The plan by Pinnacle Airlines to cut back on its reviews of pilots who make mistakes in training is an astounding error in judgment and should be rethought.
Pinnacle knows better, for a simple reason. It owns the regional carrier that operated the plane that crashed in Clarence Center in 2009 because of pilot error.
That fact alone should encourage top officials at Pinnacle to promote immediate reviews of pilots. Instead, the company is allowing its economic troubles to drive decision-making. Pinnacle has asked the U.S. Bankruptcy Court in New York to approve a plan that would set up a review board to evaluate a pilot's problems after his or her second failure during training.
Reviewing the pilots' performance during their training is not required by law, but is something that virtually all airlines do as a matter of safety. The flying public deserves that a review take place immediately after the first error.
The previous policy and industry standard, according to the Flight Safety Foundation, is to set up a Pilot Training Review Board following a pilot's first training failure. It is the antithesis of common sense to believe that there is no harm in waiting for the second mistake.
Pinnacle officials should have been able to anticipate the negative reaction from politicians and, more important, from the families of those killed in that Clarence crash.
Susan Bourque, one of the leading members of the Families of Continental Flight 3407, said that going from the first failure to the second is "an action that seems to directly undermine safety." Her comment sums it up quite nicely and dovetails statements from the president and CEO of the Flight Safety Foundation.
William R. Voss described the request as a concern and pointed out the desire to be as proactive as possible on any training problem.
It seems glaringly obvious that discovering a pilot's shortcomings and correcting them should be sorted out sooner, rather than later. Of course, that logic runs contrary to the contention of a Pinnacle spokesman, who said the industry standard for convening the review board was to do so after a pilot's second failure in training.
Besides Pinnacle's troubling request is the logic upon which it is based that this would somehow save money. Surely, not to the significance a company that told its employees that without cost-cutting moves it would run out of cash by mid-April. It had filed for bankruptcy earlier that month.
Pinnacle has sought deep concessions from the Air Line Pilots Association. Those negotiations will have to play out, but the company should give up plans to find savings by cutting corners in training.