Interview with Tom Luxemburger
Edited transcript of interview of Tom Luxemburger, former pilot, by Frederic Zalac, CBC News, for the documentary "Dead Tired", March 26, 2010.
Frederic Zalac: So, tell us about yourself, how you started flying, if it was a dream of yours, why?
Tom Luxemburger: When I was growing, I was inspired by my physics teacher. He taught physics in such a way that aviation was a platform. That was the hook for me. After that, I spoke with Air Canada captains and I asked, how can I get into this career? And they said, kid, if you’re going to get into a career, the one thing you want to have to fall back on is a university de gree. So I got a university degree, took their advice, and it’s the best advice I could have taken, because now I have something to fall back on. After my degree, I went right to Buttonville Airport, just north of Toronto, and I applied for my licences privately – back then it was about $35,000, in the late 90s, to do that. I worked as a commercial pilot, built up my hours and traveled a lot of the world since then.
FZ: When you originally thought of flying, because we all have this idea of it as a very glamorous job, did you have that kind of dream in your head?
TL: You know, it’s funny you ask that. At that era, during that time, there was still the "good ol’ days", when Air Canada captains were still making $200,000 a year and still only working 7-14 days a month. That’s what we looked at, that’s what we saw. Hey, I want to be one of those guys. I quickly found out it’s not the case. There were some pilots that said to you, Hey, kid, you don’t want to get into this career. But, yeah, I knew better, I wouldn’t be one of those guys. So it was a warning up front, but I would be one of those captains that get through and persevere and make the money. Because there were people that were making money and I thought I’d be one of those.
FZ: So, what happened?
TL: Well, I realized the road wasn’t so easy. In terms of building hours, it was a tough go. This is the sadistic thing about it: there’s no other career in Canada that I know of that, in any profession or any industry, where you pay a minimum of $45,000 to be trained to hopefully get a job at a minimum wage.
FZ: That’s what you were making?
TL: If you actually tally it up in terms of what I was working, and odd jobs here and there, it came to a little bit more than what a McDonald’s employee would be making full-time.
FZ: Per pilot?
TL: As a pilot! My first job being a full-time pilot in Canada was working, actually, out of Moosonee, Ontario. When I was working in Moosonee, Ontario, the job that I had there, I was making, granted room and board were being taken care of, $12,500 a year to work that job and if I didn’t want that there would be another 20 guys behind me in line, knocking at the door who would fight for it because it’s your opportunity to log hours toward your commercial license, toward your ATPL, your Airline Transport Pilot License. Unfortunately, in the industry -- I’ll use the terminology -- we call each other whores. We laugh at it because we are selling ourselves to get those hours for the logbook. Sorry, about the slang, but that’s the way it’s termed.
FZ: $12,000 - $13,000 a year – how could you survive on such a salary?
TL: I didn’t have to pay for lodging – that was paid for. Food was a basic cost. I could cover the food with that. It wasn’t about the income. The gold in that opportunity was to be able to log the hours toward my commercial license – actually I had my commercial – so toward my Airline Transport License. As you know, the APTL is a minimum 1500-hour requirement. Without the APTL, you’re no one in the industry -- that’s a minimum of what you need, a benchmark. Everyone who is starting in the industry is doing whatever it takes to reach that benchmark, if it means working a $12,000 a year – correction, if it means working at $13,000 a year so be it. You look away from that and you look at the ability to log hours, log hours, log hours.
FZ: And those hours, are flights hours, so, tell us about the kind of schedule you had.
TL: Well, the schedule there, as you know, the Canadian Air Regulations, which is the bible of Canadian aviation, it’s the law for Canadian aviation, they prescribe so many hours in a duty day, so many hours in a consecutive seven-day stretch, so many hours in a consecutive thirty-day stretch and so on and so on. We would be max-ing those hours out. So, a minimum fourteen-hour days. In reality – unfortunately, I’ve got to say this – in reality --
FZ: Sorry, that’s a maximum fourteen-hour days?
