Posts filed under ‘aviation’

Prepare For The Worst, Hope For The Best

My day started off ok.  I made a smoothie with Stoneyfield vanilla yogurt, blueberries, cherries, some raw granola, chia seeds and a little vanilla whey protein.  I drank that along with some Chai (instead of coffee), just to mix things up. (I have pictures, but it’ll have to wait til later!)

This morning I heard the news that a new airline merger may be happening, between ASA and Express Jet, two Regional airlines.  I saw that a few pilots wives were nervous about it in some online forums.  I ended up getting into a conversation about airline mergers with my friend (not in the airline industry) about it.  And I proceeded to get really ticked off! 

I haven’t really written about airline related stuff lately, because not much has changed.  Greg is still flying for the same company.  He is home a couple days a week and flying a couple days a week, same old same old.  He is still on furlough status at Continental though and still follows the news about the merger and looks to see if there will be a recall and when.  The Continental and United merger is still being worked out and we have heard different scenarios in terms of how things may turn out with the pilot merger.  Possibly all CAL pilots will come back first if there is a recall.  Possibly a 1 to 1 recall of CAL/UAL pilots.  Possibly the seniority will be awarded based on hire date, meaning that even if CAL pilots were recalled first, once UAL guys are called back they would be senior to the existing and recalled CAL pilots if their date of hire at United was prior to the CAL guys hire dates.  Continental is supposed to have another big pilot bid come out within the next month, and we should know more then.  I never hold my breath with this kind of news, because things usually seem to take longer than they predict to figure it all out and let everyone know.  We probably won’t know anything for a while still.  I hope for a recall, but I am in no way thinking it will happen or planning on it happening.  It very well may never happen.

When this blog was conceived, almost a year ago, my feelings about the industry were like an open wound.  It didn’t take much to irritate it.  Now, almost a year later, most of the time I have a strange peace with the state of where things are.  I just feel like it is what it is.  I’ve learned not to put much of my hopes into thinking the airline industry will do good things for us.  I got tired of it letting me down all the time and just became focused on other things in my life instead like my social life, running, yoga, my VERY cute puppy, my husband, and blogging about healthy living.

I realized today that my feelings about the airline industry are still really strong though.  My friend started giving his opinion about how airline mergers do/should work, what makes sense, how it will likely happen.  I told him it’s very silly of him to make statements about what will happen, should happen, or likely happen, because in my eight and half years of experience with this industry, the one thing I have learned is that it’s completely unpredictable.  You can’t ever predict what will happen.  A lot of the time what happens is the opposite of what you think will or should happen.  Companies that are seemingly doing fine one day collapse the next.  Companies that are chugging along on their own suddenly merge with another.  Planes are sold at a moments notice and suddenly 100 pilots are no longer needed.  This stuff happens ALL THE TIME.  I have seen it, been a part of it, and lived it.  My husband has stood at crossroads where he has had to decide between two airlines to work for and picked the one he thought to be more stable with the better future and picked wrong.  I just know that you can’t bank on anything for sure.  My friend said it was a pessimistic way to look at an industry, and I say, well, I think it’s NECESSARY to be pessimistic when it comes to this industry.  I think you have to be to survive it.  You have to always think worst case scenario, because if you think you can just float along and think that your experience with the airline industry will be all roses and butterflies, you are going to get your heart severely broken.  Maybe that’s a weird way to live, but it’s about surviving.  I really think I keep a pretty positive outlook in the other areas of my life, and I’ve just learned to not put all my happiness stock in this industry, because it is too volatile.  I do HOPE for the best though.  I will state it again and again, prepare for the worst and hope for the best.  I think that’s all you can do to survive the industry. 

With that I will now eat my banana snack…

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August 4, 2010 at 3:07 pm 7 comments

Recall?

So, we’ve known that CAL recalled 15 pilots for a week or two now:  Article
It is anticipated and rumored that ALL of the furloughed CAL pilots will be recalled in the next couple months.  What does this mean for us?  Well, we will have a decision to make.  Take the recall or not take it. 
Here’s kind of how it breaks down:

CAL
Pros-
1.  If he goes back, he’ll almost immediately be at second year pay, which is about double first year CAL pay (and like 3 times current airline pay), and that alone will probably be worth taking the recall.
2.  Better working conditions at CAL.
3.  Better planes!
4.  We might go ahead and try to have a baby finally.

