Linsanity Live!

I really don't know what to call it.  Happy coincidence or serendipitous but my schedule happened follow him.  At first, I was able to get a glimpse of Madison Square Garden's own Boeing 737 (tail number N37NY) preflighting at Westchester County Airport (KHPN) before flying the New York Knicks to Toronto and it just so happened that I was going to be in Toronto for an overnight on the 14th!  It didn't matter that I was going to make the trek by myself because I was set on looking for excitement.  I'll tell you right away, I was not let down!

I arrived at the Fairfield Inn Toronto Airport around 1600 and knew that I needed to search for a ticket (thanks Craigslist), get back on a shuttle to the airport, either pay $33.00 roundtrip for a Toronto Airport Express to Downtown or $6.00 roundtrip for the 192 Express Bus to Kipling Station then transfer two stops on the subway (Kipling --> St. George --> Union) then find the Air Canada Centre, meet up with said ticket seller / owner then venture in and watch the Knicks take on the Raptors. I've done the expensive "quicker" bus but thought that I should save some money since my ticket would end up costing $90 so off I went.

It was really easier as the subway only goes either east / west then north and south and if I missed my stops, I would it them later on the same line. People were friendly and I was able to get around. Granted it was a whole 30 minutes longer than the express, but the game started at 1900 so I had plenty of time.

Union Station was CRAZY!  Food places abundant, and everywhere I looked, people were all talking about Jeremy Lin.  It was almost like a constant meditation and chant all around me.  I was even getting excited as most of the people there were yes, unfortunately for the Raptors, there to watch the Linsanity live.

I met up with the "guy" and to be honest, I'm not all that much of a fan of scalping especially since it was a lone seat but he reassured that I had him number and I was able to get in, sit in my seat and not have anyone kick me out.  Good stuff. The seat was next to a great couple who actually were gifted the tickets months ago and were more than excited that it was this particular game especially that Jeremy Lin was part of his fantasy team!

Admittedly, the game started off slow and at the end of the first half, the Raptors were holding a strong lead and Jeremy Lin only had 9 points but did have 4 assists.  It looked like Stoudemire and Lin were trying to play off of each other but to no avail.  It almost looked like there were communicating in foreign dialects adding to the sloppy plays, mishaps and turnovers.  Hoping for a better second half, the third quarter would only have Lin adding another 6 points with back to back foul shots missing the rim.  At one point, I was afraid that Lin wouldn't hit "the 20" or heaven forbid, the Knicks winning streak would end...all because I was at the game??? I'm not that vain, but a thought, that I'm sure we all conjure up lining up perfectly well as superstition, popped up that it was because I went to game.

Going into the fourth quarter, the Knicks finally started knocking at door and with 1:05 left, Jeremy Lin hit a 2 and 1 tying the game. The arena was on their feet and the chanting began. I was yelling along with everyone else and after a couple of great blocks back and forth, Lin found himself with the ball asking Coach Mike D'Antoni for a timeout. Unexpectedly, Coach waved his hands off and a play was called. Apparently Lin went with an audible and successfully hit the three-pointer! High fives, screams and chants later...the Knicks continued their fairytale and I had the best time EVER!

Great recaps of the game!  Oh yeah, by the way, his 137 points in his first five career starts, is the most for any player who began his career since the NBA-ABA merger in 1976-77, passing Shaquille O’Neal (129).

WSJ: Lin's Legend Grows With Late Theatrics / Phenom Hits Game-Winner to Cap a Stunning Comeback

ESPN: Linsanity goes international in Toronto

And You Thought Politics was Dirty...

