News from ALPA's Committees
Recruiting for ALPA's Future
By Rob Wiley, Staff Writer
Air Line Pilot, January 2004, p.24
The progression from local executive council chairman to ALPA executive vice-president to chairman of ALPA’s Education Committee came naturally to Capt. Frank Mayne. To the long-time Delta pilot, it was simply a matter of payback. "My take on all of ALPA’s volunteer work is that somebody came before me and helped make my career really great," he says. "So I want to do my part to make the next generation of pilots’ careers even better."
After long service as Delta’s LEC chairman in San Francisco, a 2-year term as an ALPA executive vice-president, and involvement on various other ALPA boards and committees, Capt. Mayne took over the Education Committee in January 1991 from Capt. Jack Saux, another Delta pilot. Capt. Mayne continued the process of augmenting the talents of Committee members (three official members) with volunteers from across the country and solid support from ALPA’s staff members, particularly the Communications Department.
Having such diverse skills at the Committee’s disposal enables it to work toward its goals: reach out to aviation students and certificated independent pilots; maintain a liaison with aviation colleges and universities to build ties toward the overall goal of an ALPA training academy; and educate and communicate with ALPA members.
"The work of this Committee is designed to reach out to pilots who are someday going to be eligible to become ALPA members," Capt. Mayne says. "Our main thrust is to tell those potential pilots what our union is all about."
From reaction to pro-action
According to Capt. Mayne, ALPA formed the Education Committee in the 1980s as a response to Frank Lorenzo’s assault on the airline labor movement. One story had Lorenzo approaching a Florida college official and promising to take all the seniors there and making them airline pilots. "Fortunately, one of the professors there was wise enough to realize that he was recruiting strikebreakers," Capt. Mayne says. "She called ALPA and said we needed to send someone down there to speak to those kids. We realized then that what we had been doing was reactive and that we needed to be pro-active. So we formed the Education Committee."
The Committee’s focus from the beginning has centered on nonconfrontational activities. The idea was—and is—to help young students make the most informed career decision they can, with the most current and up-to-date information about ALPA available.
When the Committee sets up a booth at an event, the line pilot volunteers staffing it don’t attack airline managements. They do not express grievances or warn potential future pilots about concessionary bargaining. They don’t even extol the importance of being an active member of the labor movement.
"We give out Air Line Pilot and other career information. We tell people that we’re here to answer any questions they might have that will help them in their career choice," Capt. Mayne says. "It’s not a hard sell at all; we don’t say anything like ‘you have to join ALPA or else.’ We simply point out that most airline pilots work in ALPA-represented bargaining units. We tend to stick to the more practical aspects of career choice, such as what they might want to say in an interview or what an airline might want for minimum requirements.
"Then, someday after they get their flying job, when someone from the ALPA Membership Committee asks them to join ALPA, their response will be positive because of the foundation we started building."
The soft approach apparently works. Capt. Mayne says many veteran pilots and ALPA members still keep in touch with him and his Committee members years after taking their advice and joining the airline industry. He recalls a recent ALPA Leadership Conference at which four of the newly elected representatives turned out to have been members of the National Intercollegiate Flying Association (NIFA). "That’s where I met most of them," Capt. Mayne says. "They not only became pilots and joined ALPA, but they also got involved in the day-to-day operations of our union. I can’t ask for a better response to our initial outreach effort."
The process for Capt. Mayne and the other Committee members and volunteers always begins at the grassroots level. Recruiting future pilots—and potential ALPA members—for the airline industry, even in unsettled economic times, is easier than most recruiting efforts because of the profession’s very nature. People fly because they love it. Convincing them to fly for a living isn’t difficult, but it does require some guidance and someone with experience to provide that guidance. In a typical year, the Committee will work at least 12 events, with career days and other university functions falling primarily in the fall and spring and flying events in the summer.
ALPA is a major sponsor of NIFA, made up of 112 U.S. colleges and universities that have flying programs. Member teams field flying teams that compete regionally and nationally, and the Education Committee flies the ALPA flag at all those competitions.
