pilots head for FEDEX or anywhere that they think they might be able to find some job security with reasonable salary and benefeits. Less experienced pilots are more prone to crashing airplanes!
Will the already severly underpaid American Eagle pilots take a hit? Many of them are already living in their cars or utilizing the food stamp program for survival. For further illumination of this situation, I suggest reading Squawk 7700 by Peter Buffington, and/or go to PBS.Org and pull up a Frontline special with the title Flying Cheap. Ace Abbott, author of The Rogue Aviator; in the Back Alleys of Aviation provides anecdotes from his dubious record of five airline shutdowns/ Chapter 11s in a seven year period.
While I express my empathy and condolences to the AA pilots I suggest that a great antidote would be reading The Rogue Aviator. It will give you a peek at the “other-side-of-the-tracks” and the fact that you are not there will leave you in a state of gratitude. Meanwhile,”‘keep your airspeed up in the turns” and “check-six” for plundering airline management folks.