Singling out sleep apnea doesn’t solve the critical problem of fatigue in the transportation industry, stated Joseph Ciemny, SMART TD assistant Illinois legislative director, at a joint comment session of the Federal Railroad Administration and Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, held recently in Chicago. Read the complete article here.


The FAA is working with the commercial aviation and medical communities to study the emotional and mental health of U.S. commercial pilots.

The joint FAA and industry group known as the Commercial Aviation Safety Team (CAST) recommended the study based on the recent Malaysia Flight 370 and Germanwings Flight 9525 accidents.

The Pilot Fitness Aviation Rulemaking Committee (ARC) will provide the FAA with recommendations within six months. The group will include U.S. and international government and industry aviation experts, including a working group of medical professionals who specialize in aerospace medicine.

U.S. pilots undergo robust medical screening, but recent accidents in other parts of the world prompted the FAA to take a new look at the important issue of pilot fitness. 

The ARC will examine issues including the awareness and reporting of emotional and mental health issues, the methods used to evaluate pilot emotional and mental health, and barriers to reporting such issues.

Based on the group’s recommendations, the FAA may consider changes to medical methods, aircraft design, policies and procedures, pilot training and testing, training for Aerospace Medical Examiners, or potential actions that may be taken by professional, airline, or union groups. The ARC’s meetings will not be open to the public.

Federal Aviation Regulations outline the medical requirements for pilots. U.S airline pilots undergo a medical exam with an FAA-approved physician every six or twelve months depending on the pilot’s age.


After nearly three years of mediation with Great Lakes Airlines in conjunction with the National Mediation Board, SMART Transportation Division-represented airline pilots employed by the company have finally reached an agreement with the carrier.

Following several requests by the pilots’ local representatives to the NMB to be released from mediation, the affected pilots and SMART representatives reached a tentative agreement in late June.

A four-year contract with significant wage increases and beneficial work-rule changes was approved Sept. 16 with 80 percent of the ballots cast in support of the deal. GO 040 General Committee of Adjustment Vice Chairperson Diane King reports that 92 percent of all eligible pilots voted.


GO 040 General Committee of Adjustment Chairperson Matthew Klundt said many of the GLA pilots were exasperated by the long ordeal. “The word ‘strike’ kept coming up among our members at local meetings, but we were all relieved when we saw a light at the end of the tunnel in June. I personally thank Transportation Division President John Previsich, Vice President Jeremy Ferguson and other union officers for encouraging our members to let the process play out,” he said.

On average, airline captains will receive an immediate 20 percent pay increase, first officers an immediate 22 percent increase, and certified airline transport pilot first officers will see an immediate 50 to 55 percent pay increase, depending on what aircraft they are operating.

All Great Lakes pilots will then receive additional two to three percent wage increases each year, through 2017. Realistically, the increases will amount to about 5.5 to six percent per year with the longevity increases built into the agreement.

Other wage scales have also been negotiated for pilots operating jet airline service in anticipation of the carrier possibly purchasing those aircraft in the future.


“Hopefully, this will come to fruition soon as the number of passengers using Great Lakes’ services has been steadily shrinking due to competition providing faster jet service,” Ferguson said. “The airline’s flights have also decreased due to pilot shortages created by new Federal Aviation Administration regulations which resulted in GLA pilots being recruited by larger carriers. I think this agreement is a win for both sides.”

The airline currently operates only Beechcraft 1900D and Embraer EMB-120 Brasilia turbo-prop aircraft with available seating ranging from nine to 30 seats.

The new contract also contains the following provisions:

  • An increase in the daily allowance for expenses (per diem) rate from $1.35 to $1.50 per hour;
  • An improved discipline grievance procedure, allowing for formal investigations with proper notice, including written notification of the charges, time limits on the notice, time limits on when a hearing can be held, the right to cross examine company witnesses and the right to a transcript;
  • A limit on pairings or crew pairings that cannot exceed five calendar days (Airline work schedules consist of assignments called “pairings” that are a sequence of flights that begin and end at the same terminal.)
  • After two years, an increase in the minimum monthly off days from 10 to 11;
  • A requirement that pilots not released from service within four hours of his or her originally scheduled release time shall be considered “involuntarily junior assigned.” Pilots may voluntarily pick up one junior assignment, with pay, at a minimum of four hours above guarantee, but involuntary junior assignments are now paid at 125 percent;
  • Vacation accrual rates converted from hours worked per month to weeks worked per year; third-year pilots will now be entitled to two weeks of vacation instead of one, and
  • A new agreement section listing hotel/lodging conditions and establishment of a union oversight committee on lodging.

