Carrying on the Legacy

ALPA MECs Remember

By Western Global ALPA Master Executive Council

Our company wasn’t around on 9/11, but many of our pilots were flying that day and had their careers changed after those events. Still others at our airline chose flying careers in spite of the potential risk. As airline pilots, we still feel the impact and remember those who died every September 11.

Current Western Global Master Executive Council (MEC) Chairman Greg Pinkney was on initial operating experience (IOE) on September 9, 2001, as a first officer at Allegheny Airlines, his first airline flight position. Greg had just landed at LaGuardia Airport outside New York City after admiring the World Trade Center on approach. He remembers thinking, “How lucky am I to be in New York and doing this job?” With only two hours remaining until he received his sign off, Greg asked to be extended for another leg so he could complete IOE. However, he was told, “You’ve worked hard enough; there will be plenty of time later to finish up. Come back on the 12th, and we’ll get you signed off.”

That day didn’t happen. From home, Greg watched in horror on live TV the events that unfolded September 11. Greg was initially furloughed but was called back three and a half months later for recurrent training, after which he flew empty and nearly empty airplanes for many more months before the public felt safe enough to travel by air again.

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

MEC Vice Chairman Josh Rowe was a flight instructor living with three other instructors in Orlando on 9/11. They were preparing for their day when the first plane flew into the North Tower. Puzzled as to how an aircraft could fly into a tall building when all their training teaches them to avoid objects, they went about their day. Josh was preparing to take up a student when the South Tower was struck. It was then that he and his colleagues knew it was no accident.

After spending the day transfixed to the TV and watching the events unfold, the trio went to bed facing an unknown future. Two days later, the FBI showed up to see if they had seen anything suspicious during the previous 6 to 8 months. They had nothing to report, but he grasped the magnitude of the day and realized his aviation career would forever be altered. He returned to the flight academy and worked there until it closed in 2003.

The pre-9/11 hiring boom was replaced with massive pilot furloughs and airlines shutting down, and Josh left aviation for 10 years. He returned to the skies in 2013 and is forever grateful he had a career to return to.

Our profession was an integral part of this history, and Western Global pilots will continue to carry the legacy and advocate for continued safety and security on the flight deck.

Originally published September 2021

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