The Piedmont pilots are not flamethrowers. Freedman said he understands that when it comes to direct negotiations, "we are a small airline with a small management structure that is busy and may not be able to give us as much attention as they would like," even after US Airways top management decides how it wants to proceed. At the same time, he said, "The company is fully aware of the legal options the union has."

Piedmont operates a fleet of 44 Dash 8s, 11 with 50 seats and 33 with 37 seats. It operates about 300 daily departures, primarily in US Airways' biggest hubs in Charlotte, with destinations including Asheville, N.C.; Florence, S.C. and Hilton, Head, S.C.; and in Philadelphia, with destinations including Allentown, Pa. and Buffalo, Ithaca, and Rochester, N.Y. US Airways' other regional carrier, PSA, is also in contract talks with pilots.

Asked whether Piedmont pilots would be impacted by a merger between US Airways and American, Freedman said, "Initially we'd be left alone, just like we were in the other mergers," particularly given the likelihood that Charlotte and Philadelphia will have similar or even increased flying.

"We have a pilot group that has experience at a time when experienced pilots are not quite as plentiful as they used to be, and we provide a valuable service with a valuable airplane," Freedman said. "It's very economical compared to other airlines. In good times, when everyone is making money, we make money, and in bad times, when everyone is losing money, we lose less money."

-- Written by Ted Reed in Charlotte, N.C.

>To contact the writer of this article, click here: Ted Reed

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