Then came the prank calls.

"Hey scab," one pilot said on the voice mail of a union officer. "Get ready to bend over and take Nicolau!"

The lawsuit claims that a doll labeled "USAPA" was found hanging from a noose in a US Airways cockpit. At least two envelopes containing feces showed up in the new union's post office box. One guy who considered running for USAPA leadership, according to the suit, had personal information posted on a Web site controlled by the America West pilots. (He ultimately decided not to run.)

Then there was the jump-seat issue.

Pilots have a way of hitching a free ride home, or to their next destination, that depends on the kindness of colleagues. If a pilot is so inclined, he can let a visiting pilot join him in the cockpit's jump seat.

But as the merger soured, some West pilots decided there was too much tension between the two groups — no more jump seat rides for their East counterparts.

Admittedly, they also tried to get pilots from other unions to join them in exiling the breakaway union's pilots.

"They are the pariahs of the industry," one West pilot wrote on a message board. "Frankly, I think it is unsafe to have them on our jumps. They've made their bed, now they get to lie in it."

Finally, there was the money issue.

As a start-up union with few resources, USAPA was dependent on dues from all its members. But — even though they are required by law to contribute — some West pilots decided to say no. The union was formed to screw them, they reasoned. Why finance their own demise?

"Eighteen-hundred guys and gals standing on principle and refusing to pay an organization founded for and dedicated to the destruction of their careers?" one pilot wrote on the West message board. "I say let them try to fire 1,800 pilots."

Within one month, the union claims, it lost $298,000 in prospective dues.

But rather than hunker down and ride out the losses, or try to compromise with the West pilots, the union made an unusual decision. It decided to sue a dozen West pilots in federal court — for extortion, running a criminal enterprise, and nine other counts.

Gentilly, vice chairman for US Airways' newly formed pilots union, says that East pilots knew West pilots were unhappy with the new structure. They weren't surprised to hear grumbling.

But they were shocked at how nasty the West guys got.

"We were surprised by what we're alleging is criminal activity," he says. "We were definitely surprised that professional pilots would turn to alleged criminal activity, absolutely."

It had been a rough year for Ron Gabaldon.

The 56-year-old pilot and his wife had long been caregivers for her elderly parents, and in March 2008, her father passed away after a long illness. There was exhaustion; there were a zillion details to take care of; there was grief. It took two months for the couple, who live in Phoenix, to feel that they were getting back to normal.

Then came the lawsuit.

On June 2, Ron landed a flight at the Sacramento airport and, like any traveler these days, turned on his cell phone before he'd even exited the aircraft. On his voice mail was an urgent message from a fellow pilot. A lawsuit had been filed in North Carolina — and Gabaldon was being accused of defamation, tortious interference, conspiracy, and racketeering.

What did he do?

He posted a single message on a Web board frequented by America West pilots.

"I will not allow any scab to ride in my jump seat (in the interest of safety)," Gabaldon had written in April. "I'm networking with all my [union] friends at other carriers to put forth motions . . . to deny jump seats to all [pilots at the former US Airways]."

Gabaldon is one of the older pilots to come out of the America West system. Before he took a job there, he says, he'd been in the U.S. Air Force for seven years and then worked for Eastern Airlines.

He resents the East pilots' claims that America West pilots are all young punks. "We are as equal in our experience," he says. "And our safety record is bar none."

Gabaldon was hit hard by the suit. At first, told about it from his breathless friend in the Sacramento airport, he thought it was a joke: Conspiracy? He hadn't even been active in union politics. He'd never met most of his supposed co-conspirators.

He was so rattled that he asked his first officer to handle the route back to Phoenix. "I needed to concentrate on what I was going to say to my wife," he says. "It was just exhausting to care for her dad and mom — and now another battle to be confronted with . . . When I told her, she got this distinct look, like the life had been sucked out of her."

David Braid remembers a similar feeling when he learned he'd been named in the suit. Braid had made a single post in April regarding the toll-free hotline, noting the irony of the union complaining bitterly about pilots flooding their toll-free line with calls, even as it sent out a message urging membership to "call often to stay informed."

