On Final
ALPA’s Cargo Committee Meets, Sets Agenda

Commentary by Capt. Jack Burke (FedEx), Cargo Committee Chairman
Air Line Pilot, March 2003, p. 55

Recognizing that the community of pilots who fly for cargo carriers is expanding dramatically, ALPA’s president, Capt. Duane Woerth, formed the President’s Committee for Cargo in September 2002. Applying the theme adopted for the 2002 Board of Directors meeting of "One Union, One Voice, and One Mission for all Pilots," Capt. Woerth wanted all of ALPA to better understand the sometimes unique needs of this growing segment of ALPA members.

With the addition of the FedEx pilots under the ALPA banner, the union now represents approximately 6,600 cargo pilots—nearly 10 percent of ALPA’s total current membership. According to the growth projections of the cargo industry, the number could be as high as 25 percent within the next 5 years. Besides me, the Committee chairman, ALPA members appointed to the Committee include Capts. David Bourne (Atlas Air), vice-chairman, and Dan Brannan (DHL); First Officers Dale Roberts (Gemini) and Rob Grass (Atlas Air); and Second Officers Bill McReynolds (FedEx) and Frank Condefer (Northwest). The Committee will be discussing various issues and items of interest to cargo pilots and ALPA members in general in Air Line Pilot and in a cargo section of ALPA’s website, www.alpa.org.

One of the largest issues facing all airline pilots today—security—has unique aspects for cargo pilots. While our entire piloting profession is under attack, cargo pilots—if only through omission—seem to be specifically targeted.

Among the current Administration, the special interests within Congress, the FAA, the Transportation Security Administration, and the Air Transport Association, the tragic events of September 11 sometimes appear to be faded or forgotten memories. In their place, the U.S. government has allowed business interests to apply their profit-and-cost economics regardless of their effect on airline safety and security. Congress is particularly vulnerable to the deep pockets and lobbying efforts of large airlines through the ATA. For example, through the addition (at the request of FedEx’s CEO) of the single word, "passenger," to legislation passed in late 2002, guns will not be authorized for cargo aircraft cockpits. In addition, no current regulations require screening, even randomly, of cargo loaded onto our aircraft.

And just when we thought it couldn’t get any worse, the TSA and the FAA have shortsightedly determined that cargo carriers are exposed to a "lower risk of threat" of terrorist activity, thus handing all cargo carriers a free pass not to install hardened/fortified cockpit doors. If terrorists decide they want to bring down another high-rise building, all they have to do is drive over to the cargo side of any major airport—Security Identification Display Area (SIDA) protections end at the passenger terminals! Our cargo pilots are virtually defenseless.

No layered security protection is in place or contemplated for cargo operations, no screening of cargo for early bomb or bioterrorism detection, no federal air marshals, no flight attendants or passengers to help contain terrorists, no fortified cockpit door to slow terrorists down, no guns for the flight crews, and thus no final defense! The government does, however, have a final security defense plan—an F-15 parked at our 6 o’clock!

We must wake up and raise our voices to object to this discriminatory treatment or we—all of us—are doomed to repeat the sad history of 9/11.

If you have any comments or questions about flying for cargo airlines in this current adverse environment, please contact me at jack.burke@alpa.org.