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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


Column: Poorly paid pilots a problem

Every time I enter the airport, I get a slight twinge of anxiety. The irony is that I love to travel, but there is still something about being in a giant tin can in the sky that scares me. It’s unnatural, and due to an unhealthy obsession with reading about aviation disasters, I’ve educated myself far too much on the small details that could cause my demise in the air.

After the Germanwings accident this spring, reports leaked that Andreas Lubitz may have intentionally crashed the plane due to depression and a host of other issues. How was someone who clearly needed help put in the cockpit? That is a loaded question.

The answer has a lot to do with money.

In 2009, Colgain Air Flight 3407 crashed outside of Buffalo, New York. After investigating the crash that killed everyone on board and one on the ground, it was decided that this regional airline tragedy was caused by pilot error.

The cockpit transcript showed the final minutes of conversation between First Officer Rebecca Shaw and Captain Marvin Renslow. Renslow explained how he was hired after only flying a little over 600 hours, and Shaw revealed she’d never seen icy conditions before flying. She was the first officer of a regional jet in the Northeast.

Do these airlines hire pilots with less experience so that they don’t need to pay them as much?

Michael Moore delved into this subject in his documentary, “Capitalism: A Love Story.” He used the example of declining pilot wages to demonstrate how many salaries in America have been slashed, illustrating the decay of the middle class.

Moore interviewed one pilot who was only paid $17,000 in a year and was eligible to eat on food stamps. He profiled another pilot who had a second job as a dog walker.

The last person you would ever want to be tired from their second job is your pilot.

Jessamyn Schaller, assistant professor for the UA Department of Economics, helped explain the economics of capitalism and economic inequality.

Schaller said she believes economic inequality is a tricky subject because it can be both productive and unproductive.

“Inequality itself isn’t necessarily a bad thing for the economy if it reflects that some workers have more skills, have invested more in education or are more productive,” Schaller said.

She added that most people wouldn’t want to live in a society where effort and ability were not rewarded. However, “there has been some economic research showing that people that live in unequal societies are less happy.”

Living in a country that thrives on the idea of the “American Dream” — making it big so you can drive fancy cars, go to fancy schools and eat fancy dinners — creates a lot of that gray area.

The offspring of the 1 percent are given the upper hand because of their better connections, while others are unable to live up to their potential because they don’t have access to the same health and education opportunities. A famous 2014 study presented at the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston’s annual conference found that rich kids who dropped out of high school had the same chance of ending up in the top 20 percent as poor kids who graduate college.

The free market has created a free-for-all for executives to pay themselves more and their employees less.

The Wall Street Journal published an article titled “Pilot Pay: Want to Know How Much Your Captain Earns?” in which it compared the salaries of different companies that employ pilots. While Southwest, UPS and FedEx pay the most, on average, the starting salary at any major airline is a little more than $36,000.

This amount is double what a regional airline pilot will receive on their pay stub.

At the end of the day, you can calculate your probability of dying in a plane crash from any number of reasons — but others are unquantifiable.

So, next time you start planning a trip, maybe you should research your airlines a little bit more. I know no one would want his or her pilot to be paid less than a Taco Bell manager.


Trey Ross is a journalism sophomore. Follow her on Twitter.

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