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in parkers own words, the merger had to happen, am west didnt buy anything, all the money was raised by third parties, the government held warrentees on 300 million dollars of am west stock from debt owed,parker was told to piggy back off usairways BR AND PAY OFF THE DEBTS OF BOTH CARRIERS. AM WEST WAS TO SMALL TO SURVIVE ON ITS OWN AFTER A FAILED BID TO BUY ATA SLOTS IN MIDWAY, the merger saved 2 airlines9 AFTER MERGER FOR THE FIRST 2 YEARS THE WEST SIDE LOST MONEY 6 OF EIGHT QUARTERS THE EAST MADE ALL THE MONEY AS THE EARNINGS WERE NOT REPORTED TOGETHER

Ronald Davis
Ronald Davis

Being in the aviation industry, though not for an airline, I have great respect for the work airline pilots do each & every day. Often routine, sometimes not, incredible stamina and skill is required that deep experience improves upon. That said, US Airways and America West have, for years, been amongst the weakest of our nation's airlines. Blame, if need be, goes primarily to deregulation- anything goes, so America West was an upstart by a shady group of characters- that like Southwest has been more successful at, nibbled around the edges of the majors- US Air was a conglomeration of regional carriers, some successful, others not- but following each acquisition, put together very poorly and in the end, just a hodgepodge of struggling regional airlines which probably wouldn't have survived on their own. Based on history, US Airways pilots are fantasizing to think that they can dictate terms completely to their liking, especially since they were financially, the weaker of the two merged companies, especially since they agreed to binding arbitration and now don't think they need to be bound, by creating a shell union- fantasizing and selfish to think that the America West pilots shouldn't be given some credit based upon their positions, experience and contributions they made to the former company. After all, no other airline wanted anything to do with US Airways, & it will be surprising, even after the addition of America West, if the combined company isn't liquidated within a year or two. After all, in an industry renowned for weak corporate management, the new company has the weakest of them all- old, run-down aircraft, weak hubs, insignificant international routes, bad financials, an angry workforce, & worse, a CEO with a drinking issue that is in way over his head. They only made it through the fuel price crisis this summer by a last-minute infusion of capital that is no longer an option- so in the end, this entire squabble could be a mute issue- they all might be looking for work before long. Too bad, and again, so unnecessary- airline deregulation has been a complete disaster.

Margaret Nahmias
Margaret Nahmias

ROFOLOL! I was laughing so hard when I first read this article Thanks Ms Fenske for talking about the other side . Quit blame shifting, USAPA. You guys are the only reason the merger cannot get done. All of the other groups have contracts with the exception of the flight attendants and they are itching for one too. You are hurting not only your company's reputation with your ridiculous attempts at gaining leverage, but hurting your fellow pilots most of whom have nothing to with this . One reaps what one sows. Therefore Mr. Gentile don't be surprised that the West pilots reacted the way they did. These are plain old vengeful feelings, not extortion or even slander. In fact you slandered the company with false safety accusations. You guys have no plan, no experience and so far no contract to show for the mess you have created. Thank you guys especially when US Airways is becoming respectable. You're lucky Doug Parker has the patience of a saint. I'd be seething and ready to jam Nicolau down your throats by now .


It isn't the union's fault. It really isn't the pilots fault. It is the poor management of Doug Parker whose main mission was to suck the cash out of USA and be sure he had the lowest cost airline. Of course, when you crap on your employees twice a month in the form of slave wages, a poor management team can leverage every asset they own to the max, line management pockets, and have employee turmoil.. As long as the pilots are fighting amongst themselves, Parker and company are free to do what they want. And they are doing everything but trying to build an airline.


That's really quite funny. A Union basing a lawsuit on RICO statutes. I'll bet one could not find a group as familiar with the intricacies of RICO than those lawyers on the payroll of any US union.


Divide and conquer, indeed. Management is laughing at you clowns. ALL of you.

Charles wouldn't last three minutes in a sim. I'd love to put you in the left seat handflying a single engine approach on standby electrical power to a snow covered runway, minimal visibility, no autopilot, no magic computers. The outcome determined by skill, judgement and years of experience.

The Truth
The Truth

What is laughably distorted to me Mr. Menear is your attitude towards your fellow pilots at the new US Airways when you wrote a letter to USAPA that was posted on their website that contained the following quote:

"God it pisses me off that we had to save the West pilots jobs"

Also if you read the article then you would see that Mr. Gentile at USAPA was quoted.


It sounds as if the America West Union should have been more on the ball and defended what was about to happen to them. It seems that this could have been easily predicted given USAirs reputation. The America West pilots need to somehow twist Mr. Parkers arm so that he has motivation to change this situation. Being nice doesn't seem to be working.

Mike S
Mike S

I'm glad this story has been publicised in detail. While not wanting to take sides I will say that once you have agreed to arbitration then you must then accept the arbitrators ruling...end of story. That said, I cant see not letting either side ride my jumpseat. Jumpseat access is at Captain's discretion and the reasons one might deny that access have nothing to do with internal company disputes. I am both an ALPA member and at times a commuting pilot who very much appreciates the accomodation and professionalism shown to me by each of these groups whenever I am on board wheter in the cabin or cockpit.

