|Pilots: A closed shop that helps only pilots|
|Wednesday, 01 February 2012 13:40|
Page 1 of 2
Airline pilots are a special breed. Highly intelligent, highly trained, well disciplined, courteous, calm in the most trying of circumstances, and perhaps most important of all, able to take long periods of boredom with no ill effects.
This last characteristic took on added meaning for me when I worked closely with Jeppesen, a Boeing company that meets 95 percent or so of the world market for air navigation charts and routing support. Their people assured me that the main purpose of an airline pilot was to turn on the autopilot and entertain the passengers. Oh, and when everything starts to go horribly wrong, to make sure they know what to do in those few seconds between the “cock-up in the cockpit” and disaster.
Airline pilots train extensively on specific models of plane: 777s, A380s, whatever. They are only allowed to fly those planes for which they are certified on a commercial basis. In the marine sector, we are of course far more skilled, and through tradition have evolved a system where we train masters to a high level, teach them how to command, and allow them to become familiar with their ship and understand how it moves and responds to commands.
Then, at the most sensitive time, we put a pilot on board who may well have never been in command of a ship at sea or have any experience handling the specific type of vessel on which he is standing. Joystick, wheel, DP-capable, tug-assisted – all the same to a pilot in charge of up to a billion dollars of equipment with no real idea of its capabilities.
In many countries, marine pilots, like airline pilots, are very well paid, though in others, such as Singapore, the wage is not so appropriate. A marine pilot in Singapore is paid in the order of US$90,000-120,000 per year for a fairly strenuous schedule of commitments. A senior marine pilot in Australia is paid in the order of US$200,000 and can be entitled to a range of other payments and bonuses, for a relatively light schedule.
The Australian example pales compared with the income of some (though not all) marine pilots in the United States – a situation made worse by father to son (and daughter) succession planning. To get a feel for the attitude of pilots in the home of free enterprise, a quick read of their websites is illuminating; at random, I recommend the San Francisco Bar Pilots site and their view on competition (http://tiny.cc/fo63r). They seem to inhabit a different world to the rest of us, for whom safety-critical work and competition co-exist successfully. To me it reads like a self-serving manifesto.
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