Fri, Aug 10, 2012
Union Says Captain Wrongfully Terminated For Exercising FAA-Mandated Authority Over Flight Safety
The International Brotherhood of Teamsters and its Teamsters Airline Division expressed strong support Wednesday for an ABX Air pilot who they say was wrongfully terminated for his refusal to operate an aircraft according to a flight plan that was prohibited by FAA-approved procedures.
The Airline Professionals Association, Teamsters Local 1224 announced last week that it filed suit against ABX over the captain’s termination. The Teamster pilot, a respected 27-year ABX veteran with a stellar record, has no history of disciplinary issues. “The Teamsters will use all of our resources to defend and preserve a captain’s authority,” said Teamsters Airline Division Director Capt. David Bourne. “In the aviation industry, the captain’s authority is the cornerstone of safe and secure flight operations.”
In June, the pilot was operating an ABX flight in Japan when he requested a change to the flight plan after raising safety concerns. Following the incident, the airline took disciplinary action and fired the pilot for refusing to sign a coerced statement that said the pilot was not justified in questioning the flight’s safety.
The union holds that the pilot was exercising his FAA-mandated rights, which give the captain of an aircraft the final authority in determining the safe operations of a flight. “When operating a highly complex, multimillion-dollar machine in the dynamic real-world environment, a captain is required to make rapid decisions based on the regulations, his experience, procedures, and the immediate situation at hand to complete a flight safely,” said Capt. Daniel Wells, President of Local 1224. “To impede a captain’s authority to evaluate or even question the safety of a flight undermines the safety protocols upon which our entire aviation system is built.”
ABX also took the unusual and what the union says is an outrageous step of sending out a notice to all its captains, informing them of the pilot’s termination before the pilot himself was officially notified. “This was clearly meant to intimidate pilots and curtail their ability to make sure safety is the top priority on every flight,” Bourne said. “The Teamsters will not let an injustice like this go unchallenged.”
The lawsuit filed against ABX in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District in Ohio argues that discharging the captain creates a “chilling effect” for other pilots and their power to make decisions in the interest of flight safety. The union is demanding the reinstatement of the pilot as well as future protections for flight crews and their authority under the FAA regarding the safe functioning of an aircraft on any given flight.
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