Tag Archives: FAA

IMPENDING PILOT SHORTAGE: MYTH OR REALITY?

Pilot shortage A PILOTLESS AIRPLANEimage017

For several decades young aspiring professional pilots have been tantalized by the aviation oracles, as they were continually told that a pilot shortage is just around the corner. Once again, the impending pilot shortage discussion is intensifying. This time it could be for real. However, the next question is: are the young potential aviators listening or do they care? After a couple decades or more of pilot pay and benefits diminishing while training cost increased, far fewer young people are electing to commit to a career as a professional pilot.
Spending up to $200,000 for the required aviation credentials to be hired by an airline for a starting salary of $22,000 a year is not very enticing. Worse yet, the rookie pilot might be condemned to a job as a banner tow pilot, a pipeline surveillance pilot, or perhaps become caught in the ugly web of being a night freight pilot (often referred to as a “freight dog”). The lifestyle of a freight dog can be researched by reading, The Rogue Aviator; (http://www.therogueaviator.com/). While the brass ring is still there on the horizon it will only be grabbed by the more fortunate few. For every professional pilot making $200,000 a year, there are 10 professional pilots making less than $60,000 per year.
After the horrific crash of Continental flight 3407 operated by Colgan air in Buffalo, New York, a congressional subcommittee on aviation safety was immediately implemented. Everyone’s favorite pilot, Sully Sullenberger was in attendance. When asked what needed to be done to enhance commercial airline safety, Captain Sully of Hudson River fame, pulled no punches. He stated unequivocally that paying the pilots an honest salary was a critical element towards the long-term safety factor. Four years later, entry-level pilot salaries, and all too often salaries of more experienced pilots, remain embarrassingly low. “This too, shall pass.”
Now to the good news! This upcoming pilot shortage is for real. In August of this year, the FAA has mandated, with a few caveats, that airline pilots must have a minimum of 1500 hours total time and an Airline Transport Pilot rating to work for a FAR 121 (airline parameters) aviation company. Currently, the minimum requirement is 250 hours. On January 14, 2014 the long-overdue revised duty and flight time limitations for commercial pilots will take effect. The more restrictive limitations will require the airlines to hire more pilots.
The equally critical factor in this equation is that the inordinate number of airline pilots that will be forced into retirement by the age 65 rule, will open many doors for new hire pilots. Furthermore, corporate aviation is booming and those jobs with companies such as NetJets, Marquis Jet, etc. are becoming quite desirable for the professional pilot. Overseas pilot jobs, particularly in China, will be extremely plentiful. The pilot shortage will drive salaries skyward. Everything is cyclical and this current down cycle for the pilot community is destined to improve significantly. I will also state—after a 36 year aviation career that took me to 44 countries with 25 employer changes—that an aviation career can be an exciting Odyssey. Take your pilot passion and create for yourself an adventuresome career.

AIR FRANCE FLIGHT 447 PILOTS WERE “DEAD TIRED”

