19 December 2007

Why does she put up with me?

Last night Smittygirl laid a page of yesterday's Wall Street Journal on my bed. I didn't read the whole thing, just skimmed it; the article was about how regional air carriers are having trouble finding pilots. Which amazes me. All of my flying career I dealt with people who fervently believed they couldn't get airline jobs on the outside because so many pilots got furloughed by the American airlines after 9/11. Of course six years later even though the airline companies themselves are still in rotten financial shape, there are more flights than ever--and international companies are growing by leaps and bounds as the world gets richer. Since most ex-military pilots probably would have no trouble moving overseas for a few years to build hours with a foreign flag carrier--indeed, most pilots of any sort would do so because building hours is too expensive to do on your own--there's a pilot shortage now. Not at the main carriers, but at the regional level. In fact they're hiring first officers for regional carriers with as few as 400 total flight hours and as few as 50 total multi-engine flight hours.

I haven't flown in two years so I know I'm not a top candidate for any flying job. But I have over 1100 total flight hours and over 900 total multi-engine hours and already have my commercial multi-engine and instrument certificates. Surely a regional carrier like American Eagle or Comair or ExpressJet would take a chance on me as quickly as on a fresh-faced new kid straight out of pilot school with 450 hours. Right?

Smittygirl isn't wild about the idea of me taking a job flying. It's a relatively dangerous job--though, as she pointed out last night, it's not like being a fireman or something. Flying is safe on a relative basis--if you fly twice a year the odds of your being on a plane that crashes is outrageously slim--but risk increases with frequency (as with all things; the risk of dying by accidentally stabbing yourself with a feather pen may be outrageously low but it's much higher if you fancy such pens and use them all the time). There are, on average, between 1 and 2 airline crashes per year in this country (in some years there are none, including 1984, 1993, 1997, 1998, 2002, and 2005; the average over the last 25 years is close to 1, maybe about 1.1 or so), so the odds are very low, even for a professional pilot who makes, say, 45 flights per month (I'm guessing that's about average for a regional carrier but I could be way off). But plane crashes are horrifying things and regardless of how slim the odds of one occurring are, the fear is still going to be there.

But she knew after showing me that article that I'd want to look into getting a job with a regional carrier. I've already looked at American Eagle's website, and they're taking applications for pilots with 400 hours. Comair wants 600. ExpressJet won't say what they want but they encourage you to reapply in 3 months if you're rejected for not having enough flight hours. Mesa Air, which operates flights for Continental, United, Delta, US Airways, etc, is taking applications with 500 flight hours.

She knew I'd be hungry to apply. She'd probably rather that I did something else. She showed me the article anyway. I'd have been happy to assume I had no chance and forget about it.

Last night at the chinese restaurant, I got a fortune cookie. My fortune read: You are a happy man. Smittygirl is a huge part of why that's true.


Ayzair said...

Good luck with your decision!

Rick I said...

I think that this would be great for you if it is what you choose to do. I know that you love flying, and this is a way to do it for free and not have to necessarily cut your hair. The fact that she actually presented you with the article means that she is potentially cool with it. Having the skills that we do is a great ace to keep in our back pocket. I have also thought about going back to ATC. I'm sure that as flying commercially has less additional bs, air traffic for the FAA would be as well. Good luck