Friday, October 29, 2010

AirTran flight attendants file for mediation of contract negotiations

by B. N. Sullivan

AirTran Airways logoThe flight attendants at AirTran Airways have filed with the National Mediation Board (NMB) for mediation of contract negotiations. After more than three years of talks, the flight attendants' union believes that their  negotiations with AirTran management have reached an impasse.  AirTran flight attendants are represented by the Association of Flight Attendants-CWA (AFA).

A press statement issued by the AFA explains:
Southwest Airlines recently announced its intention to acquire AirTran.  Although the ownership of AirTran is about to change, this does not negate the carrier’s obligation to negotiate with its flight attendants in good faith.

“It is an interesting marriage,” said Alison Head, AFA-CWA AirTran President.  “I was surprised by all the characterizations of AirTran as ‘employee-centric’ because we have certainly not witnessed that.  For over three years, AFA-CWA has tried to work with management on negotiating a contract that adequately reflects the work and dedication we continue to provide to this airline.”

Following the announcement of the acquisition by Southwest, AirTran management approached AFA-CWA requesting an abbreviated list of the flight attendants’ greatest concerns in order to expedite negotiations.  When presented with the union’s “short list” proposal, the company responded with a counterproposal consisting mostly of existing contract language and minimal pay increases.   In addition, they failed to address the most basic work, duty and rest provisions.

“Management’s failure to effectively manage resources and respect the quality-of-life issues are at the heart of our contract demands,” stated Head.   “Just last Friday, Mr. Fornaro asserted that he ‘would like to enter into the relationship with Southwest with everything buttoned up.’  Obviously, the company is not committed to getting an agreement with its flight attendants.  AirTran flight attendants want a contract and will not sit idly by watching management drag this process on any longer.  The flight attendants’ contribution to the success of this airline cannot be ignored.”
Meanwhile, AirTran pilots announced several days ago that they had reached a tentative contract agreement with the airline's management.  A ratification vote on the pilot contract is expected to take place next month.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

American Airlines Boeing 757 with hole in fuselage lands safely at Miami

by B. N. Sullivan

American AirlinesEarlier this week, an American Airlines Boeing 757-200 aircraft made an emergency landing at Miami International Airport after experiencing a rapid decompression.  The incident occurred late on the evening of October 26, 2010 not long after the aircraft had departed Miami en route to Boston.  After the aircraft landed safely, it was discovered to have a hole in the fuselage. No one was injured.

The Aviation Herald published this brief description of the incident:
An American Airlines Boeing 757-200, registration N626AA performing flight AA-1640 from Miami,FL to Boston,MA (USA) with 154 passengers and 6 crew, had been cleared to climb to FL310 when the airplane suffered a rapid decompression.  The crew donned their oxygen masks and initiated an emergency descent, the passenger oxygen masks were deployed.  After reaching 10,000 feet the crew requested even lower and descended further to 8000 feet and returned to Miami for a safe landing on Miami's runway 08R about 40 minutes after departure.

A post flight inspection revealed a hole of about 1 foot by 2 feet (33 by 66cm) just above and aft of the L1 door and just above the "A" of the American Airlines Logo.
Visit the Aviation Herald to view photos of the damaged aircraft. Pretty sobering stuff!

If you are thinking this incident sounds vaguely familiar, you are not alone.  When I heard about it, the first thing that came to mind was a similar incident in 2009 involving a Southwest Airlines Boeing 737-300.  In that case, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) determined the probably cause to be: "Fuselage skin failure due to pre-existing fatigue at a chemically milled step."

To refresh your memory, you can click here to read about the Southwest B737 incident.

Allegiant Air flight attendants file for union representation election

by B. N. Sullivan

Allegiant Air flight attendants have filed a petition with the U.S. National Mediation Board (NMB) to hold a union representation election.  The flight attendants are seeking representation by the Transport Workers Union of America (TWU).

The TWU Allegiant Air organizers said about the NMB filing:
We are one step closer to having a level playing field, a seat at the negotiating table, and a collective bargaining agreement with management that takes away our status as “at-will” employees.
If the representation election is successful, the flight attendants will be the first work group at Allegiant to be unionized.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Continental Airlines flight attendants reject tentative contract agreement

 by B. N. Sullivan

Continental Airlines flight attendants have rejected a temporary contract agreement (TA), which was reached in September.  Their union, the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers (IAM) announced the results of the ratification vote earlier today: 61% of the membership participated, and of those, 45% voted to accept the TA and 55% voted to reject it.

In a statement about the failed ratification vote, the IAM said:
In meetings held with the membership at all bases it became clear the Flight Attendants prefer a complete agreement that provides full recovery of items sacrificed in the previous round of concessionary bargaining, such as sick leave, vacation and 401K Match instead of an interim agreement.

Although we acknowledged from the outset that the Tentative Interim Agreement did not contain everything the membership - or the committee – wanted, in light of the merger with United Airlines it would have been irresponsible of the committee not to allow the Flight Attendants an opportunity to view and vote on the wages, fence agreement and no furlough clause we had achieved in the company’s last proposal.  As the Negotiating Committee indicated before voting began, we would be guided by the membership’s direction, and that direction is clear.

