FAA Sends Warning to American Airlines Pilots to Stop Slowing Down its Flights

American Airlines Boeing 767
American Airlines Boeing 767

The FAA has sent a warning by way of their surveillance actions to American Airlines pilots alleged ‘slowdown’ tactics that are significantly affecting the carrier’s on-time performance.

‘A Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) official commented on the surveillance in a response to an emailed question from an American pilot. With 410 flights tracked, the on-time rate at one point Friday was 65 percent, according to industry researcher FlightStats.com.

American’s on-time performance began sliding on Sept. 14 after the airline imposed concessions to help it restructure under court protection. On-time arrivals dropped as low as 37 percent on Sept. 17, according to FlightStats, raising concern that passengers would shift to other airlines.’

The bankrupt airline threatened Thursday to take legal action against the Allied Pilots Association if the slowdown didn’t stop.

The FAA surveillance covers “all regulatory requirements which are expected to be followed by the airline, as well as the maintenance and pilot groups,” Skip Whitrock, who manages the AMR certificate management office for the FAA, said in the email.

The oversight, which occurs for any bankrupt airline, includes watching for frivolous maintenance reports, misuse of a minimum equipment list that must be completed before each flight, lack of adequate maintenance, deliberate delays and other areas, Whitrock said.

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Comments

  1. Chris says

    Oh that’s cute.

    The only aspects the FAA can enforce during it’s “surveillance” are those pertaining to the “safety of the traveling public”. Slower taxi times and thorough pre-flight checklist actions taken by the pilots are hardly risks to passenger safety. And believe me, there are MANY more areas where the pilots could spend “extra time” before, during and after flights (ie: while in cruise, the pilots can ask for deviations due to weather, turbulence, etc. and there are of course “go-arounds” if the pilot doesn’t like his/her descent). There’s no set minimum “allowable time” set by the FAA or anywhere in the FAR guidelines that restrict or control how much time pilots have to perform various procedures. Maybe for some, but not for all.

    The only concern is whether or not the pilots union is even in agreement with this right now. They’re currently at the bargaining table and this might end up hurting them. Who knows…

    It’s unfortunate that the passengers have to suffer due to the delays and such, but the pilots have to consider their jobs- how they make a living. Their benefits and wages have been cut dramatically because of poor management, and they need to stand together to fight for what they were promised. Passengers should sympathize with their pilots rather than become upset with them for their actions. They should ask themselves what THEY would do if they were in the pilots’ shoes.

    When the passengers start paying union dues, that’s when the pilots will start representing the interests of passengers. The passengers don’t pay the pilots’ salaries- management does. Management is the cause of the disarray within the company, no one else. If they had better money management skills and kept their promises, there would be no issue.

  2. says

    I do think the FAA is interjecting themselves into the middle of something they should waive off from. A slowdown/sick out is hard to prove because A) it’s damned hard due to FMLA and Fair Labor Act to discipline someone for calling in sick, and thank God for that. B) The pilots can write off most of the delays as being safety related. At that point, what do you tell them; don’t be so safe?! The public would light a match to an FAA inspector who made comments adding up to that.

    The only solution here is the same one I recommended to AA; back off, offer an olive branch, and start rebuilding that bridge. This situation was instigated by posturing and strong-arm tactics. Reapplying the former after it’s failed is assinine.

    • Chris says

      Phil, are there any rules in existence that limit taxi times, checklist times, etc? I’d imagine if there were any such rules in existence, they’d be created by the individual airline and not the FAA (or another higher power), am i correct? I know that individual airlines can sometimes make their own rules (ie: Ryanair’s policy of 25 minute turnarounds, minimum fuel load for flights, etc) but i don’t believe the FAA could enforce these rules on the pilots.

  3. says

    Chris,

    None that I’m aware of, but I’m not a pilot. In any case, the FAA is walking a tightrope here. Implying that pilots should hurry up taxiing and not report maintenance concerns is perilously close to interfering with their duties as a flight crew member. They are professionally and in some cases legally bound (gross negligence) to operate safely. The airline can not prove that this is a coordinated effort by pilots or union to cause delays, and as such legal action is going to be difficult to bring to the table.

    • Chris says

      That’s EXACTLY what i’m thinking. Even if they’re able to prove that pilots are causing delays, they’d have to examine the CVRs of every aircraft and listen to the pilots’ conversations to determine if the delays were warranted. I just don’t think it’s a probable course of action… Truthfully, AA is going to have to deal with the pilots! And it’s only going to get worse!

  4. Richard Wyeroski says

    The AA situation has been developing for quite sometime. The FAA has looked the other way as outsourcing of maintenance has caused numerous emergency returns. I think we will all agree that there is has been a epidemic that is unprecedented in this area.

    Starting back in 2001 through 2009,FAA senior management had approved hundreds of third world country maintenance facilities that were allowed to compete unfairly with European and American facilities.

    So is the FAA the problem? Why isn’t the Agency doing surveillance on these foreign maintenance facilities? What is the Agency doing?

    With that being said, take outsourcing a step further. The outsourcing of flight crews has been discussed. Imagine foreign nationals flying US airliners through out the USA, so airline management could save money!

    please see link!
    (http://thehill.com/blogs/transportation-report/aviation/240043-united-pilots-want-obama-romney-to-weigh-in-on-airline-outsourcing-)

    The FAA has allowed US maintenance facilities to face unfair competition from low paid mechanics in third world country maintenance facilities.

