ALPA Launches 58th Annual Air Safety Forum


View a photo slideshow of the Forum opening.

August 8, 2012 - Welcoming ALPA line pilot safety, security, and pilot assistance representatives, plus government, airline management, and other industry representatives to ALPA’s 58th Air Safety Forum, ALPA’s President, Capt. Lee Moak, said for the Air Line Pilots Association, “everything matters when it comes to advancing aviation safety. For ALPA, it’s not just our job—it’s a moral imperative.”

During opening remarks, Moak said he was proud that “in the past year we have accomplished a great deal in the areas of safety, security, and pilot assistance.” Some of the most significant ALPA accomplishments, he explained, were:

• The Known Crewmember program, which now is used for more than 5,500 screenings daily for U.S. airline pilots.

• New U.S. FAA regulations setting science-based flight- and duty-time limits and minimum rest requirements for U.S. airline pilots—with the caveat that the exclusion for all-cargo airlines from mandatory compliance is unacceptable. Similarly, ALPA participation on the Transport Canada Fatigue Management Working Group has resulted in progressive recommendations being submitted to the CARAC Technical Committee.

• In June, a House Subcommittee approved funding for the Human Intervention Motivation Study, which has had a long-term success rate of 85-90 percent in helping flight crew members deal with substance dependency issues and return to the cockpit.

Moak also drew attention to the several one-day highly successful conferences, each devoted to one specific safety or security issue, that the Association began hosting last year:

• Laser illumination of aircraft cockpits (October 2011)

• Aviation Safety Action Programs (January 2012)

• Pilot fatigue (March 2012)

• Closing the gaps in air cargo safety and security (April 2012)

• Pilot training and qualification (July 2012).

The union’s strategic priorities, Moak noted, include:

• Improved safety standards for carrying dangerous goods, especially lithium batteries.

• Safe integration of remotely piloted aircraft into the U.S. national airspace system.

• Increased funding for the Federal Flight Deck Officer program.

• Modernizing the national airspace system, particularly implementation of NextGen initiatives in the United States.

• Working to ensure that all airlines have Professional Standards programs.

Capt. Charles Hogeman (United), ALPA Aviation Safety Chair, who emceed the Forum, said, “Our theme for this year’s forum is ‘Everything Matters.’ What does it mean for us? Just this: in a system as complex as commercial aviation, no single element can enhance safety on its own.

“Equipment, systems and human factors are interrelated and affect everything else, and must work together to function effectively, just as a crew must work together,” Hogeman continued. “Everything matters.”

Among the topics on the agenda include panel discussions on:

• Examining the political environment in the United States, Canada, and worldwide and whether the current regulatory structures are up to the task of providing safe, efficient travel in today’s economic environment;

• Improving airport environment safety by reviewing and analyzing airport wildlife, ground operations and runway incidents will be a topic for discussion;

• Fatigue and how all airlines, passenger and cargo alike, must adapt to the same science-based approach in scheduling their pilots;

• Health issues specific to cockpit crewmembers who operate in a unique and demanding environment at high altitudes are also on the agenda;

• Examining the role of technology and automation in our aircraft and how to keep pilots’ manual flying skills sharp; and

• Exploring the rapidly growing segment of unmanned aerial systems.

Introducing keynote speaker John Pistole, Administrator, Transportation Safety Administration (TSA), Moak declared that Pistole “embodies many qualities that we at ALPA have come to rely on heavily as we advance our aviation safety and security goals.”

Pistole discussed three challenges for his agency—threats to passenger airlines, all-cargo security, and “professionalizing” the TSA workforce.

Regarding threats to passenger airlines, Pistole noted that TSA has fielded “no credible intelligence of [a terrorist] trying to get on an airplane in the United States” in recent times. He added, however, that only three months ago, “an extraordinary foreign intelligence coup” helped to foil a second attempt by Al-Qaeda on the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) to bring down an airliner with a non-metallic explosive device. Terrorists, he said, “are going to school” on explosives, so TSA has recalibrated its explosives detection equipment throughout the United States, encouraged its international partners to do likewise, and even retrained explosives-detecting dogs.

The AQAP plot to detonate explosives on two U.S. freighters that was thwarted in October 2010 showed that “the layers of security we have in place are a deterrent,” Pistole asserted. “But how do we ensure that the international community is taking the same measures?”

Pistole acknowledged that the cargo industry has stepped up to improve cargo security since the October 2010 events, recognizing the importance of risk management or mitigation.

“Professionalization of the [TSA] workforce,” Pistole declared, “is one of the key enablers” in bringing about the “paradigm shift” to risk-based security. He reported that his agency has trained more than 35,000 officers in procedures for de-escalating conflicts with passengers and crew members at screening checkpoints.

Though no single integrated solution is available today to detect and assess all possible threats at screening checkpoints, Pistole added, TSA is looking at a “checkpoint of the future” concept that the international airline industry is advocating.

“The partnership with ALPA has continued to be a key enabler in helping us to provide the best possible security in the most efficient way,” Pistole concluded.

For more coverage of the ALPA Air Safety Forum, visit safetyforum.alpa.org.