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Tired budget jet pilots 'endanger passengers' - The Times

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Tired budget jet pilots 'endanger passengers' - The Times

Old 22nd Dec 2003, 18:23
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In aviation things should be simple. Let's try this.

Pilots work shifts; often random in nature and from the posts so far, ever changing. This is disruptive to life style and sleep patterns and therefore tiring. Duties can be upto 190hrs in 4 weeks, averaging 47.30 hrs per week. It is not uncommon to work over 50 hrs and 6 days in any week, all in a chaotic rhythm. There is no balance between work and social life; so the batteries drain away.

Is this really necessary?

Ops personel and engineers work steady regular shift patterns of 4 ON 4 Off. This is 48hrs work in 8 days, not 7, and allows a reasonably stable sleep pattern. 2 days, 2 nights etc.

The averaging flying day of 4 sectors = +/- 6 hours. With 900 hrs per year you can fly 150 days. After 28 days leave, 8 public holidays, 4 days sim & 5 days refresher ground school there remains 320 days in the year. This is 40 periods of 8 days. In each 8 day period you can fly 4. This = 160 days, but the mathematics above gives a limit of 150. The actual flying day of 4 sectors is likely to be nearer 6.30hrs than 6.00, so this would give 138 days each year and allow 22 days of SBY, i.e. nearly 2 per month. In any case, how many people really fly 900?

Anyway, the point is that 2 earlies, 2 lates 4 days off would give a vast improvement in life style. The late finish and early start would not be constrained by the 'day off' definition as the middle 2 days would be unaffected.

Productivity would be higher, health better, morale stronger and the companies would reap the financial rewards of crews joining and not leaving.

Now that seems to be a REAL WIN WIN scenario. So why is it not happening. Don't start with CAP 371 and keep looking at the 7 days & 14 days cycle. Use those limits as guide lines and think outside the traditional box. 7/2, 6/3, 5/4 or whatever. The object of the exercise is productivity. It would give a financial director, olf conventional thinking, appoplexy to think the pilots were only flying 140 days. That is not the point. The point is they are producing the required amount of work in a safe and sustainable manner. (How many days per year do long-haul pilots fly?)

There are many airlines who roster the minimum days off and then fill in the gaps with duties. The efficiency of those duties is irrelevant to rostering. If the crews have been on duty or 20 days/28 they must be productive. Absolute cods wollup.

Try challenging the Flight Ops inspector to work 1 weeks roster. All the theoretical reports in the world can not improve 'hands on' experience.

I once challenged my financial director to work my roster, but in his office with all the trimmings etc. It would have meant changing patterns at 12 hours notice, lates/earlies and weekends etc. He declined and so never did understand how we were tired when, in his words, only working 75% of the limits.

Reading all the posts on this matter, over the past few years, leads me to one conclusion. If you can not guarantee your employer, i.e. one of the well organised airlines, then if you want to fly for fun don't be an airline pilot. Use your talents to get a proper job, with the time and money to be able to fly when YOU want. I would be very hesitant to reccommend a youngster taking up the profession in todays climate. And that is very SAD!

Think about it, 4 ON 4 OFF. There is no reason why not.
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Old 22nd Dec 2003, 22:05
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That would probably be supported unanimously by the crews, and as you say, may prove beneficial to the company too.

The 3 top people in EZY's BALPA council went to huge effort a couple of years ago writing a master roster that not only gave crews more days off and better stability, but also reduced the crew/aircraft ratio by 1, with a projected saving to the company over the next decade of hundreds of millions(as I was told by one of these individuals).

When presented to RW it was instantly dismissed out of hand , apparently with the added remark "There will be no agreement with the pilots as long as I'm CEO".

The point is that there is a high level of malice aimed at crews, engineers and ground staff from the very top, this is encouraged in the middle levels, and is deemed worthy of extra costs to the company.
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Old 22nd Dec 2003, 22:42
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whippersnapper, it's exactly the same at baby.

