Go Back  Airline Pilot Central Forums > Pilot Lounge > Hangar Talk
Airline crews: perception vs reality >

Airline crews: perception vs reality

Notices
Hangar Talk For non-aviation-related discussion and aviation threads that don't belong elsewhere

Airline crews: perception vs reality

Old 11-13-2007, 09:03 AM
  #1  
Gets Weekends Off
Thread Starter
 
joel payne's Avatar
 
Joined APC: Apr 2006
Position: B767A[ret.]
Posts: 585
Default Airline crews: perception vs reality

I got this from another newsletter.

In the movies, they always seem to swagger a bit. A hat cocked slightly to the side, shoes polished to a high shine. They move at a steady pace, never looking rushed, always relaxed and followed by a well dressed gaggle of flight attendants, all walking through a brightly lit, impeccably clean airline terminal somewhere. A hushed reverence silences the gate area when they show up, doling out a nod and a smile to the small children who point up at them, maybe a wink for the pretty girl stealing glances at them. And then as suddenly as they appeared, they are gone, disappearing down that long dark jet way. That was your flight crew, ladies and gentlemen, and that old stereotype, like Elvis, has just left the building.

In reality, there is usually a more of a concerned look on your flight crew's faces. The airplane they just flew in is more than likely parked 6.3 miles from the next plane they are scheduled to pick up and fly you to your wildly exotic destination on. They have been given just 30 minutes to get to that new plane, set it up, get flight plans ready and welcome you aboard with a smile. That swagger is quickly turning into an incredibly quick power walk bordering on a flat out sprint, with bags flailing crazily behind them. That welcome aboard drink has been replaced with a gentle admonishment to find seats quickly so an on time departure can be achieved and the crew can avoid a waltz on the company carpet when called in to explain the reason for their late departure. Things are not like they are in the movies.

The airline industry has undergone numerous changes throughout history. Flying used to be regarded as something of special occasion, with a family decked out in their Sunday best and bearing a giddy sense of adventure and mystery as they boarded that shiny jet. Pilots handed out small wings and gave children an awe inspiring tour of the cockpit. Flight Attendants in beautifully tailored uniforms came around offering gustatory delights that could not be gotten at home. Fine wines and France's best bubbly flowed freely in First Class, and even back in coach, a simple meal was placed on your tray table along with a vast selection of drinks. These days, Flight Attendants are armed only with flaccid sandwiches and bags of odd nuts and snacks loaded with enough sodium to parch a herd of camels. These are sold at 4 star restaurant prices. First Class options on long flights still remain good, though. Menus still include things that fly, swim or moo most of the time. The wings the pilots handed out are now rare antiques, for the most part, a victim of cost trimming. The flight deck, as it is now known in the PC world, is mostly off limits, a well lit cave that is sealed off from the wandering eyes of passengers by a bullet proof door. The glamour has been taken out of flying, distilled by a race to find the cheapest way to sell you a ticket from point A to point B.

Your average Pilot or Flight Attendant found their way into this industry for a variety of reasons. The glamour, travel, wads of money and prestige. The flying public, for the most part, still believes all of these enticements are still there. The image of an airline captain using a wheel barrow to haul his paycheck to the bank is still what many people believe happens every week. The Flight Attendants, or "stewardesses" as they are sometimes referred to, are, for a good portion of flying America, seen as glamorous, globe trotting vixens, spending their free time strolling happily on the Left Bank of Paris or dining in Italy on truffles and veal. Sadly enough, these myths are pitifully far from the reality.

By the time you catch the first glimpse of your flight crew being roughly fondled in security long before the sun rises, they have probably been up for an hour or so already, repacking and waiting for a hotel van that takes them to the airport. With any luck, they will have gotten in the night before and had 10 or 12 hours to wind down, eat and get some sleep. If, by chance they were delayed, they may have had a solid 8 hours to do all of that. This first flight might be the start of a 14 or 15 hour day with 4 to 5 more flights after this one. With weather and delays, it may go up to the legal limit of a 16 hour duty day, at which point the crews must all be swapped out. Some of the passengers, at the first scent of a delay, slowly begin a downward spiral to devolve into frothing rabid animals, screeching like hyenas that they have paid an inordinate amount of money to get to their destination and that their time is too valuable to waste here in an aluminum tube. They verbally abuse and threaten flight attendants, eyes rolling and spit flying from their enraged mouths, howling about conspiracies to keep them away from their destination. The Flight Attendants have been expecting this, as they get this kind of "star" treatment on a fairly good number of flights. Hopefully, they can explain that they relinquished control of the weather to God, have no hidden agenda to keep anyone on the plane and that the Air Traffic Controllers have the other remote controller for the delays. In rare instances, the mildly psychotic passenger will force the plane to divert or return to the gate so some finely uniformed, well armed gentlemen from the police department can show that irate traveler the exit. In his/her wisdom, he/she has now delayed the plane even longer.

