Elevating ALPA’s Pilot Peer Support Program

By Christopher Freeze, Senior Aviation Technical Writer
In this Pilot Peer Support exercise conducted early this year, volunteers in training hold cards representing a wide range of stressors that they may encounter while answering calls.

ALPA’s Pilot Peer Support (PPS) program, which connects ALPA members with trained pilot peers to talk about personal or professional problems they may be experiencing, continues to evolve since it was first developed in 2018.

The Association’s Executive Board passed a resolution during its June meeting establishing the PPS program as a separate group under the Pilot Assistance structure to ensure that adequate resources and support were provided to this important ALPA program (see “ALPA’s Executive Board Examines Union’s Pandemic Response” in the August 2020 issue of Air Line Pilot).

Capt. Bob Fox (United), ALPA’s first vice president and national safety coordinator, proposed transitioning the PPS program from the purview of the Aeromedical Group to become a new discipline under the Air Safety Organization’s Pilot Assistance Group. He appointed F/O Carrie Braun (JetBlue) the PPS Group chair.

“I felt this was the best course of action the Association could take to support our member pilots during these trying times,” said Fox. “Over the past several months, numerous members have taken advantage of this valuable resource. Elevating the program’s role in the Air Safety Organization signals ALPA’s intent to give everything we can to make a direct and positive impact for our members in need.

“When the PPS program was established, no one could have foreseen what we’re experiencing today within the airline industry due to the COVID-19 pandemic,” acknowledged Fox. “And yet, during what could be considered some of the best of times in the aviation industry, the leaders of ALPA had the vision and understanding to create PPS—knowing full well the cyclical nature of the industry. And now, during what may be considered the worst of times for the airline industry, PPS makes available peer support volunteers who listen and offer confidential and nonjudgmental guidance.”

Developed under the leadership of Capt. Joe DePete, then ALPA’s first vice president and national safety coordinator, in conjunction with the Association’s Air Safety Organization Pilot Assistance Group leaders and Engineering & Air Safety and Legal Department professional staff, the program has the overwhelming support of regulators in the U.S. and Canada, mental-health professionals, airline managements, and ALPA pilot groups and members.

PPS joins Aeromedical, Professional Standards, the Human Intervention Motivation Study (HIMS), the Critical Incident Response Program (CIRP), and Pilot Assistance-Canada under the Pilot Assistance structure.

“ALPA and the Air Safety Organization have been strong supporters of the PPS program since its inception. The advancement of PPS to the same tier as the other top-level Pilot Assistance programs demonstrates the value placed in it by the Association’s leaders, both today and in the future,” said Braun (see “Five Questions for ALPA’s Pilot Peer Support Group Chair”).

“Due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the economic fallout caused by it, the need for a friendly and supportive peer voice has never been greater,” Braun continued. “PPS strives to promote a confidential, nonjudgmental, and nonstigmatized environment that can help line pilots stay productive or return to fully productive line status.”

Since the program’s inception, approximately 150 pilots have completed the 16-hour PPS training course to acquire the knowledge, tools, and attitudes necessary to assist their fellow pilots in need. Upcoming developments within the PPS program include the rollout of a recurrent training module, which was scheduled to take place in May but has been delayed because of the pandemic.

ALPA’s Pilot Peer Support Program

The Association’s Pilot Peer Support (PPS) program connects ALPA members with trained pilot peers to talk about personal or professional problems they may be experiencing. PPS volunteers listen and offer confidential, nonjudgmental support to ALPA members facing concerns regarding their medical certificate, career, and life. Peers are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week and can be reached at 309-PPS-ALPA (309-777-2572).

Independent, carrier-specific programs can be reached directly:

  • Delta PAN: 800-USA-ALPA
  • FedEx Express PATH: 866-FDX-ALPA
  • JetBlue PAN/PPS: 309-PPS-ALPA
  • United SOAR: 866-653-SOAR
  • Canadian Pilot Assistance: 309-PPS-ALPA

Learn more about PPS.

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

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