It’s happening again. Those pesky Northwest pilots are just not turning up for work, and the airline is cancelling flights, again. In late June, Northwest cancelled more than 1,000 flights in the month’s final 10 days, after which the airline decided to announce a 3% cut in its flying schedules for August so that it didn’t face the same dilemma. By some estimates, as many as 125,000 travellers were delayed or inconvenienced by the June cancellations, which brought Northwest enormous negative publicity. The end of the month is the crucial time for cancellations at any airline, because that’s when pilots bump up against their contract’s limit on maximum hours. And that’s when airlines rely on pilots volunteering to fly extra hours. (Volunteering isn’t exactly the right word, since the pilots do get paid.) Northwest simply cited high absenteeism rates, but the pilots blamed poor management of staffing planning.
The end of July though is slightly different than the end of June: it’s time for the big Experimental Aircraft Association fly-in at Oshkosh, Wisconsin, when thousands of airplane lovers fly in to look at some beautifully preserved aircraft, some offbeat aircraft and some futuristic aircraft. They key word here, you may notice, is aircraft, things that pilots like, and in as much as Oshkosh is an easy flight or drive from Northwest’s base in Minneapolis/St. Paul and a short hop from Detroit, its biggest hub, some are wondering if its the plane-lover’s choice to look at classics rather than fly overtime. EAA calls its 23-29 July event ‘Air Venture’, and the line of V-tailed little Beechies shown here is from last year’s Air Venture.