Airbus 330

ANOTHER TOO-SHORT LAY-OVER

ANOTHER TOO-SHORT LAY-OVER

On June 1, 2009 Air France Flight # 447, en route from Rio de Janeiro to Paris in airspace located approximately 400 miles north of the northwest corner of Brazil, inexplicably crashed in the ocean. It was somewhat inexplicable at the time, but eventually the cockpit voice recorder and the flight data recorder were recovered from the floor of the ocean. These two devices, when reviewed, analyzed, and evaluated presented a despicably ugly picture. It revealed a scenario that was very similar to the highly publicized and equally ugly Continental (Colgan Air) flight 3407 crash on approach into Buffalo, New York, killing all 49 people on board and one person on the ground
The commonalities in these two aircraft crashes are uncannily similar. The pilots of Continental Flight 3407 were extremely tired and in a state of advanced sleep deprivation. They were also relatively inexperienced and poorly trained. These factors resulted in a breaking of the chain of elements that result in a successful flight. The pilots of Air France flight 447 were equally handicapped. The initial information released by the BAE (A European aviation investigation organization) and Air France indicated a very minor abnormality on the flight deck that related to an iced pitot tube resulting in erroneous airspeed. Unfortunately, as is the case in all too many aviation accidents, this was a recurring problem that had been identified by both Airbus manufacturing the aircraft and Air France, the operator of aircraft. It had, however, not been given the priority that it shouldn’t been given.
The NTSB, after sifting through the ashes of Continental #3407, determined that improper manipulation of the flight controls, along with a counterproductive retraction of the flaps by the copilot, was the cause of this accident. They also cited poor or inadequate training. Flight crew experience, particularly in this new aircraft, the Bombardier Dash 8-Q400 also played a small role. Neither pilot of this aircraft had had adequate rest in the previous 30 hours. While this was, subjectively, but unquantifiable, the primary precursor, it was only mentioned as a contributing factor. A significant sidebar to this accident is the fact that the last six fatal domestic accidents with the US domestic air carriers involved regional carriers, or, as they are more commonly referred to, “commuters.” Four of these six accidents occurred when tired pilots in the cockpit were entrapped in an excessively long duty period.
Nearly five years after the Air France Flight 447 accident, it was just recently revealed that the pilots assigned to this flight were also extremely tired. The captain had stated that he had only one hour of sleep during the previous rest period and his relatively inexperienced copilots—this was an augmented crew with one extra pilot—also were extremely tired when they began their projected long duty period (13 hours). As was the case with Continental # 3407, the Air France pilots were relatively inexperienced, but more importantly, they had no experience flying the Airbus 330 at high-altitude. The two pilots on the flight deck severely over controlled the aircraft and it entered into a deep stall. The airplane plummeted tail first, with the nose high pitch attitude of 35°, and engines at full power. It plummeted 38,000 feet to the ocean surface in three minutes and 30 seconds. The aircraft splattered into the water and 216 passengers and 12 flight crew members were killed instantly. A sadder chapter is that the pilots, and most likely all of the passengers and cabin attendants, were fully aware that the airplane was out of control and would soon be crashing. That awareness that your life will be soon coming to a very abrupt end, will most certainly create an unparalleled state of horror and emotional turmoil.
These two accidents when evaluated by the NTSB, the FAA, and the BAE in the many pilots who have read and reviewed the accident information leave those aviation oriented folks in a state of disgust. Why had the Air France pilots never been trained to fly their aircraft and cruise altitude? Like Capt. Marvin Renslow of Colgan air infamy, the two pilots on the flight deck of AF 447 flew the airplane into a deep stall and maintained that catastrophe-inducing pitch attitude. In the AF 447 flight the captain arose from his designated nap, rushed to the cockpit—actually there was a significant delay—and stood on the flight deck repeating the mantra from the two seated copilots, “What’s going on here; what’s happening.” Continental # 3407 had two tired, poorly trained, inexperienced pilots in the cockpit. AF # 447 had three pilots in the cockpit. They were somewhat more experienced and perhaps better trained, but they all experienced the common thread of diminished performance capability as a result of sleep deprivation.
For additional information relating to the problem of tired pilots in the cockpit, you can listen to my recent interview at http://webtalkradio.net/ by clicking on HOST and Ace Abbott’s Aviation Affair. The book, Dead Tired: Pilot Fatigue- Aviation’s Insidious Killer is available at http://www.deadtiredpilots.com/
This blog is prepared by Allen Morris, a.k.a. Ace Abbott, author of The Rogue Aviator: In the Back Alleys of Aviation (http://www.therogueaviator.com/) and the above mentioned “Dead Tired”

