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Airline pilots, post-9/11, are feeling the jet blues
Rocky economy tarnishes once-glamorous job
Tuesday, July 01, 2003
BY JOSEPH R. PERONE
A hint of destiny was scribbled among the goals in John Diacsuk's
eighth-grade yearbook in 1966: Become an engineer, go to West Point and fly
Who could blame the Teaneck youngster? Back then, being a jet jockey was
just about the coolest thing in the world.
"The Mercury astronauts of the 1960s were pilots, and shows like 'Sky King'
and '12 o'clock High' were playing on TV," he said.
Now, at 6-foot-4 and 240 pounds, Diacsuk has the swagger of Chuck Yeager
with his deep-blue American Airlines uniform and salt-and-pepper hair. Four
stripes on each sleeve signify he has made it to the top of his profession
as an MD-80 captain for the world's largest airline.
"If you got on with a major airline, that was the thing to do," he said.
"You never thought you would have to worry about going bankrupt."
But these days his greatest fear is a forced landing on the unemployment
line. His pay has been cut by almost one-fourth because of losses at
American that forced unions to give back $1.8 billion in concessions -- a
move expected to result in the elimination of 3,000 flight attendant jobs as
early as today.
American is hardly alone. Since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, two
airlines have filed for bankruptcy protection, billions of dollars have been
lost and tens of thousands of jobs have been eliminated. Just yesterday,
pilots at Air Canada agreed to a 15-percent pay cut and 317 layoffs to help ................