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June 9th, 2009
12:16 PM ET

Gulfstream International denies allegations of safety violations

[cnn-photo-caption image= caption="David Hackett, President and CEO of Gulfstream International, denies allegations against the company."]

By Allan Chernoff – CNN Sr. Correspondent

– Regional airline challenging FAA proposed fines
– FAA to monitor training programs

Gulfstream International Airlines' chief executive is denying allegations from current and former employees that the regional carrier has repeatedly violated safety rules in an effort to save money.

"Safety is our top priority," said David Hackett, President and Chief Executive Officer of Fort Lauderdale-based Gulfstream, which operates Continental Connection flights in Florida and the Bahamas.

Former and current Gulfstream employees have alleged to CNN that the airline has allowed maintenance issues to fester rather than properly repairing aircraft, and that pilots have been pressured to fly beyond Federal Aviation Administration limits designed to prevent pilot fatigue.

"There's nothing that would be acceptable about pressuring a pilot to fly an airplane he felt unsafe about," Hackett told CNN.

The FAA has proposed a $1.3 million fine against Gulfstream for alleged maintenance and scheduling violations, a move that Gulfstream is challenging. The FAA cited Gulfstream for repeatedly scheduling pilots and flight dispatchers to work past mandated limits. Gulfstream concedes there were discrepancies between pilot logbooks and the company's computer system that tracks hours, but only one actual duty time violation of a pilot accidentally being scheduled to work eight days in a row.

Former Gulfstream schedulers and pilots, however claimed to CNN, that dispatchers were pressured to 'shave pilot hours' from prior flights so pilot flight schedules would not exceed FAA limits, such as 8-hours within a 24-hour period.

"We absolutely deny there was pilot hour shaving," said Hackett. "When this issue first came up we pulled hundreds and hundreds of records to see if this was possible and we found no, absolutely no discrepancies other than a few clerical errors which had nothing to do with making a pilot legal when he otherwise would have been illegal."

Gulfstream says flight dispatchers did sometimes work longer than 10-hour days, for instance to deal with flight delays, but they were not scheduled for such hours, which the company says would not violate FAA rules.

FAA spokesperson Laura Brown said, "This will be resolved by their attorneys and our attorneys as part of a government enforcement case."

Gulfstream's Training Academy, which trains First Officers (co-pilots), has come under scrutiny as well because the pilot of the Colgan Air plane that crashed near Buffalo in February killing 50 people attended the Academy and flew for Gulfstream International Airline.

Students who have earned an FAA multi-engine commercial certificate enroll in the three-month, $30,000 program. Immediately afterwards, with as little as 250-hours of flight time experience, they serve as First Officers on Gulfstream International Airlines commercial flights to earn another 250-hours of flight time. Veteran pilots say major airlines typically require new First Officers to have a minimum of 1,500 flight hours.

"I just don't know how they justify it. When I get on an airplane I expect a fully qualified crew," said Captain Pat Moore, a long-time commercial pilot.

"It's not the quantity of time, it's the quality of training," counters James Bystrom, Gulfstream Academy Director. "What we provide is a first-quality training."

FAA Administrator Randy Babbitt and Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood announced Tuesday they are ordering FAA inspectors to ensure regional airline training programs are complying with federal regulations.

"I have no greater obligation than to ensure the safety of airline travelers in this country," said Secretary LaHood.

In announcing heightened oversight of airline training programs, the Department of Transportation and FAA did not refer to any specific airline, other than citing the Buffalo tragedy.

Newly graduated Gulfstream Academy students earn $8 an hour as probationary First Officers, 79-cents above Florida's minimum wage. If they are hired on as permanent pilots their pay jumps to $20 an hour, which comes out to annual earnings of about $20,000.

"It's a career path and this is the first step on their career," said Hackett.

Filed under: Airline safety
soundoff (54 Responses)
  1. Former Mechanic

    GIA pilots were excellent. They had great attitudes, loved their jobs, and looked forward to the day they could move up to captain status and/or move to another carrier. We only had one pilot I can think of who used to burn tires almost every flight and we had to constantly change them.

    July 21, 2009 at 8:35 pm |
  2. John W

    I would like a response to this post if anyone has time:

    Consider the following scenario: A person desires to become a professional pilot. So they attend a quote "pilot factory" so they can get the necessary licenses and ratings to get started in the airline industry. Given the state of the economy and the impact it has had on new pilot hiring within the airline industry they figure they would need additional, more advanced training to give them a “leg up” in the selection process. So they turn to the FO training program at GIA. Not as a way to gain employment immediately by the airlines but as a way to gain valuable experience by working for an actual airline. So they have to pay for the training....not good...but I challenge anyone to tell me where a new pilot will find an airline that will hire them and give them the type of training that can be gain through GIA for free. Following their training at GIA they then spend some time working as a CFI at a local fight school or academy to gain flight time and experience until they can get hired by a regional airline. Is anything wrong with that scenario as far as using GIA as a portion of their preparation for a career as an airline pilot?

    July 14, 2009 at 2:40 pm |
  3. sharon

    how about traing the TSA to look at boarding passes and confirm the names to be accurate before he allows you to go on to a secured concourse (chicago midway) before that it was checked with id and placed in an envelope from a SW agent -still i passed through GOD FORBID I WAS A TERROIST!!!! had i boarded the plane and the crash their would have been accountability for me in the event of a crash, i would have perished while my ticket holder stood at the gate wondering what the hell happened. Get some security that works from the bottom up and quit placing blame back and forth and accept. One what may seem small to some.....can cost many of us our lives

    June 17, 2009 at 10:34 pm |
  4. sharon

    how about traing the TSA to look at boarding passes and confirm the names to be accurate before he allows you to go on to a secured concourse (chicago midway) before that it was checked with id and placed in an envelope from a SW agent -still i passed through GOD FORBID I WAS A TERROIST!!!! had i boarded the plane and the crash their would have been accountability for me in the event of a crash, i would have perished while my ticket holder stood at the gate wondering what the hell happened. Get some security that works from the bottom up and quit placing blame back and forth and accept. One what may seem small to some.....can cost many of us our lives!