Maybe you've heard of the term "scab", maybe not.  If you work in the airline industry you most certainly have heard it and probably cringe at the very sound.  Up to this point in my career as an airline pilot I have only been aware of scabs from our past.  Things that happened in the industry before I was a part of it.  Saturday I see my first real time exposure to real life, unmistakeable, scabs.  And no, it has nothing to do with a healing scrape or burn.  A scab is the label put on a pilot who does any flying, and I mean any flying, that has been deemed struck.  In other words, when a pilot group goes on strike as Spirit Airlines based in Ft. Lauderdale, FL is doing right now, if you work a flight that flies their passengers under their name with compensation going to that airline (in this case Spirit), you are forever known for the rest of your career as a scab.  It doesn't matter what the motivation is behind it.  Whether your job was threatened or even your families, the unionized pilot groups in the U.S. will generally turn their back on you.  There is even a "black list", mysterious as it is, floating around the industry making permanent record of anyone who has crossed the picket line.  Generally, this keeps you from hitching a ride on other carriers and in many cases will even prevent you from being hired by another airline! And the debate goes on...  Is it really fair to essentially destroy the career of a pilot for what could equate to simply doing the job that his or her  boss demanded they do?  That of course is up for debate.  And many unionized pilots may feel sympathy for a given scab depending on their circumstances.  But the fact remains, it happened.  And in the environment we have today at the airlines, as has been the case for decades, there is no tolerance for it.  Essentially those pilots that chose to cross the picket line are undermining the guys and gals picketing out front.  Mind you those pilots on strike have lost all benefits from their job during the strike, including pay.

Beginning early Saturday morning, the pilot group at Spirit Airlines went on strike over a dispute in the contract they have been negotiating for years.  This has led to stranded passengers, overworked ticket agents, and a reallocation of law enforcement to provide security inside the airport.  The pilots and management at Spirit knew exactly what they were getting into when neither could agree on a contract by the pre-determined deadline.  Today they're all paying for that.  Whether or not the pilots are right or management is right is another topic altogether.

A charter airline by the name of Falcon Air Express was hired by the Spirit Airlines management team to provide transportation to their passengers.  They were Spirit routes, with Spirit call signs flying Spirit passengers.  The union representing Spirit Airlines pilots (Airline Pilots Association) made it clear before the strike that they would consider any pilot that did any flying for Spirit during the strike a scab as permanent record.  Saturday, 2 pilots did just that.  From what I can tell, they were the only two pilots in the Falcon Air system that did not refuse to do the flights.  The other crew members under Falcon Air's employment assumed a great amount of risk themselves by refusing to work the flight.  Having no union representation, you could even argue they assumed more risk than the Spirit Airlines pilots that have walked out on their jobs.  The names of the two scabs have been made public record already but I will refrain from publishing them myself as I have no way to legitimately verify them nor do I have interest in vilifying them further than they already have been.

And the question remains, is it really justifiable to destroy the careers of two pilots who may have a family at home they're supporting?  For all we know that could be the very reason they took the flight in the first place.  Scabs have been around in the airline industry for a long time.  Whether it has been pilots crossing picket lines or alter ego airlines being created by a given airline to undercut their own workforce, the list continues to grow.  At the dismay of most unionized pilots that may be reading this I will dare say that I would never refuse a jumpseat to an alleged scab if they had legitimate reasons to act in the way that they did.  A person with 2 kids at home making $30,000 a year can't afford to refuse a flight.  The industry is asking them to make personal and family sacrifices for the sake of airline pilots around the world.  Those that do refuse that flight should be commended.  They are making a sacrifice for what they perceive as "fighting the good fight".  Those that cross the picket line or accept employment with a scab airline because they have no other options deserve at least some compassion.  Is it a problem?  Absolutely.  Would we all be better off if they didn't exist?  Well, if by all you mean pilots then of course.  But it seems today that the accuser could very easily be the accused.  They throw stones that may come back to knock them right in the head.  What happened to dignity, compassion, and professionalism?  It certainly seems to be lacking in the airline industry today.  Any maybe it's lacking in the American culture altogether.

The action of scabbing and the reaction of those pilots being scabbed against are really dark windows into the flying profession.  Much like I did for the umpire the blew a perfect game with a bad call recently against the Detroit Tigers, I feel for the 2 crew members that work for Falcon Air and will probably never work for another American airline.  Until I get all of the facts straight, which I may never do with absolute certainty, I will refrain from passing judgment on the two Falcon crew members.  When I find out they knowingly undercut the pilots picketing out front of the airport I will feel comfortable in labeling them scabs knowing the consequences that follow.  And even then, if they had a compelling reason, I'd welcome them into my own jump seat in the future.