Now that the flight is underway, service can be provided, coffees filled and it should all be a smooth ride. The seat belt sign comes off and people are now free to stroll leisurely around the cabin. It is during those times where some surprises are bound to happen to the Flight Attendants, who have probably seen more strange and foul events than they will ever care to divulge. A mother sits serenely, smiling as her young son heads up to use the lavatory. Only he sees it occupied when he arrives and proceeds to relieve himself on the galley carts. His mother, watching this and still smiling, embraces him with open arms when he returns. Her big boy just had to go, and he took it upon himself to do so! Who wouldn't be proud of their little man? The Flight Attendants may be forced to interrupt an "interlude" in the bathroom, where a dangerously large couple, heady with excitement and hormones, decided to join the mile high club by stuffing themselves into a lavatory that is 3 sizes too small. Or maybe it is the elderly woman who decides that her Depends is made of Kevlar and is vacuum sealed but still manages to clear out the 2 rows in front and behind her as her fouled diaper causes violent gasping and retching all around her. Yes, this is the glamour we all signed on for.

Up front, on the "flight deck", the pilots have been ducking and dodging through the storms that are causing havoc on everyone's arrival times. Diversions, detours and descents are all tricks pulled out from the pilot's bag in order to keep the flight as smooth as possible. In good weather, the ride is beautiful, with a panorama of incredible sights and sunrises/sunsets that continue to amaze and humble even the most experienced pilot. But when the weather acts up, a crews work load increases ten fold. There are approaches down to the barest weather minimums to be flown, fuel usage to be calculated in case of a diversion, violent turbulence to be avoided and a myriad of other considerations that they crew must continually take into account. When this is the last leg of a 14 or 15 hour day, it takes all the mental strength a crew can muster. They want to arrive safely just as the passengers do.

With all of these wild goings on, the belief arises that flight crews are handsomely compensated for the job they do and therefore have no room to complain and should accept the vagaries of their chosen profession. That too is a myth. The cabin crew in that little "puddle jumper", the one with the screaming propeller or whining jet engine that spins dangerously close to your head when you sit down next to the wing, will be lucky to have made $12 to $14 a flight hour for the job they do. Their clock starts and stops when the airplane door closes and opens, as does your pilots. When you see them at the restaurant or bar on their layover, they are earning $1-2 dollars an hour at that point. The First Officer, looking just old enough to drive or shave in many cases, is tasked with assisting the Captain and will be making anywhere from $14 to $26 a flight hour for the first few years, or possibly have even have paid to fly the airplane in one of several flight programs that allow newly minted pilots to buy their hours to allow them to move up. The Captain, making possibly 2 or 3 times that depending on how long they have been employed there, is tasked with the safe operation of the flight, is responsible for all actions pertaining to the flight and in charge of the crew. An airplane's pay scale will commensurate with size of the aircraft as well as length of employment. It behooves a pilot to stay at one carrier and gather seniority, for jumping ship only puts that pilot back into the First Officer position and cuts his wages in half or even a third until he can regain his seniority back.
All of these numbers sound phenomenal. Well above minimum wage, they seem well set and able to afford the flight crew a chance at lavish homes, expensive cars and fine wines every night. But those numbers have restrictions that curb the income potential of all flight crews. The legal limit of flight time for pilots is, for airlines, 1000 hours per year. The chance to work a 40 hour week and load up on the overtime is strictly forbidden by the FAA, which allows for only 30 hours of flight time in a 7 day period. Take those wages and tack on the 13 to 18 days and 200 to 350 hours away from home in some cheap hotel with oddly stained sheets and clusters of roaches playing Texas Hold'em under the bed, and the golden veneer of glamour and exorbitant paychecks with lots of zeros after the first digit is quickly stripped away.

When asked why people stay in the aviation field, the most common response if the love of travel, people and flying. Many "exotic" destinations, such as South Bend or Jacksonville, still offer the crew something novel they may not have at home, such as a warm day on a serene beach, a boutique micro brewery to sample or a simple lakeside park to go jogging through. Simple pleasures make this job worth showing up to do. It may be the child who does get up to the flight deck and is greeted with a big smile and an offer to sit in the Captains seat to have their picture taken. It is the chance to buy a young serviceman or woman a beer in flight to thank them for their sacrifices. It is the "Thank you for getting us here safely" a Flight Attendant or Pilot may hear from an elderly couple as they get to their destination to see their first grandchild. It is the thrill felt as the large silver tube gently un-sticks itself from the runway and lifts off to find the sky and yet another "exotic" destination.