TL: Sorry, yes, correction, maximum fourteen-hour days and unfortunately something I’ve got to say here is the fact that, yeah, we’re working the fourteen-hours days, but, in reality, it’s much more. We do something in the industry which is known as pencil-whipping and pencil-whipping means that you’re actually working much more in reality, but on paper you’re meeting the quota.
FZ: How much more?
TL: Depends on the day. Some days you’re only breaking it by 10 minutes, you can justify it. Some days it’s a couple hours, two, three hours, it doesn’t seem like a lot. But when you’re working 30 days straight, that adds up.
FZ: So you can end up with 16, 17-hour days?
TL: Sometimes. FZ: Yet, it’s not in the logbook?
TL: No. It’s not in the logbook. No, it’s not. Yeah, if you actually look at what you’re being paid – and most people are being paid a mileage rate – I wasn’t being paid mileage rate then, I was being paid flat rate. I flat rate then was a thousand bucks and change a month. That was it. Those that are working mileage rate, yeah, if they fly their legs, they’re getting paid. But all the time for prepping, all the time for loading, all the time for the paperwork afterward, all the time for the flight planning, you have to drive home and to and back, tugging the plane in and out of the hanger, de-icing it. All those things – you’re not being paid for. Yet you’re working. So that’s area of grey in terms of the pencil-whipping.
FZ: So was that specific to the companies you were working for or something that’s typical in that industry at that level of airlines?
TL: I wouldn’t want to single out a single operator here. I would say it’s very typical of 703s – 703s being air taxis.
FZ: Small operators?
TL: [Nods} Small operators. I don’t want to paint them all with the same brush. There are some operators that cross every T and dot every I. They do everything by the book. Unfortunately, a lot of them don’t though.
FZ: And why is that? What’s the reason?
TL: Bottom line. Bottom line. If you’re going to be actually logging your duty days, what they are, it means that either another crew has to be called in or none of the work is actually going to be flown that day. Work which could have been flown is going to have to be pushed to the next day or simply cancelled. Well, if you’re doing that, you’re not making your bottom line. You’re not making your bottom line, it’s hard to keep the lights on; it’s hard to pay the insurance; it’s hard to buy the av-gas for the aircraft. There’s a vicious circle here.
FZ: So they’re relying on the government regulations?
TL: They’re relying on the CARS and on Transport Canada enforcing the CARS – CARS being the Canadian Air Regulations, the law of the industry. The public is relying on the operator to adhere to the Canadian Air Regulations. The Canadian Air Regulations are being enforced by Transport Canada. Transport Canada can’t be everywhere and police everybody at all time. There are random checks. Because it’s only random the operators have a lot of loopholes in terms of cutting corners and making the bottom line.
FZ: So it’s already a problem in the industry as it is right now?
TL: Absolutely. Absolutely. FZ: So you’re saying there’s kind of a pressure from the operator on pilots. Is it overt pressure, or is it implied? How does it work?
TL: How it works is as follows: the operator will say we need to get this job done. You know what the Canadian Air Regulations consist of. You know what needs to be done, what can’t be done, what should be done. We’re leaving it up to you. As a pilot in command you’ve got the autonomy to do what needs to be done, to make whatever call need to be done. Oh, and by the way, if you are breaking the Canadian Air Regulations, you’re going to wear it. It’s going to be your fine. The onus is on you. Because you’re the pilot in command, you’ve got the final say. That’s how it works.
FZ: So basically they’re telling you to follow the regulations, but how’s that pressure there then?
TL: On the record, they’re telling you to follow the regulations. In reality, if you follow the regulations and it’s going to be holding back profits, because you’re requiring your instruments to be fixed or what have you in terms of maintenance issues –
FZ: Or for longer hours –
TL: For longer hours or what have you. If it’s going to mean a loss in profits, even if you’re following the Canadian Air Regulations, you’re going to see some kind of detriment in terms of your career and your job security, if not 703.