How a Strike is Perceived by those In and Out of the Industry

On the morning of June 12, 2010 at 5AM, the end of negotiations and the beginning of a strike by the Spirit Airlines Pilots Union began.  Headquartered in Fort Lauderdale since 1999, the airline announced its transition to become America's first Ultra-Low-Cost Carrier in 2007 alongside a re-branding effort.  Continuing the race to the bottom, charging passengers for baggage, carry-ons and drinks, Spirit Airlines is asking for more.  Targeting not only the pilots wages, which are currently 30% below industry standards, as well as work rules dealing with fatigue and pilot seniority, Spirit Airlines is fighting.  Just a little after three years of failed contract negotiations, the National Mediation Board "permitted" the pilots the right to strike.  Since then, various media outlets from the New York Times via The Associated Press to the Miami Herald and MSNBC have failed to mention the certain plights that members of the striking pilots union have gone through, have lived with and are being asked in the company proposal. Since when does a sports athlete without a contract show up to practice or continue to play the game?  Rookies don't practice until they have a firm contract and heck, even seasoned veterans sometimes holdout even before their contract expires!  In what other industry do we see contract negotiations outlasting their expiration and workers forced to continue laboring under older work rules which can sometimes be up to ten years old?  In the case of Pinnacle Airlines pilots, they are still flying without a contract going on five years with negotiations currently stalled.  It took Atlantic Southeast Airlines right around 5 years to negotiate a new contract that was amending a contract created 3 years prior to the start of negotiations!  Back in 2007, Atlantic Southeast Pilots were getting paid rates that were negotiated back in 1998!

The mindset of the mass public, due to misinformation from the media as well as an old school mentality left over from the golden age of flying, is that most pilots make upwards of $200,000 a year.  I'll admit that some do but the majority do not.  I'll tell you right now that in 2006, the average wage for a first year commercial airline pilot ranged from $14K-$50K.  A public website called Airline Pilot Central has most of the US Carriers wages listed as hourly but taking a closer look, an hourly wage earned by a pilot doesn't calculate to 40 hours a week.  It varies throughout the airlines, but an average month can range between 65 hours to 80 hours of pay.  Taking that into consideration, max flight time is federally regulated to 30 hours in a seven  day period, 100 hours in 30 days and 1000 per year.

I pulled data from the public website Airline Pilot Central, specifically these airlines; [Spirit AirlinesAirTranVirgin AmericaSouthwestJetBlue].  I have done the easy part and posted the wages that are current of this publishing comparing airlines that fly comparable equipment.  In this specific case, ignore the A321 category under Spirit as well as the E190 category under JetBlue.

Taking a look above specifically at the 6 year scale moving clockwise (highlighted in red boxes), captains make $118 / $124 / $120 / $193 / $147 where first officers make $67 / $74 / $72 / $129 / $96 on an hourly basis.  These graphics do not take into account the vast differences in medical benefits, compensation and work rules.  Note that Virgin America is the youngest of these airlines and is already offering to pay their pilots more than Spirit Airlines.  One might inquire on why Southwest Airlines is incredibly higher in pay?  It's because they did not take contract hits as much as the Major airlines in the post 2001 collapse and have maintained an industry leading management / employee relationship.  Southwest was once the lower paying of the bunch.

I hope that I have enlightened you to some simple facts where the media has miserably failed in its duties.  Furthermore, I have included a website that details the history and current issues that plague Spirit Airlines.  I encourage you to read further and comment away.

Here is an excerpt from the aforementioned website:

~~~~~~~~ POST STRIKE ~~~~~~~ Understanding the hostilty and frustration, one can easily see why this strike occurred: In the last 30 days, the Investors (1) publically threatened to close the airline if a strike occurred; then (2) went back to the bargaining table while informing customers that if the pilots went on strike it would (fully knowing it could not) continue operating "through the crisis" using other carriers; and (3) today, every Spirit flight has been cancelled stranding thousands of passengers; passengers, many of which chose not to make alternate travel arrangments based on the promises put forth by Spirit.

Their pattern is self-evident. This is exactly how the Investors have approached federally mediated negotiations for the past four (4) years. They have outright lied, stalled and been blatantly deceitful -- so much so -- that at one point ALPA brought suit in Federal court to enjoin their blatant refusal to bargain in good faith. Pointedly, the Judge dismissed the case finding, essentialy, that the Court lacked jurisdiction to enjoin the right to bargain any way one wants.

And to this deceit, where do the needs of the passenger fall? Right behind the pilots'.