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Former USAF Pilot Turned Airline Pilot Pulls No Punches in B737 Critique

Former Air Force C-17 Pilot Candidly Compares Flying the Globemaster to the Boeing 737, including His Experience with Military Training Versus Airline Training ( More...

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I flew the 737/100/200/300/400 for 22 years. An amazingly capable airplane. Still relevant and one of the safest aircraft ever built despite the MAX crashes that had little to do with the design and almost everything to do with not using the trim cutout switches to stop those giant trim wheels from turning.

I'm sure it does fly differently than the C-17, or any other airplane for that matter. I flew the BAC-111, the B737, B757, B767 and A330 which all fly differently, yet few have the versatility and track record of the 737. Put me in a proven design anytime.
george val 7
I also flew the 737/100/200/300/400 and agree with you 100%. Happy to step back and do it again!
vegaskukichyo 14
Tell that to the loads of former military pilots flying SWA 737s every day.
EMK69 7

[This comment has been downvoted. Show anyway.]

James Cox 21
Everyone I know who works for Southwest says it's a great place to work, their pilots are also well compensated, they have plenty of former military pilots working there, its one of the most sought after pilot jobs along with FedEX.
vegaskukichyo 4
Furthermore, SWA has the best safety record of any of the major national airlines which transport numbers of passengers at a similar scale.

Their first fatal incident (for a passenger), SWA1380, in which one passenger died following explosive depressurization caused by disintegration of a fan blade, was found to be the fault of microscopic fatigue cracks not detectable by established maintenance procedures. A disproportionate number of fatal air accidents are caused by airlines' failure to properly maintain their aircraft. NTSB found that SWA regularly followed and exceeded established maintenance procedures. Following the accident, ultrasonic testing procedure were mandated. Similar low-cycle fatigue cracks were discovered in fan blades in dozens of engines, meaning it easily could have been another major airline struck by this failure.

Yes, in the past FAA inspectors have found that SWA has flown aircraft with unconfirmed or deficient maintenance records, and there was a report about a deficient PWB safety system that had to be corrected. Reports criticizing Southwest maintenance and safety are often accompanied by reports in the same year ranking it highly. Still, they have one of the best safety records in the domestic carrier industry. So if a skilled military pilot had to choose a safe and efficient airline to fly for, there's a reason Southwest is among the top choices in an industry that is incentivized to take shortcuts whenever possible.

They're far from perfect, but they're known for being better than many others.
Phil Nolden 21
Sounds like this guy should have made a career of the Air Force. Glad I never had to fly with him as my copilot - bitch, bitch, bitch.

I put in five years in the AF flying C-141's and getting shot at in O-2's in Vietnam. But my 25 subsequent years at a major carrier out-paid the AF handsomely and I never bitched about it.

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Phil Nolden 13
I've got three Air Medals, and a DFC for volunteering to get shot at by a AA gun for nearly an hour, so that an 0-1 FAC could pinpoint the location of the gun that had already shot down two F-4's just north of Phu Cat. I'd troll for the fire, but as soon as I'd break off they'd pull the gun back into a cave. The FAC ended up running the F-4's in directly under me. The concussions blew me past 90 degrees to the left, but I recovered and the gun was silenced. The citation is on the internet. In my 40-yr flying career, private, military, corporate, and airline, I never put a scratch on a passenger or an airplane (except for a few holes in RVN... but I didn't put 'em there).

How 'bout you Bill?
John Lussier 8
silence from Bill. Nice burn RR
Frank Harvey 3

Was it a single 23mm or what ? Were they using tracer ? What height/airspeed were you generally at and did you vary it much ? Was there any cloud around your altitude ? What was visibility/weather and time-of-day ? What color was the underside of the Mixmaster ? What part(s) of your a/c did they manage to hit ? Was there any possibility they were monitoring your comms ? Were the F-4s this crew had previously downed flying straight and level when hit ? Were the F-4 shootdowns in the same incident or different times ?

It can be really difficult for some poor unaided gunner using only eyesight to spot, track, lead and hit someone jinxing around especially if the target keeps changing altitude and airspeed. This crew must have been somewhat competent to have taken down two Phantoms but damned stupid to keep trying to nail you when it was obvious what you were doing.

