Atlanta - Bled by rising fuel prices, slapped by the loss of a major hub (New Orleans) and stung in the pocketbook by no-frills airlines like Southwest, Delta Airlines today announced new "Economy Class Cockpits" its pilots would be forced to share with a "limited number "of business class passengers."
Replacing the "deadhead" fold-down seat with a sofa, up to four business class passengers will now share the cockpit with the pilot and copilot.
Changes to the cockpit include a reduction in the number and quality of instruments, replacement of VHF radios with cellphones and a CB, and use of lawnchairs rather than the comfy barcaloungers pilots had grown accustomed to. But pilots wonder how they'll keep passenger's feet off the rudder pedals in a crowded cockpit."
According to AOPA spokesperson Tray Tayble, "It's about time the pilots experienced some of the discomfort we feel back here in coach. In a 757, the cattle car of the sky, you can't put three adult males shoulder to shoulder in the seats. They're too damn small. Legroom? What's that? And every boarding call is a fight for the overhead compartments. It sucks, I'm telling you, it sucks."
Instead of a "glass cockpit" with dozens of engine monitoring and navigational aides, pilots in the new 797 from Boeing will be issued a Dell Inspiron laptop, a copy of Flight Simulator, and a couple of the the butt-ugly stewardesses who now adorn most domestic flights. "You want good food and pretty stews? Fly a foreign carrier where they don't have all these stupid rules against firing fat and ugly women."
Pilots, accustomed to flipping on the autopilot and taking brief naps on long transcontinental flights, will now be under the scrutiny of passengers from take-off to landing. "With all these eyewitnesses, we were able to take out the "black box" and put in another couple of seats said Delta's manager of revenue enhancement, Chad Debits. "You're not going to see any more of the "coffee tea or me" flirting by stewardesses, either."
Pilots complain that "getting the ride-alongs to shut up when we're talking to the tower on the cellphone is going to be a challenge. Delta management argues, however, that should hijackers attempt to commandeer the cockpit, the ridealongs can defend the door while the pilots attempt to land the plane. Unless the ridealongs ARE the hijackers, noted one Delta captain.
Boeing, always sensitive to helping airlines reduce their costs, designed the special cockpit after putting six people in a Cessna 172 and observing that takeoffs and landings were still possible, even if they were a little dicey. "The stick and rudders, well, soemtimes passenger carryon's got in the way, but it's the era of airline deregulation. The public is getting what it asked for, which is Greyhound prices for airline flights.