Captain crunch

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Every manager has to juggle a few chainsaws now and then to keep the requisite number of backsides in their respective seats. Employees leave unexpectedly. It happens. The goal, though, is to make the chair-filling process as seamless and painless as possible.

Milwaukee-based Midwest Express Airlines dropped a few chainsaws recently when it found itself with more planes than pilots. The sudden shortage forced management to cancel 28 flights per week for the rest of the summer, or about 3 percent of the carrier's 950 weekly takeoffs.

Oddly enough, the airline was only five captains light of a full load. Three were out sick, one went on military duty and the fifth took another job. But when you're an airline, empty cockpits are a glaringly obvious problem. Now Midwest is training a class of first officers to be captains. I hope they'll also remember to bring a few new first officers on board. You gotta keep those chairs filled.

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