FZ: For example, what would happen?
TL: Like the previous that I mentioned, those that have spoken out against duty days, those that have spoken out in terms of requirements to have items fixed on aircraft, which are snagged and should be fixed by maintenance engineers, rather than letting them go certain pilots are saying, listen, we need to get these done, it’s the law of the air regulations. The operator, well, yeah, you know, it’s a small thing. Typically, what they’ve done traditionally is oversee it rather than overseeing it, getting it fixed, it means the aircraft is going to be on the ground, aircraft is not making money. I don’t know if I answered your question.
FZ: So, in terms of the pressure, you say, officially, tells you to follow regulations, but if you do and it costs money, there are going to be consequences for you as a pilot.
FZ: Do they tell you that in a way or do you just know it, to avoid any cost overrun or longer duty hours? How does –
TL: The common phrase used by pilots in 703s is: "Don’t rock the boat." Don’t rock the boat. Don’t do anything which is going to cost them operate extra money. If you do, even if it’s adhering to the Canadian Air Regulations, it’s going to have a negative effect on your career at some point with that company.
FZ: Did you experience that?
TL: I experienced it first hand when I was working for a 703 in the Yukon. I had some issues. The chief pilot knew that we were flying in an uncertified aircraft and unfair flying conditions. I brought it to his attention. Not much was done about it. I kept bringing it to him. It was a repetitive thing. I found my job description being constructively demoted. I saw the writing on the wall. I left in mystery. Because that was one of the best 703s, believe it or not, in Canada. The management at the time, when I first started working there, was all about safety, all about pilots’ rights, all about doing the right thing. To the book, to the T. It was one of the good operators. That’s why I was working there. We had new management, new owners, come over, take over. When they did, all they cared about was the bottom line. When all they care about was the bottom line, we started to see more and more corners cut. As more and more corners got cut, a few pilots decided to speak out against it. Those pilots who decided to speak out against it, myself included, found themselves constructively dismissed.
FZ: So less and less flights?
TL: In terms of the duty schedule, your name would be at the bottom of the list, the most undesirable scheduling, etc., etc. Those sorts of things.
FZ: You were considered a troublemaker in a way?
TL: Yeah, I rocked the boat. The other people who spoke out against safety rocked the boat. As a result, we basically sealed the fate of our own job security.
FZ: Experiencing that, what went through your mind, and how did you feel about the industry you’d always wanted to –
TL: A lot of soul searching, a lot of soul searching. It’s something that I absolutely loved doing. Do I miss flying? Absolutely. The experiences I’ve had in terms of what I’ve seen, and landscapes, the people I’ve met, the aircraft I’ve flown. Priceless. I miss that. Do I miss flying? Yes. Do I miss the industry? Not for a second.
FZ: It’s a bit of a broken dream for you now?
TL: It’s a bit of a broken dream. But, you know, I’m all about the big picture of life. I’m all about lifelong learning. Years prior, I had given thought to becoming an educator, becoming a teacher. I had some great mentors growing up. I had some people that stuck with me through the hard times. Doing some soul searching I thought, now’s maybe a good time to give back. Work in a career that’s more sustainable. A little bit of selfish reasons there – but the ability to give back feels great. Rather than flying cargo for junior mining companies, which are raping the land for resources, and basically just doing that, I’m in a career now where I’m actually helping the common people, the common good and being a productive cog in society.
FZ: So no regrets?
TL: None. No regrets at all. Not for a minute. I miss the flying. But I don’t miss the industry.
FZ: What was the tipping point for you?
TL: The tipping point for me was when I working for a 703 in the Yukon and I brought up some safety issues and I saw myself from that moment on being constructively dismissed. And this was supposed to be one of the more, or highly regarded 703s in the country. Me experiencing that at the pinnacle of the growth of the industry – that was as good as it was going to get. If I saw myself with that much of an insecure job – sorry, I have to rephrase this. If I saw myself with that little job security at the pinnacle of the industry and it was at the pinnacle of the industry and the industry was going to be going down with the economy, how could I possibly commit myself to a mortgage, a family, a livelihood?
