Piloten bei Ryanair

Im Studium stellte mir ein imaginärer Professor Picot in einem seiner Bücher über die Neue Institutionenökonomik die Frage “warum gibt es überhaupt grosse Unternehmen: warum ist nicht jedes Individuum ein Unternehmer in eigener Sache?” Institutionenökonomen haben darauf eine ausgeklügelte Antwort. Im Kern geht es aber um Transaktionskosten, und da diese durch neue Technologien und soziale Interaktionsformen ständig sinken, sagen die Modelle für die Zukunft gravierende Verschiebungen der “Grenzen der Unternehmung” voraus.

Ryanair macht schon mal vor, wie es laufen kann.

Um für die irische Billigfluglinie zu fliegen, muss der willige Pilot eine eigene «Limited» Gesellschaft (Ltd.) mit Sitz in Dublin gründen. Diese «Ein-Piloten-Ltd.» bietet ihre Arbeitsleistung der Firma Brookfield Aviation Ltd. an, die ihren Sitz ebenfalls in Dublin hat. Brookfield ihrerseits verleiht dann diese Piloten weiter an die Firma Ryanair. Der Pilot sitzt also in einem Flugzeug der Firma Ryanair, mit der er aber in keinem direkten Vertragsverhältnis steht.

Für den irischen Billigflieger ergeben sich daraus viele Vorteile: Da das fliegende Personal nach Blockstunden bezahlt wird, fallen keine Grundkosten an. Zudem können von einem Monat auf den anderen Kapazitäten auf- oder abgebaut oder von einer Basis auf eine andere transferiert werden. Der Pilot als Unternehmer muss sich selbst um seine Pensionskasse, Sozialabgaben und Steuern kümmern. Sollte einmal die Blockstundenanzahl und somit auch das Einkommen gekürzt werden, trägt ebenfalls der Pilot dieses unternehmerische Risiko.

Nicht vorenthalten möchte ich Euch ein paar andere Höhepunkte aus dem Brookfield Vertrag. Da der Pilot bei keiner Fluggesellschaft angestellt ist, trotzdem aber irgendwo in den Simulator muss, zahlt er als Pauschale viereinhalb Euro pro Flugstunde an Ryanair für die Nutzung ihrer Trainingseinrichtungen. Steht einmal ein Flug mit einem Instruktor oder einem Examiner an, so hat der Trainee für einen Teil der Kosten aufzukommen. Ein First Officer verdient übrigens 60 Euro brutto pro Flugstunde.

Aus: Pilots of Swiss


Aeronautics and Superstition

They don’t mix well.

Aviation is founded on science. Flight owes a lot to physicists, but nothing at all to gods, saints, demons or their prophets or flying horses. So I think it’s odd when someone expects pilots to pray before a flight, or thank gods after a safe landing.

To prepare for picking up a plane for which I didn’t have the operations handbook, I searched for that type’s checklists on the web and printed them out. I didn’t check the source, and later noticed they were from Liberty University’s School of Aeronautics. The emblem in the corner should have been a clue, but I noticed when I went through the checklist and found this:

Prayer? Check!
Prayer? Check!

Pray? To whom? And for what? Good weather? I’d prefer the pilot to call Flight Service for a proper weather briefing, or at least look up the forecasts at www.AviationWeather.gov.

There’s a similar entry in the checklist for shutting down and securing the aircraft. I suppose that one’s to thank Zeus, Quetzalcoatl, Jesus, Poseidon, Vishnu and Allah for a safe return to the airport. I’d prefer the pilot to rely on proper preparation, good training and diligent maintenance instead of believing there were factors beyond his or her control. You can see what that kind of belief leads to on the roads in many developing countries. The supernatural world (responsible for fate, destiny, divine providence) is believed to be a powerful force which always thwarts human effort. Why should a taxi driver be so arrogant to think he can outsmart the gods?

I think a good pilot should be exactly that arrogant. There’s no point in thanking gods, spirits or demons for good outcomes, or blaming them for bad situations. It’s all physics, brought under control with training, preparation and good judgment. Believing there is a mysterious, uncontrollable factor undermines your trust in the things you do know and undermines you when you are faced with things or situations you don’t know. Yes there is “luck” (e.g. the terrain available for an emergency landing), but it’s important to view it in the same way you’d view a hand of cards. Training and knowledge help to make the best of the hand you’ve been dealt. No reason to thank anyone but the people in your present and past who helped you succeed.

Now I don’t mind at all if those Christians (I looked it up: Liberty University is a Christian “university”) deploy their prayer in emergency situations, but only after all rational options have been exhausted. So why don’t they move that checklist item into the red sections? Not into a section with lots of activity, but into “Wing Fire” for example:

Not much you can do, really...
Not much you can do, really…

There’s not much you can do, except blow a bit of air over the wing and call 121.5. After you’ve done that, if you’re lucky there’s plenty of time for prayer while you descend. Until you start preparing for your emergency landing, if applicable. Good luck! Not literally of course, so don’t put it in the checklist.

