Pilot Career Losing Luster

A300Capt

Freight Dawg
Pilot career losing it's luster?


A hint of destiny was scribbled among the goals in John Diacsuk's eighth-grade yearbook in 1966: become an engineer, go to West Point and fly jetliners.

Who could blame the Teaneck, N.J., youngster? Back then, being a jet jockey was just about the coolest thing in the world.

"The Mercury astronauts of the 1960s were pilots, and shows such as 'Sky King' and '12 O'Clock High' were playing on TV," Diacsuk recalled.

Now, at 6-foot-4 and 240 pounds, Diacsuk has the swagger of Chuck Yeager with his deep-blue American Airlines uniform and salt-and-pepper hair. Four stripes on each sleeve signify he has made it to the top of his profession as an MD-80 captain for the world's largest airline.

Yet his greatest fear these days is landing in the unemployment line. His pay has been cut by almost a fourth because of losses at American that forced unions into concessions worth $1.8 billion.

Since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, two airlines have filed for bankruptcy protection, billions of dollars have been lost, and tens of thousands of jobs have been eliminated. Just last week, pilots at Air Canada agreed to a 15 percent pay cut and 317 layoffs to help save their insolvent airline.

The glamour of the cockpit has turned into a fading vapor trail.

No simulator on Earth could have prepared airline pilots for the latest turbulence. In the past two years, 8,300 pilots have been laid off. Experts say there are 85,000 to 100,000 airline pilots in this country.

Furloughed pilots are usually placed on a recall list so they can be hired back when the economy turns around, but the current downturn could ground many pilots for good.

"It has been the worst economic and employment crisis in the history of the airline business," said John Mazor, a spokesman for the Air Line Pilots Association, the largest pilots union in the country.

So, when Scottie Clark, a captain at United Airlines, hears talk about overpaid pilots, she laughs.

"I've heard that we all make $300,000 a year," Clark said. "I don't think anyone worries about what we make after we've put a plane on the ground in a bad snowstorm when the runway wasn't cleared."

George Hopkins, author of three books on pilot unions and a professor at Western Illinois University in Macomb, Ill., said most pilots aren't in big-money jobs.

"Today, a first officer (co-pilot), depending on seniority, would be hard pressed to make $100,000 a year," Hopkins said. "They only fly 85 hours a month for reasons of fatigue. I defy anyone to say they don't put in a hard day's work."

"What's different about being a pilot now is that you hold your breath about your job and hope the airline holds together," said Diacsuk, 51. "I would bet you half of my co-pilots will be furloughed this year. The bulletin boards are full of houses for sale and cars for sale."

Pilots can't change airlines without losing pay and seniority. A captain such as Diacsuk, with 14 years experience, can earn $130,000 to $150,000 a year. "If I go to another airline, I'll go to the bottom of the seniority list and make $21,000 a year," he said, declining to reveal his salary.

If he stays with American, he could be demoted to first officer -- losing another 21 percent while possibly working longer hours.

Diacsuk, who despite his New Jersey roots speaks to passengers in a Southern twang picked up at Clemson University, said he might spend a 14-hour day flying four legs between cities. The day might include a trip from Newark, N.J., to Chicago, then to St. Louis, back to Chicago and a return flight to Newark.

"You could get 10 of those days a month," he said.

Diacsuk commutes to Newark from Pen Argyl, about 15 miles north of Easton in Pennsylvania where taxes and the cost of living are cheaper than in his home state.

A former Navy helicopter pilot, Diacsuk began training at age 37 to fly jetliners in Dallas when American was cranking out dozens of pilots every month.

"It was like Star Fleet academy," he said.

Not anymore.

"Some pilots are teaching, and some are trying to go back to active duty," he said. "Some will never fly again."

Diacsuk isn't sure how long he'll be with American.

"I have a friend who was a flight attendant, and he is now selling cars," he said. "I'll probably end up selling real estate."
 

bramlett

New Member
wow, the truth hurts doesnt it...

i guess this article will cause some of us aspiring pilots to see the other side of what we hope to become...
 

mtsu_av8er

Well-Known Member
Honestly, I kinda hope some of the weaker people start losing hope....more jobs available for me!!!


OK, OK...kinda mean, but it's still true!
 

IrishSheepdog

Sitting in the median
Eh, whatever, this job still beats many others. It's all about your attitude and work ethic honestly. If you get into the career thinking it will be an easy cakewalk, well you are mistaken. It is a tough job, but one which is undoubtedly one of the most interesting and exciting you can have.
 

falconcaller

New Member
This adds impact to the possibility of the retirement age going to 66- I was talking to a Delta 767 captain (I didn't see his nametag) and he said that several thousand airline pilots will be reaching age 60 sometime next year or two........Who knows what's left of the industry even with that?
 

E_Dawg

Moderator
A300Captain, can you immagine yourself doing anything else? Was/is it worth it? If you had to start over would you do the same thing?
 

A300Capt

Freight Dawg
[ QUOTE ]
A300Captain, can you immagine yourself doing anything else

[/ QUOTE ]

Yes, I could, actually. Having to deal with the daily hassles and BS (and there are many) involved with the job over the years has taken most, if not all, of the fun out of flying for me. I still get some satisfaction out of flying the airplane but my goal now is to find more time at home with my family and enjoy other things.

[ QUOTE ]
Was/is it worth it?

[/ QUOTE ]

Yes, to a point, but the price can be very high financially, personally and emotionally for those trying to break into the business and there are NO guarantees of success even after paying your dues.

[ QUOTE ]
If you had to start over would you do the same thing?

[/ QUOTE ]

Knowing what I know now....NO.

