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Airline Troubles Leave Pilots' Future Up In Air

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RALEIGH, N.C. — 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 repaycreditors. Midway, which had been flying routes for US Airways Express, couldnot 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 filedfor bankruptcy in 2001. The latest news makes an uncertain ride for itspilots even more uncertain.

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

Smith flew his last flight with Midway Airlines Wednesday night, the daybefore a federal bankruptcy judge ordered the airline to liquidate itsassets.

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

Flying for Midway out of Raleigh was Smith's dream job when he was hiredthree years ago. Bankruptcy and layoffs kept his dream job as uncertain assome 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," hesaid.

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 nothiring. 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 willaccommodate passengers with Midway flights or offer refunds.


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