Merger or no merger Continental has a legal obligation to negotiate.  We have notified Continental that we are prepared to immediately resume bargaining which will address the comprehensive agreement that fulfills goals the membership expressed.
Sounds like it's back to the bargaining table for the IAM and Continental management. 

CommutAir pilots protest proposed 9% pay cut

by B. N. Sullivan

Pilots for CommutAir, a Continental Connection carrier, picketed at Cleveland Hopkins International Airport yesterday to protest proposed pay cuts they say would make them the lowest-paid pilots for their aircraft type in the airline industry.

CommutAir pilots are represented by the Air Line Pilots Association (ALPA).  In a statement to the press, the union said:
Coming at a time when experts agree the regional airline sector needs improvement, the pilots warned that CommutAir management’s plan to lower their wages is a direct assault on efforts to raise standards among regional carriers.

“No one wins in a race to the bottom,” said Colgan Air Capt. Mark Segaloff, who was recently elected to represent the CommutAir group as an executive vice-president of the Air Line Pilots Association, Int’l. (ALPA).  The CMT pilots joined the Association in 2008 and are negotiating their first union contract.

“Under CommutAir’s most recent contract offer, a new-hire pilot would make less than $20,000 a year,” Segaloff continued.  “Every airline pilot has a stake in what’s happening at this small airline, because if CommutAir is successful in cutting pay when the industry is coming out of its slump, they will lower the bar for regional pilots across the country.”

The 134 pilots of CommutAir, based in North Olmsted, OH, began negotiations 20 months ago.  In September the company unveiled its economic proposal: a 9 percent pay cut.  ALPA’s economic proposal requests pay increases to bring the low-paying airline into parity with pilots flying similar turboprop aircraft.

“All the CommutAir pilots are asking for is an industry-standard wage.  My airline, Mesaba, American Eagle, ExpressJet, and others have all weathered the same financial storms CommutAir has, and they set the market rate,” said Comair Capt. Mark Cirksena, who traveled from Cincinnati to support the CommutAir picketers.  “The pilots at CommutAir need a living wage with a reasonable quality of life.”
Joining the CommutAir pilots on the picket line were ALPA members from 13 other carriers, including Continental, Delta, AirTran, ExpressJet, Colgan, Comair, Spirit, Mesaba, Air Wisconsin, Mesa, North American, Atlantic Southeast, and Trans States.

[Photo Source]

Monday, October 25, 2010

AirTran pilots and management reach a tentative contract agreement

by B. N. Sullivan

AirTran Airways logoAfter more than five years of negotiations, the pilots at AirTran Airways have reached a tentative contract agreement with the airline's management.  The deal was announced late last week by the Air Line Pilots Association (ALPA), which has represented AirTran's pilots since 2009.

Details of the tentative agreement (TA) have not been disclosed, pending approval by the AirTran Master Executive Council (MEC) and ratification by the pilot membership.  However Linden Hillman, chairman of ALPA's AirTran unit said, “We believe that this contract provides significant improvements in pay, quality of life, and other important benefits that our pilots have earned and deserve.”

If the MEC representatives give their approval, the TA will be put to the membership for a ratification vote next month.

In September of this year, AirTran Airways agreed to be acquired by Southwest Airlines.  The acquisition is awaiting regulatory and shareholder approval.

“After our pilots get to vote on our new contract, we will be able to focus completely on the upcoming transition and merger with the Southwest pilot group,” said Hillman. “Our professional pilots with similar cultures and work ethic will combine to form an industry-leading workforce.”

Southwest's pilots are represented by the Southwest Airlines Pilots' Association (SWAPA), an independent union not affiliated with ALPA.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Spirit Airlines recruiting pilots

by B. N. Sullivan

Spirit AirlinesSpirit Airlines is actively recruiting pilots to become First Officers on its Airbus A320 fleet.  According to a job notice on the Careers section of the Spirit Airlines Web site, the minimum requirements are:
  • 4,000 hours total time in fixed wing aircraft.
  • 1,000 hours in multi-engine aircraft (at least 50 hours flown within the last 12 months).
  • Current FAA First Class Medical Certificate.
  • Current Airline Transport Pilot License.
  • Valid passport/documents with the ability to travel in and out of the USA and all cities/countries served by Spirit Airlines now and in the future.
Among the preferred qualificationss:
  • A320 Type Rating
  • Undergraduate degree from an accredited college or university.
  • Experience in 121 airlines or turbojet aircraft.
  • Experience in aircraft equipped with EFIS and/or FMS.
Follow this link to apply online.

Good Luck!

