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Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Respect your pilot. But remember, it's a two-way street.

I encountered an old friend the other day and the issue of respect, specifically as it applied to pilots arose during the conversation. A remark was made that gave me pause. There was a suggestion that anyone without a pilot’s certificate was “unskilled” labor at our airline. I think I know what he might have been trying to say. I suspect in his zeal to express personal frustrations he made a very poor choice of words.

There is always controversy over the recognition and consideration the company gives for the special skill set the pilots bring to the company. There is no questioning the role we play from departure to gate arrival and beyond. Without pilots an airplane simply would not move at departure time.

In my life I have been a producer, seller and consumer of many goods and services. It is fair to say if airline pilots did their jobs with the same level of attention and diligence as much of the world it would literally rain aluminum every day. We operate in a terribly unforgiving environment. Subject to some of the most intense governmental scrutiny of any endeavor save nuclear power. We undergo medical exams every six months. We are tasked with routine training and “checkrides”(sometimes unannounced) from both company officials and the FAA. We spend large amounts of time on the road –away from our families. Pilots bear the ultimate responsibility of ensuring every person that boards an airliner arrives at their destination safely. We control thousands of dollars of revenue and operational expenses with every departure. We take these responsibilities seriously. The job, like any, is filled with frustrations. With the TSA X-raying our shoes before we are permitted near the $200 million aircraft with 200 souls aboard is it any wonder so many are frustrated by the perceived lack of respect?

Concurrently, the following is not lost on me (or the vast majority of my colleagues): At departure time - without the skills and hard work of others- pilots would literally find themselves untrained, solo, in a broken, dirty, empty airplane parked who-knows-where on the airport. Unable to fly out of town to avoid the angry mob inside the airport or the airplane “repo-man” outside - for lack of fuel in the plane! The repo-man and some in the mob would likely be armed.

Truth be told, I could no more fix a flight simulator, board an oversold 767, repair a jet engine or singularly make a decision on the next corporate bond issuance than the ten year old gazing through the airport fence could land a Jumbo Jet on a stormy night.

We need to remember: As employees, without one another we are largely irrelevant. Our company would be nothing but real estate and empty, cold aluminum shells worthy only of the smelter.

Every person, from the Chairman on down to our most junior employee is worthy of respect from every other member of the team. Fact is, I appreciate and respect every one of my co-workers and thank them for the job they do every day.

With so many folks predicting our imminent demise I’m reminded daily by my co-workers we will surely prevail.

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