Safety—It’s in Our DNA

By: Capt. Joe DePete, ALPA First Vice President and National Safety Coordinator

ALPA exists today because of one absolute necessity for our founding members more than 85 years ago: safety. Generations of airline pilot representatives have maintained the integrity of that mission, and today those pilot representatives make up ALPA’s Air Safety Organization (ASO), the world’s largest nongovernmental aviation safety organization.

The Association’s motto, “Schedule with Safety,” is the basis of every decision and action that ALPA makes on your behalf. And your ASO, composed of more than 400 pilot representatives who are supported by ALPA’s dedicated staff of subject-matter experts, is the instrument by which we as pilots ensure that standard is never compromised. In this issue, you’ll find an ASO resource directory listing the pilot leaders who spearhead ASO projects, initiatives, and programs.

Your ASO representatives are responsible for maintaining the Association’s unparalleled reputation for excellence in the areas of safety, security, and pilot assistance. Their experience and expertise provide government officials and industry representatives with our unique and valued perspective about how best to keep the skies safe and our passengers and cargo moving efficiently. What we say and do matters, and those in the halls of power listen to us.

Safety is the most important thing we do. In terms of return on investment of our members’ hard-earned dues dollars, safety, security, and pilot assistance have incalculable benefits—in careers and in lives saved. Now let me share with you just some of the work ALPA’s ASO representatives are performing.


Accident Analysis & Prevention Group: These reps provide their knowledge of organizational processes to ensure that ALPA’s roles in accident and incident investigations contribute to the development of effective mitigation strategies. One main area of focus is the safe transport of dangerous goods. The group continues to work to ensure that all dangerous goods carried on passenger and cargo aircraft pose minimal risk to our passengers and crews. Subject-matter experts within the group also help ALPA’s pilot groups with their respective Aviation Safety Action Programs (ASAP) and Flight Operations Quality Assurance (FOQA) programs and their interaction with the Aviation Safety Information Analysis and Sharing (ASIAS) program.

Air Traffic Services Group: The group provides fundamental user feedback by monitoring air traffic control operations and participating in developing and implementing capacity and safety enhancements associated with NextGen. With the redesign of several major airspace metroplexes on the horizon, your ASO pilot representatives are engaging with researchers, providing them with their line pilot perspective and experience.

Aircraft Design/Operations Group: These pilot representatives help develop and test new aircraft and aircraft systems by monitoring airworthiness, performance, software development, and certification. These reps are heavily involved in the safety and commercial aspects of unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) as UAS manufacturers and commercial operators push for integration and access to airspace. Working to prevent damage to aircraft—whether from UAS, wildlife, or ice crystals aloft—the reps use their knowledge of how cutting-edge technology can improve aircraft to help make air travel the safest form of transportation.

Airport Ground Environment Group: The group’s pilot representatives work to ensure that the airports we fly into and out of every day maintain the necessary standards to promote safe and efficient operations. They’ve worked with the FAA at its Technical Center in New Jersey to advise the agency on improvements to airport lighting, signage, and procedures. The group’s airport safety liaisons and regional airport safety coordinators build relationships with airport authorities, the FAA, and Transport Canada and act as liaisons at airports served by ALPA pilots.

Canadian Safety: The Canada safety coordinator serves as the focal point within the ASO for Canadian safety-related issues. Many of our line-pilot concerns in Canada parallel those in the United States—ATC modernization, regulations governing the commercial and recreational use of UAS, the restructuring of airspace, and flight-time/duty-time regulations. Transport Canada has announced that it will implement new flight- and duty-time limits and minimum rest requirements in two phases over a three- to five-year period. ALPA is advocating for a faster, single-year, single-phase approach.

Energy & Environment Group: The group is charged with keeping up to date on environmental issues relevant to the airline industry, drafting ALPA positions and policies on these issues, and promoting these positions and policies—including educating stakeholders about the proactive steps pilots and the airline industry have taken to address environmental issues. Developing energy-efficient and environmentally friendly aircraft and operations is a necessity for our industry and our planet.

Human Factors & Training Group: The group’s representatives provide expertise and knowledge to ensure that human factors considerations are integrated in aircraft design and operations. They monitor pilot training to evaluate pilot performance and reduce human error associated with all facets of airline operations. With the FAA mandate that U.S. airlines must provide pilots with upset prevention and recovery training starting in March 2019, the group is leading the charge to ensure that the training includes various upset scenarios and recovery techniques that adequately prepare a pilot for the unexpected. The ASO, in coordination with ALPA’s Communications Department, has produced a video on the basics of this training that highlights our involvement with the FAA/Industry Stall Stick-Pusher Working Group.

Safety Management Systems (SMS) Group: These pilot reps are working to help streamline SMS guidelines while maintaining protections for reporting pilots. With the FAA’s rule that all FAR Part 121 air carriers must have fully functional SMS programs in place by March 8, 2018, your experienced ASO reps are actively sharing their expertise about how to use safety data to detect and mitigate risk.


