Credit to the photographs

I would like to thank Brian Losisto (Air Canada's photographer) for always allowing me to post his pictures. (The above thrust lever pic is his). Then there is Kelly Paterson from Calgary and plane spotter "Erik" from Germany. Of course, I have lots myself. On that note, if you feel a photo(s) may be in appropriate or the content I post a bit dubious by all means send me an email. I will ratify it! That's all I ask!

...I hope you enjoy the blog...

P.S I'd like to add Nadia from "la belle province" for her contributions!
...and now YYC Disptacher...

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Saturday, September 5, 2009

Seniority is EVERYTHING

1 ( Top Dog)
1405 Morris, DE .


3305 (bottom wrung)

Seniority is Everything (Yes, I repeated myself)

A week ago a tribunal determined ACPA (Air Canada Pilot Association) had no right to deny a pilot to fly past 60. What does this mean?

Everything for most major North American airlines is based strictly on seniority. If you are seniority number 2000 you don’t move up until seniority 1999 decides. What does it really mean? Seniority decides whether you get Christmas off, summer vacation, hold a block instead of reserve, have weekends off, have those cushy long LAX layovers, promotions, base selection, being home for birthdays, graduations, and when all your neighbours are flashing up the BBQ on a long weekend you may be suited up to fly for four days with an “undesirable.” Bottom line it means lifestyle and money.

A fairer system, status pay, would take the sting of this pending decision. (One gets paid for the amount of years you were with the company instead of what airplane you fly). It’s what many European airlines base their operations on and even Air Canada Jazz and I think Westjet.
Two weeks ago I read an interesting stat about retirement at Air Canada - 711 pilots would retire in the next five years. That number is huge. In fact, it’s nearly the size of the entire Westjet pilot group (900).

After this hearing, it could mean the Air Canada pilot’s career is in a high speed reject. The engines will be in full reverse, braking will be at max and the ground spoilers’ deployed. A “pan, pan, pan” will be declared. But as any highly trained pilot is taught, DON’T PANIC. Bring the aircraft to a stop. If an immediate evacuation is not required then make an announcement, “remain seated, remain seated!” I.E “stay calm, stay clam.” Then we assess the situation utilizing all available sources, the union, appeals, lawyers, management, etc. After that, we decide whether to evacuate.

Now, many out there will be thinking, "pity" for the spoiled hoity-toity Air Canada pilot. Like it or not, flying for Air Canada is like making it to the NHL, but now the farm teams will be drying up. What about the brand new “wet behind the ears” commercial pilot aspiring to move up the ladder? Things will come to a grinding halt or at least the brakes will be on. For years, everyone has heard about this major pilot hiring boom due to retirements. Many of us knew this contesting of mandatory retirement was in the courts. I always said if it didn’t happen now, it would happen down the road. It was inevitable.
As mentioned, for any reject we assess the situation. What will be mandatory retirement: 62, 64, 68 but it will probably be 65 as deemed by ICAO? Will all pilots want to fly to 65? I know many pilots that are counting their days to retirement. They can’t wait. Some will continue to 62 or so and say, “enough is enough.” Some will eventually medical out.

August 28, 2009
Air Canada Pilots Respond to Tribunal Decision on Age of Retirement
TORONTO - The Air Canada Pilots Association (ACPA) received a decision today from the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal which would have the effect of denying Air Canada's pilots the right to negotiate a fixed age of retirement with their employer.
"We are disappointed with the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal's decision to deny Air Canada's pilots the right to negotiate a fixed age of retirement", said ACPA President Captain Andy Wilson.
"The Association has a duty to represent the wishes of the majority of the pilots and we will exercise the legal avenues available to us to ensure that their interests are protected. We are reviewing the details of the decision with our legal representatives to determine the long-term impact on our members and their collective agreement and our options for responding. We will have a more comprehensive statement upon the completion of our study", said Captain Wilson. The retirement age provided for in ACPA's collective agreement has been in place since the 1950s. Air Canada pilots recently voted by a 3 to 1 margin to uphold the current retirement age of 60.
Air Canada Pilots Association (ACPA) is the largest professional pilot group in Canada, representing the more than 3,000 pilots who operate Air Canada's mainline fleet.

Most airline pilots have been there before in regards to seniority. While I flew for Air Canada’s connector (Air Nova) we were told by the union not to go to Air Canada because a merged list is around the corner. It reminded me the day I walked into the chief pilot’s office at Air Atlantic asking about a possible captain upgrade in St. John’s instead of Halifax (my seniority number was close enough to making captain) The advice he gave was, “go for what is going now, don’t speculate what will happen.” Even though this guy had a reputation of a “wolf in sheep’s clothing” his words of wisdom holds true. It’s what I tell pilots caught in a conundrum. Many people stayed at the connectors, but no merged list materialized though there is a pending lawsuit. Funny some of the very pilots that stood up at the union meetings and averred, “How dare you go to Air Canada,” are now flying Air Canada’s jets. What did I say about, “wolf in sheep’s clothing?”