Hope the next airline I work for isn't a 4 letter word
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Old 23rd Dec 2003, 02:34
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Dr Simon Bennett (Scarman Centre, University of Leicester) flies on the jumpseat with only one low cost airline, and it's easyJet. Previously he flew with Go under a similar arangement. He wrote a very worthwhile treatise 'Human Error - by design?' (ISBN 1 899287 72 8). The serial resigner-security expert at easy is quite pally with him.

The bully mentioned is not the only one - bya long way.

The CAA DID put rules in place for low cost carriers - that's CAP371, which 'traditional' operators don't operate to, as they usually have more restrictive rostering and crewing agreements. In long haul there are other factors at play which mean it's not such a big deal. Only the low cost sector work right up to the limits of CAP 371 in the large airline environment.

Problem is, CAP371 was written in the days of Tridents and Doves, and no-one ever thought that someone would be stupid enough to fly six sectors a day in a jet.

easy 'managers' are seeking an alleviation from their present FTL scheme (itself based on CAP371) to enable crews to work MORE and LONGER early duties. One argument believed to be cited is the commercial disadvantage that the company finds itself at when in competeition with Ryanair, who are able to roster longer duties (as they are regulated in Eire). Ryaniar pilots, however, have less disrupted lives, more days off, and don't do any deep night flying (believed by some experts to be the most fatiguing of all - easy pilots falling asleep on the famous and feared 'night Athens').

The posts above about certain senior figures are true - but don't get the impression that thsoe lower down the food chain are good guys. There's a really bad atmosphere about this company.

I suppose one might note that pilots might nmot leave now, as there are few worthwhile jobs to go to. This, of course, may change.

Klink, there's no point talking to them. We're all dwn in the dirt, the only way up is out.

Really, the TV people and others need t puick up on this story. Any interested TV people PM me and I'll talk.
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Old 23rd Dec 2003, 04:02
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White Horse
The "De-icing fiasco "of 3 winters ago was suppossed to save the company approx 200- 230,000 in one winter season ...infact it cost the company approx 2.8 million in 3 days of shambles, returning fares to pax delayed more than 4 hours, sub charters, hotel bills ,coaches,taxis , meals for delayed pax etc.
Can you tell us what that was about? I'm not familiar with the story but I'm interested.
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Old 23rd Dec 2003, 04:22
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Not to go off on a tangent, especially on recruitment, but a very well know airline has been heard to employ :


FATPL 200 hours

lower wages

Why, because they can do what they want with these guys, move them here & there, a#se them about and the guys ( & girls ) are prepared to accept the it, all for that 1st job.

Me thinks they could be setting a trend here and inadvertently counteracting this issue
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Old 23rd Dec 2003, 09:14
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Negotiations between Balpa reps and easy management about improvements in FTL and roster schemes are at a sensitive stage but without breaching confidentiality the situation appears to be as such:

Balpa and the reps are keen to make easyJet a career airline like southwest: this is obviously in the interests of management. Money alone will not make this happen when the pilots have no lifestyle worth having to spend it on. No LCA pilot will fall asleep in the air on a four sector day, even on day six, because he/she is so far up the arousal curve. Judgement, priorities, temper and blood pressure are surely victims, though. All this is comprehensively backed up by medical studies and flidras spikes. Where the fatigue kicks in is on the car journey home, and in the home at the expense of family and relationship harmony.

The sector cannot afford an accident, and although many mainline operators would live to see it fall on its face, think about the job market as the excess pilots supplied 2 years ago are drying up.

The cost of safety is a pound or two on a flight ticket, or more importantly, a few hundred quid off the bonuses of the guys who make these decisions?
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Old 23rd Dec 2003, 14:24
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And its not just the low cost airlines....I work for a well known UK "holiday" airline and we've been working 7 on, 2 off all summer (and last winter, and the previous summer), and still are... despite having a Scheduling Agreement that only permits this in "exceptional circumstances". We've had a summer where there has generally been no one on standby, or maybe 1 in 3 duties covered. Many pilots have worked days off. Crew are leaving and not being replaced. Yet management say we have enough crew.

