We think it’s the pilot who knows best. So does the Federal Aviation Administration. But cargo airline ABX Air seems to think differently.
ABX fired a pilot last month because he refused to operate a plane based on a flight plan that violated FAA-approved procedures. The Airline Professionals Association, Teamsters Local 1224, has announced that it filed suit against the airline and is demanding the captain’s reinstatement.
Today, the Teamsters put out a statement supporting the pilot, who worked for ABX for 27 years and had no disciplinary history:
“The Teamsters will use all of our resources to defend and preserve a captain’s authority,” said Teamsters Airline Division Director Capt. David Bourne. “In the aviation industry, the captain’s authority is the cornerstone of safe and secure flight operations.”Adding insult to injury, ABX notified all its captains that it fired the pilot. Bourne said this was an obvious attempt by the company to create a chilling effect on pilots and their ability to make decisions about flight safety:
In June, the pilot was operating an ABX flight in Japan when he requested a change to the flight plan after raising safety concerns. Following the incident, the airline took disciplinary action and fired the pilot for refusing to sign a coerced statement that said the pilot was not justified in questioning the flight’s safety.
The pilot was exercising his FAA-mandated rights, which give the captain of an aircraft the final authority in determining the safe operations of a flight.
This was clearly meant to intimidate pilots and curtail their ability to make sure safety is the top priority on every flight. The Teamsters will not let an injustice like this go unchallenged.Capt. Dan Wells, president of Local 1224, told Aviation International News,
What worries us the most is that the captain was fired for making this decision. Why else would the company send out that letter other than to scare pilots into making the decision [the company would regard as] right in the future?The Teamsters demand that the pilot be fully reinstated. They also want the airline to outline future protections for flight crews so they can exercise their authority on flight safety without fear of retaliation by management.
Capt. Wells explained why airlines should respect pilots’ rights to make the call on safety:
When operating a highly complex, multimillion-dollar machine in the dynamic real-world environment, a captain is required to make rapid decisions based on the regulations, his experience, procedures, and the immediate situation at hand to complete a flight safely. To impede a captain’s authority to evaluate or even question the safety of a flight undermines the safety protocols upon which our entire aviation system is built.Teamster pilots are on the frontlines when it comes to keeping our skies safe. They should be praised, not fired.
-- Union Thug