View Full Version : Pilots: Pressured to cut fuel

17th Jul 2008, 18:46
Watching the enclosed Yahoo video link, and reading the USA Today article, I can only think of coming days news saying something like this:
A little extra fuel could have saved their lives
Obviously, they will all blame the pilot for not taking enough fuel, and a little extra for the extra mile. But I ask you the following: What would they come up next with, in order "to save on costs"?
See the video, as shown in Yahoo news, and the actual news, as shown in USA Today. This is awesome, awful to say the least.

Pilots worried about flying with less fuel
http://gmy.news.yahoo.com/v/8852898/abc/20080717/av_abc_wnt/_goodmorningyahoo_abc080716_wn_lstark_airlines (http://gmy.news.yahoo.com/v/8852898/abc/20080717/av_abc_wnt/_goodmorningyahoo_abc080716_wn_lstark_airlines)

US Airways pilots: We're pressured to cut fuel
http://m.usatoday.com/detail.jsp?key=872582&rc=main (http://m.usatoday.com/detail.jsp?key=872582&rc=main)

US Airways pilots: We're pressured to cut fuel
7/17/2008 7:03 AM

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The pilots union for US Airways said Wednesday the airline is pressuring pilots to use less fuel than they feel is safe in order to save money.
US Airways Captain James Ray, a spokesman for the US Airline Pilots Association, which represents the airline's 5,200 pilots, said eight senior pilots and the union have filed complaints with the Federal Aviation Administration.
The union also paid for a full-page ad in Wednesday's USA TODAY addressed to "our valued passengers." The ad accuses the airline of "a program of intimidation to pressure your captain to reduce fuel loads."
Ray said soaring jet fuel prices have sent all the airlines scrambling to find ways to cut the weight of airliners because the heavier the plane, the more fuel the plane burns. US Airways, based in Tempe, Ariz., has recently removed movie players, redesigned its meal carts and replaced glassware with plastic to cut weight.
Jet fuel has surpassed labor as the airline industry's greatest expense.
But US Airways recently crossed the line when it ordered eight pilots who requested "an extra 10 to 15 minutes worth of fuel" to attend training sessions, or "check rides," that could put their pilot licenses in jeopardy, Ray said. The pilots were supposed to report for their training sessions Wednesday, he said.

17th Jul 2008, 19:02
Kwick....dont really want to elaborate to much here.....as a Capt on the Bus,"West side".USAirways...I have never been 'influenced" by mgt on any fuel issues...When Ive felt Ive needed more fuel,I and in agreement with my dispatcher...Ive always been given it...never once have I been questioned.....this whole issue is nothing more than political gesturing by a minorty of "east" usair pilots who have short dicks!!!

There is much behind this story and would love to discuss it over a few tinnies with you.....and it has been discussed on previous threads here....these so-called "experienced" pilots are doing nothing but scaring the public into thinking we run flights short of fuel,and it is our mgt that is to blame.....no professional pilot would ever allow such a thing..Period!!!!!...and it is simply not true....these idiots are being given training so that they may see the error of there ways....look at the history of the old USAIRWAYS....IT SPEAKS FOR ITSELF:ouch:

These clowns want to "burn down the house"...and dont much care for who resides in it....very UNPROFESSIONAL for sure

17th Jul 2008, 20:16
These clowns want to "burn down the house"...and dont much care for who resides in it....very UNPROFESSIONAL for sure

Certainly true of a couple of PIT crews I spoke with a several months ago. They were going to trash the place and make a statement on the way down. They must be disappointed that the company has survived this long.

Still, there is a real cycle of "fuel savings" programs. Fuel loads are cut back, fuel is saved until a few expensive diverts occur then more fuel is put on the flight plan and the cycle starts anew.

17th Jul 2008, 20:30
I guess "fuel saving" became a global evil... :ugh:

keel beam
17th Jul 2008, 22:24
In my company there is an unwriiten rule to prefuel aircraft to "2000kgs" under flight plan in the expectation that zero fuel weight goes down and the top up will be less than 2000kgs. In my experience the crew have 99.9% of the time gone with flight plan fuel and often put on extra for holding fuel.

The Captain has the last word and long may that be so :ok:

17th Jul 2008, 23:00
The Captain has the last word and long may that be so

Have you ever heard the difference between involvement and commitment?

In a ham and eggs breakfast, the chicken is involved, but the pig is committed....

