Pilots’ union sues American Airlines over training dispute

FORT WORTH, Texas (AP) — American Airlines and its pilots’ union are fighting over the airline’s plan to change the way it picks pilots who help conduct a key part of training.

Pilots usually train in pairs. In a lawsuit filed Thursday in federal district court, the Allied Pilots Association challenges American’s solution for handling situations in which one of the pilots going through training in a flight simulator is absent.

The union says that in such cases, the empty seat is currently filled by a “check” pilot who is specially trained to evaluate fellow pilots. American wants to use regular co-pilots to volunteer as substitutes.

In either case, another check pilot will grade the performance of pilots going through training, but the union says the presence of a less-experienced substitute “seat filler” could distort the results of evaluations that are critical to careers.

The union accuses American of proposing the change because it doesn’t have enough check pilots to hire and train new pilots — a contention that the airline disputes.

American says the change will increase the airline’s training capacity and give regular pilots a chance to help by serving as substitutes in the simulator sessions. It says the volunteers are highly qualified pilots.

The union, which is currently in contract negotiations with American, contends that American is violating federal labor law by making a unilateral change in its training program. American says its contract with the union allows the change.

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