Thursday, March 24, 2016
My boss, Jim Quinzi, wanted me to attend a Dale Carnegie course. I don't know for sure if he thought I was not good at winning friends and influencing people or not, but I did convince him to hire me, eh?
This was kind of following my experience in the army. Every time someone said there was a class offered, I volunteered to go. For someone who hated school when he was in his teens, I was enjoying it as a young adult. It always meant getting out of work.
I did learn some good stuff there and I met an attractive young woman, who also worked for USAir. She was a manager in the reservations department and we stayed in touch and dated. She had season tickets to the Steelers and we went to a game one frigid Sunday, including tailgating with some of her friends.
This was around the time that Braniff International became the first victim of the Airline Deregulation Act of 1978. Braniff had kind of gone crazy when the CAB disappeared and started flying everywhere, buying airplanes and hiring employees. It is a long, complicated story, involving American Airlines, but Braniff went out of business. It came back in a significantly different form and will appear later in my story.
One of the provisions of Deregulation was that employees of airlines that failed because of Deregulation would have "first right of hire" at existing airlines. It was a provision that was added by the Democrats who promoted the Act, to appease the airline labor unions. Of course, the argument would be about whether the airline had gone bankrupt as a result of deregulation. The unions were very much opposed to Deregulation. It seemed to me that any airline that went broke, did so as a result of Deregulation, because they could not go broke under regulation, but what do I know?
I heard a rumor that USAir would be changing its policy of not hiring pilots older than 30, because they thought they might have to hire Braniff pilots who would be over 30. This was all being hashed out with the lawyers. I started asking some of the management pilots I knew and sensed that there was a resistance to allowing me to apply for the job. As I said before, they did not want the ground school instructor job to become a stepping stone to a pilot job. I persisted and talked to several of the top pilot managers and eventually, they relented and gave me an interview.
I went through the entire interview process, including tests, a simulator ride and an interview. The guy who gave me the sim. ride was a good friend of mine and we flew the F27 simulator. I had been flying that thing for several years and felt very comfortable in it. I talked to a young, Navy pilot who was in my group. He had just gotten out of the Navy and was a confident guy when he went in the sim. When he came out he appeared shaken and told me he did not think he had done well on the ride. He had been flying A-4s and the F27 flew like a truck, compared to this sporty plane.
The friend who gave me the ride gave me the interview also. He said, "Well Denny, what do you want to talk about." I asked him how I had been doing and he said I was doing great and he wished all the guys they were hiring could do as well.
I was feeling good about things and my friend, J.B. Wylie, did some checking and told me I was in. I was kind of floating through my days. It was a very surreal feeling, one I had never felt before. All my dreams were coming true.
The rest of this is not easy for me to write. I'm not exactly sure what happened or why.
After what I thought was a reasonable amount of time without hearing that I had received a class date, I began to ask around. No one was giving me a direct answer, which made me think something was wrong. Eventually, I was nearly certain I would not be hired as a pilot by USAir. Because Quinzi would need to hire and train someone to replace me if I was hired, I asked the pilot who managed the BAC 1-11 training program if he could ask the powers that be what was up. He agreed and came back with bad news.
I bumped into Ron Sessa, the Vice President of Flying, the highest pilot position in the company. From the beginning, I had felt he was opposed to even giving me an interview. I asked him directly why I was not hired and he mumbled something about me not having any jet time, which was unusual for someone my age. I said that was something they all knew before my interview and that I believed I had done well on all phases. He looked at his watch and said he had to run. I decided that I was looking for another job.
Yes, I was outta there, but I was going to get a good job, flying someone's jet. I really began bugging every corporate pilot who came through our school. Nothing was happening.