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The Job We Do

Old 01-06-2009, 05:07 PM
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Default The Job We Do

Recently I was going through some old emails when I came across a good article from the August edition of PSA's MEC Newsletter. It's a bit lengthy, but it does bring up some good points, especially when we ask ourselves, "How difficult is our job, really?"

The Job We Do

Jesse Coeling, MEC Vice Chairman

A strange thing happened to me the other day. I had a jumpseating pilot riding in the cockpit, who had more than 20 years of service at his carrier. As we casually conversed during cruise flight, we spoke about the industry, unions, and pilots—typical topics. One thing that he said really stuck with me, though. We were discussing the specifics of our job, and he mentioned what he tells people when they ask him if his job is hard. I know that pilots typically shrug off questions like this by assuming an “aw, shucks” attitude and feigning a certain amount of humility by saying “no, anyone could do it.” He was quite adamant that we tell people that our job is indeed hard and emphasize that not just anyone can do it. It was a surprising comment to hear, yet the more I considered it, the more sense it made. We do a difficult job as pilots, and people should be aware that it is a select group of people who fly our nation’s airliners.

If one thinks back to the beginning of his or her flight training, he/she can recall two or three people who didn’t make it to an airline job for every one person who did. People don’t progress for various reasons, whether for lack of aptitude, money, drive, or a combination of those and other factors. The people whom we work with in the cockpit truly are a unique and elite group of individuals who are among the best in the world at their job. Statistics certainly bear that out. We take it for granted that anyone can take off in virtually any weather and get a large, heavier-than-air flying machine to its destination, more often than not, right on schedule. It is easy to believe that the acts we perform are common because those we work with daily carry out the same feats. We are surrounded by them and begin to see these actions as pedestrian. When you acquire this challenging and unique skill, it eventually looks easy. Perhaps it even seems easy. After all, flying becomes second nature and is so deeply ingrained that we often do it habitually, without concerning ourselves with the innate difficulty involved. A careful review of those who are no longer in the profession or didn’t make it in the first place strongly suggests that we, as airline pilots, have what it takes to do this trying and challenging job—and it is anything but average.

The preceding paragraphs may certainly be seen as the rants of an inflated ego or pure boasting, but there is a point. Every time we tell people that our job is easy, we belittle our profession and demean ourselves. In effect, we sell ourselves short. If we want to be highly compensated for our work, we need people to know that flying airliners is indeed difficult. They need to be aware that not everyone can do it and we possess a special aptitude, attitude, and skill. Anything less only promotes the idea that we are replaceable and interchangeable employees. While I owe this realization to a random jumpseater, I will carry forth the mantra that pilots really are a select, talented, and special group of people with whom I feel fortunate to be associated.

At some early point in your flying career, you may feel that you would do the job for free, flying itself being reward enough. Most people I know gradually come to realize that while some portions of their employment are pleasurable, the job comes with tribulations, responsibilities, tough decisions, and liabilities. On the whole, it may be a positive experience, but it becomes work when dealing with weather, angry passengers, broken airplanes, and scheduling, to name a few. While piloting does not possess exclusive rights to challenges while working, the potential outcome of improper decisions and actions can be much more severe than the average office supply salesman. Our employer, passengers, friends, and family need to be aware that these difficult challenges need to be met by a select group of extensively trained and superior people—airline pilots. Anything less could have dire consequences. So, the next time someone asks you if flying airplanes is hard, be honest and tell them the truth—it’s a hard job.

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