Before I get the usual hate mail from someone about "I can't believe anyone would get tired of flying" or "Man, I'd fly for free, 100 hrs a month if I could until I was 100 yrs old". Realistically, until you've been there, done that in this industry for a while and lived it from the inside, you will never truly understand where I'm coming from. It does just become a job after awhile with the same headaches and stresses any other job presents. Remember, I use to be that kid saying the exact quotes above. If this industry and job can change my attitude now, from my attitude as a kid, it can change anybody.
 

Derg

Cap, Roci
Staff member
[ QUOTE ]

Before I get the usual hate mail from someone about "I can't believe anyone would get tired of flying" or "Man, I'd fly for free, 100 hrs a month if I could until I was 100 yrs old". Realistically, until you've been there, done that in this industry for a while and lived it from the inside, you will never truly understand where I'm coming from. It does just become a job after awhile with the same headaches and stresses any other job presents. Remember, I use to be that kid saying the exact quotes above. If this industry and job can change my attitude now, from my attitude as a kid, it can change anybody.

[/ QUOTE ]

A free adult beverage of your choice if I ever run into you on a layover!


But you don't have to deal with gate agents ferrociously accusing you of delaying flights because you wrote up an "Anti Skid Fault". Maybe you do, I dunno!
 

fly22

Well-Known Member
[ QUOTE ]
Geez Im gettin depressed.

[/ QUOTE ]. Try getting furloughed, that would be dpressing
 

Jason

Well-Known Member
Getting furloughed would be depressing?? Ha. Those are the good times - at least with a furlough you will probably(may) be able to go back to your job at some point - be it 10 months or 10 years from now.

After being one of those naive starry eyed kids that A300 commented about and after busting my hump for 4 years in college spending every minute I could at the airport, flying everything I could, kissing butts from the East Coast to the West, spending(literally) at least 1 to 2 hours EVERY day thinking about what I could do to advance my career I graduated from one of the premier aviation programs in the country(Purdue) in May of 1998 - in the past 5 years(which isn't a great deal of time) I have had a total of 5 flying jobs. I have busted my a$$ at each of those jobs to be a 'star employee' at each - I lost 3 of those jobs thru no fault of my own - and remember - this was in the "good times" of the late 90's!!! I currently have a job - yes it's a flying job and yes it's in a large corporate jet but on the scale of aviation jobs it's one of the worst • a$$ flying jobs I've ever seen. (and before I get blasted - it wasn't that bad of a job when I took it in Sep of '01 - it has gotten prgressively worse). I send out resumes and letters every week - I have thousands of hours of multi turbine time and 2 jet type ratings plus a turboprop type rating - I have not gotten so much as a bite.

I go to work and I do my job to the best of my ability. I keep my mouth shut and don't complain(except for the occasional venting session on here
) and at the end of the day I take the classified section of the paper off the airplane with me and look thru the help wanted ads(non-flying). I feel INCREDIBLY let down by this career so to say that it has 'lost it's luster' is an understatement. Flying used to be a passion of mine, now it's my job, it wouldn't bother me at all to go to a non flying job and fly on the side - who knows - maybe it would become a passion again.

Jason
 

cointyro

New Member
Ummm... the voice of reason and experience speaks. Thanks Doug, Jason, and A300Capt.

So the answer? Dispatching! Woohoo!

Well, maybe. It is just shift work though... pay is not great but you're in ops everyday helping run the aviation world
 

Mr_Creepy

Well-Known Member
braid I know you are kidding.

The honest answer is that it's not what we thought it would be, not what we "heard" it would be (although honestly I had tons of people warning me, I just didn't listen), or not what we were promised by flight schools. I am glad I never went to a big flight school or did (dare I mention it) PFT!

Then I would really have some regrets!

There certainly have been many bright moments and looking back, I'm glad I did it, but I am also glad I kept software consulting as a back up career.
 

Jason

Well-Known Member
I agree John - looking back on it I would probably do it again. Would I give my heart and soul to it like I did this time? Probably not. There were many many bright spots along the way and there aare still bright spots every now and then - I don't go to work everyday hating the world or anything.

I don't know if this will make sense to all you guys but here goes - I enjoyed the road to get here, I just don't necessarily like where it took me.

I loved flight instructing - if only it paid $100K a year!
 

ready2fly

Well-Known Member
Well - guess we'll all have to find out on our own.

We all have personal experiences that take the shine off of things we love. For as many of the gentlemen on here who are saying that they would not do it again - not one of them is quitting... so, that says something about it right there.

Guess the experience is what you make of it. Everything becomes a job after a while.

Additionally, for as many current professional pilots who do not enjoy what they do anymore - there are just as many who absolutely love it and wouldn't trade it for the world.

As with anything though - it's the nay-sayers that usually yell the loudest... so, that's what we're hearing right now.

I've both agreed and disagreed with a lot of the negativity that I've heard on this board to the point where it boils down to this:

I hear you.... and I believe that YOU (generic "you" meaning those who say they wouldn't do it again.... but are still doing it) may not like it. That's not to mean that I, and a lot of the others, won't LOVE it.

One of the individuals on this site who is a Captain for one of the most highly-reputable regionals in the U.S. said recently that he goes to work, does his job and stays out of the political mess that seems to be getting everyone down on airline flying.... and he LOVES his job.

As the saying goes "your milage may vary."

I'm not one of those folks who will sit in a career that I hate sayiing "don't do this, it sucks" for the rest of my life. Example: I hate the legal field - some people LOVE it - I don't - so, I'm getting out.

That's just me though. I put my money where my mouth is. I will not be miserable for the rest of my life. That may work for some, not for me.

I still would like to know: If it sucks so bad - why are you still doing it?.

Peace
R2F
 
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