When it comes to flight safety, the dispatcher is involved, but the flight crew is committed.

keel beam
17th Jul 2008, 23:59
And the Captain is committed to a safe flight

18th Jul 2008, 01:33
That is how I would put it.

The airlines I have worked for have been trying to make Flight Crews do this for at least 30 years - they don't like crews adding another 'x' kilos for 'mum'; on account of 'mum' costs 3 to 4 % per hour of any extra fuel loaded. i.e. a 10 hour flight with another 10 tonnes over min flight plan fuel will cost between 3 - 4 tonnes of extra fuel all gone (paid for and added into the global warming thingy)

I have always loaded the fuel I think will cater for the conditions that I may 'reasonably' expect to arise at the destination and alternate airfields. (The word 'reasonably' means I make my own assesment of 'risk management' which would be something I hope along the lines that aircraft designers build into the aircraft when they consider the strength of the main spars versus the likelyhood of an idiot pilot driving their aircraft into the mother of all CB's)

I never carry fuel for 'Mum', although over the decades before the LH seat I flew with many who did. I do carry extra fuel when I believe that safety or an unnaceptable commercial risk requires it. I have never felt 'uncomfortably' short of fuel.

We are paid as Captains to manage risk in every aspect of our working day (take the loading of the aircraft for instance - do we check every aspect of that? Or look at performance - I could go on and on)

Any airline I have worked for will allow me to carry the fuel that is appropriate to the risk - in 34 years in this business I've never had one complaint from management about extra fuel - and I doubt that will change. For those who persist in carrying 'a bit for mum', well you deserve some critisism because you are not resolving those 'risk management' decisisions appropriately in my opinion.


Ignition Override
18th Jul 2008, 07:49
The FAA's "rubber stamp" , in order to still "promote air transportation"-in lieu of safety-is probably behind a different version of this from the "back door". This would never be allowed without approval of "our friends" at the FAA, with your families' safety always at the forefront;). There might easily have been pressure from the ATA-the US airline lobby group- directly on the FAA (all top cabinet members are White House appointees-don't forget...). The motive? $$ . It can mean dispatching many flights with about 2-4,000 lbs less fuel, reducing operating costs. Next winter might prove interesting.

There are new changes for the required forecast or observed ceiling/visibility at the destination, determining whether an alternate airport (domestic) is needed with the resulting increase in dispatch fuel load. This quite often reduces payload/revenue. These new rules require alternates to be planned in fewer cases than existed for decades. This is for Part 121 aircraft, whether the CRJ, B-737 or B744 etc.

For many years, +/- 1 hour, less than 2,000' ceiling or 3 miles required a suitable alternate (1-2-3 rule).
Months ago they reduced these, if the crew/aircraft and approach at the destination are qualified for Cat 2 (currency, Notams, MELs etc).

Recently there is a second change, to 1,000' and 3 miles if the destination has a Cat 1 approach etc, and I'll double check when I go back to work.
Does anybody else smell some federal rats (no-not just the ATF/KGB..)?
Just wait-this is only the beginning.

Flap 5
18th Jul 2008, 08:01
'In agreement with my despatcher'. Why does the despatcher have to agree with you? It's your licence on the line. I know that's the way it's done in the US but it's not right. I tell the despatcher how much fuel I require, period.

Ignition Override
18th Jul 2008, 08:06
Flap 5:

Good point, it is the same for us but as in previous years our Dispatchers are required to put a comment on the new release amendment, such as "Cont. fuel increase per Captain's request".

We have several new Dispatchers and there is no doubt that the supervisors "lean on them".

The reported events at USAirways look really bizarre and there must be more to the story.
Stay tuned until next week.

18th Jul 2008, 08:12
Actually this has gone beyond nonsense. There is no pressure at US Airways to trim fuel to an unsafe level. In fact over the last 2 years, and especially since dispatch was consolidated in PIT I have had to have fuel taken off because we were going to bump payload to carry unneccessary fuel. Landing in HNL with 2 hours of fuel on a VFR day is way beyond what is required. Fuel loads are too conservative, if anything.

These 8 pilots were taking on way more fuel on a percentage basis that all the other captains. The East pilots are also running the APU in flight to burn extra fuel "to show the company we mean business in our negotiations". What this has become is a rookie union, who had its roots in anti - ALPA radicals, trying to flex some muscle when they lack the spine to support it. They are playing a bogus "safety" card in negotiations knowing full well that there is no safety issue involved. The company was bringing them in for a day of ground school to determine why they were uploading so much fuel. There was no sim check involved nor was there any punishment involved since they would have had to be served Section 19 (discipline section of the contract) letters before they could be brought in. This is just some very unprofessional pilots making the rest of us look bad.

