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"We are the protagonists of our stories called life, and there is no limit to how high we can fly."

PHD. MBA. MHS. Type rated on A350, A330, B777, B747-400, B747-200, B757, B767, B737, B727. International Airline Pilot / Author / Speaker. Dedicated to giving the gift of wings to anyone following their dreams. Supporting Aviation Safety through training, writing, and inspiration. Fighting for Aviation Safety and Airline Employee Advocacy. Safety Culture and SMS change agent.

Monday, April 25, 2022

Safety Concern with New Pilots

Due to the Airline/Pilot Contract

Within a union, an employer must have just cause to discipline or terminate a pilot. Union employees cannot be terminated for just anything... unless, of course, they are on probation. 

Probation is a historic contractual agreement between management and pilot unions that enables pilots to be terminated for anything. Probation prohibits a new-hire pilot to speak out with safety concerns. These pilots will not report fatigue, will not argue they don't have enough fuel, will not stand up to a manager who is violating federal regulations, will not deny a trip due to bad weather, etc. This contractual clause states a probationary pilot can be terminated for anything during that period. Typically, probation lasts a year. With massive pilot hiring ongoing due to the Covid induced early retirements of those senior and most expensive pilots, there are thousands of new pilots flying today who will not necessarily do the right thing but will do what it takes to avoid discipline and termination.

The probationary clause not only impacts safety, 
but violates Federal Regulations. 

Safety Management Systems (SMS) is "the formal, top-down, organization-wide approach to managing safety risk and assuring the effectiveness of safety risk controls. It includes systematic procedures, practices, and policies for the management of safety risk." (FAA) An SMS must have foundation built upon a strong safety culture.  A key aspect to Safety Culture and thus SMS, is a reporting culture. If pilots are required to stay silent for a year, there is no reporting culture. This process forces pilots to operate in fear and places passenger safety is at risk. The only reason to terminate someone without just cause is for personal and/or retaliatory reasons, something other than job performance. Probationary pilots need the same protections as their senior coworkers to perform their jobs safely. 

SMS was implemented to mitigate risk and improve safety. Yet, the probationary clause does just the opposite. Any contract that places a pilot, flight attendant, or mechanic on probation is in violation of Federal Regulations and places passenger safety at risk. 

Unions and airline management, 
it's time to update your contracts
to comply with regulatory requirements.
Passenger Safety demands it!

Enjoy the Journey!
XO Karlene 


  1. Karlene, this is misrepresentation of what it means to be on probation. Nobody but you is arguing that the probation process is a safety problem. Having been on probation at multiple airlines I’ve never felt like I couldn’t speak up about the flight or safety related issues. Articles like this are such a disservice to this profession.

    1. Troy, I am very happy to hear you have never felt fearful to speak up at your many airlines. But any policy that enables a pilot to be terminated for "anything" is contradictory to safety.


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