Regional Regional Airlines

AE FO story

Old 11-02-2009, 12:17 PM
pants on the ground
Thread Starter
mmaviator's Avatar
Joined APC: Jan 2007
Position: back seat
Posts: 1,359
Default AE FO story

Another story about under paid, over worked, more rest needed airline pilot situation. Hope I'm not sound like a debbie downer or negative. Sorry for the lack of spaces, to lazy and too much work for it on my phone.

One pilot's arduous 2-day schedule reflects demands on flight crews12:00 AM CDT on Sunday, November 1, 2009By ERIC TORBENSON / The Dallas Morning News [email protected]his time, he required coffee. And Doug Gibbs doesn't like coffee; he's more of a Coke guy when he needs a boost. So he dulls the taste with lots of cream.This Tuesday would demand maximum caffeine: a 3:40 a.m. wake-up call to ensure he was on a shuttle bus by 4:30 from the hotel to the Little Rock airport.

Doug Gibbs, a first officer with American Eagle Airlines, cleans the cockpit before a flight from Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport to Lubbock. Gibbs worked on eight flights in 35 hours in a recent two-day sequence.A first officer for American Eagle Airlines, Gibbs had to check in for the 5:40 a.m. flight to Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport the first of five flights he'd be in the cockpit for on a workday that wouldn't get him back to his Lewisville home until after 6 p.m.That's not an everyday occurrence for Gibbs, who was on the second day of a two-day sequence that saw him making eight flights in 35 hours. But because he's paid only for the time when the plane is actually moving, he's got to work several such sequences each month to log enough hours to earn his $38,000 a year.It's the accumulation of days like this over a month that has the nation's air safety regulator moving to change how often pilots can fly and when they must rest.The proposed rules change comes in the wake of a February regional jet crash in Buffalo where the cockpit transcript showed both pilots were clearly tired, plus a string of small-jet crashes in recent years where pilot fatigue played a role. The Federal Aviation Administration's proposed rules are due before the end of the year.This week speculation over whether two Northwest Airlines pilots may have been sleeping when they flew 150 miles past Minneapolis/St. Paul International Airport brought more attention to whether pilots are overscheduled. The Northwest pilots in their mid-50s and with decades of experience told regulators they were distracted by a discussion about pilot scheduling and denied being asleep. While regional airlines have been in the FAA's spotlight, the Northwest incident demonstrates how concerns over pilot behavior go beyond the small carriers.Both small- and large-jet operators have been scheduling pilots with decades-old limits that critics say haven't kept up with the economic pressures that airlines and pilots face today.Under current scheduling rules, pilots can be at work preparing for flights, actually flying and waiting to fly again up to 16 consecutive hours. They can physically be flying a plane only eight of those hours. Initial reports from the FAA's rulemaking process suggest that a pilot's duty day the time at work will shrink, but the amount of actual flying time allowed may increase, if the flights are scheduled during daylight hours."On one end you've got pilots doing long-haul international flights and on the other you've got guys slogging through bad weather in the Northeast on turboprops flying five or six times a day," said Bob Mann, an aviation consultant for R.W. Mann & Co. in Port Washington, N.Y. "It's a tall order to make a set of rules to fit that."The new rules will alter how airlines plan flights, force them to hire more pilots and potentially lead to unprofitable routes being eliminated.Recent changesAirline pilot scheduling has changed in the last decade for a host of reasons:- Regional airlines try to keep costs low by maximizing the productivity of their pilots and using as few reserve pilots as possible. - Pay cuts have prompted pilots to fly as much as they can to keep a standard of living.- Many pilots choose to commute to their assigned crew bases because of high living costs, adding more travel time even before they punch the clock to start flying.Compounding the problem for commuting pilots, recent cutbacks in airline flights have meant far fewer empty seats available. Consequently, some pilots have to fly a day in advance to ensure they make it to their crew base, lengthening their time on the road.In the Buffalo crash, for example, the 24-year-old co-pilot had flown overnight from Seattle to New Jersey before starting her day.The Regional Airline Association, which represents nearly all regional carriers including Eagle, has launched its own study of pilot fatigue that will also examine commuting's effect, president Roger Cohen said."There's been very little research in this area, and we need better science," said Cohen, who has been defending his industry's safety record since the Buffalo crash. He also questions whether regional pilots are more prone to fatigue than their mainline counterparts."There could be more fatigue, but it may also be the opposite outcome," said Cohen. "Maybe the frequency of the flights keeps them more alert and active." That frequency of flights is where regional pilots may have it tougher than pilots at mainline airlines. Eagle has an average flight length of 350 miles compared with American Airlines' 900 miles. So, if they fly an equal distance, Eagle pilots will make about three times as many landings and takeoffs the most stressful part of the job. American's pilots have schedules that aren't easy to fly either, but with longer flights they can work fewer total days a month than Eagle's pilots do."I wish the industry would raise the bar on flight time and duty time rules, which hopefully is coming," said Gibbs, the first officer, over a lunch of chicken fingers at TGI Fridays at D/FW's B Concourse. He gets $1.75 an hour for food per diem, but "eating out three times a day can really add up." To save money, he often packs Pop