ALPA Reiterates Commitment to Strong Safety Standards

By ALPA Staff
Capt. Jason Ambrosi, left, ALPA’s president, takes part in the FAA’s recent safety summit.

ALPA leaders reiterated the need to keep aviation safety standards strong and identify areas of continued improvement during a safety summit hosted by the FAA on March 15. On several panels, ALPA joined aviation stakeholders from across the industry in discussions on how to ensure that the U.S. continues to maintain the gold standard of global aviation amid several recent high-profile incidents.

“We can never become complacent and take safety for granted. I applaud the FAA for recognizing that we need to take a moment to gather experts and discuss how we can preserve and improve America’s world-leading safety standards,” said Capt. Jason Ambrosi, ALPA’s president. “While we’re experiencing the safest period in aviation history, there’s more we can do to strengthen our overall level of safety and decrease risk.”

The FAA announced the meeting in February following a Senate committee hearing in which Billy Nolen, the acting FAA administrator, was called to testify about the recent NOTAM system failure. That incident caused the FAA to briefly pause all air traffic in the U.S. There have been numerous incidents in the first few months of 2023, prompting the airline industry, regulators, and labor groups to review best practices and increase their focus on aviation safety.

“When I called this gathering several weeks ago, it was because we’d seen an uptick in incidents across the aviation system,” said Nolen. “In the intervening time, we’ve experienced additional incidents, including events on runways, terminal ramp areas, and even unruly passenger incidents that continue to defy logic. I think I speak for all of us, and certainly the traveling public, when I say that these events are concerning.”

U.S. Department of Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg expressed his confidence in the U.S. air transportation system, noting that it’s the safest that it’s ever been, but echoed Nolen’s concerns about recent incidents.

“America has the safest, most complex aviation system in the world because of the work you all do and because of the standards we all hold ourselves to,” said Buttigieg. “We never settle, and when we see an issue, we move swiftly and find ways to move together. While the data is clear that U.S. aviation remains an exceptionally safe mode of travel—whether you compare it to other modes, whether you compare it to other places, or whether you compare it to other times in our own history—we take nothing for granted, and we’re particularly concerned because we’ve seen an uptick in serious close calls that we must address together.”

“We’re currently enjoying a record level of aviation safety,” said Jennifer Homendy, the NTSB chair. “That doesn’t happen overnight, and it certainly doesn’t happen by chance. A safety record like ours is the result of years, decades, of intentional effort.”

But Homendy warned those in attendance about complacency and urged them not to take their record of air safety for granted, drawing attention to a number of NTSB recommendations that haven’t been acted upon.

“I often hear that in 10 of the last 12 years, there have been no airline passenger fatalities. That’s true, but the absence of a fatality or an accident doesn’t mean the presence of safety. There’s always more that we can do to improve safety, and we can’t forget that.”

Subject-matter experts from ALPA’s Air Safety Organization also participated in the discussions, including Capt. Steve Jangelis (Delta), Aviation Safety vice chair; Capt. Douglas Willey (United), Air Traffic Services Group chair; and Capt. Jeffrey Sedin (United), Airport & Ground Environment Group chair. As the world’s largest nongovernmental aviation safety organization, ALPA has worked for more than 90 years to help design, build, and strengthen U.S. aviation through data collection and collaborative programs. Such programs are essential to creating and maintaining a safe air transportation system.

“ALPA fully supports these collaborative programs,” said Ambrosi, “which are great opportunities for industry stakeholders to work together on safety priorities, identify and mitigate issues, and improve the aviation system to continue our role as global aviation leaders.”

ALPA Safety Alert Bulletin

Following ALPA’s participation in the FAA’s recent Call to Action Safety Summit, ALPA’s Air Safety Organization issued a Safety Alert Bulletin underscoring the vital role that pilots have in mitigating risk and maintaining safety within the national airspace system. The bulletin emphasizes that there’s no better safety feature on the flight deck than at least two well-trained and rested pilots who are vigilant, attentive to safety concerns, and operate every flight with a safety-first focus. Read the bulletin

This article was originally published in the April 2023 issue of Air Line Pilot.

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