It’s the Data that Drives Us

By: Capt. Tim Canoll, ALPA President

ALPA is a data-driven organization. Our success depends on data sharing. More than ever, ALPA pilots are sharing what we know—and the remarkable results are paying off for our members and the traveling and shipping public.

For example, ALPA’s growing membership numbers show that our pilots, and others, are sharing the data about the value of joining our ranks. Since 2015, Air Georgian, Frontier, Kalitta Air, Virgin America, WestJet, and WestJet Encore have all joined or merged with ALPA.

At the negotiating table, we’re sharing the data about our airlines’ success and how much our pilots contribute to it. In the past three years, ALPA has signed major new contracts at Air Transat, Air Transport International, Alaska, Calm Air, Canadian North, Delta, Hawaiian, Endeavor Air, FedEx Express, Mesa, Spirit, and Sun Country.

In securing the future of our profession, ALPA has also shared the data on the importance of ensuring that U.S. workers have a fair opportunity to compete in the face of foreign airlines’ state subsidies and flag-of-convenience business plans.

One of the greatest accomplishments that ALPA members have helped make possible is our industry’s phenomenal safety record. The advent of data sharing is a major reason behind it. As the world’s largest nongovernmental aviation safety organization, ALPA pilots not only share data, we also tell the story of the data—what it means for passengers, crews, cargo shippers, and communities on the ground.

For example, the data makes clear that the most important safety assets on any airliner—cargo or passenger—are an adequately rested, fully qualified, and well-trained pilot and copilot. That’s why ALPA’s “Trained for Life” campaign tells the story of how strong pilot qualification, experience, and training requirements put into place in 2010 have meant that there has not been a single pilot qualification–related fatality on a U.S. passenger airline since.

Likewise, the data supports the lifesaving value of having at least two pilots in every airliner cockpit. ALPA has released a new report that lays out for influencers what any airline pilot will tell you: aircraft malfunctions and nonnormal events will always have a much safer outcome with two fully qualified pilots at the controls.

There’s new data about the serious safety threat of undeclared hazardous goods. Our industry doesn’t have official estimates of how many parcel shipments by air contain undisclosed hazardous materials, but the FAA does track incidents in which hazardous material shipments created a safety hazard. In 2017, the FAA received 1,082 reports of such events, and 479 involved undeclared hazardous materials. The data shows that urgent action is required to safeguard our aircraft from this threat.

Earlier this year, ALPA met with the secretary of the Department of Transportation along with the administrator of the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) to relay our concerns. Since then, our work with PHMSA has been extremely encouraging. ALPA has actively pursued a collaborative national outreach campaign with PHMSA, the FAA, the U.S. Postal Service, and others to inform the public about the danger and urge shippers to ensure that they properly identify, declare, label, and pack hazardous materials. And we continue to press for a PHMSA rulemaking by the end of this year that will harmonize the agency’s hazardous materials regulations with the International Civil Aviation Organization’s technical instructions.

While it’s clear in these and many other examples that ALPA fully embraces sharing the data, our union is also keenly aware of the privacy issues involved for airline pilots. We’re working to ensure that our members’ privacy is protected while helping our industry use data to take aviation safety to the next level.

When it comes to examples of ALPA’s success in driving positive results on safety, security, pilot assistance, and jumpseat issues, our union has plenty of data to share.