    June 17, 2009 at 10:33 pm |
  5. Fred Roberts

    "Statistically" GIA does just about the easiest flying I've ever seen. FLL to the Bahamas, etc. get real. Avoid the Tstorms at 4pm and that's about it. Their route structure is about as challanging as the Dorito deliveryman's. That and turbine aircraft is what makes it safe and little else. Don't pat youself on the back for being able to tie your shoes. I'd kill for someting that easy everyday. Wanna fly into Eagle CO. in the snow with me next time? How about to minimums at 2am at some CTAF airport you've never been to in icing or T storms? The list goes on and on...,

    Statisticaly a GIA graduate has been involved in almost every regional crash in the last decade, that's no accident. This CANNOT be explained away, if you try then you simply DO NOT know what the problem is, furthermore you are part of the problem.

    Becoming a professional pilot is a maturation process, only some can be circumvented by training. I don't care who you are, the only way around this is a highly structured program like the military or an ab initio like Luftansa where the candidates are rigorously screened prior to and trained from day one in the proceedures used by the parent airline. To be clear, when a Luftansa pilot starts day one, he uses Luftansa material, checklists, proceedures and regulations in a Beechcraft Bonanza. Both the military and European airline use rigorous selection process which has nothing to do with who has the $30,000 to step up to the plate.

    Pilots make 90% of their money 10% of the time. In otherwords, 90% of the time flying is easy. That 10%, or even 3%, cannot be bargained with, papered over, or bought. If any of you don't know this then you are not qualified to talk here, in fact you need to start listening. (I am not being arogant).

    After 20 years and 9,000 hours I am learning every day. Every single flight I learn something or improve upon something. Flying is a serious business where if you screw up people die, starting with yourself. The isn't about money, fast cars and fast women, it's about a professionalism, dedication and peoples lives. Everything else is secondary, everything!


    Esteban, I get your point, failures instead of quality training to instill fear, but that doesn't account for 5 & 7 failures respectively, maybe 1 or 2.

    June 13, 2009 at 10:43 am |
  6. Mark

    Statistically, Gulfstream has the safest record in the industry. That's no accident

    June 12, 2009 at 1:39 pm |
  7. Christian

    Gulfstream's training was so bad that the former Midway had a moritorium on hiring them after several bad apples

    June 12, 2009 at 12:37 pm |
  8. Dawn

    There was no check airman at GIA who sent more pilots packing than the notorious "Captain Eyebrow" and yet he washed out when he went to United. Who washes out at United? Their mins were lower than Gulfstream's!

    So, Robert and Esteban: You're both right

    June 12, 2009 at 7:13 am |
  9. Esteban

    Has it occurred to anyone that even GIA doesn't believe in its ab-initio training?

    They would routinely hire "fifteen hundred hour wonders" into the LEFT seat who had little more than "a checkbook and a dream" to quote one of their recruitment slogans. Mere CFIs with the very training they attempted to contrast with what the Academy offered.

    June 11, 2009 at 8:26 am |
  10. Esteban

    Fred Roberts:

    Agreed, they are being scapegoated for a larger issue. But, they're hardly innocent.

    There is nothing conceptionally wrong with ab-initio per se. It's just that I don't think, from personal experience, the GIA is able or willing to make up for deficiencies of experience with quality of training. Merely flunking people who disagree with their slipshod approach and training by intimidation and screaming merely glosses over the problem.

    June 11, 2009 at 8:06 am |
  11. Ken

    It seems to me from a lot of reading, that Hackett is a "HACK." I flew Mesa, Hennson, Pidmont and a lot of his other consolidated livery for 25 years. Evidence is that GI is similar to some place that trains people to cut hair and do manicures. If you pay eneough money and do not screw up to bad, you get a CERT and fulfill your dream. This is not intended to be a joke. It is a serious public safety issue.

    June 11, 2009 at 1:36 am |
  12. Esteban

    James Bystrom '93
    James transferred to Embry-Riddle then went into the active USAF overseas and domestic. Off active duty and then into the reserves since 97 and currently flying for a civilian airline. Currently the Base/Manager chief pilot for a carrier at the Tampa International Airport.

    June 10, 2009 at 6:15 pm |
  13. Fred Roberts

    "Major airlines around the world hire pilots with less experience than GIA does."

    That is a misnomer. Yes in total flight hours they may, but they are trained by the airline themselves from day one.

    June 10, 2009 at 5:16 pm |
  14. Fred Roberts

    This isn't personal, and i won't make it so, but you continue to miss the point. I am an average pilot, I offer myself as nothing more. Please read again what I have said, not what you think I said. If you do you will see that I did say GIA is being made a scapegoat of a larger problem.

    However if GIA is the single common denominator in numerous crashes, it simply cannot be explained away or defended.

    June 10, 2009 at 4:46 pm |
  15. Esteban

    Fred Roberts :

    If you had half the time, qualifications, skill and integrity that I think you do... you'd wash out of GIA. It would be too intimidating for them for you to be around

    June 10, 2009 at 3:20 pm |
  16. Ken

    My local School District pays a "bus helper" more than $16 per hour under a union contract. A "bus helper" has about the same training as a crossing gaurd and less responsibility than a baby-sitter. This economy is all askew because we have a President who seeks to re-distribute income and wealth, foresaking professional career development and public safety.

    June 10, 2009 at 3:07 pm |
  17. Esteban

    "I have a suggestion for you to seriously consider, your “Fuerher” as you call him would be just an average check airman at any reputable carrier. Think about that for a moment."