Phil Nolden 2
Don't know what caliber it was - the tracers looked fairly large, could have been 20mm, but it was up about 1,000 on the mountainside - could have been a .51 Russian AA gun. The gun was directly in line with the runway, so there was no "leading" the target. They were simply firing directly at the F-4's as they were cleaning up in their initial climb before turning to the right to avoid the mountain and proceeding out over the water. It was a clear day about 1300 or so. I wasn't hit because I was weaving back and forth to avoid the tracers.
My comment was to the other person (Skyaware123) not to you, it posted weird on this list. My Air Force career was non-flying so no I don't have any AMs or DFCs But I was there from 68-79 and started in SAC was TDY to 1st Combat Eval Gp. and we also did Combat Skyspot.

[This comment has been downvoted. Show anyway.]

Phil Nolden 7
Patriotism? I hauled a load of caskets back to the U.S. one afternoon and one of them contained the body of a friend of mine who'd been reassigned from my C-141 squadron to rescue helicopters. The next day, I volunteered for Viet Nam.

After five years, I would have been happy to stay in the USAF. I did a lot of interesting stuff while I was in the test wing at Eglin. I got to fly some of the first test missions out over the Atlantic in support of Bendix when they were testing the first TCAS system in the early 70's - flying head on passes against a C-135 with 1,000' separation.

But after Viet Nam the Air Force was getting rid of pilots as fast as they could during the downsizing to a peacetime force. A buddy of mine who was a card-carrying test pilot got riffed, as well.

What did you do in the military?
Michael Hawke 3
What was your service? You don’t get to question the patriotism of someone who served for their reason of leaving unless you have been there. Before you ask I wasn’t a pilot. Served 8 years on fast attack submarines.
David Ingram 6
Why was he in the sim when he didn't even know how to start the engines? Knowing your airplane is the difference between losing it and landing it when things go south.
I don't want to ride with him.
dav555 16
First of all, the C-17 is quite different from a 737, so you can't really directly compare the two. Despite his complaining about pretty minor issues like not having automatic pack and generator switching, he is right about the 737's old design. Yes, I know that this design has been the most successful jet aircraft in history, albeit probably soon to be surpassed by the Airbus A3xx, but Boeing should have made a new clean sheet airplane instead of just updating a 50+ year old model. Barring a new design, I agree with former USAF pilot that redesigning the 757 would have been a better move.
srobak 11
Sounds to me like this guy has 2 primary issues:

1> He probably should have stayed a pilot in the AF. He clearly doesn't like flying in the civilian world.
2> Seems like he has forgotten (or maybe never knew?) what _real_ aircraft ops is all about. He wants everything to be automagic for him. Pushbutton playstation type. Yeah - that's not how real aviation works - and has been demonstrated both in blood and in introspective evaluations and surveys over the past decade - too much automation makes for pilots who don't know how to really fly their aircraft.

Proficiency and competency has become a big problem because of too much modernization and reliance on computers in the cockpit - and those revealing surveys that came out a few years back circulating around that should have really shaken up the industry and scared the hell out of the pilots in the commercial space. I never thought it would make the military pilots so complacent and lazy... or maybe that's just a C-17 thing.

Put this guy in a KC-135 (aka 737) and see if he falls on his face there, too.

Lastly - apparently he is training in an old yet upgraded 37 - because anything that has rolled off the production lines in the last decade has not had "round holes for former mechanical instruments". The new 37 lines are leagues apart from the airliners of yesteryear.

I wonder if he spent any time in a T6 at all, at this rate.
Jasper Buck 3
"KC-135 (aka 737)"

I think you meant to say 707. The Boeing KC-135 Stratotanker is a military aerial refueling aircraft that was developed from the Boeing 367-80 prototype, alongside the Boeing 707 airliner.


Capt. J Buck
c k 5
Agreed, he is probably just too used to modern tech and has gotten a little spoiled.

