|"A Regional Pilot's Life"|
This clip features two former Colgan Air pilots. They were among many current and former pilots flying regional carriers who spoke to FRONTLINE -- and they had plenty to say. Several noted that regional pilots have been trying for the past 10 years to bring attention to working conditions within the industry.
A clip on the pressures pilots say they face to push the bounds of operational safety -- a practice referred to inside the industry as "pilot pushing." FRONTLINE asked Colgan Air and its corporate parent Pinnacle Airlines for an on-camera interview with correspondent Miles O'Brien. They declined. But Pinnacle wrote back and said that the intentional alteration of work hours to fit FAA regulations, as described by one of the pilots, is not permitted.
In his interview with FRONTLINE, Roger Cohen, president of the Regional Airline Association, addressed several of the issues raised in these videos. One of the most controversial is pilot pay. First-year pilots generally earn less than $25,000/year. Cohen says the pay scales at regional airlines are "fair" and that pilots receive a substantial increase in pay after their first year. The average pay for Captains in the regionals is $73,000 and for First Officers, $33,000. He noted that wage scales are set in part by collective bargaining with the unions, which protect Captain's pay at the expense of young First Officers.
Cohen states that there is no correlation between compensation and safety and described the system as "tremendously safe." Nonetheless, he says "We learn something from every accident, every incident" and that the Regional Airline Association has crafted a Strategic Safety Initiative [PDF] to study many of the issues that arose following the crash of Flight 3407, including pilot fatigue and long- distance commuting time.