Secondary Cockpit Barriers: We continue to push for this proven deterrent to keep our cockpits safe and secure. With FAA reauthorization before Congress again this year, ALPA is calling for the mandatory installation of secondary cockpit barriers on most passenger airliners.

Laser Awareness: ALPA has partnered with government and industry in the United States and Canada to help educate the public and garner support to mitigate the threat posed by handheld lasers to our aircraft. In addition to highlighting health and safety risks, we’ve worked to make intentionally pointing a laser at an aircraft a federal crime—with civil fines and possible jail time for those convicted of the offense.

Federal Flight Deck Officer (FFDO) program: The final line of defense in the cockpit is the FFDO volunteer. Today, FFDOs protect thousands of flights each day and serve as a cost-effective complement to federal air marshals. We continue to educate lawmakers on the importance and value of the program, while looking for ways to make the responsibility of being an FFDO less burdensome for line pilots.

Jumpseat Issues: The final authority over who sits in an airplane’s jumpseat is the pilot-in-command of the airplane, and ALPA continues to vigorously defend this right. We’re also working to get international jumpseat access up and running.

Canadian Issues: We’re engaging with Transport Canada to get the Restricted Area Identity Card (RAIC), a program similar to Known Crewmember (KCM), back on track and used as intended. Your ASO reps are working diligently to ensure the program is consistently applied throughout Canada, as every airport handles RAIC procedures differently. Furthermore, the U.S. Transportation Security Administration (TSA) has voiced interest in including foreign crews in KCM, and the TSA plans to use Jazz Aviation crews as part of a test program.

Cybersecurity: Cybersecurity policies, procedures, and risk mitigations are increasingly needed to ensure that aircraft don’t become targets of cyber-related accidents or incidents. The FAA established the Aircraft System Information Security/Protection Working Group within the Aviation Rulemaking Advisory Committee to further understand the risks associated with information security onboard aircraft. In August 2016, the group announced 30 recommendations that address rulemaking, airworthiness standards, and technical standards orders. ALPA is working with industry stakeholders to develop advanced cybersecurity systems, procedures, and protocols.

Pilot Assistance

Aeromedical: ALPA and your aeromedical reps are dedicated to promoting members’ professional performance, health and welfare, and, when necessary, rehabilitation through drug and alcohol intervention. The group worked closely with the FAA’s Pilot Fitness Aviation Rulemaking Committee and was recognized for creating a “just culture” by encouraging pilots to seek help when needed without fear of losing their jobs, which is crucial for our industry. ALPA is committed to achieving the highest possible standards for pilot health through initiatives within our continually evolving Pilot Assistance programs to meet the needs of our members. We continue to support research through our occupational health initiatives, such as studying policies on cockpit oxygen mask cleaning and maintenance, aircraft sanitation, and the risk of fume events. In addition, physicians available through ALPA’s Aeromedical Office or on retainer in Canada advocate for our members who are facing issues with the FAA or Transport Canada; advise them on health matters, like the Zika virus; and provide educational materials on the latest trends in living a healthy lifestyle.

Critical Incident Response program (CIRP): ALPA’s Critical Incident Response Program uses pilots and spouses trained as peers to lessen the stress reactions that accidents or incidents may have on fellow pilots and their families. These volunteers are trained in techniques that help affected pilots and family members more effectively deal with normal reactions to an abnormal event.

Human Intervention Motivation Study (HIMS): ALPA initiated this confidential peer identification and referral program, working with both airlines and the FAA to help pilots with alcohol/substance abuse disorders meet the necessary requirements to successfully return to the cockpit.

Professional Standards: ALPA’s Professional Standards mission is to protect and enhance the careers of our members. Peer volunteers confidentially work with pilots to address problems of a professional or ethical nature in the workplace to ensure a safe and professional operating environment.

Canadian Pilot Assistance: Our Canadian Pilot Assistance Group provides confidential guidance and assistance to pilots having difficulty in any aspect of their professional or personal life that may affect job performance or professionalism.

Other Related Committees

While not part of the ASO, these committees’ activities are coordinated with, and assisted by, the ASO.

President’s Committee for Cargo: Committee members address the challenges facing cargo pilots and all-cargo operations. The Committee is working with the FAA’s Cargo Focus Team to review and validate cargo loading procedures, study potential loadmaster certification criteria and qualifications, and end legislated safety and security carveouts for cargo operations.

President’s Committee for Remote Operations: Committee members address the unique flight operation issues facing professional pilots flying in the high Arctic and/or other remote areas. The committee advocates for navigational and airport infrastructure improvements for these unique airfields, enhanced satellite-based surveillance, and mitigating the risks associated with flying in extreme conditions.

Yes, your ASO does all this and much more.

It’s my honor to work with these volunteers who give their time and energy to help their fellow pilots in need and to advance the piloting profession and the airline industry. Every ALPA member owes them a debt of gratitude.

Become Part of ALPA’s Air Safety Organization

If you’re interested in becoming an Air Safety Organization representative, contact ALPA’s Engineering & Air Safety Department at or call 703-689-4200 for more information.

This article was originally published in the April 2017 issue of Air Line Pilot Magazine.

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