I know an ex- Air National Guard KC-135 pilot who went on to the 737 at Southwest. He absolutely loves the 737 and wants to fly it as long as he can. Both the NG and the MAX.
mcskis 4
Minor note- the KC135 is a 707-not a 737
John Smith -1
No it's not
Frank Harvey 1
Hi John

I'm not doubting you, but to clarify my apparent misunderstanding, if the 135 series (and the 3's and 8's etc) are not basically 707's what are they ?

John Smith 1
Go to the KC-135 Wikipedia page. The KC-135 is based on the Boeing 367-80 prototype. The KC-135 has different dimensions then the 707. They were developed at the same time but the KC-135 is not a military 707.
Frank Harvey 1
Hi John

Thanks for taking the time to reply.

lynx318 1
Betting this ex AF guy has a house full of gaming consoles. Sounds like a spoilt rich kid. He's the type who gets in a new car and will complain if there isn't enough cupholders.
James Cox 19
Awwwww he has to switch packs and bleed switches, poor baby!
c k 6
You seem to be missing the point. Is that intentional?
c k 9
@ALLAN LEEDY, on a lot of airliners, the packs auto turn off for engine start, and the bleeds auto-select between each other. The pilot doesn't have to do anything with it, it is all automated.

However, on most older aircraft like the 737, it has to be done manually. Not hard to do, nor complicated, just an extra step and not a big deal at all.

James was being cheesy saying "poor baby" to the military pilot who was complaining about having to do these extra steps.
SkyAware123 1
he didn't get it at all. hint: auto isn't auto when it should be auto.....
c k 3
Yeah, I’m not sure why you have to manually do the ISO valve if there is an auto option.
Maybe the aircraft auto-adjusts it inflight or something.
But, on the ground, you have to manually control it.
Bill Sanford 10
Is there any wonder why in airline circles, a small segment of Air Force pilots are referred to a “weenies”?
G R Mortenson 13
On the one hand, I am happy that the US military has more modern aircraft and rigorous pilot training routines. On the other hand, the US government owns the money printing press -- the airlines do not.
boughbw 14
They still fly the B-52 and variants of the 707, among other planes.
Highflyer1950 8
Their rigorous pilot training didn’t help them out in understanding the simple fuel system on a Lear 35 or when experiencing an engine failure…..please don't shut down the engine still operating! Better yet, just glide into the airport 12 miles away rather than attempt to return to departure some 230 miles away, crash and kill everyone! We can also poke just as many holes in Airline ops, general aviation ops but don’t tell me the military pilots are “better” than everyone else due to their training! Up until the last decade of “rotate, autopilot on” to the “minimums” call out, then autopilot off, most military drivers, not all mind you, got the pax so airsick with the constant ”yanking and banking” g force control inputs…….commercial airline pilots were taught smooth handling. There is a difference between a “Limo” driver and a “Taxi” driver!
Roy Hunte 2
Military transport drivers are sometimes called truck drivers, I wouldn't go as far as to call them taxi drivers. Lol
Highflyer1950 4
The analogy was intended to outline the difference between smooth and jerky. Airline pilots have passengers to please, military pilots do not……unless you are in the Presidential squadron then you’d better be damn smooth!
SkyAware123 0
They might cost more to develop but they do use them forever. B-52, F16, A10... all planes at ages.
The c17 flew first in 1991. It's a baby but will still fly for many many years.
now... the f35 might be a different story.
John Gerty 3
The F-35 had the same maturation timeline as a human.
Highflyer1950 11
The B-737 started flying 32 years before the C-17. This peckerhead probably enjoys his military pension while collecting an airline salary and brags to his one friend about how great he is? Too bad his dog doesn’t understand what he’s saying!
Do you think people would expect a $366 million dollar c17 to have a little more upgrades and options than say a $86 million dollar B737-800 ?
Yep. But not this one.
What a jerk.

Let's see. Military plans have more redundancy and stronger parts / components, since they get used in BATTLE situations.

This is like someone complaining that he moved from a Lexus to a Chevy.

If he thinks this is bad, he should fly an A310.

HUDs are maintenance headaches. Adding them to the 737 adds cost without a lot of value.

