Here’s a story that’s sad, heartwarming, and inspiring…
Many Qantas pilots are furloughed indefinitely
The travel industry, and particularly airlines, have been hit very hard by the coronavirus pandemic. Arguably this has been felt even more in Australia than elsewhere — with borders closed indefinitely, Qantas has essentially terminated long haul flights.
The airline has put most of its long haul aircraft in storage in California:
- All A380s have been stored, with no plans to fly them in the next few years
- Most 787s have been stored; while these are likely to be reactivated before A380s, it’ll be at least a year before any more of these planes are flying again
As a result, Qantas has also furloughed a majority of its pilots, so it’s anyone’s guess if & when they’ll be recalled.
13 Qantas pilots have become bus drivers
With so many Qantas pilots not currently having work, at least 13 Qantas pilots have transitioned from Airbuses to… well, regular buses. Australian news program “The Project” has a fascinating interview with two Qantas pilots, talking about their journeys.
Combined the two pilots have spent 62 years flying jets:
- One was a Qantas A380 captain who delivered the first ever A380 12 years ago, which was a highlight of his career
- One was a Qantas A380 first officer who flew the last A380 flight back from London; he talks about how he felt emotional, knowing it might be the last time he flies the plane
- Both of the pilots flew a Qantas A380 into the Mojave Desert several months ago for long term storage, noting how surreal and emotional it was
I can’t help but get emotional when I hear the A380 captain talk about his experience flying the plane to the Mojave:
“I think going to the Mojave was probably one of the most difficult things, you know, taking that first aircraft that I delivered to the desert. And it’ll probably stay there, won’t come back, we all cried. You know, there’s 10 A380s parked in Victorville, parked in the dirt, the tumbling tumbleweeds being blown by the wind. Then you pan away from our 10 aircraft, and there’s 700 or 800 airplanes.”
And that brings us to the present day — both of the pilots are now bus drivers. They talk about how they wanted a purpose and were otherwise at home, and this was an opportunity that was presented to them.
How does flying an Airbus compare to driving a bus? The pilots talk about how flying a plane takes concentration for short periods of time, and then they sometimes get breaks and can even watch a movie, while driving a bus takes concentration for long periods of time. One of the pilots even says that he hopes that when he formally retires from Qantas he can go back to driving buses.
Word spread between pilots about the opportunity, and that’s how they’ve gotten so many airline pilots onto buses now.
You can watch the full segment here:
Obviously so many airline employees are finding themselves in a similar predicament, either having been laid off, furloughed, or put on unpaid leave. It’s inspiring to see how these Qantas pilots have made the best of the situation, transitioning from Airbuses to buses.
I could feel their emotion as they talked about this transition, and it’s clear they both really love planes and their jobs. But despite that, their positive attitudes and willingness to adjust to challenges that life has thrown their way is really inspiring.
Here’s to hoping these guys are back at the controls of A380s soon!
Did you love this story as much as I did?
(Tip of the hat to Roy)