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How many contractors does it take to run Boeing?

Or, Why shouldn’t Boeing be the gold standard of flight training?

By Tom McCarty, SPEEA President

I wish these were rhetorical questions but unfortunately – they are not. I have been sitting in on the negotiations between our SPEEA-Airplane Manufacturing Pilots Association (AMPA) pilots and The Boeing Company. I think this is one of the most complex negotiations SPEEA has ever undertaken. I am asking for your patience while I explain what is going on. These negotiations are important to all of us, but they are critical to the simulator instructor pilots who are losing their jobs. Soon many, if not all, of the pilots SPEEA represents may be gone.

This is the first negotiation with Boeing since AMPA joined SPEEA. To make it more complicated, this is the first contract negotiation for the simulator instructor pilots and safety, standards and technical pilots who voted to become SPEEA-represented last year. Now the final twist, Boeing has announced that all the full-motion simulators will move from the Longacres facility in Renton to Miami. The simulator instructor pilots currently working at Longacres will not be offered jobs as simulator instructors at the Miami facility. This means the current round of negotiations is for both a new contract and “effects bargaining.” This effects bargaining is negotiations with Boeing to mitigate the effects of job loss due to the relocation of the flight simulators to Miami. If your question is: Won’t one finish before the other is started, the answer is yes, or maybe, but I’m not sure which one. Boeing negotiators make it clear they intend to replace the existing full-time Boeing simulator instructor pilots with contractors. I read various reasons for this change in the news media. One Boeing spokesperson indicated the customers prefer the Miami location and also pointed out the personnel at the Miami location would be non-union. It was not clear if this would improve the quality of the instruction or was offered as an apology. It is worth noting that, because of the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA), those employees could decide to be union represented. It’s not really up to Boeing to decide who may or may not be union represented.

Gold standard

I would like to make a stronger case for my original question. Why shouldn’t Boeing be the gold standard of flight crew training? The simple answer is – Boeing should be the gold standard. Crew training is far too important to leave to chance. This was recognized early when Boeing gained a premier position and reputation for its commercial aircraft. Previous company leadership recognized the value in providing their airline customers training with Boeing pilots as part of the sale of new aircraft. This ensured flight crews received the best instruction which enabled airline crews to get the best efficiency and performance from our aircraft.

There are many qualified instructor pilots, and there are other flight training services that can provide fully compliant flight instruction on Boeing models. But I think it is clearly in the interest of Boeing to maintain customer flight crew training with full-time Boeing employees. I also argue that this is not only in the “interest” of Boeing, but it is a responsibility we should embrace. It is wrong to apply cost-accounting principles which dictate flight crew training to be an “independent profit center” and especially where the support of our airline customers is concerned. These services have to be considered part of the holistic approach we take to customers and to the future of aviation. It can never be in our interest to have customers accept delivery of an airplane and then turn it over to flight crews who have not had the opportunity to fly and learn the intricacies of that aircraft from full-time, experienced Boeing pilots. This is the only way customers get the best possible operation of Boeing aircraft.

Full-time commitment

So, I come back to my longstanding argument which I will repeat at the risk of stating the obvious. The premise is this: A team is more likely to achieve its best results when all the team has a stake in the outcome. This is fundamental and has been stated many ways by many people, and yet it seems the concept is not readily understood. Contractors by definition are not here for the long term. Contractors are here to collect their pay for the work they did today. A full-time employee is more committed to the success of the enterprise. They want to get paid for the work they will do in the future. Boeing employees – including AMPA pilots – want the company to succeed, so they can succeed. A full-time employee has a personal stake in the outcome.

We helped Boeing earn a reputation for engineering, building and delivering the most innovative, efficient and safe aircraft humanly possible. Tomorrow, we will come back and think of new ways to make Boeing products more innovative, more efficient and even safer.

I know everyone who designs Boeing airplanes, builds Boeing airplanes and teaches other people to fly Boeing airplanes has the same commitment. It would be good if we don’t have to wonder if management is out looking for someone who will do our jobs cheaper rather than helping us do our jobs better.

Boeing moving all simulators from Seattle to Miami

UPDATE 03/29/2013 - In a shocking move during negotiations with The Boeing Company on March 28th, and counter to previous Boeing statements by Jim Condelles in the media, negotiators for Flight Services informed our team the company intends to eliminate Flight Standards and Simulator Instructor pilot positions and will not offer to relocate these existing pilots to Miami.

SEATTLE - Decades of Seattle area commercial pilot training for Boeing airplanes is to end this year as the company moves eight full-flight simulators to Miami from Renton. The company announced the move Friday, March 8th in a hastily scheduled phone message to employees.

The Boeing Company claims the reason for the move is that customers in Latin America and Europe prefer Miami over Seattle.

Sherry Carbary, Vice President of Flight Services, claims fewer than 100 employees will be “impacted” by the move. Carbary assured a packed audience in Renton on Monday, March 11th that AMPA/SPEEA has “no jurisdiction” in Miami and Boeing spokesman Jim Condelles has said the Miami positions will be “non-union”. The company anticipates the possibility of a reduction in force, but Condelles says those workers will be offered an opportunity to relocate.

