I would like to take this opportunity to respond to a column written by Joel Elman in the November issue titled “The eye of the camera.”
After reading this article several times, I tried to figure out how something like this could have been deemed worthy of being published. This article was not informative, factual, interesting or even humorous. I had my wife read this article to see what her reaction would be. She was surprised to read something in an aviation magazine that bashed airline pilots since so many of our airline pilot friends had given so much (and still do) to general aviation. We both agreed that this article made no real point about anything and seemed to be a waste of ink.
I had a few of my airline pilot friends read this article to get their opinions. Every one of them said Joel Elman clearly did not understand airline flying or even instrument flying. A 737 pilot friend told me that the vast majority of airliners (including the 737 he flies) had only one autopilot, and it could be deferred – meaning that it would not ground the airplane and flight crews would have to fly the airplane without the use of an autopilot.
Another commented about the “teensy port hole” windows. Apparently all airliner cockpit windows provide excellent visibility and airline crews must use see and avoid techniques when operating below 10,000 feet in VFR weather, which occurs a lot. Think about it, an airliner approaching a primary airport in Class D airspace has no way of avoiding a Piper Cub flying just outside the Class D airspace in VFR weather unless the crew is looking out the window since ATC usually only tracks aircraft with an operating transponder. Also, the Cub has every right to be along the airliner’s flight path in this case — a freedom most airline pilots and many of your readers do not want to see go away. Any instrument rated pilot would know this.
Your writers are writing for an aviation publication. It seems like the writers who submit articles like this one at least be competent pilots and know what they are talking about.
Also, many friends are pilots flying for a regional airline, and I know their backgrounds. Every one of them have completed at least a four year college degree, obtained all the required ratings and then some. They all had to endure at least a few years of crummy low paying flying jobs to build flight time. When they finally made it to the airlines they were lucky enough to be paid a wage that allowed them to collect food stamps. Even today, an airline pilot’s first year pay will not exceed $20,000 annually, and these guys now fly jets all over the country and even outside the USA on international runs. I even found some 10-year truck drivers make more than many 10-year jet captains at a regional airline. Also, many airline pilots will now give their entire career to a company that will never cough up one penny for a pension, yet they have to give up their jobs at age 60. Give these guys a break, from what I can tell these guys do one heck of a safe job.
I wonder if cameras in the cockpit will make flying safer or just be another distraction to the flight crews? Statistics tell us your mother will be much safer flying on the airlines than any other form of transportation.
I’ve never responded to any magazine or newspaper article, but the lack of any real pertinent, factual information in Mr. Elman’s article pushed me over the edge on this one. In an effort to promote aviation, please try to avoid articles that portray aviation and aviators in a negative way.
Derek C. Landstrom