Pilot Employment, 1968

by Capt. John Snidow

In 1978 I returned from yet another furlough. By that time Jean and I had gotten pretty good at dealing with the process because we had a lot of practice. We also were aware that just a few numbers down the seniority list the pilots weren't getting recalls. I only accrued five years of longevity during the eleven-plus years on the seniority list at the time of the Seaboard/Flying Tiger merger. I was minor player on the Seaboard Merger Committee and the Tiger Merger Committee used me as one of their exhibits!

I had gone out to Zantop in Ypsalanti, MI and checked out as a DC-6 Captain. I got in four months on the line flying bumpers and fenders, before getting furloughed (from the left seat). It has probably happened before but I haven't met anyone else who was furloughed out of all three seats. I thought takes a certain talent to pull that off but some friends and one wife might be more inclined to look at it as the story of a three-time loser. I drove home and took a hard look at the situation. As luck would have it, the phone rang several nights later and I was offered a job with the national domestic airline of Trinidad and Tobago on the basis of having met and talked to the individual. Two days later, I was on a BWIA fight from JFK to Piarco, Trinidad. Three days later I was flying trips! It was idyllic with great weather, easy flights, good pay, well-maintained airplanes and the rules were the Colonial Air Navigation Orders of 1967 under which I was as close to being an aviation god as anyone is allowed. I turned down a recall in late '78 but the contract was up in '79 and I took the next Seaboard recall.

After an embarrassing check ride in the DC-8 simulator at LaGuardia (embarrassing because I had spent the last two years flying in Trinidad's beautiful weather and instrument skills do deteriorate) I was back on the line at Seaboard. I reported for my assigned trip to fly with Captain Bill Headley who had given me several check rides and had a reputation for being difficult, along with a flight engineer who could be fractious, and a cabin crew. We ferried the airplane down to McGuire AFB, picked up a load of dependents, and headed for Barcelona, Spain.

The captain didn't particularly care for the flight attendants who returned the feeling. Needless to say, service to the cockpit was minimal at best. The captain and the F/E had a running battle over the most insignificant issues. When one would go to the blue room, the other would rant. Except for the name, the rant was nearly verbatim. It is funny now looking back on it. It was not fun at the time! Downwind at 8,000 ft. the two were arguing about the checklist and I pointed out to the captain that we were abeam the airport, high and really fast at 250 kts. and cleared for a visual approach. He thanked me, turned in his seat and got everything under control. Sort of.

We had two days in Barcelona and I hid out in the Prado. The museum is dark to protect the art. Perfect! I was wondering how life had gone so badly so fast. Could I be continuing this? From big fish in a small pond to this? Really?

Within a week or so, I was on another trip, great people, fun flying and I settled in. But for a week I wasn't sure about the future.

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