President's Committee for Cargo

By Capt. Rich Hughey (FedEx Express), President’s Committee for Cargo Chairman
The President’s Committee for Cargo hosts the Air Cargo Safety Symposium to discuss and share innovations, ideas, and best practices regarding the air transport of cargo.

“Every pilot is a cargo pilot” is a universal truth in our industry. Pilots today carry cargo in some form on every flight. And with that cargo comes risk, which is why ALPA has long called for one level of safety for passenger and cargo pilots.

Formed in 2002, the President’s Committee for Cargo (PCFC) addresses the unique issues facing cargo pilots and is composed of representatives from ALPA pilot groups who fly for airlines that conduct either all-cargo or combined cargo/passenger operations.

Although all-cargo operations make up only 7 percent of all Part 121 operations, they account for a disproportionately greater number of major accidents. In fact, the International Air Transport Association’s annual safety report shows that the worldwide hull-loss rate for all-cargo carriers is roughly 10 times higher than the rate for passenger airlines. This number is very similar to the U.S. Part 121 fatal accident statistics for 2003–2016 when the all-cargo carrier accident rate was 8–12 times higher than the passenger carrier rate.

The disparity is undeniable; therefore, it’s vital that we work with our industry partners and government regulators to improve the accident rate statistic for all-cargo operations. The Commercial Aviation Safety Team (CAST), of which ALPA is a member, has set a goal to reduce the fatality risk for commercial aviation by 50 percent by 2025. So how are we working to achieve this goal? The CAST Joint Implementation Measurement Data Analysis Team (JIMDAT) Cargo Working Group has been meeting to compare and contrast risk and operational differences between cargo and passenger operations. The group is currently reviewing and analyzing the accidents, incidents, and operational issues of all-cargo operations with the focus on advancing safety in this complex operating system.

ALPA, through the Air Safety Organization (ASO) and the PCFC with support from the Engineering & Air Safety Department, is engaging with the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration to develop a program aimed at eliminating the air transport of undeclared dangerous goods. ALPA is also working to improve the training for and oversight of shippers.

The PCFC is also representing ALPA on an Aviation Rulemaking Advisory Committee (ARAC) for loadmaster certification. Chaired by Mark Phaneuf, an ALPA senior staff engineer with 20 years of loadmaster experience, the ARAC’s Loadmaster Certification Working Group has been tasked with identifying whether safety would be enhanced if individuals engaged in the loading and supervising of special cargo, including the preparation and accuracy of special cargo load plans, be certified. ALPA is advocating that training standards be put in place for those individuals who handle special cargo.

While not a part of the ASO, the PCFC frequently works and coordinates with ASO subject-matter experts. In conjunction with the ASO Aviation Security Group, the PCFC has brought to light various security shortfalls in the cargo supply chain, the cargo ramp environment, and the cockpits of all-cargo aircraft. These range from the screening of cargo to criminal history record checks for ramp workers and animal handlers to intrusion-resistant cockpit doors. The PCFC and the Aviation Security Group are collaborating to develop an all-cargo common strategy to remedy these shortcomings.

Last year, ALPA hosted the Air Cargo Safety Symposium, bringing together more than 100 pilots, government representatives, and industry leaders to discuss various safety issues affecting air cargo transportation worldwide. The dialogue generated from the meeting has brought about new ideas to better safeguard and secure our industry, and we look forward to hosting the symposium again this year.

A persistent challenge to the PCFC’s work is regulatory imbalance. Because regulators use a cost-benefit methodology to determine the “value” of safety and security improvements, cargo doesn’t add up. As a result, cargo has been excluded from many safety and security improvements, including the science-based flight-time/duty-time rest rules that apply to pilots who transport passengers and Part 139 aircraft rescue and firefighting requirements.

The committee’s focus on improving the safety and security of all-cargo operations will be critical to achieving CAST’s 2025 goal. In addition, ALPA has been working to educate lawmakers about regulatory cargo carve-outs, and we’ve been gaining legislative support. It’s of paramount importance to the Association’s mission to ensure one level of safety and security for each and every ALPA pilot.

This article was originally published in the April 2018 issue of Air Line Pilot.

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