The Landing: Legacies of ALPA Champions

Spanning the decades of the Association’s existence, ALPA members and their pilot-partisan issues have gained the support of many Members of the U.S. Congress. Below we recognize two ALPA champions who’ve spent their political careers advocating on behalf of airline pilots.

Rep. Frank LoBiondo (R-NJ)

Rep. Frank LoBiondo, the U.S. House of Representatives Aviation Subcommittee chair, has been a champion of ALPA’s safety and labor priorities for more than two decades. One of his top goals since being elected to Congress has been representing the William J. Hughes FAA Technical Center where, among many other things, significant research continues on the susceptibility of lithium batteries to fire and explosion. LoBiondo has long supported ALPA’s call for stricter regulations of lithium batteries shipped as cargo by air.

In 2013, LoBiondo ascended to chair of the House Aviation Subcommittee, a position he’ll retain until his retirement at the end of the year. During his tenure at the helm of the Aviation Subcommittee, LoBiondo has pursued a number of aviation safety bills and legislation to strengthen the U.S. airline industry, including an ongoing commitment to updating the air traffic control system, including NextGen modernization. He’s also been at the forefront of safety-focused UAS policy development. LoBiondo has voted for secondary cockpit barriers and improvements in pilot training and qualifications and has successfully intervened on ALPA’s behalf when the FAA proposed changing medical policy related to sleep apnea.

LoBiondo has also used his leadership position to promote U.S. airlines and protect U.S. airline workers in the international arena. He’s been the sponsor of legislation to stop the proliferation of flag-of-convenience airlines in the United States, including H.R. 2150, the Flags of Convenience Don’t Fly Here Act. He’s also championed an end to the illegal subsidies that certain Middle Eastern airlines receive from their governments.

LoBiondo, a moderate Republican in a consistently marginal district, has always been a labor stalwart. He’s the leader of the informal Republican labor caucus who can always be counted on to rally Republicans in support of pilot-partisan legislation.

LoBiondo has announced his intent to retire from Congress at the end of the 2018 after a distinguished career spanning 25 years. He’s indicated that his decision to retire stems in part from a frustration over increased political polarization, noting “a vocal and obstinate minority within both parties has hijacked good legislation in pursuit of no legislation.” LoBiondo will receive ALPA’s Legislator of the Year Award at the Association’s sixth annual Government Affairs Legislative Summit in June in Washington, D.C.

Rep. Louise Slaughter (D-NY)

After three decades of public service, Rep. Louise Slaughter of upstate New York died on March 16, 2018. A leading voice of aviation safety, she represented Buffalo when Colgan Flight 3407 crashed outside of Clarence Center in 2009. Slaughter worked with her New York colleagues to shepherd through the U.S. House of Representatives and into law pilot training and qualification improvements and other safety enhancements stemming from the tragedy. Her legacy lives on today as the current House version of the FAA reauthorization bill does not include language to roll back safety training and experience regulations despite strong opposition efforts.

Slaughter had a nearly perfect record supporting ALPA’s priorities during her tenure in Congress. In addition to aviation safety, she was a stalwart champion of working people, cosponsoring H.R. 2050 and H.R. 173 to repeal the excise tax on employer-sponsored health-care coverage. She could be counted on to stand up for labor rights and was a reliable vote against any legislation that would deny collective bargaining to workers. Slaughter stood behind ALPA when she called on the State Department to review the unfair business practices of three Middle Eastern airlines and cosponsored H.R. 5090, which would have barred the Department of Transportation from issuing a foreign air carrier permit to Norwegian Air International.

Slaughter served in Congress for 32 years and rose to the position of chair of the powerful Rules Committee, the decision-making body that determines which legislation goes to the House floor. She was the first woman to hold this position.

Slaughter spoke at ALPA’s 2017 Air Safety Forum in Washington, D.C., about her commitment to aviation safety and protecting pilot training and qualification rules and received a standing ovation.

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

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