Saturday, August 29, 2009

Not Just the Bush

A captain and first officer for Pakistan International Airlines have been given notice and face an enquiry for following internatial law and their own airline's regulations regarding duty rest. According to the online version of The Nation linked above, Captain Murad Arbab and First Officer S Jamala operated a ten hour flight from Islambad to Manchester. On arrival, they were told to fly as passengers on a noon British Airways flight to London, and then pilot a flight from London to Karachi.

At that point, their own company's air safety manual mandated a 20 hour rest period before their next duty, and the BA flight was only 16 hours away, plus, if I'm reading the article correctly, reporting in time for the connecting flight and then operating the Karachi flight would put them over their legal duty day, not even counting the insufficient rest. They refused the assignment.

The article says that "management is bent upon making these pilots an example for others so that the safety violations are not pointed out."

While a 20 hour mandated rest seems long to me, that was what was prescribed in the company's safety manual and the pilots must, no matter what their dispatcher says, abide by it. I wish I could say that a company that chastises pilots for following the law and the company's own regulations was unheard of, but I've been there. We landed in the early am, told the dispatcher we were dutied out until ten the next morning and went to bed. There were two calls the next day before ten am. One was from dispatch asking us to do another flight that was not within our duty day and the other was from the chief pilot, giving hell for refusing a revenue flight. Both calls, being an interruption of the mandated rest period effectively reset our duty day start eight hours. I was acting captain on the flight but the other crew member a) was the one in a house that had a phone and b) had seniority, so he got the calls. When I found out about the browbeating, I wanted to call that chief pilot back and let it be known that as pilot-in-command I had logged and signed the duty time on the flight and said when we were again fit for duty, and anyone who had a problem with it should call me. I didn't, because I knew it would just bring more wrath upon the other pilot, for not keeping the new hire in line.

No, I wasn't there long.

That's not the way it's supposed to work. I chatted with an Air Canada captain whose entire flying schedule, of flights he had bid on and wanted to make, was messed up because a few minutes after parking at the gate, he released and reset the parking brake. I can't remember why. The onboard computers automatically recorded him parked the second time he set that brakes, which added those few minutes to his duty day, and set off a chain reaction through his whole schedule. That's how seriously a real national airline takes duty days.

But what do you do when your national airline is acting like a ma and pa bush operation? You complain to your union, like the Pakistani crew did (man, a union would have been nice in the bush), and hope that the airline backs down in the face of international scrutiny. So now the few hundred people that read this blog every day, know that PIA doesn't follow its own rules but that pilots Arbab and Jamala stand up for their own and their passengers' safety.


Geekzilla said...

I applaud pilots (and people in general) who abide by the book. I would think that if something's in writing, your accusers would have no leg to stand on, but unfortunately the real world doesn't operate like that. It does not compute.

mattheww50 said...

Every PIA flight begins with a prayer. They need all the help they can get.

However the mentality is fairly typical of that part of the world. Very strong rules and regulations on the books that give the appearance of safety, human rights etc. All of which are promptly ignored with absolute impunity if they get in the way.

DudeeRig said...

And don't make the mistake of thinking that even at a "real" national airline, there aren't individuals and situations continually pressuring pilots into breaking the duty regs, one way or another.

Clayton said...

I read this post and then a post from Captain Doug Morris at From the Flight Deck quite close together :

In that, he talks about a situation that brings up a Duty Day issue with his FO:

Passenegers are boarding and a datalink message appears. Maintenance states “Transport” mandated the oil filter must be changed prior to this flight instead of waiting until we return that night and it’s going to take 90 minutes. This is when you see who has any ounce of loyalty to the company and who operates to the minute. The senior F/O immediately starts checking his duty day. We are good for 13 hours with an extension up to two hours at our discretion. He’s on the phone to crew sked. He’s walking. A senior flight attendant bolts as well.

I am not quite sure if I am misreading, but is he saying that having company loyalty and obeying your mandated duty day are two different things?

Aviatrix said...

Good question, Clayton. The key phrase in Captain Doug's post is "We are good for 13 hours with an extension up to two hours at our discretion." This is a company-specific operational duty day designed so that pilots can't be pressured to work beyond their limits, but that at the same time allows a crew that is not fatigued to get the job done without violating the law.

The company cannot require a pilot to work beyond 13 hours, nor penalize him for choosing not to, but the pilot doesn't have to pretend he's going to drop dead if he works for 14 hours instead.

So working 15 hours may be company loyalty. Working 15 hours and one minute is unlawful.