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What's so different between an airline pilot and TGV driver? The reason for prestige of one, and not of the other, is historical rather than about qualification differences. Trains used to mean handling coal and thus meant working class, whereas planes used to be the heir of horses, of ships, the instrument of nobility and officers, and thus was associated with upper classes. But what is different between the button-pushing of piloting a modern planes (which in effects pilots itself) and that of piloting a modern train ?

Un roi sans divertissement est un homme plein de misères
by linca (antonin POINT lucas AROBASE gmail.com) on Mon Nov 19th, 2007 at 06:24:33 AM EST
[ Parent ]
You remind me of another dimension: most train drivers who'd be around to retire at 50 now have even tougher prior service on less modern locos in their bones. (Pre-air-conditioning, stage-switching electrics were more hard and stressful than today's too.)

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Mon Nov 19th, 2007 at 06:59:55 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Well, what about the number of dimensions you operate within? Three for a plane, one for a train.

The low likelihood of crashes even compared to a bus does not come from supreme training but from the much more limited possibilities to create an accident. A family friend once drove a TGV -he is in fact a medical doctor (don't ask me how he convinced the train driver to let him do so -but he did. Without training. I don't think he would have been able to fly a plane or even drive a bus).

No, multiplying by the probability of an accident is not dishonest, otherwise you may argue that a museum keeper has more health and safety responsibility because there are more people in the museum than in a plane or a train. If an accident is well nigh impossible, you are not in a situation where a small mistake can spread disaster. Most of the time, a TGV driver would have trouble creating a crash if he tried. A bus driver must take corners, drive on mountain roads, has lots of visibility problems, can fall victim of an exploding tyre...

And it's not just about prestige for the planes either. A jet pilot must be able to land a 4 reactors plane with a single reactor left. What would possibly be the equivalent on a TGV?

As for long distance bus drivers (or jet pilots) at 2am, it's far more frequent than TGV drivers! I don't see too many TGVs during the night. But when my orchestra went to Poland, well, we were driving through the night, as in every trip that outlasts a day.

Earth provides enough to satisfy every man's need, but not every man's greed. Gandhi

by Cyrille (cyrillev domain yahoo.fr) on Mon Nov 19th, 2007 at 07:13:53 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Actually, it's not that hard to crash a train. And again, I know of no plane pilot who has to repair the brakes of his plane. Or has to go down on the pathway of objects moving at 300 km/h, as TGV drivers are sometimes asked to do. That is equivalent to landing in very hard conditions (for which planes are much better designed than trains, and for which pilots receive very adequate training after they are hired).

Actually piloting planes is not that hard mid-flight ; that was proven 6 years ago.

The reasons pilots are handsomely compensated is not difficulty of task, or high responsibility, but rather the fact that they have some of the best unions around. And this is changing with the appearance of low-cost carriers.

That's why coach drivers (urban bus drivers often have SNCF-like compensation), who work for many small companies, or nurses (description of the problem here, ) are not.

SNCF compensations are what you can get, when your profession doesn't have direct access to the money supply of the company, and are reasonably well organised in asking for the raises. Nurses are an example of what you can get without proper organisation. What you can get with really good unions is exemplified by, say, book workers, in France. What you get with access to the money supply is exemplified by the banking convention collective.

Of course, nowadays, when neo-liberals are the one with media access, they are pushing the line that SNCF workers are the ones who are "generously compensated", whereas it is the nurses, or John BusDriver, who never goes on strike, who isn't adequately compensated, because he never collectively asked for a raise with the proper arguments - those of withdrawing work.

Un roi sans divertissement est un homme plein de misères

by linca (antonin POINT lucas AROBASE gmail.com) on Mon Nov 19th, 2007 at 07:59:14 AM EST
[ Parent ]
A family friend once drove a TGV -he is in fact a medical doctor (don't ask me how he convinced the train driver to let him do so -but he did.

So what? Did your family friend watch the signals, or did the locomotive driver continue to do so? Ditto about the wake signal? Does he even know the railway signal book? Traffic dispatcher and order-giving rules? The TGV's brake percentages? Could he stop the train at the platform, or depart? Could he recognise a motor failure, or know what to do when the aggregator for air conditioning is defect? I can 'hold' the throttle on an airplane, in fact children can do when the pilot lets them in, and that's not even forbidden. (BTW, personally I think that TGV driver who let your family friend in would deserve to be fired.)

Most of the time, a TGV driver would have trouble creating a crash if he tried.

Heh. In the case of a TGV, that's true apart from stations, because the automatic a safety systems are so elaborate. But that only means that would a TGV driver attempt to create trouble, the train would stop.

A bus driver must take corners, drive on mountain roads, has lots of visibility problems, can fall victim of an exploding tyre...

A freight train driver must negotiate tight curves and switches, drive on mountain lines, has lots of visibility problems (with the brake distances trains have, every train driver has lots of visibility problems), and can fall victim to a broken wheel tyre, broken rail, failed brakes (especially on a descent), another train in his route after a signal error, landslides into his right-of-way, and bus drivers crossing the red light.