After the tentative agreement was reached in June, several issues remained open for discussion that were resolved by memorandums of understanding. That led to a delay in the ratification vote until September.

Ferguson praised General Chairperson Klundt and Local 40 (Denver) President John Nolan for their patience throughout the negotiating and mediation process. “Both Matt and John were very driven during the entire process and were a huge asset to the negotiating team and their fellow pilots. They were instrumental in getting the final negotiations across the finish line,” he said.

Aviation_CockpitWASHINGTON – Regional airlines report difficulty over the past year in finding enough pilots to hire, but it isn’t clear whether there is a shortage of pilots, a government watchdog said in a report released Friday.

Researchers found “mixed evidence” of a shortage, said the Government Accountability Office. A key economic indicator supports the emergence of a shortage, but two other indicators suggest the opposite is true. Of three studies reviewed by the GAO that examine the issue, “two point to the large number of qualified pilots that exist, but may be working abroad, in the military, or in another occupation, as evidence that there is adequate supply,” the report said.

Read the complete story at the Associated Press.

gla_planeIf you already read the Aug. 15 article titled “Great Lakes Faces Shortage of Pilots” that was written by James Chilton and published in the Wyoming Tribune Eagle, you may be interested in a broader view of the story.

In response to Great Lakes’ far-flung exertions across the western United States to garner public support through articles of small town newspapers of the communities to which Great Lakes flies, there may be a few things those articles neglected to tell you.

While it is true that the Federal Aviation Administration recently published the final rule increasing the qualification requirements for first officers from 250 to 1,500 flight hours (among other things), it was hardly the unexpected. You may have seen on the news that the Airline Safety and FAA Extension Act of 2010 included several new rulemakings to ensure the highest level of safety possible for the flying public. That’s right – the Act was created in 2010.

These regulations were quickly imposed following the tragic crash in February 2009 of Colgan Air Flight 3407 in Buffalo, N.Y., in which 50 lives were lost. Back in 2010, other airlines (and most significantly, other regional airlines) immediately began planning for this law and implementing new programs to ensure their compliance with the congressional mandate once it went into effect on Aug. 1, 2013. Great Lakes, however, did not.

Any pilot shortage that Great Lakes is now experiencing is completely self-imposed. In 2012, the company had hired 74 new flight crew members, while during the same time period, 43 members left. This was a net increase of 31 people. In contrast, by this time in 2013, the company has hired 15 new flight crew members, furloughed 25, and 78 members took employment elsewhere. This was a net loss of 88 people. Instead of taking proactive measures immediately following the new law being passed, Great Lakes chose to ignore reality until it was too late.

The company had options to offset the attrition rates and still does. They could pay competitive wages to attract pilots who are just beginning their careers. They could retain pilots by agreeing to the proposed collective bargaining agreement changes that would provide for pay increases, decent benefits and an improved quality of life, thereby enticing qualified individuals to stay.

Instead, in April 2013, Great Lakes Airlines attempted a last minute change in their operations hoping to sidestep the new qualification requirements for pilots by petitioning the FAA for what is known in the industry as a “split certificate.” This would allow the airline to, in effect, run two separate airline operations under the same company name. One operation would fall under the Part 121 certificate, which the airline currently has, and the other would fall under the new Part 135 certificate. Part 121 is what the public generally thinks of when they think of flying – scheduled revenue flights with predetermined departure and arrival times. Part 135 flights are generally considered “on-demand” or charter flights.

The FAA granted the split certificate in June, requiring the airline to physically remove 10 passenger seats from each 19-seat Beechcraft 1900D to comply with Part 135 requirements, thereby reducing the number of available seats on Part 135 routes.

But flights operated under Part 135 are not held to the same federal regulations and safety standards as flights operated under Part 121. This means that the airline would be able to dodge the new law and continue to hire pilots with less than 1,500 hours of flight time, since Part 135 operations are not required to comply with the new ruling.

The new law did not “force the airline to drop 30 pilots” as the company stated. The company simply chose to drop those pilots, some of whom had been flying for the company for over a year, because they were no longer qualified under the new regulations. Should those pilots have been required to get their 1,500 hours at their own expense to continue flying for Great Lakes? Of course not, but the airline required them to do just that. This approach by Great Lakes Airlines was not only unfair to the pilots, but also to the flying public whose service is now being disrupted, while the EAS tax dollars continue to flow into the airline’s pocket .

