It was reported that Hawaii’s bellwether Hawaiian Airlines has had to cancel 51 interisland flights in just two days this holiday week as a result of a pilot training issue.
This was first reported to us by a friend who got stuck trying to fly interisland. Then, Hawaiian Air’s Alex Da Silva said “We are also substituting our 128-seat Boeing 717 aircraft with larger aircraft – including our 189-seat Airbus A321neos and 278-seat A330s – on 33 of those flights to ensure we can accommodate all guests scheduled to fly with us.
The issue revolves around a flight simulator needed for pilot training. It was inoperative earlier this year, and that resulted in a backlog of the airline’s recertification of its pilots on the Boeing 717 aircraft used for interisland flights. The equipment has now been repaired, and Alex said that “With our 717 flight simulator now back online for several weeks, we are training at full capacity to minimize future disruptions.”
Southwest pilots warn of a sharp rise in fatigue and “safety is becoming untenable.”
Pilot-related issues are occurring at multiple airlines. Earlier this week, the SWA pilot union issued a letter of warning that certainly caught our eye in relation to Southwest Hawaii flights as well as the entire industry. You can read it for yourself below.
One particular reason for our concern is that Southwest Hawaii flights are of longer duration than many SWA flights. These flights to the islands are comparable in duration only to Southwest’s transcontinental flights.
Fatigue is considered a leading contributor regarding airline accidents and longer duration flight missions may be one factor associated with increased fatigue.
Since Southwest began increasing flights following a Covid lull, the union indicated a very concerning rise in pilot fatigue, with as much as a 600% increase in one month reported, and February and March 2020 up over 300%. That was compared with pilot fatigue pre-Covid.
The letter states that “Fatigue, both acute and cumulative, has become Southwest Airlines’ number-one safety threat. Our primary job as Pilots is identifying and capturing errors in order to break the error chain, but our ability to do so is compromised when we are fatigued. SWAPA Pilots are tasked with, and pride themselves on, making safety their highest priority. Over the last 12 months, our Pilots have filed an ever-increasing number of ASAP reports showing errors that can be directly correlated to fatigue.
In fairness to SWA, other U.S. carriers have also reported similar pilot fatigue associated with increased and unsustainable overtime and unstable schedules, according to WSJ.