Squawk 7700 is a first-hand account of author Peter Buffington's experiences as a commercial airline pilot and the journey he took to reach his childhood dream. Buckle your seatbelt and prepare for an eye-opening, turbulent ride into the world of aviation from the pilot's seat. From student pilot at age 15, to flying instructor, to nighttime cargo pilot, and finally as first officer aboard the ATR42 and ATR72 turboprop airliners island hopping the Caribbean. Squawk 7700 is a riveting aviation adventure.
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I began my airline career in 1978, the same year the Airline Deregulation Act became law. This “dawn of deregulation” also marked the beginning of “the demise of a profession”. A highly placed official in the Federal Aviation Administration recently commented, “They didn’t just deregulate the economic aspects with regards to fares and route structures, they deregulated everything-including safety”. The assumption that economist Adam Smith’s “invisible hand” of economic management would somehow provide for a safer and more efficient airline transportation system in this country cannot be more effectively disproved than by the chronicles of Peter Buffington’s career path as a professional pilot.
Although two decades separate his trials and tribulations from mine to obtain federal licensing permitting us to fly commercially in an effort to build the experience necessary become employed by a major airline, the insufferable challenges remain unchanged. Peter’s descriptions of the existence of dangerously poor maintenance and unscrupulous pressure to ignore Federal Aviation Regulations at entry level air freight and air taxi charter operations were chillingly reminiscent of my experiences in the 1970s. The actions, or perhaps more accurately reactions, taken by Congress to supplant the “invisible hand” with a “visible hammer” only validate the voracity of Peter’s accounts of his experiences while attempting to pursue a career as a professional pilot. Television shows such as the PBS series Flying Cheap very adroitly lift Peter’s words from the pages of his book, and provide audio visual validation to his experiences.
Unfortunately these deplorable conditions have begun to migrate upward into the flight operations of major airlines as well. Unsustainable working conditions and intolerable pay scales have led to the establishment of the term “pilot pushing” becoming a common topic of dissention between pilots and management at many US airlines. There was a time in the country when the best and brightest were attracted to this profession. Today, when pilots are given the opportunity to return to the flight decks of their airlines after being furloughed during downturns in the economy, it not uncommon for half of them to decline the offer as they find the rewards of employment in other industries more desirable-just as Peter has.
The extension of the mandatory retirement age for airline pilots from age 60 to 65 has provided a temporary reprise from what is surely an impending shortage of qualified pilots to man the flight decks of this country’s airlines. Squawk 7700 provides the reader with an excellent insight as to the coming shortage of qualified pilots this country will experience during the second decade of the 21st century. This book should be mandatory reading at the first year level for any student at any professional pilot training institution.
W.M. US Airways 737 Captain
This is the first book out of about the last 10 that I couldn't put down. I read it in about 4 nights, and left it on my nightstand. The story is about starting out as a pilot in the Midwest, and then island hoping in the Caribbean in turboprops. I won't ruin it, but he gets his priorities in life in order, which I respect, many pilots put their careers first.
Entertaining read, I found a few parts to be very funny and I chuckled a few times. Will recommend it to friends.