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Pilots claim pressure to reduce fuel

July 16, 2008 4:13:40 PM PDT
The full-page ad inside Wednesday's edition of USA Today is as scary as it is unprecedented.

The union representing more than five-thousand US Airways pilots accuses the airlines of threatening "termination of their careers" if pilots fail to "reduce fuel levels" "to save money."

"Fuel is very critical to any mission. When you start varying the amount of fuel and getting it below a captain's comfort zone, that's why we have an issue here," said Capt. James Ray of the US Airline Pilots Association.

Last year, Eyewitness News first reported on this problem of pilots being pressured to cutback on fuel. Our investigation found a dramatic increase in Continental planes landing at Newark low on fuel -- a jump from just one in 2005 to 56 low fuel landings during similar six month period last year.

An internal memo given to all Continental pilots tied fuel reduction to their benefits, warning pilots that "adding fuel indiscriminately...ultimately reduces profit sharing and possibly pension funding."

"I had to use different rouses to make the paperwork or hide the fact that I was putting fuel on board but my responsibility as Captain is to my passengers, my aircraft, my crew and to the safety of that flight," former Continental pilot Bruce Meyer said.

Now, it's US Airways pilots sounding the alarm spending tens of thousands of dollars to warn its passengers through an ad that the airline has "embarked on a program of intimidation to pressure your captain to reduce fuel loads." The union says senior pilots are being singled out for fuel conservation training.

"They are selecting a few and hoping to intimidate the remainder of our pilot group to not add fuel when they feel they might need a little fuel. So hoping if they punish a few, the rest of the pilot group will get in line," Ray said.

US Airways says only 8 pilots out of 45-hundred have been selected for re-training -- the airline insisting it is not for disciplinary reasons.

In 1990, Avianca flight 52 ran out of fuel after bad weather forced it into a holding pattern for more than an hour. The plane crashed on Long Island killing 73 people. Aviation safety experts say with more delays in the skies now is not the time to cutback on fuel reserves.

US Airways says only 8 pilots out of 45-hundred have been selected for re-training. The airline insisting that it is not for disciplinary reasons.

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