Originally published October 14th, 2009.
The airline industry has traditionally been boom or bust. There was a time when in the 60-70s they would pick you up with a few 100 hours flying private planes – naturally you spent years going from flight engineer (now obsolete ) to FO to Captain – have a friend who – in the 70s – got a job with – I think – Emory Air Freight flying DC8s as FO – he had a few 100 hours flying Cessnas.
Then too the military was to the airlines the source of easy to get top pilots – and that source is drying up.
I have an acquaintance who is a 767 captain – and very bitter at the industry. His pension has been affected, he went in – from the Air Force (was a C141 pilot) – paid his dues as Lex described – and then watched everything he knew – and came to expect for the future – disintegrate.
When I was flying my puddle jumpers it was a long painful dues process getting into the airlines. You built time by being a CFI – and believe me maybe 1 in 10 were what I’d call real teachers – then fly for some commuter airline for $600 month – then hope to be picked up by a major airline after you put in 1000 hours or so.
Where you began the long process of building your time and seniority yet again.
There were/are a lot of former captains flying today as First Officers – for years – because of bankruptcies and downsizing.
The airline world has changed quite a bit – not nearly as glamorous as it was.
I don’t think Lex would have been happy in it. After you have flown a top fighter how could you?
Not so much boom as bust. I still wanted to fly after leaving the Navy and applied to the airlines, but I was over 30. No airline wanted to talk to anyone over 30 back then when they could get a 20-something and use him for 30+ years (is that the cost driver thing again?). So the fickle finger of fate pointed me to a not-so-well-known Purple package airline where I landed (pardon the pun) a job flying a DA-20 Falcon all night.
My buddies all said “You are flying What for Who?”
These buddies went to Braniff, Eastern, United, Pan Am, TWA, Continental. I was blessed, spent 26 years flying something other than the “self loading freight” in the Purple jets and the last 13 or so in a very nice wide body. In the daytime. Retired with an intact retirement plan, which is the exception in the airline world.
Frequently asked the new faces I was flying with about their background (part of that CRM thing, know who you are flying with before you get to the jet), heard many horror stories. All were happy to be there.
The reply that took first prize was from a man who looked at me and said, “This is my 11th airline, there will not be a 12th.”
Busbob – my old business partner – her ex husband – was one of the first employees for Fed Ex – not as a pilot – at the time Fred Smith knew every employee by name. Sold all of his stock very early (I guess hindsight is 20-20)
Always admired Smith – showed the academics what they really didn’t know.
My parents had a friend, since passed, who flew for Braniff (the original one) – flew – I think – 11 hour flights from Dallas to Quito Ecuador – ended up getting phlebitis – I guess from those long hours of sitting – and lost most of his pension when they went bankrupt.
Then another slight acquaintance was a FO for a Grumman Gulfstream for a well-known investment group. The plane was based in San Francisco and he was “on call” – someone decided they wanted to fly to Ireland for the weekend? He’d get in his car, drive the 2 hours to SFO – and go.
Of all the kinds of flying this to me at least seemed the least desirable. But a ton of pilots would kill for that job. Maybe it is the long intervals of off time, with a sudden demand to go – and more unknown “off” time. But having to be ready to go with a phone call.
I was reading an article about Netjets – interesting company – Warren Buffett bought it a few years ago – but the guy who started it really did an amazing job – using literally dozens of business jets – (now easily 100 I think) a scheduling center that really uses some very sophisticated software (after all you have to fly an aircraft costing 1000s of dollars an hour to fly – fly it empty to the client, pick him up – deliver him – and then fly somewhere else to pick up other clients. And still make money.
Anyway the pilots interviewed were very happy because of the constant
variety of destinations
One of the Lexicans left this link on the Facebook Page on the state of the Airline Industry and I thought you all would like to see it – a conversation with an imaginary CEO of an airline
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