US Airways has called eight pilots on the carpet and ordered them into retraining because they kept asking for extra fuel. The pilots say they’re being intimidated into compromising safety, CNN reports.
US Airways points out that the more fuel a plane carries, the heavier it is and the more fuel it burns. And that’s correct, as far as it goes.
But pilots know that the less fuel a plane carries, the less flexibility they’ll have. It’s not so much the dire but highly unlikely possibility of running out of fuel in the air. There’s the far more likely chance of being forced to land under pressure.
This happened to the husband on a United flight. Asked to circle Bradley during a storm, the crew had to divert instead to White Plains because there wasn’t enough fuel on board to hang out. Of course, when they got to White Plains, they had to refuel … so where’s the saving in that?
The amount of fuel required has always been at the pilots’ discretion. As it should be. They know the challenges of the routes they fly.
US Airways now says it wasn’t punishing the pilots and just wanted to talk to them “to figure out what they’re seeing that we’re not.” OK. But that’s called a meeting, not training. By forcing the pilots into training, US Airways clearly implied that it thought the pilots were doing something wrong.
I don’t think they were. I think they were being cautious. And I really like that in a pilot.
[Note: I modified this entry after hearing from a reader who thought I was supporting US Airways on this. I tried to make it more clear that I think the pilots are right.]