If he doesn't want to fly the 737, well, he can take a job outside of the airlines. This is disappointing - he seems so entitled.
Roy Hunte 3
He could have opted to work at an airline that flies Airbus.
John Manley 2
its actually much cheaper to have a HUD installed on the captain's side in the 737 than autoland capability. As an example, SWA saves a ton of money by having a HUD versus having autoland in their 737s.
James Cox 2
The 737 has a HUD option, his particular airline probably just didn't order it. (Some airlines are cheap)
Ask him about the differences in his pay check.
Bill Sanford 2
Bingo! Well played, my friend!
EMK69 6
Years ago I was advising a company on how they could make their product, in my eyes, better and sturdier than it was. Their engineering division listened then asked my background. US Marine Airwinger retried. The Chief engineer laughed and said...your idea sounds great the problem with your military types is you have all the money you can get from our tax dollars to R&D idea's like you propose.

I had to agree with him. This gent is way off base comparing a civilian-controlled A/C to what we did in the Military. It can't even be considered applies v oranges more like Apples v a Pine Tree. Seem's this A Farce jock needs to remember what our military missions were like vs what the Civilian Sector does and where they land, including his wide body C-17.
c k 3
They should've stuck this knucklehead in the E-6 or B-52. This guy is spoiled with modern military technology and doesn't understand that the airlines don't have infinite money. The 737 is proven to be a well-designed, safe, and reliable aircraft. Even though it is older, it is being more and more modernized with each version. The MAX however, will probably be the last 737 version, before Boeing will design a fresh replacement.

But, just because it has an old design and requires a higher workload, doesn't mean it is any worse than the C17, which by the way is an unfair aircraft to compare it to. It is almost 2 different ways of flying.

If you choose to go to fly an airliner, be prepared, be glad you get to keep flying an aircraft, and don't whine like a little baby.
Jim DeTour 3
A pilot that has a problem managing systems should train more. If you want total automation, install an app on your phone to cuss for you when the automation fails and you are way behind the aircraft.
Steve Young 2
You’re missing the point, his issue is why have a switch with ‘auto’ function when you have to manually select it. Expectation would normally be if auto is selected then it should operate that way.
lynx318 1
Trouble is this pilot thinks pressing 'auto' will start the plane for him with no input at all.
bdarnell 4
I hear the faint sound of an axe being ground ........
tcnine 4
Well, he's not wrong. Thanks to Herbie K. Boeing kept the airplane dumbed down to keep training costs for SWA (and other 737 operators) down. I'm not sure why they had to get a military person to comment. You could have easily had an Airbus pilot say the same thing.
c k 6
Well, anybody who dislike's older airliners in the 21st century could complain about the 737. Even though it is getting old, and there are definitely more modern options, it is still a popular aircraft, all over the skies, and very reliable.
tcnine -4
You're pretty defensive about the 737 and I'm not sure why. It is a workhorse of the sky but it is also no-frills in the front and not all that comfortable of a ride in in back. Even a DC-9 beat the ride of a 737 from a pax POV. Boeing ditched the 757 in lieu of stretching the 737 which in retrospect has been a huge mistake. If I want to sit in an old aircraft I go to an aviation museum. I've flown and rode in enough of the old birds to know I prefer to something designed in the 21st century.
c k 6
Well, I tend to like planes that are “a pilot’s aircraft” meaning they require more manual operation, but are timeless in reliability and simplicity.

I understand it is not the most comfortable, efficient, automated aircraft out there, but a true pleasure to fly, and I think it deserves more respect than it gets. It will eventually be replaced, and like the 727, I think a lot of people will miss it more than they thought.

But, I understand what you mean when you say it isn’t as comfortable as others from a PAX point of view. And I’m not judging anybody for judging a PAX aircraft based on PAX experience.
Not just Kelleher...Parker bragged about it at AW.
Iskra 2
When Parker took over at America West on Sept 1, 2001 we were in the process of getting rid of all the 737's
vegaskukichyo 1
Because nobody likes Airbus pilots. Fly with a yoke between your legs like a REAL MAN!