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Plane crash attributed to escaped crocodile on board: True or not?

by B. N. Sullivan

According to a story that has popped up on several news Web sites, a crocodile may have been instrumental in causing the fatal crash of a Let L-410 turboprop aircraft earlier this year.  The gist of the story is as follows:
  • a passenger smuggled a crocodile on board in hand baggage
  • the crocodile escaped from the bag as the aircraft was descending
  • frightened at the sight of the reptile, the flight attendant and passengers rushed forward
  • this altered the aircraft's center of gravity
  • the crew lost control of the aircraft and it crashed
To be candid, I have some doubts about the veracity of these reports -- but then again, while the tale about the crocodile's role in the disaster seems far-fetched, I suppose it is not impossible.

What is certain is that the aircraft, operated by Filair, went down near Bandundu, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) on August 25, 2010, killing 19 people, including the crew.  There was one survivor.  Some time later he, too, was reported to have died of his injuries, but not before he was able to give a statement about the accident to investigating authorities.

Within days of the accident, the Aviation Herald reported this account:
On Aug 27th Filair said the only survivor of the crash was able to provide testimony to investigators.  According to this statement the crew had been told to land on a "reserve strip" alongside the main runway.  The passengers noticed that the airplane was not heading for the runway 11/29 (1380 meters/4530 feet long) and began shouting, then rushed to the cockpit unbalancing the aircraft to a point, where control was lost.  Fuel exhaustion was not the problem, 150 liters of fuel were recovered from the wreckage.  The black boxes were recovered from the wreckage by the Civil Aviation Authority and are being analysed.
No mention of crocodiles at that time.

Here are links to two of the news stories featuring the crocodile version on and

So, what do you think?  Does the crocodile story sound plausible?  Or do you think this is a rumor turned legend-in-the-making?

[Image Source]

RELATED:  Fatal crash of Filair Let L-410 at Bandundu, DR Congo

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Fatal L-100 Hercules cargo plane crash in Afghanistan

by B. N. Sullivan

An L-100 Hercules cargo aircraft has crashed in the mountains of Afghanistan near Kabul, killing all on board. The aircraft, owned by Transafrik International and operating as a charter for National Air Cargo as Flight MUA-662, was en route from Bagram Air Base (BPM) to Kabul (KBL) at the time of the accident.  The accident occurred on October 12, 2010 at about 19:30 local time.

News reports about the accident vary as to whether there were seven, eight or nine people on board.  In any case, all on board are reported to have perished in the accident.

Few details are available, but Afghan news website quoted an eyewitness who said the plane "burst into flames after crashing into mountains in the Mahipar pass."  The Mahipar pass is situated along the highway between Kabul and Jalalabad.

An AFP article about the accident quoted a police official from the area near the accident site who said the fire was still burning two hours after the crash.

The Lockheed L-100 is the civilian equivalent of the military C-130.

Thursday, October 07, 2010

American Airlines to recall 250 furloughed pilots and 545 flight attendants

by B. N. Sullivan

American AirlinesAmerican Airlines (AA) is recalling 250 furloughed pilots and 545 flight attendants, according to Gerard Arpey, CEO of AMR Corporation, the parent of AA.  During a press conference in London, Mr. Arpey announced the recalls in conjunction with the initiation of new international routes arising from AA's joint business agreement with Iberia and British Airways .

Recalls will take place incrementally  Pilot recalls will begin in November 2010 when 25 pilots will be brought back to work; then, beginning in December, another 30 pilots will be recalled each month.  American currently has nearly 2,000 pilots on furlough.

Flight attendants are expected to be recalled in two groups.  The first 225 will be asked to return to to AA later this month, and the remaining 320 should receive recall notices before the end of this year.  The majority of flight attendants set to be recalled are former TWA crew, many of whom were laid off nearly a decade ago.

Wednesday, October 06, 2010

Air Transat pilots ratify new contract

by B. N. Sullivan

Pilots at Air Transat have ratified their new contract.  The Air Line Pilots Association (ALPA), which represents Air Transat pilots, says that 87% of eligible pilots cast ballots, and 75% of those were in favor of ratifying the agreement.

“We are really pleased with the results,” said Capt. Sylvain Aubin, chairman of the pilots’ Master Executive Council (MEC).  “With these strong numbers, our pilots have once again demonstrated their unity as they have done throughout the entire collective bargaining process.”  The successful ratification by Air Transat pilots represents over 13 months of strategic planning by members of Air Transat’s MEC and Negotiating Committee.

According to ALPA, the new agreement provides employment protection for long-term job stability, improvements to pay rate, and lifestyle considerations that incorporate fatigue-mitigation factors.

The pilots of Air Transat and Transat A.T. management now begin the process of implementing the new collective agreement.  “Our pilots have spoken with a unified voice,” said Capt. Aubin.  “We anticipate management to deal responsibly and expeditiously with the implementation of the new agreement.”

Friday, October 01, 2010

Cebu Pacific: How to get passengers to pay attention to the safety briefing

by B. N. Sullivan

Cebu Pacific Air flight attendants demonstrate a novel way to get passengers to pay attention to the safety briefing:

If the video does not play or display properly above, click here to view it on YouTube.

RELATED: Southwest Airlines' rapping flight attendant