Local News

Airline Troubles Leave Pilots' Future Up In Air

Posted October 31, 2003 9:30 a.m. EST

— A federal bankruptcy judge clipped

Midway Airlines

' wings Thursday, ordering the company into Chapter 7 bankruptcy.

That means the airline has to shut down, sell its assets and repay creditors. Midway, which had been flying routes for US Airways Express, could not reach a new deal with pilots and another investor did not step forward.

The Triangle-based company has been trying to make a go of it since it filed for bankruptcy in 2001. The latest news makes an uncertain ride for its pilots even more uncertain.

"It used to be you got a job with the airline [and] that was it. Now it's really not," pilot Jeff Smith said.

Smith flew his last flight with Midway Airlines Wednesday night, the day before a federal bankruptcy judge ordered the airline to liquidate its assets.

"Well, we flew our final trip without realizing it. We were supposed to head up to Toronto," he said.

Flying for Midway out of Raleigh was Smith's dream job when he was hired three years ago. Bankruptcy and layoffs kept his dream job as uncertain as some of the ideas behind the restored aircraft he surrounds himself with.

"We went from 3,000 employees three years ago to less than 300 today," he said.

When he was laid off he would restore planes or he would fly corporate jets. Unlike some pilots, Smith always wanted to return to commercial airlines. Now that seems impossible.

"United is laying off, US Airways, American -- they're dormant, Delta's not hiring. Those are your major airlines," he said. "If I don't succeed, at least I knew I flew with an airline."

Smith said getting his chance was worth the uncertainty.

Service on most Midway routes is canceled through Sunday. US Airways will accommodate passengers with Midway flights or offer refunds.