Pixie Queen
18th Jul 2008, 13:05
Don't forget to let our fellow readers know that these are the same numbnuts that where taking legal actions against 18 of the "West" pilots. That by the way was dismissed by the court and their Arses where handed to them with a note Not to re-file this frivolous lawsuit.

Bottom line is, the East rookie union will do as before....Burn the house down from within.

18th Jul 2008, 16:03
The FAA's "rubber stamp" , in order to still "promote air transportation"-in lieu of safety-is probably behind a different version of this from the "back door". This would never be allowed without approval of "our friends" at the FAA, with your families' safety always at the forefront.

Good gosh, Override, I'm surprised that you, of all folks, are suckered in by this nonsense.
As has been mentioned by others, it is an 'east union' ploy, nothing more, nor less.

Now, lets say, for the sake of argument, that an airplane actually does run short of fuel.
Ever hear of a diversion?
Been used for many years, works good.

18th Jul 2008, 17:47
A little food for thought for any fellow flight crews who, maybe foolishly, dispatch with actual plog fuel on a regular basis.

In Europe, (unfortunately Im not in a position to coment on the situation in the USA) under JAR ops....your ZFW as calculated by the flight planning system is based on average weights....it has been my experience that these weight are in fact "VERY AVERAGE". To explain further...your pax weights are average 85/75 kgs for m/f and baggage weights 13 kgs for european dests with 10k cabin baggage. Now, how many people do you know, go to sunny spain from the UK for thier 2 weeks of bliss, would have 13 kgs of luggage?? do you really expect all cabin baggage to weigh 10kgs, or, lets face it, are all the pax less than or equal to "average" weights.

So, take your 150 pax with say max permitted luggage of 26kgs ( why we use one figure for flight planning/fuel purposes and an entirely different figure ie double that, before we charge an excess charge requires consideration also).......and they WILL have max bag weight for a trip..thats an extra 2 tonnes for cash thats not accounted for in your performance calculations...and thats presuming that all the punters are coming straight from the local health farm, having shed lots of pounds, in order to board at that beautiful "average" weight.

Im making the point, purely from the point of view of safety...so taking the extra 500kgs of fuel, for "mum" makes a lot more sense than you may think. Also, round up those performance figure for either the flex temp.....take next lower, or T/O weight...drop down to the next line to ensure theres adequate performance for the intended op.

Please dont start a slagging match around this post,as it is, in my humble opinion good airmanship and a safer approach to flight planning.

and....may you always have 2 tonnes in the wings on landing


18th Jul 2008, 18:20
One good friend used to comment the following:
The only time that you have excess fuel in your tanks is when your aircraft is on fire.
Please note I am not in favor of taking excess fuel to a point it becomes useless as an aicraft anchor.

18th Jul 2008, 19:43
Battles between pilots at one airline...east vs. west.

people on this thread talking about court cases against "west" pilots (for those who don't know...these pilots may have sent FECAL matter through the US Mail to show their displeasure at the new union...the case was removed from federal court and will probably show up again in a state court...more appropriate in this matter).

BUT the real question is Captain's Authority.

The new union at USAIRways made quite a line in the sand. Either the captain is the boss or he isn't. And if he isn't, who is the boss of the plane?

And those of you who don't think adding fuel for "mom , dad, the kids" etc. is wise...how come all those pilots, long retired did it? And they safely reached retirement!

This should have been handled by sensible discussion between the union and the management. sensible usair management...hmmm that would have been ed colodny///even butch schofield is looking damn good these days!


PS...if management really wanted to save money by reducing fuel weights...tell me why USAIR didn't seek the waiver reducing reserves from 10 percent to 5 percent like American and Continental did?

I'd really like an answer to the that one.

18th Jul 2008, 19:55
Does USAIR use re-release (re-dispatch) procedures for north Atlantic flights...and if not, why not?

Been using re-release for years, never had a problem, Atlantic or Pacific ops.

Sudden thought, perhaps USAIR doesn't know how...:rolleyes:

18th Jul 2008, 20:02
re-release is SOP for usair and has been for at least 15 years if not more

18th Jul 2008, 20:15
re-release is SOP for usair and has been for at least 15 years if not more

Then, one must ask, exactly what is the problem?

