Lima Delta 
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Re: “Letter from the Editor

Auto pilots are required to be installed in every airline aircraft especially if the plane is to be operated in the efficient air of higher altitudes known as RVSM (https://www.faa.gov/about/office_org/headquarters_offices/ato/service_units/enroute/rvsm/). Auto Land is not required and is not installed in any regional aircraft. Only a few major carriers find the expense in equipment and training worth the while. However, even if installed, both auto pilot and auto land are not required to be working for an airliner to legally and safely be flown to its designation (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Master_minimum_equipment_list).

A pilot still has to taxi the plane to the runway, align it for take off, take off, activate and monitor the automation (if not broke and legally documented), manage all other aircraft systems, be there if something goes wrong (and you would be amazed how often it does and nobody but the pilots know because the failure was dealt with swiftly and safely.) follow instructions safely given by an air traffic controller, land the plane (if not equipped with auto land-as most are not), taxi off the runway & bring that plane to the gate. So many small decisions are made minute by minute by the pilots up front that go unseen by most everyone that today's automation has no way of handling. Even the drones of the military are not allowed to fly in "friendly" skies unescorted by a manned flight because of the complexity of day to day situations and the safety level expected by the public. These drones are launched from drone exclusive airfields where personnel levels are at a minimum and flown at places much less congested than our current airspace traffic.


I truly find it amazing that a non-military surveillance drone pilot, sitting behind a desk in MD operating and aircraft somewhere else in the world, has a higher career potential than an airline pilot carrying your sorry butt to some far off vacationland.
http://www.uxvuniversity.com/uav-pilot-training-certificate/

17 likes, 2 dislikes
Posted by Lima Delta on 03/07/2014 at 12:12 PM

Re: “Letter from the Editor

The pay associated with experience theory does not work in the airlines, especially the regional airlines. A teacher brings his or her credentials and experience with them to a new school and (hopefully) their compensation reflects it. Many of the First Officers (aka copilots) have thousands of hours of experience and years upon years of service, their compensation does not reflect that.

Pilots historically gained experience through a stepped process. First, you got your own lisences at your own expense. Then, you got a horribly paying job (Flight instructing, traffic watch, fire or fish spotter--most of which are done by satellite or automation today or the number of years to build hours is so long because the economy is so bad and people have hardly any expendable income to learn to fly themselves.) and you accumulated hours. When you reached the next stage you would fly charter flights or night freight. (Cancelled checks for banks were typically the night freight flown. Think of this, how many cancelled checks do you get back from your bank today? That cancelled used to be a stepping stone for the career of your pilot flying you to the Caribbean.) Finally, you landed your first airline job at the regional airlines and stayed 3-5 years before you were hired at a major airline & hoped that you wouldn't be laid off even temporarily. Many of these career building/flight time building opertunities no longer exist or there are too few to support the demand of today's pilot job market.

In the airlines, you ALWAYS start a job at the bottom of the pay scale and at the bottom of the list. The industry is set up in a reward the pilot who's been at the company longer. If you leave (voluntarily or otherwise) and start at a new company, you start at the bottom of pay & other privileges (ie:schedules). I recently spoke with a laid off ComAir pilot, that company went out of business (Him being recalled is not an issue, his previous employer no longer exists). For over 20 years he worked for that company and was earning a six figure salary when the company closed. Today, he is working for another regional and not making $30,000 a year for flying a larger airplane with more passengers.

Think of it this way, a First Officer can be looked upon as a highly trained assistant manager in laymen's terms. A help wanted sign at McDonald's offering a starting wage at $40,000 a year salary plus benefits for an assistant manager is a higher salary than the top First Officer's pay rate at almost all regional airlines and about the same as the starting wage almost every major airline. An assistant manager of a McDonald's will not kill himself/herself and everyone (up to thousands) of the people and damage or destroy a single piece of equipment with tens of millions of dollars under his/her responsibility with a simple miscalculation or mistake.

Add to this, students looking at career opertunities today do not want to be saddled with the high debt load of starting out to be a pilot. It is not uncommon for a college grad in aviation to have over $150,000 in student loan debt. Flying is expensive and learning to fly is too. They are smart enough to look at their own personal economies. If they graduate with that much debt and it takes them approximately 3-5 years to land an airline job because of their lack of hours flown and when they do land a job at the regional level it may take them 7-10 years before they breakthrough the $50,000 annual salary mark, they look to other industries. Many figure they can sell pharmaceuticals for twice the money and have so many company perks and benefits for a better quality of life. Being a pilot quickly falls from their target job. Proof of this is the decreased number of colleges who offer flight programs and the reduced number of students in the few programs that remain.

