IFALPA Elects New President

Capt. Dennis Dolan, the third US-ALPA pilot to head the International Federation
of Air Line Pilots Associations, pledges expanded communications and 
more dialogue on global terrorism.

By Rob Wiley, Staff Writer
Air Line Pilot, June/July 2003, p.18

ALPA’s first vice-president, Capt. Dennis Dolan, was elected president of the International Federation of Air Line Pilots Associations during its recent Annual Conference in Funchal, Madeira Islands, Portugal. Capt. Dolan is only the third US-ALPA pilot to hold the top position since IFALPA was founded in 1948.

Capt. Dolan is serving his second term as ALPA first vice-president. Until the recent IFALPA election, he had served the Federation as principal vice-president of professional affairs and was responsible for coordinating IFALPA’s industrial policies on a worldwide basis. His term as IFALPA president will run for 2 years.

Capt. Dolan’s election continues a tradition of strong ALPA involvement with the Federation. ALPA’s Capt. Dave Behncke was IFALPA’s first president (1948–49), and ALPA’s Clancy N. Sayen (1952–64) was its fourth and longest-serving president. Capt. Rob McInnis (Canadian) was IFALPA’s president in 1997, when the Canadian Air Line Pilots Association members merged their union into ALPA. The involvement is a tradition worth continuing, says Capt. Dolan.

"IFALPA was founded by pilot groups from the United States, Canada, and Great Britain," Capt. Dolan said at the recent ALPA Executive Board meeting in Washington, D.C. "As founding members, we have had a vested interest in IFALPA from the very beginning, and ALPA still contributes about half of the Federation’s monetary resources.

"But the primary reason we must stay involved is that IFALPA is a true link to the international community, from the standpoint of both safety and key industrial issues."

Capt. Dolan was introduced to IFALPA while serving as chairman of the Delta pilots’ Master Executive Council. He attended the 1997 IFALPA Annual Conference in Cairo, Egypt, to help his MEC establish a pilot alliance with other pilot groups whose carriers were at that time code-share partners with Delta Air Lines. When Capt. Dolan was elected ALPA first vice-president in 1999, he also became IFALPA director for US-ALPA. His involvement with IFALPA grew until he was elected as one of the Federation’s four principal vice-presidents in 2000.

Capt. Dolan says that his new office will not detract from his duties at ALPA. "I am still First Vice-President of ALPA," he says. "That won’t change. However, I am now able to involve myself with the international process at a higher level, and ALPA has given me the tools, the experience, and the background for this position."

Also at the Portugal meeting, the delegates reelected Capt. Madison Walton (United), regional vice-president for the North Atlantic region and Capt. Ray Gelinas (Air Canada Jazz), regional vice-president for the Canada/Arctic region. Two other ALPA pilots hold offices in IFALPA: Capt. Paul McCarthy (Delta), principal vice-president for technical standards; and Capt. Greg Wolfsheimer (Northwest), regional vice-president for the U.S. Central Pacific region.

Capt. Paul Rice, ALPA vice-president-administration/secretary, who will serve as IFALPA director for US-ALPA to replace Capt. Dolan, will coordinate and oversee all IFALPA activities for the Association’s U.S. members. Capt. Dan Adamus, ALPA Canada Board vice-president, will do the same for the Association’s Canadian members.

IFALPA history

IFALPA, with headquarters in the U.K., was founded in 1948 with 13 original members. The major thrust came from three pilot groups: the U.S. Air Line Pilots Association, the British Air Line Pilots Association, and the Canadian Air Line Pilots Association.

Initial interest in forming an international group of allied pilot associations began when the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), created in 1946 by the fledgling United Nations, started making aviation safety policy proposals. The U.N. had charged ICAO with defining policies and standards for the international airline community in the wake of World War II.

ICAO began establishing directives to promote competition among international carriers and was the first organization to claim global authority over aviation safety. The airline industry was in the midst of a huge growth spurt, fueling a worldwide economic resurgence as flights crossed oceans and bridged cultures in record time. However, the sudden industry expansion occurred with little thought given overall to aviation safety.

