Case for Diversity and Inclusivity

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

One of the goals outlined in ALPA’s strategic plan, as developed by the union’s Board of Directors, is to secure the future of the airline piloting profession. This directive to encourage future generations to become airline pilots is spearheaded by the Association’s Professional Development Group (PDG).

Part of this effort includes promoting the profession through ALPA volunteer activities and programs at primary and secondary schools, colleges, and universities; professional pilot organizations; and community events. Through the union’s Cleared to Dream website and other programs, we provide individuals the information they need to learn what it takes to become an airline pilot and that flying as a cockpit crewmember is a rewarding experience.

Our union also wants to make clear that we value diversity. For many years, the vast majority of airline pilots have been white men with military aviation backgrounds. While we still encourage these individuals to become airline pilots and active ALPA members, we also need women, minorities, and members of the LGBT community to know that they’re welcome, too. In the past, many in these latter groups acknowledged that they hadn’t pursued airline pilot careers because they didn’t realize it was a possibility. That’s why reaching out and educating individuals about this career opportunity is so important.

Increasing the potential pool of pilot applicants is important to the industry. It can help our airlines find more qualified candidates and reduce the time it takes to fill vacancies. People with different backgrounds bring different experiences to the discussion and draw from a wider range of perspectives. In addition, a diverse workforce provides our pilot groups—and our union—with a broader viewpoint, a characteristic that’s particularly important for an industry that by its very nature is global.

In July, I and other ALPA representatives attended the EAA AirVenture in Oshkosh, Wisc.—the largest air show in North America—to engage with the “future of the profession” (see page 23).Pilots from the PDG’s Education and Membership Committees participated in the EAA’s KidVenture, working with children of all backgrounds in activities designed to foster a greater interest in aviation.

Pilot volunteers staffed the Association’s information booth, talking with the public about the many pathways to an airline flight deck and resources available that can help. Several ALPA pilots gave special presentations, discussing what it’s like to fly for a living, how to become an airline pilot, and flying as a female flight deck crewmember.

In addition to union-sponsored activities, ALPA members were found throughout the grounds of Wittman Regional Airport, where the event is held, promoting aviation in a number of ways—including four female ALPA pilots flying a United B-787-8 in and out of Oshkosh as part of the event’s WomenVenture promotion. For this one week in July, our union was able to reach thousands of young aviators and potential flyers to answer questions and share the pride that comes from flying as an airline pilot.

The PDG participates in a host of other events, including conferences for Women in Aviation International, the Organization of Black Aerospace Professionals (see page 32), the National Gay Pilots Association, and other outreach groups. We do this because we believe that diversity makes us a stronger, more vibrant organization. In addition, there’s clearly an untapped potential in these groups that’s been underrepresented in our profession for so many years.

When a Negotiating Committee from one of our pilot groups sits down to bargain with airline management for a new contract, the two parties talk about benefits, work rules, and job protections. When they reach an agreement, they don’t set specific pay rates for female and male pilots, African American and Hispanic American pilots, or any other group of pilots. They distinguish members by aircraft, seat, and seniority. That’s because both ALPA and airlines understand that being a skilled and experienced pilot is what really matters—and embracing diversity and inclusivity helps to broaden the pool of future qualified airline pilots.

This article was originally published in the September 2019 issue of Air Line Pilot.

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