Jumpseat: The Love/Hate of Airline Pilots
I unclipped my cell phone from its holder and called my mechanic friend, asking him to rescue me via ground transportation. Despite his good-natured chiding for lack of courage, my friend understood the decision. And in the three years since that event, I have made similar weather decisions. The tongue-in-cheek axiom for us airline types of, “Why bother to check the weather? We’re going anyhow,” just doesn’t apply to flying my own airplane.
What other group has a love/hate relationship with airline pilots? Well, I would add my fellow professionals of the corporate world to the list. At the very least, a mild resentment exists and perhaps a silent rivalry also. Most corporate guys are courteous enough not to vocalize their real thoughts to our airline pilot faces, but come on, fess up. You don’t really like us. It’s OK.
Why the resentment? Airline pilots are perceived as prima donnas. Our flight plans are filed and routing is prearranged. Our fuel load is predetermined. Our flight and duty time is dictated by specific FARs. Our long-haul international trips involve at least one extra crew member, allowing for inflight rest periods. Our crew meals are almost always provided. Our passengers wait for us rather than vice versa. Our job description doesn’t include loading bags or pouring coffee.
Why the rivalry? Corporate guys often fly airplanes with state-of-the-art equipment. Many of the airplanes are capable of higher altitudes and higher Mach numbers. Corporate airplanes are just plain sexy. Quality corporate flight departments involve operations areas that more resemble a boardroom than a meeting hall. Maintenance is specific to only a handful of airplanes. Pilots are often considered on par with the executives they fly. Expense accounts are the norm.
By far one of the biggest sources of silent contention is union membership. Unions have a negative connotation, almost as if the days of Jimmy Hoffa had never disappeared. But for all the unfavorable perceptions, pilot’s unions have been influential on a number of positive aspects that benefit many aviation professionals. What exactly?
To name a few: pilot qualification standards, checklists, IFR approaches and procedures, flight and duty time limits, safety incident data recording and reporting, cockpit design, ATC procedures and weather avoidance.
And yes, because of our airline pilot numbers, the unions made seniority an important element of our career. The concept of seniority has proven to be the only fair method in determining advancement, schedules, vacation, longevity and compensation.
On the subject of compensation, at one time airline pay was considered the epitome of the pilot profession. Sadly, with the current environment, this is no longer the case. That being said, the airline pilot’s salary is still the standard for comparison.
And last on my list of love/hate relationships with airline pilots are the professionals I hold in high regard: the mechanics who keep my airplanes airborne. If it weren’t for their abilities to understand the workings of the machine, I would be grounded.
Although respectful at work, I sense the mechanics approach us with wariness. As airline pilots, they perceive us simply as operators. How could we possibly have the knowledge to understand the intricacies of such a complicated piece of equipment? We can report that the annunciator light does not illuminate, but can we really state that the light is inoperative? Is it the bulb or is it the system itself? Professional toleration? Perhaps.
Having friends with an A&P certificate makes for interesting interactions. An airline pilot with a wrench? That’s potentially hazardous for both airplane and pilot. The adage of “a little knowledge is dangerous” probably applies in the minds of my mechanic friends.
So, do you love or hate your airline pilot? For me, it’s nice to be loved. But it doesn’t matter. We are professionals regardless. Airline pilots come in all shapes and sizes. I’ll let you make your own decision.