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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, May 13, 2024

Does This Training Count?

Open for Discussion! 

"I didn't work, but I deserve to 
be signed off for training!"


I receive calls weekly, sometimes daily, to help pilots. But last week I received three calls in one day. All from the same airline. This is the situation from one of those calls, and I am curious what you think as the argument is deeply concerning. 

A new hire pilot requested religious accommodation for training. He cannot work on Saturdays. The airline gave it to him. But as things happen, pilots drop out, schedules change, he was rescheduled to train on Saturday. He called me for advice. He is adamant that he would never work on his religious day, no matter what. That was non-negotiable. Thus, he is a man of faith, not just faking to get off on Saturday.


His plan was to show up to training, in a fixed base simulator, and tell the instructor that he could not push a button or raise the gear, but he would have the first officer do this for him, and ask the instructor to sign him off.  I said, "Do not ask the instructor to sign you off. That is falsifying records. That will put him on the spot and could cost him his job." Then I said, "What if you did that, and he said no?" 

He said he would sit there with his arms folded. "Do not do that!" I said. "If you get terminated, and this goes to court that will haunt you. Then I explained why. I connected him to my favorite attorney to see if he could write a letter on his behalf. The attorney suggested he show up and explain why he couldn't work. Then if action was taken against this pilot, he could then write that letter.

I said, "Explain the situation, and ask the instructor to give you an incomplete, and ask if he would call the scheduler to reschedule." 

Then, on Mother's Day Sunday, the pilot called to tell me what happened. 

He had asked his sim partner to push the buttons and move the gear. He would sit there. She was okay with that, so he told the instructor the same. He did not ask for the incomplete, and whatever was said, this pilot was signed off. My jaw dropped when I heard this. But then he said that he was pulled out of training the next day (this Sunday) because he was not complete. I said, "Of course you were incomplete." Then we argued that point for more than 30 minutes.

They are rescheduling him. The scheduler asked what days won't work. He told her Friday sunset to Saturday sunset for his faith. I asked if he explained why he needed to be rescheduled. He did not. I assumed transparency might go a long way here, as schedulers would not want this to happen again. 


Now the Questions

I explained that was not legal training. He argued it was and believed he deserved to be signed off.  

I explained that the training syllabus does not say, the first officer will demonstrate "and/or command". This is a procedures trainer. Moving the switches is the lesson, or why not just sit in a classroom and talk about the plane on a panel on the wall and save airlines lots of money? He argued that it was no different if he told the other pilot to do it, or he did it.  

I explained AQP means we train like we fly. He argued that too, as in the plane a captain will command an engine start. 

What do You Think? Was this legal training?

Then I queried that if he got a ride to his place of business, sat in the chair, discussed and told others how to do that business, was paid to be there, and believed that he did the work to be signed off, was that not violation of his belief? He said his Rabbi said it was okay to do all that, as long as he don't touch a switch. 

I believe in accommodation for all. I believe in faith, and conviction, and doing what you believe. But this feels contrived and a workaround. I said, "You can't have it both ways. You don't believe what you did was work, but then you want to be paid and get credit for work you said you did not do?" He argued that too. 

What do You Think? Is this work or not work?

He said that ALPA told him that once he was signed off for training they could not take it away. Is that true? He also has no idea how the company found out. I told him what more than likely occurred. 

What I believe happened, is that this instructor had buyers remorse, and questioned what transpired. Then he asked someone who said, "No way is that legal." This was not legal training, and because the instructor went along with it they are allowing him to do the entire event again. 

I had questioned how he was going to manage an airline career on an International airplane, without working on a Saturday. There are time changes, cancellations, weather and maintenance delays. Is he going to cancel a flight because he finds himself in Europe and can't work on Friday at Sunset? And is that Sunset in his timezone or Europe? 


He said it won't be an issue. After what transpired here, and the ensuing debate on legality, I suspect he could show up to the plane and tell the other pilots he can't push a button or do anything but sit there. The question is, would the pilots allow that behavior if they all want to get home after a delay? Probably, depending upon the situation. 

