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Pilot alleges American cutting corners with crew

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Pilot alleges American cutting corners with crew

Old 4th Jul 2001, 03:39
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DISCOKID
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DALLAS, Texas (Reuters) -- An American Airlines pilot and union safety expert asked federal regulators Monday to order a relief pilot be put on flights between Dallas and Hawaii, charging American was cutting corners by flying with just two pilots.

Capt. Rich Rubin also asked for protection under a federal whistle-blower act for reporting what he called a company "experiment" with safety by reducing the flight crew from three to two pilots as of June 15.

American Airlines, the world's largest airline and a unit of Fort Worth, Texas-based AMR Corp , rejected the criticism.

American switched last month from flying with three pilots to two on the daily Boeing 767 run from Dallas-Fort Worth to Honolulu and Maui, saying seasonal winds made it a shorter flight than eight hours, the federal limit for flying without a relief pilot.

"This is a normal seasonal adjustment and fully within what other carriers are doing," American spokeswoman Karen Watson said, adding the summer flight plan would last for about 2-1/2 months.

Watson said American planes routinely flew with a reserve officer in challenging conditions, such as night flights over South America's mountains, even if they were shorter than eight hours.

Rubin, in a letter to the Federal Aviation Administration released to reporters, alleged the summer flight plan from DFW to Hawaii was based on unrealistic assumptions and that the flights had lasted more than eight hours, more than half the time since the change.

Rubin is a member of the safety committee of the Allied Pilots Association, the union representing American Airlines pilots. He has been active in pilot fatigue issues, including lobbying for an FAA ruling last year requiring airlines to enforce rest breaks for pilots regardless of flight delays. Airlines criticized the decision as unrealistic.

Rubin said American's summer flight plan to Hawaii assumed crews would fly faster at lower altitudes than normal, cutting the scheduled flight time from eight hours and 18 minutes to seven hours and 55 minutes.

But Rubin said crews routinely had to fly higher to avoid turbulence, costing time, and that the flights exceeded eight hours 53 percent of time from June 15 through June 30, which he said showed the assumed flight time was questionable.

"The proper and safe approach to the possible elimination of relief pilots on these flights should have required AA to retain them until such time that historical data proved that the flights could be operated in less than eight hours on a regular basis," Rubin wrote to the FAA.

"As such, AA conducted what can only be deemed an experiment while skirting regulatory compliance (with aviation rules)," Rubin said.


 
Old 4th Jul 2001, 04:52
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>>"This is a normal seasonal adjustment and fully within what other carriers are doing," American spokeswoman Karen Watson said, adding the summer flight plan would last for about 2-1/2 months.<<

This is certainly common practice at U.S. carriers from what I've seen. And most international carriers don't put on any extra crew after eight hours anyway so I don't think this news will be too shocking to most of the readers here. Of course, if they want augmentation on all overwater flights, they can bargain to put it in the next contract as other carriers have done. UAL even puts on an extra 747-400 pilot to "plot" when they cut through Russian airspace.

American Airlines pilots are posturing as they near contract time with the economy headed South, Delta and UAL way out in front with their latest contracts, and a huge fine hanging over the union. Expect the rhetoric to increase.

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Old 4th Jul 2001, 06:08
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Given the continuing FAA (Dallas) position on ignoring the crew-rest regulations, why should anyone be surprised. When FARs interfere with profits - they are invalid.

Go to -

www.webpak.net/~skydream

- look at the Continental-Micronesia Flight 985 mess.

DON'T EVUN mess with Texas!!

Dallas FAA authorized the Little Rock crash; what's a little extra flying time to Paradise???

Jane Garvey could care less; ask her.

By definition, blatant safety violations have nothing to do with contract talks.
 
Old 4th Jul 2001, 22:02
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If the CFPL says 7:59, or 8 hours? two cremembers may embark on the "journey."
How can the union and crew scheduling find an equitable solution? CFPL 7:45? 7:30? to
allow for extra en route and arrival delays?
My airline scheduling office creates similar crew squeeze on a larger scale: How to keep a four-leg 11 hrs journey under 16 hours duty limit. (3 crew)
 
Old 5th Jul 2001, 00:05
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Airbubba,

You're a tiny bit off base here.

AA operated the DC 10 on this route until Nov 22nd 2000, when the last one from DFW retired.

