US Airways story updated with new information on captain's decision to allow passengers to disembark after five hours.CHARLOTTE, N.C. TheStreet) -- The battle between US Airways ( LLC) and its pilots over the airline's safety culture is continuing, this time focused on an incident in which a captain declined to fly a transatlantic flight. On June 16, captain Valerie Wells, a 30-year-pilot, was scheduled to fly an Airbus A330, which can carry nearly 300 passengers, on a flight from Philadelphia to Rome. But she declined to fly because of failures of both the auxiliary power unit, a backup source of electrical power, and the "hot battery bus," a primary source of electrical power.
McDonald said that to be cautious, the airline "took the batteries off site and had them tested, and they were found to be in proper working order." He said the real issue in the incident was about the union "negotiating and trying to get leverage against the company, using safety as an issue, which it is not." In a statement issued late Friday, the Federal Aviation Administration said the APU shutdown in the aircraft "is a failure that pilots are well aware can happen and that they are trained to recognize. The battery apparently was depleted by attempts to restart the APU." The agency said aircraft often fly with inoperative APUs, without a safety risk, but "the captain simply chose to exercise her pilot-in-command authority of not accepting an aircraft." It said US Airways maintained the aircraft in accordance with regulations. Ray noted that in addition to the APU failure, the hot battery bus also failed, causing an instrument failure that justified the Wells' decision. US Airways recently passed the International Air Transport Association's safety audit "with flying colors," Isom noted in his letter, while the FAA has cited US Airways as an industry model for its safety management system. Ray said the IATA inspection is "nothing more than a self-evaluation by a trade association." Ray also denied that the safety claims are a negotiating tactic. "How do you think pilots are going to gain at the negotiating table by pointing out we have a safety issue at the company?" he said. Friday marked the second time USAPA criticized US Airways safety practices in USA Today. A 2008 ad in the newspaper asserted that the airline was
pressuring pilots to fly with less fuel than they might prefer. -- Written by Ted Reed in Charlotte, N.C. >To contact the writer of this article, click here: Ted Reed