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Old 01-22-2012, 02:24 PM
 
Location: Colorado Springs, CO
2,221 posts, read 4,658,702 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Mike from back east View Post
If older pilots hang it up and their replacements move up from the regionals, there's no shortage of young men and women who'd love to replace them. For there to be any semblance of a problem, there'd have to be one single massive retirement of thousands of pilots all in the same week, which could cause some disruptions to local service, but that just isn't going to happen; it will be a gradual transition over a period of years.
One thing you're missing is the changing source of new pilots. The military used to provide a large number of pilots to the majors...since 2008 the airline industry has become unstable to the point where it's no longer widely considered a better deal to leave the AF/Navy for the airlines. Add to that the declining numbers of privately trained pilots due to the high cost and a dramatically shrinking general aviation sector. It's a real problem that has industry leaders very concerned.

And a mass retirement is indeed on the horizon as thousands of pilots who were allowed to stay on longer when the mandatory retirement age was increased in 2009 hit the new mandatory retirement mark.

A likely scenario resulting from all this is a significant reduction in regional service. Remember also that US carriers are actively shedding regional jets from their fleets, as they are not cost-effective with persistent high fuel prices.
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Old 01-22-2012, 02:35 PM
 
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Bob, good info. The coming cutbacks in DoD that most are expecting will push military pilots out that door and into the airlines. Better wages in the airlines will attract pilots too, basically a supply and demand thing where wages rise to attract the needed skills. Airline execs may be worried but I'm sure they're working on these issues not to mention seeking better aircraft. After many years of declining or stagnant airline wages, some inflation in wages and fares can be expected. I like to fly, but hate what flying, and the industry, have become since airline deregulation (oh how I hate that word).
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Old 01-22-2012, 02:51 PM
 
Location: Colorado Springs, CO
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Mike from back east View Post
Bob, good info. The coming cutbacks in DoD that most are expecting will push military pilots out that door and into the airlines. Better wages in the airlines will attract pilots too, basically a supply and demand thing where wages rise to attract the needed skills. Airline execs may be worried but I'm sure they're working on these issues not to mention seeking better aircraft. After many years of declining or stagnant airline wages, some inflation in wages and fares can be expected. I like to fly, but hate what flying, and the industry, have become since airline deregulation (oh how I hate that word).
I don't think it's going to play that way this time around. The AF has been and is still paying bonuses to its pilots in exchange for long-term service commitments, and the take rates are at record highs. The major airlines pay very good wages already--pay is no longer the issue for most military pilots considering making the change; it's lack of job security, giving up a military pension for no pension at all in the airlines, and a very hostile airline work environment that has management intractably pitted against labor.

It's not the end of the world as we know it, but expectations of expanding regional service to places like Durango-La Plata seem premature to me.

And in the longer term, there's no breakthrough yet that promises to relieve the tremendous pressure on an industry whose profit model was and still is based on $60/bbl oil.
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Old 01-22-2012, 03:20 PM
 
Location: Fredericksburg, VA
10,334 posts, read 10,497,126 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Mike from back east View Post
The coming cutbacks in DoD that most are expecting will push military pilots out that door and into the airlines.
This may or may not be true. One thing to consider when talking about military draw downs is the replacement cost of those who have not made the cut, so to speak. The military will start by slashing billets in the areas where personnel are easily replaced and training costs for replacements are lower. This certainly does not describe flight training.

On the other hand, squadrons in the military tend to become top heavy very quickly, and as budgets are cut, flight hours are cut. Pilots may leave voluntarily for these reasons.
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Old 01-22-2012, 04:10 PM
 
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I agree with Bob, it's not the end of the world, and we should expect our airline CEO's are addressing the issues they face, else those firms will be gobbled up by the ones who are doing their jobs.

Outdated thinking that underlying cheaper oil prices are a basis for low fares is going to result in higher airfares sooner or later. Pilot wages are part of that dynamic, they can't offshore that labor cost and will have to pay more for that skill. Maybe our nation should put up a few bucks to assure that we have plenty of trained aviators out there, so that we aren't always robbing Peter (DoD) to supply Paul (airlines), a situation we've seen over and over, to include air traffic controllers, too.

If prices get too high, people will consider the 4 hour drive to Albuquerque or the 8 hour drive to Denver for cheaper fares, and they will decide if it's worth paying an extra $100 per ticket to fly in/out of Durango vice those drives.

I recall the "flying hours" case made by iknowftbll, we dealt with that too when I worked in Army IT shops, i.e., do we put our expense dollars into fuel to keep helo pilots proficient and combat-ready, or spend it on fiber optic loops for the base infrastructure. Base commanders with flying units leaned towards keeping up the flying hours. Decisions decisions.

If the foreseen problems start to occur, a rise in fares and a reduction in the number of daily flights may actually occur, some changes may be made by the flying public, but as always we will overcome these issues.
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Old 01-23-2012, 02:35 PM
 
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Since Day 1 of the commercial airline industry in the US, if one indexes all airline profits and losses for inflation, the commercial airline industry in the US has never made a dime. How do I know this? I know one of the premier national experts on airline economics (he is regularly employed as an expert witness in airline litigation), and one of my relatives was the president of a regional airline for over three decades. Both said the same thing--airlines are a money pit--despite the fact that they have received massive direct and indirect government subsidies throughout their history. These subsidies include, but are not limited to: their terminals largely built and supported with taxpayer money, air traffic control and weather forecasting paid for the government, many of their pilots (as others have noted) trained at taxpayer expense in the US military, and numerous other direct subsidies. Despite all of that, the airlines have largely failed at profitability--this when, for most of the industry's history, fuel was dirt cheap.