There has been an increase in certain "bad flying" events, mainly minor things which have been picked up by flight data monitoring, yet the company immediately blames us, without looking at the causes - why would this suddenly happen? Why is it happening mainly at UK airports? Probably because the pilots have been up all night, working long hours, on stupid rosters, and are expected to be bright eyed and bushy tailed at 8am, whilst landing back from a long night flight. Its not surprising that the standard of flying temporarily deteriorates.

The limit on duty hours per week is meant to be 55, but we all know that there are ways round it for unscrupulous airlines. There are always loopholes to be exploited - I've managed 63 hours in a seven day period, but apparently, because our company week starts on a Monday and my duties started on a Friday, it doesn't count - obviously you only get tired if you work over 55 hours starting from a Monday.

The CAA rules were meant to be maximum limits and used to be used as such. Now they are used as standard rostering practice, trying to squeeze as much as possible out of the pilots, with a disregard for safety. But, as usual, until there is an accident nothing will change. Why do we always have to wait for the accident to happen before anything is done? Why not have prevention as priority? What are the CAA doing?
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Old 23rd Dec 2003, 16:14
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Nobody I know in ryanair has heard of this professor travelling on a Ryanair jumpseat - certainly his report does not gel with the roster in Ryanair.

Whatever else about MOL and his henchmen (pen stealing, corporal punishment, - see the Telegraph)- most guys in ryanair would agree that the roster is pretty good and the FTL system is surprisingly restrictive where it needs to be.

The roster is more or less fixed at 5 earlies 3 off, 5 lates 3 off.The Ryanair FTLs prevents more than six days work in a row anyway- (CAP 371 allows seven if my memory is right). Earlies are a pain but I would prefer a block of earlies to the sort of mixture that CAP371 seems to lead to. The big thing for me is that you get home every night.

I'm curious as to how CAP371 works in Buzz - is it the same as EZ ?. Any of the Buzz people care to comment?

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Old 23rd Dec 2003, 17:15
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The topic is highly interesting. More days off would mean more staff needed, which results in higher costs.

But on the other hand everyone (probably even us) is looking for the cheapest fare. In giving the low-cost airlines that success, aren`t the passengers to blame?

It`s always the same, legal limits are far too soft, so don`t trust every airline who says, they are still legal - that`s the indication they`re on the verge of...
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Old 23rd Dec 2003, 17:32
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These sort of posts have been going in for years now but I genuinely beleive that Easy are heading for a nasty accident in the near future.I think RW will have a lot to answer for but the real criminals in this are the CAA who are seriously concerned about things at Easy but have not done anything to protect the crews and the public from this clearly unacceptable situation.
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Old 23rd Dec 2003, 17:37
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I work for a "no frills" airline and for the first time ever I had to pull over on the drive TO work at 0500 hours to have a 15 minute sleep as I could not keep my eyes open. Fortunately I only had a 4 sector day to cope with
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Old 23rd Dec 2003, 18:06
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Working hours

There is a lot of fuss about booze at the moment.

The real killer in our industy is and always has been a few moments of inattention caused by fatigue.

It used to happen in Victorian factories and it still happens every day on the motorway.

Every so often fatigue is a major cause of an accident at work.

Those of us at the sharp end of aviation know this is true. Read the accident reports closely you will see it for yourself.

But it all comes down to cost so why spend more on extra crew over 10 years when it is the insurance company that will pay for any loss?
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Old 23rd Dec 2003, 18:19
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The CAA published this yesterday (22nd Dec) detailing the changes they want to make to CAP371.

Old 23rd Dec 2003, 19:35
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I suppose it's a bit like road safety & traffic lights.

