Saturday, January 17, 2009

Glorified Taxi Drivers?

Quite a long time ago, pilots were thought of pretty highly. The amount of training and dedication required to become a pilot was tremendous as well as very expensive. When passengers boarded an aircraft, they not only dressed well for the flight, but were highly respectful of the crew members.

For some reason this has all changed. From the corporate pilots to the commercial air carriers, the respect for air crews have drastically changed for the worse. I have personally been on the receiving side of passengers that felt that I was a glorified taxi driver, and that they could treat me in any manner they well pleased. This is also the reports that I hear from countless other pilot friends that I have. I have heard passengers say, "All you do is sit up there with the autopilot on and the plane flies itself." Hearing this kind of remark absolutely infuriates me. The amount of training that we have to go through on a yearly basis by far surpasses the amount of training that any other profession requires. I am not paid for just flying the plane from point A to point B. I am paid for the emergency that could happen between point A and point B. I am paid for the skill that will be required to maintain control of the aircraft under extreme stressful circumstances and land it safely no matter what failures have occurred.

I have tried to explain this phenomenom to many people, and the response is generally the same: "Yeah, but how often does something really ever happen ?"

Flight 1549 was supposed to be a simple, routine 1 hour 20 minute flight from LaGuardia to Charlotte, NC. Captain Sully had probably flown this flight countless was routine, simple. But this time was not so routine or simple. This time required ALL of the emergency training the crew of flight 1549 had accumulated over the years, compacted into 3 to 4 minutes. He was now flying a 162,000 pound glider! No autopilot! Nothing routine at all. He had to guage a landing into an area that he, or anyone else for that matter, had never landed before. All of the emergency procedures had to be completed by the flight crew (pilot and copilot, as well as the flight attendants) in a matter of a few minutes. The plane had to be alligned properly over the water as to not hit a wing on the water, or to hit any obstruction along the way. The plane had to be delicately touched down into the water in such a way that it did not flip over upon impact. The flight attendants had to be cognizant of the fact that this landing required extreme prompt execution of procedures to keep everyone calm and moving quickly, as they would have less than 2 minutes to move some 150 people from the plane in the event that the plane were to sink.

All of these things accomplished by an extremely competantly trained crew in probably less than 5 to 6 minutes from the initial bird ingestion.

Glorified taxi drivers?? I don't think so! So the next time you see a pilot crew stepping onto the plane, I want you to think about the countless hours of training that have been endured just for that simple flight you are on. The next time you see a very tired flight attendant, who has been in the air all day, calmly enduring the rash of a very rude passenger, please come to his/her aid. If you are a corporate aircraft owner, I hope you bite your tongue the next time you want to dish out a rashion of crap towards your pilot because you are kicking the dog for a bad day that you had at the office. These pilots and crew deserve our utmost respect. They have all of our lives in their hands everytime we set foot on that plane. They have trained countless hours for the one day in their careers that they have to land in the river and save the lives of many!