TIRED PILOTS: A WORLDWIDE AVIATION PROBLEM

Sweden

ANOTHER TOO-SHORT LAY-OVER

ANOTHER TOO-SHORT LAY-OVER

The ongoing problem of tired pilots in the cockpits of airplanes continues to undermine the safety of commercial aviation. In the United States, the FAA has finally stepped forward and made an effort to mitigate the problem of pilot fatigue. The changes were well thought out and based on significant analysis and study of sleep deprivation research. They will be very effective in reducing the number of accidents and incidents that result from pilot error in which sleep deprivation was a precursor. Unfortunately, there are two small caveats relating to this legislation: 1.The revised rules do not go into effect until January 14, 2014; Caveat number two: they do not apply to commercial pilots who fly cargo. This malfeasance was precipitated by allowing the profit factor to trump the safety factor. The lobbyists once again kneed the pilot force in the groin for the financial enhancement of their masters.
The highly publicized Continental flight 3407 accident in Buffalo, New York on February 12, 2009 was a great wake-up call that forced the FAA, after nearly 50 years of inaction, to finally act proactively regarding the problem. Amazingly enough, the pilots who fly for Canadian airlines and any of the EASA (European Aviation Safety Agency) airlines are now dealing with overzealous controlling agencies that want to increase the workload of commercial pilots. A recent survey amongst pilots from Austria, Sweden, Germany and Denmark revealed that fatigue is “common, dangerous and underreported.” The EASA is calling for regulations that will allow for 22 hour duty days for flight crews. This might be somewhat of an improvement, since 50% of surveyed pilots have reported being on duty after having been awake for 23 hours or more.
The Continental Flight 3407 (Operated by Colgan Air) that crashed in Buffalo on February 12 2009, provided the impetus to totally revise the FAA’s rules regarding flight and duty times. The two pilots in the cockpit of this airplane were severely fatigued and the NTSB did indicate that their state of fatigue was a precursor to the accident. After several years of in-depth studies of sleep deprivation and pilot fatigue instances and incidents, the FAA produced a science-based, airline safety enhancing set of revised regulations that will be finally implemented on January 14, 2014. The previous mentioned caveat: cargo pilots are exempt from the new more restrictive ruling has resulted in a lot of justifiable backlash from the pilot community.
ALPA to the rescue! An ALPA study has revealed that the FAA study relating to the projected cost savings of allowing the cargo pilots to utilize the antiquated and less restrictive limitations was an error. The FAA “cooked the books,” to indicate that pilot fatigue played a small role in cargo airline accidents. In actuality, during the last 20 years cargo airline accidents have been infinitely more prevalent than passenger operations. Captain Lee Moak and his ALPA colleagues have recently been making a very strong stance in Washington DC, regarding this issue. Hopefully, the ALPA lobbying will overcome the efforts of the spokesman for the cargo airline management operatives who do not want to have to hire additional pilots to fly their airplanes. There have already been too many “dead-tired” cargo pilots who have bought the farm.
For more information relating to pilot fatigue, consider reading Ace Abbott’s book, Dead Tired: Pilot Fatigue- Aviation’s Insidious Killer. (www.deadtiredpilots.com)
This blog is prepared by retired commercial pilot and aviation author Ace Abbott; (www.therogueaviator.com

DRUNKEN PILOTS! “SAY IT’S NOT SO”

American Eagle pilot accosted by the airport authorities:

The recent interception of a potentially drunk pilot by airport authorities is one more black mark on American Eagle Airlines. American Eagle is renowned for engaging in maximum exploitation of their pilots. Or, as the Harvard business school mantra of the mid-70s stated: “Maximum utilization of human resources.” Perhaps the draconian work conditions and a meager salary led this pilot “to drink.” Perhaps the layover in Minneapolis, St. Paul in the middle of a cold, depressing winter left him in the clinically acknowledged state referred to as “SAD” and a few hot toddies was needed to help them avoid deep depression.
The vast majority of today’s airline pilots are extremely conscientious and very few of them ever report for work, even a little bit hung over. The obsolete FAA regulations still say, “eight hours between the bottle and the throttle,” but most airlines have a 12 hour window from alcohol consumption to climbing into the cockpit. Delta has a 24-hour policy, which probably should be adopted by all airlines— perhaps with the caveat of one glass of wine or a beer with dinner. The “glory days” of the airline culture that involved “fast-lane partying” are in the dustbin of aviation history. Pilots and flight attendants on layovers rarely engage in excessive consumption of alcohol.
Perhaps this pilot, and/or his fellow flight crew members were influenced by the relative success of “Whip Whittaker” a.k.a Denzel Washington in the movie Flight as he landed his crippled airplane under the influence of alcohol, marijuana in cocaine. This aviation themed movie was actually an in-depth look at the nuances of substance abuse of a free-spirited pilot. The poignant scenarios throughout the movie, has very possibly resulted in abstinence for many people who were once substance abusers. Unfortunately, the American Eagle pilot, Captain Kristiansen, is now caught up in pathos and emotional turmoil, as his aviation career is likely to be permanently derailed.
While there are many reasons and explanations for a pilot reporting to duty in a state other than perfectly sober, there are no acceptable excuses. A professional pilot must dedicate himself to being prepared at the highest level possible for every flight.
This blog is prepared by Allen Morris, a.k.a. Ace Abbott, author of The Rogue Aviator: In the Back Alleys of Aviation (www.therogueaviator.com) and Dead Tired: Pilot Fatigue- Aviation’s Insidious Killer (www.deadtiredpilots.com)