    I believe FAA will allow the same situation to develop with flight crews.

    An example is the Delta/Aeromexico deal, where a 65 million dollar maintenance facility is slated to be built outside Mexico City. Go a step further and ask yourself, will the FAA authorize Mexican Nationals to be trained to fly for Delta?

    A lot to think about………It is a political football that our next president must stop…..more to come!

    Richard Wyeroski, former FAA Safety Inspector
    FAA WHISTLEBLOWER ALLIANCE

  5. Ken Riley says

    You know all of this is very scary—-we have nothing like this in Europe as far as I am aware! It seems perverse that FAA or airline management would interfere in any way with stuff that makes flight safe!! It’s what makes the “bread and butter” and no member of the public would knowingly fly with an airline that was seen to be “cutting corners” Seems odd we have “cut-price” airlines like Ryanair that (at least) don’t seem to compromise on safety, when the full-fare airlines are the ones penny-pinching!!

    • Ed Jeszka says

      Ken, You are fortunate not to have the FAA in Europe. The indications I got from their “warning”…………….The FAA has sent a warning by way of their surveillance actions to American Airlines pilots alleged ‘slowdown’ tactics that are significantly affecting the carrier’s on-time performance…………..is frightening. The FAA has warned the pilots about their tactics? What tactics are those, Mr. Whitrock? Writing up discrepancies is required under the FAR’s and company manuals. Are you some kind of flaming idiot? Keep the ops on time so the company doesn’t lose business?

      Mr. Whitrock there is a help wanted sign at the car wash. Maybe you should apply. You have made a very disturbing disclosure. You want the pilots to fly unsafe airplanes for fear that YOU will conduct oversight on their decision to write up a safety issue? Is that the FAA’s position? Do Mr. Huertta, Foushee, Mrs. Gilligan, Mr. Allen and the Division mgr all concur with this change in oversight responsibility or is it just another rogue inspector blowing out his blow whole for a few minutes of fame? You had better pray that not one pilot takes your moronic threat and statement of additional surveillance to heart. Or else pray that no AA planes and passengers become statistics in an effort to keep your surveillance where it belongs, up your ?

      Oh, by the way, where were you when the seats came loose or wasn’t that part of the additional surveillance. Might be time to look at FAA oversight quality and as AMR certificate manager, your qualifications might need a 44709.

      Ed Jeszka
      FAA Aviation Safety Inspector, Retired
      FWA, FAA Whistleblower Alliance

  6. John says

    What a huge re-assurance it is to see safety inspectors on here agree with the safety procedures that all pilots try to adhere to. I’m growing concerned at what I see as a pilot happening to all facets of our industry. The FAA in this case has no jurisdiction in a civil matter between a private airline and its pilots. If the FAA intends to hunt down pilots then they’d better start with burning the FAR’s because that is what we live and die by to keep our credentials. I would rather be terminated by AA for a slow-down than to lose my certificates all together for not following the letter of the FARs. I will never blame a pilot for waiting for maintenance repairs, nor will I blame him for demanding the pay that he or she is so rightly owed.

    • Ken Riley says

      John,your integrity is very reassuring, and we,the flying public, would hope all you guys are of a like mind!! Believe me, we do appreciate the work of all pilots, cabin crew,ground staff, maintenance in keeping us safe (and comfortable!) in the air. We all realise too the need to be a profitable enterprise;-but if this is allowed to take precedence over safety, then it’s a slippery slope. Competition is a wonderful thing if it keeps down the price of certain commodities, but I would rather pay the going rate than take a cut-price flight into the ground!!

  7. Richard Wyeroski says

    Hi All:

    We know the FAA is a reactive agency. The agency is a captive of airline management. If i were a fly on the wall at 800 Independence Ave i would have hear Ms Gilligan the FAA Associate Administrator for Safety yell at here people to stop those pilots from from slowing down the airline!

    Whitrock has sent the wrong message. He has made a fool out of himself and exposed the FAA for what it has become, an agency that has no idea what it is doing !

    Richard Wyeroski, former FAA Safety Inspector
    FAA WHUSTLEBLOWERS ALLIANCE

      • Richard Wyeroski says

        Chris:

        The FAA response to American Airlines is troubling and wrong. It proves the FAA does not know what the problems are, or what to do about them.

        Inspector Whitrock has threatened the AA pilots and has put safety behind profits.

        I have been reporting that outsourcing maintenance to less qualified maintenance, repair and overhaul facilities is a false economy. Yet the practice has continued and increased to alarming proportions.

        Whitrock was told what to say and he has made a threat that has only served to inflame the situation.

        Poor maintenance has finally caught up with American’s fleet and no pilot worth his salt is going to fly a sick aircraft.

        Nothing the FAA could say will change that and the FAR’s are clear about what is the right thing to do.

        Richard Wyeroski

        • Chris says

          I’ll be honest, i didn’t realize how inefficient the FAA had become until they started pulling moves like this one. Is the “easy relationship” between the FAA and major manufacturers (like Boeing) also something of concern? I find it interesting that the FAA has been giving manufactures the ability to “self-regulate” and yet they’re threatening AA’s pilots because they are taking their time during taxi. It just doesn’t make sense to me.

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