Tag Archives: “Sully” Sullenberger

IMPENDING PILOT SHORTAGE: MYTH OR REALITY?

Pilot shortage A PILOTLESS AIRPLANEimage017

For several decades young aspiring professional pilots have been tantalized by the aviation oracles, as they were continually told that a pilot shortage is just around the corner. Once again, the impending pilot shortage discussion is intensifying. This time it could be for real. However, the next question is: are the young potential aviators listening or do they care? After a couple decades or more of pilot pay and benefits diminishing while training cost increased, far fewer young people are electing to commit to a career as a professional pilot.
Spending up to $200,000 for the required aviation credentials to be hired by an airline for a starting salary of $22,000 a year is not very enticing. Worse yet, the rookie pilot might be condemned to a job as a banner tow pilot, a pipeline surveillance pilot, or perhaps become caught in the ugly web of being a night freight pilot (often referred to as a “freight dog”). The lifestyle of a freight dog can be researched by reading, The Rogue Aviator; (http://www.therogueaviator.com/). While the brass ring is still there on the horizon it will only be grabbed by the more fortunate few. For every professional pilot making $200,000 a year, there are 10 professional pilots making less than $60,000 per year.
After the horrific crash of Continental flight 3407 operated by Colgan air in Buffalo, New York, a congressional subcommittee on aviation safety was immediately implemented. Everyone’s favorite pilot, Sully Sullenberger was in attendance. When asked what needed to be done to enhance commercial airline safety, Captain Sully of Hudson River fame, pulled no punches. He stated unequivocally that paying the pilots an honest salary was a critical element towards the long-term safety factor. Four years later, entry-level pilot salaries, and all too often salaries of more experienced pilots, remain embarrassingly low. “This too, shall pass.”
Now to the good news! This upcoming pilot shortage is for real. In August of this year, the FAA has mandated, with a few caveats, that airline pilots must have a minimum of 1500 hours total time and an Airline Transport Pilot rating to work for a FAR 121 (airline parameters) aviation company. Currently, the minimum requirement is 250 hours. On January 14, 2014 the long-overdue revised duty and flight time limitations for commercial pilots will take effect. The more restrictive limitations will require the airlines to hire more pilots.
The equally critical factor in this equation is that the inordinate number of airline pilots that will be forced into retirement by the age 65 rule, will open many doors for new hire pilots. Furthermore, corporate aviation is booming and those jobs with companies such as NetJets, Marquis Jet, etc. are becoming quite desirable for the professional pilot. Overseas pilot jobs, particularly in China, will be extremely plentiful. The pilot shortage will drive salaries skyward. Everything is cyclical and this current down cycle for the pilot community is destined to improve significantly. I will also state—after a 36 year aviation career that took me to 44 countries with 25 employer changes—that an aviation career can be an exciting Odyssey. Take your pilot passion and create for yourself an adventuresome career.

WINTER AIRPLANE OPS: “SLIP SLIDIN’ AWAY”

ICE IS FUN IF YOU ARE A POLAR BEAR

ICE IS FUN IF YOU ARE A POLAR BEAR

“Slip slidin’ away,” was the chorus of a Paul Simon hit from the 60s. During this time of year, it is what airplanes frequently do on runways and taxiways. In the winter weather, pilots operating north of about 35° north latitude, particularly near the Great Lakes and other bodies of water, will also be dealing with ice accumulating on their aircraft. They will do what they can to get this ice, “slip-slidin” off of their airplanes as they activate their anti-ice and de-ice devices.  The ice on the runways and taxiways and the airborne ice is a major issue for pilots as both types of ice can lead to crumpled piles of aluminum, along with injuries or death.

A few days ago a Southwest Airlines jet, while taxing for departure at MacArthur Airport on Long Island, went “slip-sliding away.” Although the taxiway was not ice covered it was still dark, and it was raining. As most pilots will attest, taxing large aircraft at night on a slippery surface is extremely challenging. Yesterday a Russian airliner landing in Moscow during a snowstorm departed the runway at a very high speed resulting in four people dead and four injured. The airplane was broken into several pieces and will be headed for the beer can factory. The airplane did not “disintegrate” as the Associated Press article indicated. Disintegration of a large aircraft is only marginally feasible.

Between now, January 30, 2012, and March 31, 2013, several hundred aircraft will go “slip sliding” away” as the pilot loses control of his air machine. In January 1975 I landed a Learjet at Montréal’s Dorval airport. The cold front had just passed through, the runways and taxiways were snow and ice covered, and the wind was at 25 knots gusting to 40. After turning off the runway the aircraft’s heading was then 90° to the direction of the wind. In a split second the airplane turned 90° as it responded to its aerodynamic inclination and weather-vaned directly into the wind. Later in my career, after landing an Emery Airfreight Boeing 727 at Dayton, Ohio I experienced the exact same encounter. Freezing rain had created a glaze of ice and the braking action was “nihil,” rather than poor, as the tower was reporting.