LEARJET CRASH WITH JENNI RIVERA–TIRED PILOTS?

sleeping-pilot1

 

Last Sunday morning’s crash of a Learjet with renowned singer Jenni Rivera aboard recently jumped into the forefront of the news cycle. The aircraft departed Monterrey, Mexico at 3:15 AM en route to Toluca, Mexico. It was reported the aircraft was it 35,000 feet and made a rapid descent to 9,000 feet, during which time air traffic control communication was lost. At 3:30 AM the aircraft slammed into the high terrain South of Monterrey. All seven people aboard were killed, including the two pilots. The Learjet was chartered from a Las Vegas based company.

The media have not yet discussed or even mentioned the likelihood of tired pilots in the cockpit. It will be very interesting to read the final NTSB report that will hopefully have a report of the two pilots most recent rest period prior to the flight. Based on my experience of eight years flying chartered Learjets I would be near certain that pilot fatigue played a major role in this accident. The world of on-demand jet charter lends itself to frequent scenarios that result in severely fatigued pilots flying high profile wealthy people. A 3:15 AM departure would require the pilots to have been awake since no later than 1:30 AM. It is likely and almost certain that they were prepared for departure several hours prior to the actual departure. On-demand jet charter is fraught with significant delays. It is not likely that anyone would schedule a flight departure for 3:15 AM.

Also relating to pilot fatigue, the FAA has just determined that the lawsuit filed by UPS cargo pilot union, IPA has no merit. This lawsuit was in reference to the revised crew rest, flight time and duty limitations that are to be implemented on January 15, 2014. These new rules were mandated to enhance aviation safety after the crash of Continental flight 3407 (operated by Colgan air) in Buffalo on January 12 2009. These revised rules for commercial pilots operating in the FAR 121 airline environments were mandated by Congress. As a result of lobbying and special interest groups influence all cargo airline operations were exempt from these new rules— effectively an exemption from operating at a much higher level of safety. As I stated in my book, The Rogue Aviator, “I’m from the government and I’m here to help you— unless you are a pilot who might want to get a little sleep.”

The media has barely scratched the surface of this onerous failure to reduce the pilot fatigue factor in cargo airline aircraft. My book, Dead Tired: Pilot Fatigue- Aviation’s Insidious Killer, elaborates on the subject as it points out the obvious; if allowed, corporate profits will always trump any element of safety that might be implemented. Unbeknownst to most laymen, the power of airline unions has been a significant contributor to aviation safety. A review of aircraft accidents operated by nonunion pilots will validate this. The exemption of cargo pilots from reasonable work rules that result in minimizing pilot fatigue in the cockpit will reveal a continuation of aircraft crashes and incidents that were piloted by very tired pilots.

This blog is prepared by Allen Morris, a.k.a. Ace Abbott (pen name), author of The Rogue Aviator: in the back alleys of aviation, (www.therogueaviator.com or http://goo.gl/Y2LhX, and Dead Tired: Pilot Fatigue Aviation’s Insidious Killer (www.deadtiredpilots.com or http://goo.gl/Gzucw.

CARGO PILOTS NEED REST- FAA DISAGREES!

