Basic Strategy



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There are essentially four types of pilots as it relates to implementing a nation-wide “sit down” protest of the current regulatory paradigm.

TYPE 1– Pilots who want to do an SOS right nowand are not squeamish in the slightest bit about doing it. These pilots are the most important part of this effort, because they are the sharp tip of the spear. They are the ones with the energy needed to get the word out to their peers and they are the ones who see the vision for the future of our profession. They know that nothing comes without standing up for yourself. They know that managing is the process of “what is,” and that leadership is the substance of “what can be.” They are the leaders.

The challenge is to convince them that there are a few bricks that have to be set prior to the SOS and that their enthusiasm needs to be channeled into setting those bricks.

TYPE 2– Pilots who want to do an SOS, but are somewhat risk averse and wish to see how the initial skirmish plays out prior to committing to the effort. They need a little nudging to get into the fight, but when they engage, they will bring the heaviest punch.

The challenge is to show them that with unity, they can achieve their purposes and to convince them that with that unity, “what can be” is much better than “what is “. In order to accomplish this the TYPE 1 pilots must convince them to do something they have never done in their lives – disobey.

TYPE 3 These are the pilots who like the concept, but would rather spend their time pointing out all the reasons it won’t work. These are the people that see an obstacle and decide what can’t be, rather than viewing the obstacle as an opportunity to take us where we never thought possible. They have an excuse for every failure, and they see it everywhere they look.

These pilots will be the ones talking about how they can do everything better. They will jump into the fight as soon as it is won and crow the loudest about how they always knew this would work.

The challenge is to ignore their words and lead their actions.

TYPE 4– Pilots who have no interest in changing anything. They are content to take what management gives them and are just “happy to have a job.”


If Phase IV (the actual SOS) is needed to bring leverage, it will have to come after we have a critical mass of pilots willing to implement it. This is something we need to get right the first time. We will announce the SOS date approximately 6 to 8 weeks prior to the actual event, which will give everyone plenty of time to position for it. The basic strategy will be for those pilots who are most enthusiastic about changing the regulatory paradigm in our industry (TYPE 1 pilots) to bid/trade to ensure they will be scheduled to be on duty when the SOS date arrives. This is one way we can ensure the initial wave is effective.

The mathematics of this “sit down” protest favor us. We need to aggressively recruit pilots in the next few weeks and months to help the more risk averse pilots join our ranks through the concept of “safety in numbers.” There are other benefits to the aggressive recruitment in the early stages which we can not discuss at this time. We ask you to trust us on this.

As “safety in numbers” builds, it will be easier to recruit. This is what we mean by “critical mass.” It will be increasingly easy (for a time) to build our numbers, while at the same time it will become exponentially more difficult for management to keep the planes in the air during the SOS. They have put themselves at a tremendous tactical disadvantage by staffing the airlines for perfection and treating every pilot on the property like dirt for their entire career.

In a hypothetical scenario, we only have only 1/6th of the pilots scheduled to work prepared to implement the SOS. Our scenario has three first officers for every captain, since first officers are less risk averse and have more to gain than captains, many of whom are just trying to run out the clock and don’t want the boat rocked.

For every 100 flights scheduled to depart the Eastern Time Zone on the first morning of the SOS, the airlines will have staffed approximately 205 pilots. Let’s say that 27 first officers and 9 captains (TYPE 1) call in sick (“ORANGE-OUT”) for whatever reason. Roughly 33 of the flights will have to be restaffed. The crew desks will immediately call every reserve pilot available and they will be lucky to get half to the airport by mid-morning. They will likely be fresh out of reserves by noon Eastern.

67 flights departed the East Coast on schedule and most will end up at the mid-continental hubs within two to three hours, where the process will repeat.

We anticipate SOS participation at the hubs to be less than the participation rate on the coasts, but the damage is already done. For every 100 hub flights scheduled for mid-morning, they need the same 205 pilots. 21 first officers and 7 captains “ORANGE-OUT.” That’s another 25 flights that need to be restaffed, but the airline already burned through all their reserves with the early morning wave that left the hubs as the East Coast originations were in the air. Add in another 66 pilots that didn’t make their hub connections because they either called-out or were stranded with the East Coast wave, and now fully half of the mid-morning hub complexes are grounded…all through the Central Time Zone.

The crew desk is out of reserves. Half the planes are grounded. We have misconnected passengers, planes, cabin crews, and pilots all over the system. It is unbridled pandemonium in Minneapolis, Chicago, Dallas, and Houston, to say nothing of what is happening in Boston, New York, Philadelphia, Washington, Charlotte, Atlanta, Orlando, and Miami.

Guess what is the top news story on all the airport CNN televisions? Guess what the pilots on the West Coast hear as they are waking up? Guess what happens when the TYPE 2 pilots get a shot of courage? Guess what happens when the TYPE 3 and TYPE 4 commuters get stranded?

All this, and the West Coast and the afternoon wave of East Coast pilots are not even scheduled to be at work. Denver, Salt Lake, and Phoenix just sent their initial wave. They hear that the air transportation system has been crippled and suddenly SOS participation goes parabolic as the remainder of TYPE 2 pilots and most TYPE 3 pilots jump in.

It’s over.

The various airlines order a system-wide stop to limit the damage. Apparently the pilots weren’t bluffing. Apparently 30 years of abuse has consequences. The question becomes, “How do we get 50,000 pissed-off, jacked-up pilots back in the airplanes, now that they have the system grounded?”

Every news outlet in the world runs this at the top story and the Capitol Hill switchboard melts down.

