job outlook [taken from the Dallas Paper]

Grumpy01

New Member
Furloughed pilots waiting in the wings
Pilots retrench, find other jobs or just wait


11:55 AM CST on Saturday, January 17, 2004

By ANURADHA RAGHUNATHAN / The Dallas Morning News


As Tim Scherer walks from room to room with his yellow measuring tape, there are no traces of his old job in his new life.

He's measuring windows at a home in Highland Park, marking sizes and pulling out wooden shutters for display. Then he makes his pitch to the client: "We'll literally color-match anything in the world. We can make it look like anything you want."

Installing window shutters "is completely different from flying airplanes – which is my first love," said Mr. Scherer, a 34-year-old Delta Air Lines pilot from Arlington who was furloughed almost two years ago. "Not a day goes by when I don't miss flying."

He particularly misses the views from the cockpit window when he would fly through the cloud banks at sunset.

Now his construction business pays the bills.

Mr. Scherer is one of 11,000 pilots nationwide in furlough limbo. Many face years before they're recalled to the jobs they love and the salaries they became accustomed to. They're finding other ways to put food on the table, from selling real estate to taxidermy.

Brian Nastovski, 36, is a furloughed American Airlines pilot in Orlando, Fla. What had been a hobby became a profession when he lost his job.

Mr. Nastovski stuffed and mounted animal skins for customers who wanted trophies from their hunting trips.

"I couldn't get a job anywhere, and I decided, 'Let me try something that I know I'm good at,' " he said.

Mr. Scherer's job draws on construction skills that he learned on his father's farm. His Texas Deck and Woodworks does general construction. He earns 40 percent of what he made at Delta.

"My main goal has been to survive and hold on – without ruining my credit and ruining my family," said Mr. Scherer, who has a 2-year-old son and is going through a divorce.

He keeps his love of flying alive by renting single-engine airplanes at a local airport.

9-11 and more


In the summer of 2001, airline pilots were upbeat. Pilots at United Airlines Inc. had renegotiated a lucrative contract the year before, topped by Delta Air Lines Inc.'s contract in the spring. Pilots at Fort Worth-based American Airlines Inc. were preparing to negotiate a contract that was amendable on Aug. 31.
Then, on Sept. 11, terrorists hijacked and deliberately crashed two American and two United jets, killing thousands of people. The nation's air transportation system was shut down for three days. When the skies reopened, demand for flights had plummeted, and furloughs began immediately.

The industry suffered further blows from the economic downturn, war in Iraq and fears of sudden acute respiratory syndrome. In 2002, United filed for bankruptcy protection, and American nearly did last year.

Many airline employees lost their jobs besides pilots, of course – flight attendants, baggage handlers, ticket agents. The Association of Flight Attendants estimates that nearly 20,000 of the nation's 100,000 flight attendants have been furloughed since 9-11.

Both pilots and flight attendants work under a strict seniority system that determines who is furloughed.

If a pilot with 15 years' experience moves to another airline, he starts at the bottom of the ladder. Many choose to wait in the wings until their own airlines recall them.

"You could have 600 years of experience – you start all over," said Ed Stewart, a spokesman for Dallas-based Southwest Airlines Co., which is still hiring. "Even if we hire astronauts, they start at ground zero. There are only three things that matter at an airline: seniority; seniority and seniority."

Turning point?


There are other aviation jobs, of course – such as teaching at a flight school or flying for a charter company.
"There are jobs for everyone, but they're well below their previous station," said Kit Darby, president of AIR Inc., an Atlanta-based company that specializes in pilot career consulting. "A lot of new pilots made good money for the first time, and if they've gotten big homes and a new car, they're in a bad position. There are a lot of gut-wrenching decisions."

The bloodletting hasn't ended. American said it plans to furlough 223 more pilots in March.

"We're hoping that March will signal the end of the furloughs," said Mark Hettermann, vice president of flight operations at American Airlines. But "it's completely determined by the economy. It's impossible to forecast."

The airline industry has gone through one of the worst periods in its history, losing nearly $8.2 billion in 2001 and $11.2 billion in 2002, according to the Air Transport Association of America. In 2003, the industry is projected to have lost $5 billion. American is expected to post a loss for the year when it announces earnings this week.