Other than 'east' union malcontents, that is.

19th Jul 2008, 00:44
why dont we make changes to the law, or sop's to allow pilots to load a/c without management ever being involved till after the flight has commenced, that would put sole reliance on the PIC and make for a safer and less interfered with flight.

19th Jul 2008, 02:18
You know, I have some friends on the "west" side and it seems to me that the "east" side guys should be thanking the gods that they have a job. If it wasn't fom AmWest buying them, all of them would have been on the street. I work with a number of furloughed "east" guys and I have never seen such overall negative and self centered attitudes. They are an absolute pain in the ass to fly with. Damn idiots! Good luck to you "west" guys in your upheaval.:ugh:

19th Jul 2008, 02:18
We already do - it's called "Captain's Authority" per FARS; unfortunately it is open to abuse and mega misinterpretation.

19th Jul 2008, 10:48
I hear that the Pilot's Union has taken out full page ads to put their point of view to the public.
I suspect this conflict will run and run until either the price of fuel drops below $70/bbl (unlikely) or the poor old airline folds.

20th Jul 2008, 01:28
I know nothing about this, but I suspect that the fuel issue is not the true, underlying issue. I suspect these guys ####ed off management for one unrelated reason or another, and management is pulling this nonsense. (Feel free to substitute another eight-letter word for 'nonsense'.)

Discipline checkrides are nothing new to the industry. Fortunately, the union is involved in training, and most training instructors/examiners are good union blokes who put ethics above brown-nosing the management pukes.

Almost 40 years ago, when I started my airline career, I flew with some of the finest airmen. Learned a lot from them. These guys had more time in airplanes than I had in a 'T' shirt. Tens of thousands of hours, no accidents, no incidents, no violations....they ran a good ship. And, many of them mixed with management (and the training department) like oil mixes with water.

So, without knowing the details of all of this..."The rest of the story".... I really can't comment further, except to say that, historically, airline managements proved their stupidity in many, many ways.

From what I hear, these guys are 30-year-plus captains...no accidents, incidents, or violations...and some low-time numb-nuts is going to tell them how to fly an airplane...

Yep, some things never change....

Fly Safe,


20th Jul 2008, 04:20
Quote.....From what I hear, these guys are 30-year-plus captains...no accidents, incidents, or violations...and some low-time numb-nuts is going to tell them how to fly an airplane...

that statement just blows me away...."some low time numb-nut"...you sound like the low time numb-nut.....look in the mirror mate,and say that to yourself!!......no low time numb-nut is involved in this,except numb-nuts like yourself....we are a little further down the road than that...try and stay with the plot will you???

being a 30-yr plus Capt doesnt make you right....these jokers are using scare tactics to try and prove a point...and their point is pathetic...they bring nothing but scare-mongering to a public that pays our wages and who in essence(east USAirways) have no right to ruin our profession....you sound like one of them...try to look at the real picture here....read the previous posts to this thread and look at this issue objectively...if its possible.....no wonder this industry is in the state it,s in....

20th Jul 2008, 06:11
Starbucks makes a nice decaf...

About the only thing the East and West guys agree on is that the worst move America West ever made was to buy US Air.:)

20th Jul 2008, 07:25
Why did this turn into an East vs. West topic??? I think the point of the topic at hand is......Should a Captain be able to exercise his/her authority without the fear of displinary action from the company??? This is the underlying question. Granted, the drama of it all is over the top, but where does it end??? What happens if a Captain diverts to abc airport for an emergency, then management terminates the Captain because they feel he/she should have diverted to xyz airport???? As the Captain, your paid to use all available information at the time and make an educated/experienced decision. Fear of action from management should not enter into the equation.

20th Jul 2008, 08:00

No, I am not 'one of them'.....I was simply guessing why all this is going on.

I've re-read the posts, and I still think that fuel is not the underlying issue. Can't comment on East/West or North/South or Black/White...

I retired from my airline job four years ago. Tens of thousands of hours, no accidents, incidents, or violations. Training instructor background.

Please don't attack me personally. I neither agree nor disagree with you. I was simply expressing my thoughts based on what I've heard, read, and read here in this thread...trying to piece together everything to determine the truth.

Assuming that my thoughts are correct...that is, an additional 20 minutes of fuel is not the real issue...why did management single out these eight guys? USAirways has got...what...over 5000 pilots...and only these eight have asked for additional fuel? There's got to be something more to the story.

