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United Airlines, the world’s second-largest carrier, sent its pilots a memo last month warning of “major safety events and near misses.”
The pilot bulletin, issued Jan. 9, gives only a brief mention of four incidents in the past few weeks. One involved an episode in which a pilot had to perform an emergency maneuver after getting too low to the ground, while another involved an airplane dropping below its preferred fuel level after deviating from the flight plan. The memo was signed by Howard Attarian, senior vice president of flight operations, and Michael Quiello, vice president of corporate safety.
Such memos alerting pilots to incidents are not unusual in airlines, said Kit Darby, an Atlanta-based pilot instructor and aviation consultant. Still, United spokeswoman Megan McCarthy said the memo was strongly worded.
“We must ask ourselves, ‘Do we have our priorities in line every time we put on our uniforms and strap into the airplane?’” the memo reads. “While the airline industry always seems to be in a state of flux, the one constant for all of us is that we are professional aviators with the common goal of flying our passengers and crew from point A to point B SAFELY.”
McCarthy declined to discuss specifics of the memo or the incidents it describes.
“As part of our commitment to safety, we constantly monitor flight operations data and regularly communicate the findings with our pilots,” United said in a statement. “Our proactive approach to safety is in line with the FAA’s Safety Management System and enables us to recognize potential issues and adjust our actions to further ensure the safety of our customers and coworkers.”
The pilot memo describes “two events in close proximity to terrain (one resulting in a GPWS pull-up maneuver).”
That latter incident likely involved use of aircraft’s ground proximity warning system and required the pilot to pull up quickly, Darby said. The fuel incident may have occurred when a pilot chose a different route than originally designed and arrived below United’s fuel threshold, he said.
“To me it is business as usual with safety a top priority at every airline,” Darby said in an e-mail. “Most airlines have merged lately or are growing rapidly. The change in procedures that come with a merger means that it takes some time for everyone to get on the same page.”
United merged with Continental Airlines in 2010, creating United Continental Holdings Inc. The United memo was reported earlier by the Wall Street Journal.
–With assistance from Alan Levin in Washington.
This article was written by Michael Sasso from Bloomberg and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.