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Times are changing

Last night “my airline” was on the verge of filing for bankruptcy.

Today, the unions got together and signed a deal with the company, cutting pensions, increasing work hours per 7 days for the cabin crews and cutting wages for the most senior pilots.

But they did it because they want their company to move on. Into the future.

I’m not saying the company’s future looks very bright, because there are still some very tough economical challenges ahead. But this was definitely a step in the right direction, and the SAS employees deserve every bit of honor in an attempt to save their company.

Europe does not have the Chapter 11 bankruptcy-protection like the US does. But in a sense, what SAS is going through now is restructuring, which is essentially what Ch.11 is all about.

Times are changing in the airline industry. We all need to realize that things are not as golden as it was in the earlier days of flying.
We need to be adaptable to change, but never let it compromise safety.


Ryanair B738 and American B763 at Barcelona on Apr 14th 2011, both aircraft departed despite ground collision and passenger complaints

Okay, where do I start?

The captain wasn’t sure if they had hit the 767, turned out a passenger warned the cabin crew about it, and they passed the message along to the flight deck. They thought they didn’t hit it and decided to continue on to their destination. The American 767 departed with a damaged horizontal stabilizer, which could have ended in disaster. Ryanair took off right behind it, with a damaged winglet.

I still find it weird how much damage the 767 received, when the winglet only has a few scratches?

American Airlines 767-300 (N366AA) damaged elevator. Picture taken in JFK after a safe landing.

Damaged winglet on the Ryanair 737-800 (EI-EKB)

I will not speculate too much. Never the less, this incident will not be the last incident we’ll see. Good thing this ended good for the passengers and crew on both airliners.

And by the way, I’m not trying to trash talk about this particular airline. This has to do with safety in general. I don’t care if it’s Lufthansa, SAS or Ryanair. Safety always has to come first, no matter how cost-cutting your company might be….

Quality of time v.s quantity of time

Does increasing the requirement for first officers total flight time increase safety? Do 3000 hours of flying a Cessna 152 in a traffic pattern equal 500 hours of bush flying in Alaska? What about 350 hours of flying a jet, while holding a type-rating? Or 600 hours of teaching instruments in a complex aircraft? What is the answer, quality of time or total time?

Karlene Petitt, author of Flight For Control

This question has be actualized by a recent regulation passed by the Federal Aviation Administration, requiring first officers to have 1500 hours total time to be hired by the airlines. For people flying under JAA jurisdiction (Europe) this regulation has been enforced for some time now. After we pass the 14 written ATPL (Airline Transport Pilot License) exams we receive something known as the (f)ATPL, or Frozen ATPL. Until we reach 1500 hours total time, it’s frozen. On the paper, this is a good idea, because you would think a pilot with 1500 hours have a lot of experience. At least I would think so, considering I only have about 80 hours and I feel very inexperienced so far.

 But what matters, is how those 1500 hours are spent. Are the spent flying in demanding weather conditions? Mountain flying? Busy airspace? Or were they spent flying around the pattern, hour after hour, without any engine problems and in good weather?
Of course it matters. But how could you differentiate between demanding flights and easier flights? Make different log book entries? As if not log book updates were hard enough to calculate already.

No flights are easy. It takes precision, alertness and great communication skills to ensure the safe outcome of the flight. Every flight is like that. If anyone get’s into an airplane and thinks “this is going to be easy”, I’ll assure you that won’t be the case, and I most certainly not want people like that flying with me. Taking anything like that for granted is ridiculous.

With that being said, I think the best advice is to try to use the comment section in your log book more. Try to describe what type of flying you were doing. Maybe add a comment on the weather. That way you can know yourself that you’ve had plenty of real world experience.

Both quality and quantity matter. Maybe not equally as much, because I think the quality of the flight time is more important than how many hours total you have. It’s what you fill those hours with that matter the most, in my opinion.

– Cecilie

Employment, contracts and pay checks

The European Union’s Directive on Temporary Work will in a few words, reduce the economic difference between temporary workers and permanent workers.

The purpose of this Directive is to ensure the protection of temporary agency workers and to improve the quality of temporary agency work by ensuring that the principle of equal treatment, as set out in Article 5, is applied to temporary agency workers, and by recognising temporary-work agencies as employers, while taking into account the need to establish a suitable framework for the use of temporary agency work with a view to contributing effectively to the creation of jobs and to the development of flexible forms of working.

