Thursday, June 19, 2008

The Plane Truth

I sat down to read my Reader's Digest and saw the Special Report: The Plane Truth. There's a lot of information in this series of articles - to include how a pilot would inform the passengers of how he really feels about security, delays and airline food. More importantly and interestingly for aviators is a story about "Pilots with Problems." It talks about pilots and fatigue, brought on by being forced to fly more hours to make up for paycuts (for those who don't know this, most pilots are paid for the hours they fly). When I worked for the regional airline, I made $1/hour when I was on the clock, but doing other duties such as preflighting, awaiting maintenance, hanging around the terminal awaiting my next leg, etc. - not exactly raking in the big bucks. Starting salaries for regional airlines are about $18,000, for major airlines, about $40,000. For a job that costs thousands to train for, the break even point comes many years down the road (this is why I usually advise student pilots not to bog themselves down with loans).

That's the bad news. The "impartial" news is that airlines are hiring pilots with fewer hours than ever, now just as few as 250-500. This means fewer years scraping by flight instructing, but less experience in the cockpit. If the captain can make up for it, great, but upgrades come faster as well. Often there are two relatively new pilots in the cockpit - but they are pilots in their prime. Pilots that have been flying a while tend to rely a lot on technology and some are a bit rusty in the basics, in my opinion.

Now here's the good news. Again, most pilots fly because they LOVE it. They love the travel, the hours, the varied schedule, etc., not because they intend to be rich. So for those of us who still intend to take to the skies, the airline industry is facing a pilot shortage. According to Air Inc., a major pilot hiring consulting company, 100,000 new pilots will need to be hired by the airlines by 2020 to keep up - and that is more than are being generated by flight schools. It will be interesting to see how the industry will make adjustments to make being a pilot more attractive and profitable!

You can visit the website to read more about problems with Air Traffic Controllers and what to do if you're stuck in the airport (the much talked about bill of rights).

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