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Pilots Fired For Getting Lost

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The Air Line Pilots Association is stepping to the defense of two pilots fired by their airline after they got lost over the barrens of the Canadian Arctic. ALPA says First Air "rushed to judgment" in firing the experienced pilots. First Air, which serves remote communities throughout the Arctic with gravel-runway-adapted Boeing 737-200s, said the pilots didn't follow the airline's navigation procedures when they wandered more than 150 miles off course on a flight from Iqualuit to Rankin Inlet. It was only after another aircraft crew relayed a radio call from air traffic controllers in far-away Montreal that the crew realized their mistake and altered course. The airline said the four crew and 19 passengers were never in any danger and the flight landed uneventfully but its investigation revealed "the pilots did not follow our standard operating procedures designed to eliminate navigational errors.” The airline did not elaborate on the circumstances that led to the pilots, who reportedly had 40 years of experience between them, to head in the wrong direction. 

The incident occurred a couple of weeks after a Transportation Safety Board report blamed crew confusion and faulty training for a 2011 crash that killed 12 people, including all four crew members. First Air has since revised its training and operations manuals. “We have gone to great lengths to update and strengthen our standard operating procedures to ensure our pilots have the tools they need to fly safely,” said the company news release. “We have also increased in-flight oversight using data monitoring tools.” ALPA rep Peter Black said the union is "deeply disappointed" the pilots were fired without a full investigation. “This rush to judgment has unfairly called into question the expertise and professionalism of a crew with more than 40 years of combined flight experience," Black said. "We will use all of the union’s resources to investigate this incident and support the crew.”

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