It may be a far cry from the movies, with their pristine images of aviation, the dashing Pilots who wrestle with the controls in stormy weather and the perfectly coiffed Flight Attendants helping to seat the "peeps", but despite the reality of the job itself, with all of its warts and deep seated drama that is inherent to dealing with masses of the public, still keeps a steady stream of newcomers flocking to its skies. As long as there are still the "exotic" destinations to visit and planes to fly, it probably always will.
joel payne is offline  
Old 11-13-2007, 09:51 AM
  #2  
Flying Farmer
 
Ewfflyer's Avatar
 
Joined APC: Jul 2006
Position: Turbo-props' and John Deere's
Posts: 3,159
Default

Nice write-up, and some of the reasons I'll probably never do 121.
Ewfflyer is offline  
Old 11-13-2007, 08:09 PM
  #3  
Gets Weekends Off
Thread Starter
 
joel payne's Avatar
 
Joined APC: Apr 2006
Position: B767A[ret.]
Posts: 585
Default

Here is a link to the person who wrote "Perceptions of Aircrew's". He has another article about re-current training on the site.

http://www.associatedcontent.com/use...odannyboy.html
joel payne is offline  
Old 11-14-2007, 04:03 AM
  #4  
Gets Weekends Off
 
CPOonfinal's Avatar
 
Joined APC: Sep 2007
Posts: 195
Default

Terrific read!! (to make it long enough) What brand of wheel barrow is best? One wheel or two?
CPOonfinal is offline  
Old 11-14-2007, 05:05 AM
  #5  
Gets Weekends Off
 
Joined APC: Jul 2006
Posts: 1,844
Default

I feel I must point out the factual error in the second paragraph. Most pilots I know, given a thirty minute turn with planes at opposite ends of the terminal, will not do much hurrying to get to their next plane. I, for one, feel absolutely no compulsion to aid the company in the fuster-cluck they call "scheduling."
POPA is offline  
Old 11-14-2007, 07:03 AM
  #6  
Gets Weekends Off
 
Ottopilot's Avatar
 
Joined APC: May 2006
Position: 737 CA
Posts: 2,553
Default

Originally Posted by POPA View Post
I feel I must point out the factual error in the second paragraph. Most pilots I know, given a thirty minute turn with planes at opposite ends of the terminal, will not do much hurrying to get to their next plane. I, for one, feel absolutely no compulsion to aid the company in the fuster-cluck they call "scheduling."
Last time they did that to me I stopped for lunch on the way. No crew meals, no breaks, no problem. I'll make my own.
Ottopilot is offline  
Old 11-14-2007, 07:07 AM
  #7  
Gets Weekends Off
 
Ottopilot's Avatar
 
Joined APC: May 2006
Position: 737 CA
Posts: 2,553
Default

The article just shows a bad day at a regional or SWA. Try coming to Rome with me next week. Two legs, no delays, no storms, gourmet food (on the plane and ground), awesome layover and hotel. There's a lot of great 121 flying out there. International is a lot different than domestic.
Ottopilot is offline  
Old 11-14-2007, 07:31 AM
  #8  
Gets Weekends Off
 
trackpilot's Avatar
 
Joined APC: Mar 2007
Position: CRJ FO no more
Posts: 459
Default

Originally Posted by Ottopilot View Post
Last time they did that to me I stopped for lunch on the way. No crew meals, no breaks, no problem. I'll make my own.
lol good on ya!
trackpilot is offline  
Old 03-16-2008, 07:10 AM
  #9  
Gets Weekends Off
 
flynwmn's Avatar
 
Joined APC: Dec 2007
Posts: 515
Default

Yeah but we have to start somewhere. Good write-up, the tour of the flight deck was the reason I chose flying as my proffession. How have the times changed in 20 years since I got that tour.
flynwmn is offline  
Old 03-18-2008, 07:21 PM
  #10  
Line Holder
 
BrutusBuckeye's Avatar
 
Joined APC: May 2007
Position: C-17A IP
Posts: 8
Default

Originally Posted by flynwmn View Post
Yeah but we have to start somewhere. Good write-up, the tour of the flight deck was the reason I chose flying as my proffession. How have the times changed in 20 years since I got that tour.
Same here. Tours of the cockpit and numerous air shows with my Dad were what got me into aviation. It is the same things mentioned that keeps me in it...take-off, sunrises/sunsets (sometimes multiple in one duty day), leading a crew, and simply leaving whatever problems I have on the ground.
BrutusBuckeye is offline  
Related Topics
Thread
Thread Starter
Forum
Replies
Last Post
UnlimitedAkro
Major
12
10-18-2007 01:16 PM
CAL EWR
Major
81
07-25-2007 05:16 PM
Freight Dog
Hiring News
13
09-21-2006 09:50 PM
greedyairlineexec
Atlas/Polar
4
10-05-2005 03:48 PM

Posting Rules
You may not post new threads
You may not post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

BB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is On
HTML code is Off
Trackbacks are On
Pingbacks are On
Refbacks are On


Thread Tools
Search this Thread