Airline Pilots Securing Their Future through ALPA

By ALPA Communications Department Staff
Air Line Pilot,
March 2004, p.32

Cargo Carriers and ALPA History

ALPA members, leaders, and staff have worked hard to fulfill the Association’s mission "to represent, in both specific and general respects, the collective interests of all pilots in commercial aviation." A core principle guiding the Association’s mission is pilot unity, which ALPA believes is fundamental to the long-term viability of the piloting profession and critical to the airline industry’s economic success. "Pilot unity" has been the impetus for many of the Association’s most important initiatives, such as "One Level of Safety," and is a core belief that ALPA’s Board of Directors reaffirmed during its biannual Board of Directors meeting in October 2002 in its "Pilot Unity Resolution."

Today, ALPA’s diverse membership is testament to the Association’s enduring commitment to pilot unity. ALPA represents pilot groups of all types of carriers—mainline, express, charter, and cargo.

Of the 66,000 pilots whom ALPA represents, more than 6,000 are cargo flightcrew members of a number of leading all-cargo carriers in North America. Several other ALPA-represented carriers, such as Northwest Airlines and Ryan International Airlines, have both passenger and cargo operations.

ALPA—The advocate for cargo flightcrew members

Airmail operations dominated the Association’s earliest days and "pilot pushing" was the primary challenge facing the young labor union. Now ALPA is fighting vigorously to have pilots of all-cargo operations included in critical aviation security legislation, and the Association is dedicating considerable resources to critical issues unique to cargo pilots. Some of ALPA’s recent efforts on behalf of cargo flightcrew members include the following:

• ALPA’s President’s Committee for Cargo was established to address issues involving all-cargo operations and cargo security and safety. This Committee brings together the cargo pilots represented by ALPA in a collaborative effort to face the challenges and address the needs of cargo flightcrew members. (See "Committee Corner," page 22.)

• ALPA continues to work with Congress, Parliament, and many government agencies to promote legislation and to carry out programs that strengthen security for cargo airlines and their pilots. Currently, ALPA is coordinating with the U.S. Transportation Security Administration on its plans for including cargo pilots in the Federal Flight Deck Officers program. Also, ALPA is working with the National Transportation Safety Board on its first-ever NTSB Air Cargo Safety Forum (see "Cargo Issues Take Center Stage," page 18).

• Since 1989, ALPA has waged an aggressive campaign to protect U.S. pilots’ jobs and prevent foreign cabotage. Although the new 4-year FAA Reauthorization Bill includes a provision to allow foreign cargo cabotage through Anchorage, Alaska, via a codeshare agreement, ALPA will continue to vigorously oppose this threat to its members’ job security.

The historical perspective

Historically, pilots flying cargo have been part of ALPA’s foundation. Many of the pilot groups who either were founding members or joined ALPA early began as mail carriers for the U.S. government before becoming passenger carriers. ALPA has always had several cargo-only carriers.

Some of those early ALPA pilot groups include the following:

• Slick Airways, Inc., founded in 1946, became the largest freight operator before a failed merger with Flying Tigers in 1954. Slick was forced to suspend service in 1965, and its assets were acquired by Airlift International.

• Riddle Airlines was founded in 1946 as a commercial extension of a wartime ferrying service. In 1963, Riddle became Airlift International, which went into Chapter 11 bankruptcy in 1985 and ceased operations in 1991.

• Flying Tigers was founded in 1945 as National Skyway Freight Corp. The carrier changed its name in 1946. ALPA signed its first contract with Flying Tigers in November 1950. The carrier was sold to Federal Express in 1989.

• Seaboard World Airlines began in 1946 as Seaboard & Western Airlines, a North Atlantic, all-cargo operation. In 1962, the airline was renamed Seaboard World Airlines. In 1980, it merged with Flying Tigers.

In the past several years, ALPA has welcomed a number of all-cargo pilot groups into the ALPA family, and all of the Association’s newest members since 2002 have been cargo flightcrew members. Following are the all-cargo pilot groups currently represented by ALPA:

• DHL (now ASTAR) pilots voted in ALPA in a National Mediation Board representation election in 1991.

• Kelowna Flightcraft cockpit crewmembers joined ALPA in 1996 as a result of the merger of ALPA and the Canadian Air Line Pilots Association.

• Polar flightcrew members voted for ALPA representation in October 1996, raising ALPA’s membership to 45,000 pilots at 39 airlines.

• In April 1999, Atlas flightcrew members voted for ALPA representation. At that time, ALPA represented 53,000 pilots at 52 airlines in the United States and Canada.

• In March 2002, ALPA welcomed the flightcrew members of Gemini as new members.

• June 2002 marked the return of the FedEx flightcrew members to ALPA, when the 4,000-member strong FedEx Pilots Association merged with ALPA.

• January 2004 started off with ALPA’s welcoming its newest pilot group to the ALPA family, as the flightcrew members of Kitty Hawk Aircargo merged their independent union with ALPA.

Air cargo operations are an essential part of maintaining a vibrant global economy, and pilots of all-cargo carriers are a large part of the Association’s goal of pilot unity. ALPA will continue to represent their needs—both those unique to cargo flightcrew members and those that all pilots share.

As the master executive chairmen of ALPA’s cargo pilot groups said in a joint letter to the Kitty Hawk pilots, encouraging them to vote for merging with ALPA, "We are proud to be members of ALPA because we know that ALPA representation has benefited our pilot groups. …ALPA has always survived, learned, and evolved to become better, stronger, larger, and even more influential."