The ALPA Hall of Past Presidents
These individuals represent the evolution of the airline piloting profession and embody the veracity and resilience of the office they have shared. In the 80-plus years since ALPA was founded, these elected representatives have worked with their fellow pilots to build consensus about what’s best for the profession and the industry. Their collective actions and accomplishments remind us of the incredible progress made in air travel since the early days of airmail pilots flying in open cockpits, with nothing but basic stick-and-rudder skills and what they could see to guide them.
Captain David Behncke
For the first 20 years of ALPA’s existence, David Behncke played an integral part in shaping the Association and giving the pilot greater authority. During his administration, the profession quickly evolved from the airmail pilot to a broader combination of air cargo and passenger pilots. Behncke was the driving force behind building the Association’s first headquarters, which was located in Chicago. Behncke recognized the power and influence of the federal government and used his relationship with important politicians to secure legislation that made the airline piloting profession more stable and promoted a safer work environment.
Previously an ALPA executive vice president, Clarence Sayen was ALPA's second president, serving the Association for 11 years. Under Sayen’s guidance, ALPA’s structure and authority became decentralized, and he encouraged broader member participation in Association decision-making. With the introduction of the jet airplane and the growth of international travel, Sayen focused much of his efforts on technological changes and issues like crew complement. He was instrumental in getting pilots involved in the development of jet design criteria and operating standards.
Captain Charles Ruby
As ALPA’s third president, Charles Ruby witnessed a rapid expansion of the airline industry and the recurring threat of hijacking. Crew complement continued to be an issue for the Ruby administration. Under his leadership, the ALPA Aeromedical Office was opened. Ruby oversaw ALPA’s move from Chicago to Washington, D.C., in 1968 and was at the helm when disagreements about autonomy and crew complement led the American Airlines pilots to break with the Association. ALPA historian George Hopkins describes Ruby as having “a granitelike integrity and a bulldog tenacity.”
Captain John J. O’Donnell
Two watershed events of the J.J. O’Donnell administration were the passing of the Anti-Hijacking Act of 1971, making air piracy a federal offense, and the enactment of the Airline Deregulation Act of 1978, which eliminated the federal government’s authority to regulate fares, routes, and market entry. O’Donnell’s administration established a permanent Flight Security Committee, developed the Human Intervention and Motivation Study (HIMS) program, and created the Association’s Political Action Committee, ALPA-PAC. And thanks to his relationship with AFL-CIO President George Meany, the federation in 1979 gave ALPA a seat on its Executive Council, a position normally reserved for leaders of unions representing hundreds of thousands of workers.
Captain Henry Duffy
Capt. Henry “Hank” Duffy was at the ALPA helm when the Association battled iconic union-buster Frank Lorenzo, whose manipulation of the U.S. bankruptcy laws stripped away hard-won gains to collective bargaining agreements. The Duffy administration fought to prevent the establishment of a pilot “B scale,” second-tier wages and work rules. To meet these kinds of challenges, the Association created the Major Contingency Fund, ALPA’s “War Chest,” providing significant allocations to individual pilot groups for “collective bargaining representation on matters of urgent concern to the membership.” During Duffy’s tenure, the Association also adopted the Program for the Acceptance of Dangerous Goods, establishing policy to complement the International Civil Aviation Organization’s newly adopted technical instructions on the international air transport of dangerous goods.
Captain J. Randolph Babbitt
The son of an Eastern Airlines pilot from the Behncke era, Randy Babbitt served as Henry Duffy’s executive administrator and brought a fresh perspective to the role of ALPA chief executive. His administration is remembered for championing the “One Level of Safety” initiative in 1995, recognizing that fatigue and other pilot conditions are universal, regardless of scheduled or unscheduled operations or airplane payload. He oversaw the Association’s merger with the Canadian Air Line Pilots Association in 1997. Babbitt was appointed by President Bill Clinton to the FAA Management Advisory Council, advising the government on aviation safety policy. After his tenure with ALPA, U.S. President Barack Obama appointed him administrator of the FAA.
Captain Duane Woerth
As ALPA’s seventh president, Duane Woerth continued the trend of industry engagement, serving as the lead on the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Aircraft Security Rapid Response Team, immediately following the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. The team developed recommendations to enhance national air transportation security. Randy Babbitt’s former first vice president was active with the International Federation of Air Line Pilots’ Associations, serving as the director for US-ALPA and chairman of the federation’s Industrial Committee. He co-chaired the FAA’s Age 60 Aviation Rulemaking Committee as well as the Next Generation Air Transportation System Institute Management Council. Ambassador Duane Woerth is currently the U.S. representative to the International Civil Aviation Organization Council.
Captain John Prater
John Prater launched an aggressive campaign to defend the professional interests of airline pilots following the events of 9/11 and the subsequent airline bankruptcy filings of the early 21st century. He was an avid pilot representative, providing congressional testimony, addressing AFL-CIO events in Washington, D.C., and walking in informational picket lines with his fellow pilots. The Prater administration placed a renewed emphasis on strategic planning and making the outcome of this process more broadly accessible to ALPA members. Prater served as a member of the Air Traffic Management Advisory Committee, the NGATS Institute Management Council, and was involved in other industry efforts to improve the safety and efficiency of the airline industry.
Captain Lee Moak
Lee Moak ushered in a new era for the Association, seeking collaborations and partnerships with other aviation stakeholders to address threats to the North American airline industry. Spearheading campaigns like “Leveling the Playing Field” and “Deny NAI,” Moak called for a national aviation policy that promotes domestic airlines and jobs while advancing fair-competition practices, particularly with regard to flag-of-convenience carriers and heavily state-supported airlines from other countries. The ninth ALPA president placed a greater emphasis on working closely with government to ensure that aviation-related laws and regulations include the kinds of practical considerations that only line pilots can offer. During his term, Moak chaired the AFL-CIO Transportation Trade Department’s Financial Oversight Committee and was an active member of the FAA’s NextGen Advisory Committee.