Systemic Paranoia

I think the concepts and vocabulary of “Homeland Security” are emotionally loaded, and it’s likely this is by design of the stakeholders. The core concept has led to the creation of staffed and funded organizations which can’t possibly be in a good position to justify their levels of staffing and funding. I’ll bet this situation leads to the routine over-deployment of resources (usually: armed and armoured civil servants) at the slightest hint of a marginally justifiable cause.

I recently had an odd experience in a commercial plane, which soon after landing was boarded by a CDC official, inexplicably accompanied by a swarm of armed goons, to investigate a cranky child.

Here’s a similar case, where the sighting of a glider near a nuclear power plant led to the deployment of apparently over-excited local law enforcement officials acting on behalf of FBI and DHS. I’d ask “what are these people thinking”, but they probably just aren’t. They just follow orders, or their manual, and are more than likely delighted about the expanded authority which has been bestowed upon them out of the blue.

Go ahead and follow the link. The AOPA’s using the case to sell their legal assistance, but nonetheless it’s an interesting case. It’s disturbing to see the police, and worse: the DHS trying to exert power where they have no jurisdiction (here: aviation regulations). Threatening to shoot down an unpowered aircraft which is too light to be a threat to a nuclear power plant (evident just by looking at it)? It’s disgusting.

Haze can be treacherous

I returned from my first involuntary flight into a soup kitchen today. The formal term is “inclement meteorological conditions”. To make things worse, this occurred while still within controlled airspace of a major city airport. If I had asked the tower to turn around, I could have done so–but for a better chance at keeping my license I would have had to lie about the nature of the emergency.

What disturbs me is that I didn’t do anything wrong before taking off. I called flight service to get a weather briefing, and the briefer advised me of lowering cloud base at the airport, but nothing worse than haze to the South. The lower base failed to materialize, and the automated weather stations at surrounding airports all reported high cloud bases and acceptable visibility, so I made a decision to proceed. It was between airports that I hit a wall of haze. Not thick enough for precipitation, so it didn’t show up on weather radar, but more than thick enough to make the windscreen look like it was painted white.

My mistake, if this had ended badly, was not immediately telling ATC I was in trouble and initiating a standard turn to get out into the open. Instead, I proceeded until the controller had cleared me from C airspace before thinking about how to get back safely. Now I know that there is a difference between basic instrument flight training, where all you’re doing is holding course and altitude by systematically scanning instruments, and real-world instrument flight when you need to do all kinds of stuff besides simply keeping the airplane flying. Stuff like finding out exactly where you are, dialing in frequencies, talking to controllers and trying hard not to let them notice that you’re flying blind.

I think they caught on, though. I was pretty close before I could truthfully answer that I had the field in sight. All’s well that ends well, and again the conditions at the airport itself were no worse than sunshine over a light haze. I was happy with my landing, but also happy to have landed. About half an hour later the fog had reached the airport and they’d switched to full-on instrument landing operations.

What will I do next time?

  • Solve the unanticipated situation as soon as it begins to develop, regardless of potential Tower/FAA reports or other consequences.
  • Treat haze with suspicion. It might not show up as a cloud base reading or VFR ceiling forecast, but if all the airports in an area report haze, I will take into account that this light haze may form into thicker banks in the space in between. Airports tend to be in built-up areas where the haze burns away sooner than over woodland.
  • Keep using 1-800-WXBRIEF, even when I can formally log an automated briefing over DUATS or whatever. Now I value the live weather briefers more than before: they might have been slightly off this time, but I most certainly didn’t learn about that bank of haze by looking at individual weather stations. The briefers would have notified me if there had been pilot reports in the vicinity.
  • Use modern technology. Always. Because this was only supposed to be a short hop using the plane’s own “steam gauges”, I left my GLONASS and tablet in the bag. I had to get the stuff off the back seat and boot it up before being able to tell the tower exactly where I was before re-entering their airspace. It was worth it. Today’s consumer-grade navigation equipment is excellent. I should have had it turned on from the beginning.
  • Submit a pilot report next time. I only thought about it much later today. I suppose it was iffy this time because of the way I had skirted the rules, but that’s all the more reason to bite the bullet and “go official” as soon as a situation begins to develop.

The experience has also strengthened my resolve to obtain my instrument rating. While I’m sure I won’t be able to fulfil the IFR currency requirements for very long, I think it will help me feel much more comfortable in those nasty “inclement meteorological conditions”.

General Aviation

A comment posted on the AOPA’s web site made me think about changing priorities:

“General Aviation is in a graveyard spiral […] Fuel prices, aircraft, parts and maintenance costs, and, of course safety are all major factors. As is declining interest in flying. It’s no longer novel or new. On a recent trip, the school children were not interested in my airplane, or my KTM dirt bike. They were interested in my iPhone 5.

Younger school kids are likely more interested in a smart phone because it’s something they can relate to, something they can aspire to get their hands on at their age. That might explain it. But even amongst older people, I notice most are not really interested in airplanes. Planes are something you ride in to get from A to B, like buses. In much the same way, I think interest in cars is declining (at least interest in different brands and models of cars).