Hudson Hero Predicts "Negative Consequences" of Pilot Pay Cuts

Flight 1549 copilot works two jobs to make ends meet

By Jackson West
|  Monday, Mar 2, 2009  |  Updated 12:18 PM PDT
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Hudson Hero Predicts "Negative Consequences" of Pilot Pay Cuts

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Sully says pay cuts and pension losses for pilots and crew could endanger Americans.

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Captain Chesley "Sully" Sullenberger, the US Airways pilot and Danville resident who landed a powerless plane in New York's Hudson river earlier this year spoke to congress about the plight of pilot pay.

The sobering news comes after Sullenberger recently made an appearance at the annual Oscar night afterparty thrown by Vanity Fair.

Speaking before the House aviation committee yesterday, Sullenberger complained of a 40 percent pay cut and a pension that evaporated after airlines slashed salaries and benefits to deal with financial problems.

"I do not know a single, professional airline pilot who wants his or her children to follow in their footsteps," Sullenberger noted.

Copilot Jeffrey B. Skiles, who told legislators that he works two jobs to maintain a middle-class existence, said that without proper compensation, "experienced crews in the cockpit will be a thing of the past."

The experience of the pilots and crew is widely credited as being a critical factor in the successful crash landing of US Airways Flight 1549.

Sullenberger pointed to the deregulation of the airline industry in the 1970s, while Skiles urged the government to improve relationships between airline companies and employee unions.

Amid bankruptcies following the tragedies of September 11th, 2001, pension programs were treated as creditors and pilots saw their promised retirement benefits evaporate.

"We will see negative consequences to the flying public" if airlines can't keep experienced professionals in the air, Sullenberger warned.

After all, not every pilot can count on a media frenzy and likely movie deal to fund their retirement.

Jackson West thinks America works best when we say 'union yes!'

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