Pilot Fatigue Flagged
Pilot and flight attendant unions warn that the biggest airline safety risk is fatigue caused by personnel shortages and the lingering effects of the COVID-19 epidemic. The Southwest Airlines Pilots Association sent an open letter to executives asking them to fix scheduling problems that compound the health impacts of the return to “normal” operations. “Fatigue, both acute and cumulative, has become Southwest Airlines’ number-one safety threat,” SWAPA told the executives. American Airlines pilots posted YouTube videos outlining scheduling concerns and pilots leaving Alaska Airlines led to system-wide cancellations and delays. The airlines said they are complying with regulations and doing the best they can to maintain service.
Air Force Offers More Incentives
As airlines ramp up incentives for qualified employees, the Air Force is now offering cash incentives to attract enlisted personnel. Maj. Gen. Ed Thomas, who heads up Air Force recruitment said “we have warning lights flashing” and announced a new round of inducements to sign up. “As we roll up our sleeves in the battle for talent, we’ve got to remain competitive as we go after our next generation of airmen,” Thomas told Air Force Magazine. Bonuses are being offered for new recruits in more than a dozen jobs and those who say they can drop everything and report for basic training in five days to fill a suddenly vacant slot get $8,000 in cash.
Executive Changes At FAA
There has been considerable shuffling on the top floor of the FAA building as top executives assume new roles. Administrator Steve Dickson left his post on April 1 and his interim replacement is Billy Nolen, who was heading up the agency’s safety division. Nolen has only been with the FAA since January and held a safety position at Canadian airline WestJet before that. Chris Rocheleau was supposed to take over from Nolen but he took a job with NBAA as Chief Operations Officer. Earl Lawrence, who was in charge of aircraft certification for the past three years, has been moved to Deputy Assistant Administrator for the NextGen program. He was replaced at certification by Lirio Liu, who was in charge of the International Affairs office.
Flying By Bus
American Airlines became the third U.S. carrier to incorporate bus transportation directly into its schedule. Passengers traveling through Philadelphia to Allentown and Atlantic City will bypass the jetways for a side door that takes them to an awaiting bus. Ninety minutes later (flight time gate to gate is about 30 minutes) they’ll be dropped off at the airport and their baggage should be arriving, too. If they’re originating at the small airports, they’ll check in as normal, clear security and take the bus to Philly where they will be dropped off on the secure side by the gates. The buses are operated by Landline and have airliner-like interiors and services. Landline also has contracts with United in Denver to deliver passengers to nearby resorts and smaller cities and Sun Country Airlines ships passengers to seven cities in Wisconsin and Minnesota from its Minneapolis hub.
FedEx Tests Autonomous Transport
FedEx says it will start testing an autonomous hybrid eVTOL that can carry up to 500 pounds as far as 300 miles. The company said the trials with the Elroy Chaparral will start in 2023 and begin the process of getting certification for pilotless delivery. “We look forward to continued testing and learning throughout our collaboration with Elroy Air,” said FedEx senior VP Joe Stephens. The Chaparral has eight rotors, four of which rotate to provide forward thrust after a vertical takeoff. An engine and generator in the fuselage provide power for the individual electric motors spinning the rotors, making the 300-mile range possible.
Tecnam unveiled its P-Mentor trainer … The U.S. Navy will test using drones to deliver small packages from ship to ship … A privately operated eVTOL terminal is planned for OSH … The Dominican Republic is the latest Caribbean country to accept BasicMed … TurbAero introduces a 200-horsepower fuel-efficient turboprop … See AVweb.com for breaking news in general aviation.