ASO Takes Volunteer Onboarding Virtual

ALPA at Work

By Christopher Freeze, Senior Aviation Technical Writer

On October 15, 39 pilots from 16 ALPA pilot groups participated in an online training seminar specifically designed to quickly orient new volunteers when in-person courses aren’t available so that they’re able to serve the Air Safety Organization (ASO) and their respective pilot groups.

Capt. Frank Pizzonia (United), the ASO Aviation Safety vice chair, and F/O Keith Phillips (United), the ASO Training Programs coordinator, opened the virtual training seminar. “In late 2018, Capt. Joe DePete issued a directive to develop a new training course for all ALPA member volunteers that would serve as an introduction to the ASO,” said Phillips.

“However, we’re currently unable to conduct that training, ALPA 101 Foundational ALPA Service Training, or FAST, in our physical office space due to social distancing requirements brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic,” Phillips noted. “And yet, the work of the Air Safety Organization must continue.”

Recognizing the need to provide a distance learning solution to Association members, the ASO, in conjunction with ALPA’s Communications and Engineering & Air Safety Departments, developed an online training program that could quickly and efficiently onboard new pilot volunteers to serve as ALPA safety, security, pilot assistance, and jumpseat representatives. However, after completing the virtual onboarding training, volunteers will still need to participate in in-person ASO training courses.

Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, the ASO has used distance learning to provide training to the Association’s Pilot Peer Support volunteers and to the Delta Master Executive Council’s Furloughed Pilots Support Program volunteers. As part of the October 15 training seminar, in addition to distance learning, the course also used a virtual learning environment component to facilitate precourse work, which enabled attendees to receive maximum benefit from the course.

These precourse activities, designed by Christina Brown, the eLearning & instructional design specialist in ALPA’s Communications Department, allowed members to learn in an interactive environment about ALPA’s mission and history; the Association’s priorities, policies, and representation mission; ALPA’s Administrative Manual; the Association’s staff support; ALPA’s strategic plan; and leadership and ethics.

This up-front work allowed attendees to prepare for the two live, two-hour virtual sessions. The seminar’s morning session guided participants through a high-level look at the Association and the various components of the ASO. During the afternoon session, Pizzonia discussed topics specific to safety; Capt. Darrin Dorn (Alaska), the ASO Aviation Security vice chair, covered security; and Capt. Bob Spadea (United), the ASO Aviation Jumpseat vice chair, and Capt. Matt Bises (Hawaiian) introduced new jumpseat expert training.

“The goal of this training was to provide a primer to these new pilot representatives and give them the tools they need to take back to their respective master executive councils and local executive councils so that they’re prepared to support the membership in their specific discipline,” said Pizzonia.

“One key aspect we discussed was ensuring a ‘shared mental model’ of meta-leadership—the practice of leading people and teams, each with different responsibilities and pathways, to the same goal—which is vital when you have an organization of hundreds of volunteers spread across two countries,” Pizzonia noted. “That unity of effort displayed among our peers has been paramount to the Association’s numerous successes throughout the decades, and it’s something we continue to instill in each new ALPA volunteer.”

Also on hand was Marque Malan, the coordinator of training & curriculum development in ALPA’s Engineering & Air Safety Department, who shared the ASO’s insights on the representative governance structure that ALPA follows and the Association’s staff support.

Regarding the seminar, Phillips observed, “The pilots were very eager to learn, and we had an excellent turnout with a lot of positive feedback. However, there’s still additional training to complete. These volunteers will need to attend an in-person course to receive the full training experience when that’s actually possible.

“Every pilot left the seminar wanting to learn more, and it was wonderful to hear the enthusiasm in their voices,” Phillips added. “I’m proud that we’ve put our resources and knowledge into their hands so that they’re able to go out and be a productive ASO volunteer, even in these challenging and unprecedented times.”


This article was originally published in the November 2020 issue of Air Line Pilot.

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