Cons-
1.  Zero guarantee that he keeps his job.  We fully anticipate that once the merger with UAL happens, it’s possible or even probable that he may get furloughed again.  If that happens, we have no idea what he’ll do and could be back in awful furlough limbo again, with not much hope of ever going back to CAL/UAL, assuming he’s bumped by UAL guys.
 2.  If he leaves current airline, he’s probably burned that bridge forever and will not be able to come back.  That’s pretty much how it works in the airline industry.
 3.  He might get based in Guam.  It’s the junior base and right now that’s what they are offering to recalled CAL guys.  haha!  Yeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeah….

So, I’m not sure what I think.  I know his current airline is not where he ultimately wants to be, but he actually does have one thing there- relative job stability.  Well, more than he’d have at CAL anyway.  Stability in aviation is a relative term, right?  The problem with his current gig is the pay is SO LOW.  I don’t know if we can ever start a family on what he’s making right now, and the pay scale sucks.  It would take forever for him to make much more there. 
I just think CAL is a big gamble and he stands to lose everything AGAIN if he takes the recall.  We’d really just have to bank as much of his income as possible if he went back and was making good money again, knowing he might lose his job again.
His other strategy is to try to get hired at another airline all together.  He’s still working on that, and if he got hired at another good, relatively stable airline, that could solve all our problems.  Maybe (yeah, like it’s that easy…lol).
So that’s what’s going on with that.  He still probably won’t get recalled for a couple months, but we’re already thinking about everything and playing out scenarios.  We’ll see what happens…

June 1, 2010 at 7:10 pm 5 comments

CAL/UAL Merger

Airlines Approach Final Deal to Merge
By GINA CHON And SUSAN CAREY
Continental Airlines Inc. and UAL Corp.’s United Airlines are expected to announce Monday that they are merging to form the world’s largest airline, people familiar with the matter said.
UAL’s board of directors is meeting Friday, while Continental’s board is meeting Friday and Sunday to discuss the deal, these people said.
These people cautioned that negotiations could still fall apart as they did in 2008, when Continental backed away. But after a hiccup over pricing, the talks appear on track, they said.
The combination would leapfrog over Delta Air Lines Inc. as the biggest airline by passengers carried.
United is much stronger financially than it was in 2008. This week, United posted a narrower first-quarter loss of $82 million, compared with a year-earlier loss of $382 million. Revenue rose by 15%, to $4.2 billion.
A weekend impasse over which share-price ratio should be used to calculate the deal’s value appeared to resolved itself as UAL’s share price declined this week. The market is now expecting a swap of about 1.057 UAL shares for each share of Continental.
Journal Community
United had wanted the exchange terms to be based on the closing price of its stock on the day before any agreement is signed. But that would lower the value for Houston-based Continental shareholders, since UAL shares have climbed more than Continental’s since United’s interest in a merger was disclosed earlier this month.
Continental’s board met Wednesday and agreed to continue the talks. It was also asked to consider a range of prices in an effort to resolve the share-swap disagreement, those people said.
In 4 p.m. trading on the Nasdaq Thursday, UAL shares were down 1.3% to $21.47, while Continental shares were up 2.4% to $22.70 on the New York Stock Exchange.
Continental already has agreed in theory to allow the combined airline to be based in Chicago, United’s home base, and to retain the United name, according to those people familiar with the matter.
Jeff Smisek, Continental’s chief executive officer, would become CEO of the merged carrier; Glenn Tilton, UAL’s CEO, would become non-executive chairman for two years, after which Mr. Smisek would take over that role too, those people familiar with the matter said.

