161. Don't Top Off the Tanks
Alabama Airlines has notified its pilots to stop topping off their fuel tanks. Alarmed, pilot Buck Rogers sent a copy of the memo to Time Magazine, which investigated the matter. It discovered that AA was reacting to a 50-percent increase in fuel prices in the last year alone. The memo warned pilots to put only the amount of fuel into the plane that was necessary to reach the destination.
The memo reminded pilots that their primary responsibility was to ensure that AA's profits increased every quarter. Topping off the tanks resulted in extra fueling time and extra weight. The extra time and weight were reducing company profits. The memo concluded with these instructions: turn off the engines when stuck in long lines on the runways; if there is a strong tailwind, turn off all the engines and glide; and, wherever it is available, use "economy" jet fuel.
Pilots immediately complained, saying that such a policy put their lives and the public's lives at great risk. Yielding to their complaints, AA allowed pilots to put in an extra ten gallons of fuel.
Even with the extra ten gallons, Rogers had two near disasters. The first time, his plane ran out of fuel just as the wheels touched the runway. His plane had to be towed to the terminal. Rogers received a congratulatory phone call from AA's president! The second time, Rogers had to land his plane on a freeway, still under construction, 10 miles short of the Atlanta runway. This time the president told him he was making AA look bad. He told Rogers to save fuel AND land at the airport.
"People have no idea how little AA cares about their safety," Rogers said. "Saving fuel is more important to management than saving lives."
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