He should have been accommodated for training. There is no undue hardship to the company for that. But a cancelled flight would be another story. The question is, if this would have been a violation of an FAA approved training program if the pilot sits there and commands procedures instead of doing them? If it's not, and we are required per AQP to train like we fly, then would this behavior be allowed in an airplane? And if the pilot believes it was legitimate enough to be signed off and to be paid for the event, was that not work? 

What Do You Think?

Enjoy the Journey
Dr. Karlene Petitt
PhD. MBA. MHS.
A350, B777, A330, B747-400, B747-200, B767, B757, B737, B727

41 comments:

  1. Fired. End of the story.

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    1. If he carries this attitude and non-compliance forward in his career... I could not agree more.

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  2. Piloting a commercial airliner is a 24/7/365 job. This pilot must have signed in the bottom of of the employment contract agreeing to those terms.

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    1. Yes, he should have. But perhaps he only feels his religious commitment deserves respect versus his commitment to his job and passenger safety.

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  3. There is so much dysfunction in this industry I don't know what to say anymore. I hope one day soon you start charging for consultations, at least in those instances that aren't completely emergencies and/or for the very vulnerable. As a passenger, I would not want my captain out of practice with actually touching the controls. Uh uh.

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    1. I smiled at that charging comment. I've been told that many times. I honestly should... hours of my life given to help. Most I feel happy to give guidance. But, it's situations like this I have wasted my breath, and become absolutely dismayed at the lack of integrity. How this person could be so ignorant, while attempting to convince me, I have to wonder if he believes what he says, and honestly thinks that was okay to be signed off for not doing the work, that he admitted he didn't do per his religion. Yes... dysfunction beyond measure.

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    2. These symptoms just pop up from time to time, never revealing the real illness. Which happens to be a mental disorder. You cannot mention anything on an application or a form that refers to religion or beliefs, creed, or anything that only a woke-joke considers acceptable. On the application it should simply ask, are you willing to work under these conditions, the answer would be either a yes or no. Why are we giving priority to less qualified applicants? Obviously aviation should have no room for DEI nonsense. Lives are at stake.

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    3. I won't call religion as a mental disorder. People of sincere faith and/or beliefs don't waiver. So, going to work, but not calling it work is more of a hypocrite. Clearly he owes more to his passengers. I think that is an excellent question, are you willing to work weekends and holidays. Yes, or no. That should be that.

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  4. Even El Al pilots fly on the Sabbath. If you do not do the training you should not get credit for it. Seems to me he has personal requirements that keep him from performing his duties in this industry. He should have found work that allows for his requirements and not expect companies to be disadvantaged trying to bend to his will. A CEO of a company I worked for made the comment "If you wanted to be home everyday you should have been a Postman."

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    1. Oh... that is a good point on El Al! I could not agree more about finding a job that fits your beliefs. If you don't believe in killing cows, you probally should not work on a ranch that produces steak.

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  5. When 'it' accepted employment, did 'it' sign a contract? If so, then 'it' needs' to abide by the contract.

    If 'it' did not sign a contract, then he needs to fully and completely explain and disclose 'it's' circumstances.

    Beings 'it' chooses to NOT work with the company that employed 'it', then 'IT' should be terminated.

    Seems to me that 'it' wants to be terminated so 'it' can sue 'it's' employer for unjustified termination.

    Finally, that kind of training does NOT count!!!
    PERIOD!!! FULL STOP!!!

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    1. For all that happened, his training should not have counted, but he'll argue that it did. The issue is the EEOC laws prevent discrimination and provide accommodation. But expecting the pilot to fulfill training is a federal regulation, not negotiable, and is not discrimination. I'm still shaking my head at his assertions.

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  6. As I understand the employer is required to make a reasonable accomodation, but isn't the employee likewise obligated to explain why it is needed? Otherwise, how can the employer determine if it is a reasonable request?

    And, no, simulator training means simulating reality, and in reality you would take the actions yourself.

