Global Aviation Concerns

By Capt. Dennis Dolan, ALPA First Vice-President 
Air Line Pilot, February 2005, p.8

In my dual role as first vice-president of ALPA and president of the International Federation of Air Line Pilots Associations, I wish to discuss three issues facing airline pilots who are employed outside of North America and that are also important to ALPA members. 

A great deal is at stake in the U.S./EU talks--for both airline pilots and airlines. The rules governing ownership of U.S. airlines could change drastically, allowing foreign interests to take over U.S. legacy airlines ...

The European Union is establishing flight- and duty-time limitations for airline pilots who fall under EU jurisdiction. Legislation was before the Council of Ministers in December 2004. The European pilots, through the European Cockpit Association (ECA), opposed the legislation as a number of the rule changes were clearly a degradation of current limits for pilots of more established countries such as England, France, and the Netherlands. 

It must be recognized, however, that the new regulations would be an improvement for pilots of some of the newer EU member States. 

The Council of Ministers approved the legislation as drafted. The legislation now goes back to the European Parliament for a "second reading" during which only nonsubstantive amendments are accepted. The heart of the dispute between the European pilots and the airline lobbying group, the Association of European Airlines, is the duty period, although there are other areas of contention as well. 

To address these issues, the pilots want a scientific review of the new rules with an eye toward the effects of fatigue on pilots. A lot of scientific data is available on this issue, and the ECA feels that the EU could have examined that before acting on the duty-time legislation. In essence, the EU could have left to the scientists the decision of whether the proposed rules would be acceptable, but the EU was not ready to allow such a review to happen. And yet, they did add language to the legislation that just such a review will have to take place within the next 3 years. Implementing the rule and then reviewing it afterward to determine if it is reliable does not make much sense to me. 

The second issue--ultra long range flying rules (ULR)--is also related to flight-time limitations. ULR issues have arisen with the implementation of flights from Singapore to Los Angeles and New York, which are respectively about 18 and 20+ hour flights-currently, the longest two routes in the world. 

This is a new area in which we have no experience or background upon which to draw regarding the cumulative effects of fatigue on pilots. IFALPA and ALPA participated in a number of symposia before Singapore Air began these routes to try to determine what should be the proper duty- time rules. Once again, airline pilots pledged to live with the scientific recommendations on ULR flying. The final rules for ULR flying are yet to be established. 

Singapore is currently operating these ULR flights with four flightcrew members. The airline, at IFALPA's request, is testing the pilots for fatigue--the flightcrews are wired to electronic fatigue-measuring machines during the long flights to measure the effect of the long range on the sleeping ability of the pilots as well as the effects of fatigue on the flight crews during the long-range flights. A Flight Safety Foundation workshop in May will examine some of these test results. The concerns that airline pilots face in URL flying are crew complement, rest rules, rest facilities, and pilot scheduling. 

The third issue is the U.S./EU negotiations on the liberalization of air traffic rights. These negotiations were put on hold last summer in anticipation of the U.S. presidential election in November 2004, but they will likely start up again early this year. Apparently, the EU position has not changed. It wants a change in the foreign ownership rules for U.S. airlines, the ability to wet-lease aircraft to U.S. carriers, and cabotage rights. How aggressively the U.S. government will hold the line remains to be seen. Before the election, U.S. negotiators repeatedly said no to most of the EU demands, but EU officials appear to be hoping for a different attitude at the table now that the U.S. presidential campaign is settled. 

A great deal is at stake in the U.S./EU talks--for both airline pilots and airlines. The rules governing ownership of U.S. airlines could change drastically, allowing foreign interests to take over U.S. legacy airlines because they are the most financially vulnerable at the moment. Foreign carrier cabotage is a big issue for U.S. pilots--we have consistently opposed changing the restrictions on cabotage, which keep foreign airlines from operating within the United States. 

We will certainly keep you informed about how these international issues progress and what ALPA and IFALPA are doing to protect your interests.