Leaders and members of the three pilots associations, including ALPA’s Capt. Bart Cox, were concerned that new aviation safety policies and standards might be adopted with little or no input from airline pilots. While the unions praised much of ICAO’s initial work, they also noted that the world’s airline pilots needed to take a prominent role as safety specialists among international aviation authorities.

With the world finally at peace and national boundaries more or less stable for the first time in years, airline pilots began to look at themselves as citizens of the world, especially since their daily work took them across many of those boundaries. As world citizens, these pilots often found themselves dependent on distant municipalities or states to provide the facilities necessary for their personal safety and the safety of their passengers and cargo. Their interest in all national and international affairs that directly related to aviation came naturally.

To exercise some control of those interests, especially aviation safety, key groups of pilots looked to assume visible leadership positions wherever aviation rules were made and enforced. They realized that one international organization would have more strength than would individual groups representing single countries, so 13 associations agreed in 1948 to join together to form the International Federation of Air Line Pilots Associations.

Today, IFALPA numbers 95 member associations representing more than 100,000 pilots. Its collective voice is heard and respected on all major aviation safety issues. Although the Canadian Air Line Pilots Association no longer exists as a separate entity, the pilots of Canada have retained equal standing among IFALPA members since ALPA established its Canada Board in February 1997, after CALPA’s merger with US-ALPA. ALPA is in the unique position of sending two representatives to IFALPA—the director of the Canadian contingency and a director representing U.S. pilots.

"Only two organizations have observer status at the International Civil Aviation Organization, and IFALPA is one of them," says Capt. Dolan. "That gives airline pilots a seat at the table on all the major international technical and industrial issues in aviation. With all the global issues we face today, ALPA must continue to be plugged into the international community at the highest level."

IFALPA’s mission statement reads: "The mission of IFALPA is to be the global voice of airline pilots, promoting the highest level of aviation safety worldwide and providing services, support, and representation to all of its Member Associations."

State of the industry

Capt. Dolan says that most pilots at the Conference were realistic about the current state of the airline industry. "Everybody understands that this is a very troubled time for the airline industry," he says. "They know that the industry is fragile, even though some carriers are still making money.

"I tried to convey to the delegates that this is not the first time we’ve seen this type of situation. The airline industry has always been cyclical. We’ve made it through hard times before, and there’s no reason to think we won’t get through this. The process is likely to be painful, as always, but this industry has become an integral part of the global economy and will retain its viability."

The Conference opened with an in-depth analysis of the "State of the Industry," with presentations focused on how airline pilots can work together to provide a secure future and enhance industry standards.

ALPA’s president, Capt. Duane Woerth, in an overview of the current U.S. economic climate, noted several key factors in the domestic aviation industry crisis, among them, a political climate hostile toward labor in general and pilots in particular. He noted that the George W. Bush Administration set an anti-union agenda early and has taken advantage of extraordinary international events, such as the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, to further that agenda. Following those attacks, the government imposed $4.5 billion of mandated security requirements on the airline industry but did not provide the funds needed to meet those requirements.

And when the U.S. Congress insisted on making available $10 billion in loan guarantees for the airline industry through the Air Transportation Stabilization Board, the Administration used the guarantees as a lever to force even larger concessions from labor unions than management originally proposed or said it needed.

Capt. Woerth told the delegates the Administration has encouraged bankruptcies and liquidations over other, less-drastic measures, to restructure the airline industry and basically force lower labor costs. The Administration also consistently blocked ALPA’s efforts to find a legislative way to mend the U.S. pension-funding crisis.

In the United States, Capt. Woerth said, politics have become a bigger factor than pure economics for the airline industry. And U.S. unions are facing a much more hostile political environment than their European counterparts.

Capt. Woerth emphasized to the IFALPA Conference delegates that pilots unions that want to defend their members’ interests need to be prepared to face these challenges. Preparation and adequate funding are necessary for unions to be able to function successfully.

"Specific cultures sometimes determine the level of tolerance for unions," says Capt. Dolan. "In Europe, for example, unions are all fairly well tolerated as part of the social structure. They are integrated into the fabric of how people do business. That’s the culture there.

"In Asia, on the other hand, unions are not as well received with the type of business relationship you see in Europe or even the United States. So the attitude toward unions is mixed around the world, but the current U.S. attitude is definitely anti-union," Capt. Dolan said.

