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Author Topic: Barry Schiff in AOPA Pilot magazine
Post Captain
Member # 785

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Note: When my son, Ben, nearing the end of a 9 year stint as a Navy carrier pilot, began considering options, I was subtly hoping he would NOT follow in my footsteps and pursue a career as an airline pilot. The glory days are over, in my view, having seen TWA at its peak. He's decided to go to grad. school and pursue an MBA ... and the article below confirms what many young people with airline goals are now concluding. He'll just have to settle for bumping around the countryside in his old 1947 Cessna 140 ... and how divine that is!

Alan Clammer

The glory days are over
BY BARRY SCHIFF (From AOPA Pilot, June 2006.)

Barry Schiff retired from TWA in 1998 after a 34-year
career with the airline.

I have been agonizing over the topic of this column
for a few years, not knowing if I should publicly air
my personal thoughts. Not to do so, I finally
concluded, would be intellectually dishonest. So at
the risk of attracting flak, here goes.

I was hired as a pilot by Trans World Airlines in
1964. This was during the glamour years that began
after World War II. Airline salaries were rising,
working conditions improved with every contract
renewal, and airline pilots earned approval and
respect from every quarter. On international flights,
airline pilots were treated like royalty.

No one working for Pan American World Airways or TWA
during this period could possibly have anticipated the
demise of their airlines. These were cultural icons of
the twentieth century. At one time, TWA's logo was the
second most recognizable in the world (Coca-Cola's was
the first).

The death knell for this era sounded on October 24,
1978, when President Jimmy Carter signed the Airline
Deregulation Act. The merits and demerits of
deregulation aside, the long-term result for pilots
was etched in stone. There would be an erosion of
wages, working conditions, pensions, and job security.

Things got worse after the terrorist attacks of 9/11.
Because of the need for additional security, airline
pilots are locked in their cockpits behind bulletproof
doors and suffer the indignity of coordinating trips
to the lavatory with flight attendants.

The glory years are gone.

I could not have been prouder when my son Brian was
hired by TWA in 1989. Although conditions had declined
since the airlines were deregulated, being an airline
pilot was still a great job. He upgraded to captain on
the Boeing 727 11 years later. Although thrilled to be
in the left seat of a jetliner for a major carrier, he
worked harder and earned a smaller salary than I did
many years previously.

TWA was assimilated by American Airlines in 2001.
During the next two years Brian went from left seat to
right seat to the street. He had been furloughed and
eventually found a job flying Learjets for a Part 135
operator. He now flies as captain of a Canadair
Regional Jet for a commuter carrier.

Like thousands of others who have been furloughed from
the majors, he has no idea when he will be recalled.
Considering that American is reducing its need for
pilots by contractual increases in pilot productivity
and outsourcing many of its shorter, thinner routes to
commuter carriers, it could be many years before Brian
again sees an American Airlines' flight deck. Another
of my sons, Paul, began to satisfy his desire to
become an airline pilot in 2000 when he was hired by
Trans States Airline, a company that operated
TWExpress, US Airways Express, and AmericanConnection.
Paul bounced between all three and discovered after
9/11 that he was not making headway in accruing

After four domicile changes, he opted to leave Trans
States and obtain a more promising position with
United Express. He worked there for three years,
during which he had as many changes in domicile, and
discovered that the most he had earned after six years
as a commuter pilot was less than $30,000 per year. He
again foresaw little potential for a career like I had
and with great mental anguish opted to change

Paul recently started a pet-supply company, gets to
spend every night in his own bed, and has an
opportunity to develop a social life. As an airline
pilot gone from home 21 days a month, he had little
opportunity to meet someone with whom he might like to
share a future. When he did meet someone, he had
neither the time nor the money for dating.

Paul says, "It is relatively easy to get a job with a
commuter carrier, but not because these carriers are
losing pilots to the majors; they are not. The
attrition rate at the regional level is high because
so many pilots reach their limits of endurance and
quit. They find it too difficult to live on starvation
wages [especially those with families]. There usually
was nothing left in my wallet after shelling out for
commuting and crash-pad expenses."

Although these are anecdotal experiences, my frank and
personal discussions with numerous other airline
pilots corroborate my feelings about the state of the
airline industry. I can no longer encourage aspiring
airline pilots without first ensuring that they
understand the treacherous and daunting journeys
typically required to reach for such lofty goals.

Do not misunderstand. Coping with the challenges of
weather, communing with nature in a way that only
pilots can appreciate, and maneuvering a sophisticated
aircraft from one place on Earth to another remains a
stimulating and gratifying endeavor (although I think
it was more fun with less automation). It is the price
one must pay to get there that is so discouraging.

