Tuesday, June 14, 2005

The Career Killer

The airplane I fly has some mildly amusing nicknames at my airline: Megawhacker, Daddy Dash, Footlong, and my favorite, Trauma Tube (lots of turbulence-related FA injuries). To this list add my own contribution: Career Killer.

None of the captains on my airplane seem to have any motivation to go to the majors. Granted, there are rather few majors hiring right now, but none of them are even interested in, say, Southwest. A lot of these captains are in their 50s, so there's a good reason for them to hang around. But even the younger guys, with years of flying left ahead of them, seem content to stay put for the next 25 years.

The pay, trips, working conditions, etc, is better at the majors, even at those who've taken paycuts recently. The MegaWhacker, however, offers just enough to keep the young guys from jumping ship. The trips kinda suck, lots of time away from base, but at least they're based in Portland. The pay is $80+/hr, enough to live on comfortably, and you wouldn't make that much until your third or fourth year as an FO at a major. And then, a lot of these guys have been captains long enough that the thought of becoming an FO again has to ennerve them. They'd have to actually work. Being a MegaWhacker captain is a pretty easy, cushy job.

So they just show up for work every day, put in some easy time, take home a nice paycheck, and the next thing they know, they're a 20-year turboprop captain at a regional airline. Good for them, if that's what makes them happy. Meanwhile, I'm over here in the right seat completely grating my teeth at the thought of taking seven or eight years to upgrade because the company isn't growing and at least half the captains are lifers. And when I do, it'll be in a smaller airplane...I'll hopefully be gone before I can hold a captain slot in my current plane.

So the upsides of my airline - good pay, nice equipment, great bases - translate into the downside to my airline: nobody leaves, not after the Career Killer takes it's toll. I try not to think about it too much. I go hiking in the Gorge instead.