Saturday, January 02, 2010

How Low Can You Go ?

Pretty dang low it looks like. You need to point all your airline-passenger friends to this story from Business Week. It exposes the underbelly of the airline business that we all know and hate.

Do you ever stop and ask yourself how we ever got here ? Anyone that has ever been in this business knows there has always been a shady side of aviation and there always will be. But it always seemed like the bad section of town -- contained and quiet. Now, it’s out in the open where everyone can see it. And the crazy thing is, there’s no logic to it. Shady pilots used to tolerate being used for a chance at the brass ring -- an airline pilot’s job. They’d fly the busted airplanes, in any kind of weather, during mind-numbing shifts for a chance to compete for the left seat at a reputable airline. It was the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.

But that gold is long gone. And it won’t come back until the airlines come back. And that won’t happen until the airlines are regulated again. Unless you think this downward spiral will somehow reverse itself after 30+ years. Wake up. The only thing at the end of a downward spiral is the ground. This thing is going to crash. Unless you think these folks are going to save the industry.

” For $32,699, students get 522 hours of training -- including 250 hours as a first officer for Gulfstream International Airlines. That means student pilots are paying Gulfstream for the privilege of flying as first officers.

“Gulfstream is selling the job,” says Charlie Preusser, a regional airline pilot who flew for Manassas, Virginia-based Colgan Air. “When you’ve got a guy fronting the cash, there’s a lot of pressure on the company to keep him onboard no matter how bad he is.” “

Passengers thought they were paying the pilots. Turns out, the copilot was paying the passengers. Now there’s a sound business model. My only question is, which is the bigger sucker -- copilot or passenger ? The guy that owns this company would make P.T. Barnum proud. Speaking of which...

”Gulfstream’s initial public offering was underwritten by Taglich Brothers Inc., a New York brokerage that publishes research on 31 companies with market values of less than $250 million. Michael Taglich, president and chairman of the firm, is Gulfstream’s largest individual shareholder, regulatory filings show. “

(Note to non-aviation folks: Everybody in aviation knows that Gulfstream Aerospace is a highly respected aircraft manufacturer -- including the guys that chose the name “Gulfstream International Group Inc” for their company. These guys in the article aren’t the highly respected aircraft manufacturer.)

Oh yeah, about that pot of gold thing...

”Regional airlines pay pilots annual salaries as low as $18,264, according to Kit Darby, a retired United Airlines captain who’s now a consultant and flight instructor in Atlanta. That salary level was below the official poverty line of $21,834 for a family of four in 2008, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. “

That means that Marion Blakey and the airlines were shopping in the same talent pool. There’s a comforting thought if I’ve ever had one. And people wonder why I drive.

And let me throw this one in just for fun.

” Mark Yakopovich, a flight attendant for Republic Airways Holdings Inc., says he decided to run his own crash pad near LaGuardia Airport in the borough of Queens, New York, eight years ago after staying at unlocked apartments that sometimes didn’t even have beds.

Yakopovich, 56, charges $200 a month for one of 22 beds in his five-bedroom, two-bathroom apartment in East Elmhurst, New York. The crash pad is two apartments on the first and third floors of a brick building that’s a five-minute walk to a US Airways building. “

A flight attendant -- a 56-year-old, male flight attendant -- is renting rooms...I’m sorry...“beds” to pilots ? I’m sure I could come up with a sick, cruel joke that pilots would love about all that but right now it just sounds like a sick and cruel joke of an industry.

Seriously, you should get your friends to read the article.

Fatal Flying on Airlines No Accident in Pilot Complaints to FAA

Don Brown
January 2, 2010

(P.S. For those going, “This sure sounds familiar...”)


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