    WRONG! I can't imagine a reputable carrier hiring him, much less making him a check airman

    June 10, 2009 at 2:35 pm |
  18. Esteban

    Fred Roberts:

    I'm sure that over a beer you'd agree with me. My point was never to say that their training was rigorous just that it is made to appear so by the failures.

    This Fuerher would expect some pilots to have the holdover time tables memorized even though we'd never seen even Type I de-ice fluid in South Florida.
    On the other hand, he couldn't tell a prop runaway from a failed engine and he never had the 135 alternate mins figured out.

    Many have left that outfit with blemished records that they've kept clean since. And many who were stars at GIA have washed out elsewhere.
    GIA is not the real world and what happens there is not indicative of what will happen when they move on.

    Major airlines around the world hire pilots with less experience than GIA does. It's not quantity but quality and GIA has neither. I can think of three of their toughest check airmen and CPs who busted out of initial F/O training at airlines and corporate jobs. And others who were told they couldn't fly are in great careers now.

    BTW, when the feds showed up for my last checkride at GIA, I was relieved as a sense of calm came over me.

    June 10, 2009 at 2:27 pm |
  19. Fred Roberts


    "I would bet you even money that if you went to GIA, you’d fail some checkrides. Not that you’re a bad pilot, it’s just how the maintain the appearance of being rigorous and keep attitudes like yours at bay. In fact, one erstwhile checkairman from Switzerland there was known as “The Fuerher”

    You can't have your cake and eat it too my friend. It can't be said that on one hand "GIA training meets all FAA standards" yet on the other suggest that they fail more pilots than somebody else. I have a suggestion for you to seriously consider, your "Fuerher" as you call him would be just an average check airman at any reputable carrier. Think about that for a moment.

    I am no different than any of my professional pilot brothers. I consider myself to be average and I am in no way suggesting that I am better than anybody else. The fact that I haven't failed any checkrides is not indictive that I'm better or have been through any "easy" checkrides. None or one failure is an industry norm, occaisionally two. I recall my Part 121 captain check ride with the FAA examiner sitting next to the company examiner. Do you think that was easy? I have passed because I've put my all into it, I passed because I was ready in time for each successive step.

    Your "Fuerher" fails plenty because his applicants are there because they have the $30,000 to be there, but not necessarily the skills. The check ride standards do not change, they are published in the PTS. Pilots pay their dues for many reasons, not the least of which is to seperate the weak from the strong. All hail the Fuerher, because it sounds like GIA needs more just like him.

    I have done better on some of my perhaps 35 checkrides than others, but you cannot explain away any circumstance why a pilot have failed numerous check rides, and you cannot explain away why almost all of the recent regional crashes envolved GIA graduates. If you do not see this then you are part of the problem. Sorry my friend.

    June 10, 2009 at 1:56 pm |
  20. Esteban

    Here's how $20/hr works at Gulfstream.

    The FAA limits a pilot to 1,000 hrs of flying a year. That's block time, i.e. the time from taxi out to taxi in. Gulfstream pays for the time in the air. On short segments, this can be 70-90% of block time. The incentive is to minimize the taxi time reported because it cuts into the hours you can be paid for. Nevertheless, at $20/hr is hard to imagine any GIA pilot making more than 18k/yr.

    June 10, 2009 at 10:43 am |
  21. Esteban

    I know people were eager for a hero like Sully, but what he did is what every private pilot is trained to do.

    Landing in a big river (with visual references unlike an ocean) on a clear day is a whole lot easier than shooting an approach, landing in a crosswind or holding in ice. Things that pilots do every day.

    A lot of attention is paid to Sully's military experience but this was little and a long time ago. His Phantom didn't have the avionics of today's homebuilts. But, he was a guy who lived and breathed aviation. He maintained his instructor's ratings, and was rated in seaplanes and gliders. I submit that those things had as much to do with the survival of those passengers aboard his plane as any training provided by Uncle Sam.

    June 10, 2009 at 9:40 am |
  22. Bart Thome

    My sentiments exactly as Fred Roberts stated. He probably was an AA pilot. As for Bryan, the little kiddie peddle pusher is about his speed!

    June 10, 2009 at 8:38 am |
  23. Esteban

    Fred Roberts:

    I would bet you even money that if you went to GIA, you'd fail some checkrides. Not that you're a bad pilot, it's just how the maintain the appearance of being rigorous and keep attitudes like yours at bay. In fact, one erstwhile checkairman from Switzerland there was known as "The Fuerher"

    June 10, 2009 at 8:37 am |
  24. Esteban


    At present, GIA has a program in which First Officers pay for their training in the Beech 1900 and fly for a block of 250 hours as a line qualified First Officer. This program undermines the airline pilot profession in the view of many, particularly union members. To gain experience, pilots with low experience often pay over $32,000.00 to ride in the right seat of turboprops in duty positions normally occupied by a paid professional; albeit one that receives very little pay. This was also the case with captains early on with candidates paying $15,000 up front starting in 1992 with Avtar International doing the recruiting and advertising. However, these pilots received compensation following successful completion of Initial Operating Experience (IOE). The Captain's Program was initially for the CE-402B/C but later expanded to the BE-1900 and SD3-60 until the latter were repossessed. So called "Pay to work" programs started with Avtar International selling 100 hours of multi-engine time in CE-402s for $8,750 with the assurance from the Miami Flight Standard District Office that this time was loggable. Avtar International was started by Vic Johnson of New Jersey and Bill Veiga, a former Cessna Aircraft test pilot. Initially, most intern pilots were sent to GIA's chief competitor, Airways International as Gulfstream possessed only one aircraft: N200UV, a Cessna 402B. As Gulfstream continued to grow, they took the lion's share of Avtar pilots and the price was restructured to $8900 for 150 hours of flight time. Soon, a turbo prop program was added: $15,000 for 100 hours on a BE-C99; later increased to 200 hours and then 300 hours. Simultaneously, Avtar offered a heavy turbo prop program with Airways on their SD3-330 for $16,000. This program ended with the demise of Airways International and was only briefly restored with Gulfstream's own SD3-360s; a program that sold for $39,500 for 500 hours. The status of the CE402 F/Os was always the most ambiguous. Non-functioning autopilots made SICs a requirement but they were left behind (bumped) if passenger loads or weight & balance considerations dictated[5].

