SJS Press July 2011

It is apparent that the economy in the United States has become weak and the greenback even weaker. Several institutions suffer from a lack of investment and customers. This is clearly seen in the schools that provide our airlines with the pilots required to take their machines to the skies. As the return on a pilot career dwindles, these schools are starting to go the way of the American Indian. In a sheer case of irony, a group of Indians that made up a flight school were exterminated this July. The Press leads you to the slaughter.

illinisjsThe Institute of Aviation at the University of Illinois has one of the longest histories of modern aviation education. Started in 1946, the school's braves became known as the Flying Illini. They could compete well with their warriors against any other collegiate aviation program and the Institute became a mainstay of academics and achievement. When is was announced this summer that the school would close, many chiefs were baffled.

Chief Joseph of the Illini questioned "What happened? We were a peaceful tribe of flying Indians. We traded peacefully and would throw maize out airplane windows as gifts to the gods of the skies." The chief pondered, "Perhaps is was that SJS; Shiny Jet Syndrome."

ipodindianWhat most observers of the Illini didn't realize, was that they succumbed to disease like many of their fellow native tribes. "When SJS first spread, I did not think it was a bad thing. In matter of fact, our numbers grew and the flight school expanded." The chief quickly wrapped up the tale. "And then as quickly as we grew, we shrunk and then some!" A tear shed from the great chief. "I don't know what the world has against us Indians. With the school gone, all I have is my ipod and backpack. I have no future in a shiny jet."

One of Chief Joseph's students, One Who Spikes Hair, concurs. "This university took everything. They stole my money. They stole our Indian. They stole our flying."

There is a deeper truth to the demise of the flying Illini. In the last decade, America had been living in bubbles. The dot com bubble. The housing bubble. The energy bubble and so on. What many failed to see was the SJS bubble. This SJS bubble was a ballooning amount of pilots with Shiny Jet Syndrome. The airlines had a heyday. They would pay substandard wages and still slumpingsjsattract people to invest tens of thousands of dollars in pilot training just to get in the cockpit of a shiny jet. Toward the end of the last decade as the air was being let out of the housing bubble and a credit crisis loomed, there were far too many pilots for hire with no expansion of pilot jobs. These pilots were saddled with debt and had no money left in their pockets. They ended up sleeping underneath overpasses and their parents' couches. Soon it was obvious that a pilot career was no longer worth the investment. Flight schools began to lose students and enrollments diminished. Some schools went bankrupt. Others were sold at a huge loss. Being owned by Delta no longer meant anything. In a short matter of time the collegiate programs took a hit and started to be cut entirely from their university curriculums. This was the fate of the Flying Illini.

ceocusterThe man credited with ending the Illini's program, George Soros Custer, reminisces. "Yes. This is truly a story of a bubble. We spread SJS and exploited pilots and then kicked them to the curb. SJS isn't as prevalent these days, but just wait. It'll be be back when guys like me need it. I'll have plenty more carrots to dangle in front of the next generation of pilots. And I think I'll be pleased with the response."

Indeed there has been a fall in pilots pursuing a flying career. Whether there will be a rise in the profession will have to be seen in future years. One can only hope that the institutes still remaining can last until the next epidemic of Shiny Jet Syndrome and that they do not go the way of the Illini.

SJS Press

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