Sooooooooooooo… This is not good news for us at all. Even though Greg is employed by a certain Regional (he asked me not to specifically name them in the blog anymore), we were really counting on hoping for Greg to eventually get called back to Continental.  This is probably NEVER going happen with a merger with United.  The main reason is that United has a huuuuuge pilot base and actually has pilots furloughed with hire dates all the way back to 1998 or so.  It is more than likely that the pilots will be merged based on date of hire, which means Continental pilots stand to lose out big time unless they are VERY senior and have been around a long time.  We don’t think a lot of Continental pilots realize this (Greg seems to be one of the only ones concerned according to what he’s reading on his CAL forum).  I’m surprised more Continental pilots aren’t more concerned!  Not only will Greg not get called back, but it is VERY likely that many more Continental pilots will be furloughed and United guys will be brought back if seniority is based on date of hire.  United is Greg’s least favorite airline.  They are kind of “the bully” of the commercial aviation world.  We see them totally taking advantage of this situation.  If the merger didn’t happen, rumors had previously hinted at the CAL furloughs getting called back towards the end of the year.  This was supposed to be our “green light” to start a family.  It’s going to be back to the drawing board on that now.  Good thing I’m too busy running, seeing my friends, and taking care of the puppy to dwell on it.  It’s not like I haven’t heard bad aviation news before.  Same ol’ thing!

April 30, 2010 at 8:18 pm 9 comments

Flying Cheap thoughts

So, I’m definitely not the first one to bring up this piece that Frontline did called Flying Cheap. I didn’t have a chance to watch it until Friday. Greg and I were actually home together that evening so we decided to watch it online. My impression? Well, I know the general public doesn’t know much about the airline industry but I can say the two of us were NOT sitting there going, “OMG I can’t BELIEVE this, how shocking!!!”. Meaning, in reference to what was brought up about pilot’s rest and pilots being pressured to fly despite imperfect conditions, this is nothing new to us. That is fairly universal in our experience. My husband has been with at least 4 airlines now (I say at least 4, because one was an airline that sort of became another airline, so if you count them separately, that would be 5): a couple regionals, a start-up, and most recently a major/legacy. Some people might think this kind of situation would only exist at a very lowly bottom-feeder type of operation, but in our experience this is pretty universal and standard operation no matter what kind of airline you’re at. It mainly comes down to pilots knowing their rights and exercising good discretion. Most airlines want their pilots to fly as much as they can get them to. The scheduling department people relentlessly try to get the pilots to fly, be it more time in an already jam-packed day, on a day off, etc… With airlines now all operating with the bare-minimum of pilots to keep their costs down, the existing pilots are going to get kind of “abused” in order to keep things running, when they don’t have extra pilots around to pick up the slack. We’re not sure if it’s just that schedulers don’t know the pilot work rules (possible) or they do and just hope the pilots don’t their rights and possibly the schedulers are being pressured by the higher ups to get pilots to work more. My husband has always been really good about knowing his work rules and standing up to the companies when they have tried to get him to fly when he doesn’t have to. I think that is very key. Not that it is right for airlines/scheduling to be trying to get their pilots to fly illegally, but as a pilot you should become as familiar as you can with your contract/work rules, etc… and not be afraid to cite them when you need to and say “no, I’m not legal for that” when the company comes calling on you with some shady assignment.
Same goes for maintenance/weather issues, which is another point that I believe they brought up in the piece. A lot of maintenance falls to pilot’s discretion on whether they will fly or not. In the case of the Colgan 3407 flight, they were legal to fly under FAA and company policy, but the pilot needed to be the one to make the judgment call on whether they felt safe to fly or not based on conditions. I think this is one area where the pilots’ inexperience really showed. They maybe shouldn’t have even been flying in crappy conditions in the first place. There have been many times my husband has received a plane with maintenance issues and refused to fly it though other pilots have signed off and flown it. Such an example would be the APU being broken. FAA and company policy will allow you to fly a plane with a broken APU, which is the equipment that regulates the temperature/air conditioning in the cabin. Well, on a 95 degree day, it might be kind of essential to have a working APU so your passengers aren’t going into heat stroke. Technically you can fly, but should you? Or the American flight that crashed in Jamaica- should they really have landed on that runway despite high winds that hindered their ability to land safely? I think pilots need to speak up if there are issues like these that might become a problem.
The Colgan crew’s inexperience also showed in their reaction to the problems that occurred. My husband told me about how in most training programs in a stall situation they train you to absolutely not lose altitude (which he disagrees with), which caused the Colgan capt. to react in the opposite way he should have to their problem (I think he pulled up instead of down or something). Greg said since the crash, some airlines have actually amended their training and let up on that altitude issue (he has a good friend in the training dept at Trans States that said they changed their training).
I know Greg has said for a while that he hopes for big changes in the work rules and rest rules. He said from day one of the crash that he hoped that it would be the positive change to come out of that crash. Eight hours of rest from the time a pilot gets off the plane is not nearly enough when you have to wait for a hotel van, check in at the hotel, get to bed, and be up the next morning and shuttle back to the airport. Not only would better rest rules be good for pilot rest, but it would also be good for furloughed pilots and hiring in the industry, because existing pilots wouldn’t be able to fly as long or as much and therefore it would require airlines to increase pilot staff in order to keep flying as much as they currently are. This would be such an overhaul and expense to the airlines that they are definitely fighting the idea of the work/rest changes though, so it remains to be seen if it will ever happen.
Bottom line, it was an interesting program to watch but we definitely felt like they dumped a lot of bad press specifically on Colgan for things that many many other airlines do as well. It’s more of an aviation industry issue than an issue with this specific airline. I’m glad woke some people up to some of the issues of the profession, but I hope that the people don’t think that these issues are only specific to Colgan or even to regional airlines. Even majors/legacies have low pay the first year, about $30,000 at best. There are a lot of issues in the industry in general that are not just on the regional level.