The regional airlines have been especially good money-losers. Federal subsidies, often amounting to hundreds of dollar per boarded passenger at many rural airports, have kept the regionals alive. One only has to look at where the industry is headed to see that the regional airports are headed for oblivion. Fuel costs are the big killer. Anyone familiar with aircraft will tell you that they are the least fuel efficient on short flights, where the copious amount of fuel used for takeoff and to gain altitude is not compensated for by a long cruise at high altitude where the aircraft is most fuel-efficient. The "fuel-efficient" aircraft being ordered by the airlines today are designed to cram as many passengers as possible in a single aircraft and are designed to fly long-distances at cruising altitude. "Puddle-jumpers" they ain't.

I remember the "good old days" in Colorado regional air service. There were two main carriers--the "old" Frontier Airlines and Aspen Airways. Both used the Convair 580 48-passenger aircraft. The 580 was designed as a piston-engine aircraft in the late 1940's and they were converted to turboprops (burning jet fuel) in the 1960's. They were the "pickup truck" of aircraft--brute tough, nearly indestructible, and stone-reliable. Unfortunately, they were also fuel-guzzling pigs and that was their eventual downfall. As an aside, I probably owe my life to the old 580. On a trip from the Western Slope to Denver in the 1970's, our plane hit severe clear-air turbulence just east of South Park. The wrenching the plane took was so severe that it bent the starboard prop and popped a couple of hundred rivets on the starboard wing. If I had been flying on one of the smaller "commuter" aircraft now in use on the same routes, the plane probably would have broken up. Back in those days, it was those subsidies and federal service regulations that kept rural air service alive and federal regulations that kept ticket prices low (the taxpayers and long-distance travelers, of course, picking up the unrecovered costs).

The massive subsidies for rural airports (and, yes, Durango would still be considered one of those) are now under intense scrutiny, as they should be. Fuel costs are going to continue to march upward, and they are already at levels where much of any substantive increase will send the airline industry into a financial tailspin.

Whatever is being said, and whatever the current state of regional and rural air service is in this country or this state, I think anyone who bases their livelihood or where they choose to live on the premise that such service is going to continue to exist in the long term is living in a fool's paradise. Living in rural Colorado for much of my life, I quit relying on regional air service some 20+ years ago--its passing won't affect me at all.
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Old 01-23-2012, 04:17 PM
 
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JazzLover, I agree with all you say, and will add a few more examples.

One subsidy that used to exist was a DoD subsidy to airlines for jumbo jet commercial airfreighters. DoD wanted larger cargo doors and sturdier main decks in order to haul military equipment in times of national emergencies. The larger doors cost extra and the heavier floors add to weight of the plane, reducing both fuel efficiency and tonnage loads, so DoD gave them a subsidy under the Civil Reserve Air Fleet (CRAF) program, which covered many things. It was just another sunk cost in the Cold War and for our continued readiness.

Another form of subsidy was when the Postal Service switched from using the railroads to using the airlines for carrying the mail. Although the airlines carry the mail and perform a service for which they are paid, it amounts to a subsidy, but is probably cheaper than buying and operating a fleet of dedicated USPS planes. The straw that broke the back of the last privately owned rail passenger service came (IIRC) in 1971 when the Government took the last of its mail off the railroads, and is when Amtrak had to be formed to take over the remnants of rail passenger service.

Another subsidy that is long gone was when the British and French were flying their Concorde SST aircraft. It was a beautiful bird, they used to fly over our house back near Dulles Airport in northern Virginia, and you always knew it by the roar it made. In order to keep ticket prices on the SSTs within the realm of what some people would pay for the added speed, the governments of Britain and France had to subsidize those planes to the tune of $1k per seat per flight. That will run up your red ink in a hurry. National Pride can be very expensive.

When Donald Trump bought the old Eastern Airline Shuttle and it became "The Trump Shuttle," I turned to my wife, laughing, and told her this was going to be hilarious, that he'd get his clock cleaned in that business. He did. Excerpt from the Wiki article: "Trump Shuttle never turned a profit. The high debt load incurred in the company's formation unnerved Trump's creditors as his other high profile, highly leveraged interests failed. In September 1990 the loans were defaulted and ownership of the airline passed to its creditor banks,...." He lasted ONE year in the biz.

All that being said, I don't expect air service to Durango to go POOF, they will find a way, even if fares have to go way up.
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Last edited by Mike from back east; 01-23-2012 at 04:27 PM..
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Old 01-23-2012, 05:29 PM
 
8,317 posts, read 25,159,132 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Mike from back east View Post
All that being said, I don't expect air service to Durango to go POOF, they will find a way, even if fares have to go way up.
Air service may not go "poof" in places like Durango, but it will likely become the realm of only the very wealthy or for people who absolutely must fly to get someplace in a dire emergency.

Back in the 1970's, many people in rural Colorado flew to Denver regularly for both pleasure or business. Few local residents do that, anymore--it simply is unaffordable. Most of the people flying in and out of rural Colorado airports only do it to connect with flights going outside of Colorado, or are out-of-state travelers traveling to Colorado resort destinations. The coming inevitable run-up in medium distillate fuel costs--jet fuel in this case--will ravage the regional airline industry and make even those travelers take pause when considering whether or not to fly into or out of rural Colorado. At that point, taxpayers in those communities who have had their tax money spent on fancy regional airport facilities are going to be asking why in the hell their tax dollars were squandered on facilities that are suddenly underutilized and economically obsolete.
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