A bad junction will only get reviewed & traffic lights installed, only when a certain number of people have being killed!
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Old 23rd Dec 2003, 21:21
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Looking at todays incident .
Isnt it time easyjet management STARTED taking its pilots seriously.
One big incident {A CRASH} we are all down the dole office.
Think about it.
That includes the accountants who havent a clue what is involved.


Stelios you really need to sort your management out.
May I remind you this is supposed to be an airline.
Not a second hand KEBAB TAKEWAY.

Lets have someone from management to respond please!
Come on we are all listening!
Finally ,if you really want to save money cut the management in half.
Most of them are looking at toysrus or where to buy cheap boats or porsches.
Or they are in the orange cafe sucking up to each other.

Stelios just go in unannounced and youll see what im on about.

Last edited by mjenkinsblackdog; 23rd Dec 2003 at 21:34.
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Old 23rd Dec 2003, 21:31
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Luck or judgement

Not a good week for the Orange outfit.

It is either bad luck or bad management.

In my day the Station Commander would have been changed by now. There Airships would have not tolerated failure of this nature.

It would be a shame if people have to die before a change of direction can be made.

Our guns don't seem to be firing straight maybe it is the cold weather.
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Old 24th Dec 2003, 00:49
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Sorry, I know your intentions are noble and you're a good bloke, but you're wrong this time.

First of all, EZY's rosters will not get better because the network is fraying due to a massive crew shortage and RW's (and associated sycophants') continued malice.

Secondly, pilots are falling asleep, and have been for some time. I know this because I was affected and saw numerous Captains nod off in flight too, especially on the night sectors. The rostering is not just unpleasant, but down-right dangerous. I quit before I became a greasy smudge on a runway somewhere.
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Old 24th Dec 2003, 00:53
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Can someone mail me a login and a password so I can read the article. Or perhaps just paste it into the email?
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Old 24th Dec 2003, 01:16
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It's happened before, in a few airlines, where the Chief Pilot or the M.D was given the boot in a show of power from the crews. It sounds like you've lost one through natural wastage, and it seems like the other should soon follow.

Forget the bar-room banter on Prune. DO something. It's your life and career not theirs. After 30 years of hearing these serioius debates, and nothing happening, I too quit. It's a sad British characteristic of vocational professions; allowing yourself to be shafted. It would not happen on the Continent. In this case there is a real life threatening issue, both to passengers and crews, work and social.

Whatever happened to the EU directive, over 10 years ago, that Airlines had to develop a compensation package for not being able to give their crews the same improvemnts in working conditions as all other ground based EU workers? Absolutely nothing. Where were the unions? Absolutely nowhere. Where are the crews? Up to their necks in the manure, and mostly head first. Where were the CAA's? Where is the EU commission who made that demand? STill there, or at least Neil Kinnock is. He's not that hard to find. Bombard him and go public. See what happened to the doctors & nurses. Don't let money cloud the issue. For random shift work the basic slary is not too much. Make the calculation for weekends, nights etc and the basic hourly rate is no great shakes.

At last the is a strong concensous among pilots; amazing. Also amazing is here is an argument that is not about money. Management have the attitude that crews will prostitute thmeselves. They have done so before, but this seems to be one shafting too far.

In the last 12 months, on Prune, this must be the tenth such thread. If you ain't gonna do something this time, you never will.

All success. Leave the profession in a better condition than you joined it. It is for the next generation of Biggles. In its present state who would want to join?

Somewhere, there is an airline management school, that has stood all good management techniques on their head, has rebelled against all good practices of personnel motivation and is still trolling around in the Dark Ages. It has spawned most of todays airline managers. If anyone knows where it is please send out Rentokil.

In all the airlines I've worked in none of the top boys had ever set foot in a man management college, yet they sent us on CRM every year. Never saw any of them there. Even that might have been an improvement. Most Boy Scout leaders know more about motivation than these guys.

Rant over. GOOD LUCK.
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