Thoughts on Copilot Salaries...

George’s Point of View

I came across this Safer skies article discussing Continental Express Flight 3407, and panning the Federal Aviation Administration for lack of supervision.

The article mentions that "The co-pilot of the doomed flight in Buffalo lamented moments before the crash that she lacked flight experience in icy weather conditions? Does it care that she was making about $11/hour..." and goes on to pressure government agencies to better regulate pilot training, so that future pilots have the experience to fly the planes they are flying.

I'd like to make a point here about being a pilot.

Pilots are professionals. GOOD pilots have spent many hours learning their craft; and it is proper that they do so, because the lives of so many people rest on their shoulders. They SHOULD be expert if they have been given the control of the cockpit. Even co-pilots have spent significant time getting educated and up to speed, getting licensed.

IF the FAA does its job and regulates pilot training, then co-pilots should be earning more than $11/hr. They're not flipping burgers. They're not selling footwear.

Think about this: when you get into a taxi, you're paying for someone who can drive the taxi. Whatever their vehicle, they are licensed to drive. Even the cheaper or shabbier taxi companies can not operate with drivers who are not licensed. They MUST be licensed if they are behind the wheel. To stay in business, even the funkiest, rattiest, cheesiest taxi company has drivers who are professionally qualified for their taxi licenses. I have no idea what they make for a living. But it is probably more than $11.00/hr. And if they wreck their taxis, they're not going to fall 10,000 feet.

When you get into a plane, as a passenger, you trust that your pilot and your copilot are highly paid, highly skilled professionals. If they aren't highly skilled, they shouldn't be at the wheel.

So I would urge the FAA to step up to the plate and raise the bar on pilots; raise the bar on supervision; raise the bar on training. And with the professional standards well maintained--with adequate supervision--pilots and co-pilots should be paid wages that reflect their skill and professionalism.

$11.00 an hour doesn't cut it.

Our pilots don't need to ferry from one corner of the country to another, coming in to work exhausted, and flying planes on which they are not adequately trained. They should know the planes they fly, backwards and forwards, upside down, inside out and sideways. They should be paid commiserate to that degree of knowledge and skill. Or else, they should not be pilots at all.

Imagine the responsibility of the pilot and co-pilot. All those lives on the plane are completely dependent on the pilot's skill.

What if the pilot has a heart attack? a bout of food poisoning as was recently in the news? or is otherwise unable to fly the plane? It's like the co-pilot is the spare tire. You wouldn't have a spare tire that was flat.

That’s what the copilot is there for. Except the co-pilot is not a spare tire. The co-pilot is not some kind of sub-human or half-pilot, deserving of a half-pilot wage. In this case, they're the expert who's on hand in case of emergency.

The co-pilot bears the responsibility of all those lives. The co-pilot shares the responsibility because they HAVE the responsibility. It's their job. They should be prepared to do their jobs; and they should be paid a legitimate professional wage to do so.

Originally Posted by George Hatcher June 14, 2009