Aviation and Spaceflight Can Safely Share—and Succeed in—U.S. Airspace

By Capt. Joe DePete, ALPA President

This summer, the pilots’ voice has been heard loud and clear on aviation safety and fair competition by U.S. and Canadian government leaders at the very highest levels. More than 500 ALPA safety advocates gathered in an incredible spirit of collaboration to explore and act on a range of aviation safety, security, pilot assistance, and jumpseat access issues at ALPA’s 65th Air Safety Forum.

As a testament to our influence as the world’s largest nongovernmental aviation safety organization, we were pleased to be addressed by both U.S. Secretary of the Department of Transportation (DOT) Elaine Chao and Transport Canada Associate Director General of Civil Aviation Joseph Szwalek.

It’s vitally important that ALPA pilots are involved as airline industry influencers debate and act on aviation policy in Washington, D.C., and Ottawa. For example, I made certain that the pilots’ voice was heard by U.S. House Aviation Subcommittee members at its hearing on the “State of Aviation Safety.”

In the context of the Ethiopian Airlines and Lion Air accidents, I emphasized that, while airline accidents are rare, even one fatal accident is one too many. I described to congressional lawmakers how ALPA helped develop an investigation process to identify all the contributing factors, evaluate needed changes, and implement those changes to improve safety.

Our safety commitment means that ALPA will be fully involved in understanding what went wrong and evaluating how to move forward with the B-737 MAX, once the FAA review is complete. We’ve made clear that questions must be answered in key areas, including oversight, aircraft certification, and delegation of authority. ALPA will work to ensure that industry and government make the changes necessary to safeguard the system.

At ALPA’s Legislative Summit in June, the nearly 200 pilots who participated asked lawmakers to send a letter to Secretary Chao urging full implementation of secondary flight deck barriers. The authentic and collective voice of airline pilots worked: 110 members of the U.S. House cosigned a letter in which the lawmakers informed the DOT of their expectation that the agency will meet the deadline set out in the legislation.

While our forward drive on secondary flight deck barriers is extremely important, I take every opportunity to remind Members of Congress that, unlike passenger aircraft, cargo aircraft are not required to be equipped with hardened intrusion-resistant flight deck doors. This risk is unacceptable, and we’re working with lawmakers to remedy it.

In more work to achieve one level of safety, ALPA and the Coalition of Airline Pilots Associations, including the Independent Pilots Association and the International Brotherhood of Teamsters Local 1224, have renewed our efforts to ensure cargo pilots are sufficiently rested. We’re supporting the Safe Skies Act, which would apply the same flight, duty, and rest rules to cargo operations as those of passenger operations.

In additional news, ALPA just released its white paper titled “The Dangers of Single-Pilot Operations” in which we describe why it’s necessary for at least two airline pilots to be on board to manage every airline flight. Single-pilot operations are simply a risk not worth taking.

The importance of a strong safety culture is one reason that ALPA opposes allowing foreign airlines with flag-of-convenience business models to serve the United States. We’ve worked with lawmakers on legislation that would enable the U.S. DOT to determine whether airlines using these harmful business practices should fly to the United States. I hope that the Fair and Open Skies Act will move quickly (see page 10), and you can help: take part right now in our union’s Call to Action.

Also in Washington, D.C., I joined other ALPA pilots in standing together with the more than 18,000 UNITE HERE airline food workers at a picketing event at Washington National Airport to show our support for their quest for a fair contract. See photos.

As you can see, our efforts are nonstop. To stay engaged, it’s important that ALPA members be informed. I hope you’ve downloaded the ALPA app to learn how. The new breaking-news feature is the fastest way yet for you to learn in real time about ALPA’s work.

I believe that for every ALPA volunteer and member, our work is rooted in the common values and the shared purpose of unionism, fair competition, and safety. It’s from this common foundation that ALPA is doing more than ever to be inclusive and reach a broader audience about the piloting profession and deliver on our members’ goals.