Whiney Pilots Complain That Stingy Airlines Are Forcing Them To Fly "Uncomfortably Low On Fuel"

Ugh, those selfish pilots can’t be bothered to help their airlines return to profitability. No, instead they’re whining to NASA that they’re being forced to fly “uncomfortably low on fuel” and that “safety for passengers and crews could be compromised.”

These flight simulator jockeys want more fuel, but that isn’t likely to happen anytime soon even with oil at $117 a barrel and crashing fast. The FAA finds the situation perfectly acceptable.

“We can’t dabble in the business policies or the personnel policies of an airline,” said FAA spokesman Les Dorr. He said there was no indication safety regulations were being violated.

The September 2005 safety alert was issued by NASA’s confidential Aviation Safety Reporting System, which allows air crews to report safety problems without fear their names will be disclosed.

With fuel prices now their biggest cost, airlines are aggressively enforcing new policies designed to reduce consumption.

Just look at the complaints flooding into NASA’s Aviation Safety Reporting System:

“I know our program manager is ranking captains on landing with less fuel. I don’t care to be ranked. I think this is a safety problem and I believe fuel is your friend,” the captain said. “Looking back, I would have liked more gas yesterday, and I was already carrying tanker fuel. If I wouldn’t have had this extra there would have been real problems.”

The captain of a Boeing 747 said he began to run low on fuel after meeting strong headwinds over the Atlantic en route to JFK in New York in February. After contacting his company to discuss a refueling stop, the captain said he was told by his operations manager that the flight actually needed less fuel than had been loaded on board and would have enough to get to JFK without stopping.

But by the time he reached JFK, his fuel was “far below my comfort zone and probably less than the minimum fuel required by the FARs (federal aviation regulations),” the captain said. “Our fuel situation had not become critical yet, but had we had any delay, I would have had to declare a fuel emergency.”

“I am not sure if the ‘flight plan’ as given to me by my company was a real flight plan, or if they were just telling me it was so that I would continue to JFK … thus saving them time and expense. … In the future, if such a situation presents itself again, I will divert to my initial destination regardless of what my company says I can do. The safety of my crew far outweighs any financial burden to the company.”

The captain of a Boeing 737 en route to Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport in February said he was forced to divert in bad weather to Palm Beach International Airport to refuel because less than the normal amount of fuel for the flight was loaded before takeoff.

“This was probably the new fuel-saving initiative by the company management to save money,” the captain said. “North-South operation is very unpredictable along the East Coast. I don’t think this is a place where we should skimp on fuel.”

The captain said he had a “lengthy discussion” with his company’s dispatcher “relaying my opinion on the reduced fuel load and my suggestion not to compromise fuel loads in and out of Florida.” But the captain said he received the same reduced amount on his next flight.

“So much for my professional input!” he said.

The airlines have made it clear that pilots who don’t stop whining and start flying will be fired.

American notified dispatchers July 7 that their records on fuel approved for flights would be monitored, and dispatchers not abiding by company guidelines could ultimately be fired.

Union officials responded that “it appears safety has become a second thought” for the company. American and US Airways blame the complaints on labor negotiations – both are in contract talks with the complaining unions.

Look people, it’s been 18 years since a plane crashed because it ran out of fuel. That means there isn’t a problem anymore. Besides, 85 people survived.

Pilots forced to fly low on fuel worry about safety [AP]
Pilots’ reports on low fuel [AP]
Avianca Flight 52 [Wikipedia]