APA: 'Pilots responsible for assets worth $100 million or more
and hundreds of lives every day they're on the job'
The Allied Pilots Association (APA),
collective bargaining agent for the 13,500 pilots of American
Airlines, released the following statement in response to an
article originally posted to the CBS Market Watch Web
"On behalf of the pilots who fly for American Airlines, the world's
largest passenger carrier, I would like to register my strong
objection at finding 'Pilots for major airlines' included in the
piece by Chris Pummer entitled 'The 10 most overpaid jobs in the
U.S.' posted to the CBS Market Watch Web Site earlier this month,"
said Captain John E. Darrah (below, right), APA President.
"Airline pilots for major carriers must undergo years of
specialized training and experience before assuming responsibility
for a corporate asset worth $100 million or more and hundreds of
lives every day we're on the job--a profession where we undergo
annual proficiency checks, rigorous recurrent training, biannual
medical exams, psychological screening and random drug testing, and
where any number of relatively minor health ailments can abruptly
end our career," said Darrah.
"Many of our pilots are initially
trained in the military in service to our country, and begin their
airline careers at the age of 30 or older. In fact, we have more
than 500 pilots currently on active military duty, with many in
harm's way in the Middle East. And speaking of harm's way, each
time our pilots go to work, they do so with the awareness that a
number of their fellow crewmembers were savagely murdered by
terrorists just two short years ago. As a consequence of September
11, 2001, increasing numbers of our pilots are undergoing training
as Federal Flight Deck Officers to carry firearms and serve as the
vital last line of defense against a terrorist attack--yet another
example of the life-and-death responsibilities that our pilots
"The average age of an American Airlines new-hire pilot is
around 30 years old, and the typical annual starting salary for
pilots with major airlines is around $25,000. There are few
professions that require such extensive training and experience at
the outset that provide such a low starting salary. The
well-compensated airline pilots that Mr. Pummer references are
senior Captains with 25-plus years of experience, and they're
flying the largest aircraft, with the biggest passenger loads, over
the longest distances in commercial aviation.
"While I agree that the work our skilled mechanics perform is
vitally important, it's the pilots who bring the ship back safely
to earth when something goes wrong. It's not 'automation' or
'technology' that saves hundreds of lives when an aircraft suffers
structural failure or the malfunction of a critical component--it's
the pilots. How much value do you place on that skill level?
"In just the last few weeks, we have had American Airlines
pilots cope with a variety of emergency situations, such as safely
landing an aircraft with the nose gear stuck in the 'up' position
and, on three occasions, safely landing aircraft that have
sustained crippling damage to the engines and airframe from
striking large flocks of migratory birds," he said.
"There are numerous other instances where pilots have
successfully averted disaster over the years. Consider the 291
passengers aboard an AirTransat A330-200 in the Azores on August
24, 2001 after both engines lost power at cruise altitude due to a
leak in the fuel system. The pilots were able to coax the huge jet
to glide without power for 20 minutes for about 115 miles over the
ocean and land on a military airfield runway, averting a mid-ocean
ditching. Did the passengers who gratefully deplaned that day think
their pilots were overpaid? I am betting the answer is a resounding
Note: Since the September 11, 2001
terrorist attacks, American Airlines has furloughed more than 2,000
pilots, with additional furloughs scheduled in the coming months.
The contract American Airlines' pilots voted to approve earlier
this year contained across-the-board pay cuts of 23 percent. In
many instances, pilots have experienced actual pay reductions of up
to 40 percent because they have been transferred from Captain to
First Officer due to the airline's reduction in operations.