Archive for October, 2011

Ask the pilot series – Part 5 of 6: Satellite-based air traffic control (ATC) systems

ExpertFlyer Hot Topics — Where the Rubber Meets the Runway

Expert Flyer is featuring a special six-part “Ask the Pilot” series.  Our expert, Patrick Smith, is an aviator and the author of Salon.com’s popular ASK THE PILOT air travel column.  He also hosts the ASK THE PILOT resource site: www.askthepilot.com. Please enjoy this fifth installment of our series.

(Part 5 of 6)

Future of Air Traffic Control

The future of air traffic control

New satellite-based air traffic control (ATC) systems – Will they help or hinder the issue of flight delays?

Certainly the “NextGen” advances are welcome and long overdue.  They will improve the capabilities of our airspace system.  They will not, however, cure the delays crisis.

Delays are not an airspace issue so much as a * ground space * issue.  You can streamline the en route airway structure all you want, but a runway can only accommodate so many takeoffs and landings per hour, period.

Ultimately this is about airline scheduling, and the industry’s berserk infatuation with regional jets.  More people are flying than ever before, but they are doing so aboard smaller planes.  At airports like LaGuardia and Washington-Reagan, over * half * of the traffic consists of RJs.  That’s fifty percent of the traffic carrying maybe 25 or 30 percent of passengers – an inefficient use of space both aloft and on the tarmac. Continue reading →

Ask the pilot series – part 4 of 6: Pilot shortages

Expert Flyer Hot Topics — Where the Rubber Meets the Runway

Expert Flyer is featuring a special six-part Hot Topic series called, “Ask the Pilot.”  Our expert, Patrick Smith, is an aviator and the author of Salon.com’s popular ASK THE PILOT air travel column.  He also hosts the ASK THE PILOT resource site: www.askthepilot.com. Please enjoy this fourth installment of our series.

(Part 4 of 6)

Otto the Auto Pilot pictured from the movie "Airplane"

Is there really a shortage of pilots?

It’s been reported that some airlines have  cancelled  routes due to the lack of pilots to fly their planes.  In general, is there a shortage of pilots in the industry?  Why?

We often hear of the looming “pilot shortage.”  In fact there will never be a shortage of pilots, per se.  However, there is indeed may be a shortage of applicants who possess the level of qualifications traditionally sought after.  And at least in North America, this crisis, for lack of a better term, exists almost exclusively at the regional level.  It’s a problem not for United, American, Delta, et al., but for their code-share partners and subsidiaries.

If the applicant pool is not being adequately replenished, we need look no further than the $20,000 or less opening salary offered by most regionals.  In decades past, flying for a regional was considered a temporary apprenticeship, a stepping-stone before moving on to a more rewarding career at a major.  That progression, never a sure thing, is today even more of a gamble.  A position at a regional is looked upon not so much a means to an end, but as career in and of itself.  And not a very profitable one.  Although a senior RJ captain can earn close to six-figures, the prospect of investing tens of thousands of dollars for the necessary licenses, only to languor for several years earning poverty level wages, has dissuaded many from a career in aviation. Continue reading →

“Did you know…Pilot in East River helicopter crash is a convicted felon?”

East River Helicopter Crash

East River Helicopter Crash

Staten Island pilot in East River helicopter crash a convicted felon

(SILive.com)

STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. — The native Staten Islander who was at the helm of the helicopter in yesterday’s fatal East River crash is also a convicted felon — as a young man three decades ago, he admitted to a professional-style burglary at a Grant City restaurant.