20 Years of Accepting the Risks

ALPA MECs Remember

By Envoy ALPA Master Executive Council

Nearly everyone remembers where they were and how they first learned of the 9/11 attack on the World Trade Center. American Eagle (now renamed Envoy Air) had a pilot base at LGA with departures and arrivals when the attack occurred. American Eagle also operated flights at DCA, and pilots there witnessed the aftermath of the attack on the Pentagon.

Our pilots who were in the air or at airports on the morning of 9/11 remember the immediate safety concerns, flight delays, and diversions—and the eeriness of looking up and seeing only military aircraft in the sky. Those who were away from home remember the deserted airports and the difficulty in returning. Most of all, they remember the pilots and flight attendants on AA Flight 11, AA Flight 77, UAL Flight 175, and UAL Flight 93. Some fallen crewmembers were friends or relatives of Eagle pilots.

On July 15, 2001, the American Eagle seniority list contained 2,713 pilots. After 9/11, and to the present day, no Eagle or Envoy seniority list has included a greater number of pilots. It took four long days just to process more than 700 pilot displacements. The immediate aftermath of 9/11 was emotionally draining for American Eagle pilots—and especially so for the 280 pilots who were furloughed, as well as the captains who suffered the hardship of being displaced to the right seat. Labor issues directly related to 9/11 created 11 arbitrations that took years to resolve.

Read more 9/11 memories from ALPA pilots and join us for our 20th Anniversary Remembrance Ceremony, in person or webcast.

After 9/11, American Airlines furloughed pilots, and there was a debate at American Eagle about whether to only displace captains on the larger Canadair Regional Jets to provide vacancies for furloughed AA pilots who elected to transfer to American Eagle as jet captains. The American Eagle ALPA Master Executive Council (MEC) determined that the Embraer 145 also met the definition of a commuter jet, a determination that was eventually accepted by the four parties to the flow-through agreement—American Airlines, American Eagle, ALPA, and the Allied Pilots Association (who represented the AA pilots). However, integrating furloughed AA pilots into the American Eagle system as “flowback” captains continued to produce numerous challenges.

Our airline has historically always had a significant number of military veterans, and after 9/11 many were called to duty. Today, our military pilots continue to play a vital role in America’s defense.

The world’s change became evident to the entire nation on 9/11, and on that single day, the lives and perspectives of many American Eagle pilots changed. Security at the airport and on our aircraft was emphasized as never before. TSA-regulated travel, procedures, and hardware were modified. Awareness of passenger behavior was heightened. The Federal Flight Deck Officer program geared up, and American Eagle pilots enthusiastically participated.

Some were surprised that more pilots didn’t change careers after 9/11. In fact, most furloughed pilots came back to American Eagle when they were recalled. However, some pilots questioned whether they would encourage their children to pursue careers as pilots. Many of Envoy’s current pilots were not members of the profession on 9/11. Those who chose careers as pilots after 9/11 did so knowing the security challenges and accepting the risks. Most did so because they love to fly.

It’s hard to believe that 20 years have gone by. 

Originally published September 2021

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