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American, pilots spar over fuel loads

June 27, 2010 at 12:23 PM

CHICAGO, June 27 (UPI) -- Managers at American Airlines and leaders of the pilots union agree carrying less fuel isn't a safety issue under routine circumstances.

The two sides digress, however, when it comes to unexpected variables such as flights being diverted while in the air.

"It's being touted as a corporate efficiency program, but perhaps it has gone too far," said Dennis Tajer, an American pilot and spokesman for the Allied Pilots Association. "It has the ability to affect the margin of safety and reliability. That is our concern."

The Chicago Tribune reported Sunday that American's strategy of carrying less fuel is aimed at reducing fuel purchases and also the amount of weight each plane carries. A plane carrying a lighter fuel load actually burns less fuel.

To achieve its goal, American has given the job of figuring out how much fuel each plane carries to airline dispatchers. The task has traditionally been performed by the pilot.

The Tribune said planned fuel loads would include about 90 minutes of reserves, which would be trimmed down over the course of the year. The FAA requires a 45-minute reserve.

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