(I jest)
This guy shoulda flown KC-135's or Buffs....cheeze with that whine?
John Talone 3
I agree with most in this post. The pilot is a whiner and should be thankful our tax dollars trained him. This is coming from a 14 year military aircraft mechanic.
dj horton 3
Imagine being on a 3 or 4 day trip with this dude.

I hear the more you complain the better things get.
dsavit 2
I would like to see what the reliability is of a 737 making its planned departure time vs that of a C-17?
I Dunno 2
The B737 ? is the Volkswagen of the Air.
It's cheap to buy and just cheap to keep.
Simply put, it replaced the DC-3.
It's the original B737 with a glass panel and newer (affordable) engines.
The C135, C5, C141 and C17 are designed for freight haulers, weather it be fuel, jeeps, solders, etc. only to make one(1) flight every 1 to 5 days, not 5+ flight a day.
I've "controlled" them all over years.
He should have stayed in the military.
Oh, BTW after many jump set trips on commercial airliners, I find the former fighter pilot types the most annoying and complaining pilots I've ever come across.

As a side note: Mooney pilots are the typical "Know It All" types !!!
Phil Nolden 1
When you're a copilot you have to (sort of) please the captain regardless of what he or she flew before the airline. It makes for a more pleasant trip.
Keith C 1
Just like Lockheed says their new LM100J/L382J/C130J has a modern cockpit. Don't get me wrong, it's a great airplane. I've been on C-130s since 1984. The new automation is great, but LH should have put should have put Collins, Avidyne, Honeywell, or even Garmin instead of the mess that they have.
8literbeater 1
This John Tringali guy sounds like an angry drunken teenager, and I really get a feeling that he shouldn't be flying an airliner at all.
Poor baby
Airlines need to make money
If you can't handle it you should have stayed in the service!!
John Manley 1
curious.... maybe im bias because I love the 737 and all but.... what would the FO be doing if he wasnt manually adjusting the AC panel (packs, ISO valve, bleeds) and putting the APU on the bus? Would he be just grabbing the captain coffee? Seems like he didn't pay too much attention in systems class but I could be wrong. Also not sure how you can take someone's criticism and comparison of an aircraft like the 737 and a completely different one like the C-17... just saying.
One would think that given the amount and quality of training this gentleman received in the USAF, there would be many more superlative ex USAF pilots in the civilian population.
Unfortunately, their numbers don't bare that out.
jwelder3 1
True about it being an old plane with a new panel and engines, but of course the crews who have been flying the older versions for years and won't likely care about the "AUTO" (not really) features.
James Herring 1
Interesting comparison but it sounds like the author is spoiled by newer aircraft. It hurts a little to have to step down in tech/features, but the pay is probably better.
Ed Allen 1
Now who is bitching? Geez Who cares ?
RC Pate 1
Hummm, sounds like a millenial whining about his latte not "just right". Dude, you will be on the 'do not fly trips with' at your carrier faster than you can possibly imagine.
themold 1
If things are so bad for Tringali, why doesn't he just get out of aviation or go back to the air farce? Pilots fly b/c they love to fly. Seems that he has lost his love for flying.
hal pushpak 1
I know two Embraer pilots who left their regionals to join Southwest. They told me it was a step back in time in so many ways, including ergonomics. They told me that their Max's had the same haphazard switch and control placement that the 737's had. The legacy continues..
John Manley 1
? the MAX is a 737.
c k 1
????? You didn’t know that the MAX is a version of the 737?

The 737 MAX is an upgraded design of the 737 NG. Most notably bigger engines, more fuel efficiency, some newer systems, and cockpit displays.
cougardad 1
RainbowRiver is 100% correct. i'd like to get my hand on this jerk in the sim.
It's easy to blame this on him being a military guy, where they have "unlimited funds," but the fact remains that Airbus doesn't have these issues in 2021. Pilot QoL items, that would make the plane easier to fly and learn shouldn't be scoffed at.
Highflyer1950 3
Like AF447?
Iskra -2
Really!!! Start counting the Airbus 320 family accidents to the 737 accidents world wide! You'll see a different picture.
c k 4
Well bud, the 737 has been around since the 60's. The 320 came about in the 80's.

