On Final
Badge of Courage


By F/O Frank Condefer (Northwest), The Presidentís Committee for Cargo
Air Line Pilot, May 2003, p.55

Name calling is something we are all exposed to, and sometimes have to get used to. During a recent meeting, a discussion developed about the image of cargo pilots. I was surprised when I heard my counterparts talk about how they hated being referred to as "freighter pilots," "freighter dogs," or "cargo pilots." They seemed to think that this gave a negative image to the other side of the world of aviation and of the airline industry as a whole.

One of the mission statements for ALPAís Presidentís Committee for Cargo is to "Elevate the profile of cargo flightcrew members and their importance to the Association."

As a member of this Committee and a self-proclaimed "freighter dog," I couldnít imagine why the other members would take offense to being referred to in such a manner.

I work for an airline that is unique among major U.S. carriers. Not only is Northwest Airlines a major passenger-carrying airline, but we are also a big name on the cargo-carrying side. I wear the same uniform. I fly the same equipment. I eat the same crew meals. I am not much different from other B-747 pilots of my airline. That is, nothing is different on the exterior. A lot of differences exist in the interior and in how I look at the job I perform as a freighter pilot.

Although our freighter fleet and staff are small within the confines of our pilot group, I hold my head up high while I proudly tell everyone that I am a freighter pilot. I even go so far as to refer to my occasional passenger flights as "freighter appreciation flights," and if I havenít said it before, "Freight is great."

ALPA is at a critical point in its proud history. With many airlines facing economic hardship, our cargo-carrying brothers and sisters, the cargo pilots, are bearing most of this pressure and may well be the group that keeps the bar raised as we all try to make sense of what the future of the airline industry will look like.

More and more articles are dispelling the grandeur of being an airline pilot. The profession is not as glamorous as it once was. In an environment like this, we must welcome each other and recognize the importance of everyone in our struggle to promote the welfare of all pilots.

So, the next time you meet a freighter dog from another carrier, or if you know someone who works for a cargo airline, I would ask that you shake that pilotís hand and thank him or her for proudly wearing the Badge of Courage.