Things you don’t see every day


There are a lot of useless Post-It Note neurons floating around my head, but I’ll be darned if one of them is about the last time someone testifying before Congress got a standing ovation.

The crew of US Airways Flight 1549 testified before the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee and pleaded for the reform of the airline industry. Their salaries have been cut and their pensions replaced.

Capt. Chesley Sullenberger said it has placed “pilots and their families in an untenable financial situation… I do not know a single professional airline pilot who wants his or her children to follow in their footsteps.” And yet, as the flight schools from Mankato to North Dakota reveal, they do.

It might be a tough sell, as a drive through the neighborhoods of Eagan and Apple Valley might suggest. Airline pilots, generally speaking, do OK. The average senior captain earns $180,000, according to the Air Line Pilots Association. A first officer makes about $121,000.

If it’s a situation the committee is interested in exploring, they might consider listening to the testimony of the non-major pilots and first officers or flight crews without seniority. Gross monthly starting pay at a regional carrier is around $1,500 a month.

For the first time, we also heard from Patrick Harten. He was the controller who was communicating with the US Airways’ pilots on that January day when the plane ditched in the Hudson River.


“People do not survive landings on the Hudson River, and I thought it was his own death sentence.

“I believed at that moment,” he added, “I was going to be the last person to talk to anyone on that plane alive.”

Expect the crew to get another standing ovation tonight. They’ll be in the gallery when President Obama speaks to a joint session of Congress.

(Photos: Mark Wilson/Getty Images)

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