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Old 09-10-2008, 04:39 PM   #1  
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Question AA, APA at odds over taxiing incident

Er, just what the heck happened?

American Airlines, pilots at odds over taxiing incident

5:02 PM Tue, Sep 09, 2008 | Permalink | Yahoo! Buzz
Terry Maxon E-mail News tips
In May, a management pilot at American Airlines was taxiing his airplane behind that of a pilot at Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport and decided the Los Angeles-based pilot was deliberately taxiing too slow.
As a result, the pilot in front has been suspended 15 days without pay, and the pilots' union, the Allied Pilots Association, is all in an uproar.
An American spokeswoman Tuesday defended the disciplinary action, but the incident has union officials yelling foul.
"The facts are undeniable," the Miami-based APA officers told their members in an email. "The resolution of this incident by a morally devoid Flight Management team should send a chill down everyone's spine."
"In my 30 years of employment with American Airlines I have never witnessed anything so blatantly ridiculous," the Chicago-based APA officers wrote, adding: "Make sure everyone you know has the opportunity to read and understand just how low our once great airline has fallen and to what extent the management of American Airlines will go to disparage and belittle it's employees."
The St. Louis union officers wrote that the incident "shows you the depth of poor labor relations here at AA and the lack of moderation on the part of the company when it deals with its pilots."
For details, keep reading.

First, American spokeswoman Tami McLallen didn't discuss the particulars, but sent this statement:
As you know, we take safety issues very seriously. Saying it is our number one priority isn't just an empty slogan, it's what we focus on each and every day. So when we see actions that we believe may compromise safety, it's our responsibility to investigate and take corrective action if needed. As this is an internal personnel matter, we won't comment on the specifics, however in a message to pilots yesterday, Vice President-Flight Mark Hettermann said "Typically, the flight department doesn't comment on disciplinary cases. Proper protocol dictates that this matter remains as private as possible between the pilot and his manager. While we disagree with the APA's decision to publically discuss the details of this case, it's especially disappointing that they haven't provided full disclosure of the facts."

And here's the long explanation from the Los Angeles-based union leadership:
By now you have probably heard of the incident in DFW on May 30th that involved one of our LAX-based pilots was accused by Captain Jeff Osborne (Managing Director of Flight -System) of taxiing too slow across a runway. Captain Osborne (B737) was clearing runway 18L behind our LAX Captain (S80) and Captain Osborne felt that our LAX Captain did not clear the runway fast enough. For some unknown reason Captain Osborne was very concerned for his own safety even though he was crossing a departure runway for which no other aircraft had been cleared to take-off or land. Captain Osborne was so concerned about this incident that he used his cell phone while actively taxiing his aircraft (in violation of both Federal Aviation Regulations and Flight Manual Part 1) to contact SOC and have our Captain removed from the trip.
Captain Osborne later directed LAX Director of Flight Captain Bob Bush to conduct a Section 21 hearing regarding the incident. Our LAX based Captain was placed on "Paid Withheld" status (PW) for three months while the LAX Flight Office conducted the investigation demanded by Captain Osborne.
The Investigation
Upon first receiving the directive from Captain Osborne to conduct a Section 21 hearing, Captain Bush conducted an investigation and found no cause to pursue the issue. Captain Bush actually called the LAX Captain and apologized for even bringing this up, but explained that Captain Osborne was insisting on a Section 21 hearing regardless of the facts.
Two separate hearings were held, and in both cases there was no documentation or charges ever produced from the FAA, DFW Tower, or DFW Ground. Based upon this fact alone we can clearly see that the only one who had a problem with this situation was Captain Osborne.
The only evidence that we had been given was:
The written statement of Captain Osborne claiming "a blatant disregard for flight safety" and an intent "to cause an inconvenience to our local and connecting customers, intentionally disrupt our operation, and harm our company" An audio recording of the DFW tower frequency in which no safety problem is noted by the Tower controllers A video of the ramp arrival of the LAX flight which shows only normal ramp traffic A statement from an AA Ground School Instructor who was jump-seating on Osborne's flight, a statement which was dated two months after the incident. This statement notes that Captain Osborne's aircraft was on runway 18L for only a "few seconds", and that upon arriving at the ramp, Captain Osborne then encountered a long delay because his gate was occupied.
The Verdict
During and after both hearings that we conducted, Captain Bush stated several times "I can not find anything here...there is no reason to discipline...this was ops normal" and proceeded to communicate this to Captain Osborne, but Captain Osborne was not going to allow this to pass without some sort of punishment for his perceptions.
As a result of this Kangaroo Court our LAX Captain has been given 15 days off with no pay, based solely upon Captain Osborne's statement and a Ground School Instructor's letter dated 2 months after the incident.
The Double Standard
There has been no action initiated by the FAA against our LAX pilot, and no reports on this incident were ever received from either the DFW Tower or DFW Ground Control. Captain Osborne insisted on discipline even after he was told repeatedly that the Section 21 hearings were showing no evidence that supported his claims. Captain Osborne uses his cell phone while taxing an airplane (in violation of FARs and AA company policy) and our LAX Captain gets 15 days off without pay. Rest assured that the FAA was notified of Captain Osborne's cell phone use.
At this point we don't know what is more disgusting to us--that Captain Osborne insisted on punishing this pilot regardless of the facts, or that Captain Bush has issued the letter of discipline after apologizing initially and then stating several times in hearings that "I cannot find anything here...there is no reason to discipline...this was ops normal".
What This Means to You
We can only conclude after sitting through this whole joke of a process that our pilots are in jeopardy simply for coming in contact with the Chief Pilots, and that you should avoid any conversation with them except that which is absolutely essential to your duties. Idle chitchat with the Chiefs should be avoided, because anything you say to them can be used against you or another pilot in a disciplinary hearing.
If asked to engage in conversations politely inform them that your Union speaks for you.
As for Captain Osborne we would imagine his "do not pair with" list is growing by the minute in DFW.
One Final Note
This is not the airline of days of old when your Chief Pilot is sometimes your advocate and could solve minor issues without interference from DFW Flt. Dept. management. In this day and age, all the Chief pilots are just messengers with rubber stamps. Employee Relations writes the Hearing Notices, and Captains Osborne and/or Hettermann determine the results of hearings in advance. We cannot understand why under these circumstances anyone would want to be a Chief pilot, or why they have not all quit under this current VP of Flight.
APA will fight for this Captain with all of the resources we have. All of us need to stand behind this Captain and stop this abuse. We have seen this management team assault our contract, and compromise our safety time and time again. Enough is enough!

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