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Pilot Fatigue at Great Lakes

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Burninating the Peasants
Nov 11, 2005
Pilot Pressures: No Lounging In Lounge
Written by Brian Maass

CBS4 Investigates section.

It's called pilot fatigue: tired pilots at the controls of your plane. Aviation safety experts say how to address pilot fatigue is a major, ongoing issue in the industry. Many airlines provide pilots with crew rooms or sleeping lounges equipped with couches, comfortable recliners or cots, so pilots can grab a nap during layovers.

"An opportunity for a pilot to gain some rest in a crew room is just invaluable," said Steve Cowell, a Denver-based aviation safety consultant. Cowell, who was a pilot for several regional airlines, says "pilot fatigue has been a major component of incidents and accidents that have occurred."

Against that backdrop, CBS4 learned that Great Lakes Airlines, a regional airline with a hub in Denver, removed the furniture from its pilot lounge late in 2009 after a bedbug outbreak. The furniture was discarded then never replaced, despite ongoing protests from Great Lakes pilots.

Several Great Lakes pilots spoke to CBS4 on the condition of anonymity, saying if they were identified they would likely be fired. They said pilots repeatedly asked the airline to install a comfortable couch and reclining chairs in their lounge at Denver International Airport so fatigued pilots could get some rest, but that the airline ignored the requests for months. In recent months, fatigued Great Lakes pilots had resorted to throwing their jackets over their heads and napping on chairs on DIA concourses.

"My personal opinion is it's something that can be adverse to safety in the cockpit," said Rick Johnson, Colorado legislative director for the United Transportation Union, which represents Great Lakes 300 pilots. Johnson spoke on behalf of the pilot group. Johnson said during months of negotiations, Great Lakes seemed to be brushing the pilots off when they insisted they should be provided some furniture for rest.

"It's pretty remarkable they (Great Lakes) haven't addressed it up until now," Johnson told CBS4.

According to the current contract between Great Lakes and its employees, "The Company will provide a crew lounge in its hub airports provided the Company can obtain suitable space at a reasonable cost."

But for months, the "lounge" at DIA for pilots consisted of a folding table, one plastic chair, a refrigerator, TV and microwave oven, according to Great Lakes pilots. CBS4 obtained videotape of the Great Lakes pilot "lounge" that showed a spartan room with no door handle, and a single chair.

"They deserve a little better treatment," said Rick Johnson.

One Great Lakes pilot filed a formal grievance that was obtained by CBS4.

"I feel this not only compromises our professional appearances as pilots, but also greatly compromises safety for no other reason than to save a fractional amount of money when compared with the overall operational expenses of Great Lakes Aviation. With show times as early as 3:30 a.m., a resting area should be provided, not only with accordance to our contract, but as an industry standard," reads the grievance. Pilots told CBS4 they believed the room could be furnished with sofas or comfortable chairs for $1,500 or less.

The pilots -- who are in the midst of contract negotiations with Great lakes -- say they continually raised the issue between January and May, with no result.

"It's about using fatigue as a negotiating tool and this is what this airline is doing," said safety consultant Cowell. "To me it points to a company that doesn't embrace a positive safety culture. It shows them using fatigue as a negotiating tool and fatigue is non-negotiable. Fatigue should never be questioned."

For months, Great Lakes has not responded to numerous emails and phone calls from CBS4.

Earlier this month, Great Lakes pilots say the airline finally agreed to allow them to spend up to $1,500 to purchase furniture for the DIA crew room. But union representative Rick Johnson says that when a pilot shopped around and bought two sectional couches for $1,300, the company said it would not pay for delivery charges and wanted the pilots to pick up the furniture and deliver it to the pilots lounge at the airport.

"The mentality of the supervisors at Great Lakes is strange to say the least," said Johnson. "You would have to ask them why they continually play this childish game to undermine the needs and safety of the pilots."

Link to video of this news story: http://cbs4denver.com/video/[email protected]
At any other regional you could blame the FAs which typically have fleas and bedbugs (at the least). In this case no one to blame but the pilots.
Epic! I remember the bedbug discovery day, that poor FO looked like he'd gone on the "swim with pirhanas" adventure.
Why did you go there?

Because he refused to swallow at his Blowjet interview and failed.

It is our understanding that your Blowjet interview, however, went really, really well.
Because he refused to swallow at his Blowjet interview and failed.

It is our understanding that your Blowjet interview, however, went really, really well.

They make you gargle it while reciting the alphabet. Some just can't handle it.

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