Has The Supply Of Virtual Airlines Exceeded The Demand Of Pilots?
By Jonathan Rone"Perhaps we have gone over our heads and made this industry competitive..."
On with the topic, shall we? Throughout 2000 and possibly right now, I have noticed the dramatic increase in VA's coming along with convincing names, routes, fleet, staff, etc. Although I do not check on every VA, each VA falls in one of four categories: recreational, regional, domestic/international and feeder. Within each category each VA attempts to attain the following: making a pilot/management base, making an impact on the industry, and making the VA experience fun and realistic. Real or fantasy, each VA runs with the same purpose.
Along with VA's running towards a common goal, every VA contains its own interpretation of "airline policies." Such categories that fall in the airline's policy are pilot conduct, leave of absence (LOA), executing assignments, and many others. It is usually the VA's policies that make each VA unique. BUT, since each VA contains its own interpretation of policies, it almost seems as if the CEO is looking for the right recipe to attracting pilots!
Besides the fact that CEO's are searching the right recipe to success, pilots want to get a feel for other policies with other VA's. However, since there are so many VA's to pick and choose, pilots end up signing up with multiple VA's. The consequence: slow input from such pilots! Who has seen a full-time captain fly for other airlines? Correct me if I am wrong, but NONE!
In most cases, once a pilot becomes interested in the VA he/she has looked up, he/she will sign up. During that time, that pilot will face the pressures coming from both VA's due to repeated requests of consistency in his/her reports. But why do pilots choose to fly for multiple carriers? Each pilot has their own reasons, but it is merely an "added weight" to both him- or herself and the VA he/she operates for.
So just how do VA's attract pilots? Obviously, an easy to use, friendly site is a must along with an appealing operations manual; for those that operate fantasy VA's, an interesting route and fleet become priority. Yet, as previously stated, each VA interprets these requisites differently and so variety is a leading reason for the huge number of VA's. The recipe keeps getting reinterpreted time and time again. How many VA's have found that recipe? I'd estimate less than 5% of the industry has found the recipe.
As pilots enjoy "duplicating" themselves, so do VA's which use the same routes and livery. Has anyone seen two real world airlines utilizing the same routes and livery, but merely slap "Alternate" or "Pseudo" to differentiate one from the other? Has anyone seen a real world carrier blatantly take a livery of a copyrighted carrier and slap some noticeable image to differentiate itself from its "counterpart?" I think not! On the latter, this is exactly what goes on in the VA industry. It almost seems as if these sorts of VA's are in competition for supremacy and bragging rights to use the copyrighted material. This by all means increases the supply of VA's (and lowers demand of pilots); it also hurts the pilot bases of VA's that fly under a real world counterpart. In my humble opinion, this is extremely out of line and only ONE UNIQUE VA should be allowed to represent its real world counterpart (perhaps my next op-ed will focus on this issue)!
This gets me into my second (short) argument (and possibly a quick response to some patriotic op-ed I saw a while ago). If the supply of VA's exceeds the demand of pilots, just exactly how operations differ from another VA? The answer is they do NOT extremely differ, and operate on the same standard (on paper that is)! It is interesting how the phrase "most realistic VA on the net" is redefined time and time again. I saw in some op-ed on a message board that a VA demands their pilots to wake up and depart at the time the flight is supposed to leave! Another pointed out to follow ACTUAL FAA/FAR flight rules! Another pointed out a VA's pilots could only focus on ONE aircraft type! And another pointed out that a VA required PROOF that you would ONLY work for that company! And so therefore, the phrase "most realistic VA on the net" cannot be used, yet it is still commonly used to attract pilots. No VA can be realistic nor claim to be the "most realistic VA on the net" or else it will become a full-time job with NO pay (with the exception of ONE VA out on the net)!
In conclusion, the answer to my own question is YES, the supply of virtual airlines has exceeded the number of pilots. There are simply too many VA's running and barely make it past the first stage; building a steady pilot base and management staff. VA's nowadays have only a handful of pilots, but which of those are committed to that VA alone? Most likely less than half! Will there ever be a cutoff point in which VA's stop producing? Will the demand for pilots increase sometime in the near future? Probably not and this trend seems to remain constant into the new millennium. Has the VA industry lost its creativity? Has the VA industry lost a sense of direction into the future? I would say yes to both of these questions. Even with the reintroduction of the VA stock market and news sources, those elements are the-excuse the cliché-"icing on the cake." Perhaps we have made the VA industry competitive and no longer fun and friendly. Some may ask why I am still active in the industry. My answer to them would be to give me a point flying the simulator and hope to learn the aspects of IFR flight and procedures into busily controlled airports. The VA industry for the most part gives us something to do with our simulators and for that, I am grateful.
Again, thanks for reading this op-ed and hope to hear from you ("threatening" comments welcome!).
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