Aloha Cargo Pilots Fly Without Getting Paid

HONOLULU (KHNL) -- It's been a week since Aloha Airlines resumed its air cargo operations, delivering food and other necessities. The pilots have been hailed as heroes, even as their long-term fate remains up in the air. They haven't been paid for several weeks, yet about 30 of them continue flying cargo between islands.

Although Seattle-based Saltchuk bought the air cargo operations, it's not officially the new owner just yet. That's all being worked out in bankruptcy court. So the pilots are flying without really knowing who is ultimately responsible for paying them.

Aloha's air cargo operation helps keep our island economy moving. A week after a brief shutdown, ground employees are grateful a new owner stepped up to the plate.

"It's great that Saltchuk is buying us out, that they're saving this company," said Jeremy Kaai, a 22-year-old Aloha Air Cargo employee. "This company is very important to Hawaii."

During this transition phase, these employees got their paychecks.

But the guys flying these planes have not been paid. In fact, their last paycheck was on April 15th, almost a month ago.

Guy Croydon is one of those pilots. The 21-year Aloha veteran now flies cargo planes.

"We're living with a lot of uncertainty and it's difficult and extremely stressful on the families," said Croydon.

Even though he currently flies for Aloha Air Cargo, Croydon has to re-apply for his job since a new company is taking over.

"Whether we get hired or not, we know we're preserving the jobs for somebody who is going to get hired," said Croydon. "So we're compelled to do it even though we don't know if we're going to get paid or not."

It's a Catch-22: he's employed and not getting a paycheck, but he can't collect unemployment because he has a job.

"We're going though this hell and the rest of the world thinks that it's all fixed now. Aloha's flying now. we're getting our bread," said Croydon.

"See, we can deliver the bread but we can't afford to buy the bread," said Croydon's wife Ann.

Their story is shared by many other pilots and their families.

"When I speak to our friends on the phone who are grown men and they're crying because they've lost the only thing that they knew, it's beyond anything that I could describe to you or anything that I could have understood before March 31st," said Ann Croydon.

Still they remain hopeful.

"From what I heard of people speaking with some of the Saltchuk representatives, they may very well be a very, very good company to work for," said Guy Croydon.

A new company and renewed hopes for pilots and their families.

The Croydons want to stay in Hawaii, but they may have to move to China for Guy to continue flying planes.

Saltchuk executives say once the deal becomes final, principle lender GMAC will release funds to pay the pilots for the hours they worked. The deal should close on the May 14, and the pilots should be paid soon afte that.

And in bankruptcy court, Saltchuk inched closer to becoming owners of Aloha air cargo. Its executives are working with the Federal Aviation Administration and the Department of Transportation to transfer the operating certificate from Aloha to Saltchuk. They will meet back in court Monday to go over a couple of motions. Saltchuk plans to keep the "Aloha Air Cargo" name.