Two industrial advisors to IFALPA —Seth Rosen, director of ALPA’s Representation Department, and Ana McAhron-Schulz, director of ALPA’s Economics and Financial Analysis Department—presented a "Global Overview: Financial and Industrial Trends."

The two ALPA staff members expressed concerns about the negative effects that geopolitical instability around the world, a virtually stagnant global economy, and the emergence of the SARS virus were having on the airline industry.

Rosen covered U.S. airline industry trends in the 1980s and 90s. He noted that the 1980s saw major events and changes, including

The 1990s saw many of those trends intensify as the airline industry’s fortunes continued to swing through the boom-bust cycle. Several respected airlines fell victim to the cycle, when many countries united to fight a major war in the Persian Gulf and the global economy fell into recession.

Rosen noted that the U.S. airline industry continued consolidating, with major capacity reductions, bankruptcies, and layoffs accelerating throughout the decade. The surviving airlines entered into more global alliances and expanded through increased use of small jets. The economic cycle was on an upswing in the late 1990s, posting several consecutive years of record profits as the new century arrived.

That prosperity was short-lived, McAhron-Schulz said. The weak global economy caught up with the airline industry, and the 9/11 terrorist attacks joined the familiar culprits—overcapacity, proliferation of low-cost carriers, soaring fuel prices, and declining yields and revenues—to push the industry into a steep decline. Two U.S.-led wars—in Afghanistan and Iraq—kept many security-conscious passengers away from flying, while an unanticipated health panic—SARS—added more fear of flying to the mix.

The SARS scare hit international travel to the Far East especially hard.

"One of the few carriers in the world that was really making significant amounts of money was Cathay Pacific, based in Hong Kong," Capt. Dolan notes. "When the SARS epidemic hit, Cathay Pacific’s traffic dropped 66 percent in one month. That’s what can happen in today’s market, and we all know it. We can be making money one day, and the next day we’re losing money, for whatever reason. This is a very fragile industry."

In such a fragile environment, Rosen advised Conference attendees to take definite steps to protect their members’ interests:

— analyze the situation,
— receive direction from the pilot leadership, and
— negotiate an appropriate solution.

Future goals

Capt. Dolan says the Federation could be one of the leaders in helping stimulate a global economic recovery for airline traffic. He has set specific goals for his 2-year term as IFALPA president.

"I would definitely like to see IFALPA become more recognizable internally and externally," he says. "Average ALPA members have not been given much information about what IFALPA is, let alone what it does for them. We need to communicate to these pilots—in the United States, Canada, and other countries, as well—specifically what IFALPA does for them. That’s very important."

Part of that internal communications program, Capt. Dolan said, should include introducing the various pilot groups from around the world to each other. ALPA members, for example, get so involved in their particular problems that they don’t often think about their flying counterparts in other countries. While focusing on issues close to home is natural, understanding how other pilot groups around the world really operate, what conditions they operate under, what their contracts are like, and what their benefits are is also important in an increasingly globalized industry.

"Airline pilots need to understand that the world out there is big and that the gamut of sophistication runs from very high to very low," Capt. Dolan says. "We’re all doing the same job, flying the same kinds of airplanes. We all need to understand that we’re all in this together, no matter where we are on the sophistication scale. That’s what unionism is all about."

External communications are just as important, Capt. Dolan says, because the flying public needs to know how deeply involved airline pilots have been and continue to be in aviation safety worldwide.

Capt. Dolan says he also sees a big disparity of opinion around the globe on security issues and how to deal with international terrorism. Much of the disagreement reflects cultural differences, he says.

"We have to come to grips with terrorism and how we as pilots deal with it," he says. "Just bringing everybody together to agree on such things as reinforced cockpit doors, locking the doors, dealing with a terrorist in flight, and the subject of arming pilots, which is not supported by most pilots throughout the world, is a challenge."

He says that the primary issue with airline pilots should be helping authorities build a security system that will identify terrorists before they even reach the airplane. "That’s where we really want to be," Capt. Dolan says. "That’s the best of all worlds, because then we don’t need reinforced doors or armed pilots. That’s not to say we won’t have them, but the real issue is to stop terrorists before they get on the airplane and become a threat."