Many crashes happened during that time in-between, many lessons learnt, many things changed, and by the time the late 80's came about, more modern aircraft like the 75/76 and the 320 series came about and aviation was much more safe than when the 737 first entered the industry.
Iskra -1
You can start you count at Airbus 320's first day. The 737 world wide has almost a 3:1 rate to the Bus
vegaskukichyo 2
From a statistical summary of accident rates by airplane type (1959-2019):

A320/321/319/318 (the bulk of A320 family types in service): 26 hull loss / 21 fatal hull loss / 0.08 fatal hull losses per million departures / 0.18 total hull losses per million departures

737-600/700/800/900 (the bulk of B737 family types in service): 19 hull loss / 8 fatal hull loss / 0.08 fatal hull losses per million departures / 0.18 total hull losses per million departures

Odd that your perception of the modern 737s in service is so skewed from reality. They have the *exact* same accident rates per million departures... Setting aside the regrettable and tragic failures of Boeing to design the MCAS trim-assist "safety" systems correctly (no fail-safe) and notify pilots how to properly manage it, I suspect the new MAX aircraft entering daily service will perform with a safety record commensurate to the NEO. I would rather fly a 737 with the yoke between my legs than an RC controller on my arm-rest, haha! (Although I am partial to B737 and do not like the design logic of the Bus, that is meant as a joke illustrating that it is merely personal preference, not safety record, that differentiate the two platforms operationally.)
Robert Cowling -1
The 737-200, with the 'innovative valve' that would jam. I remember being struck by the NTSB report that said that one of the left seat rudder pedals was actually bent by the human being trying desperately to save the other human lives in that plane as it plummeted to the ground. Boeing thought it could save money by designing that value, and then denied it had a problem up and even after it was proven to be a failed design. They also denied a flaw in the MAX planes. They LIED... They KNEW there was an issue, somewhere in the carcass of Boeing's management ivory tower. They worked over the industry compliant FAA to whitewash their screw up with the MAX. There is a difference between announcing the screw up and FIXING it, and continuing to cover it up after it was released. In the 200 valve, they had to eventually replace ALL of them. In the MAX, they *may* have fixed the problem. Time will tell.

They *should* have taken the 757 and adapted that design than what they did with the 737. The 57 had many things going for it, and the biggest being that it wasn't designed as a dirt strip transit bus.
KC 135 is a military version of the 707 not a 737.
John Smith 1
KC-135 was derived from the Boeing 367-80 not the 707
The 707 was derived from the Boeing 367-80. They came from the same design as has been pointed out many times already.
My point was they both came from a central plane design. Arguing about was it from the 707 or the 367-80 is rather pointless. They are all related. Duh...
jptq63 -1
I do not think the C-17 was flying in the 60s (or 50s) and might have had to be a bit backward compatible with the B-52 (or maybe a better comparison, a C-47)... or deal with the same FAA regs and cost constraints. Now to B!tch a bit, why can not the C-17 upgrade itself and have an auto pilot like a Tesla... would suggest he take a ride in the back seat, I will kindly pass. Final thought, different planes for different reasons, yield different things....
ADXbear -1
Yea, how many pilots, community, public screamed to keep the 757..,they should have upgraded the engines to a NEO she would have been perfect..
Im shocked the new 73s are not all automated.. this pilot calls it like he sees it, good for him!
jptq63 0
Last I recall, the navy is flying the P-8 (basically a 737-800) and they seem to be ordering more and flying them fine. Serious question, what made the navy modify the 737 vs. the C-17 for its needs?
c k 3
The P-8 was supposed to be the replacement for the P-3 Orion, which flew low over the ocean and found submarines underwater.

The p-8 does the same thing (a little bit differently). A modified 737 was a good choice because it is a narrow-body aircraft with good performance.

A C-17 would be too big and bulbous for a job like this. It's more for carrying cargo and lots of troops, which is what the USAF uses it for.
cougardad 0
George Wilhelmsen is also 100% right-on wit this jerk!


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