Boeing Pilots Protest Use of Contractors to Train 787 Crews
Six weeks after unanimously voting “No Confidence” in the management of Boeing’s Training & Flight Services division, pilots employed by the company to deliver airplanes and help prepare customer crews to fly them have decided to go public with their displeasure with Boeing’s decision to hire contract pilots to perform 787 training.
The Airplane Manufacturing Pilots Association (AMPA), which is a bargaining unit of the Society of Professional Engineering Employees in Aerospace (SPEEA), represents the 28 Boeing pilots who voted for the measure. Two other AMPA pilots had taken scheduled vacation during the August 1 vote.
None of the temporary pilots have flown the 787 and many have not piloted a commercial aircraft in two years, according to SPEEA. Hired through Cambridge Communications Limited (CCL), a company based offshore on the Isle of Man, the pilots receive none of the extra training and flight time Boeing pilots must accumulate before they can fly with customer crews during a process called line assist, the union claims. “They’re supposed to, but Training Flight Services management has waived those requirements,” SPEEA director Ray Goforth told AIN. “It’s a requirement that had been in place for about fifty years.”
A Boeing spokesman characterized the charges as “mudslinging and incorrect.” They come as Boeing and SPEEA prepared to meet on September 13 over a new labor contract for the company’s 23,000 engineers and technicians. Although Boeing hasn’t yet presented a full proposal, preliminary negotiations have proved contentious.
“Pilots that we hire third-party get the exact same training and are Boeing qualified,” asserted the Boeing spokesman. “They are as experienced and qualified as Boeing-employed trainers if not more so.”
Although the spokesman said that Boeing has used contract pilots for training for some 10 years, he acknowledged they had never performed line assist. “That part is new for Boeing, so yes, we haven’t had contract pilots line assist yet,” he said. Nevertheless, he insisted the some 15 so-called purchase service pilots Boeing has hired through CCL to perform line assist all have received the same training as the AMPA pilots, as have the 200 or so purchase service instructor pilots (PSIPs) that help train customer pilots on simulators at some 20 campuses around the world.
“We wouldn’t put a Boeing uniform on somebody that isn’t qualified to the exact same standards,” said the spokesman.
The SPEEA director rejected Boeing’s claims, and characterized the company’s failure to inform 787 customers of the use of contract pilots as deceptive. “There’s always been some amount of work that has been contracted out,” conceded Goforth. “But what really pushed [the AMFA pilots] past the breaking point was when it was announced that the 787 work was going to be contracted out, and that customers were going to be getting trainers who had never even flown in the 787. That was such a degradation of standards and, frankly, a fraud on the customer, that the pilots couldn’t stay silent.”
Goforth expressed bemusement at senior management’s refusal to negotiate over the matter. “After the vote we went to [senior vice president for commercial aviation services] Lou Mancini and asked for a meeting and he referred us back to training and flight services management—the same people we just voted no confidence in,” said Goforth.
Neither the Boeing spokesman nor Goforth knew exactly when the first contract pilot would begin flying, but the union official said delivery rates will exceed the capacity of the 30 AMPA pilots to perform the promised line assist in November.