Taking the Checkered Flag

By: Capt. Tim Canoll, ALPA President

In an interview that described all that was happening during the final lap of the 2018 Daytona 500, the champion team’s owner said of the winning combination of driver Austin Dillon, crew chief Justin Alexander, and spotter Andy Houston, “We’re like a family, we take care of each other.”

Taking the checkered flag may appear to be a solitary accomplishment by the driver, but NASCAR drivers from Lee Petty, winner of the first Daytona 500, to Bubba Wallace, a rookie in this year’s race, will tell you that victory would be impossible without their team. The race team—the crew chief, spotter, tire specialist, engine specialist, engineer, mechanic, and many others—fuels every driver’s win.

For ALPA pilots, we also have an unparalleled team supporting us in every aspect of our careers. Based on our union’s more than 85 years of experience, ALPA’s Pilot Assistance program recognizes what it takes to help airline pilots excel in all aspects of their lives.

Few understand the personal and professional experience of being an airline pilot better than ALPA’s Pilot Assistance team leaders and volunteers. Under their capable guidance and execution, our Pilot Assistance Group and its five subgroups are serving our members in more ways than ever before (see page 28).

Our success in pilot assistance not only benefits our members as individuals, but it also helps every pilot working in our profession. For example, our robust Pilot Assistance system allowed ALPA to ensure that the FAA’s Pilot Fitness Aviation Rulemaking Committee didn’t recommend additional mental health screening requirements as part of airman medical certification. ALPA’s Pilot Assistance assets also helped Congress understand that additional psychological screening for pilots isn’t necessary.

Among our five Pilot Assistance subgroups, ALPA’s Aeromedical Group continues its broad range of work, including exploring ways to mitigate the risks associated with onboard smoke and fume events and advancing steps for pilots to take following airborne or flight deck exposure.

The Canadian Pilot Assistance Group has been instrumental in welcoming Air Georgian, WestJet, and WestJet Encore members into our Pilot Assistance structure. The team has also shared information about pilot wellness programs and contributed to our work to ensure Canada’s flight- and duty-time regulations apply to all Canadian airline pilots.

Across the globe, ALPA’s Critical Incident Response Program (CIRP) provides vital support following airline incidents or accidents. CIRP now has more than 500 trained volunteers in the United States, Canada, and 14 other countries. Thanks to our CIRP team, ALPA resources are quickly available to our members in need throughout the international airline route structure.

The Human Intervention Motivation Study or HIMS, which is a joint program that ALPA and the FAA created, provides airline pilots with a path to successful treatment and recovery from substance abuse and dependency. In 2017, our union’s advanced HIMS seminar drew more than 150 attendees representing 15 pilot groups.

ALPA’s Professional Standards Group is a peer-based network of trained representatives who address pilot issues of an interpersonal or professional nature. The team turns to ALPA’s Code of Ethics as a compass to navigate our union’s diverse pilot group cultures while ensuring the highest standards of professionalism.

In each of these five core areas, Pilot Assistance leaders and volunteers reflect ALPA’s commitment to mentoring new pilots to guide our union in the future. In addition to being vital to an individual pilot’s immediate success, ALPA’s Pilot Assistance team also commands a long-term strategic advantage for our members, as we’ve seen in our union’s ability to influence regulations and legislation.

In addition, our union is working with our international colleagues to develop and enhance pilot assistance programs around the globe. ALPA’s team contributed to the newly released International Federation of Air Line Pilots’ Associations Pilot Assistance Manual, which helps the federation’s member associations create and expand their pilot assistance programs and communicate their tremendous value to airline managements and regulators.

The Daytona 500 may be the first race of the NASCAR season, but our Pilot Assistance team makes certain that ALPA pilots are fully supported by a winning team all year long.