Landing a large jet aircraft, for that matter, any aircraft during reduced visibility, such as in a snowstorm, with gusty crosswinds, and on ice covered runway at LaGuardia Airport is probably more challenging than landing in the Hudson River on a nice day. Even Sully Sullenberger would likely agree with this premise. Winter weather aviation operations require extremes diligence, awareness, and skill. Proper use of airborne de-ice and anti-ice procedures should be reviewed by all pilots. If your air machine has been deiced prior to takeoff, it is prudent to be 100% sure that there is no ice or snow adhering to any of the control surfaces prior to takeoff. Far too many aircraft and passengers have come to a sad end in an aircraft that was not properly deiced.

Quite interestingly, we will note that the rest of Paul Simon’s chorus lyrics are as follows: “slip slidin’ away, the near you get to the destination, the more you are slip slidin’ away.”  May all your aviation experiences be devoid  of any, “slip slidin’away.”

This blog is prepared by Allen Morris/a.k.a. Ace Abbott, author of The Rogue Aviator: In the Back Alleys of Aviation (www.therogueaviator.com)  and Dead Tired: Pilot Fatigue- Aviation’s Insidious Killer (www.deadtiredpilots.com)

AMR AGAIN ABUSES AMERICAN AVIATORS

AN ANTIQUATED GAS-GUZZLER

AMR, the parent company of American Airlines has finally done the inevitable. As a major “legacy” airline it had not filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy as the other “legacy” carriers had done years or decades ago. The airline management modus operandi  of the last 40 years is to combine severe mismanagement with exorbitant  bonuses and salaries for the executives and CEO’s, and then come running to the employees for salary and benefit cuts. Invariably the people who sacrifice the most in these “company restructuring”’ are the pilots. Since they are the highest paid workers, the company feels that they can snatch the most additional pay and benefits from the pilot group.

Let it be known that in 2003 the American Airlines management came begging to the employees and they relinquished 1.6 billion dollars in wages and benefits. Meanwhile the company mismanagement continued, primarily by operating a fleet of gas-guzzling jets, when even the janitor in the broom closet knew that fuel prices would skyrocket. The current request is for a 2.0 billion dollar “employee give-back.”  Of equal concern is that the current employees will take a major hit on their projected retirement benefits and the current retirees will also take a big hit on their monthly check. The pension fund is underfunded by 4 billion dollars.

The union worker is once again being dashed against the rocks and the timing is particular synchronistic since the Super Bowl will be played in Indiana. The governor of Indiana is working hard, along with some of his neighboring Midwest governor colleagues to break and/or eliminate all of the unions in his state. Meanwhile, here come the NFL players who are represented by a very strong and effective union and the first year minimum salary for an NFL player is $560,000 per year.  Many of the pilots that operate sophisticated aircraft into Indianapolis for the regional carriers, such as the AMR contract company American Eagle, will be working for a salary of low to mid-20 thousands per year.  We have experienced professional pilots who are eligible for food stamps and making less that the government’s declared poverty level. Wouldn’t it be great if the NFL players would step forward in a very out-spoken fashion and endorse the union workers in Indiana and the tens-of-thousands of pilots who are severely underpaid?

We have failed to improve the school teacher’s salary to a respectable level and we are now paying pilots a despicable wage for a very demanding job. Recent worldwide math exams revealed that the U.S. is 30th amongst a recent evaluation of  first-world industralizedcountries. They are crashing airplanes in India and Russia at an alarming rate as result of airlines operating their aircraft with underpaid and inexperienced pilots in the cockpit. When “Sully” Sullenberger of Hudson river fame testified before Congress nearly three years ago, he stated that it was imperative to increase pilot salaries or our commercial aviation would suffer severely.  Many of the pilots at American Airlines are seeking employment elsewhere and many more pilots will be seeking new careers in a different field.  Poor school teacher salaries is a contributor to an uneducated public but poor pilot salaries will result in a greatly reduced safety quotient when you jump on that commercial aircraft.

To get a good perspective on the underpaid pilot problem, please refer to the PBS Frontline TV special of two and one-half years ago titled, Flying Cheap.  It is available by going to PBS.ORG and finding the internet version of this very important but sparsely watched documentary by Miles O’Brien. It will give the viewer a very valid perspective of what happens when the profit factor overrides the safety factor. It represents a glaringly ugly example of the old Harvard Business School mantra of “maximum utilization of human resources.”

Wouldn’t it be great if the NFL players would step forward and endorse the union workers in  Indiana and the tens-of-thousands of pilots who are severely underpaid?

Thie blog is prepared by Ace Abbott, the author of The Rogue Aviator: in the Back Alleys of Aviation, (www.therogueaviator.com)