It cracks me up to see this article STILL floating around. I wrote that in 2004 for a friend at Comair who was complaining about some of the young'ns he had to fly with at Comair. It took about 15 minutes to write, and just was a joke.
When I was done I thought it was funny so I posted it on one of those other aviation message boards. Well, my buddy thought it was funny too, so he sent it to the Comair ALPA newsletter and they printed it (after some minor edits).
A year or two later, I saw it again -- this time it had been reprinted on glossy paper and reworded slightly again to make the focus Jetblue. Now every so often i'll see it on someone's blog or on a message board like this. That little 15 minute article has had more legs than I ever could have imagined when I sat down to write it.
You have to read it a little more critically to really gather who it was aimed at, and why.
It was written to gently tease those pilots who felt entitled to rapid career progression at any cost. Remember, my friend was at Comair. So the people he was talking about went to "the Academy" and were given an automatic or preferential interview at Comair. They went from zero time to a Seminole to an RJ in record time. Their flight instructors in the late 1990s had an even faster career progression. Remember, in 1999 people were getting hired by the regionals and upgrading before they had even seen 4 seasons. Many of us at THAT time lamented the fact that someone who had done all of their training in Florida, and had never seen snow/ice was experiencing that phenomenon for the FIRST time as a Captain on a regional jet!
<<Fade to daylight. Sanford Airport, Comair academy, summer, the 19 year old CFI climbing into a Seminole with his student>>
Sally: "It's now been six weeks since Jimmy started his new job. He has almost 60 hours of instructing under his belt. The symptoms of SJS have already begun to manifest themselves. Jimmy is a victim. He constantly complains about his lack of career progression. With a little over 500 hours total time and zero actual instrument, Jimmy had expected to be flying a regional jet by now."
So here we are gently teasing young Jimmy because he doesn't understand -- he has no frame of reference for why HE has not moved to the regionals as quickly as his instructor has. Remember, we're talking shortly after 9/11. So Jimmy and his kind are experiencing a very different hiring environment than those who came just a year or two before.
Sally: "A year later, SJS has fully taken him over. Jimmy is a regional jet co-pilot now. Let's watch..."
<<fade in on Jimmy walking through the terminal. He is wearing a uniform of sorts. He is carrying his hat, listening to his IPod, with his backpack tossed over his shoulder. His hair is frosted at the tips and he chews gum as he strolls through the terminal. He see's "RJ" - the Comair mascot up ahead, and thinks of how cool it is to fly for an airline with a big, fuzzy, talking, RJ for a mascot.>>
In this paragraph we make light of the fact that Comair had a mascot named "R. Jay". Some poor guy had to dress up in the R Jay outfit and pander to children in the terminal. It was cute, in the same way that the Valujet "Critter" was cute. But we drew the parallel to other institutions that had mascots... like Chucky Cheese. It was a "Mickey Mouse" operation -- no pun intended. And, of course, even in 2002 there was the younger generation of pilot who lacked the experience to realize that wearing the uniform properly displayed pride in the profession. (and those of us who had thinning hair and were in our second time around at the commuters might have been a bit jealous too).
Sally: "Jimmy looks happy now, he's an airline pilot. With less than one-thousand hours total time though, Jimmy is a burden to the Captains he flies with. His ego is enormous. He feels as though he is a modern day Ernest Gann or SkyKing but without the autopilot and flight director he is borderline dangerous. He is lazy, apathetic, and still angry. He had expected to be working for a major airline right now."
<<camera pans to Jimmy peering outside the terminal at a Boeing 737...and then, an EMB170 taxies out from behind it. A crooked smile forms on Jimmy's lips. Fade to black.>>
<<Fade to daylight. The cockpit of an EMB190. The year is 2010 and Jimmy is a Captain.>>
Again we return to the theme of the article. Unrealistic expectations. Jimmy thought that after just 6 months or a year at the commuter, he would upgrade -- just like his instructor did. He didn't of course. He's sitting in the terminal fantasizing about the 737 when all of the sudden the EMB170 taxies around the bend...
When it was first in the planning stages and Chautauqua announced that they would buy some of these suckers, there was no question as to what they were going to do with them. The DC9s, F100s, 737-200s, BAC1-11s, BAe146s... all of the narrow-body, 100 pax aircraft that had recently gone to the dessert, was being replaced by low paid, low experience workers. And these kids were chomping at the bit to fly them!! They were accepting pay and working conditions that were prepostrous for such a large airplane. So naturally, we had to tease them a bit in the hopes that they might WAKE UP.
The next paragraph makes that clear:
Sally: "SJS has finally claimed its victim. Jimmy -- for the time being -- is happy. His airline flies an armada of narrow-body, Embraer jets that carry as many as 120 passengers. Jimmy gets paid less today than a city bus driver. He earns less than an Amtrak conductor. On average he is earning more than $100/hr LESS than the major-airline pilots he has replaced. His copilot, Sean, has been an airline pilot for about one month. He is elated to be flying a big-jet for $20,000/yr. As long as his parents continue to send those allowance checks, this could be the best job ever!"
