View Full Version : Come back Crab Air - All is forgiven!

Flatus Veteranus
10th Mar 2003, 19:24
From The Times 10 March:-

"Airline pilots will refuse to fly planes chartered to evacuate casualties of the war against Iraq because the government is seeking to relax flight safety rules.

The DofT has produced a draft directive requiring civilian pilots flying jet chartered by the Armed Forces to work for more than 19 consecutive hours, six more than the current legal limit.

The government is negotiating contracts with several airlines to provide planes and crews to evacuate the injured and ferry troops and supplies. It wants to change the safety rules to allow for the special circumstances of waging war.

The DofT directive (a copy of which has been obtained by The Times, says that pilots operating medical flights can have their duty hours extended by four beyond the current maximum of 13 hours and 15 minutes (!) The captain can also agree to fly an additional two hours if required by the circumstances.

Pilots can be ordered to work for 70 hours a week, 15 more than the exisiting 55-hour limit. Rest periods between shifts have also been cut to a minimum of nine hours.

The British Airline Pilots Association said that the rule changes could lead to an exhausted pilot making a fatal error at the end of a 19-hour working day. Trevor Phillips, BALPA's Head of Scheduling, said: ' It is clearly unsafe to allow such huge increases in the duty period. The existing safety rules are there for a reason, but this directive would mean pilots flying back over densely populated areas when they are dangerously fatigued'.

BALPA is advising its members to refuse to undertake such flights and is calling on such airlines not to sign contracts unless safety standards are maintained. Military pilots are already permitted to work much longer hours than civilian pilots, but they are given pillls to keep them alert. Civilian pilots are banned from taking any stimulants.

Any evacuation flights operated by civilians are expected to fly to bases in Cyprus or Kuwait. The flight time to London from Cyprus is about 5 hours but chartered planes would take an hour longer as they would have to fly at lower altitude, where there is greater air resistance. They normally fly at 35,000 ft, but they would operate at only 20.000 ft when carrying casualties in order to maintain the optimum flow of oxygen (???)

The union suspects that the government has issued the directive partly to avoid paying for relief crews, which would cost around 10,000 per trip.

BALPA is also demanding that planes chartered for casualty evacuations are repainted. Graham Fowler, chairman of BALPA's Gulf war co-ordinating committee, said: ' Our members are concerned that an airline could see its fleet become a terrorist target' "

So, you unfortunate lads and lasses who have "copped a Blighty" and are bleeding all over Sleazyjet's or PaddyAir's floor and the pilot dumps you at some inhospitable place like Beirut or Damascus and walks away saying airily "Sorry chaps and chappies, duty time is up", think fondly of the Crab Air you have so often derided. And hope like hell that they have not got around to repainting the aircraft in military livery! :(

11th Mar 2003, 05:05
Are the armed forces really still using "Happy Tabs" to keep the troops up and running for extended hours? They used to give us ground staff pills that would have been illegal substance abuse if we bought them on the street, but I never thought they'd ever give them to pilots.

Through difficulties to the cinema

11th Mar 2003, 19:16
No they don't. We just use our samurai and ninja training to overcome the forces of sleepiness.


BTW, I suspect the original copy for that article may have been written in crayon :rolleyes:


11th Mar 2003, 22:20
It would appear that the only difference between BALPA and the FBU in this period of intense military activity is that BALPA have not yet been a bloody nuisance.

Let us hope it stays that way.

Capt Homesick
13th Mar 2003, 16:59
Once again soddim misses the point- he's been rattling his sabre in Rumours and News on this topic.
I doubt there are many BALPA members who would refuse, if a sudden crisis happened, to fly casualties back to the UK, however long it took. What we object to is the suggestion that you can apply crisis rules to something you are planning, and rostering, weeks in advance! There is already a perfectly legal way of achieving the extension of duty time required- carry a third pilot. Are BALPA so wrong in suggesting that wounded troops are entltled to the same level of protection as fare-paying members of the public?
FTLs are not designed to give pilots an easy lifestyle- they are for the protection of passengers, whatever colour of clothes they are wearing.

A and C
13th Mar 2003, 21:45
I think that slagging BALPA over this shows that you are missing the point , why should the unfortunate casualtys be subjected to a lower level of safety than a normal airline passenger ?.

The FLT regulations have a get out clause for the commander of an aircraft to go far past the normal FTL limits if life is at risk and I know of no civil pilot who would not do so if the situation required him to do so.

What we are not going to do is degrade safety of the passengers , some of who would no doubt not be able to evacuate the aircraft without much help just so the MOD can save a quid or two !.

It is quite clear that the pre-planned FTL changes show just how little value the civil servants put on a servicemans life.

brit bus driver
13th Mar 2003, 22:08
FTLs are not designed to give pilots an easy lifestyle- they are for the protection of passengers, whatever colour of clothes they are wearing.

Hang on a minute....."normal levels of safety". The RAF has a 16 hr CDT (by & large); other air forces work to 18 hours. I'm not saying this is right, or should be the norm, but I do object to the intimation that this is endangering the passengers' lives.

14th Mar 2003, 17:07
Capt Homesick - if I have missed the point then the following quote from the Times article is obviously in error " BALPA is advising its members to refuse to undertake such flights".

