While the fractional providers said publicly that switching to the more stringent rules of Part 91 Subpart K on February 17 was a nonevent, a look behind the scenes at NetJets reveals a somewhat more chaotic transition. It appears that the duty-time and crew-rest limitations of the new rule threw a proverbial monkey wrench into operations.
The four major fractional aircraft operators hired 482 pilots last year compared with 198 in 2003, bringing the total roster of fractional pilots to 3,649 last year, according to aviation hiring firm AIR in Atlanta.
Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.) and former airline pilot Rep. Jim Gibbons (R-Nev.) have re-introduced legislation to increase the mandatory retirement age of Part 121 airline pilots from 60 to 65. The two men believe the current regulation is outdated and changing it would save jobs and retain experienced pilots.
Bombardier Learjet 36, San Diego, Dec. 1, 2006–While maneuvering off the coast near San Diego, Learjet N26FN lost its right elevator. The public-use flight, with two pilots and one passenger aboard, had departed North Island Naval Air Station, San Diego. According to the NTSB, it had joined up with another airplane and the pilot lost contact with the second airplane because of sun glare.
The FAA received a fair number of comprehensive comments during the 30-day comment period for the proposed special regulations (SFAR) that will mandate type-specific training in the Mitsubishi MU-2. The comment period ended October 30, and 72 comments reside in the agency’s docket.
The final report of the FAA/industry rulemaking age-60 committee is now posted on the agency’s Web site. The committee was unable to reach consensus on whether to increase the mandatory retirement age of 60 for airline pilots. The report can be viewed and downloaded at www.faa.gov/media/Final_Age_60_ARC_Report_11_29_2006.pdf.
The five major fractional operators fell short of AIR’s projected pilot hiring levels last year, according to statistics prepared by the Atlanta-based aviation employment consultant. The major players–Avantair, CitationShares, Flexjet, Flight Options and NetJets–hired 674 new pilots, more than 300 shy of AIR’s January 2006 estimate that 1,000 pilots would be required.
NetJets Europe pilots have yet to form their planned trade union and now there are signs that the movement to do so might be losing momentum as flight crews consider the revised pay and conditions offer the fractional ownership group made in early December.
CitationShares v-p of flight operations and chief pilot J.D. Witzig on Tuesday confirmed that the fractional provider will raise its pilot wages as of January 1. These higher wages will raise the bar above what the NetJets pilots negotiated in the contract they ratified last month, meaning that CitationShares pilots will become the best-paid in the fractional industry.
More stringent training requirements for pilots of Mitsubishi MU-2Bs have been recommended by an FAA Flight Standardization Board (FSB) report, but they stop short of mandating a type rating for the turboprop twin. The report follows a safety review initiated by the agency last year following a series of MU-2B accidents.