The decision to close the Flagship Boeing Simulator Training Center in Seattle was announced just one month into initial contract negotiations between the impacted AMPA employees and The Boeing Company.


AMPA/SPEEA open negotiations with Boeing Company

SEATTLE - On Wednesday, January 30th, the AMPA/SPEEA Negotiation Team held their first meeting with the Boeing management team to start work on a new contract.  Our team came prepared and communicated to management our high level interests, including the need to increase job security for AMPA-represented employees.

While outlining our interests to Boeing, management was less than clear when asked to outline the company’s interests or business plan for Flight Training. We are hopeful the company addresses this issue and can provide information relative to their needs for Flight Training when talks resume on Friday, February. 8 and continue on Monday, February. 11.

Boeing sends ‘contract pilots’ to Qatar and LAN as 787 outsourcing takes new turn

SEATTLE – The saga of 787 outsourcing at The Boeing Company turned a new chapter today as the aerospace giant moved forward with plans to send non-Boeing temporary pilots to provide flight crew training. For more than 50 years, Boeing flight crew training has only been provided by full-time, experienced Boeing pilots.

According to an internal Boeing announcement, flight crews at Qatar Airways and LAN Airlines are scheduled to be the first Boeing customers to receive flight crew training from temporary, contract pilots.  The temporary pilots have little of the advanced training required to become, and maintain qualification as, a full-time Boeing pilot, according to the Society of Professional Engineering Employees in Aerospace (SPEEA), IFPTE Local 2001, which represents the full-time pilots who belong to the Airplane Manufacturing Pilots Association (AMPA). In some cases, the temp pilots have less than one hour at the controls of the 787, according to the union.

“This means these ‘instructor pilots’ are ‘training’ Qatar and LAN pilots who have orders of magnitude more actual flight time and experience in the 787 than they do,” said Ray Goforth, executive director of SPEEA. “Full-time Boeing instructor pilots are available to support Qatar and LAN, but Boeing is choosing to risk its reputation and stick these customers with minimally qualified contract pilots in order to save a few nickels.”

In August, AMPA pilots unanimously voted ‘No Confidence’ in management at Boeing Training & Flight Services in an effort to raise attention and alert airplane customers to the scheme to substitute temp pilots for the genuine Boeing pilots customers paid for.

Launch customer All Nippon Airways (ANA), along with Japan Airlines, Ethiopian Airlines, and Air India have, thus far, received flight training from full-time Boeing pilots.

“The humiliation for LAN and Qatar in having these temp pilots pawned off on them is startling,” said Goforth.  “Did Boeing even tell these customers that they’re not worth being served by genuine Boeing training pilots?”

Unlike Boeing instructor pilots, the contract pilots did not participate in the flight test and certification program of the 787.
Pilot training for airline customers is part of the complete line assist and flight training package Boeing includes with the purchase of a new commercial airplane.

“When Boeing customers buy a 787, they expect experienced flight and training instructors,” said Goforth. “They don’t expect Boeing to give them a temp flight instructor who has little, if any, actual experience flying the aircraft they are training others to fly.”


AMPA Pilots Vote ‘No Confidence’ in Boeing Training & Flight Services Management

SEATTLE--Members of the Airplane Manufacturing Pilots Association (AMPA) have unanimously voted ‘No Confidence’ in their management at The Boeing Company’s Training & Flight Services.

“Therefore, we vote that we have NO CONFIDENCE in the T&FS management to meet customer needs in a manner befitting the proud traditions of The Boeing Company.”

A bargaining unit of the Society of Professional Engineering Employees in Aerospace (SPEEA), IFPTE Local 2001, AMPA includes the pilots who deliver Boeing airplanes to customers, including the 787. They also train the pilots of customer airlines.

"AMPA pilots took the vote after management abandoned a 50-year practice of only using qualified Boeing pilots and, without telling customers, now plans to use minimally qualified temporary pilots dressed in Boeing uniforms," said Ray Goforth, executive director of SPEEA. "The unprecedented vote came after more than three years of raising concerns and being ignored by Boeing," he added.

None of the temporary pilots have flown the 787 and many have not piloted a commercial aircraft in two years, according to SPEEA. According to the union, the temporary pilots have no more preparation on the 787 than the simulator training received by customer flight crews they are being dispatched to train.

“787 customers expect experienced flight and training instructors,” said Goforth. “This is flight training roulette for customers who do not know if their pilots will be trained by a genuine Boeing pilot or a temporary contractor dressed in a Boeing uniform. Worse, these temp pilots don’t have any more experience in the 787 simulator than the customers’ own flight crews. When a customer orders a billion dollars worth of airplanes, they don’t expect Boeing to give them a temp flight instructor who has never actually flown a 787.”

AMPA pilots said the temporary contract pilots receive none of the additional training and flight time Boeing pilots receive. Boeing Training and Flight Services hired the temporary pilots through Cambridge Communications Limited (CCL), a foreign supplier of contract pilots based on the Isle of Man. While Boeing pilots receive ongoing training and are required to meet stringent flying time requirements in the air and in simulators for each aircraft, Cambridge pilots are not.

“Even after quietly informing the company about the unprecedented Aug. 1 ‘no confidence’ vote, Boeing management insists upon moving forward with the scheme,” said Goforth.

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