And of course how can we forget the merge with Canadian. I’ll never forget the time in London, England after returning from dinner with the captain and we called up the new merged seniority list. I lost 601 numbers and the captain looked at me with pity, shock, and a “glad it isn’t me look.” He, being very high on the totem pole, slipped back only about 20 numbers.
Well, I rolled with the punches. Besides, all of the Canadian guys were older than me and they would be retired in 5 to 6 years. Not anymore.

A non-aviator would think, what a bunch of hoopla over such a trivial thing. Well a few days ago, things got so heated on the ACPA forum it was shut down due to threats, slander and “below the belt” comments.

My wife doesn’t think it’s a big thing because it means a bigger paycheck for possibly five years longer. That’s one way of looking at it, but the guys at the bottom of the list on flat salary or in this sub scale “position group” (low wages for Embraer F/Os, cruise pilots) this will make many think about moving on. Some will go abroad, but maybe some will become plumbers, because that’s where the money is.

“Hey, it’s my blog and I’ll cry if I want to.”

P.S For those pining for the skies, keep your chin up! This too will pass.


James said...

So you choose the plane that provides you with the best picks given your seniority, rather than monotonically upgrading to better planes as your career goes on? I did wonder why you went from A330/340s to A320s, as a non-pilot that seemed like a downgrade to me.

From the Flight Deck said...

James. There is a saying which frequently arises among a seniority based airline, "stay senior on junior equipment." Meaning don't go to the bottom of the list on a larger airplane but stay senior on a smaller aircraft. The big plus is lifestyle. The downfall is pay.

Yes, I did go from a fairly senior position on the A340, but keep in mind it was a F/O position. True, I went to a smaller airplane, but moved over to the left seat. It still meant a raise but more importantly I get to run the show. That in itself is worth a lot. Flying in the left seat is the only way to fly. I hope I'll never go back to being F/O. I lied, I would go right seat in the Space Shuttle.

Thanks for the post.

Captain Doug

Andrew said...

I don't understand how a bunch of people leaving puts brakes on things?

Wouldn't that move u up a bunch of numbers?

and wouldn't a bunch of young people scrouging for jobs be able to get a FO position?

From the Flight Deck said...

Andrew. Just in from flying.

You are right, a bunch of people leaving WOULD mean everyone on the seniority list moves up. I am #1405
and with 700 pilots retiring I could hold leaft seat on the B767 or perhaps the A330. I would also hold the B787 when (notice I said when) it comes.

The problem is with this recent ruling, pilots will no longer be forced to retire at age 60, but will stay probably to age 65 hence the brakes on everyone's career.

At a time of no growth, the only way you get people coming in the door or moving up the ladder is when people are going out the door.

Anonymous said...

So there will be NO hirings at all at AC for the next few years?

From the Flight Deck said...

Conceivably yes, but realistically no. Because of this ruling Air Canada is in a situation which could be great for our shortfall in pension funding
but not so good if they have to recall, retrain or give retro pay to retired pilots. We are in uncharted territory. The next few months will be interesting and
rest assured ACPA (our union) will be contesting the ruling. This could be dragged in the courts for months to years. I wouldn't change your plans in becoming a pilot.
It's still forecast to be rosy out there. This is just a hiccup, well, maybe a large BURP!

Memopilot said...

Hello, so, if you become captain of CRJ 200 (for example) when you move to a larger aircraft, then you have to move to the right seat again?

Is that bad being F/O ?

And , its very interesting what you tell us about the holidays on duty and that stuff, how do you Pilots deal with that things, I mean, the newest people do all the special days or, what happen if you have such a big event like a son birth or a family death.

Sorry if this cuestions sound dumb but its a thing that i been thinking....

Regards captain ¡¡¡¡

From the Flight Deck said...

Memopilot. Generally when you move to a bigger airplane you start off as first officer. For example, my seniority number, 1405, would make me #2 on the captain's list of the Embraer (Air Canada's smallest). I sit about 60 percent from the top on the A320 captain's list. I can not hold left seat on the B767,
A330 or B777. I could hold right seat on all of them and would be about 85 percent from the top on the B777. I would be very senior as F/O on the B767 and A330. That would mean having Christmas off, summer vacation, weekends off, etc.

No, being F/O is not bad at all. It's when you have been an F/O for years it gets to be a bit trying.

Instead of you catering to the captain's moods, your first officer has to deal with yours.

For births and deaths, compassionate leave is granted.

Memopilot, your question are NOT dumb. In fact, they are what many people ask because this seniorty thing is hard to grasp.