"We've had three years of no growth in an industry that's used to tremendous growth every year," said Adam Pilarski, senior vice president at Avitas Inc., an aviation consulting firm in Virginia. "We've never had such a decline in demand."

Things are taking a slight turn for the better. But for pilots, the recall process is expected to be slow.

When furloughs hit, those lowest on the seniority list are the first to go, according to a formula settled on by union members. When the airline is ready to hire, it must tap the furlough list, and pilots with seniority are hired first.

There's no way to advance up the list quickly – they must wait for more senior pilots to retire.

Lots of questions


It's against this backdrop that furloughed pilots are trying to make sense of their lives, careers and finances.
They ask themselves: Should I wait two or three years for a possible recall and protect my seniority? Should I take a lower-paying pilot's position? Meanwhile, how do I make cuts in my lifestyle now that my salary has been cut in half?

Pilots often don't get a lot of sympathy because they're perceived as overpaid and under-worked. In the first year or so, they make $28,000 to $35,000. It's only at the peak of their careers that salaries climb to nearly $200,000. Many pilots try as hard as they can to stay with the same airline so that they hit those peak salaries. And even though salaries have been renegotiated in recent times, the field still offers a good living.

Pilots say their hours attract even more jeers than their salaries. They work 80 hours a month on average, not counting time spent preparing for a flight or in between flights.

"People think we're overpaid crybabies," said Mr. Scherer. "They think we make a lot of money and sit at home all the time. What they don't see is that we miss birthdays. We miss Christmases. We miss holidays."

And now is the time for a few more compromises if they want to stay in piloting.

Donna Miller, 43, is a furloughed American pilot in Denver. She's flying with a small charter company. Her pay has dropped from $35,000 at American to $20,000 at the new company.

She was furloughed in October 2001. One of the lowest on the seniority list, she said she plans to hang in there until American calls her back.

"A good thing for me is that nobody is counting on my income," said Ms. Miller, who's single.

Chris Rosser, 39, who was furloughed from American in February 2002, has been juggling two jobs – as a construction worker and as a full-time lead guitarist in a St. Louis rock band called Brittle Jim.

"I am convinced I am going to be recalled," said Mr. Rosser, who's let his hair grow a bit longer. "In the meantime, I am going to have some fun."

The age factor


Age is also a factor because pilots can work only until they're 60.
Pilots in their 30s tend to say they can afford to wait to get back to what they love doing, while those in their 40s are more worried about securing a retirement income.

Piloting "is just not a viable career for me," said Mitch Ballard, 44, who was furloughed from American last June. "If I was 30 years old, I'd have a lot of years to wait for the industry to sort itself out. But I'll always be a junior guy at American."

Mr. Ballard is looking to enter pharmaceutical and medical sales.

Matt Buckley, 35, one of the first furloughs, has moved on.

"I've absolutely no expectation of going back to American," Mr. Buckley said.

He and his wife sell real estate at Keller Williams Realty in Southlake. He also works for the Navy Reserves and models for TV ads in his spare time.

"We have 2,500 guys on the streets, and even if American starts a recall right now, I am 2 ½ years to three years out," he said. "I am looking at a little more stability than that."

Dream on hold


For many of the pilots, though, a new career is out of the question. They can't give up the view from the cockpit.
Brad White, 30, who lost his job at American last May, was called for active duty in the military. When he was laid off, he decided to wait for a recall and retain his seniority.

He'd paid his dues at American – two years moving from airline base to airline base, working holidays and weekends, and flying small aircraft.

"At the major airlines, you're hired as a future captain," he said. "You stay as long as you fly."

Mr. Nastovski, the taxidermist, has put down the needle and thread. He landed a job recently flying with JetBlue Airways.

Mr. Scherer figures he may have to wait two or more years to get recalled. In the meantime, he has wooden shutters, alabaster and cream window frames, and his measuring tape.

"Eventually I'll get recalled. I don't really know when. I've given up guessing. But I'll never give up on the dream of flying. If it takes 10 years, it takes 10 years."