Tarts (Frosted chocolate fudge or chocolate chip are his favorites).Eagle seems to be a better place to fly than other regional airlines, Gibbs said, after comparing notes with friends at other carriers. "The safety and training programs here are top-notch," he said. However, Eagle can't escape the declining economics of regional flying, especially as fuel prices rise. Eagle stopped flying 54 planes in June 2008; other regional airlines have seen their flying for major carriers cut and the rates they get paid reduced.Living his dreamDespite the hours and disruptions to his sleep schedule, Gibbs said being an airline pilot is the job he's wanted since he flew in a 1956 Cessna 172 when he was 15 years old and growing up on his family's farm in central Illinois."I love the freedom," he said. "I love not being in an office all day."Gibbs, who's flown for American Eagle for almost four years, nearly got a job at Comair, which does regional flying for Delta Air Lines Inc., but Delta's bankruptcy filing in September 2005 scotched it. An extension program through Southern Illinois University got him in the door with Eagle. In his first assignment, Gibbs was stationed in San Juan, Puerto Rico, where he and his colleagues dubbed themselves "Pilots of the Caribbean," which explains the skull and crossbones sticker on his crew-kit bag.It's also where he met his wife, Iris, a sixth-grade English teacher, who, ironically, doesn't like flying though she's getting more comfortable with it and with having her husband in the air all the time."It's hard on her, but she supports me," said Gibbs, who turned 27 last month but often gets asked by passengers if he's 13. As a first officer on Eagle's Canadair Regional Jet, Gibbs' duties are basically the same as his captain's, though Gibbs does the "walk-around" of the plane before and after each flight to check its airworthiness.Gibbs also serves as an elected union representative for the Air Line Pilots Association, which bargains for the 2,500 Eagle pilots. His union status allows him to talk to the media; everyday pilots like his captain cannot be quoted without permission from the airline. Tough stretchesPilots use their seniority to bid for flying and fly in "sequences." Gibbs and his captain flew a sequence of eight flights over two days Oct 19-20. During this trip, Gibbs will do the takeoffs and landings on the outbound parts of the schedule; the captain will handle the inbound parts. They're fortunate: two cloudless fall days to fly to the cities on their schedule Little Rock on the first day, Lubbock and Des Moines on the second.The first flight to Little Rock nearly never happens. When a flight attendant closes the Canadair Regional Jet's door, a bolt snaps, and Gibbs gets out of the cockpit to assess the problem and call in maintenance. It is one of five mechanical issues he deals with among the eight flights.The plane he's flying this day also lacks a functioning auxiliary power unit, a not-too-uncommon issue. It's not a safety concern, but the unit does help start the engines and can run the air conditioning on board. Passengers complain about the stuffiness on board the 70-seat plane.Good news: Maintenance finds the needed bolt and fixes the door. It's fortunate for Gibbs and his passengers because it's the last one in stock and a Canadair Regional Jet a few gates away just snapped the same bolt. A little more than two hours after the scheduled departure, they're off to Little Rock.After turning around and returning to D/FW Airport, Gibbs flies back to Little Rock his third flight on day one and hops on the employee shuttle to a riverfront hotel. He does two hours of phone work before grabbing dinner, and then turns in around 6:30 p.m. for as much sleep as he can get before his 3:40 a.m. wake-up on Tuesday.The layover is longer than usual for Gibbs and his captain. Mann and other consultants say short overnight layovers for regional pilots contribute considerably to fatigue because they can't get adequate sleep if they're on flying trips that last four, or in some cases, five days. And rest periods can get eaten up by paperwork at the airport and traveling to and from hotels."At some point these regional carriers push productivity to a point where it's no longer gain but pain," Mann said. Rocky startGibbs' first flight on day two starts with another minor mechanical problem; the plane's backup de-icing system was giving it trouble, even though there wasn't any ice in Little Rock.Eventually the problem clears, and he returns to D/FW to then make a quick hop and back to Lubbock, just 243 miles away. Back at D/FW, Gibbs has a three-hour wait until his final round trip to Des Moines. That's the frustrating part of the schedule; it allows a leisurely lunch, but he'd rather be flying and getting home sooner.After flying out and back from Iowa, Gibbs is finished with his two-day sequence. If he's tired, it doesn't show in his greeting passengers or in his cheery public address announcements.Gibbs heads to the employee parking lot and eventually back home. He'll be back in the air in three days headed to Pittsburgh. If Gibbs wants to be a captain which could ultimately boost his pay at Eagle to more than $100,000 a year he'll be waiting for several years as the seniority list at Eagle isn't moving quickly. If the FAA changes the rules on rest, it would likely mean regional airlines like Eagle would need to hire more pilots. That's potentially good news for Gibbs' career advancement. However, if American Airlines can't make money on Eagle routes, it could cut more flights, reducing the need for more pilots.At some point, Gibbs may have to make a choice to commute from D/FW if he wants a chance at being captain, though it would mean more time away from home. Being a captain "is always a target that's off there in the horizon," he said. "This is all I want to do."
mmaviator is offline  
Old 11-02-2009, 12:46 PM
Day puke
FlyJSH's Avatar
Joined APC: Feb 2006
Position: Out.
Posts: 3,865

"There could be more fatigue, but it may also be the opposite outcome," said Cohen. "Maybe the frequency of the flights keeps them more alert and active."

