Stronger Together

By Capt. Bob Fox, ALPA First Vice President

For the past four years, it’s been an absolute privilege to serve as your first vice president and national safety coordinator. I truly couldn’t be prouder of the national officer team, the many dedicated pilot representatives who make up our Air Safety Organization (ASO), and our professional staff.

I look back at 2019 and it feels like a lifetime ago. Guiding this Association during the past four years exemplifies the strength of pilots working together toward a common goal. Very early on, our leadership team established an open dialogue that served as the bedrock for moving forward in times of uncertainty.

We led with a team approach. We stood up for our pilots in every arena, advocating for solutions. Our teams led through uncharted skies, events that could have crippled the industry. If these past few years have reminded us of anything, it’s that all aspects of the aviation industry are truly a team sport.

We’re simply stronger together. We’ve proven that over the past four years by a multitude of successes, including ensuring

  •  a focus first on safety and then on worker protections during the pandemic.
  •  a focus on safety during the grounding and return to service of the B-737 MAX.
  •  the Department of Transportation’s denial of Wizz Air’s application to fly into the United States.
  •  our place in the International Federation of Air Line Pilots’ Associations and the International Civil Aviation Organization and our voice on important international policies and standards.

And we’ll need to continue to stay strong in the future to share our perspectives on multiple topics of extreme importance, such as single-pilot or reduced-crew operations, mandatory retirement age for pilots, and environmental sustainability.

We must be part of these discussions, forming that policy as the international standard. If we sit back and only react to the threats our international pilot community is confronting, we can’t expect to survive in the increasingly global marketplace.

As we’ve done in the past, we’ll call on all of ALPA to assist us in these endeavors. And I’m confident that—as you’ve successfully demonstrated in the past—you’ll answer our calls.

One thing I’ve learned from the past four years is that there’s no checklist for many things. You can’t anticipate the effects of a U.S. government shutdown. You can’t assume the impact of a global pandemic. You can’t predict the grounding of an aircraft. But by working together, we’re able to make our way through stronger than before.

For example, early in the pandemic, we engaged the full resources of the union, including the ASO, to work together for pilots.

We made a vow to routinely check in with each other. We opened the lines of communication and increased coordination. We instituted daily calls with our leaders and ASO teams. We received briefings on the COVID virus, on health and safety standards, on crew protocols, and on travel restrictions.

We checked in with our pilot groups, asking: What can we do? What haven’t we done? What haven’t we thought of? How can we best help our members?

We offered real paths forward to address the multitudes of scenarios our members faced throughout the pandemic. And we came out stronger together.

While our ASO reps dealt with these major issues, they also helped deliver numerous wins, including

  •  secondary barriers,
  •  oxygen mask requirements raised to Flight Level 410,
  •  the ASO Duty Officer program,
  •  the largest Air Safety Forum in years,
  •  adding the Flight Finder function and advocacy issues to the ALPA app,
  •  the first-ever Pilot Peer Support Symposium, and
  •  upholding our aviation “gold standard” in the United States and Canada and around the world.

But here’s the thing about lists. They’re never complete. Our union’s work is never done. We all know that in aviation safety and security, we must always remain vigilant. We must be proactive. We must be fully informed and in the room. We must be curious and courageous. We must ask the questions before policies and strategies are implemented—not after they’re the law of the land.

For more than 91 years, we’ve stood our ground, worked on the side of right, and continued to be the conscience of the industry. I ask you to stay engaged and to encourage your fellow pilots to stay engaged.

As I leave this office, I’m excited to see what lies ahead for ALPA. It’s been an honor to serve as your first vice president and national safety coordinator.

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

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