Airline passengers who want absolute certainty that their pilots are as
fresh as possible 'at the wheel' may have serious cause for a heightened
fear of flying amid a push to force pilots to accept conditions that could compromise
Australian air safety.
Intimidation, secret deals, and bitter feuds among former colleagues:
they are parts of the alarming unhappiness that has come to cockpits all
And there are claims that substantial numbers of Australian pilots have
accepted -- or been forced to accept -- 'fatigue management solutions'
that would be criminal if applied to the long-distance truckies on the
Where will it all end? With more money, more acrimony, or an air
disaster leading to a Royal Commission?
What the public is of late seeing solely as the serious inconvenience of
cancelled flights -- and not only on Virgin Blue -- is in fact a fierce
struggle for the joystick when it comes to flight-duty conditions
between the Australian airlines and pilots who are themselves deeply
divided over the underlying issues.
It has been described to Crikey as the one workplace reform that can
literally come crashing back to earth. And our informants can't be
identified in an industry where they will never again fly in this
country if they speak out about the determined efforts underway to
destroy the long-standing Civil Aviation Order 48, which caps the time
spent actually flying an airliner to 900 hours a year.
|A fatigue safe
risk management system built on risk engineering
www.faidsafe.com/ - 10k -
questions about FAID and fatigue risk
- 25k -
InterDyne (FAID) is a program that
derives assessment of an individual's fatigue
score. Essentially, the model allocates fatigue
or recovery ...
- 20k -
CAO 48, which the Civil Aviation Safety Authority is supposed to uphold,
has been comprehensively subverted by a string of
commercial-in-confidence deals over what are termed pilot-fatigue
management programs written into airline operating manuals, which
require CASA's approval, including subsequent variations.
There are claims that the rostering detail accepted by or foisted on
substantial numbers of Australian pilots would be criminal infringements
of the laws relating to long-distance truck drivers. But no-one,
including the regulator, the responsible minister, and his Opposition
counterparts, has yet shared any of his or her concerns about this with
the public who sits on the other side of the cockpit doors, in the
delusion that world's best-practice in piloting standards and work
conditions are humming along in harmony with the professional pilots at
In fact, not even the least-tamed pilots' association, the Australian
Federation of Air Pilots, has yet taken a public stand on the duty-hours
crisis that one way or another embroils members flying for Virgin Blue,
some Qantas group carriers, including Jetstar and other scheduled
operators, right down to the size of Transair, which like those who were
aboard the ill-fated flight into the Lockhart River strip in 2005, will
never fly again.
Why? Perhaps because it is weeks away from any likely conclusion to EBA
negotiations with Virgin Blue, but also because Crikey has learned that
some members are double-crossing each other for perceived career
What do 'fatigue management solutions' entail. They include quite proper
checks by management that pilots are indeed fatigued. But they also
involve processes of reporting 'fatigue' to operations managers in what
some claim is such an intimidating environment that a career-oriented
young first officer might recognize as being career-threatening.
One recently retired check captain who oversaw flight standards on a
large scale, says: "You were wrong to recently report too many pilots
were taking sickies. Too few pilots are declaring themselves fatigued in
where they should emphatically not be permitted to control an airliner,
especially if overtaken by those unexpected things, like mechanical
failures, or severe weather, or an emergency landing, where the wrong
decision is irretrievably wrong."
Why? "Because of greed or opportunity or fear. There is a serious
decline in the culture of operational safety right around the world. I'm
especially disappointed to see that Australia is going down the path of
expediency in keeping enough hands on the sticks, rather than daring to
lead in renewing a professional pilot pool."
This informant says he believes CASA has secretly, that is commercially-in-confidence,
allowed the variation of some of the existing fatigue management
programs to assist the airline through its current difficulties, which
have been exacerbated by the tax-free recruiting drives
of Emirates, Etihad, Qatar and other carriers for the skilled airline
professionals they need to sustain massive expansion.
Crikey has asked specific questions of CASA and its embattled CEO, Bruce
Byron, but no response was received by late this morning.
The most acute question of all is whether Byron is there to 'assist
carriers through their difficulties' or come clean with the public about
the pressures that are becoming apparent to anyone who has had their
flight cancelled in recent times.