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November 03, 2009

New Airline / Flight School In Pittsburgh

The Post Gazette brings us the story of Gulfstream International Airlines, which may reintroduce air service from PIT to Harrisburg, DuBois, Cleveland, Indianapolis, and other smallish cities. They're going to fly 19-seat Beechcraft 1900's, which are really nice airplanes.

No less a person than County Executive Dan Onorato said, "We are thrilled that Gulfstream International Airlines is interested in restoring important regional flights to our world-class airport".

On the face of it, it's more good news. It's evident that people are working hard to attract new airline service, and I applaud that. For instance, the recent incentivized/ guaranteed service to Paris, France with Delta - that was a great move.

The thing is: We know Delta Airlines.
We've flown Delta Airlines.
This Gulfstream Int'l outfit is no Delta Airlines.

Gulfstream flies as a Continental Connection carrier. You remember Continental Connection, the umbrella outfit that outsources airline passengers to low-cost contractors, like Continental Connection Flight 3407 which crashed while approaching Buffalo Niagara International Airport recently. The passenger's tickets said Continental, but the airplane and crew were Colgan Air.

From Wikipedia:
Gulfstream International Airlines has been under additional scrutiny due to three recent fatal crashes that all involved pilots that were trained at the Gulfstream Training Academy (its sister company), the last one in February 2009, where 50 died on Colgan Air Flight 3407 near Buffalo, NY.

In May 2009, the federal government issued a fine of 1.3 million dollars against Gulfstream International Airlines after the Federal Aviation Administration found that it had falsified flight time records, allowing crews fly longer hours than allowed by law, and providing below standard aircraft maintenance. The fine is being disputed at this time.
  • 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
  • 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

It's not just an airline, it's an adventure


Gulfstream is not just an airline; it's a flight school. The Gulfstream Training Academy (check the site, very TopGun) teache$ people to be pilots. It's a flight school. Then the graduates can pay to be copilots on your Continental Connection flight! They pay tens of thousands of dollars, get 250 hours of experience as a copilot, and the airline pays them $8 an hour. They are, essentially, taking lessons with uninformed passengers in the back.

Here's the menu: for $25K they'll declare you a co-pilot (aka first officer) in three months; for $48K they'll declare you a pilot in five months. If you don't have any flying experience at all, for $73K they'll make you all that in 14 months. The brochure calls the time you spend flying around (pretending to be a copilot) the "first officer internship". George Orwell would be proud.

Your family sitting in the back of the Beech 1900? Priceless.

It's really a brilliant "business model". In addition to charging passengers for snacks, drinks, headsets, blankets, and checked baggage - hey, let's charge somebody who wants to learn to be a copilot, and let them ride up front!

From USA Today:
Capt. Marvin Renslow, who was at the controls when a Colgan Air commuter plane went wildly out of control and plunged to the ground on Feb. 12, trained with Gulfstream in 2004 and 2005, according to National Transportation Safety Board records. Colgan Air was operating under contract for Continental Airlines at the time of the Buffalo crash.

The copilot on a Comair flight that crashed in 2006 after trying to take off from a dark, closed runway in Lexington, killing 49 of 50 people aboard, also worked at Gulfstream, according to NTSB records. So did the two pilots on a Pinnacle Airlines flight who were joyriding in an empty jet before snuffing out both engines and crashing in Missouri in 2004.

I really do applaud the people trying to rebuild air service. But I've got a message for Dan Onorato: you'd be better off with MagLev. Or Greyhound. Or anybody where the co-pilot isn't an intern, paying for the experience.



Related Posts: 30 Years of Outsourcing Safety.

6 comments:

Air Traffic Mike said...

Very well said Vannevar.

I look forward to reading more of your blog.

Anonymous said...

You're an idiot.

mikey said...

Obviously Gulfstream International execs read your blog too

Don Brown said...

That may be the best comeback I've ever seen, Mikey. :)

Just for the record, I think the blog was brilliant.

Don Brown
http://gettheflick.blogspot.com/

Anonymous said...

And Continental is tripling Colgan's flying over the next couple of years...

Anonymous said...

The major issue here is training not how many hours a pilot has under his or her belt. Where do you think pilots come from the anyway? Like every profession out there, you will have someone with little or no experience who is gaining experience. I went to the emergency room last year to have a 25yr old kid check me over who then went to a seasoned doctor to ask if is was right?

The same is true with pilots. You have a very high experienced captain who is mentoring a capable co-pilot. If we say well the co-pilot has to have 1,500 hrs to even qualify it misses the whole point. The pilot could have 1,500 hrs of flying little Cessnas around the little airport without have much advanced jet training.

The law makers needed to make the airlines traing their pilots better, much better. I would rather have a pilot with 700-800 hrs that has high quality training under the direction of an airline training staff than someone who just has a lot time flying in general. Remember quality is not quantity. Making pilots pay their dues for five to six years logging 1,500 hrs of time flying at local fight schools will cause good pilots not to even enter the profession.

The article makes a great point which was missed by our legislatures...regional airlines are not providing needed training to pilots. The new law should focus on this issue and not on the pilot applicants. As a part of the training, the airline will weed out the poor applicants anyway. The military has been doing this for a very long-time. Most fighter pilots have only 400 hrs. However, they received the best training tax payers can pay for. These little regional airlines skimp and do NOT spend the money to train pilots. This is the main issue.

If all the co-pilots have 1,500 hrs without good training they will be just as bad as what we are having now. Like the Colgan crash, the crew should have been trained in all icing situations with a check airman riding with crews for 50 hrs. Colgan did not provide this crew with advanced icing training, just the mins.

A final thought...people are human, and no legislation will fix that. Rem. the Northwest flight that flew over their destination by 40mins...they had over 10,000 hrs but forgot their training.

Let's not make aviation unreachable for good pilots. It cost basically $100,000 to become a commercial pilot and have only 500-800 hrs to show for it. I don't see how future pilots will be able to afford to gain 700 more hours and still eat? We need to focus on airline/commercial training...this is the solution NOT more time doing the say old thing!

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