Prior to Aug. 1, 2013, the SMART Transportation Division had been researching possible solutions to the quickly approaching deadline in an effort to save the jobs of approximately 40 pilots – a full 15 percent of our membership. For months, SMART had encouraged the company to explicitly make the contractual scheduling rules more flexible to allow the lower-time pilots to optimize their opportunity for flight hours. The company has hindered those efforts. Individual pilots networked with ATP Flight Schools, who bent over backwards to offer the airline incredible deals that would have saved the company time and money.

The SMART Transportation Division approached Congress and the FAA to request a short extension “grandfather clause” to allow the affected pilots the ability to continue flying under the old regulations in order to achieve the required hours. Congress indicated that they would have agreed, pending a forthcoming collaborative letter from the airline. The company refused to write the letter.

So, where does this leave you? Pure and simple, Great Lakes’ pilots need your help. Contact your mayor and town council. Your airport manager, your congressional representative, your senator. Your local newspaper, your local television station, your favorite blogger. Your best friend’s cousin who knows a “guy.” Give them the link to this ruling.

Tell them that you don’t think it’s right that Great Lakes Airlines uses loopholes to avoid legislation. Tell them that you don’t think it’s right that the pilots at Great Lakes Airlines are working for less than minimum wage. Tell them that you don’t think it’s right that Great Lakes Airlines substitutes the Part 121 service that they agreed to provide to your EAS community with a Part 135 service because YOU, the flying public, will have fewer seats available, a less-experienced flight crew, and less frequent service while the Airline will continue to receive EAS taxpayer funding.

Tell them that you don’t think it’s right that the pilots at Great Lakes Airlines are required to work more grueling schedules, under more difficult conditions, with less sophisticated equipment, into more challenging environments, while working for lower wages and under rest rules that provide for less sleep than pilots at any other airline in the country.

Tell them that you don’t think it’s right that Great Lakes Airlines profits off the backs of hundreds of hardworking employees, just like you, who do the right thing and come to work every day, just to make sure that your family gets home safely.

Maybe you didn’t know about this. Now you do.

Tell them.

See these related items on A tired pilot is a tired pilot, regardless of plane and Inside the secret world of tired pilots.

Sleeping_manMany airlines do not provide sleeping quarters for their off-duty pilots, yet the pilots are expected to get the required amount of sleep in order to function during their next flight often in an away-from-home city.

Some pilots make as little at $17,000 a year and so are forced to sleep in cheap “crash pads” or in “crew rooms” where there isn’t even a bed or decent place to lay their heads.

Click here to view a slideshow from ABC News of some of the uncomfortable and/or unsanitary places pilots and crew-members are forced to sleep due to lack of funding and the airlines’ refusal to pay for decent accommodations for its employees.

Aviation_CockpitNews broke recently that two pilots reported falling asleep while operating a long-haul Airbus 330 flight to the U.K. full of passengers. For an unknown length of time, autopilot kept the aircraft flying. Before the Aug. 13 flight, the pilots had slept only five hours over the previous two nights. The event brings yet another reminder of the dangers posed by fatigued pilots.

The Federal Aviation Administration will soon address the issue, implementing long-overdue new fatigue standards for pilots. But those requirements won’t apply to cargo aircraft pilots, not even when they’re flying a Boeing 747 halfway around the world. By excluding cargo pilots from its new rules, the FAA is failing to adhere to its mission of making safety the first priority in aviation. If the FAA believes even one life lost in an accident is too many, shouldn’t that principle also apply to cargo pilots?

Read the full story at The Wall Street Journal.

Aviation_CockpitWASHINGTON – Airline pilots spend nearly all their time monitoring automated cockpit systems rather than “hand-flying” planes, but their brains aren’t wired to continually pay close attention to instruments that rarely fail or show discrepancies.

As a result, pilots may see but not register signs of trouble, a problem that is showing up repeatedly in accidents and may have been a factor in the recent crash landing of a South Korean airliner in San Francisco, industry and government experts say.

Read the complete story at the Associated Press.

After 53 fruitless mediated bargaining sessions stretching over almost three years between United Transportation Union-represented pilots and Great Lakes Airlines, the union has asked the National Mediation Board to declare an impasse in the talks, release the parties from mediation and make a proffer of binding arbitration.

Great Lakes Airlines pilots are members of United Transportation Union (UTU) Local 40 in Denver.

Great Lakes Airlines is based in Cheyenne, Wyo., and serves 48 of its destinations with assistance from federal subsidies provided by the congressionally created Essential Air Service program. The airline is the nation’s largest provider of Essential Air Service and those federal subsidies assure air service to communities in rural areas that are without easy access to the nation’s transportation network.