And, why a checkride? Back in my union days, my contract specified that managment couldn't do that....(get upset with a pilot and give him an unscheduled checkride)

But, I can tell you, there are airlines in the world that give unscheduled line checks when they're upset with a guy. The guy usually fails...many times the reasons given are incorrect... The guys gets on his knees in the chief pilot's office...says he's sorry...takes another line check (without further training) and magically passes.

Right, wrong, or otherwise....just remember, this can happen to you. You cross the chief pilot some day for something...and you're suddenly a sub-standard pilot. I guess these days, it's not hard to find an instructor who is willing to participate in this nonsense....i.e. he/she hasn't the guts to stand up to the fleet manager and say this stuff is wrong.

My last post on this...going back to technical issues.

Fly Safe,


20th Jul 2008, 08:11
Well said PantLoad!!!

Airbus Girl
20th Jul 2008, 18:28
I agree with the earlier comment about correct pax and bag weights. The airline I work for did a survey over a period of time and the weights were found to be consistently under. So they came up with a new set of weights so that the ZFM was realistic. Crews began to see that an accurate ZFM resulted in landing with excess fuel and began reducing fuel loads as the estimated weights were now actually fairly accurate. Then the airline merged and we are back to square 1.
Pilots take extra fuel because in many cases the estimated load weight is wrong, and lets face it, when you get the actual loadsheet (around 2 minutes before pushback!!!) you are hardly going to say "hang on, get the fueller back, we are heavier than planned and I want an extra 200kgs" now are you?
So - note to airlines - provide pilots with accurate estimate load figures and they can calculate an accurate estimated fuel load!!!

20th Jul 2008, 19:08
But, I can tell you, there are airlines in the world that give unscheduled line checks when they're upset with a guy. The guy usually fails...many times the reasons given are incorrect... The guys gets on his knees in the chief pilot's office...says he's sorry...takes another line check (without further training) and magically passes.

Yep, these punitive line checks are all too common. If you're in the union, it's pretty hard to get fired, which is good. However, some clowns will always seem to get a God complex and do something stupid to 'teach the company a lesson'. I've seen folks who would drop the flaps 100 miles out and keep the speedbrake up with power on because they lost an arbitration hearing years earlier. They mix personal politics with flight operations and the company at some point will round up the cowboy and give him a 'Come to Jesus' line check.

Calling in sick and jumpseats are other areas of personal responsibility and command authority that have been politicized. One of the other 'scab unions':) got taken to the woodshed by a Texas judge over a sickout a few years ago. Remember the "Jumpseat Protection List"? Now the guys that crossed at Continental have ALPA cards and the ever vigilant US Air guys don't. Wonder who gets to ride now?

Some of these stunts to show the company who is boss severely weaken Captain's Authority in my opinion. By cracky, in the old days, the captain could pretty much do what he wanted and as long as he didn't crash, it would rarely be questioned.

I remember riding with a Piedmont 737 crew that used no checklists and just after takeoff the captain put a set of speakers on the glareshield to play music from his brand new gadget, a CD player. We had a good time, didn't crash but years later I'm not so sure this was the safest way to do things. Times have changed and I'm sure even the old Piedmont boys know how to read checklists by now. Well, maybe, anyway.

The next round of bankruptcies start later in the year so all this discussion and posturing about seniority lists and fuel may be moot. We don't have Lorenzo to blame things on this time so now the Great Satan at US Air is, unfortunately, each other.

20th Jul 2008, 19:22
Quote pantload....."and some low-time numb-nuts is going to tell them how to fly an airplane"

to whom then were you referring??? if its mgt,then I doubt most of them fly...Id agree with the statement if it s actually aimed at mgt...so ditto...I stand corrected if thats what you meant...????nothing personal...accept my apology....

This subject has nothing to do with the Capts Authority...This has to to with wasting fuel,making incorrect statements,dragging fellow pilots through the mud,professional dishonesty,and a loss of a moral compass.

We all know the "leap" that one makes when you upgrade to the position of Capt,It comes with a lot of "baggage"....and when certain individuals take those responsibilties and throw then around with reckless abandonment,then we all pay the price....and most of us would be unwilling to allow such a small majority to use the issues for personal/political agendas(which is exactly what this is)....all involved have had nothing taken away...they are merely being asked to justify their actions...something that is ultimately a part of our responsesibilities......justify you actions....nothing more,nothing less..like it or not,the Capt is held to a higher standard..