As I was out for a bike ride this evening, I was given a pleasant little surprise...
Delta's Ship 102 flew overhead twice, giving the folks on board a good look at the city and the sound. Then I watched from across the bay as she floated down to an arrival at BFI. After some typical winter weather last night and this morning, the clouds broke, the setting sun was shining, and a chilly wind was blowing.. just in time for her arrival.
Working in this industry, I couldn't help but think of how things have changed. The employees of Delta were so proud of their airline that they spent millions of their own hard-earned dollars to buy it an airplane. Those were days when airline employees felt like assets, rather than liabilities.. when they knew that hard work, odd hours, and dedication would be rewarded with good pay and handsome benefits. Aviation is one of the few industries left in this country that people dream about.. that people choose for more than just money. Kids dream of being pilots, not human resources specialists or insurance salesmen.
Lately it seems like a career in the airline industry is paved with Tums. With few exceptions, the Spirit days seem to be long gone. But who's to blame?
Can you blame a 15-year Captain for being upset when he sees his retirement vanish in an instant?
Can you blame a 3-year First Officer for being upset when his company wants to replace him with a regional jet driver making half as much?
Can you blame that regional jet driver when all she's trying to do is pursue a dream?
Can you blame a fight attendant for being upset when she has to take a 30% paycut and contend with doubled health insurance premiums at the same time?
Can you blame a new ramper who's just trying to provide for his family?
Can you blame a CEO who is beholden to the Board and the shareholders whose funds keep the place afloat?
This industry is stuck between a rock and a hard place, and there don't seem to be any mutually beneficial outcomes. Someone has to give, and it's just unfortunate that its the dreamers who are growing up to suffer.
So few people in Seattle looked up this evening and really knew what they were seeing. Many of them probably recognized the widget, but so few realized that this aircraft - and the era of aviation that it represents - was making one of its last landings.
To everyone that dreams of aviation, to everyone that does this job because they love it.. hang in there, because I have to believe that while the sun is setting on Ship 102, it will rise again.