I frequently am asked for advice about becoming an
airline pilot. The best advice I can offer those
determined to endure the rigorous hardships often
required is to simultaneously develop a sideline
vocation that can be used in case of emergency. A
pilot should never get into a position that is totally
dependent on income from an airline.

Does the end justify the means? Does becoming a
captain for a major airline justify all that must be
endured to get there? Perhaps, but surviving long
enough to get there is the problem.

Posts: 151 | From: Ojai, California  |  IP: Logged
Post Captain
Member # 1792

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I was hired at TWA in 64 too. Listening to the younger pilots these days, I am convinced that we enjoyed the "Golden" years in aviation. I opted out at age 52 after 28 years with TWA. I had a second career and I could not see TWA surviving deregulation and Icahn. Strangely those who pushed so strongly for deregulation now have regrets. But we were just plain lucky and I am very grateful to have enjoyed the Golden years at TWA.

[ 05-26-2006, 13:33: Message edited by: L1011Ret ]

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Roger Moore
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Alan, I was hired in 1967 at TWA after 2 years at Hawaiian and spent 34 years with TWA and 6 months with AA. I currently make more in retirement then a close friend makes at NWA an an Air Bus Captain and this fact makes a military career far more attractive than when I was in. Roger Moore
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Bob Ritchie
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Member # 1035

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Although I have enjoyed my career; caught the tail end of the golden era, found romance, adventure, love, challenging flight, excitement and an excellent income. As one of the fortunate few of my contemporaries:I am grateful to be finishing my career as an AA B-767 captain; flying nice schedules, still making good money. The last of a beed....this profession will never again be what it once was.

Would I do it all over again? Yes, in a heartbeat. Why? Because I am a hopelessly romantic aviator. I would be flying airplanes if it were a DC-3 hauling autoparts out of Detroit in the middle of the night.

Would I recommend the industry for a youngster today? No. Not unless you share my curse...a passion for aviation.

America's best and brightest will no longer be attracted to this job. They will become doctors. lawyers and Indian Chiefs as most of us could have been.

Time, technology, familiarity and deregulation have changed our industry forever. No longer is aviation "cutting edge technology", flying is no longer mysterious and glamorous. Pilots are no longer heroic figures. Parents introduce me to their children as the "driver." Everybody has tasted commercial air travel. It is common place and has sadly become public transportation. Airline service is little more than airborne bus travel and not a heck of a lot more comfortable.

Our time has passed: like locomotives, steamships and chrome clad Buicks. Fond memories!

707s, proud airmen, gracious stewardesses, friendly staff, ladies and gentlemen: replaced by aluminum tubes,neutered pilots,indifferent cabin attendants, surly, security screeners and backpackers.

Bob Ritchie(one year to go)

[ 05-26-2006, 20:10: Message edited by: Bob Ritchie ]

Posts: 1936 | From: Warren County, Missouri  |  IP: Logged
Post Captain
Member # 1792

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There are rumors from another BB that AA may be cranking up Flagship U for some pilot recalls in the 4th quarter. Anything heard about this?
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Post Captain
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You said it, it's a rumor. This company's long range planning looks ahead about one month, that's it. Reassignments are at an all time high, reserves are maxing out every month and trips get transferred out of base on a regular basis... you'd think they need to recall soon. But if you look at furlough history at AA, they would wait until 100 or so flights were cancelling each month until they recalled. (This is what happened in '97.)

Also, with contract openers coming up, I think they plan on using the furloughees as "hostages" as long as they can. So in the meantime, they will just start parking about 30 MD80s every year or so to correspond with the # of retirements/early outs/MLOAs (instead of recalling.)

Welcome to AA and dumb business decisions.... [Confused]


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IA Farm Boy
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The news just keeps getting better and better:

Press release on jetnet...


Fleet Simplifications Target $50 Million Savings

American Airlines will further simplify its fleet by returning 19 non-standard 757-200s, previously part of the TWA fleet, to their lessors between January 2007 and March 2008. Returning the former TWA 757s at the end of the natural lease terms is a smart business decision that will save money, simplify operations, and improve efficiency as American continues to forge a different path to return to and sustain profitability.

This decision simplifies American's 757 fleet by eliminating a second cabin configuration lacking important customer amenities such as new seats, oversized overhead bins, in-flight entertainment, and powerports.

The decision to return these aircraft also reduces AA's lease costs by approximately $50 million per year and removes an aircraft with less competitive cabin amenities, therefore avoiding costly interior upgrades required to match remaining 757s. Schedule plans for 2007 are still being developed.

Despite a slight industry improvement recently, there are still underperforming parts of the network and American will continue to seek opportunities to further improve performance by reducing poor performing flying. To achieve sustained profitability, reinvest in and grow the airline, American must operate its assets - airplanes, people and facilities - with greater productivity.....

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Post Captain
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Anyone suprised? No recalls until late '07.
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