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April 5 , 2011

In this Issue...

The Way It Has To Be, Part 5  

ALPAWatch Think Tank Paper

The Way It Has To Be

Part 5 of 5


This is Part 5 of The Way It Has To Be.

Click here the entire Paper, The Way It Has To Be


Why is it the pilot’s responsibility to take the lead in returning this profession to a stable and sustainable position?  Why isn’t the responsibility of all parties involved, and who are those parties?

The five parties that have an interest in this problem, even if they are unaware of it, are: major airline pilots (in this case Delta pilots), US Congress/President, the FAA, the flying public, and airline managements.  Let’s analyze each of their rolls and responsibility to airline safety.

The FAA.  They are paralyzed by their own dual mandate.  The FAA has a dual responsibility to Regulate Safety and Promote the Economic Viability of Aviation.  Not only does economics win that debate in all but the starkest instances, at the major airline level their minimum standards for pilots are inconsequential.  According to the FAA a B-747, with 400 passengers, flying across oceans and foreign lands requires two pilots with a total experience of 1700 hours, 1500 for the Captain and 200 for the First Officer.  Thankfully, the real world market forces have always demanded much more experience, or at least they once did.  So long as the airlines meet FAA minimums, the FAA’s hands are tied.

The Flying Public.  They want cheap airfare.  They don’t care what the pilot’s salary is and they never will.  Or worst yet, each time they travel, they fully expect to cross the entire US in a matter of hours for the same or less than it cost last time and usually for little more than the parking expense they will have upon return.  Each time they do this, they add to the problem.

They also have every expectation of arriving safely.  Why?  Because we do our jobs so well.  We make it look easy.  We are victims of own success.  But that is the nature of the beast.  The Public will not change and no one should expect them too.  Forget about the public as source of support in this battle.

The US Congress/President.  As long as commercial aviation is seemingly safe (not too many accidents) and their constituents are getting cheap fairs, they are content.  Even if they knew that current conditions in the industry would lead to a less stable airline industry or at worse, more accidents, they would not act to change it because they are afraid any increase in ticket fairs would be blamed on them.  Besides, they know that if safety becomes a headline, they will be the first to grandstand on the subject and take credit for helping to solve the problem.  They are useless in this debate.

Airline Managements.  With recent history as a guide, it is all too evident where they stand of the issue of assaulting the airline pilot profession.  Most demonstrate short term thinking.  If they are aware of the long term consequence of what they are doing to this profession, they have not demonstrated any concern for addressing the problem.  In short, this year’s bottom line rules the day.  This is one of the key areas the must change.  First we must be certain that airline management understands the long term consequences of not taking action on this issue.  Secondly we must assist them in investing in a long term strategy.

And that brings us to the airline pilots, Delta Airline Pilots to be more specific.  We are the only participants in this saga that both understand what is happening to this profession, what that will do to safety and stand in a position to return it to the way it has to be.  Return it to a stable and sustainable profession that will continue to attract and retain the same caliber of people is has in past decades; the caliber of people key to long term safety, and therefore success of the airline business.  This is our battle.  No one else is going to fight it for us.  Not the flying public, not the FAA, and not the Government.  However, if we do our work correctly, we can partner with airline management in returning this profession to the way it has to be.  Yes, we said partner with airline management.  It is in airline management’s best interest to return this profession to the way it has to be, thus assuring long term stability and safety for the companies they manage.  It is our job to bring them to this conclusion.

Very early on in the process returning this profession to the way it has to be, DAL management needs to be brought in.  This should not be done in secret.  We are talking about a new day, a new way--a cooperative relationship between the pilots and management.  Sneaky, covert plans to improve the contact don’t work.  Abandon those old ways of thinking.  Approach management with a business deal.  Act like the white collar professionals we are.  Act like the partners in DAL that we are.  Play the game cards up.

Additionally, the pilots need to be kept informed and on board.  Keep the expectations real.  This will be much easier because the process will be in the open, in the open with management and in the open with the pilots.

It is your duty to return this profession to The Way It Has To Be

The sad state of this profession is none of our faults, but it is our responsibility to fix it.  Whether you have 1 day or 30 years left in your career, you have a responsibility.  While this is not your fault, you must take an active role in fixing the damage.  It happened on your watch.  At some point in time, a group of pilots will have to fix it.  Now you can kick the can down the road, to the next generation of pilots, a generation that is truly innocent, or you can accept your responsibility.  Almost every pilot on the Delta property today had very reasonable expectations of a fantastic career.  Those expectations are no longer valid.  That has to change.  The next generation of pilots needs to have the same opportunities you did.  We can not leave a mess that happened on our watch for the next generation to deal with.  We can not do that to them and allow the flying public to be put at unnecessary risk that is bound to happen if this profession is not restored.

Is it unfair that your career has been decimated and now you are being asked to work all that harder to restore it?  You bet it’s unfair.  But that is the hand you have been dealt.  You can slink away and let others take the responsibility or you can step up to the plate.

The Pilot Image

When was the last time you felt good when some asked what you did for a living?  When was the last time you encouraged a young person to pursue a pilot career instead of steering them away?  Do remember the days, not that long ago when you held you head high?  You were proud of what you did.  You were proud to wear the uniform.  You were admired, even envied by your acquaintances.  Now when someone asks you about your job, you hang your head and grumble something about how it isn’t what it used to be.  That has to change.

As part of this plan, we need to look at what makes the airline pilot.  Every element.  Not just how much money they make, but what makes them tick.  What made them the characters they were just a few years ago.  How did they carry themselves?  What did their peers think of them?  How did they think of themselves?  What defines the airline pilot?  We must re-create the elements that made those larger than life airlines pilots that most of us once were.  We must reinstall that sense of pride.  We must do it for ourselves, for the profession and so we can be better emissaries of our company and our profession.




Thank you again for participating in ALPAWatch.  With the participation of pilots such as you, ALPAWatch will be successful in obtaining the Union Leadership that the Pilot Group deserves, and in doing so regain our fair compensation, our quality of life, our future, and our dignity.