Just over one hundred years ago two brothers flew the first manned
flight in a powered, heavier than air, aircraft. From then on
aviation advanced fast, as technology developed and
newer and better aircraft were built. The first airline passengers were flown in open cockpit aircraft, exposed to the elements, with no
protection against the weather and the cold. Later, although the pilot
still flew from an open cockpit, the passengers (usually no more than
one or two) rode in an enclosed cabin seated on wicker seats, still
with no heating or cooling. Navigation aids were nonexistent and the
planes were unable to fly above the weather. Flying was a unique and
hazardous adventure that only a few brave souls even dared to try and
was also extremely expensive. Pilots were considered heroes.
The transportation of people for profit by air intrigued a number of
aviation enthusiasts and soon the first airlines were born and
aircraft were designed specifically to transport large numbers of
people for long distances. The planes, for the most part, had either
two or three engines and both a Pilot and a Co-pilot, an enclosed
cabin, wicker chairs with lots of leg room, and a stewardess to
provide service in the cabin. Limited food and beverage service was
introduced and the era of luxury travel had begun. Since there were no
radios or navigational aids, no one flew at night and at dusk the
planes landed and the passengers spent the night in hotels or rode a
train until morning. Transportation by air was strictly daylight VFR.
Pilots were considered daring.
All of this changed just prior to World War Two with the advent of the
Boeing 247 and the Douglas DC-3. Commercial aviation became
comfortable with padded, reclining seats, still with lots of leg room,
hot food, and the ability to fly at night.Three abreast seating had
not yet been invented. Travel by air had become practical although
still pretty much only available for the well-to-do. Gentlemen
travelled in suits and ladies all wore heels. Everyone dressed to fly.
Pilots were considered dashing.
During and after World War two amazing advances were made in aviation
technology and from this technology the super airliners were born. The
Lockheed Constellation and the Douglas DC-7 ruled the sky.
Pressurization and superchargers had arrived. Airplanes now had four
engines, heating, cooling, pressurization, autopilots, superchargers,
radar, and the ability and range to fly over and around the weather.
To deal with the complexity of the new designs a third crewmember was
introduced to the cockpit to oversee and operate the systems. The
flight engineer had come into existence. In the event of an emergency
the work load was distributed evenly among the crew for the safest and
most practical resolution of the problem. One pilot flew the aircraft,
one pilot communicated and navigated, and the Flight Engineer devoted
all his effort to the emergency. To fly extended overwater legs an
aircraft was required to have four engines and an extended crew.
Safety of flight was of paramount importance. Pilots were viewed with
All of this was overseen by an agency called The Civil Aeronautics
Board. They determined the frequency of flights, the number of seats
to be supplied to each city, which airlines would fly each route, how
often they would fly, and when. They also required that service be
provided to smaller cities and, if these routes were not profitable,
subsidized the routes.Available seats were determined by the needs of
the community. The airlines, like the railroads, were luxurious,
totally reliable, always on time, and the envy of the civilized world!
Lobster in First Class, steak in Tourist. America had the best
airlines, the best railroads, and the best telephone service in the
entire world! Pilots were considered to be skilled professionals.
Then one day, in its infinite wisdom, Congress discovered and
> implemented Deregulation. It was decided that this system that had
> worked so beautifully for so long was actually flawed and without
> merit. Airlines were deregulated, railroads were deregulated, and the
> telephone system was dismantled. The skies were now open to anyone who
> could afford an airplane and fares were as low as the airline wanted
> to make them. Everyone jumped into the lucrative routes, competition
> became ridiculous, and fares and service plummeted as weaker and
> underfunded airlines began to fail at an alarming rate. Suddenly large
> four engine aircraft were being flown with a crew of two pilots, the
> flight engineer having been replaced byAutomation.
It was determined
> that engines were now so totally reliable that routes over water,
> previously flown by four engine aircraft with a flight engineer, could
> now be safely flown by twin engine aircraft without a flight engineer.
> The buzz word was reliability, but the hidden agenda was Economy.
> Somewhere in the process legroom, service, and food disappeared! It
> was simply too expensive to fly a four engine aircraft with a flight
> engineer when a two engine aircraft with only two pilots could be
> substituted for far less money. An industry that had been founded on
> safety was now totally controlled by economics. Pilots were considered
> to be expensive prima donnas.
Due to their inability to serve secondary markets profitably, the
major airlines simply withdrew service and the markets were abandoned.
This created a new entity called Commuter airlines. Inexperienced
pilots in little airplanes began providing feeder service from small
towns to major hubs. Suddenly, after all the years of progress and
service, passengers were once again flying in twin engine aircraft
with no service, pressurization, leg room, or cooling. Schedules were
haphazard or nonexistent, airlines were consistently on the brink of
bankruptcy, delays were horrendous, and seventy five years of progress
had been eliminated by legislators who didn’t even know how to fly.
Pilots were considered an overpaid but necessary evil.
The final and most devastating step was to convince the flight crews
that they were paid far too much money, that their working conditions
were too liberal, their duty rigs were unrealistic, and that they
could all be replaced by Automation. Salaries were cut, retirement
destroyed, medical benefits reduced, duty rigs eliminated, and
layovers cut to bare minimums. Senior pilots with years of experience
retired in droves, military pilots remained in the military, the pilot
pool dried up, and qualified people became more and more difficult to
find. Pilots are no longer required to fly because automation has
taken over the responsibility of flight as well as navigation. New
pilots will never learn to fly, but they can automate the hell out of
an airplane! EFIS, FMS, and Dispatch now have total control of the
cockpit. FADEC has taken control of power away from the crew. The
steep turn has become an unusual attitude! The airplane can now land
itself and most airlines require it. The aircraft is only really
controlled by the pilot from the gate to liftoff and from rollout back
to the gate. Everything in between is now done by Automation. In
another ten years knowing how to fly will no longer be a requirement
for a job as pilot and automation will wear four stripes. My question
at this point is “Who the hell is going to fly the airplane when
Captain Automation dies?” Perhaps by then there will be a
First-Automation on board and perhaps even a Flight Automation. I hope
so, because no one in the human crew, if there is one, will remember
how to fly! Pilots have become unnecessary and obsolete!
RIP, Airline Pilots. You were killed by deregulation, economics, and
automation. Unfortunately safety, skill, and Command responsibility
died with you. It was a rough ride and you died early, but you will be
remembered with love and pride by all of us who learned piloting from the old timers – the true aviation pioneers! So long Eastern, TWA, Am, Northwest, Northeast, Capital, Braniff, Western, Wien Air Alaska
and National! RIP !!
Thanks to George.
When governments join Plutocracy and greed for money and power is the main and sole motivation it is never in the interest of the populace.
Plutocracy, meaning wealth and power, dominion, rule; also known as plutonomy or plutarchy, is rule by the wealthy.