NetJets’ Intent to Survey Employees
In Unity and Solidarity,
Teamsters Local 284 and Your FAEC
NetJets’ Intent to Survey Employees
In Unity and Solidarity,
Teamsters Local 284 and Your FAEC
NJASAP calls it “A Perfect Storm”
A letter to their members
Reprinted with permission from NJASAP
Although this letter is intended for the pilot group, we see many similarities to what is happening with the Flight Attendant group.
Fellow NJASAP Member,
A perfect storm is taking shape at NetJets that could end with the worst possible outcome for members of this pilot group. One short-sighted decision after another made by a vindictive management team who has completely lost touch with the realities and demands of our flying environment, the operation and the brand has placed this pilot group at the epicenter of something potentially catastrophic. This gathering storm is comprised of a horrifying array of elements that, when combined, leave little to the imagination in terms of its eventual outcome, and this pilot group has emerged as the last line of defense.
What we have witnessed throughout the past several months are incredibly disturbing trends of which each and every NJASAP member must be aware. They have implications for your personal safety and your career as well as the NetJets operation, and, quite possibly, its operating certificate. Some may dismiss this letter as bargaining-time rhetoric; however, that would be a mistake. There is a time for rhetoric; but, today is not that day. The statements contained within this letter and the conclusions we have drawn are based on data received from NetJets as well as reports from our Stewards Council, committees and the pilot group.
Simply put, there is no need or room for exaggeration in a communication of this magnitude. The data and management’s actions speak for themselves.
Changed Discipline Practices and Intimidation
Why management has opted to eschew reason and compromise in disciplinary matters at this particular time may very well be a matter of conjecture; however, it is not difficult to draw a distinction between their approach prior to December 2012 and their actions thereafter. Regardless, we view management’s rush to and imposition of final judgment as vindictive, petty and baseless, and we will fight these decisions at arbitration.
Certainly, senior management’s actions have given rise to a sense that it will seek reprisal against those who fail to march in step with its whims, which is a very dangerous path for them to tread. And this is a conclusion drawn not exclusively from pilot termination cases: Not quite three months ago, the pilot group received a missive from Vice President of Sales Adam Johnson that all but said management is watching our every move – and making note of it. To intimidate members of this pilot force to shun best practices, good judgment and their own professional instincts in matters of maintenance and safety will not be tolerated.
An Unsustainable Operations Tempo
The dramatic increase in flight demand throughout the past 18 months has been a welcome sign of NetJets’s complete recovery from the recession; however, senior management’s complete failure to properly plan for the company’s rebound has forced pilots into a tremendously difficult position. To keep pace with demand, pilots are logging longer duty days and shorter overnights than at any other time in recent history. This situation is aggravated by an aging fleet that requires far more maintenance than one comprised of newer airframes. Certainly, reduced maintenance availability in one fleet pushes revenue trips onto different fleets and pilots who are already overburdened. Consider the case of the Gulfstream 200: In early June, 25 of the 32 G200s were reportedly in maintenance because of a vibration issue. For an operation already running at capacity, taking almost 30 airframes out of the mix introduces an entirely new operational pressure – one that flows directly into the cockpit.
In public, CEO Jordan Hansell puts an entirely different face on the utter debacle he and his management team have created, touting a multi-million dollar investment in new aircraft and maintenance. That this is actually an infusion of cash from the owners is a discussion for another time. Nevertheless, this is a remedy far too late in coming due to short-sighted decisions that have forced resource constraints to hazardous levels. It will take time for this investment to make any real difference to flight crews who are working desperately to hold things together, and that begs the question of what is being done to remedy the resource constraints on the pilot group. From all indications, the answer is absolutely nothing. Management may claim recalling six furloughed crewmembers is the solution; but that is hardly sufficient – especially in light of attrition rates triple that of the same time period last year (also occurring in the FA ranks). It takes a significant amount of time to train any professional pilot, and, currently, NetJets is losing crewmembers far faster than it is training recalled pilots.
Pilot duty days have reached an unprecedented length and pace, which is manifested in pilot fatigue calls that have all but skyrocketed in the past year. Fatigue is, without question, one of the greatest threats to you, your fellow crewmember, NetJets owners and aircraft because it is insidious. Decades of pilot duty study data has shown the vast majority of cockpit crewmembers do not know they are fatigued until they have become very fatigued. And even those who recognize the signs may be reluctant to use the Unscheduled Rest Period provision of the 2007 Amended Agreement due to fear of management reprisal, disappointing owners, burdening fellow pilots, and/or the “complete the mission” mindset that is so common amid professional pilots. Not a single one of these considerations should matter one iota when you are simply too tired to fly.
Egregious Maintenance Pushback
Aviation companies share a single goal: moving aircraft and satisfying customers – or in our case owners. Here at NetJets, achieving this goal has taken a very dangerous turn in the past few years with senior management attempting to coerce pilots into performing maintenance procedures in contravention to federal law as well as the company’s own approved policies and procedures. For example, in early September 2011, NJASAP issued guidance to Honeywell pilots, urging them to refrain from performing the hyper reset procedure. More recently, crews have been confronted with requests to reset circuit breakers and/or to power down/power up aircraft in order to clear what management characterizes as a “nuisance condition.” The FARs are very clear on this point: Part 135 operators are not permitted to perform resets to clear these so-called conditions, and earlier today President John Malmborg sent a letter to NJA President Bill Noe reminding him of this fact.
