Comair Flight Attendant's Fatigue

JECKEL

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continued from Unions: Comair Crews Fly Tired

By James Pilcher • jpilcher@enquirer.com • May 31, 2009


Flight attendants' fatigue

Comair flight attendant union president Connie Slayback says that she has seen more flight attendants brought up on discipline charges for trying to call in for being fatigued in the past six months than in the past five years combined.
"We know we don't fly the planes, but we see less willingness to look at the circumstances surrounding fatigue," said Slayback, whose local branch of the Teamsters represents about 1,000 flight attendants. She says that flight attendants are concerned for their own safety, but also need to be alert in case an emergency evacuation is needed.
Both unions deny using the rest/safety issue as a potential bargaining ploy in advance of contract negotiations scheduled to start next year. Both unions approved concessions as part of Delta's bankruptcy, but went to court to fight the imposition of company rules.
"This has been a general progression to the point where I felt I had to stand up and say something," said Robles, the lead representative for Comair's branch of the Air Line Pilots Association for the Lexington crash. "I'm not going to wave the safety card. We feel that we run a safe airline, but this is something where we could do a lot better and we're willing to sit down any time and any place with the company to fix it."
 

samballs

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Comair crews tired, union says
Cincinnati Enquirer
June 1, 2009
Comair is increasingly pressuring pilots and flightattendants to fly even when they are tired and to work to the verylimits of federal and company rest rules, the Erlanger-based regionalairline's flight crew unions say.
The unions also say that not only are crews having to work16-hour days and fly a full eight hours more often, but those crews areincreasingly given only eight hours between shifts to get to a hotel,eat, sleep and return to work with the promise of more rest the nextnight. That is allowed by the existing contract but previously onlyused in the case of bad weather, union officials say. Negotiations on anew deal for both unions are set to start next year.
In addition, many pilots and flight attendants have takento sleeping on couches overnight in crew lounges like the ones at NewYork's JFK International Airport, where Comair is expanding a crew baseand taking over more flying.
"When a pilot calls in sick or fatigued, there is a lot ofpressure from the company to keep what they call 'operationalintegrity'," said Dave Robles, a 12-year Comair captain and the1,200-member local pilot union's top safety official. "We really wantto work with the company on this. Fatigue is a big word and acomplicated issue that we all need to take a look at. But there is thesense that many people really don't want to examine it because they areafraid of what they might find."
Comair, owned by Atlanta-based Delta Air Lines, deferredall questions to its corporate parent Delta Connection, Inc., whichruns Delta's regional network. Officials there declined interviews.
"Safety is paramount at Delta Connection," the companysaid in a statement. "We work closely with each of our Delta Connectionpartners on safety guidelines set forth by the FAA and adhere to thesame oversight as mainline carriers. Our goal is to ensure that anytimea customer purchases a ticket on a Delta or Delta Connection flight,they are flying under a single set of safety standards and comply withall Federal aviation regulations."
The union's allegations come at a time when the regionalairline industry as a whole is under increased scrutiny for its safety,training and rest standards in the wake of the Colgan Air crash outsideBuffalo in February. Fatigue, as well as the training, experience andlifestyles of those pilots, are being considered as possible factors inthat crash, which killed 50.
The fatal accident was the first since the crash of ComairFlight 5191 in Lexington that killed 49 when pilots went down the wrongrunway and didn't have enough room for a successful takeoff.
While fatigue was initially examined and then rejected asa cause in the August 2006 crash, lack of rest has been considered ornamed as a factor in five previous incidents or accidents involvingregional carriers. And seven of the last eight major incidents oraccidents nationally have involved regional carriers.
"We have a safer system for shipping packages than we dopeople in the U.S.," said Jim Hall, former chairman of the NationalTransportation Safety Board and now managing partner with theWashington, D.C. transportation safety consulting firm Hall &Associates LLC. "You have seen tremendous growth in the regionalindustry; they are flying larger aircraft over longer routes. So thewhole concept you had of these airlines being for small hops and shorthauls is gone - they are the workhorse of the airline industry.
"Yet at the same time, there has been very littleattention on the rest rules and the enforcement of the existing restrules at this level. And you have this situation that is winked at byboth the pilots and the industry of having a period of time to get intoyour place of work that makes it almost impossible to get decent restand follow the rules."
Indeed, rest is not only a key issue for Comair, theseventh largest regional carrier in the U.S., but for the regionalairline industry as a whole. Regionals operate 50 percent of thepassenger flights in the U.S., carrying about 23 percent of allpassengers. As illustrated by Comair, they are becoming more integralto airline networks, as larger mainline carriers continue to cut backand concentrate on routes between big cities and overseas. Yet allairlines are under cost pressures as the industry faces decliningpassenger counts due to the recession.
At the time, Comair said the shift of flights to New Yorkwould increase flying and jobs, while acknowledging the operationalchallenges the move presented.
A Senate subcommittee will further examine safety andtraining standards at regional/commuter airlines starting June 10, in aseries of hearings set after last month's NTSB hearings on the Colgancrash. In addition, incoming Federal Aviation Administrator RandyBabbitt said during his recent confirmation hearings that he wouldexamine the perceived disparity in safety and training between largeairlines and regionals.
"There are substantial differences in pay, there aresubstantial differences in facilities and there appear to besubstantial differences in rest," said Hall. "To me, that appears to bean oversight from the FAA and Congress should look at closely."

