Airlines are like Railroads

At least when it comes to union rules.

This one is for my friend John who works for the railroad. I read an article by Philip Greenspun about the safety records of US versus foreign airlines. One big difference is the amount of experience the pilots have. But what was fascinating to me is how similar the rules are for pilots and railroad engineers. Being a union job, the most senior pilots get the pick of what routes to fly and when. It is not worth switching your home terminal even if you move, because you have to move to the bottom of the board. A major difference between the airlines and the railroads is that that the junior pilots get worked to death, while junior railroad engineers don't work often, it at all.

The table showing the differences between typical pilots on major US carriers and major foreign characters is interesting, so here is a screenshot:

Pilot Experience

I also know about the English skills of foreign student pilots directly. I had the opportunity to "fly" a plane to Flagstaff from the Deer Valley airport. I say "fly" because the actual pilot just let me use the yoke to fly straight and land the plane, while he performed the vital tasks of keeping an eye on all the other controls and instruments, and not crashing. But it astounding just how many student pilots you hear on the radio around the Deer Valley airport. You can play a game to see if you can guess where they are from by their accent. I asked why so many people come to the US to learn to fly, and the pilot told me that it is just so much cheaper here that it makes sense to. I did not at the time appreciate that many of these pilots could be destined for major foreign airlines. 

h/t The Fourth Checkraise