ALPA Viewpoints presents a snapshot of a broad range of safety, security, and professional issues affecting the airline industry and the piloting profession today. Learn more about ALPA’s position on these issues by clicking on the links to white papers, position papers, and other documents.

White Papers

Lithium Batteries
Air Cargo Security | Aviation Security Screening | Aviation Sustainability and the Environment
Cockpit Security | Competition from Foreign Airlines | CrewPASS | Federal Flight Deck Officer Program
Fighting Pilot Fatigue | Occupational Safety | Producing Professional Airline Pilots | Runway Safety
Shoulder-Launched Missile Threat | Unmanned Aircraft | Wildlife Hazards

Lithium Batteries:

Safely Transporting Lithium Batteries by Air

Lithium batteries represent a significant technological improvement over older battery types, such as lead acid, alkaline, nickel cadmium, and nickel metal hydride. They are smaller and lighter than previous chemistries, with a higher energy density, have no memory effect, and produce a slow loss of charge when not in use. However, due to their high energy density and flammable electrolyte, these batteries can initiate a fire and burn very violently when shortcircuited or exposed to high temperatures. A short circuit may occur following a manufacturing defect, damage, or by bringing the external battery terminals into contact with other batteries or conducting material. The current provisions for the carriage of these batteries onboard commercial aircraft do not adequately address the risk presented in transport.

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Air Cargo Security:

Securing Air Cargo

ALPA believes that the security of cargo transported on passenger airliners is of critical importance. However, the Association concentrates instead on the most neglected area of cargo security: the measures applicable to all-cargo air operations. Although many improvements have been made in this regard since the events of 9/11, One Level of Security does not yet exist between the passenger and all-cargo domains, while TSA has stated that the threat remains.

See also: Securing Air Cargo Position Paper

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Aviation Security Screening:

Trust-Based Security System

Aviation security screening has long focused on the interdiction of threat objects (e.g., guns, knives, improvised explosive devices). The weapons of choice by those who would attack aircraft have evolved over time, and their methods for concealing those weapons continually change. The one constant for all would-be attackers, however, is hostile intent to carry out an assault. ALPA believes that the focus of our security resources should be directed primarily toward identifying those with hostile intent before they are allowed to board our aircraft. Technologies, such as metal detectors, x-ray machines, whole-body imaging machines and the like are valuable tools, but they can never replace the detection of hostile intent

See also: Trust-Based Aviation Security System Position Paper

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Aviation Sustainability and the Environment:

Reducing Aviation’s Impact on the Environment

Over the past 40 years, the North American airline industry has increased aircraft payload capacity six-fold while concurrently using 60 percent less fuel. Technological improvements in navigation and surveillance have contributed tremendously to improved capacity and operational efficiency in the National Airspace System (NAS), leading to growth in operations without a corresponding increase in aviation’s carbon “footprint.” ALPA strongly supports reducing aviation’s small overall percentage of adverse impact on the environment, partly by advocating for the implementation of the Next Generation Air Transportation System (NextGen).

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Cockpit Security:

Secondary Flight Deck Barriers And Flight Deck Access Procedures

Simply put, an open cockpit door provides an attacker the opportunity to invade, and flight crews open the door for flights of any significant duration for a variety of reasons—crewmember coordination and meal service, just to name a few. Installing secondary barriers would enhance a layered system of cockpit defense, effectively delaying, deterring, or entirely preventing attackers’ efforts to gain control of an airliner. ALPA, in concert with industry partners, has long supported adding secondary barriers to passenger and cargo airliners; accompanied by specific flight deck access procedures, it is an ideal security complement to the fortified cockpit door.

See also: Secondary Barriers Position Paper


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Competition from Foreign Airlines:

Leveling the Playing Field for U.S. Airlines and Their Employees

This paper explores and offers policy solutions to create a better business environment for U.S. airlines and level the playing field in the international marketplace. Issues explored as ways to level the playing field for U.S. airlines and their employees include:

• the problem of excessive oil speculation;
• the low barriers to entry for new carriers, which can lead to undercapitalized and ill-prepared airlines that distort pricing before going out of business;
• the customer experience at the airport;
• the positive impact of tourism on U.S. airlines;
• and investment in NextGen.

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Improving Security Checkpoints

More than seven years after 9/11, the Transportation Security Administration’s screening methodology for pilots is still inefficient. In fact, the TSA screens highly vetted and prescreened pilots more than 40,000 times per day. To address this issue, ALPA proposed the creation of the Crew Personnel Advanced Screening System (CrewPASS), a biometric-based security system that would quickly and accurately verify the identity and employment status of active pilots. Installing CrewPASS at every airport would save the TSA time, money, and resources; improve aviation security; and benefit both pilots and passengers.

See also: Enhanced Crewmember Security Screening position paper
CrewPASS Biometric Enrollment Video

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Federal Flight Deck Officer Program:

Improving the Federal Flight Deck Officer Program

When dealing with terrorism, the deterrent value of an armed presence within the cockpit cannot be overstated. Today, thousands of FFDOs protect the flight decks of our nation’s airliners and defend more than 100,000 flight segments per month. In spite of the program’s tremendous value, the TSA has relegated it to a “caretaker” status. While TSA has supported the increase in FFDO ranks, it has not increased the funds necessary for logistical support and infrastructure. ALPA will remain focused on these issues in 2009.

