Pilots to FAA: Time to Do Your Job and Mandate Safety Measures to Protect Crewmembers

By Capt. Pete Harmon, FedEx Express MEC Chairman

Airline pilots are on the frontlines in the fight against the coronavirus, working around the clock to transport medical personnel and critical supplies, including Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), test kits, and other materials needed to combat this global pandemic. Unfortunately, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), the agency charged with keeping flying safe and protecting crewmembers, is making it hard for us to do our jobs safely—posing a risk to our health and threatening a vital supply chain. 


That’s why ALPA president Capt. Joe DePete recently wrote to President Trump, Speaker Pelosi, and Leader McConnell requesting that airlines be required to follow FAA and CDC public health guidelines. For months, the FAA has claimed a lack of power to impose such mandates, but it turns out it indeed has that authority. For some inexplicable reason, the administrator balked—ducking calls from pilots while engaging with operators whom he is responsible for regulating. 


To the casual observer, the FAA is hoping against hope to avoid the decision of imposing regulations on the operators. To the professional pilots of ALPA, the agency is yielding to powerful business interests and failing to protect the health and lives of airline pilots, their families, and the communities in which they live. These guidelines should be the minimum required standards to operate safely in this new environment. What is evident to most people: If too many pilots get sick and can't work, the movement of essential humanitarian relief, urgently needed medical supplies, critical cleaning supplies, and PPE will grind to a halt. 


As long as airlines are allowed to keep operating while only following recommended "guidelines" they deem convenient, the pilots are left to fend for themselves regarding matters of health, safety, and security. Some airlines, including FedEx, have begun to make improvements in complying with these public health guidelines. However, we need a uniform, mandatory standard that all airlines are required follow. Every operator has had challenges obtaining PPE and appropriate aircraft cleaning accomplished and documented. Requiring crew notifications, wearing of PPE, minimizing contact with others, cleaning aircraft, and documenting the same are necessary safety measures that pilots find themselves fighting to accomplish before flight. This responsibility should not be the pilots' aloneit should be a cooperative effort with the employer and mandated by the FAA.


A chain is only as strong as its weakest link. Notifying pilots that they have been in contact with sick people and providing PPE to them becomes worthless if they fly an aircraft that hasn't been adequately cleaned. It's like a surgeon wearing a mask and gloves, cleaning the surgical site, and then operating with an unsterilized scalpel. Not mandating all of the guidance makes following any of the guidance little more than show to make people feel good. Sure, it looks good, but in the end, it's a waste of time and resources that pilots, airlines, and America can ill-afford to waste. 


Please participate in our Call to Action to demand that the FAA give the guidelines the weight of regulation now!

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