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    1. Yes, they are required to accommodate. And, he initially asked and got it. Then something happened and he was rescheduled. So, not sure why it changed, but I doubt to get him, because scheduling is so dynamic with many moving parts. But, if he did not want to work, then he had the duty at the session to tell the instructor why, and request an incomplete. They could reschedule him. And if he explains to the scheduler what happened, she could have made sure it did not happen again. My issue is the thought that not participating and not touching anything was valid training. And the he also believed that wasn't going to work... yet believed he did enough to deserve a sign off. As I said, he can't have it both ways. Yes... he must take the actions himself.

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  7. If his religion impacts his ability to perform his functions as a pilot, he needs to decide what is more important to him. If he refuses to work Friday/Saturday, that means other pilots have to. They didn’t choose his religion, he did. His life choice. If it doesn’t fit his chosen profession and his religion is more important to him, choose a new profession.

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    1. Exactly. His religion should be passenger safety and doing the training that will ensure that, not simulating the simulation... faking the training because that's okay by his religion, but doing the work is not? I agree that this was a life choice, and his choice should not have a negative impact on others.

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  8. Airlines (or any company for that matter) need to be up front of what’s expected of each crew member or employee. This needs to be done in writing and signed by the applicant that he/she is willing and able to follow these guidelines and expectations. If they cannot be available 24/7/365, then they need to find another profession. It’s not fair to tell someone else they have to work under those rules and not apply them the same to everyone.

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    1. He knew exactly what the job entails. I'm just curious if his religion will allow him to lie about being sick on Friday/Saturday, if his religion allows for him to not do the training required of every other pilot. These standards must apply to everyone.

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  9. Speaking as a check and training Captain , I believe his behaviour was very selfish. He should have never put his F\O in that position .
    Regarding the 2 separate issues . The first one is compliance with his company’s SOP,S . At no stage could he demonstrate a satisfactory level of competence by not touching anything. In fact if he did that on line I would have failed him. By demanding his F/O does everything, what would have happen if the aircraft was put in an unsafe position, would he take over or watch it crash .
    In regards to his religious beliefs, well that’s between him and his employer, it has nothing to do with his F/O or the check Captain . Like I said I believe it was very selfish to impose his strict beliefs on the people around him. He just shouldn’t have been there .

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    1. I believe that, too. When he said he was going to ask, I told him, "Don't you dare" and explained why. But, he convinced the FO that it was fine and then told the Instructor she was good. We're all good. If you see this, read the comment that came in at 138 pm. This is exactly what I feared would happen. Apparently it is. The other pilot does all the flight duties.

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  10. What will happen to him, if he has to take control in the event of an emergency as the first officer becomes incapacitated! does, the whole ship go down because he can’t touch a switch ! And it is Saturday midday! Geeezzz

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    1. Exactly!!! Read the comment from someone flying with the same type of belief and he did all the duties. Hmm.

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  11. First of all,he should never have been hired.I am sure that somewhere in the terms and conditions that he agreed to it states that he needs to be available for work without exceptions.If afterwards he disagrees he should be fired.He can not dictate training events.If he does not want to do certain things then it should be a failure or an incomplete session.An airline could not operate if pilots had specific demands regarding working hours and schedules.

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    1. Yet laws prohibit not employing based upon religion among other things. But, my thought is if you can't do the job, then you should not place an employer or fellow employees in an unfair position of such a request. If you can't work then don't show up.

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  12. Your religious belief do not allow you to force your opinion on anyone else. Therefore , if they prohibit you from doing something you cannot use that as an excuse to force others to do something. Therefore asking the other pilot to do the work is equally unacceptable as you are expecting them to work on a day you won't work on.

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  13. Agree with the comments above, that he signed up for a job in a 7/24/365 industry and even El Al pilots fly on the Sabbath. So if he can’t do the job under those terms then he’s in the wrong line of work. But how in the world did he think that by reporting to training but not actually doing the training that he still should get credit and paid for the training?

