Babbitt Acknowledges ALPA’s Long-Standing Safety Role at Air Safety Forum

August 19, 2011 - “Good evening, everyone—it’s great to see all of you tonight,” said Capt. Randy Babbitt, the FAA administrator, former ALPA president, and last night’s keynote speaker for the 57th annual ALPA Air Safety Forum’s awards banquet.

Babbitt briefed the crowd on the recent partial shutdown of the FAA, the resulting $400 million in uncollected airline ticket taxes, and the 21st short-term funding legislation to keep the agency fully operating until September 16. “We will do everything we can to prevent Congress from using the FAA as a bargaining chip in larger political disagreements,” he said.

The FAA administrator then commented on the long-awaited, science-based update to the flight/duty and rest rule. He said, “I’ve been pushing for pilot flight and duty time changes since I was ALPA president in the 1990s. The rule is in its final stages. . . . We are committed to ensuring that airline pilots are fit and rested when they report for duty.”

“ALPA has been key in helping us achieve one level of safety. . . . We’ve had many successes working together on improving safety, including the Commercial Aviation Safety Team—CAST—and FOQA, ASAP, and ASIAS,” said Babbitt. “We’ve gone from a forensic approach—to improve safety—to a more data-driven, preventative approach of identifying trends and making changes to mitigate potential hazards. And we have improved safety.”

Babbitt also talked about ALPA’s global efforts and its work with the International Civil Aviation Organization to improve flying standards. “As the entire world moves from ground-based navigation and radar surveillance to NextGen, creating international standards that are in harmony becomes even more critical. It’s up to us to help mold those standards and lead the way.”

The former ALPA president reflected on the years he presented awards at previous Air Safety Forums and what the plaques represent, adding, “Tonight’s winners are high-caliber individuals. Their actions are a testament to their quick thinking. Their actions are also a testament to the improvement in training we have made over the years to better handle these situations.”

“In closing, I wanted to say a few more words about professionalism,” said Babbitt. Citing Pan Am Capt. James Waugh, the father of a good friend, he told the many banquet attendees, “Honor the trust that the passengers have placed in you by being vigilant and fully prepared for each flight. At the completion of a flight, always leave the cockpit in a safe configuration so if the next crew is in a hurry, they won’t hurt themselves.”