FZ: I’d like to just go back a little bit to the years when you were flying and talk about a specific element in terms of your longer hours and the question of fatigue. Is that something you experienced when you were flying?
TL: Absolutely. I experienced fatigue, I would say, in two instances when I was working out of Northern Ontario flying in Navaho. Long hours with that. It was – we didn’t really know when our next set of days off would be. We’d just keep going and keep working until we maxed out in terms of our limitations on the Canadian Air Regulations and whenever that time came we would be able to leave for a few days to reset. The other experience was when I working in the Yukon as a bush pilot. We’ve got 24 hours of daylight there. With 24 hours of daylight, there’s more pressure to work around the clock. Because we are doing VFR, visual flying, in mountains, we had pressures to work beyond our duty days. We had situations where we actually had two crews on the aircraft making the aircraft fly 24 hours non-stop. The problem with that is that you’re thrown into a situation where, okay, you’re going to start working at midnight and you’re going to finish working at noon the next day. But there was no methodology in terms of how thecycle would start or how the cycle would stop. Our circadian rhythm was expected to just be thrown into that new cycle and adapt.
FZ: Did you experience being fatigued when you were at the control of the plane?
TL: Absolutely. Absolutely.
FZ: Can you describe to us? TL: You’re sitting there in the cockpit and you know that both you and the captain are absolutely wiped because you’re hand-loading thousands of pounds of cargo on and off the aircraft, 10, 12 legs a day. And you take turns nodding off and sleeping. One person would relinquish control, give it to the other person, and you’d basically say, okay, you’ve got control I’m going to catnap. Which is basically, by the Canadian Air Regs, during the cruise portion of flight, legal. You’re actually allowed to do that. It became very frequent. It came to the point where the catnaps, during the cruise portion of flight, they weren’t enough to catch up on the rest that we needed. Still kept going, still kept working 14 hours a day. With the 14 hours a day it didn’t provide enough time to wind down, to put the aircraft to bed, to get our rest and then to prep the aircraft for the next day for another 14-hour day. That was day after day after day – until the job was done. The job for that mining company in the Yukon may have last two weeks, it may have lasted nine weeks – we didn’t know when it was going to end.
FZ: So sleep deprivation was adding up, it was accumulating?
TL: It was a cumulative process. It wasn’t like we just lost some sleep last night; we’ll catch up tomorrow night. You didn’t have tomorrow night to catch up because tomorrow night was going to be the exact same as the previous night.
FZ: Were you ever concerned?
TL: Quite honestly, out of all the safety factors, fatigue for me, it was a factor, but it wasn’t the biggest. I’m pretty resilient. I’m personally blessed with a fair amount of stamina. There are a lot of other factors, which did play into effect. Things like flying over weight. Things like flying in instrument-rated conditions when our aircraft was only instrument – correction, visual-rated to be flying. Those were the kinds of things that make the hairs on the back of your neck stand up when you’re flying through clouds in mountainous areas not really knowing where those mountains are embedded in the cloud but knowing that they’re there and knowing you don’t have the certified instruments to be doing it.
FZ: The public that’s flying doesn’t know anything about those conditions, about the – if they knew what you know from having been in the industry, should the public be concerned?
TL: Well, most often than not, these stories I’m referring to pertain to cargo bush flying. However, there are instances where passengers are required to also take part in these flights. So there’s not an empty leg back – we’re not deadheading – they’ll take passengers. So, to answer your question, should the public be concerned? Somewhat. I don’t want to create a scare. But it’s something they should be questioning and they probably should. They should probably be asking the operator if they’re going to be chartering an aircraft: How much rest are they getting? Do you have enough crews for that job? What are they doing for rest? Where are they resting? What are the accommodations like? I remember a scenario where, going back to the Yukon again, our lodging was three pilots in a trailer in an 8 by 12 room in bunk beds, black fly infested and dusty. And that was our accommodations. Oh yeah, and the next morning it all starts all over again.