A jet pilot must be able to land a 4 reactors plane with a single reactor left. What would possibly be the equivalent on a TGV?

Stopping a train with 75% of the braking disconnected. And that's pretty critical. Or initiate braking when you have 1 second for that and jumping out of the train ahead of a collision.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Mon Nov 19th, 2007 at 11:15:44 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Well, of course something CAN happen. But you must get back to 1988 to come up with an example of casualties in a crash in France, and it was not a TGV. Buses drop off a cliff every year. Talk about comparable likelihood...

Yes, our family friend was watching the signals, he happened to know them. He did not stop it at the platform because he realised through this driving that he had a sight problem : so he stopped the train, thinking that he had no right of way, because he saw the sign wrong. Which is crazy -but proves that he could stop the train at least. Try landing a 747, just for fun.

As for visibility problems, I meant when you CANNOT see in the direction where you are going. A train has only one dimension. It is not the same challenge at all -just check the statistics.

Stopping a train with a quarter of the braking power is really, really not comparable to landing with one reactor in 4. To start with, you don't have the problem that you start rotating...

Earth provides enough to satisfy every man's need, but not every man's greed. Gandhi

by Cyrille (cyrillev domain yahoo.fr) on Mon Nov 19th, 2007 at 11:26:13 AM EST
[ Parent ]
you must get back to 1988 to come up with an example of casualties in a crash in France

Huh!? Where are you taking this? Just one example:

Accident ferroviaire de Zoufftgen - Wikipédia

L'accident ferroviaire de Zoufftgen s'est produit le 11 octobre 2006, vers 11 h 45 à Zoufftgen en Moselle, à une vingtaine de mètres de la frontière entre le Luxembourg et la France. Il s'agit d'une collision frontale entre deux trains qui a fait six morts et un blessé grave.

Which is crazy -but proves that he could stop the train at least.

You mean, he stopped the train on the open line? That indeed is crazy, I wonder how the locomotive driver got away with it. But it doesn't follow that your family friend could sto at a platform, i.e. knlow the proper braking distance and also achieve it (and that in any weather).

I meant when you CANNOT see in the direction where you are going.

That happens a) in fog, b) in curves, c) in rain or snow if you need to see far, d) in the night for unilluminated objects not too close. I am not sure what statistics you refer to or are even relevant.

To start with, you don't have the problem that you start rotating...

LOL. Curving line on a downgrade? (One of the worst accidents in railway history: a French captain forced a train driver to continue with a train packed full of WWI soldiers from the Italian front on Christmas front leave.)

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Mon Nov 19th, 2007 at 11:51:08 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Last lethal crash was one year ago...

Un roi sans divertissement est un homme plein de misères
by linca (antonin POINT lucas AROBASE gmail.com) on Mon Nov 19th, 2007 at 11:51:38 AM EST
[ Parent ]
After some thinking, I guess you mention statistics still under the assumption that they somehow compare risk between bus and train drivers.

However, that ain't true. It's just that trains have more fail-safe systems and controls on drivers. I.e., if they don't check the brakes or ignore a signal, the train stops or the stationmaster calls them out, if a bus driver does the same, the bus lands in a gorge or collides with a train. It's not that the bus driver has to watch out more.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Mon Nov 19th, 2007 at 12:07:59 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The difference is real, and huge.

In stormy weather, on an instrument approach to De Gaulle in a vehicle operating independently of any track in three dimensional space- a vehicle with a speed in the transition zone well beyond the top end for the fastest TGV--
In the world's most heavily populated air traffic environment, the pilot will fly a complex approach involving, often, dozens of changes of heading and altitude, changes of speed, of aircraft configuration, all the while communicating with and responding to typically four different radio control facilities,
En route
Approach
Tower
Ground
--- while at the same time executing multiple check lists and maintaining a mental picture of the field, the terrain, the aircraft angle of attack vs. speed equation (a life-or-death matter), our chauffer will feel his way to the runway end and "grease it on", if he is really good (and lucky)- while creating in his head a mental map of the field's complex taxiways so he or she doesn't turn off at the wrong goddamn runway exit. I speak from experience there.
After a night approach in gusty, icy weather, every approach is a clean-shirt deal- to hide the sweat stains. Never, never to be admitted to others, of course.  

I suggest that the heavy-qualified airplane driver is performing an act of real-time skill and judgment that approaches the absolute limits of what humans can do.

Also, Every Cat III approach (could be fully automatic) is monitored and in reality hand flown- hands on or near the controls, even when the autopilot is on-

I have the greatest respect for the TGV driver- or the driver of the local freight. I have shared at least a bit of his or her world, I think.
Pay the hell out of them, and don't bitch.

Capitalism searches out the darkest corners of human potential, and mainlines them.

by geezer in Paris (risico at wanadoo(flypoop)fr) on Sun Nov 25th, 2007 at 08:29:51 AM EST
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