This past year was one of growth and change for the pilots of PSA Airlines. Now fully entrenched in the American Eagle network, the PSA pilot group has expanded its ranks to nearly 1,200, up from more than 900 pilots the airline employed at the beginning of 2015. 

“Our pilot group grew tremendously during the last year, and we’re working to make sure each member has the opportunities and resources needed to continue progressing within our profession,” said Capt. Jason McConnell, who served as Master Executive Council (MEC) chairman for the latter half of 2015. This growth has brought about a quick succession of MEC leaders—in just two years, McConnell is the third of four pilots to serve as MEC chairman.

His predecessors, Capts. Mark Hinczynski and Jesse Coeling, moved on to mainline carriers, a recent trend among fee-for-departure airline pilots that has depleted the MEC’s volunteer ranks. Fortunately for the PSA pilots, McConnell remains with the airline, returning to his previous role as the group’s Dayton Local Executive Council chairman.

“We anticipated some of the current turnover, so the MEC has been able to stay engaged and keep our pilot group focused on achieving its core goals,” said Capt. Travis Ricks, the current MEC chairman, who took office on January 1. Ricks brings to his new post the experience of serving as a previous Contract Enforcement Committee chairman.

Adding to this change, the MEC Negotiating Committee last October reached an agreement with management, revising the current Special Selection Process (SSP), which addresses the process by which PSA pilots are able to flow to American Airlines.

The new pilot flow-up procedure (PFP) achieved three goals the pilots sought going into negotiations: to remove the interview process, to increase the number of pilots flowing to American, and to put the group’s agreement in line with that of the other two American Airlines Group’s regional subsidiaries, Envoy Air and Piedmont.

“This new contract language provides our members with easier access to the American cockpit,” Ricks noted. “It creates an opportunity for nearly 100 pilots per year, nearly double the number we were previously sending. In addition, we’ll work with both PSA and American management again in mid-2016 to revisit this process.”

As part of the negotiations, the group successfully removed a pay freeze that applied to pilots with fewer than 12 years of service at PSA who declined the opportunity to fly for American. Now, any pilot who wants to stay at PSA or who wants to delay this transition to the mainline will not be penalized for this decision.

The MEC will continue to reevaluate this arrangement, giving special attention to potential recruiting challenges, changes to regulations, unpredictable attrition rates, adjustments to the airline’s aircraft delivery schedule, and economic or industry changes, among other considerations. 

However, every silver lining has its black cloud, and the situation at PSA is no different. “Our airline’s recent growth has been affected by higher-than-expected attrition,” Ricks observed. “We want to not only attract and hire those who want to one day fly for American, but also those who might prefer to remain at PSA by capitalizing on improved working conditions and quality of life. These measures will help PSA remain competitive among its peer airlines.”

Last fall, the airline broke ground on a new 69,000-square-foot maintenance hangar at Dayton International Airport, near the airline’s headquarters. In addition, a fourth crew base just opened at Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport. 

PSA Airlines F/O Carlos Loaiza, F/O Sam Laskey, Capt. Jimmy Huftalen, and Capt. Travis Ricks - ALPA
From left, F/O Carlos Loaiza, F/O Sam Laskey, Capt. Jimmy Huftalen, and Capt. Travis Ricks, the pilots’ Master Executive Council chairman.