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    1. That's my question too. He said his Rabbi said it was okay to show up and tell other people to do what you were supposed to. And, if you get paid... I am certain airlines do not pay anyone for working. You don't get to pass just becasue you showed up.

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  14. I agree with the argument that no pilot can expect an airline to schedule work around an individual pilot's religious beliefs. That's ridiculous.

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    1. Yes. But it's the law unless it cannot be accomplished with reasonable accommodation. I do not believe that line flying it can be accomplished, but the comment following this says exactly what I thought would happen.

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  15. I have flown with a captain who shared this religious belief. The company did their best to accommodate the schedule but if work needed to get done I was usually tagged in for the actual flight duties. No problem for me because he was transparent from day 1 about it all. The communication and transparency is key. Many have made this work but not with the attitude exhibited in the article above.

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    1. Actually... I could fly an A350 single pilot. But the fact is these jet are certified for two qualified crew members for a reason. You are not to do all the flight duties. What if an emergency occurred? This is what I was concerned would happen. I think that the fact this is ongoing during flight, something probably should be done about. Thanks for this information.

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  16. This is too ridiculous to warrant discussion. He is in the wrong line of work. I would not want him on my crew nor would I want to be riding in the back as his passenger. Someone else has to fill in for his special treatment not to mention the myriad of safety and operational concerns.

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  17. Fully agree that the training was not legal. His expectations also seem unreasonable.

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    1. Yes they were. And these expectations will find their way into the sky. That's the scary part.

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  18. I am a born again Christian. Religions that impose strict rules on people and their ability to work on certain days with rigid rules are called legalistic. In the four Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke and John) Jesus lets these folks know they are missing the point.

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    1. I appreciate the strict rules, but I say... follow them, if that's the case. Yes, he's missing the point.

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  19. I find it extremely strange that someone was given such an accommodation in the first place. If this was discussed and agreed upon during the hiring process then the airline must’ve been desperate to have this person work for them.

    In my country, airlines are considered a necessary service for the smooth running of society and the public order - an essential service, to use a Covid era description. It is the reason we are given rosters with day offs planned as per rules and guidelines and not weekends and public holidays off like so many other industries. I can’t imagine it’s very much different in the United States.

    This person is demonstrating an unreasonable mindset under any circumstance. To the best of my knowledge, no religion prevents those engaged in public services from working at any time. Not even on the holiest days. An argument could be made that this person is an extremist and not of sound judgement.

    What does he even mean? Will he suddenly stop dealing with a decompression or engine fire drill because he happened to glance at a clock and realise it was past sunrise on a Saturday? What about his religious obligation to prevent harm from befalling those he is responsible for, i.e. his passengers and fellow crew members? Is that suspended mid flight over the Atlantic on a Saturday when the sun is out? Isn’t the very fact that someone has to consider absurd questions like these proof enough that the baby and the bathwater have become one with the sea?

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    1. The problem is, in this country there are federal laws that demand accommodation. Now the law says reasonable, and not an undue hardship. Granted, scheduling training is not an undue hardship. The schedule on the line is a different story. My concern is that his belief it's okay to go to work, to show up, and tell others what to do, and that doesn't count for his not working. But the real issue is if he goes to work, on a line flight, convinces the other pilots to do his duties, (as I have been told happens) and an emergency occurs. What does he do? Allow the plane to crash because he can't help? To answer your question, it's illegal to exclude a pilot because of his religious belief. But he should be terminated if he shows up to work and does not do the job he was hired to do, and places lives in harm's way. And the question if an emergency occurred, would he also just sit there?

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  20. Doing this on a weekly basis, not once a year; training not for himself as a private pilot but a passenger-carrying aircraft seems very very wrong. Most disconcerting is the self-worth of a pilot who thinks value of training and assessment is the same if he directs procedures to be done rather than directly doing, practicing.

    Would he be okay to be operated upon by a surgeon who directs an assistant rather than wield the scalpel himself, if it happens to be his 'sacred' day. I would be scared of this kind of sacred!

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