Senior Aloha pilots retrained for cargo
More than two dozen pilots will be shifted, signaling an ease in ongoing labor talks
HONOLULU » Aloha Airgroup Inc.
yesterday began retraining eight senior pilots who flew Aloha's now defunct trans-Pacific passenger routes to fly the company's interisland air cargo planes.
About 16 other pilots are expected to start similar training next week.
The training sessions, which involve three days in the classroom and time on a flight simulator, are the result of negotiations the company has had with the pilots union, said Aloha spokesman Stu Glauberman.
The move signals progress toward resolving a labor dispute that threatened to take down what remained of Aloha Airlines after it filed for bankruptcy protection and halted passenger service last month.
But John Riddel, an Aloha captain and a member of the master executive council of the Air Line Pilots Association, said many problems remain.
"The company today made a step toward some compliance to (the) collective bargaining agreement by having the ground school take place," said Riddel, who has flown Aloha planes for 22 years. "But we have many unresolved issues right now with the company."
Riddel did not elaborate on the other problems in the negotiations, which are ongoing.
The union and management have been sparring over which pilots should fly the cargo routes, a disagreement that hinges on the definition of pilot seniority.
The drawn-out talks almost derailed financing for the bankrupt airline. But Aloha's main lender, GMAC Commercial Finance LLC, last week agreed to lend the carrier more money while the two sides worked out their differences and Aloha prepares to auction off the cargo business.
Aloha let go about 90 percent of its 250 to 300 pilots when it halted passenger business on March 31. It retained only some 35 to 40 pilots, mostly junior-ranking ones who were flying interisland cargo routes.
The union has been telling company management that under the union contract, they must allow senior pilots who were flying Pacific passenger routes to the mainland the right to fly the cargo routes if they want.
The pilot retraining will ensure senior pilots have the qualifications to bid for the cargo flights. Glauberman said up to 40 trans-Pacific pilots could qualify for the training.
The sessions teach pilots how to fly the Boeing 737-200 planes used to carry cargo between the Hawaiian islands. Passenger flights to the mainland used Boeing 737-700 planes.
Seattle-based Saltchuk Resources Inc. has submitted a bid for the cargo division. Castle & Cooke Aviation and Kahala Capital have also shown interest in buying the business, which handles 85 percent of Hawaii's air cargo.
Aloha has set an April 18 deadline for bids and will hold an auction April 21. A hearing on the outcome is scheduled for April 24, and the deal is due to be completed the next day.
GMAC's most recent round of financing, $3 million, is due to last through April 25.