ALPA Needs Volunteers—Volunteers Like You

By Capt. Bill Couette, ALPA Vice President–Administration/Secretary

As my fourth term as your vice president-administration/secretary comes to an end, many pilots and ALPA staff members have been kind enough to congratulate me on this landmark achievement. The fact that a regional pilot was elected to serve as a national officer of the world’s largest airline pilots union and remained in office all this time is a testament to the remarkable progress our organization has made. At the heart of this progress is the understanding that despite the routes we cover, the aircraft we fly, and the cargo we carry, a pilot is a pilot.

In the November–December 2006 issue of Air Line Pilot, as I prepared to begin my first term in office, I stressed the point that we’re all ALPA pilots and it’s that commonality that unites us. While we may be at different stages of our careers, we have many similar experiences. As such, my fellow national officers and I began to take a closer look at these experiences to identify various ways in which the Association might help members better navigate the challenges we all encounter at different points in our careers.

The Association’s Board of Directors formalized the idea of developing programs and services based on these needs in 2008 as part of its newly introduced strategic plan, and a year later the Professional Development Group (PDG) was established. Through ALPA’s Education, Leadership, and Membership Committees, thousands of PDG pilot volunteers have advised students and other individuals about the benefits of being an airline pilot. Others have worked with ALPA staff to introduce member products and services, such as the ALPA mobile app and its jumpseat Flight Finder function, to make pilots’ jobs easier. Other volunteers have trained members interested in pursuing leadership roles within the union.

The PDG later added the Furloughed Pilots Support Program to help pilots during economic downturns and Veterans Affairs to assist members of the armed services who want to become airline pilots. The newest committee—Diversity, Equity, Belonging, and Inclusion—is working to inspire the next generation of airline pilots through outreach efforts to not only those who are already interested in our profession, but also those who’ve never considered it possible.

The PDG is just one example of how the Association is assisting its members. In my role, I support a dozen boards and committees, including the Hearing and Appeal Boards and the Strategic Planning Committee, which collectively work to better the lives of ALPA members. Since I took office, we’ve made hundreds of other improvements besides the ALPA app, including the introduction of the Data Action Report program and enabling pilots to vote in local council elections using the ALPA website. In each case, these groups consisted of pilot volunteers, like you and me, getting involved and contributing their time and talents.

I’ve talked about my four terms as a national officer and some of the work that’s been accomplished, but my career stretches back more than 30 years. As a new Simmons Airlines first officer flying turboprops, I knew very little about ALPA. But that didn’t stop me from joining local council committees and eventually taking on local leadership roles.

There are all kinds of ways to participate in our union, and the organization offers a wide variety of training programs to help volunteers better understand the roles they can play and the many resources at their disposal.

Pilot engagement is vital to ALPA because our union is a pilot-driven organization. In many respects, the union is like a state-of-the-art computer. It has the potential to accomplish great things, but first our members have to put it to use; we have to give it direction. Otherwise, it sits in the box it came in, collecting dust.

Throughout my career, I’ve stressed that a pilot is a pilot, and ALPA’s mandate is just as simple. Our Association is all about pilots serving pilots, and I hope you’ll consider what I’ve said and find an area you’re interested in and serve your union. From my experience, it’s been incredibly gratifying and meaningful, and I want to extend my sincere thanks for allowing me to serve you.

This article was originally published in the December 2022 issue of Air Line Pilot.

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