Former Gulfstream International Airlines pilot Kenny Edwards filed a whistle-blower complaint against the airline after he was fired in December 2007. He told Federal Aviation Administration investigators that Gulfstream set schedules that didn't allow pilots ample rest.
The airline also "shaved" the actual time pilots flew on records to comply with FAA rules, said Edwards of Phoenix. Pilots often didn't object out of fear that they would get written up and have the careers ruined.
Pilots didn't "want to take a chance of getting a blemish on their record and not getting a job with a major airline," he said.
Now it's Gulfstream that has the blemish, after the Federal Aviation Administration fined Gulfstream $1.3 million Thursday for overworking pilots and dispatchers.
FAA spokeswoman Laura Brown said an investigation last summer found instances in 2007 and 2008 in which flight crews were not provided a minimum of eight hours rest in a 24-hour period and in which they flew more than 34 hours in a seven-day period.
Brown said the FAA also found 148 instances in which flight dispatchers worked more than 10 straight hours, the maximum permitted under federal regulations. Brown described the fine against Gulfstream as "relatively large" for a regional airline.
Gulfstream International flies 19-seat turboprops connecting Florida's biggest metro areas with the Panhandle, Key West and the Bahamas. The airline operates as a Continental Airlines commuter carrier under the Continental Connection brand.
Legislators, state employees and professionals dealing with Florida's regulatory agencies are familiar with Gulfstream, one of only two airlines flying nonstop between Tallahassee and Tampa International Airport.
The fine comes on the heels of hearings last week by the National Transportation Safety Board into the February crash of a regional airliner near Buffalo, N.Y. The captain of that plane, Marvin Renslow, received his pilot training from Gulfstream Training Academy of Fort Lauderdale, which is run by Gulfstream International Airlines.
Documents released by NTSB at the hearings and witnesses' testimony indicated that Renslow, 47, and co-pilot Rebecca Shaw, 24, made a series of critical errors just before Continental Connection Flight 3407 experienced an aerodynamic stall and plunged into a house. All 49 people aboard the flight and one on the ground were killed.