FZ: Should the regulations be changed?
TL: You can build a better mousetrap, but the mice are always going to find a better way to find the loopholes to disarm the mousetrap. You can regulate the hell out of it, but the operator, as long as the bottom line is a factor, the operator is going to find ways to cut corners. Transport Canada – this is the reality: Transport Canada can’t be everywhere at all times. Transport Canada has their own cutbacks. They’ve got their own staff shortages. They won’t be able to police everything.
PRODUCER: Can you give us some examples, if you can personalize it, and what you’ve heard from others in terms of fatigue and the crazy hours that you’ve heard and what it leads to.
TL: Okay. I’ve got one right now. So, with respect to pilot fatigue, to answer your question, the company that I was working for in the Yukon had two divisions. One division was bush cargo; the other was Medevac. I was flying the cargo division. But in the Medevac division, because it was a government contract, you had to be ready to fly 24-7. You were on a pager. There was a roster of pilots that were called to be ready on duty with pager in hand. The problem was, the medics sometimes didn’t need the aircraft to be chartered for two, three, four-days stretches. But if you were first up on the list on the whiteboard and your name was there and you had the pager in hand, you might be first up waiting and ready to go, poised to be at the airport wheels up for four, five days straight, literally on call for seven days straight. You know as well as I – how can you possibly get a good night’s sleep if you know the pager can be going off at anytime? A lot of other companies work in such a way that if you’re on call and you’re first up, you’re first up for 12 hours. When the 12 hours are done, whether you’ve flown or not, a next crew gets called. So you do have 12 hours on call and 12 hours off where you can rest without the pager going off. Then you’re back on call again. This company decided not to do that. If you do that, you need more staff. If you need more staff it’s going to affect the bottom line.
FZ: Tell me about the get-home-itis.
TL: [Laughs] The get-home-itis. It’s funny that you mention that. I’ve had the get-home-itis. The get-home-it is, as you refer to it, is if you’re off at a job and you’re doing whatever the job calls for and there might be obstacles in your way of getting home – obstacles being the duty day, obstacles being the weather, obstacles being maybe a snagged instrument, maybe the aircraft is not airworthy, maybe you’ve got an issue you might want to overlook because if you overlook it or you overlook the weather or you overlook the weight of your cargo or you overlook a duty day you can get home. If you don’t overlook it, well, then that’s just one more day away from your wife, your kids. I’ll say it again. That’s one more day that you’re away from your wife, away from your kids, away from your family that you’ve already got very little time with to begin with. That’s the get-home-itis. I’ve experienced that first-hand. I was in the interior of the Yukon flying a cargo job for two and a half weeks. We wanted to get home. We knew the weather back in Whitehorse was horrible. We knew we weren’t equipped to be flying IFR. We saw the weather report. We knew in order to get home we’d have to fly IFR. We pushed through it. Did we know we were breaking the law? Yeah. Did we want to get home? Yeah. Did we get home in one piece? Sure we did. Sweating, but we did. Ultimately, who wears it? The pilot in command. That’s a choice that as a flight crew we made together. Was I as equally guilty? Yes, I was. I wanted to get home. I chose to get home. I had the get-home-itis.
FZ: What about when you have a lot of hours, you know, you’ve been working for a very long day, do you think that plays even more –
TL: Absolutely. Doesn’t matter what industry you’re in – you can be talking pilots, you can be talking accounting. As you know, at the beginning of the day, your mind is fresh. Once you put in a 12, 14-hour day, your decision-making skills, your sharpness deteriorate. You’ll rationalize things at hour thirteen-and-a-half that you wouldn’t rationalize on hour two. The get-home-itis becomes a bit of a downward spiral. Things you would never do, you end up doing. And you end up doing it when you’re least fit for it.
FZ: So you can make a really bad decision in that context?
