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Entries in Josh Reikes (1)

Tuesday
Feb152011

Ex-Continental Pilot: Low Pay Led to Dangerous Fatigue

Photo Courtesy - ABC News(NEW YORK) -- A former veteran commercial airline pilot lived for more than a year at the beginning of his career in and out of a bare-bones "crash pad" and was so tired while flying that he drifted off to sleep in the cockpit, the pilot told ABC News.

Josh Reikes, who began flying in 1999, said money was so tight in his first years that whenever he commuted to a new city before a flight, he could not afford a hotel room and opted to stay in a crash pad.

"You're bunked up with six, seven, eight people stumbling in at all hours of the night waking you up," recalled Reikes. "It's not good sleep at all. But what's the alternative?"

An ABC News investigation found these dormitory-style rooms, designed to pack in as many airline crew members as possible, are spread out in cities across the country. After the few hours of sleep some pilots are able to snag in the crowded crash pads or on the couches and chairs of crew rooms, they report to duty and are entrusted with dozens, or sometimes hundreds, of passengers' lives. In the past 20 years, more than two dozen accidents and more than 250 fatalities have been linked to pilot fatigue, according to the National Transportation Safety Board.

The head of the Federal Aviation Administration told ABC News airline companies deny pilots are sleeping overnight in crash pads.

Reikes told ABC News he lived for more than a year in and out crash pads because it was the only way he could get by on his $17,000 per year starting salary at ExpressJet, which offers flights under the name Continental Express as a Continental Airlines regional carrier.

"There were about 15 of us bunking in a small hotel room," Reikes told ABC News of the crash pad he called home. The kind of sleep he was afforded there caused him on more than one occasion to either deliberately take a nap in the cockpit or drift off to sleep inadvertently, Reikes said.

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