They replaced the flying with a B767, 3 man crew for the winter/spring (headwind) flight, which regularly exceeds 8 hours.

On June 15th this year, AA started manipulating the flight plans to produce "paper legal" block times of less than 8 hrs, thereby removing the requirement for a third crewmember.

The problem is, the 767 is now planned to be flown close to redline (.835M) in the cruise, sometimes at much lower than ideal flight levels (FL 260), in order to use the "benefit" of planned winds.

This less efficient,but legal, practice can result in an extra 9000 lbs of fuel burn.

If AA was paying 80c a gallon (they're not) that is around $ $1090 extra expense on the outbound leg (typically, the return leg is less than 8 hrs due to a tailwind so normal cruise and flight levels are planned).

The outbound "cost" of an extra FO, known at AA as an FB, is probably around the same $1090 ($115/hr x 9 hrs). The "extra" would probably be a junior pilot on reserve so they're getting paid to sit at home OR go fly anyway (appx 75 hrs reserve guarantee w/overide). Most would jump at the chance to go to HNL.

Posturing is right but think about who's got the interests of the pax at heart. $afety costs money. AA are spending more proving the APA wrong by compromising passenger $afety.

What's really going on is that one of the two gentleman at the center of this disagreement seems to have made this a personality issue, not a personnel issue.

The APA pilot was also responsible for the Whitlow ruling now affecting all flights exceeding 16 hours.

Needless to say, he's not on AA's (or ATA's) Christmas card list.

dd

[This message has been edited by dallas dude (edited 04 July 2001).]
 
Old 5th Jul 2001, 17:31
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Dallas Dude, once again I find your comments to be grammatically correct and punctually perfect yet at the same time without merit as social commentary. I could talk with you all day, but I'm just not going to.

Who can say?
Note: on Delta 75's, apparently there WAS a crack in the engine, and they took off any!
 
Old 5th Jul 2001, 18:06
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PartyReptile - If you have no comment then why post.

DallasDude -
<font face="Verdana, Arial, Helvetica" size="2">The problem is, the 767 is now planned to be flown close to redline (.835M) in the cruise, sometimes at much lower than ideal flight levels (FL 260), in order to use the "benefit" of planned winds.</font>
Then fly at the redline, submit a MOR for every exceedence (Got to be at least 20 for 1 flight! -Photocopy before flight), call for an overspeed check on arrival. The cost of all of this is sure to get the 3rd crew member back.

CCCCcc.........ough
 
Old 5th Jul 2001, 19:31
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Cough

If you were being ironic disregard this.

AA pilots gain nothing by taking reasonable performance margins to their limit here.

Proving an expensive point is no good if you find yourself on one engine halfway between SoCal and HNL. The seat cushions would need to be changed as well as the engine!

There's also the turbulence issue. AA pilots need every passenger to keep choosing AA. Red line through turbulence isn't any fun. We're not selling rides at Disney Land!

Without question, there are probably underlying fatigue issues with the accident on AA1420 (LIT).

Its makes no sense for AA pilots to shoot themselves in the foot to prove their case.

For once, common sense should prevail over the nickel and dime, that's all.

AA's passengers deserve this.

dd

(Party Reptile, TWA 757's aren't all their cracked up to be either)
 
Old 6th Jul 2001, 23:23
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cough, who was talking to you?
 
Old 7th Jul 2001, 01:22
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I simply can not understand why AA insists on pulling the third pilot (FB) from this trip, especially when it has to "fiddle with the numbers" so dramatically in order to do so. The standard flight plan for an AA767 is Mach .80 at FL 330/350 (or higher, if gross weight allows). Why would they intentionally plan to use a faster speed and lower altitude to "get the flight plan to work out right" when the cost of the extra fuel burn will probably outweigh any "advantages" of the "lower costs" of a two-pilot crew?? (YGBSM!!) Dallas Dude brings up some good points in his post regarding the financial (non) benefits.

There is no shortage of DFW-based 767 FOs ... In reality, the loss of the FB position on the Hawaii trips hurts the company from a productivity standpoint as well.

So many cliches apply here: Penny wise and pound-foolish; Can't see the forest for the trees; Cutting off your nose to spite your face; etc..etc..

Amazing, isn't it?


[This message has been edited by AA76757 (edited 06 July 2001).]
 