February 23, 2010 at 6:14 pm 1 comment

USA Today Article

Interesting article on pilot profession.

February 19, 2010 at 4:16 pm 1 comment

Regional Salaries vent

I need to vent. I was reading an airline forum and clicked on a thread that was about Michael Moore’s movie “Capitalism”. I haven’t seen this movie yet, but I have heard that apparently he talks to some pilots who are on food stamps. Anyway, the thread was started just to make the point that pilot pay scales are sad. A few posts into the thread someone wrote this: “Its not sad at all. If you look at the resumes stacked on Colgan’s desk you’ll understand that the regional salaries are justified.”
This really pissed me off. You could take this to mean two things: One, there are a TON of applications coming in, so based on supply and demand, the salaries are justified because pilots still apply and want to work there even though the pay sucks. Two, the resumes of pilots that apply justify crappy pay- IE they don’t have enough experience to be paid better than they are. In both cases, this struck a cord with me.
Regional pilot pay in most cases is still ridiculously low. I realize that in a perfect world pilots could take more of a stand against low pay and refuse to consider working at airlines do not pay their pilots more. The thing is, when your choice is between driving a hotel van or flying a plane and you are trained to fly planes, I think you’re going to choose flying planes, even if it goes against your principles that this and other airlines are not paying their pilots enough. Or, if you are a newly trained pilot- what other choice do you really have? It kind of puts all that in to perspective. Which is not to say that it’s not still very wrong that a lot of airlines don’t pay their pilots enough. Because I personally thing it is wrong that they pay so little. I get why it is that way, since regional airlines under bid each other to keep their contracts with the majors, and therefore to keep the costs low, they have to pay their pilots less. I still think it’s wrong though and don’t agree with the statement that it’s justified. Pilots go through a lot to get trained to fly planes. It’s a big responsibility, whether it’s a huge 777 or a Dash 8. I think there should be a minimum acceptable pay level and that pay level is not $20,000 a year.
Now, taking it to mean the latter- that all pilots that apply to certain regionals have resumes that should warrant low pay- I obviously disagree with this as well. I think there’s an awful lot of pilots that have been cruising along with a career that started at A and is progressing towards B without much of a bump in the road and are sitting pretty with six-figures plus, just thinking “if I did, so can they”. My husband, on the other hand, has a career that looks like a game of Chutes and Ladders. He was moving along the board nicely climbing ladders, moving up to Captain, then bam a chute: your airline went out of business, go back to start. You got furloughed, go back to start again. It’s hard for a pilot that hasn’t had this happen to understand that the entire pilot population is not made up of pilots that had a smooth career and are right where they should be in the hierarchy/seniority. It’s easy to judge and say that everyone at the bottom deserves to be there because they MUST only have 500 hours of flight time and not know how to tell their left from their right yet. Well, those people need to wake up and see that the industry actually has a lot of very qualified, hard-working, pilots that maybe just weren’t in the right place at the right time. Even if Atlantic Coast Airlines/Independence hadn’t gone under in the first place and Greg was still a Captain there, there would still be a lot of major/legacy pilots that would be judging him and saying he deserved less pay than them. There are tons of regional pilots that have a lot more experience, hours, and years of flying than major/legacy airline pilots. I just want them to think about this stuff before they generalize and say that everyone on the bottom of the totem pole deserves to be there. A lot of this industry is being in the right place at the right time, luck, and who you know. In the end pilots just want to fly and want to be able to provide for themselves and their families. It seems to me that if you have that, you should want the same for your fellow pilots. This whole fraternity-hazing mentality of the bottom people getting abused with work hours and pay and justifying it with the “well I paid my dues and now they have to pay theirs” attitude is just selfish and wrong. What about guys in my husband’s situation who already “paid their dues”? How many times do they have to keep paying their dues because of bad luck/timing? The salaries are not justified. People are applying/going to airlines, because they love to fly and need a job. And I bet you will find a lot of passion and heart among the pilots there, since they were willing to work there even though the pay was not what it should be, because they love the job.

