go! Airlines Pilots Speak Out About Unsafe Scheduling
The audio of the above video is less than optimal. To assist in understanding what is being said, we have included the transcript of the entire video.
We encourage you to view this and form your own opinions. This kind of scheduling by “regional” carriers is the kind of marketplace practice that causes reputable and safe carriers, such as Aloha Airlines (now defunct due to go! Airlines), to either capitulate to the lowest common denominator in the market or go out of business.
Either way, you lose. The FAA refuses to regulate such practices.
Keahi Tucker: They say it happens more than you realize. Good evening, I’m Keahi Tucker…
Kim Gennaula: …and I’m Kim Gennaula. Pilots tell us they are so exhausted, they fall asleep at the controls.
Keahi Tucker: Tonight, more proof and more controversy. We first broke the story of two Go! Airlines pilots that may have slept on a flight to Hilo two weeks ago. As the FAA and Mesa Airlines continue their investigation, we go in depth tonight with an outpouring of new details from inside the industry. KGMB9 Stacey Loe has more on our top story.
Stacey Loe: Since our story aired, I have received more than 60 emails from pilots across the country. Many claim to be current or former Mesa employees who say this is a problem that needs to be addressed. Some of their claims are chilling.
When you fly, do you know how rested your pilots are? In almost every email we received, it is the same story. Pilots say that fatigue is a real factor and sleeping in the cockpit happens more often than passengers realize.
“I have personally flown flights with captains that have fallen asleep,” writes one pilot with Mesa, that owns Go! Airlines.
Another we spoke to admits he has done it, but says he is not proud of it.
Unnamed Pilot One: “I’ve fallen asleep, there have been times I’ve told the other crew members ‘I’m out. You have the airplane.’”
Stacey Loe: According to FAA regulations, pilots can fly for up to eight hours but can be on duty up to sixteen hours per day. One former Mesa pilot says that long days were standard practice at the airlines where he flew for six years.
Unnamed Pilot Two: “There would be many, many times we would be on duty for sixteen hours and completely wiped out. And then depending on if it was a three or four day trip, you know that could be day one or day two and you still had two more days to go.”
Stacey Loe: Another former Mesa pilot tells KMGB9 that he recently resigned during a trip that included flying and commute time that would have approached twenty-two hours. This copy of his schedule confirms that.
Unnamed Pilot Three: And then after that, they wanted me to have minimum rest – amount of hours off again – and go back to work. (unintelligible few seconds) It was absolutely incredible.
Stacey Loe: The rules allow a minimum of 8 hours of rest time and it starts only after the pilots land the airplane, but it doesn’t mean the crewmember is getting eight hours of sleep.
Unnamed Pilot Four: “From that point, you still need to get off the plane, get your stuff, walk out, wait for a shuttle bus. That could be another 10-15 minutes, and then it could be another 20 minutes to get to your hotel, get to your room.”
Stacey Loe: All airlines have a policy designed to protect pilots – those too tired to fly – to call in “fatigued” without fear of retribution. But a former Mesa pilot says it is not that easy.
Unnamed Pilot Five: “You just can’t call in fatigued because you are tired. If a schedule is technically legal – FAA minimum legal – then that is not enough, not enough of a reason.
Stacey Loe: Mesa CEO, Johnathan Orenstein says, “We don’t write the rules, we abide by them. We’ve done it for 25 years and we will continue to do so for the next 25 years.”
But does legal mean it’s safe? The FAA says, “Yes.”
Ian Gregor (FAA Pacific Region): We believe the current FAA work rule hours are sufficient and effective. It’s really up to the pilots and the airlines to ensure pilots are properly rested.
Stacey Loe: The FAA considered changing the rules back in 1995, but failed to reach a consensus with the aviation community. Pilot fatigue is on the National Transportation Safety Board’s “Most Wanted List” when it comes to safety improvements. The agency asked the FAA to modify its rules, to take into consideration research findings on fatigue and sleep issues. On its website, the NTSB says the FAA’s response on this issue has been “unacceptable.”
Ian Gregor (FAA Pacific Region): We take everything the NTSB sends very seriously, and in many cases, we do implement their recommendations.
Stacey Loe: But not soon enough for pilots who say that until the flight rules are changed, fatigue will remain a factor in the skies.
The FAA says that if in fact pilots are falling asleep in the cockpits or if their company is forcing them to fly when they are too tired, they want to know about it. Only then, can they do something about it.