    From their outstation locations they were expected to jumpseat home on GIA or other carriers, if necessary, because no return tickets were provided. For these reasons, and the fact that the company was founded and run by strike breakers from the very acrimonious Eastern Air Lines Strike of the late eighties, a few professional pilots refuse to fly on GIA as a passenger though they frequently jumpseat [1]. After complaints of jumpseating abuse by the interning First Officers from pilots at Major Carriers, Gulfstream, to its credit, made this a punishable activity for pilots not considered employed. Interning pilots were issued unique ID badges stamped in bold red "Jumpseat NA." Equally controversial, was the practice of using foreign nationals on student or tourist visas (including citizens of the People's Republic of China). These crewmembers were also recruited by Avtar Int'l which operated until 1997 when Gulfstream took over the practice with a sister company: The Gulfstream Training Academy. Post 9/11, many of these programs have been cleaned up and no international First Officers have been deported or detained by U.S. Customs since. Pilots who have interned with GIA have been hired by many other airlines, including all Major Airlines. Most have not brought any negatives to their new employers, although they have been among the crews of prominent crashes[6]. See also Pinnacle Airlines Flight 3701, Comair Flight 5191 and Colgan Air Flight 3407 . Gulfstream itself has never had a fatal accident.

    In 2009 U.S. Congress investigators and the Federal Aviation Administration accused Gulfstream of falsifying flight time records, making crews fly longer hours than allowed by law, and providing below standard aircraft maintenance. Capt. Thomas L. Cooper forbade the photocopying of aircraft logbooks done by some pilots to corroborate the times they logged in their personal logbooks.[citation needed]

    Historically, pilots were paid "segment hours." So called, "segment hours" were based on ideal enroute times as opposed to block times and have been suspected of being part of an inducement for under reporting. Logging of true block hours (actual enroute times plus taxi time) could be detrimental to pilot pay. Whereas, most carriers pay pilots based on block time, since it is what FAA flight time limits are based on, GIA did not. An incentive existed to under report block time by keeping it as close to segment time as possible thereby permitting pilots to get paid for the most segment hours in a week, a month, and a year. Delays that increased block times not only reduced the crewmember's utility to GIA but also limited his pay. This under reporting was most relevant to captains. First Officers were not remunerated until 1995 when a majority of the turboprop co-pilots on the virtual seniority list with U.S. Passports or Green Cards began to be paid $8 per segment hour. Foreign copilots, who were not compensated and merely wished to return to their home countries with as much multi engine turbine time in as few months as possible, had little incentive to abide by FAA flight time limits.[2]

    In July 1997, the airline's entire fleet of Shorts 360-300s were repossessed by the leasing company due, in part, to maintenance irregularities that included the welding of hydraulic lines according to USA Today. Gulfstream faces a civil penalty of $1.3 million U.S. dollars according to USA Today. Gulfstream's affiliated Gulstream Flight Academy the successor to Avtar went into scrutiny since Marvin Renslow, the pilot of Colgan Air Flight 3407, trained there.[3] This is ironic because despite its status as a mere stepping stone in the minds of most pilot employees, the company was able to keep whistle blowing in check through selective disclosure of training documents mandated by the Pilot Record Improvement Act of 1996 (PRIA). PRIA came about in reaction to the crash of an American Eagle Jetstream piloted by a captain with a history of difficulties at prior airlines. It has been criticized because much of the information is subjective and the pilot waives his right to sue his former and current employers when he seeks employment with other FAR part 121 operators. [3] Furthermore, a prospective employer is merely required to request and receive the PRIA material prior to hiring a pilot. No consideration of the material is required and the law does not apply if the applicant's former employer is the military or a foreign operator.[4]

    After the FAA accused Gulfstream of safety violations, the chief executive, David Hackett, said that "the airline does not have safety violations."Gulfstream International denies allegations of safety violations." [5]

    June 10, 2009 at 8:16 am |
  25. Tanya

    When I step foot on an aircraft I expect a fully competent flight crew. I'm putting my life into their hands. I don't want my crew to be fatigued and overworked.

    June 10, 2009 at 3:33 am |
  26. Bryan

    When I went to Gulfstream I found the training to be substandard. I was never instructed on how to inflate the autopilot. In Gulfstreams defense, I was taught how to score with the flight attendents, how many drinks it takes to loosen me up for duty and say "Roger Wilco" in a deep captain voice.

    June 10, 2009 at 2:17 am |
  27. Fred Roberts

    I am a professional pilot with 20 years and over 9,000 hours of flight
    experience, I was formerly employed by a major US airline, and I am
    currently employed as a professional pilot for a major US aircraft

    The sad, brutal truth all have us have known since our earliest days in
    aviation is this; it often takes dead bodies for change to occur in our
    industry. For example, some years ago after fatigue was sited as a factor
    in an American
    Airlines crash in Little Rock AR, the FAA made a subtle change to the rest
    requirements for pilots. We in the industry knew fatigue was a critical
    issue and
    saw the FAA action it for what it was, window dressing. The FAA of course
    made it
    sound as though they were on top of the problem and this would fix it, but
    in truth they
    simply tweeked the existing rules in a way that might effect 5% of all
    operations. Now we hear
    of course from the FAA and the airlines how all the pilots met the industry
    standards. Really? A captain with 150 hours in type and a history of five
    (5) check ride failures??? I’ve never failed one, most of my friends
    haven’t, or perhaps one at most. Frankly I’ve never heard of anybody
    failing more than two. The First Officer apparently said on the CVR that
    she’d never or rarely seen ice. WOW! I’ve got almost as much time
    flying in potential icing conditions as she had total flight time.