Maybe there should be a plan to complete this task of unknown magnitude by chartering a huge number of aircraft and crews in order to make sure that none of the crews have to work the sort of hours the RAF AT crews expect to work as a matter of course in a national emergency. However, should there still not be enough for the task and some of BALPAs members be asked to work longer than their normal maximum hours, the union makes it perfectly clear what their response should be.

This is not acceptable and I would not expect many BALPA members to follow this advice if the chips were down.

The point is that it is not possible to be sure that the provisions made are sufficient and additional flexibility might be required. Longer permitted crew duty hours facilitate this if necessary. I doubt if anybody has planned that crews should work these hours.

15th Mar 2003, 03:49
Requisition the machines and conscript the crews for the duration.

If we really must go to war, then lets do it properly...

...and, no, I'm not joking.

Through difficulties to the cinema

Capt Homesick
15th Mar 2003, 14:49
Soddim, you wrote I doubt if anyone has planned that crews should work these hours. That is the point you are missing. Current regulations allow crews to extend their duty as long as necessary for lifesaving purposes, using discretion. However, it is not permitted to roster discretion: what the government is attempting is to PLAN extended duties weeks in advance, at the stage where it would be easy enough to add crew members. My company, for example, has enough crews that it could allocate extra pilots to these flights easily- sure, standby cover back in the UK would be reduced, but I often spend weeks on standby without a call. The MoD is penny-pinching; it is unwilling to pay the small cost of a larger crew.
brit bus driver: unless you are seriously suggesting that longer duty hours do not affect safety, your point is irrelevant- military aviation can, and sometimes has to, accept lower levels of safety.
Blacksheep, sabre rattling from faraway Borneo? Easy to talk about conscription when you've ensured you're safely out of the way... as for your serious point, if you're suggesting that the RAF can't cope, conscription would be unnecessary, a significant proportion of airline pilots would volunteer as Hostilities Only aircrew. As Douglas Reeman said, Regulars are the people who look after the armed forces in peacetime! :)

15th Mar 2003, 16:26
Capt Homesick - it appears that you have some information that could help me to understand BALPA's point of view. Do you have an example of the planned task you refer to with crew duty times? Is this a detailed plan made by the MOD or did they merely charter a number of aircraft and crews and leave the company to make the detailed plan? What would be the frequency of these trips for an individual crew? Why could crew changes not be made outbound at Larnaca/Akrotiri or another suitable airfield?

Given the above information I might begin to see if BALPA have a valid point.

15th Mar 2003, 22:07
As an ex-RAF truckie and now an airline wallah, I am aware that the crew duty time limitations are broadly similar in both cases. Such further restrictions as exist within the airline scenario reflect the fact that almost all airliners have just 2 crew. As an example, my (peacetime) limit, starting at a fairly normal time of day on a 2-man crew, is 13:15 hours (2 sector day). A Herc K, VC10 or TriStar crew would be restricted to 16, if I remember correctly. All these have 3 or more flightdeck crew. Both Mil and Civ have the option to extend by up to 3 hours, under normal circumstances, though the civilian's discretion is entirely the captain's whereas the mil captain's discretion was only the first hour WIWOH; any extension beyond that had to be auth'd by Ascot Ops.

The issue really is whether the airlines are planning to fly whatever trips required by the military with less crew than they would be required to normally. I doubt that the Defence Staff give a damn whether the chartered 757 or whatever has 2 or 3 crew, as long as the job gets done. I assume that the contract will require, say, a number of daily rotations through various Gulf airfields returning either to UK, or flagging Cyprus for urgent cases. These trips can be planned in advance, and crewed appropriately. If unplanned events occur while on a given trip, requiring a CDT extension into, or even beyond, discretion, so be it; it's not a problem - as explained above by Capt Homesick. If an extra trip is required at short notice, again, no problem - you fly till the job's done. But to plan, weeks in advance, to fly up to 19 hours with 2 crew is daft and unnecessary, and it should be within the chartered airline's power to avoid that with sensible planning.

I don't think there's any chance of a crew turning up on the day and refusing to fly; this is purely a planning issue. The same kinds of fatigue-related discussions will be going on in every single branch of all services and their support organisations. How hard do you plan to work your folks, and how much leeway does that leave you to cope with the unexpected? This isn't BALPA vs 'our boys'!

Capt Homesick
16th Mar 2003, 14:49
Soddim, if the MoD had merely approached the airlines to charter a number of aircraft to fulfill a task, the ANO requires the company to plan the task within the limitations of CAP371, and any further local agreements contained within their operations manuals.
To comply with these requirements would not require extra aircraft, and the extra cost of additional crew is minimal compared to the operating costs of the aircraft.
IMO, BALPA is being responsible here- by addressing the problem at tha planning stage, before the war starts, it can be sorted, and the (hopefully very few) casualties can be brought home with the level of safety they are entitled to.

16th Mar 2003, 18:26
Capt Homesick - so who is being awkward about this task? Is it the MOD or the company that is planning the task execution knowing that the resources will require the extension of maximum crew duty and rostering that way?

If either is doing so then I understand the BALPA point better.

Capt Homesick
16th Mar 2003, 22:55
Soddim, like I said, it is ILLEGAL for the company to roster outside the limits of CAP371; the lead must be coming from the MoD- or more likely the treasury.
All I can guess is, the MoD asked for tenders with a specified length of day, the companies replied with a price and a breakdown of costs, and some beancounter has decided he sees a loophole to save a few pennies. I doubt the potential saving is anything like the cost of amending the regulation... :rolleyes:

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