In seeking the release from mediation and a proffer of binding arbitration, UTU International President Mike Futhey told the NMB that despite the 53 mediated bargaining sessions in which the UTU has sought to bargain in good faith, “the airline has refused even to discuss an acceptable offer, thus creating an impasse.”

Airlines, as railroads, are governed by the Railway Labor Act (RLA), which puts the National Mediation Board (NMB) in control of negotiations until such time as the NMB determines there is an impasse and releases the parties from mediation. If either side rejects a proffer of binding arbitration, the Railway Labor Act provides for a series of cooling-off periods, during which the White House may appoint a Presidential Emergency Board (PEB) to make non-binding recommendations for a settlement.

If the sides cannot reach a voluntary settlement based on those recommendations, or if a PEB is not appointed – and PEBs are rare in stalled airline negotiations — then either side becomes free to engage in self-help, which could include a work stoppage by pilots.

UTU International Vice President John Previsich, who is assigned to assist in the negotiations, said, “Self-help from either party is not UTU’s desired outcome for this process as it would have a significant negative impact on the Essential Air Service provided by Great Lakes Airlines. The UTU’s desire is that the parties reach a mutually satisfactory agreement and avoid any interruption to the Essential Air Service.”

From the onset of negotiations with Great Lakes Airlines in October 2009, the UTU has presented evidence that the current contract – which the UTU seeks to amend under provisions of the RLA – is substandard in terms of working conditions and wages that daily puts pressure on Great Lakes pilots whose highest priority is to fly passengers safely.

Under the current contract with Great Lakes Airlines, pilots are among the lowest paid of any scheduled passenger airline in the United States.

On Great Lakes Airlines, a first officer can expect to make less than $15,000 in the first year.

The carrier’s latest offer provides that first officers will continue to make less than the flight attendants with whom they are working. In addition, the airline proposed a reduction of 15 percent in the monthly guarantee for all pilots.

These pilots are professionals with extensive training and expertise, and some of them are paid less than entry-level retail and food service jobs.

Difficult negotiations with Great Lakes Airlines are not rare. Great Lakes Airlines flight attendants, now represented by the UTU and also members of UTU Local 40, were in negotiations with the airline for 10 years (initiated prior to the selection of UTU as their bargaining representative in 2009) before a new agreement was reached and ratified.

The UTU-negotiated contract for flight attendants is the only ratified agreement the carrier has received with any labor organization since the first contracts were negotiated in the 1990s.

The pilots fly 30-passenger Embraer and 19-passenger Beechcraft aircraft, serving airports in Arizona, California, Colorado, Iowa, Kansas, Nebraska, Nevada, New Mexico, North Dakota, Michigan, Minnesota, South Dakota, Utah and Wyoming, and with crew bases in Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico, North Dakota, Minnesota, South Dakota and Wyoming.

The local hosts its own website,

WASHINGTON – Qualification requirements for first officers who fly for U.S. passenger and cargo airlines would be “substantially” raised under a proposed Federal Aviation Administration new rulemaking to be published in the Federal Register Feb. 29.

The agency, in a notice of proposed rulemaking, is responding to a mandate in the Airline Safety and Federal Aviation Administration Extension Act of 2010.

The FAA, subject to public comment and publication of a final rule, proposes that first officers – also known as copilots – hold an Airline Transport Pilot (ATP) certificate, requiring 1,500 hours of pilot flight time. Currently, first officers are required to have only a commercial pilot certificate, which requires 250 hours of flight time.

The proposed rule also would require first officers to have an aircraft-type rating, which involves additional training and testing specific to the airplanes they fly.

Other highlights of the proposed rule include:

* A requirement that pilots have a minimum of 1,000 flight hours as a pilot in air carrier operations that require an ATP prior to serving as a captain for a U.S. airline.

* Enhanced training requirements for an ATP certificate, including 50 hours of multi-engine flight experience and completion of a new FAA-approved training program.

* An allowance for pilots with fewer than 1,500 hours of flight time, but who have an aviation degree or military pilot experience, to obtain a “restricted privileges” ATP certificate. These pilots could serve only as a first officer, not as a captain. Former military pilots with 750 hours of flight time could apply for an ATP certificate with restricted privileges. Graduates of a four-year baccalaureate aviation degree could to obtain an ATP with 1,000 hours of flight time only if they also obtained a commercial pilot certificate and instrument rating from a pilot school affiliated with the university or college.

To read the notice of proposed rulemaking, click on the following link:

The public may comment on the proposal for 60 days after publication Feb. 29 in the Federal Register.