    So why is this so? Two things really, first the FAA. The FAA has largely
    done a stellar job throughout it’s history, however they have one glaring
    weakness; they are both the arbiter of safety and the promoter of the
    industry. On one hand they make flying safe, on the other they help ensure
    the economic viability of the airlines. If they truly had done something
    more than window dressing after the Little Rock crash, the airlines would
    scream because they would have to hire 10-15% more pilots to cover any new
    realistic rest requirements. The FAA and NASA have reams of studies that
    tell them in unambiguous terms pilots need more rest but they simply cannot
    or will not overcome the airlines objections (in the form of the ATA)

    The second factor we have is the race to the bottom in the US. Our quest
    for ever cheaper products has forced an addiction to cheap imported goods.
    Since we can’t outsource pilots to China or India, then we outsource them
    to ever cheaper and cheaper operators. Sure they “meet the industry
    standards”, but frankly the industry standards have traditionally been
    irrelevant. The FAA requires 1500 hours to be a Captain. I was hired as a
    first officer at my first airline job with 2700. There I went through DASH
    8 (!) training at one of the finest regional airlines in the country,
    Allegheny Airlines. This was no pilot factory, or puppy mill as we call
    them. I was trained by pilots with 20 years just at that airline alone with
    10 years flying Dash 8’s. You see, once upon a time, not very long ago,
    the major airlines were served by the best regionals, Allegheny, Henson,
    Mesaba, Air Wisconson, ASA, etc. Unfortunately each became too expensive in
    this modern world (largely because they paid pilots a decent wage), so
    airlines like Pinnacle, Mesa and Cogan exploded from little operators to
    major players for one reason and one reason alone, they were the cheapest.
    No longer do 50 year olds with 25 years experience teach the ropes to the
    new guys, now 27 year old captains teach 22 year olds straight from these
    pilot factories . That is not hyperbole, it is reality. Look in the cockpit
    of that Cogan flight at each crew member and tell me I’m wrong. Still
    don’t think so? Google Pinnacle airline crash flight 3701, then search
    out the CVR, read it in it’s entirety. Children flying with children, the
    weak flying with the inexperienced in planes far larger, faster and
    sophisticated than ever before (Some of these airlines are flying fly by
    wire 100 seat jets ) Cogan and Pinnacle are not alone in this, but please
    note that Pinnacle owns Cogan.

    Allegheny airlines, now merged with Piedmont Airlines (formerly Henson) fly
    100 and 300 model (37-50 seat) Dash 8’s for US air. Under their contract
    if they flew the 400 model like Cogan, the Captains would make close to
    $100K year, the F/O’s about $55K. At Cogan thew Captain made $55K and the
    F/O $25K. Piedmont is staffed by a senior cadre of Captains that average
    nearly 50 years old, each has flown the Dash Eight for 12+ years.

    A regional pilot averages about 400 hours per month on duty. If they were
    paid minimum wage for those hours they would make about $35K per year. An
    F/O at all these second rate regionals belongs on food stamps. It is time
    for the FAA to put up and the ATA to shut up. For God’s sake please pay
    pilots at least the US minimum WAGE!. Until we do so, we will continue to
    get what we pay for. All we have to do to connect the dots is look at the
    Pinnacle crash, look at the Cogan crash, then look at the US Airways plane
    in the Hudson River. The contrast could not be more clear. Two perfectly
    good airplanes were crashed by the inexperienced, while one completely
    broken one
    was saved by experience.

    I am not suggesting that money is the only answer, but bear in mind a
    decent pay breeds stability and experience. In aviation there truly is no
    substitute for experience. I have flown with many young pilots, all
    perfectly competent, and very professional. However time teaches you one
    thing above all else in aviation, what can go wrong will go wrong sooner or
    later. You see, a young pilot may even fly the plane better than the old,
    but you see the old doesn’t care about flying the plane. He/she cares
    about what might go wrong, what could go wrong. In fact this very
    relationship is enshrined in most emergencies training at most major
    airlines- the F/O flies the plane while the Captain manages the emergency.
    The following saying isn’t just humorous, and it will always be true-
    there are bold pilots and old pilots, but no old bold pilots. Experience in
    the cockpit is as vital as fuel, wings and engines.

    While GIA may have it's fair share of issues, and it would seem to be a
    common denominator
    on almost all of the recent regional airline crashes, they are in some ways
    a scapegoat as well.
    The problem isn't necessarily them, it's that for years and years their
    graduates and others like them
    went to regional airlines with "old hands at the till". There they were
    nurtured and matured until they were ready.
    Now with the explosion of bargain basement operators who will fly for the
    lowest buck, there are no old hands anymore, they cost too much. Instead
    time and time again at these low rung carriers a GIA (or similar low time
    pilot) graduate spends a year or so at a regional carrier, makes captain
    then is paired with another GIA new hire. Children flying with children, or
    worse yet, the inept flying with children.

    The best example of this is found at Northwest airlines. Mesaba has been
    their regional airline for years, they do indeed have those veteran pilots,
    stability and yes higher pay. So guess what happened? They shrunk, lost out
    because they were more expensive than the other option for Northwest;
    Pinnacle airlines. Pinnacle grew at the expense of Mesaba because they were
    cheaper. However, Pinnacle grew too fast, lacked experience, upgraded
    pilots to Captain lightning fast, and hired warm bodies to fill the seats.
    Think not? The Captain of Pinnacle flight 3701 had 7 checkride failures,
    the Cogan Captain (owned by Pinnacle and it also went through rapid growth)
    had 5 failures. To repeat, I have none, most of my friends have none or
    one, and that's with 3x the experience/years and opportunity for failure. 5
    and 7 failures respectively is beyond an embarrassment, and it goes beyond
    a personal level. How can these men be hired to fly these planes? Systemic

    Once upon a time airplanes and airlines crashed almost every other week,
    failure prone radial engines, terrible instruments, poor training, etc. In
    time each got better, every generation improving upon the one before. The
    jets engine replace the piston, regulations changed, redundancy improved,
    safety improved. By the late 70's each had improved to the point whereby
    the last hidden factor came to light, perhaps before obscured by mechanical
    unreliability- human factors. United Airlines was first, with all to follow
    in studying, learning, and training CRM, Crew Resource Management. With
    further increased reliability in conjunction with improved crew teamwork we
    saw a nearly spotless safety record emerge in the most recent decade, save
    one; Regional airlines.

