May 16, 2023, © Leeham News: “We are also concerned about elevated emissions and increased airspace congestion. To fit into the regulatory gap it occupies, the aircraft are reconfigured to seat no more than 30 passengers, on regional jets designed originally to hold up to 50 passengers. This model generates more intensive emissions per passenger and in busy markets with congested airspace, the model further strains the already challenged and under-staffed air traffic control system.”
So says the US Air Line Pilots Association and a bunch of other unions in a May 5 letter to the Department of Transportation, the US Department of Labor, the Federal Aviation Administration and the Transportation Security Administration.
The group wrote a three page letter pissing on plans by Skywest Airlines to launch a small charter airline under Part 135 of the FAA rules that allows pilots with fewer than 1,500 hours to carry passengers. Skywest is pursuing this because of the nationwide pilot shortage. Indeed, the shortage is global, but it’s especially acute with US regional airlines—which ALPA has been trying to diminish for decades Skywest wants to reconfigure Mitsubishi CRJ200s, a 50-passenger airplanes, into a 30-seat aircraft.
Part 135 carriers are limited to 30 passengers and provide what essentially is scheduled airline service but which are technically charter operations.
The unions spend much of their three page letter taking on JSX Airlines, which has a successful Part 135 operation using 45-seat Embraer E145s configured for 30 passengers. Its operations are migrating across the southern US.
The paragraph cited above is full of union hypocrisy, especially that of ALPA. Here’s why.
United Airlines’ regional carrier, GoJet, reconfigured 70-seat CRJ-700s into 50-seat aircraft. This allowed ancient CRJ-200s to be retired while remaining with union Scope Clause provisions that cap operation of the number of passengers (by airplane count) that may be carried by a regional partner may operation for United. UAL’s ALPA signed off on this.
Yet the environmental principal outline in the opening paragraph certainly applies to a negative impact to the environment by configuring the 70-seat CRJ-700 to a 50-seat CRJ-550.
At the time, on June 25, 2022, I emailed the United ALPA chapter to see if its new contract adjusted the weight cap of airplanes that would allow the regional airline to acquire and operate the Embraer E175-E2, a somewhat heavier (though not by much) version of the original E175 (now called the E1). The E2 has the Pratt & Whitney GTF engine, which is more fuel efficient (and hence, with lower emissions) than the E1.
Here is United’s ALPA chapter’s response, from Greg Everhard, the communications chairman of the UAL ALPA chapter:
“We added weight to the CRJ-550, provided the range remains 900 nm. Our pax and jump seating pilots were being left behind due to the 550 weight restriction, especially in the winter. This change fixes that without extending the mission/range of the 550. Our goal of protecting mainline jobs from outsourcing was met as this contract does not allow any more RJs or any more seats at Express.”
In other words, UAL ALPA was entirely about its membership, not about the environmental impact. Everhard continued:
I replied to Everhard:
|“It would be helpful to explain why the weight allowance on the E175 was not increased to allow the E2 to replace the E1s. I understand the desire to protect mainline jobs, but a one-for-one replacement of the E2 for the E1, allowing a much “greener” airplane is good for the environment and the improved fuel economy is better for UAL’s bottom line as well—which, in theory, helps protect jobs. There are simply routes that do not support mainline jets. Switching to greener airplanes also reduces the ability of the Greta Thunburgs of the world to pressure commercial aviation to the detriment of jobs.”
Everhard did not respond to this follow-up question.
Union intransigence blocking a weight change for the E-Jet succeeded in killing the E175-E2, which was designed as a greener airplane, reduced operating cost airliner for the US market. Embraer hasn’t officially killed the program–it’s like Mitsubishi taking two years to terminate the SpaceJet–but the airplane is dead.
So much for ALPA’s “green” objections that “This model generat[ing] more intensive emissions per passenger and in busy markets with congested airspace, the model further strains the already challenged and under-staffed air traffic control system.”
Union hypocrisy lives.
The other signatories of the letter are: