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Fueling America

Pilots say they feel pressure to cut back on fuel

  • Story Highlights
  • U.S. Airways pilots: Airline undermines their authority by making them use less fuel
  • The eight senior pilots say fuel training is a punitive measure
  • Airline says flights on average land with twice as much fuel than necessary
  • Spokesman says planes burn more fuel if they carry more fuel
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From Deborah Feyerick and Karina Frayter
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NEW YORK (CNN) -- U.S. Airways is pressuring pilots to use less fuel, undermining their authority and possibly compromising safety, according to a spokesman for the U.S. Airline Pilots Association.

U.S. Airways says it wants pilots to balance an appropriate amount of fuel with rising gas prices.

U.S. Airways says it wants pilots to balance an appropriate amount of fuel with rising gas prices.

Eight pilots and their union have filed complaints with the Federal Aviation Administration, accusing the airline of infringing on their authority and making them fly with less fuel than they feel is safe, said James Ray, a spokesman for the U.S. Airline Pilots Association.

The pilot in command of each flight determines the amount of fuel carried. FAA regulations state that each flight is required to carry enough fuel to reach its destination plus an extra 45 minutes' worth.

The eight senior captains say U.S. Airways singled them out for carrying 10 to 15 minutes of extra fuel above the FAA mandate and called them in for "fuel conservation training," Ray said.

Ray said the training amounts to "intimidation" and said the pilots feel it could place their licenses in jeopardy if they request extra fuel. Video Watch a report on the pilots' claims »

"Captains have been singled out for exercising their judgment on determining fuel loads for their flights," he said.

But a spokesman for U.S. Airways insisted the training is not punitive and denied the pilots' jobs were in danger.

"We are absolutely not employing intimidation tactics to pressure pilots into operating aircraft with unsafe fuel levels," Morgan Durrant said. "Safety is the number one priority in everything we do."

Durrant said the airline organized the paid, one-day training session to review safety practices and emphasize the need to use appropriate fuel levels in a time of necessary conservation. Are the skies still friendly?

Extra fuel makes the plane heavier, causing it to burn more fuel as it flies. A gallon of jet fuel weighs almost 7 pounds, and a large, twin-engine jetliner can burn hundreds of pounds of fuel an hour.

"Our arrival fuel amounts on average are more than twice the FAA minimum standards," Durrant said. "With the high price of oil, it is a balance between having enough to travel safely and also flying efficiently."

U.S. Airways said it will pay $2 billion more in fuel costs than it did last year.


In the complaint, the pilots said the training undermines their authority to determine how much fuel is necessary.

"If a pilot doesn't feel that a plane has enough fuel in it for the trip that he or she is about to make, then they have the discretion of not flying that flight," Transportation Secretary Mary Peters said Wednesday.

All About Federal Aviation AdministrationAir Line Pilots Association, Int'lUS Airways Group Inc.

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