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United Pilots Take Complaints To U.S. Congress

Circulate Report Critical Of The Airline's Safety On Capitol Hill

A 101-page report critical of United Airlines is being passed around Capitol Hill by pilots who fly for the carrier. The report, which was prepared by ALPA, blasts the airline for its use of computer-based training as the primary tool for teaching procedural changes following the merger with Continental Airlines, and the lack of classroom sessions or simulator time to reinforce the computer training.

The Chicago Tribune reports that the union document likens the situation to trying to learn a new trapeze routine by reading about it on a computer.

The report contends that United crews are reporting higher-than-normal rates of safety issues due to stress caused by changes in the cockpit procedures. One pilot, for example, allegedly nearly forgot to lower the landing gear on final approach, according to the document. Others have reportedly failed to properly follow taxi instructions, and some have removed themselves from duty rosters because they felt they were not fit to fly.

United Continental Holdings says the claims are "baseless", and say the pilot's union is attempting to influence contract negotiations with the document. A statement released by UCH Monday said the union has a "history" of working to "disrupt the operations of the airline."

The FAA approved the training program. It is still processing the merged airline's application for a single operating certificate. Continental had based its operating procedures on Boeing manuals, and the United pilots are being forced to change they way they have operated in the cockpit. FAA safety official Petty Gilligan said she has reviewed the concerns expressed by the United pilots, and that the programs are under careful review. "All safety standards will be met," she said in response to a Union letter sent to the agency in September.

FMI: www.alpa.org, www.faa.gov. www.unitedcontinentalholdings.com

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