Weighing In: Without a Word

By Capt. Joe DePete, ALPA First Vice President

As a Marine, I’ve always had respect for a uniform. Without a word, clean edges of cloth and insignia and ribbons carry an unmistakable cachet that the man or woman who wears it has pledged himself or herself to a higher purpose.

The same holds true for airline pilot uniforms. To the public, they represent our commitment to safely transport the passengers and cargo entrusted to us. But what the public doesn’t realize is the full scope of what that commitment means to each one of us and what it means to ALPA as a whole.

We’re “the conscience of the airline industry.” As the world’s largest nongovernmental aviation safety organization, the pilots of ALPA have led the way for more than 85 years to advocate for measures that keep our skies safe and secure. More than 420 pilot representatives make up ALPA’s Air Safety Organization—their experience, expertise, and enthusiasm fuel our advocacy efforts, add strength to our resolve, and give voice to our commitment to a safe and secure air transportation system.

On March 1, ALPA and our government and industry partners were recognized with a 2018 Aviation Week Laureate Award for our role in the Commercial Aviation Safety Team and its Aviation Safety Information Analysis and Sharing (ASIAS) initiative (see page 9). The launch of ASIAS in 2008 allowed the FAA to take a more proactive approach to detecting risk and implementing mitigation strategies before accidents or serious incidents occur. An unparalleled collaboration between government and industry, it’s been instrumental in improving aviation safety.

Another benchmark for the Association is the elevation of the Aviation Jumpseat Group as the fourth pillar of our ASO. They join the Aviation Safety, Aviation Security, and Pilot Assistance Groups in their advocacy work. Defending pilot-in-command authority over flight deck access is of utmost importance to our members, and I admire the collective passion of the group of pilot representatives who’ve taken on this task.

This same passion, along with ALPA’s enviable reputation, is what make us a voice that people want to hear. Our expertise is actively sought at the highest levels, such as on the FAA’s Drone Advisory Committee (see page 9). There, we stress the need for safety as a top priority in integrating unmanned aircraft systems into our airspace. In the NextGen Advisory Committee, we advocate for system enhancements including vertical navigation equipment upgrades for aircraft not yet configured for performance-based navigation (see page 9).

And while we’ve had great success enhancing aviation safety and modernizing air traffic control, we can’t forget the human at the center of the system. As such, in May the ASO will host a one-day symposium titled “Trained for Life: Human-Centered Approach to Safety” in Washington, D.C. Pilots, industry stakeholders, and government regulators who share our goal of having the safest and most secure air transport system will discuss proactive and predictive ways to improve the system based on human factors.

In addition, the ASO is currently developing a national Pilot Peer Support program to provide support to our members who are dealing with issues in their personal lives that could affect their professional performance (see page 28). Brought about from the Germanwings tragedy, some master executive councils and their airlines are already providing this service to their pilots. As our program gets closer to its rollout, we’ll be sharing more detailed information with our members.

A highpoint for me as ALPA’s national safety coordinator is our annual Air Safety Forum, which will be held in Washington, D.C., on July 30–August 2. Pilots, government and industry stakeholders, and the news media will gather to discuss how to advance aviation safety, and we’ll honor those who’ve committed their life’s work to advancing safety on behalf of our profession.

I hope that if you don’t already, the next time you button up your uniform shirt, put on your jacket, and place your ALPA pin on your lapel or your tie, you remember what your uniform symbolizes—without a word—to the world: your daily commitment to safely transporting passengers and cargo. And I hope you remember ALPA’s commitment to remain the conscience of the industry.


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

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