Scrolls of Merit

IFALPA honored ALPA members Capts. Dennis Olden (Northwest, Ret.) and Peter Reiss (Northwest, Ret.) with Scrolls of Merit at the Conference. The Scroll of Merit award recognizes the sustained efforts of individuals who serve IFALPA with loyalty, honor, and distinction, thereby substantially contributing to the achievement of the Federation’s objectives.

The Federation cited Capt. Olden for his service as a long-time member of the Subscription, Constitution, Administration, Membership, Policy, and Insurance (SCAMPI) Committee, and as the leader of and chief advocate for the IFALPA Loss of License Working Group. The award noted that Capt. Olden’s "persistence and determination" in financial areas contributed markedly to achieving the Federation’s objectives and "were instrumental in restoring the Federation to financial soundness after a period of prolonged struggle."

Capt. Reiss was honored for his long-time work as vice-chairman and chairman of IFALPA’s Security Committee. He represented the Committee at ICAO’s Incorporating Security into Aircraft Design Working Group and was also heavily involved in the Study Group on the Unruly Passenger. The Federation noted that Capt. Reiss was instrumental in developing several key IFALPA policies, many of which were incorporated into ICAO Circular 288, "Guidance Material on the Legal Aspects of Unruly/Disruptive Passengers." The Federation also cited Capt. Reiss’s positive influence on ICAO’S Security Committee following the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

Canadian Representation at IFALPA

By Capt. Dan Adamus (Air Canada Jazz), ALPA Canada Board Vice-President

The dawn of the aviation era catapulted previously inclusive and diverse cultures into a highly competitive and rapidly expanding globalized society, bringing new issues and concerns to the aviation industry itself. Government agencies worldwide needed a credible source for aviation expertise, and IFALPA filled that void. IFALPA’s mission was clear: to develop a unified policy or view on all matters of concern to airline pilots worldwide and to press for adoption of these policies or views within each member association’s country and within the rules and regulations that regional and international aviation authorities apply worldwide.

ALPA members in Canada had their own representatives at the 58th Annual IFALPA Conference. The Conference proved once again that no matter where in this world we live, whatever airplane we fly, pilots are pilots. Participants, as they listened to the speeches, worked through the various committee agenda items, and chatted during meeting breaks, quickly realized that they all share the same concerns on all aspects of aviation.

Canadian ALPA had one of its strongest showings at the Conference in recent times. This sent a strong message to IFALPA that Canadian ALPA is strongly behind the Federation and will be for years to come.

This year’s Canadian delegation included Capts. Robert Perkins, ADO and AGE Committee representative; Kurt Ruhwald, SCAMPI Committee representative; Nick DiCintio, Legal Committee representative; Ray Gelinas, IFALPA Regional vice-president and Conference Committee chair, and me, Dan Adamus, IFALPA director for Canadian ALPA and Industrial Committee representative; and F/O André Cossette, and Capts. Rod Lypchuk and Monty Allan, observers.

As the accompanying article reports, "the state of the airline industry" was at the top of the agenda this year. Unless we, as airline pilots, continue to lobby our respective governments to reverse their current anti-aviation policies, things will only get worse. Our governments have to understand the relationship between a strong aviation industry and the overall economic well-being of the country. This is especially evident here in Canada, where we have a huge country geographically and a relatively small population of 33 million. More than one third of the population lives in three cities: Vancouver, Toronto, and Montreal. A strong airline industry is essential to the rest of the country for doing business. Our government must understand this, and we will continue to lobby them until they do.

This year at the Conference, we also had an excellent chance to showcase Canadian ALPA by hosting a hospitality suite after the Awards Ceremony.

And finally, on a sad but proud moment, Canadian ALPA asked the Plenary to observe a moment’s silence for the late Greg England, a former Cathay Pacific pilot and part of the fired group of pilots known as the 49ers. Cathay Pacific Airlines management arbitrarily fired 49 Cathay pilots on July 9, 2001, for no other reason than their involvement in union activities. To this day, they are still out of work, and as a result, IFALPA still has a recruitment ban on at Cathay Pacific.