In each of these scenarios, FAA and FOM guidance is clear: Pilots should refrain from performing any maintenance-related task(s) unless it is specifically allowed by the FARs, Company policy, or aircraft MEL. In the simplest terms, you may perform maintenance tasks for the purpose of flight, which means ensuring a maintenance discrepancy can be safely deferred and the aircraft can be operated. However, any and all troubleshooting of an aircraft system or component that cannot be deferred is completely outside the FOM and FARs. As such, do not engage in these activities.
Sadly, this crystal clear guidance has not stopped Company attempts to circumvent established best practices. It is our understanding a flurry of correspondence has been exchanged amid NetJets, FSDO and FAA representatives about these very matters. This is deeply disturbing on numerous levels not the least of which is the fact that senior management has completely lost sight of the repercussions their actions have on the way employees in safety-sensitive positions view the company’s commitment to maintenance and operational safety. Their attitude introduces a mindset of, “If this, then why not that?,” which is an incredibly dangerous construct. Undeniably, it undermines years of building the NetJets’ safety culture by facilitating a lackadaisical attitude and introducing ambiguity into a system that has long been characterized by defined – and in most cases federally mandated – parameters. The short-term thinking that defines this management team not only has implications for the Company’s profitability, but also the safety culture that is the heart of the NetJets promise.
On the line, NetJets’ shenanigans have not gone unnoticed. NJASAP has learned the Boston FSDO is investigating a complaint about the company’s maintenance practices, which is in addition to several AIR 21 cases that have been filed. What this means for the pilot group was discussed in a recent Representation Alert. In essence, pilots can expect additional scrutiny on the line, requiring a more rigid adherence to the FARs as failure to follow them exactly as written could have implications for your ticket.
What’s more, management is seemingly using maintenance pushback not only to keep the metal moving, but also to whipsaw unionized employee groups against one another. In the wake of the NetJets Unions Coalition (NUC) launch, senior management has made no secret of its disdain for the union alliance and its demonstrations of unyielding solidarity; therefore, why not attempt to introduce discord by forcing maintenance controllers and mechanics into the position of pushing pilots to perform procedures for which they are neither trained nor qualified? Placing these employees in what must feel like an impossible position is a disservice to everyone, representing a truly shameful way not only to manage aviation professionals, but also the world’s leading fractional operation. Coalition leaders recognize this tactic for what it is and are actively discussing ways to respond appropriately.
Diminished Pilot (and FA) Morale
The results of the most recent pilot sentiment survey show a group that is deeply distrustful of management, and this, in combination with a variety of other factors, has very serious implications for pilot morale. For example, the company’s propaganda machine continues to churn out the predicable campaigns intended to instill fear, uncertainty, and doubt, and while we are largely immune to this, it’s annoying nonetheless. These inane FUD tactics fall far short of meeting their objective; instead, they demonstrate blatant disrespect to the employee group who is seemingly all that stands between the Hansell Team and its misbegotten management practices that are running this company into the ground. They have yet to learn that disrespect only redoubles pilot resolve.
Diminished pilot morale is also a consequence of fleet stagnation. Many of you came to NetJets based on the potential to quickly move up the ranks. This, however, has not been the reality. The majority of our junior SICs have been in the same fleet and seat for almost nine years, which is a very long time to fly the same business jet from the right seat of the cockpit. Stagnation, however, has not only diminished the luster of a professional aviation career at NetJets, but also forms a foundation in which complacency and malaise can take root. To the greatest extent possible, we must guard against this. Complacency is second only to fatigue as a direct threat to the operation.
Pilots are the last line of defense between flight operations and the unthinkable. And because this statement is quite possibly the most important of this document, we will say it again: You are the last line of defense. Senior management has placed the responsibility for saying no squarely on the shoulders of this pilot group, and it is up to every single one of us to say:
And the reason I am saying no is because it is what is expected of me as a professional NetJets pilot.
As you would expect, the Union Safety (USC) and Maintenance committees will continue to aggressively work these issues. Fatigue mitigation, in particular, is at the top of the USC’s list, and you can expect new educational and awareness tools to be released in the next several weeks. The Maintenance Committee will be monitoring the aforementioned issues in addition to pilot reports of pushback.
We are truly sickened by what we are seeing unfold in this operation, and it is obvious that we must draw a line in the sand. You can be confident your elected leaders have heard your concerns. We know you are frustrated, exhausted, irritated, and, in some instances, hesitant because of the management morass. You are not alone: NJASAP will support you, and we will not relent until we have forced NetJets to do the right thing – to manage this company and the operation in a way that guarantees sustainability. We are working at a heightened state of alert, and we are prepared to take whatever actions are necessary to force positive change. We will work both as the exclusive representative of the pilot force and a member of the NetJets Unions Coalition. However, everything comes down to you. Until we can force the sea change that is so desperately needed, you are the last line of defense.
YOU ARE THE LAST LINE OF DEFENSE.
The NJASAP Executive Board