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PHD. MBA. MHS. Type rated on A350, A330, B777, B747-400, B747-200, B757, B767, B737, B727. International Airline Pilot / Author / Speaker. Dedicated to giving the gift of wings to anyone following their dreams. Supporting Aviation Safety through training, writing, and inspiration. Fighting for Aviation Safety and Airline Employee Advocacy. Safety Culture and SMS change agent.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Furloughs... what's the impact?

Tom from NYC writes...

I read your blog website and you are a lucky person to fly and do what you like best. Could you write something about furloughs that a pilot goes through on your blog?

I read many blogs and others don't recommend this career to their kids. Pay no job stability etc. Airlines merging etc. Don't know if you will be hired by an airline and if you are hired how long will you work there etc. Were you ever furloughed in your career?

I found this website maybe you read it already about Commercial Airline pilot best career in 2011.  Please read the comments of others what they say in this field.  True

Click Here to read the article.

Tom, Thank you so much for the great questions.

Yes, I have been furloughed. But that furlough pushed me out the door to attend my interview with Northwest Airlines. The best thing that could have happened.

Had I stayed, I would have been on the street when Tower Air officially closed it's doors for good--- Behind a few hundred other people. I would have given up a couple thousand seniority numbers with NWA--- if they hired me a year later.

I wasn't furloughed at Braniff, but I ended up on the street after they shut down. I'm thinking the furlough was better. Furlough--- Job competition is fierce. Supply is much higher than demand.

Can a furlough be a good thing? Sometimes. It provides the opportunity to get another job before the business goes away. You get a jump start in the job market, before the thousands of pilots ahead of you.

What does a furlough really mean? It means you don't have a job. You aren't sure if you should go somewhere else--- what if they call you back? You'd hate to give up that seniority. But you need to support your family.

For some it means--- time to move on. To others it means--- life is not fair.

Is it different to be furloughed as a pilot than any other job? Perhaps. Flying not just a job for some, but a passion. It's a career that has taken a ton of money, time and energy to achieve. For those who've never called in sick, gave their heart and soul to their company, and gave up time with their families to cover trips--- a furlough becomes very personal. A betrayal. It hurts. It's frustrating. Fearful for most.

And then we ask--- What job is stable these days? Tomorrow, today's technology is already obsolete. What company will be around in thirty years? The publishing houses are changing as I write. Will our great grandchildren have books they can touch? We don't know the future.

The angst of pilots who don't recommend the job to their kids, who are against it, and fear mergers--- what can I say? They've obviously been betrayed by their career of choice. For those of us who still love it--- why? The answer to that question is personal....
Freedom. Control. Accomplishment. The view. Time off. Travel....

No doubt times have changed. I'm amazed in the thirty-one years that I've been flying how much is different. I still think it's a good job. It could be a great job if TSA didn't have to touch me before every flight. Seriously...

What would I tell my children to do?
Exactly what I've always said, "Do what you love."  

One of My Rules:
  • Never do anything only for the money.
If you do -- be prepared for it to go away. And when it does, you'll be bitter that you "sold" your life to the highest bidder.

Money is great... but first you have to do what you love. Flying is a passion. A way of life. The job provides so many good things. Sometimes it's exhausting, frustrating, and I wonder what in the heck I'm doing. But then--- I'm in the sky, and somehow it all makes sense.

Is the article correct? It's all about perspective.

Thank you for the questions Tom. 

How about you? Have you ever been furloughed? What's your experience?


  1. Wow, a furlough means something very different in my job. It's just a day off without pay which sounds much better than a furlough in the airline industry! I love that you took it as an opportunity. And your rule is golden!

  2. Yeah... in the airline industry it can be a month to years. If you wait, after so many years...contract determining... then they drop you from the company. Personally, I say... It's a wake up call to move on.

  3. Thanks Karlene for answering to my question. I found something interesting for all pilots to see.
    These salaries seem too good...

  4. Dear Karlene,

    Thanks for including the pic of the "Great Pumpkin" - one of my favorite airplanes!

    Since you were at BI at the end I must ask...did you know Capt. Len Morgan? Back when Flying was worth reading I always opened my issue from the back. First, Bax Seat and then Len Morgan's Vectors. Gosh, the man could write.

    In his book, View From the Cockpit, there's a wonderful, bittersweet account of the "Great Pumpkin"'s last trip back from HNL after the shutdown was announced. If you haven't...

    And, it's nice that you've turned the lemons of furloughs into lemonade. Good on ya'.

    Best wishes,


  5. Nice picture of the Braniff B747 at Gatwick. I know it's Gatwick because of the Dan-Air DH Comets in the background, I used to maintain them when I was working on my aeronautical eng degree in London.

  6. So nicely put, Karlene. I never will understand why people want a career to be a company. A career is a path guided by one's own light. Pilots are some of the best equipped workers to deal with today’s workplace uncertainty as they train to expect and manage the unexpected a normal part of flying.

  7. Tom you are very welcome. Thanks for the added information, too!

  8. Hi Frank, I didn't know Captain Len Morgan, but would love to read his stuff. I will definitely look for his writings. We had some incredible people at Braniff. I really missed them, and the company. I loved the Pumpkin too!

  9. And Frank... I love lemonade too! Especially with a splash of Captain Morgan. :)

  10. DB, you are so perceptive. Excellent call on location. I loved that plane, and Braniff, too. The good old days. Remember... these "are" the good old days. Thanks for your comment!

  11. Mireille, I love this--- "A career is a path guided by ones own light." How lovely. May I borrow it?
    Thank you for a beautiful comment!


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