American Eagle Airlines’ management and its union counterpart agree the carrier is taking big steps to enhance a safety culture that they feel is already among the strongest in the regional industry.
Airline officials and members of the Air Line Pilots Association chapter at Eagle meet monthly on a fatigue review board.
Pilots can ask to be taken off a trip they believe they’re too tired to fly; the board reviews the circumstances and can remove the fatigue notation from a pilot’s attendance record if it agrees with the pilot’s call.
That board isn’t common in the industry, said Jim Winkley, Eagle vice president of flight operations, and Dave Ryter, vice chairman of Eagle’s ALPA master executive council.
“If you’re fatigued, you’re fatigued, and we’re going to take you off that trip,” said Winkley, who is also a pilot. “It’s not considered a negative against the pilot.”
The issue for the fatigue review board is whether the pilot can get paid, Ryter says.
The union wants the airline to let pilots use accrued sick time to cover fatigue pay.
“We want our pilots to have the ability to make this decision without worrying about other factors such as whether or not they lose the money,” he said.
The fatigue board plus a program that lets pilots self-report unsafe actions by themselves or others have helped build a safe culture, Ryter said.
Eagle has also started a program in which data recorders on the planes track how they fly and how pilots perform. Both ALPA and Eagle like its progress so far.
The data from the recorders gets “de-identified” so management doesn’t know which pilots are at the controls. The information then gets analyzed to spot potentially unsafe flight approaches or conditions among the carrier’s flights.
The next step for Eagle is starting a cutting-edge program with the Federal Aviation Administration to train pilots in simulators. Eagle just applied to start the program, and it has the union’s backing, Ryter said.
“I really do feel we have the finest, best-trained pilots in the industry,” Winkley said.