Old 9th Jul 2001, 09:42
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DD & AA:

Not only the above costs, but the extra intl FO's seem to have been TDY'ed to domestic, causing a glut there...strange happenings indeed.

Not sure how the lads are supposed to get thru' the seasonal storms over NM/CO at FL260/above turb speed at this time of year. And you can't just go round them without huge deviations at that level...

Hope it all sorts itself out; we just don't need more squabbling right now.
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Old 12th Jul 2001, 02:09
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By John Crawley
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The Federal Aviation Administration opened the door to a threatened court challenge on Tuesday by denying a request from major airlines to stop enforcing its rule on pilot fatigue.

In a letter from FAA attorneys to lawyers for the Air Transport Association, the agency defended its policy on safety grounds and said the "flying public would be harmed" if the government honored the industry request.

The association, the main lobbying group for the nation's major airlines, said it was reviewing the FAA letter and would likely seek a court-ordered stay.

The industry contends that the FAA interpretation of the rule, which seeks to limit the number of consecutive hours pilots work, is causing flight cancellations and delays among airlines trying to comply, and would over time cost the carriers millions of dollars.

Airlines have interpreted the fatigue rule limiting pilots to 16 hours a day to mean scheduled duty time -- that is hours that could be extended if operational problems arose.

But last November, the FAA said the rule applied to actual, not scheduled, flight hours. That meant duty time could not be extended past 16 hours a day if a flight was delayed by a problem known before takeoff, like a mechanical glitch or bad weather.

Although enforceable now, the FAA said in May it would give airlines that needed more time to comply six months to adjust their flight schedules. The agency has said it would "deal stringently" with violations.

The airlines want enforcement halted until a lawsuit it filed earlier this year with the appeals court challenging the FAA's interpretation of the rule is resolved.

The industry views the government's interpretation as a dramatic policy change that failed to follow proper rule-making procedures, while the agency maintains it has had the same stance all along.

PILOTS APPLAUD FAA

The Air Line Pilots Association and the Allied Pilots Association, the nation's two main commercial pilot unions, applauded the FAA stand and braced for a legal fight.

"We are prepared for confirmation of this in the court of appeals just as the FAA has confirmed it in the court of logic," said Rich Rubin, chairman of the flight time/duty time committee at APA. That union represents American Airlines pilots.

Rubin and Duane Woerth, president of ALPA, said the current standard that allows for an eight-hour rest period is inadequate.

"The traveling public should understand that in most cases this barely provides a pilot with five or six hours of actual sleep -- and that's abominable," Woerth said.

The current fatigue rule has been on the books since 1985, and the FAA has spent the past six years considering proposed changes.

A General Accounting Office report on FAA rulemaking to be examined at a congressional hearing on Wednesday criticizes the agency for acting too slowly on the pilot fatigue standard and other mandates.

The FAA, which hopes to have a new fatigue rule by the end of the year, has said reaching a consensus on the issue has been difficult and time consuming.

Duty time and fatigue concerns also are at the center of an FAA investigation of crew staffing at American.

FAA investigators are scheduled to meet on Wednesday in Dallas with the carrier and its pilots union.

Rubin has asked federal regulators to order a relief pilot be put on flights between Dallas and Honolulu and Maui, asserting that American was cutting corners by flying the route with a two-person crew.

Last month, American switched to a two-person crew on the daily Boeing 767 service, saying seasonal winds made it a shorter flight than eight hours, the limit for flying without a relief pilot.

American has said it was a normal seasonal adjustment in line with what other carriers have done.


******************************************

Since it's an independent violation to 'tamper' with the numbers, let's see what the Dallas FAA office does with this. I'm betting on nil.
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Old 12th Jul 2001, 02:30
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dallas dude, considering the litigous nature of Americans, I'm surprised the AA are willing to consider placing pax at risk by planning the flights at M.835 - is this the standard cruising Mach number on other sectors? If not, this should be a fairly straightforward case against AA's submission for the dispensation.
In the meantime however, for the pilots to ensure the SAFETY of the pax and cabin crew (and his own @ss), it would probably be best to leave the seat belt sign ON and cancel all cabin service on the outbound sector.
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Old 12th Jul 2001, 19:01
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Skydrifter,

Just to clarify, your above post deals with a separate (but equally important) flight time/duty time regulation (16 hr duty day), as championed by APA's Rich Rubin.