After a few decades of delay, and despite strong urging from the NTSB, the National Safety Council, pilot unions , and any other group or agency that is concerned about aviation, the FAA has capitalized on three years of study and decades of sleep-deprivation research and have reached the following conclusion: Pilots that fly passengers for hire under the stringent rules of FAR 121 which governs all  of the operating parameters for airlines along with the commuter airlines, must have their flight and duty times decreased in order to enhance aviation safety and reduce the increased probability of a tired pilot crashing an airplane. We all remember the Continental flight 3407 (operated by Colgan Air) that crashed in Buffalo, New York with two “dead-tired” pilots at the controls.

There is, however, an interesting caveat relating to this new aviation safety-enhancing legislation, and that is, very simply: cargo-carrying airlines, (such as Fed-Ex or UPS) are exempt from the new rules. The next immediate question is: Do cargo pilots require less sleep than passenger pilots? Of course not, but money and politics have once again trumped aviation safety. We all remember the 1970s Harvard Business School mantra of “maximum utilization of human resources.” This is one more example of that axiom being employed at the expense of aviation safety. An interesting addition to this travesty is that a little research into aviation accident investigations will reveal that far more cargo airplanes are involved in accidents and incidents than passenger carrying airplanes. The cargo “freight-dog” pilots who often operate on the “back-side” of the clock and have their fatigue factor intensified by circadian rhythm dysfunction.

As one might expect, the cargo pilots and their unions have very wisely jumped into this fray and are now filing lawsuits to eliminate this severely mis-guided shortsightedness by the FAA. In December, 2011 The Independent Pilots Association (IPA) that represent 2,700 pilots who fly for UPS, filed a petition asking the federal appeals court to review the rules.

The FAA very recently decided to review the rules after stating that it made “errors” in cost calculations used to justify the exemption. That is a glaring example of a confession of a decision that was made regarding aviation safety that once again placed corporate profits ahead of the possible consequences of a Boeing 747 filled with cargo, (perhaps hazardous material) flown by tired pilots that crashes into the hospital. If there was ever high-level government officials left with “egg-on-their-face” this is a high-level glaring example. 

This blog was prepared by Ace Abbott, author of The Rogue Aviator (www.therogueaviator.com)  

           

TIRED PILOTS RESULTS IN COCKPIT CHAOS

A WIDE-AWAKE BRIGHT-EYED PILOT

Once again, the pilot fatigue factor has reared up its ugly head in the revelation of an Air Canada incident over one year ago that involved a tired pilot engaging in action that put his aircraft as well as others in danger. The following is an extract from an article in the April 16, 2012 CBC News:

{{A terrifying incident on an Air Canada flight from Toronto to Zurich last year took place because a pilot abruptly pushed the Boeing 767 into a dive shortly after waking up from an approved nap, says a report released today by Canada’s Transportation Safety Board.

The report details what happened on Air Canada Flight 878 several hours after it left Toronto for Zurich on Jan 13, 2011. The report also finds several factors, including pilot fatigue, contributed to the incident that sent seven passengers to hospital in Switzerland.The disruption in the middle of the flight, at night over the Atlantic Ocean, was described by Air Canada at the time as severe turbulence.

Instead, the TSB report says the first officer, who had just woken up from a nap in the cockpit, initially mistook the planet Venus for a U.S. air force C-17 military plane in the vicinity, and later decreased altitude abruptly after being “confused” and believing they were on an “imminent collision course” with another aircraft.

The captain counter-reacted by pulling the plane up. The moves shook the aircraft violently and caused several passengers not wearing their seatbelts in economy class to be thrown up in the air and then slammed into their seats and the aisles of the cabin.

Fourteen passengers and two crew members on board the flight suffered various injuries, and seven were sent to hospital after the plane touched down in Zurich.

Pilots are allowed to take “controlled rests” of up to 40 minutes in the cockpit to improve alertness during critical phases of flight, the TSB says. However, the flight attendant in charge must be alerted and instructed to call the flight deck at a specific time.

The TSB report into Flight 878 said the pilots did not inform the assigned flight attendant that the first officer was going to take a rest.

Canada’s pilot fatigue measures questioned

The report is expected to renew the debate over whether Canada’s regulations governing pilot schedules do enough to prevent pilot fatigue.