February 18, 2010 at 6:08 pm 2 comments

In other news…

Greg heard that Continental has a system bid coming out in the next couple weeks. He said then the company will show what planes/positions/hubs they have available and how many in each place, and then everyone will bid for what hub/plane/seat they want. We’re hoping this will give us some idea of what is happening at CAL and when/if Greg will get called back. Or at least we might see that it looks totally hopeless based on the projected plan for 2010, and we can assume he’s not getting called back. It probably won’t change much for us, but it’s still helpful to have SOME information rather than none.
It’s looking like Regional hiring may be picking up. We’ve heard that a bunch of Regionals are calling back their furloughs and may start hiring soon. That could work out for Greg… The only thing is that then he may have to make a choice between staying at CAL and going to a Regional, which he feels most are unstable in the long run. He’d most likely have to officially resign from CAL in order to go to another airline, which has been an issue ever since furlough. Well, we’ll cross that bridge when we come to it if the decision has to be made.
Oh- an update on the dog situation. Apparently having Rascal for the weekend actually worked to my advantage. Greg did some thinking after spending a weekend taking care of a dog and agreed with me that he isn’t sure he wants one just yet either. He realized the work that went into taking care of Rascal. I think he also got scared about how the house could get torn up if we were house training a puppy. As much as it was fun to play with a dog, we will hold off for now. I’m glad he’s on the same page with me about it now. So to those of you looking to break the dog desires of your significant other- borrow one for the weekend and see if they still want one after! Haha!
I miss Greg on this schedule he’s on. He’s working evenings and I go to work when he’s still asleep and he gets home after I’ve gone to sleep so we don’t see each other much on days he’s working. Lately I’ve been stopping by the hotel on my way home hoping to see him for a few minutes. Last night I did. I don’t want to bother him while he’s working, but I think he likes seeing me, and I’m always tempted to stop in since his hotel is on my way home, so I usually end up stopping by to say hi.
I decided on a plan for this weekend for Christmas. It’s been a debacle because my parents have been to our house twice in the last month or so (for Thanksgiving and when my bro was here), so it’s really my turn to go there. I’m going to stay home Christmas Eve and have Christmas morning with Greg before he goes to work and then leave for my parents’ after we do our Christmas. I think it’s important that I spend part of Christmas with Greg so we can do our presents and have breakfast together before he works. I’ll spend the rest of the weekend hanging out with my parents. If I stayed in Charlotte for the weekend I wouldn’t have much time to spend with Greg because he’s working all weekend anyway. I haven’t been down to Hilton Head in a while, and I’m itching to go. I think it’ll be a good weekend. I wish Greg could come, but at least he was off the last two weekends with me and I’ll still do Christmas morning with him and make him his favorite blueberry pancakes for him 🙂

December 22, 2009 at 2:34 pm 1 comment

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