AA pilots' DFW-HNL "problem" stems from the wording of FAR 121.483 which essentially says "if you can plan/schedule a flight for less than eight hours it's legal for 2 crew operations, even if using unrealistic planning information".

Regardless of the outbound flight time, the return leg (7hr30min) is much more dangerous because it operates at 11pm to 6am Dallas body time. AA's press releases make reference to "the 26 hour layover" and that responsible crews should be "well rested".

I'd rather save the salary of this PR idiot (and ex-Lorenzo mouthpiece) and spend the money on an expert to identify circadian rythmn patterns which are harmful to flight operations.

To suggest that someone is capable of sleeping on command is ignorant, at best.

What it all boils down to is a Chief Pilot that's forgetting who'll be in the spotlight if there's an accident/incident.

Is the risk worth it? Never.

Now we've seen the FAA finally grow some cajones maybe they'll tighten up this rule also.


Kaptin...wish I could agree with you but it makes no sense to take out our frustration with a puppet Chief Pilot on AA's passengers.

There are many great people in AA management, who are as frustrated by this as line pilots. Their hands are somewhat tied by a guy who's forgetting AA's one big (and unnecessary) accident away from the likes of the dodo.

Sometimes you just gotta tell the beancounters "it's not about the money, it's about doing the right thing". This is a prime time.

DD
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Old 12th Jul 2001, 20:28
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Kaptin M -- to answer your question about standard planning speeds: mach .80 is the standard cruise speed on our 767 flight plans. The highest I have ever seen on any sector is mach .82, but even that is rare. That is why .835 stands out as such an extreme departure from any other planned sector.

Yes, it surprises me too that American would do such a thing, especially if they are attempting to justify this change in the name of cost-saving measures. The amount of extra fuel which must be carried for this speed of course adds to the weight, etc etc. and cancels out any $$ potentially "saved" by not using a third pilot. If I didn't make it clear in my previous post, AA is not moving these pilots to a place where crew manning is low. These pilots, in effect, are just thrown in with the rest of the reserve pilots, and there's already plenty of those.

To make it very simple: AA has removed the third pilot, incurred higher costs due to extra fuel burn (so that the "numbers" will come out right), only to pay more of its pilots to NOT fly.


edited for spelling

[ 12 July 2001: Message edited by: AA76757 ]
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Old 12th Jul 2001, 22:47
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DD -

The reality is that the Dallas FAA office has never enforced the crew-rest regulations and probably won't - illusions aside.

The accurate and documented description of the felonies the Dallas FAA Regional office committed in conjunction with the Continental-Micronesia Flight 985 tell that story alone.

See- www.webpak.net/~skydream

With AA-1420 still lingering over American's head and the legacy of violation / cover-up of the Dallas FAA Regional office, American's action in the B-767 matter indicates the non-enforcement probability in any case.

Jane Garvey has been well informed and will do NOTHING to interfere with corporate profits.

In addition to the AA-1420 accident, the Seattle Regional FAA office is equally up to its ears with felonies in the legacy of Alaska 261.

Thus, it's naive to think that any FAA legal interpretation and policy will actually lead to an upgrade in the safety standard, where corporate issues are the underlying agenda.

The Bush administration will only accomodate the Texas money interests - count on it. We've seen this too many times before.
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Old 13th Jul 2001, 04:43
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Skydrifter,

APA's folks met with the FAA yesterday regarding the first (Jun 15th) DFW-HNL 2 pilot flight, together with the flight's First Officer.

"Pilot pushing", as evidenced by the Chief Pilot of Line Operations presence {rarer than rocking horse s**t} at the gate to assure the Captain that the flight was now {paper} legal was discussed also.

The FAA said to expect to hear something "within 60 days".

Let's not hold our breath.

dd
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Old 13th Jul 2001, 23:00
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DD -

Sounds like another seasonal schedule/equipment change intervening - hence, no action indicated by FAA.

The Dallas Regional FAA office -as with others - simply will NOT impede profits.
CAL's DC-9 belly-in was a crew-rest problem, AA1420, the same, CS-985, for sure. Jane Garvey is well informed & will do NOTHING!

If you don't mind, I'll just fake holding my breath. {:-))
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