Business Travel Coalition (BTC) today called on the U.S. Congress and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to immediately investigate working conditions, maintenance practices and perverse contract incentives at Amerijet International that place schools, neighborhoods, the environment and the flying public at significant risk each and every day.
There are no toilets aboard the air cargo operator’s Boeing 727s. Female pilots are required to squat and defecate into bags. Male pilots likewise urinate into bags just outside the cockpit doors hanging them on hooks when finished. There is no food or water onboard and no sanitary facilities in which to wash up.
The Amerijet sick-leave policy, low $30,000 co-pilot salaries and 18-hour work days combine to create pilot-fatigue conditions, poor morale and dangerous crew resource management problems. Pilots who call out sick within 2-1/2 hours of their flight, and even up to 7 hours prior, are docked the equivalent of 2-days pay creating a condition that pressures pilots to fly even when sick or exhausted.
According to BTC sources at Amerijet, 3 to 4 times a month the company’s aircraft are forced to return to Miami International Airport because the same maintenance problems that are constantly written up do not get properly addressed. Typical of these returns was one on August 27, 2009 wherein an Amerijet plane lost cabin pressurization and was required to dump 23,000 pounds of fuel in the South Florida waters prior to landing.
“These working conditions are worse than the sweatshops of the 1930s. These Boeing 727s are operating in some of the most complex and congested airspace on the planet and operating on the busy taxi and cross-runways of Miami International Airport, among other airports, and often ferrying hazardous material,” said BTC chairman Kevin Mitchell. “The preventable circumstances that led to a fatigued pilot and sick co-pilot to command the ill-fated Colgan Air flight that crashed near Buffalo, NY in February should be a wake-up call not just for the regional airline model but for the all-cargo model as well. Congress should immediately investigate Amerijet’s pilot training, maintenance procedures, operational policies and working conditions.”
The 62 pilots and flight engineers at Amerijet International, Inc. went on strike on August 27, 2009 after 5 years of endeavoring to secure a contract that would jettison these toxic working conditions. (Watch a YouTube video here.) The support from other unions, especially given how small Amerijet is, has been truly unprecedented. When it comes to safe skies, obviously these industry professionals are drawing a line in the sand.
The following organizations have lent their support to the Amerijet pilots and flight engineers. U.S. Airline Pilots - American (APA) - UPS (IPA) - Southwest (SWAPA) - US Airways & America West (USAPA) - IBT Local 1224 (ABX, Atlas, Polar & Kalitta) - IBT Local 747 (Gulfstream International, Arrow, ATI, Horizon) - IBT Local 769 (Centurion Air Cargo, Continental Express, Vista, UPS Ground, Waste Management) - Freight Drivers from UPS, Yellow & ABF - Transport Workers Union Miami – PATCO- Broward County AFLCIO.
Congress and FAA need to address this outrageous and unsafe situation before a tragedy occurs.