FlyJSH is offline  
Old 11-02-2009, 12:56 PM
Airport Hobo
flyandive's Avatar
Joined APC: Apr 2007
Posts: 844

Originally Posted by FlyJSH
"There could be more fatigue, but it may also be the opposite outcome," said Cohen. "Maybe the frequency of the flights keeps them more alert and active."


Seriously?! Everytime this guy opens his ****ing mouth I want to pull his tether and bring him back to Earth! I'm starting to think he just likes the attention because he has obviously never worked the line and has no clue what it's like.

I can kind of see what he is trying to say because it's the long breaks in very un-productive schedules that make me feel the most tired, but if he is even trying to suggest that the best cure for fatigue is working more than he is insane!

Oh look! He posted his email addres online:
flyandive is offline  
Old 11-02-2009, 01:19 PM
Joined APC: Jun 2008
Posts: 8,350

Try not to get too upset.

He's nothing more then the paid lapdog of the collective managments of the regional airline industry. His job is to bark when and where they want him to, as well as what they want him to say to keep costs low and profits high. They own him lock, stock and necktie.

Most of it is as logical to humans as the typical dog bark and growl, so it may help if you just think of it in those terms.
eaglefly is offline  
Old 11-02-2009, 01:56 PM
Gets Weekends Off
poor pilot's Avatar
Joined APC: Jan 2006
Posts: 574

Funny thing, I read an excerpt of a study that pilots that work more than 13hrs are 5 and half times more likley to have some sort of inccident. I would love to know what the pax think about that since most regional work days exceed the 13hr mark on a regular basis.
poor pilot is offline  
Old 11-02-2009, 02:06 PM
Che Guevara
ToiletDuck's Avatar
Joined APC: Aug 2005
Posts: 6,408

There's always a backside to the story. I'd like to see how the companies plan on dealing with new rules before they are implemented.

1. monthly guarantees
2. staffing levels
3. adjusted compensation for less hours flown
4. commuting requirements
5. A few example of lines or simulated PBS bidding.

I don't want anything that's going to decrease the amount of flying I do in a day so I get to spend more days on the job, less days at home, and more days commuting all for less pay after it's all said and done.
ToiletDuck is offline  
Old 11-02-2009, 02:51 PM
Gets Weekends Off
Joined APC: Jan 2007
Posts: 224

Originally Posted by poor pilot
Funny thing, I read an excerpt of a study that pilots that work more than 13hrs are 5 and half times more likley to have some sort of inccident. I would love to know what the pax think about that since most regional work days exceed the 13hr mark on a regular basis.
I don't know who you work for but, at my regional about 4% of the pairings have a day that is 13 hours or longer and none have more then one day in the pairing 13 hours or longer.
be76flyer is offline  
Old 11-02-2009, 02:59 PM
Gets Weekends Off
Joined APC: Sep 2009
Position: Furloughed
Posts: 281

Originally Posted by be76flyer
I don't know who you work for but, at my regional about 4% of the pairings have a day that is 13 hours or longer and none have more then one day in the pairing 13 hours or longer.
There are some regionals out there where on a 4 day trip you will commonly have 2-3 days that exceed 13 hours, possibly all 4.
yamahas3 is offline  
Old 11-02-2009, 04:26 PM
Gets Weekends Off
Joined APC: Oct 2008
Posts: 1,530

Originally Posted by FlyJSH
"Maybe the frequency of the flights keeps them more alert and active."

He's on to something there, maybe that's why we're fatigued!
Purpleanga is offline  
Old 11-02-2009, 04:31 PM
Gets Weekends Off
Stew75's Avatar
Joined APC: Jun 2008
Position: PA-32 CA, CE-525 CA
Posts: 171

Originally Posted by yamahas3
There are some regionals out there where on a 4 day trip you will commonly have 2-3 days that exceed 13 hours, possibly all 4.
Mine would be one of them. I had a 5 day every day was at LEAST 12.5 hours of duty and 1 day of 15 hours.
Stew75 is offline  
Related Topics
Thread Starter
Last Post
07-09-2009 11:52 AM
Hangar Talk
05-24-2009 01:20 PM
12-07-2008 07:28 PM
09-16-2008 09:43 AM

Posting Rules
You may not post new threads
You may not post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

BB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is On
HTML code is Off
Trackbacks are On
Pingbacks are On
Refbacks are On

Thread Tools
Search this Thread
Your Privacy Choices