Controlled rests

A “controlled rest” is a recommended “operational fatigue countermeasure” for pilots that improves on-the-job performance and alertness through “strategic napping” on the flight deck “to improve crew alertness during critical phases of flight,” according to the Air Canada flight operations manual.

“The rest periods are a maximum of 40 minutes in length (periods to be reviewed prior to resting) and must be completed 30 minutes prior to the top of descent. The in–charge flight attendant must be advised that controlled rest will be taking place and instructed to call the flight deck at a specific time. Upon conclusion of the rest period, unless required due to an abnormal or emergency situation, the awakened pilot should be provided at least 15 minutes without any flight duties to become fully awake before resuming normal duties. An operational briefing shall follow.” Source: Transportation Safety Board

Air Canada spokesman Peter Fitzpatrick told CBC News that the airline has already taken action to enhance safety in the wake of its preliminary findings, and would study the final report to determine whether additional measures can be brought in.

“We sincerely regret that some of our customers were injured and we have taken measures to prevent a reoccurrence of this type of event and improve safety overall,” Fitzpatrick wrote in an email.

The Air Canada Pilots Association and other unions, representing almost 7,000 pilots, have been calling for Transport Canada to change flight and pilot scheduling regulations.

Under Canadian regulations, pilots can be on duty for 14 hours, or up to 17 hours if there are unforeseen circumstances.

Capt. Barry Wiszniowski, safety chairman of the Air Canada Pilots Association, told CBC News Network that his organization began collecting its own data on pilot fatigue several years ago as part of a public push to get the regulations changed to recognize scientific findings on fatigue.

“I think the problem is that he’s sleeping in the cockpit in the first place,” Wiszniowski said.

“In Canada, we have the worst rules in the planet. We are working with the regulator trying to move forward and bringing our regulations in line so they are based on the science of fatigue.”

3rd pilot in cabin

The TSB report also revealed that a third Air Canada pilot was on board “dead-heading” to Zurich to serve as a relief pilot for the return flight, but was seated in a regular seat so he wouldn’t be paid.

After the captain was informed of the injuries in the cabin, the third pilot was called in to sit on the flight deck to monitor the flight and assist as needed, the report said. The remainder of the flight was described as “uneventful.”

In December, the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration issued new rules aimed at preventing airline pilots from flying while dangerously fatigued.

U.S. airlines flying routes of similar duration to the Toronto-Zurich flight require three pilots on duty, Wiszniowski noted.

“I believe personally that safety trumps politics, commerce and competition, so if you’re doing it on a cost-dollar value, that’s one thing,” he said. “But what more proof do we need that when a pilot operates in a fatigued state there’s risk of an accident? And that’s what we have in this case.”

Air Canada’s Fitzpatrick said the airline has rules for duty days and rest periods that are “more conservative than what Transport Canada requires,” and also requires pilots who feel they are too tired to fly or otherwise not capable of flying safely to report this as part of a “non-punitive system.”]]

The concept of controlled naps in the cockpit is a recent brerakthrough that has been endorsed by most of the European and long-range Flag-Carrier airlines. It is a well-thought out, progressive approach to enance aviation safety. This Air Canada incident was fraught with a bit of an unusual twist, in that the sleeping pilot had been sleeping to long. The “power nap” is effective if it does not exceed 45 minutes. Recent sleep study research has shown light on the importance of shorter naps to recharge the batteries This pilot had been sleeping for 70 minutes and when he rapidly awoke he did not have time to erase the “cobwebs.” Since he was still in the groggy state he misperceived the situation and took evasive action to avoid what he thought was another aircraft, but was actually the planet Venus.

This was not the first time nor will it be the last time that a pilot took evasive action to avoid a heavenly body that had been mis-identified. One of the millions of legendary aviation anecdotes involves a Learjet pilot at about 3:00 am over the Gulf of Mexico. As he broke out of heavy clouds the full moon at 12:00 o’clock high startled him and as the story goes, he immediately did a full barrell roll to avoid the moon.

This blog is prepared by Ace Abbott, the author of The Rogue Aviator: in the back alleys of aviation (www.therogueaviator.com)