TL: And not only are you making bad decisions, but those bad decisions are compounded now with fatigue, compounded with Murphy’s law – because you know the weather’s going to be bad, you know there’s going to be a snag in the aircraft, you know there’s going to be some unforeseen incident which will pop up. Always happens.
FZ: Listening to you, you kind of wonder why pilots would still go through all that and work today.
TL: Great question. There are two main reasons why pilots stay in the industry. I’m talking 703s. The first reason is ego. You’ve invested so many years, so many tens of thousands of dollars into your training; you’re so committed why would you walk away from what you’ve already committed. That’s the first reason – it’s ego. The second is: there’s no choice. The advice I took from the Air Canada captains before I took my commercial licenses, when they said, Tom, go get a university degree to fall back on, was the best advice I could’ve ever had. Because when I started soul-searching and when I wanted to leave the industry, I had an out. For me to make a transition from being a professional pilot to becoming a teacher was an easy transition. The vast majority of the pilots out there don‘t have that ace in the back pocket, that’s why they still do it. They have no other option.
FZ: So what’s the issue with commuting? TL: The issue of commuting is more relevant for the commuters or the airlines. So we’re talking the smaller aircrafts or the WestJet’s and the Air Canada’s. You’ll have people that are based out of, let’s say, Vancouver or Calgary or Toronto, but they live in a bedroom community, so they’ll actually drive or fly to and from the airport. So if you’ve got a duty day, but you live in Barrie, Ontario and you need to be at Pearson, that two-hour drive through snow and sleet, is that part of your duty day? Or isn’t it? A lot of the time it’s not counted. Arguably, it should be. The drive home, the rest period – remember, you’ve got eight hours rest. Are you going to count the drive home as part of your eight hours rest? With the 703s – pardon me, correction, with the air taxi division of flying, which I’ve flown in, the commute is very rarely an issue because you’re usually working out of the camp or town the work is being done in.
FZ: And to what extent are you talking about the example of Barrie to Toronto, but we’ve heard that there are pilots who are flying in from far away to get to the point where they start. Have you heard –
TL: Sure there are. There are some pilots that have that same base out of Toronto, but instead of driving from Barrie to Toronto they’ll in Timmins or they’ll live in North Bay or they’ll live in Sioux Lookout and they’ll actually fly into Toronto to go to work. Should that be counted as their duty day? Well, a question that people can squirt around.
FZ: So, from what you know, what are the conditions – you were a bush pilot up north – but for, say, regional passenger planes are they similar to what you experienced?)
TL: My comments on the regional airlines are that from a pilot’s point of view, in order even to qualify to sit right seat – so to fly as a co-pilot on those aircraft – you probably have spent minimum five to ten years in the industry to build hours, to be accredited enough to sit as a co-pilot on those. The starting salary for a co-pilot, who has not only spent $40,000 on training, but also invested five or ten years in the industry making horrible money – we’re talking a little bit over minimum wage. After that investment the starting salary is $45,000 per year, so what incentive is there for the pilot to follow the Canadian Air Regulations? Why should they? All they’re really there for is to build hours to get out of there, to go to the next step, to go to the Air Canada’s or the WestJet’s.
FZ: Those seem to be the conditions of the co-pilot that was involved in the Colgan Air crash. From what you’ve heard – and the teachings have been an issue – what do you think of an incident like that?
TL: I’m only speculating when I say this. But what we do know is that there was a fairly lengthy commute for the co-pilot to the base where the hub was being run out of. Sure, it must have played a factor in there. How much so? I gotta leave it up to the investigators. Is it uncommon? No. You see it quite often. I don’t know. Those are the questions asked. Those are the questions I’d be asking if I was a paying passenger. But here’s the problem – paying passengers don’t care. All the paying passengers care about is who has the cheapest fare. They’ll scream bloody murder if the fares go up 20 percent. But if fares go up 20 percent, how can they possibly regulate safety within the company? Kind of a catch-22.