Additionally, Capt. Mayne and his counterpart on ALPA’s Membership Committee, Capt. John Sluys (Alaska), serve on various advisory councils at the university level. Those are good places to gain insights into the concerns of today’s college students—and tomorrow’s pilots.
The Committee’s outreach activities also include air shows, conventions, trade shows, and seminars, plus multiple career days at colleges with aviation programs. These provide crucial platforms from which the Committee can deliver ALPA’s positive message, and all of these events must be staffed by ALPA members. Fortunately, Capt. Mayne can call on more resources than just his three-person committee. "Talking with these young people is really a fun, uplifting experience," Capt. Mayne says. "They are just like sponges; they want this information so badly. Most of them don’t know a professional airline pilot, so this is their chance to meet the real thing."
Working closely with ALPA’s Communications Department in Herndon, Va., Capt. Mayne at the first of the year develops, and posts on ALPA’s website, a list of events for the upcoming year. The Committee has a list of volunteer pilots who have indicated a willingness to participate in one or more events, and each volunteer receives advance notice of the year’s schedule.
ALPA pays volunteers’ expenses for each event they attend, but not flight pay loss. Some volunteers opt for a single event—a great way to visit an alma mater—while others serve at several. Late cancellations, which are expected because of the nature of the volunteer pilots’ work, are covered by close coordination between the Committee and the Communications Department.
"The staff members in Herndon and Washington, D.C., really do a lot of work for us," Capt. Mayne says. "They make sure our displays show up where and when they are supposed to, so all our volunteers have to do is report to the venue and go to work."
While the Committee’s primary goal remains the same—reach out to those young pilots who potentially will become ALPA members—much of today’s message is dictated by the uncertain economy. Remaining positive is not easy when the newspapers are full of discouraging headlines about the aviation industry. That’s especially true when dealing with college students.
"Not only does bad economic news dampen their enthusiasm, but it also makes them worry," Capt. Mayne says. "They ask themselves if a job will be available in the airline industry for them when they graduate. Well, those of us who have been in the industry a while know it will always need pilots. It’s a cyclical business, but the challenge is getting that word out to these young people who may not see it that way.
"Selling patience to a 20-year-old may be the hardest part of our work," Capt. Mayne concludes, "but in the end, I know from personal and professional experience, being an airline pilot is well worth the wait."
After the 1985 ALPA Board of Directors formed the Aviation Community Relations Committee, which was subsequently renamed the Education Committee, ALPA leaders also sought a way for the union to work with the nation’s colleges and universities to ensure that the best and brightest students would join the piloting profession. "The Executive Board even passed a resolution that stated ALPA should try to become the accrediting authority for pilot training in the United States," says ALPA Director of Communications Don Skiados.
Despite that ambitious goal, ALPA did determine that the only national union for U.S. pilots could and should become a vital part of the budding college accreditation process.
ALPA was then deeply involved with the University Aviation Association, which was struggling with the same accreditation problem. While several U.S. universities and colleges provided aviation programs, none was accredited, and no national standards existed for aviation students.
"The UAA formed a committee to establish a nationwide accrediting process," Skiados says, "and the committee eventually became the Council on Aviation Accreditation (CAA). The Council began writing standards that a university or college would have to meet to be accredited by the CAA. ALPA has been an integral part of that process since the Council began."
When the CAA was officially formed Oct. 18, 1988, Skiados was named to its Board of Trustees and served as president, 1998–2000. The Council now accredits aviation programs at 17 universities, colleges, and community colleges, and boasts 80 members divided among three major components of modern aviation: corporate entities, educators, and trade associations.
Its influence extends into curriculum development, and ALPA played a key role in that area, too. "Because of ALPA’s involvement in the accreditation process, part of the core curriculum includes a course on labor/management relations, which is designed to help students understand the working environment in an industry that is 84 percent unionized," Skiados says. "This is a required course for all students participating in a CAA-accredited program.
"From the beginning, the CAA has been an airline- industrywide effort to ensure the future of the piloting profession," Skiados continues. "The Board of Trustees includes representatives from the National Transportation Safety Board, ALPA, the airline industry, manufacturers, and the academic community. This Council’s work is more important today than ever before."