    So what is the distilled answer? Safe flying is a series of safety nets,
    each imperfect, but all overlapping. The intent is that one or two may
    fail, but it should be caught by another. An engine fails? You have
    another, a crew makes a mistake, the other catches it, etc. Envision a
    circus high wire act high above the floor, with a series of nets below. If
    he falls and one net fails, another will prevent disaster. Now look closely
    at the performer, he wears a harness and a safety line- that is the pilots.
    Pilots are always the first and last line of defense. What has occurred
    here is that the safety nets got so good the FAA and ATA thought they were
    good enough. The rest of us pilots knew and we saw this coming. On your
    next trip to the airport look closely at the pilots. Look at the young
    regional pilots in their 20's and early thirties. Oh they're cheaper
    alright, and in fact most are fine pilots, but they need to go back in the
    oven a little longer. You see, as pilots we all have paid our dues- except
    them. 27 year old captains flying jets? Get real..., (read the Pinnacle
    3701 transcript)

    Who's fault? The FAA. Did you know that if there is a chemical spill at an
    airport if you call OSHA they'll tell you they can't do anything about it?
    "Call the FAA" they will say. I happen to know many very fine people at the
    FAA, they are quite dedicated. However the FAA as an entity has stood by
    and watched while our profession, our craft, being been sold to the lowest
    bidder and did nothing. This falls directly on the FAA and deep down inside
    they all know it.

    So as an industry we largely licked mechanical failures, we've successfully
    mitigated human errors, and quite frankly got complacent. In the race to
    ever cheaper and cheaper airline tickets we did indeed find how low they
    can go.

    Flying ain't easy folks and there are no short cuts. And please please
    don't fall for some more window dressing like you did after Little Rock.

    June 10, 2009 at 2:00 am |
  28. Brian


    Captain Marvin Renslow was trained by Gulfstream. He had flown for Gulfstream prior to working for Colgan. He was never trained on a stick shaker emergency system, which activated as the plane he was piloting was descending into Buffalo on Febraury 12th, 2009.

    His negligence caused the death of fifty people in Buffalo when he erroneously responded to a stall by pulling up on the nose of the Colgan Dash 8. The crash was completely avoidable, he was inexperienced and improperly trained and responded to a tail stall, which was not actually occurring. Part of that falls on Colgan, part falls on Gulfstream. So, to say that Gulfsream hasn't had a serious accident may indeed be true, but they were at least partly responsible for turning out pilots like Renslow.

    June 10, 2009 at 1:22 am |
  29. Josh

    $20/hr is more like $40,000/year

    June 10, 2009 at 1:09 am |
  30. john

    $8.00/hour? Are you serious? I don't trust the food at Burger King made by $8.00/hour paid employees and I fly 6 times a month on average. I'm horrified that my pilots make minimum wage. Why bother with training for that kind of money?

    UGH! Now I'm really scared to fly. Unfortunately, it's something I have to do every week.

    June 10, 2009 at 1:02 am |
  31. John

    Congratulations Bill, that's the most naive thing I've heard in awhile. The sad part is it sounds like you have had flight training. I hear the flying public say shameful, uninformed things all the time, but you-trained in aviation to say that?

    Do you realize how much wisdom and cool under fire it takes to be a flight instructor (CFI)? Physically touching the controls is a SMALL part of the big picture, especially considering how most large aircraft are flown by the AUTOPILOT for all but the takeoff and landing.

    A 1,500 hour flight instructor has guided several budding pilots through literally thousands of botched takeoffs, landings, stalls, weather, emergency procedures both simulated and real, and blocks upon blocks of aviation knowledge.

    To teach is to become a master. Come talk to me when you have experience molding future pilots, and better yet, when you become a Gold Seal Flight Instructor.

    Shame on you.

    June 10, 2009 at 12:45 am |
  32. lynne

    This is completely unacceptable. Dangerous. My son has a friend who is a pilot in Japan. He is well-paid, and the pilots at his company are only allowed to fly twice a week. How can it be safe to allow fatigued people to work in this field? Gulfstream should be closed down. They are a menace to people on the plane and on the ground.

    June 10, 2009 at 12:37 am |
  33. Embry Riddle

    i strongly agree with gulfstream ceo. i am not employed with gulfstream nor do i know anyone that is. i am beginning my career in aviation very soon. The FAA always cracks down on things when something happens, thats safety folks.....there always has to be a fatal accident for something to be changed. but i am very confident and assured that gulfstream did everything they could to train its pilots about fatigue. 100% with gulfstream on this one!

    June 10, 2009 at 12:32 am |
  34. Herb Kellaher

    I received my training at Flight Safety International between the 2 it is like Gulfstream is like comparing a for profit fly by night "career college" and Flight Safety to Harvard.

    Gulfstream is a joke, but nobody is laughing.

    David Hacket is just like the owner of a slaughter house with no inspectors. FRIGHTENING ! !

    June 10, 2009 at 12:18 am |
  35. Esteban

    The pay cited is misleading because it is actually less than half of minimum wage. GIA pilots are only paid for scheduled time airborne which is about half of their time on duty.