E-mail araghunathan@dallasnews.com

 

tonyw

Well-Known Member
One thing that I like about that article is that they showed that not too many people make the $200K that got tossed around a lot. It's nice for the general public to know that even when you finally make it to the big time and fly for a major, you'll start out making $25K a year.
 

farwellbooth

Well-Known Member
Wouldn't the Jet Blue guy have to give up his seniority number at American once he took the JB job? And same with the gal...

How long do recall rights typically last? When one is on furlough does their seniority last forever or a couple years?
 

PurduePilot

New Member
[ QUOTE ]
Wouldn't the Jet Blue guy have to give up his seniority number at American once he took the JB job? And same with the gal...

[/ QUOTE ]

JetBlue doesn't make any of their pilots give up their seniority number. I believe that if AA does call back this guy, he is able to quit JetBlue and go to AA with no strings attached.
 

Derg

Cap, Roci
Staff member
Since Jetblue's pilots are on individual 5-year contracts, there should be some openings popping up now and then.
 

PurduePilot

New Member
[ QUOTE ]
Since Jetblue's pilots are on individual 5-year contracts, there should be some openings popping up now and then.

[/ QUOTE ]

Add to that the new Airbuses and Embraers (soon) that are coming on line, there should be lots of pilot positions opening up there.

I believe the rule of thumb in the industry is 4 crews per aircraft.
 

stultus

New Member
[ QUOTE ]

"My main goal has been to survive and hold on – without ruining my credit and ruining my family," said Mr. Scherer, who has a 2-year-old son and is going through a divorce.


[/ QUOTE ]

That's really sad. I hope hope his furlough didn't contribute too much to the divorce.
 
[ QUOTE ]
[ QUOTE ]
Wouldn't the Jet Blue guy have to give up his seniority number at American once he took the JB job? And same with the gal...

[/ QUOTE ]

JetBlue doesn't make any of their pilots give up their seniority number. I believe that if AA does call back this guy, he is able to quit JetBlue and go to AA with no strings attached.

[/ QUOTE ]


Is that because JetBlue pilots are non-union and AA pilots are union that an AA pilot would be able to hold on to his seniority if hired with JBLU?

Ona side note there is something wrong to me bout being an airline pilot and not belonging to a union.


Matthew
 
[ QUOTE ]
Since Jetblue's pilots are on individual 5-year contracts, there should be some openings popping up now and then.

[/ QUOTE ]

Wus dat mean?


Matthew
 

Derg

Cap, Roci
Staff member
[ QUOTE ]
[ QUOTE ]
Since Jetblue's pilots are on individual 5-year contracts, there should be some openings popping up now and then.

[/ QUOTE ]

Wus dat mean?


Matthew

[/ QUOTE ]

Means that you're hired for five years, then you have to be 'renewed' for five more years.

Too many sick calls, refuse an aircraft your chief pilot wanted you to fly or whatever and you're in jeapordy of not geting "renewed" in five years.
 

sigmanu499

New Member
its so sad, what they are going through. I know it happens almost every 10 years or so, but still so sad to go from flying to construction.
 

flyboy04

Well-Known Member
I used to want like everything to one day be a major airline pilot, but after reading this and similuar articles i think that after years of flying for a regional and even being a captain persay, it would be a really hard decision to leave for a major. Just seems better at this point to retire with a regional rather than take the seniority cut.
 

Derg

Cap, Roci
Staff member
It's a gamble because even regionals arent' all that safe. Granted they're lifeboats, but if it's a wholly owned carrier of a failing major, the regional will get dragged down as well.

If American airlines went chapter 7, the creditors will start repossessing MD-80s AND Embraer 145's alike.

If Delta went out of business, dollars to donuts, Comair and ASA, being divisions of the mother corporation, are going deep six as well.

Independents such as Skywest should do relatively OK as long as there are other contracts they can pick up under the pay-per-departure agreements.

I think the only 'safe buoy' in aviation is to be independently wealthy and own your own aircraft.

I don't mean to start a flame war, but when it comes down to the straight facts, that's pretty much the truth.
 
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