See also: Federal Flight Deck Officer Program Position Paper

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Fighting Pilot Fatigue:

Fatigue Risk Management Systems

Sixteen-hour domestic duty days – even longer with some long-range international operations – are facts of life for many airline pilots. Irregular shifts, crossing time zones, all-night operations, and significant circadian rhythm challenges all contribute to the serious safety issue of pilot fatigue. ALPA calls for updating airline flight/duty/rest practices based upon scientifically demonstrated human performance limitations, rather than on economic misperceptions.

See also: Pilot Fatigue Position Paper
ALPA’s “Fighting Fatigue” site
ALPA’s Flight Time, Duty Time Policy
The Airline Pilots’ Guide to Fighting Fatigue

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Occupational Safety:

Enhancing Pilots’ Occupational Safety and Health Protections

The airliner cabin is quite comfortable and accommodating for passengers who may fly only a few trips per year and poses very little risk for them because of the short time spent in that environment. For crewmembers, however, it is quite different. Flight deck crews may spend up to 1,000 hours in flight during any calendar year. During that time they are exposed to a number of environmental hazards. The airline pilot’s work environment poses numerous health and safety risks. In flight, pilots are exposed to cosmic radiation, ozone, a very arid atmosphere, high levels of ambient noise, and communicable diseases, among other risks.

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Producing Professional Airline Pilots:

Producing a Professional Airline Pilot

The best and most important safety feature on any airplane is a well-trained, highly motivated and professional pilot. Today’s archaic regulations, however, allow airlines to hire low-experience pilots into the right seat of high-speed, complex, swept-wing jet aircraft in what amounts to on-the-job training with paying passengers on board. That’s why ALPA calls for a complete overhaul of pilot selection and training methods as well as increase mentoring of pilots by their more experienced colleagues.

See also: Pilot Training and Professionalism Position Paper

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Runway Safety:

Runway Incursions

Increased amounts of air traffic, especially at the highest-volume U.S. and Canadian airports, makes runway safety today more important than ever. ALPA puts pressure on airports and regulators to improve runway design, signage, and technologies. The Association also encourages the airlines to improve training and operational procedures that will help pilots avoid errors on the ground. After all, nothing can replace the awareness of a pilot in the cockpit. ALPA’s Hold Short for Runway Safety web site provides pilots with commonsense guidance that will help prevent operational breakdowns and houses much of ALPA’s runway safety educational materials.

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Shoulder-Launched Missile Threat:

Recommendations for Countermeasures to Man-Portable Air Defense Systems (MANPADS)

Security experts are concerned about the threat to commercial airliners by shoulder-fired antiaircraft missiles, also known as MANPADS, or Man-Portable Air Defense Systems. Small, light, and obtainable in the international arms markets, there are thousands of MANPADS in various versions available from surplus or stolen military stocks. Some military aircraft are equipped with special defensive systems that often (but not always) mislead the missile away from its target. Some are now advocating that similar systems be installed on commercial airliners.

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Unmanned Aircraft:

Safely Introducing Unmanned Aircraft

The much-publicized success of Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) in combat operations has created a potentially large commercial market for these aircraft. As the potential for business use increases, so does pressure to allow unrestricted UAS operations in the National Airspace System. ALPA vows to protect the safety and integrity of the NAS and ensure the introduction of UAS operations will not compromise the safety of our members, passengers, cargo or the public at large.

See also: Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) Position Paper

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Wildlife Hazards:

Wildlife Hazard Mitigation Strategies for Pilots

The potential for bird strikes is a risk that is far from new—in fact, the Wright brothers recorded the first bird strike in 1905. Striking large birds at high speeds may result in catastrophic damage to an aircraft engine or an airframe, however, and that’s why ALPA makes sure the industry awareness of this issue remains high. If a 4-pound bird struck an aircraft traveling 250 knots, it delivers the force of approximately 38,000 pounds at the point of impact. ALPA’s safety efforts focus on reducing the possibility of a wildlife strike and the severity of the consequences.

See also: Wildlife Hazards Position Paper

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Creating One Level of Safety

Since the mid 1980s, ALPA has been striving to achieve the goal of “One Level of Safety” for the traveling public and our pilot members. This means that government regulators should require the same high safety standards on all commercial flights—regardless of the size of the aircraft, the number of passengers, or the cargo load. In 1995, the FAA agreed with ALPA’s arguments and, with minor exceptions, required all 10+ passenger commercial aircraft to meet the Part 121 requirements. The agency even adopted ALPA’s campaign slogan.

ALPA’s tremendously successful efforts did not eliminate each and every difference in safety standards for all types of commercial air service, however. The Association’s specific concerns include the differences in the application of some regulations between passenger and cargo operations. While the disparities are not as great as those between Part 121, Part 135, or the various Canadian Aviation Regulations, ALPA sees no logical justification for these distinctions. The bottom line: Cargo aircraft share airspace with passenger airliners, and cargo pilots deserve the same safety protections as their counterparts at passenger airlines.

Read “A History of Pride: 80 Years of Pilots Putting Safety & Security First” for more on this critical issue.

Aviation Security: 10 Years after the 9/11 Attacks

The 9/11 terrorist attacks resulted in a sea change for aviation security through the combined efforts of government, industry, and labor. ALPA’s view is that aviation security progressed significantly because of these efforts, but ongoing improvements will always be needed to stay ahead of the ever-changing threat.

Read the Issue Analysis.