I'm a Pilot and I take a Personal Interest in Safety: Here's Why

Special Guest Commentary by F/O Eric Stoltz, Alaska Airlines

For me, it was never really a matter of deciding that I wanted to be a pilot—it was more deciding that I didn’t want to do any other job in the world. My dad was a pilot and we always had a small plane when I was growing up. Once you get flying in your blood, it never really leaves. I started out as a flight instructor in 1997, and by 2000 I was hired by ExpressJet with around 1,800 hours of flying time. That was about the average for folks getting hired around then. Then in 2014 Alaska Airlines hired me; I was at around 8,000 hours by then.

I take a personal interest in safety because, well, it’s my life on the line. Mine, ours, and theirs, really. My safety is first, so I can make sure my crew is safe, which means the people, dogs, cats, boxes, airplane, and buildings will be too. So I jumped at the opportunity to visit Members of Congress as part of ALPA’s Legislative Summit and tell them why it’s so important to maintain the safety standards put into effect in 2010—and specifically the first officer qualification and training rules.I was a captain at ExpressJet when the new qualifications came into effect, and I could definitely tell the difference. That’s not to say that other pilots weren’t qualified, but I could tell when I was flying with someone who became a first officer after the new rules came into effect. Flying for them was usually more instinctive, and they could spend more brain time learning the new aircraft and procedures versus new aircraft, procedures, and flying. When I got to fly with these pilots on the line, it was obvious that the flying part of the job was more natural. And I’ll admit that if I’d had the training that the new rules command, my learning curve would have been much smaller when I started to fly airliners.

So when I met with Members of Congress, I tried to personalize the first officer qualifications; I told them that we’re the men and women who fly them home to their districts, who fly their constituents to family reunions, business meetings, vacations, and conferences. I reminded them that the first officer qualifications rules were passed in Congress unanimously in 2010—and that there hasn’t been a single fatality on a passenger airline in the United States since then. That’s right, zero. You can’t get any safer than that.My time visiting with Members of Congress was awesome. I really enjoyed seeing 200 or so pilots flooding their Members’ offices—it seemed like every corner I turned, I saw pilots. But we need to make our voices louder. If you haven’t yet, fill out ALPA’s Call to Action, and get your friends and family to do the same. Tell your Members of Congress that safety should never be rolled back and that you want them to keep flying safe for all of us.

Categories: Advocacy


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