Now we're just plain smacking poor Jimmy over the head with a phone book. Trying to get him to see the negative impact of the E170 on the major airline career that he WANTED to have. Thousands of good paying major airline jobs vaporized (DC9, F100, etc... copilot jobs) when they were replaced by small-gage aircraft called "RJs" in name only. What is an RJ? It's an airplane. If I put the letters R and J behing Boeing 777... does that mean the commuters should fly it?
So next we get specific about who we are poking fun at:
"Do YOU know someone who is a victim of SJS? Watch for these warning signs! "
- Do you know a CFI who has applied at Mesa or Boston/Maine?
- Do you know a CFI who is burned out after 6 weeks of instructing?
- Do you know a student pilot who has answered an flight school ad for "guaranteed interview with our regional airline partner"?
- Do you know a pilot who has purchased a CRJ type-rating?
- Do you know a regional-jet pilot who has purchase a 737 type-rating?
- Do you know an airline pilot who has taken concessions in order to allow their company to purchase larger airplanes?
- Do you know a pilot who believes that AirTran and Jetblue are the "majors" they've wanted to work for for "their whole lives"?
- Do you know any member of the RJDC who STILL BELIEVES that mainline pilots are hurting their career expectations?
- Do you know any airline pilots who refuse to dress in their uniform as specified by their SOP because "if they wanted me to dress better, they'd pay me better"?
- Do you know any airline pilots who carry their hats for 4-days without ever putting it on their head?
- Do you know any airline pilots who wear a backpack rather than carry adult-luggage?
- Have you flown with copilots who say, "I cant believe they pay us to do this!!"?
- Do you know any individual whose first "real" job involved carrying 50-90 people in the back of a jetliner?
- Do you know any regional jet pilot who drops the "Express" or "Connection" portion of their airline name while using their profession to attempt to pick up women in a bar?
Doesn't take a rocket-scientist to see the kind of people this article was aimed at.
Well, you can't just complain without proposing a solution. So even this article proposed some lighthearted solutions for the plague of SJS. If you'll look at the list -- some of these aren't lighthearted at all. In fact, you've probably seen me post the same opinion here in the last 7 days.
Sally: "If the answer to any of those questions was "yes" your friend might have SJS. Watch for these warning signs. SJS is a violent and dangerous disease. If left unchecked for too long the entire airline piloting profession will be NEUTERED. It is important to stop it in its tracks. Together we can reach that goal."
"Here at the Jets R' Neat Institute we are researching cures for SJS. We've developed revolutionary cures including:
- Make minimum experience requirements to fly part 121 at LEAST as stringent as part 135 minimums -- and make it a regulation.
- Shut down all flight schools that "guarantee" interviews.
- Raise CFI pay so that pilots are more likely to spend time in that position.
- Require that each part 121 candidate have at least 500 hours PIC (not instructor time) operating within the IFR system in day and night, and in all weather conditions.
- Preference to be given to pilots who have held jobs outside of aviation.
- Bryan Bedford and Johnathan Orenstein to be executed publically at dawn.
- Duane Woerth will be forced to watch the execution of the above before being surprised by his own execution. He's just too stupid to be left in charge of ALPA.
And then we close our little infomercial with a reminder of how much major airline pilots USED to earn...and how that earning power was diminished by the continuned attacks of the profession by management -- the RJ being the single most powerful tool they had ever used to do so:
Sally: "We've done a lot, but you can help. For just $246 per day you can sponser a flight instructor or regional airline pilot.
For less than the cost of a good-quality, high definition television you can sponser an aspiring airline pilot and show them what life would be like if they actually made the money that major airline pilots used to make. This is the first step in ending SJS."
<<camera fades to Jimmy's Comair Academy enrollment photo. He's shaking hands with mascot "RJ">>
"Jimmy needs your help. Please send your check for $7626/month to:
The Jets R' Neat Institute for the Elimination of SJS
C/O Doctor Sven Rosenstein
Happy Valley Trailer Park
Coraopolis, PA 15108"
<<we now return you to your regularly scheduled episode of Spongebob>>
This message has been sponsered by people on reserve with entirely too much free time!
So in reality, this post was not aimed at young pilots who accepted jobs at the commuters with very low time. On the contrary it was aimed at the impact of the RJ on the pilot profession. The SJS phenomenon was a symptom of the fact that the entitlement generation felt as though these new "big jets" (Guppy Killers?) were a GOOD thing because they accelerated their career progression -- up until the point that that progression stopped at a brick wall. They just didn't GET the fact that once these 70, 90, 100 seat airplanes were at the commuters, those jobs were gone forever at the majors.
So don't take this as a personal attack or an instructional manual on how many hours you should fly before you go to the commuters. Take it for what it was. Lighthearted commentary on a generational change that was occuring at the commuters after 9/11...and the frustration that many furloughed major airline pilots felt at watching the next generation of pilots embrace that change.
I must say I feel a little humbled by the fact that something I wrote several years ago still makes the rounds. Thanks for bringing it up.