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Amazon pilots worried about Boeing jet weeks before Texas crash

AMAZON's rapidly expanding air cargo operation, coupled with low pay for inexperienced flight crews, led several pilots who fly for the company to predict the recent fatal crash, according to the New York Post

Amazon pilots worried about Boeing jet weeks before Texas crash

AMAZON's rapidly expanding air cargo operation, coupled with low pay for inexperienced flight crews, led several pilots who fly for the company to predict the recent fatal crash, according to the New York Post

25 March 2019 - 19:00

AMAZON's rapidly expanding air cargo operation, coupled with low pay for inexperienced flight crews, led several pilots who fly for the company to predict the recent fatal crash, according to the New York Post.

A Boeing 767 cargo jet operated by Atlas Air and contracted by Amazon crashed on February 23 outside Houston, killing all three aboard. The cause of the accident is still unknown.



In the weeks before the crash, Business Insider had interviewed 13 current and former pilots who worked with third-party companies that fly Amazon Air-branded planes.



The US-based pilots worked for subsidiaries of Air Transport Services Group (ATSG) and Atlas Air Worldwide Holdings, which provide Amazon with leasing, staffing, maintenance and insurance.



The pilot groups contracted by Amazon are ABX Air, Air Transport International and Atlas Air. ABX and ATI are owned by ATSG, and Atlas Air Worldwide Holdings owns Atlas Air.



The pilots described difficulties in attracting experienced pilots, training they deemed lacking, low morale and pay that's markedly lower than at other cargo carriers.



Six of the pilots interviewed by the news outlet worked at Atlas Air and seven worked at ATSG's ABX.



Teamsters official and Atlas Air pilot Robert Kirchner described the situation at Atlas Air as a 'ticking time bomb' in the weeks leading up to the crash.



In January, Atlas Air pilot Daniel Wells, also president of Teamsters Local 1224, told Insider that the check airmen - those who oversee new hires for training and safety - are forced to work at 'full speed or over speed.'



'I can honestly say, if you had all the check airmen in the room and we've done this, saying, 'Who believes that it's likely that there would be an accident in the next year,'' Mr Wells said, 'nearly 100 per cent of the people will raise their hands.'



Business Insider noted that the pilots it interviewed represented a fraction of the total number of Amazon Air pilots.



ATSG employs about 500 pilots in the units that work with Amazon Air, while Atlas Air employs 1,890 pilots. The pilots said they have seen their pay and benefits shrink over the past decade.



Neither Amazon nor Atlas Air responded to several requests for comment by Business Insider on the pilots' claims.



ATSG gave a statement but did not respond to specific claims. The union for ATI pilots, Air Line Pilots Association International, also did not respond to requests for comment.



NTSB investigators and member of the recovery team retrieve the flight data recorder of the Atlas Air Flight 3591, a Boeing 767 cargo jet that crashed in the muddy marshland of Trinity Bay, east of Houston.



An initial review of cockpit audio from the Atlas Air flight that crashed last month indicated that the pilots had lost control.



Another review showed that the plane reached an airspeed of 430 knots, or nearly 500 mph, during descent before it crashed.



One pilot told the news outlet that the speed violated pilot safety norms to not exceed 250 knots (288 mph) when below 10,000 feet. The NTSB reportedly suspects pilot error as the cause of the crash.


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