    Still better than a decade ago when Gulfstream didn't pay their first officers

    June 10, 2009 at 12:04 am |
  36. BPH

    Ok Bill, go ahead and put your kids on that flight with pilots with 250 hours of flight time and a whole 90 days of flight training. I am sure you will have no problem with that. Keep in mind that the $8.00 per hour is for flight time, not time on duty. You can have a duty day up to 14 hours and a total flight time of 8 hours. Ask the families of the Colgan crash how they feel about it.

    June 9, 2009 at 11:59 pm |
  37. Marcin K.

    As a former regional airline pilot I have seen it all. The most common safety concern I saw was aircraft maintenance and pilot fatigue. I have personally been warned in writing by my chief pilot "not to be fatigued" or I will be terminated. The airline does not care whether the crew received adequate rest; all they care is that the flight leave on time and the crew is there. I have become so disgusted with how the airline was treating me and my fellow employees, that I decided to give up flying. I have also witnessed numerous maintenance infractions which were covered up in hopes that the FAA would never discover them. The bottom line for the regional airlines is to save money. Nothing and I mean nothing else matters, not even passengers and especially their employees. It would be fair to warn the flying public of the regional airline poor maintenance and pilot fatigue issues.

    June 9, 2009 at 11:33 pm |
  38. tom

    When I go to a doctor I insist that he or she be the best available. When I step on an airplane I expect the same from my pilots. I am assuming that they are well trained and able to handle any and all situations that may arise. 250 hours of flight training from Gulfstream International is a joke. A perfect example of my point is the picture that accompanies this article. It is taken from one of the simulators at GSI and it shows a fourth rate fixed-based sim with a 12-inch video monitor only capable of rudimentary basic instrument flying. The training offered is elementary-school level flying.

    The Fry-Cook at McDonalds makes more than the permanent First Officers at GSI. The FAA says a commercial pilot can only fly 1000 hours a year. On average that works out to 83.33 hours a month or $666.66 for their new-hires. Our Fry-cook can make nearly twice that amount by working a 42-hour week.

    I would never trust my life to a doctor who make minimum wage, why would I want one as my pilot?

    The quality vs quantity argument mentioned by the previous writer is bogus as there are 50 people who died in Buffalo because of the "quality" training received by the Captain of Colgen Flight 3407. A well-trained pilot would never let his/her aircraft slow to the point of a stall and if it did happen they wouldn't retract flaps and pull back on the yoke. Those actions are direct opposite of the corrective action.

    June 9, 2009 at 11:28 pm |
  39. Rob

    It makes me scarred to think that the pilot flying the plane me and my family are on is only making 20,000$ a year or less. Something that makes me un-easy about this.. even if they are trained properly. If they are professionals, they should be paid as professionals. We put our lives and our families lives in their hands every time we step on an airplane. What is happening in the airlines is scary.

    June 9, 2009 at 11:01 pm |
  40. Rich

    The problem is widespread. When the majors were hiring big time in 2007 ALL regionals had their minimums drop to 250hrs and had "pulse" interviews (ie do you have a pulse).

    A 250hr FO is an easy pushover for crew schedulers at these regionals who push pilots to the maximum mandated FAA hours daily. A legal FAA "rest" is defined as 8 hours, however that clock starts generally 15 min. after the plane pulls into the gate. By that time the FO is still generally doing their post flight. The crew must then wait for a hotel bus (20-30min), then travel to the hotel (another 20-30min), check in and now 90 minutes into your 8 hours you finally arrive at your hotel room. Then the crew scheduling game begins. Most airlines have 45min-1hr report times before the first flight of the day to conduct their preflight inspections, etc. The airline simply moves that time up to the departure time (but conveniently leaves the departure time the same for the passengers to see). They simply slide the report time to fit the 8 hours in. After missing 90min of rest on the front side, you have the same thing again before the next flight (getting up, traveling to the airport, getting through security). So out of the 8hrs of FAA mandated "rest" you really have 5hrs to sleep.

    So know you combine a lack of experience (not only the FO but usually the CA as when airlines were hiring Gulfstream would update people right at the FAA minimum (1500 hrs)), lack of sleep, and airline willing to push the limits each and every time and we are now starting to witness the results.

    Don't believe me? A well known regional airline would actually encourage pilots to bring sheets of plywood for their crews to sleep in the airplanes during a 4hr layover in Las Vegas in between a red eye flight and the first flight in the morning. The company was too cheap to buy a hotel room for the crew since they didn't have a 5 hour rest.

    June 9, 2009 at 10:58 pm |
  41. pete adams

    i mean to say inexperienced in the one line above on my post,you will figure it out

    June 9, 2009 at 10:56 pm |
  42. Sean

    How long have you worked for GulfStream Bill?

    June 9, 2009 at 10:56 pm |
  43. pete adams

    doesnt mean nothing if they had an accident or not,they could have just been lucky enough not to encounter a problem,it only takes once and you have loss of life,experienced pilots just dont have the experience PERIOD,not backtalking this out,good egample is the buffalo crash with inexperienced pilots who pointed the plane upward instead of downward when they were going into a stall,they were suppose to point downward to pick up speed not upward to loose airspeed,plain got confused and when it counted they screwed up due to lack of experience,sometimes there is only a split second to react to a problem,if you screw it up,LOSS OF LIFE

    June 9, 2009 at 10:54 pm |
  44. nope

    gulfstream airlines is one of the worst airlines in the world. they have very shabbe maintenance and they are very cheap to repair their airplanes. i personally know people that wok there and they tell me that supervisors pencil whip problems and send mechanics home when they find problems and write stuff up thats wrong with the aircraft. its nothing but sure luck why gulfstream have not had a aircraft crash and kill innocent people. the faa is to blame for the unsafe airplanes gulfstream airlines fly.

    June 9, 2009 at 10:49 pm |
  45. CharlesLH

    So, you're telling me that those Gulfstream International flights, some in Beech 19's and other small planes, but shown as a leg of a Continental flight, are being flown by $8.00 an hour guys with 250 hours...and we're supposed to feel safe????? I thought Gulfstream Academy surrendered their certificate to instruct...Is it true that the guys flying that airplane from Lexington who went down the wrong runway also trained at Gulfstream?

    So, let me get this straight: you arrive with 250 hours, pay $30,000 to sit in a classroom and maybe some time in a flight simulator (90 whole days of training) and then you get to fly passengers in ice and snow and 25 year old prop planes...Give me back the days of military pilots joining the airlines again, please.

    Oh wait, the military guys don't join the airlines any more. lousy pay, horrendous hours, loss of pensions when the airline goes bankrupt, etc. Do you think they could just clone Sully?

    June 9, 2009 at 10:47 pm |
  46. Steve

    So are the 250 hour pilots not incompliance with the FARs? Like the limits set by the FAA!! It's nice to state that the major airlines "usually" require 1,500 hours, but were do you think the 1500 hour pilot got his hours? So a person pays 30K to get a certificate, and the minimum FAR required hours, and earns 8 bucks an hour? If the FARs minimum requirements are not good enough, then the limits need to change (but that would mean oversight effort). Also if it cost 30K for 250 hours, then how much would it cost the student (airlines don't pay this cost) to get 1500 hours? Guess the airlines don't want to have enough pilots available in the future to conduct business, of course unless they all go to scarebus, and let the plane crash itself with no pilots.

    June 9, 2009 at 10:44 pm |
  47. Chris

    Ok, since Gulfstream seems to have its own shill here parroting how wonderful their training academy is, I have to ask: What proof is there of this training quality, that allegedly trains pilots up in 15% of the time that commercial airlines usually require?

    I can understand claiming "quality training" allowing a pilot to train 10% or even 20% faster. But 85%? Please! As Captain Sullenberger of the US Airways flight that went down in the Hudson proved, experience is everything.

    Furthermore, the only pilot I've heard of that graduated from their "quality" academy was the guy responsible for the multiple errors and violations resulting in the fatal crash at Buffalo. Quality training? Give me a break! Seat-of-the-pants cheapskates, more likely!

    June 9, 2009 at 10:42 pm |
  48. Greg

    If the public really knew what the FAA minimums where for training and maintenance they would stop flying.

    Every single FAR 121 airlines, or FAR 135 for hire company HAS to have their training program approved and monitored by the FAA.

    This has been a continued fight between the NTSB and FAA.

    The public is in the dark...just like the recent Air France of the biggest news lines what that aircraft are out of radar control once they are 130miles off the coasts. My god, it has been that way since Lindbergh flew to Paris.

    People want $79 tickets to fly across the country but airlines have to pay $5000 an hour for a simulator to train their pilots every year. Why would an airline train to above FAA minimum standards if the FAA enforces/Approved minimums are considered good.

    BTW I am a retired 20000 hour, international crewmember.

    June 9, 2009 at 10:41 pm |
  49. Sam Chandra

    $20,000/year? When do they start making decent money?
    I suppose that's not bad for a one time $30,000 investment, and only 3 months of training, presuming higher wages will result in the future. Flying seems awfully complicated to me, admittedly as a layperson.... to cram into 3 months of training though.
    Sam Chandra

    June 9, 2009 at 10:40 pm |
  50. jim

    How can we as citizens trust all these airlines? I for one don't fly for this very reason, I have flown in the past but never will again! I am sick of all these companies worried about the almighty buck! what happened to compassion for our fellow humans?what happened to accountability? the person running the show at this place should have to forfit a years worth of his salary for these kinds of infractions. If I was the person I used to be in my younger days I would hunt this prick down and beat him sense less!

    June 9, 2009 at 10:36 pm |
  51. David

    $20 per hour corresponds to an annual earnings of $41,600, not $20,000 as the article states. This assumes a 40 hour work week.

    Of course paying a pilot only $8 per hour is criminal and apt to lead to a feeling that their job is not of value.

    I certainly don't want tp get on a plane co-pioleted by someone making less than someone who flips burgers...

    June 9, 2009 at 10:35 pm |
  52. Henry

    Most CEO’s speak with forked tongues, with one side of the mouth they say that safety is of the outmost importance, but to them safety is only a necessary evil, and with the other side of the mouth they say they must keep the stockholders happy by bringing in the profits at any cost. You better believe it, in most cases profits wins over safety.

    June 9, 2009 at 10:23 pm |
  53. Simon Robinson

    I have personally worked with Dave Hackett and know him to be a man of integrity and a class act around staff and airline employees, I have no doubt that he will work through this issue.

    While working with Dave at the helm of a start up airline in Connecticut in the late 90s, I never experienced him being pushy or forcing anybody to do anything that could violate FAA regs, we were under a lot of pressure to meet important deadlines because investors and the media was watching us, he was a team player and always gave everybody his ear.

    June 9, 2009 at 10:19 pm |
  54. Bill

    I would have to agree with the "quality" not "quantity" of training issue here. I dont want to sound like i am saying anything negative here about a CFI, but people whose use CFI as a tool to build hours are only gaining "quantity" hrs. When i did all of my training, I would do a 6-8 hr flight somewhere and while i got to log those hrs, my CFI also got to log those hrs even though my CFI did not touch the controls once. So as far as i am concerned, if i had my choice of a pilot to come from gulfstream with 250 hrs airline time when they are finished as opposed to a CFI who has 1,500 hrs, well to be honest I'd want the Gulfstream person because of the 1,500 hrs the CFI has how much of it did that person actually fly? And i dont even want to hear about Gulfstream allowing pilots to pilot their aircraft with only 250 hrs experience bc i checked and i could not find anywhere that they have ever had a fatal or even serious accident. Thats more than i can say about almost any other airline.

    June 9, 2009 at 4:02 pm |