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.
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.