The pilots who self-identify with being TYPE 1 pilots will be asked to bid/trade to be in the most critical positions as the SOS is implemented. Since most of us work 15 days a month, we can concentrate our firepower in the most critical part of the system because that same 1/6th of the pilots can be made to look much larger if they all attempt to schedule themselves to work on the SOS date. Let our weaker sisters work the non-critical dates.

That’s what 1/6th of us can do. Imagine if we had half. If we have half, Phase IV won’t be necessary. The more we have the quicker it shuts down.

We will release additional and more detailed tactics when we announce the SOS date. We ask you to trust us in the interim. We know pilots are control freaks and want to know everything. You will be told 6 to 8 weeks prior and will have plenty of time to prepare. Please be patient and spend your efforts recruiting pilots into the operation.

Some chatter has come about using ORANGE stickers and adornments and how that may be trivial. It most certainly is not. We don’t have a registry of pilots who will participate, nor would we want to. We need to have a “sea of orange” in the airplanes to show solidarity with each other. The more important feature is broadcasting our intentions to government and management. This is their nightmare scenario.

We have developed some designs for pilots to print out and pass around. We can’t do everything ourselves, as it would be counter-productive for us to set up a post office box for people to request stickers. Postal boxes require identification, and you can see the problem that creates.

There are printable designs for all levels of commitment. You can print out a few cards on your home printer, should you wish. You can also go to a printer and have them print stuff for you.

Think about what 50 pilots can do if they each took the file “SOS STICKER” (located in the “Graphics Download” .zip file in the “Pilot” portion of the masthead menu on the OPERATIONORANGE websites) to OFFICE MAX and had them print out 500 stickers. The design number is ADL1177, and prints a 4” x 3.875” sticker. It costs $165 plus tax for 500. The turnaround time is one week. We have made it in both .JPEG and .PDF, which are the two formats OFFICE MAX uses for that order.

Your cost is two weeks of per diem money. If you go in with 10 pilots, it costs you less than post flight refreshment. You can sell them for 50 cents or 3 for a dollar, and recoup all your investment, plus a little left over.

If 50 pilots (that’s 1 in every 1000) do this, we would have 25,000 stickers plastered on book bags and rollaboard suitcases. There is your “half” of the pilots in the industry.

Imagine what would happen if the bag room at a pilot domicile had anywhere from one third to one half of the pilot book bags with OPERATION ORANGE stickers exposed to the room and the chief pilot walked through. Orange would get his attention and the SOS Morse code motif certainly would. He would write down the website address, look it up, realize what is happening, and call his boss. The other chiefs would also be doing the same thing. Pretty soon, the execs will all be on conference call about the development.

You can also buy orange dots at OFFICE MAX (Avery 5471) and pass those out. OFFICE MAX will print on those for pennies a page. All you need to do is spend 10 minutes with MS PAINT to create the SOS Morse code dots and dashes, save it as a .JPEG for them to print, and you will have hundreds of tiny “SOS” stickers for your airport ID bundle. Total cost? Less than three cents each.

If you want more plausible deniability, that’s when you need to become a Miami Dolphins, Philadelphia Flyers, Syracuse, or Univ of Tennessee fan and plaster those stickers all over your bag. Orange duct tape is available at any home improvement box store and is the easiest and most deniable way to show solidarity with your fellow TYPE 1 pilots.

We can use this to help create that “critical mass” of pilots that we desperately need.

Would you wear an orange sticker on your ID bundle, and two on your book bag for the pay and scheduling provisions of Section 4 of the proposed legislation? A new contract every 3 years per Section 1? Labor protective provisions of Section 5? Better fatigue mitigation of Section 2? No harassment provisions of Section 6?

The return on investment is off the charts. You will make back whatever you put into this on the first day Section 4 takes effect.

OPERATION ORANGE will gain the attention of management/government and it will float to the top of their inbox. It is reasonable to assume they will try something to dampen our enthusiasm. They will either attempt to threaten, scare, or buy us off cheap. All we ask is that you realize this is an expected response and to use the opportunity to gauge how nervous they are. Please hold the line and keep building solidarity with your fellow pilots across the industry. If we all hold together, we can all make “what can be” our reality.


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8 Responses to Basic Strategy

  1. love the website. Since ALPA can’t drive results in this area, perhaps the line pilots can. Go orange is simple, and it should be effective. Tip of the hat.

  2. There is no doubt the line pilots must drive change. The various pilot associations have been pinned down by the RLA, so it is up to us to use the First Amendment to fix the RLA. If we don’t, we must be content to view our pilot associations as hospice care for a terminally ill career.

    It’s been 30 years and we have been sliding down the entire time.

    This is our time. We either take a stand here and now, or we put ourselves in a position where we will be outsourced to the last man.

    Keep up the good fight. Get the word out to as many pilots as possible. Once this catches fire, it will be impossible to stop.

  3. Tuna says:

    I can’t believe I just heard about this. The sooner, the better.

    • The Committee says:

      The faster we get our brethren on board with this idea, the faster we can fix our careers and protect the flying public.

  4. cannonfodder says:

    No plan is perfect, but this is the most logical explanation and solution I’ve come across. As a member of the Guard/Reserves, I encourage all members to step up and fulfill the “type I” roll. I know I will…

    • The Committee says:

      We need men and women with courage to spearhead this effort. Courage built this profession. Cowardice destroyed it. Courage will rebuild it.

      Get the word out.

  5. Stevens E Woodburn says:

    This is long overdue, Although I have been retired (age 60 rule) almost 10 years now I support your efforts!!!