The industry has been stagnant in moving up the ladder for years. Moving up the ladder is the equivalent to increase in pay. This stagnation was caused by the major airlines shrinking because of the poor economy. It is simple economics, the passenger demand was down so the airlines reduced ther seats available. The major airlines let some of their down sizing be done by attrition but they also exercised an old standard in the industry, furloughs. To furlough is to "temporarily" lay off your employees, your pilots in this case. "Temporary" this time around has meant almost a decade for many pilots. If the major airlines are furloughing from the higher paying jobs that are downsized and the only way to have had that job in the first place was to have experience and to follow that up with the only domestic job out there at the time was a regional pilot job making considerably less than your qualifications, you see the problem. Also, if you were furloughed from one major airline, chances are another major airline will not hire you because the HR Departments look for employee loyalty and retention. If they see that you were furloughed, they know you have "recall rights" (ie: ability to be rehired by your first employer when demand for pilots retur) and therefore will pass over your application. This mentality also holds true for the regional airlines. I have spoken with furloughed Northwest Airlines pilots with over 12,000 hours flight experience who were not offered jobs at a regional level but the company they interviewed for hired every pilot in the job fare that was straight out of college. Why? Recall Rights. After 9/11 there were a few thousand highly trained pilots with thousands of hours in flight time that were not hired by the regional airlines because of the recall rights these pilots held. Instead, the regional airlines hired recent graduates with barely 500 hours experience in any airplane, let alone an airliner because the company wanted the biggest bang for their training buck, the employee retention was key to being hired. This was at a time before the current FAA minimum flight experience regulations after the Colgan Airlines crash in Buffalo NY.

Regulatory change has also made becoming an airline pilot more difficult. The minimum regulatory flight hours for an airline pilot went from 250 hours up to 1,500 hours. This six-fold increase to minimum qualifications has slowed the process of those already trying to be airline pilots imensely and has deterred others from starting. Imagine what it would be like for a medical student to suddenly be told by the government that you now need to be in school 24 years after high school before you would qualify for you MD. Now, imagine what a high school student would do.

In addition to the downsizing done be the airlines due to poor economic conditions, passenger demands increased causing more flying to be done by regional airlines. During the time of lowest demand for seats by passengers the airlines spread the number of flights out to airports at the spoke of the hub and spoke system. This was done to try to capture as many passengers that wanted to fly at every time of day. The airline would have three regional airline flights a day to a smaller markets to be sure to cater to the demands of the passenger. Historically and in better economic times the airline only had one or two flights to these cities. If you wanted to fly as a passenger, you adjusted your schedule to match the airline's schedule. Today, instead of one 200 seat plane once a day, multiple 50 seat flights became the norm: one in the morning, one mid day and one in the evening. Still close to the same number of seats flown but spread throughout the day. The passengers have grown accustomed to this convenient schedule and the demand for multiple flights a day is high but the number of passengers is commonly too low to demand a larger plane to be put on that given route. Plus, with the decade plus of downsized major airlines there are not enough planes or crews available to put a larger plane on some of these flights even if the demand is there.

The press has stated and GAO has commented that there are enough qualified pilots licensed in the US. What they have not accounted for is the number of pilots who were either licensed in the US that came here to train from other countries because it is cheaper and faster to train here than in their own countries and the have not made account of the number of US pilots who fly over seas jobs because the compensation is so much better. Many other countries have seen this pilot shortage before the US has and they are dealing with it by paying more for their pilots and this is hurting the supply of qualified pilots more Thant the GAO has accounted for.

My last point is the major airlines are entering into a retirement wave like never before. There used to be a mandatory retirement of pilots at age 60. About five years ago the FAA extended the retirement age to 65. So many of the pilots at the major airlines are approaching mandatory retirement. This is turning into a big problem for the major airlines since the most major airlines have not hired many pilots in the last decade and many of their furloughed pilots now have jobs at other companies with ten years under their belt, they are not coming back as furloughed pilots typically have in the past. The pilot age of the major airline fleet is getting too old to fly and there are fewer younger pilots in the fleet's ranks to fill the void. The regional airlines is where the pilots historically would come from.

Now, we approach the prefect storm scenario. The regional airlines are hurting for pilots because they are still expanding because the major airlines are trying to meet the frequency of flights demanded by their passengers but don't have the demand, staffing and/or equipment to meet the demand themselves. The economy is slowly recovering and passenger loads are increasing slowly too but not fast enough to spur large growth at the major airlines. The number of pilots qualified to meet the demand is low because of the increased regulatory minimum hours flow requirements to be an airline pilot has increased six fold and with so few experience building flight jobs available there are too few qualified pilots to fill the seats left vacant by retirees or ex-patriots leaving the country for a better life. Add to this that the guidance counselors in the schools are showing the students the real truth about how poorly the industry is run and students today would rather push drugs and make more money.

One final though, as a demonstration of the Wal-Mart economy: As of now, around $3 of a each ticket on a full airplane is split between the entire regional airline crew and if you have been a passenger within the last few years you can probably attest to the airplanes being quite full on a regular basis.

62 likes, 4 dislikes
Posted by Lima Delta on 03/07/2014 at 9:40 AM
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