Yes, that was one sentence.

I have yet to make up my mind if I want to vote for or against the Directive during this summer’s national convention for the Young Conservative Party. Both opponents and supporters of the directive within the party, argue that they want more temporary workers, and a more flexible work environment. I agree, I think it is important to have flexible employment opportunities, but I think that only applies to certain sectors. And aviation is certainly not that type of sector.

Either way, if the Directive is passed, and employers will have to pay the same wage to a temporary worker, as a permanent worker (which is a good thing), temporary workers will still have loads of challenges. How are they supposed to go to the bank and apply for a loan to buy a house, if they can’t provide proof of permanent employment?

Why would I argue against the use of contract employees or temporary workers in the aviation industry? Because it is a great financial risk for the employee. It increases stress. It leaves the employee feeling insecure about his/her job situation. All these impacts will be brought in to the flight deck. I don’t want stressed out, fatigued pilots, flying my plane.

There is an ongoing struggle between the Norwegian Air Shuttle (NAS, Norwegian low-cost carrier) and their pilots. The CEO of NAS, Bjørn Kjos wants to reduce costs to compete with other European low-cost operators such as Ryanair and Wizz Air. Understandable. I think that reducing cost is essential, because the Norwegian market needs NAS as a competitor, to the partly-government-owned Scandinavian Airlines (SAS). NAS plans on starting long-haul operations starting next year with the Boeing 787 Dreamliner. I would love to fly for Norwegian, and the Dreamliner, but my dream might just remain that way – a dream.

Bjørn Kjos has announced, through Rishworth Aviation, pilot openings for their LH-ops, The catch is – you have to be based in Bangkok, Thailand. No matter how tempting that may sound when you’re in your 20s and would love to live in a warm, humid climate, I’m not so sure how established pilots with families, kids, station wagon and a furry dog would appreciate that the same way.

Norwegian might be in clear weather right now, but I see some potential Cumulonimbuses brewing in the horizon.

The pilots currently employed (permanently), of course, are not very happy about the situation, and are threatening the company with a potential strike.

NAS’s answer to a possible strike? Wet-lease aircrafts from other carriers in Europe. Sparking even more tension to the situation, and leaving the papers full with stories of Norwegian-passengers boarding “filthy” and “unsafe” (passengers’ words) airplanes from Latvia.

The pilots say it’s not about the wages (because they are good) but more about the employment situation. This supports my idea that it is better to be permanently employed, rather than temporarily, with a possible lower pay check each month, but with good job security.

The cost of living in Norway is horrendous. It is so expensive to live here, which forces the employers to every year increase the pay checks for their workers. This applies to all sectors. I think we are approaching a limit here, very soon. Just look at the shipping industry. I fear that the same situation that we see there today, with the Captain being Scandinavian, and the rest of the crew from the Philippines, will be the state of the aviation industry in the future if we don’t do something.

My thoughts:

– Vote in FAVOR of the Directive on temporary work, so that employers loose a financial incentive to hire part time workers (with the Directive implemented, it will be just as “expensive” for the employer to hire part time v.s permanently)

– Advocate for permanent employment contracts in the aviation sector, with the consequence that the pay check will be slightly reduced, but with an increase in job security

– Allow for a flexible employment situation in areas it is deemed appropriate. I repeat, aviation is not such an area.

– Cecilie

Why am I not surprised?

So this video of a Russian airliner has surfaced, making me appreciate the western culture for safety even more.

The airliner appears to have not been de-iced at all, violating all procedures (or?) and takes off with snow/sleet on its wings and flaps.

But this doesn’t really surprise me anymore. Back in 2010, the same airline took off from taxiway Mike, intersection Alpha 3 (pink arrow) at OSL (Oslo Airport Gardermoen, ENGK)

An Aeroflot Airbus A320-200, registration VP-BWM performing flight SU-212 from Oslo Gardermoen (Norway) to Moscow Sheremetyevo (Russia) with 60 passengers and 7 crew, was cleared for takeoff from runway 01L at about 15:20L (14:20Z), but took off a parallel taxiway. The airplane climbed out safely and continued to Moscow, where the airplane landed safely.

Source: AvHerald

– Cecilie

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