FZ: Do we need a wake-up call?
TL: I don’t know why a wake-up call hasn’t been made yet. Like I said, the only way a wake-up call can be made is if the public actually has a chance to see what lays behind the lines. Unfortunately, the public, all they care about is how much is that ticket is going to cost me when I buy it online. If it’s going to cost me more money, I’m not going to go to that airline. But if there’s an airline that has a seat-sale, then that interests me.
FZ: What could make a difference? A crash?
TL: I’ll tell you what will make a difference. If you look at where the highest safety standards are in aviation across the board – you’re going to call me a tree-hugging bleeding heart when I say this – it’s the corporations that have a union in place. NAV CANADA, the governing body air traffic controllers, very strongly unionized, they take fatigue and safety very seriously. Air Canada is unionized, they take safety and fatigue very seriously. They don’t cut corners.
FZ: So, from what you know do you think that there are risks of a big crash, like what happened in the U.S., the Buffalo one, before something changes in the regulations?
TL: I hate to say this, but we’re going to start to see a lot more of those happening before something changes. The culture of aviation here in Canada, here in North America, isn’t what it should be. In Europe, it’s much different. The flight training starts when big companies take pilots off the streets – metaphorically – and they train them and pay for all their training. There’s no pressures to cut corners because you’re working for someone who’s paying your way. Just like the Canadian military. The private sector though? It’s too cutthroat. The way it’s set up right now, right from the grassroots, with the system we’ve got, it won’t work. If Air Canada and the WestJet’s adopted the models of what’s happening in Europe and Asia, where flight training is paid for right from the very first flight hour, then you’re starting a revolution in flight safety.
FZ: In North America?
TL: In North America. I don’t see that happening. Right now the big airlines are letting the people at the bottom – letting all the people in flight schools, all the entry level pilots – fight it out amongst themselves. And once they’ve gotten the hours, they just pick and choose. It‘s not going to change unless that changes.
FZ: So how do you know that Europe is so much better? TL: I don’t know if I mentioned to you earlier, I was actually licensed as a commercial pilot through Malev airlines in Europe. I had my Canadian licenses converted to what’s called the JAA – the Joint Aviation Authorities – I’ve lived in Europe for five years, so I’ve got a bit of experience with the European aviation scene.
FZ: And you were flying there?
TL: I didn’t actually fly there. I was hired on, went to the ground school with the Boeing 737. There was a hiring freeze. I did some soul-searching, came back to Canada. That’s when I took the job working in Northern Ontario.
FZ: But from what you know when you were in Europe conditions were better?
TL: When I was working in Europe, when I got brought in with Malev Airlines, Malev Airlines had the same mentality as the Lufthansa’s, as the Swissair’s, as the KLM’s. They take low-time pilots or even people who just can demonstrate basic skills, they take those people and they train them all the way through until they get to the flight deck. All in house and it’s done very professionally.
FZ: Now, you were mentioning how if we were really following the regulations or if we were tightening the regulations, it would probably have an impact on the cost of operations. What should happen to the ticket prices? Are we paying enough? What’s the final conclusion we could come to when we’re looking at all this?
TL: In our developed world Western culture we’ve become accustomed, we’ve become conditioned, to have cheap air travel. If an operator decides to put money and invest into the safety, inevitably the prices are going to go up. The consumers dictate the market. The consumer is always going to go to the cheapest airfare. It’s the law of supply and demand. And until that going to change, really, we’re not going to see any changes.
FZ: So should we be paying more?
TL: I think we should be paying more. I don’t know how much more – maybe 20 percent? I’m pulling numbers out hypothetically here. If the airlines need to spend more in order to ensure safety, if they commuters – the small regional airlines – need to spend more to ensure safety, then we, as the public, should step up and pay the difference to ensure safety. Unfortunately, though, with what we’ve been conditioned with, with what we’ve been accustomed to, I don’t see it happening anytime soon. There’s too much competition out there.