Colorado State Legislative Director

Safety is job number one for UTU-represented pilots employed by Great Lakes Airlines.

Yet their current contract with the carrier is substandard in terms of working conditions and wages that daily puts pressure on their ability to fly passengers safely.

The image of airline pilots earning high wages and access to company-paid top-flight hotel rooms does not apply to our Great Lakes brothers and sisters.

Under the current contract with Great Lakes Airlines, pilots are 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. These pilots are professionals with extensive training and expertise, and some of them are paid less than entry-level retail and food service jobs.

Imagine a pilot on food stamps, or having to sleep in passenger lounges in airports. Don’t imagine. Just ask a Great Lakes pilot.

Their UTU Local 40 has been in negotiations with Great Lakes management for more than two years, with negotiations locked-down in difficult mediation under provisions of the Railway Labor Act, which also applies to airline workers.

Local 40 flight attendants, also represented by the UTU, recently ratified a new agreement, but negotiations dragged for – yes – 10 years! The pilots are hoping to reach an equitable settlement with Great Lakes Airlines more quickly.

In a recent poll of pilots, 97 percent supported a job action, but that is not possible until the National Mediation Board releases the parties from mediation.

Based in Cheyenne, Wyo., and with hubs in Albuquerque, N.M.; Denver; Los Angeles, Minneapolis and Phoenix, Great Lakes Airlines serves 48 of its destinations through federal subsidies provided by the congressionally created Essential Air Service program. The airline is the nation’s largest provider of Essential Air Service.

The pilots fly 30-passenger Embraer and 19-passenger Beechcraft aircraft.

UTU members can help their brothers and sisters at Great Lakes Airlines by contacting city council members in the cities Great Lakes serves, and by contacting members of Congress.

The message is straight forward: For the safety of the flying public, pilots on Great Lakes Airlines deserve a contract that provides for a livable wage and appropriate accommodations at layover points to ensure they receive undisturbed rest.

To contact your congressional lawmaker on behalf of our brothers and sisters at Great Lakes Airlines, click on the following link:

Then select your state, click on the names of your senators and representative, and you have the information needed to send an email or fax, or make a phone call.

WASHINGTON — The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has announced new rules aimed at preventing dangerous fatigue among passenger aircraft pilots. The rules do not affect all-cargo aircraft pilots.

The new rules are in response to a Colgan Air crash near Buffalo, N.Y., in 2009 that killed 50 people. 

Under the new rules:

• Flight-duty times would range from nine to 14 hours. Additionally, rather than just counting flight time and rest time, flight-duty time would include the time spent flying to the job, which, as in railroading, is called deadheading;

• Flight-time limits will be eight or nine hours, depending on the start time of the pilot’s entire flight duty.

• Minimum rest periods will be 10 hours between shifts. The pilot must have an opportunity for eight hours of uninterrupted sleep during that rest period.

• Pilots must have 30 consecutive hours of rest each week, which is a 25 percent increase over current standards. 

The new rules do, however, allow pilots to sit at the controls for an hour longer per day, from eight hours to as many as nine. 

Also, pilots flying late at night, across multiple time zones or on schedules involving numerous landings and takeoffs, will work shorter shifts than those flying during the day. 

The rule also requires pilots to sign paperwork verifying that they are rested before each flight, in an attempt to educate them and highlight the need for personal responsibility. 

The National Transportation Safety Board has urged safety enhancements to reduce pilot fatigue for decades. Although the board didn’t blame fatigue as a cause in the Colgan crash, it found that neither pilot appeared to have slept in a bed the night before the accident. 

The rules will take effect in two years, and cost passenger airlines $297 million over 10 years. The rules will, however, save airlines $247 million to $470 million in reduced accidents and lower health-care expenses for pilots, according to the FAA.