James P
James P

Sounds like the USAir pilots should be fired for not taking the arbitration that they agreed to.

Can you really trust anything they say?Can the company trust anything that this new union says?



let me get this straight, you are willing to be the first in a group of passenger to board a commercial flight that will take off, fly, and land using of luck it there is a crisis.

BTW RICO was a Robert Kennedy 1950's tack to get at the mob, not tax paying citizens!!


Let me see if I have this straight, US pilots agree to binding arbitration and when the arbitrators decision isn't to their liking they try for a 'Do over' by replacing the collective bargaining agent?

Wow, just wow.

I suppose in professional sports when an athlete goes to binding arbitration on salary if they don't like the decision they too can replace their agent and get a 'Do over' too?

I'd like to see what would happen to Airways when they try and fire the former America West pilots En Masse for non payment of dues.Maybe the above poster was right, maybe Airways should have shut down three years ago.

Who knows, maybe the company is worth more in pieces...something to think about.

Sold off in pieces with none of the Airways pilots or equipment.


Seems to me the perpetually furloughed USAir pilots want the America West pilots to make their careers whole.

USAir had pilots on furlough during the glory days of the late 90's when airlines were literally printing money.If you were furloughed from USAir at that time, and stuck around expecting recall, blame no one but yourself for bad career decisions.

Before this 'merger' I couldn't read any industry publication that wasn't speculating about the impending demise of USAir.And make no mistake, coming out of the summer of '05 NO ONE in the industry expected them to see 06.

The USAir people have this selective amnesia as to what the state of their airline was in '05.

Pilots in the industry blame them from three paycuts and concession after concession.USAir pilots have lowered the bar on every occasion when given the opportunity.

I fail to see why the America West pilots should sacrifice their careers to make the stagnated careers of the USAir pilots whole.

There is overcapacity in the industry, perhaps if USAir had failed in '05 as they should have this industry wouldn't be as much of a basket case as it is these days.

But they didn't fail, they managed to convince the investors that this would be a great idea,much to the detriment of the rest of the industry.

We lost Pan Am and Eastern during the last industry downturn, why not USAir? What is so special about this carrier that merits its continued existence?

Nothing.Hopefully they'll be the next airline to shut down and fly west.

Rogelio Martinezo
Rogelio Martinezo

Boo Hoo.A bunch of overpaid bus drivers whining about pay. Cry me a river. Those planes can take off, fly, and land by themselves. The only thing pilots are there for are to make out with the stews.Have fun with your unions, Captains Dunsel.

Elwood Menear
Elwood Menear

I only hope that the actual hatchet used by authoress, Sarah Fenske (Sept.04) in her laughably distorted "news article" on the US Airways pilot integration mess, is not the one used by George Washington. George's hatchet is forever associated with truth-telling, and there was very little truth to be found in Ms. Fenske's writing, in this case.

If your newspaper would like to have a balanced view, perhaps contacting Arnie Gentile, at USAPA might be a good start?

Danny Holycross
Danny Holycross

Im sorry HP was one of THE WORST AIRLINES TO WORK FOR! The only work group that was cared for at HP was the pilots. The FA's and ground staff were treated like red headed step children. No matter how "traditional" or "screwed up" US Airways was, atleast there FA's and ground staff previous to 9/11 were treated with respect, and no pilot could have gotten away with the treatment the HP pilots give to the current HP FA's. Do I feel Mr. Baraid should be in trouble, absolutely not. But what people are forgetting is that the actual employees from EITHER airline wanted this, this was all managements decision. Mr. Parker and Mr. Kirby could care less about the two groups arguing.

Eric Auxier
Eric Auxier

As one of the accused pilots, it is refreshing to finally have our story told. A few facts to add to the story:

1) Financially healthy America West bought (not merged with) the bankrupt USAirways, which industry experts said was weeks away from closing its doors for good.2) Usapa lawyers tried to coerce the accused pilots to sign a "confession" which would have FALSELY implicated other pilots and their protective coalition (AWAPPA) of Rico conspiracy laws, to eliminate its defense of the legally binding Nicolau seniority award3) The Nicolau Seniority award included 517 East pilots on top of all West pilots, with a 2/1 East/West ratio after that. Hardly a "windfall for the West."4) Instead of accepting the award, joining forces and fighting for an industry leading contract, the East decided to form a divisive union which, ultimately, threatens the very survival of USAirways.

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