Smaller carriers
Regional Airline Association president Roger Cohen saysthat the smaller carriers he represents operate under the samestandards as mainstream carriers such as Delta and denies a doublestandard.
"There is just one level of safety, period," said Cohen."And we welcome the chance to tell that story to Congress when we getthe chance."
Under current FAA rules, a pilot or flight attendant atany commercial airline no matter how big or small can only be on dutyfor 16 hours straight and can actually be flying (or pulled away from agate) for eight hours in a 24-hour period. Comair's contract with itspilots limit duty hours to 15.5 per day, or fewer if the pilot has avery early start to the day.
But the rules also allow for "reduced rest" exemptions. Ifa pilot flies the full eight hours, they are forced under FAAregulations to get at least nine hours off before reporting for dutythe next day. Yet if that pilot is given an extra hour the followingday, he or she could be brought back after just eight hours. Roblessays that provision was originally created for bad weather situationsthat kept a pilot beyond his or her limit.
"Now, it's become commonplace, even on the first night ofa trip," said Robles. "Even if you get that hour back the next night,it still makes it harder that next day."
Many crews will sleep overnight in the crew rooms in JFKand elsewhere on couches or recliners, even with the lights on, becauseof the expense involved with getting a hotel room or renting anapartment in remote cities, especially New York.
Robles said the local chapter of the Air Line PilotsAssociation knows the practice exists, but doesn't condone it, saying"nothing beats a good bed, a hot shower and a good meal."
"For some people, though, there is no choice," he said.
The co-pilot at Colgan Air had slept in the Newarkairport's crew room against that company's policy after catching twoflights from Seattle to get to work. Comair does not have such a ban onsleeping in crew rooms overnight, union officials say. Delta Connectionofficials declined comment.

Pilot's lifestyle
NTSB board member Deborah Hersman says the rest issue goeswell beyond how much sleep an individual may have gotten the nightbefore a flight, and should consider the full lifestyle of a pilot.During the Colgan Air hearings, she read an e-mail from a Comair pilotthat stated flight crews were getting even less rest than normal as aresult of the airline's recent shift in flying to New York.
"And I had my staff look up the cost of living betweenCincinnati and New York, and my point was that without some factorialadjustment in pay, that commuting was necessary," said Hersman in atelephone interview. "Changing the fatigue rules has been on our 'mostwanted' list for quite some time now. But we can only look at thecircumstances of each crash, and we only see the worst. We can'tspeculate on what else is happening in general out there - just makerecommendations based on what we're seeing."
 

samballs

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The NTSB can only recommend changes in federal air safetyrules; the FAA is the agency that actually changes and administers therules.
It also was revealed during the Colgan crash hearings thatboth the pilot and co-pilot were inexperienced, with each evenmentioning that they had never handled icing conditions like the onesthat evening. Pilot pay also was raised as an issue, since the24-year-old co-pilot had commuted across the country for work since shelived with her parents to cut expenses. An official cause for thatcrash has yet to be determined.
"Mainline airlines have different issues such as flyingmuch longer legs over different time zones and even overseas," Hersmansaid, adding that many regional pilots might handle 5-6 takeoffs andlandings in a single day.
"We need to look at changing the standard to allow forfactors such as the time started, whether the pilot started early orlate, how long it took them to get to work, how many legs they'll flyin a day - instead of the current static rule," said Hersman, who wasthe lead NTSB member on site during the Flight 5191 investigation in2006 and who advocated for a broader look at accident causes followingthe Comair crash.

Flight attendants' fatigue
Comair flight attendant union president Connie Slaybacksays that she has seen more flight attendants brought up on disciplinecharges for trying to call in for being fatigued in the past six monthsthan in the past five years combined.
"We know we don't fly the planes, but we see lesswillingness to look at the circumstances surrounding fatigue," saidSlayback, whose local branch of the Teamsters represents about 1,000flight attendants. She says that flight attendants are concerned fortheir own safety, but also need to be alert in case an emergencyevacuation is needed.
Both unions deny using the rest/safety issue as apotential bargaining ploy in advance of contract negotiations scheduledto start next year. Both unions approved concessions as part of Delta'sbankruptcy, but went to court to fight the imposition of company rules.
"This has been a general progression to the point where Ifelt I had to stand up and say something," said Robles, the leadrepresentative for Comair's branch of the Air Line Pilots Associationfor the Lexington crash. "I'm not going to wave the safety card. Wefeel that we run a safe airline, but this is something where we coulddo a lot better and we're willing to sit down any time and any placewith the company to fix it."
http://snipurl.com/j7a1a
 

Seaknight1

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They had like over 58 FA sickcalls yesterday!
 
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