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Checking in with the Pilots

Safety and Security

Safety and Security poll results to guide ALPA policy.

Air Line Pilot, January 2005, p.27

Ask an ALPA member for an opinion, you’ll get one. Ask two, you’ll get two opinions. Ask a few thousand members, you get a clear picture of how pilots view the issues that matter to them.

ALPA’s Engineering and Air Safety Department, working with its pilot committee leaders, recently did just that. The Department commissioned the Wilson Center for Public Research to conduct an internet and telephone poll of ALPA members in October 2004 to learn members’ views regarding several different aspects of aviation safety and security. It is the first in a series of ALPA member polls scheduled to take place through the end of 2005.

A primary motivation for conducting this survey was the fact that ALPA had not polled its members on safety and security issues for some time, and the Association wanted to ensure that its positions were still consistent with its members’ views. The poll served that purpose well. Especially in the case of security-related issues, the results confirmed that the vast majority of its members support ALPA’s positions, policies, and efforts.

Specifically, the poll focused on members’ views on the high-profile issues of cockpit image recorders, flight-time/duty-time regulations, and the Federal Flight Deck Officer (FFDO) program, as well as less-visible subjects, such as safety cultures at airlines and familiarity with the Human Performance Committee’s efforts. A number of issues included in the poll are of great interest not only to pilots, but also to government regulators, public officials, the news media, and the traveling public.

Table 1—The FFDO Program   


A snapshot of some key results …   


Pilots should not be armed without going through FFDO training   


ALPA played useful role in promoting flight deck security   


Pilots should undergo psychological evaluation   


Support ALPA’s approach to FFDO training   


ALPA effective in promoting aviation security   


Interviews were conducted Oct. 3-8, 2004, with randomly selected pilots. The sample was proportionally matched by airline and seat position to the distribution among ALPA’s members. The interviews used a combination of multiple-choice and verbatim comment questions. The sample margin of error is 5 percent.

Federal Flight Deck Officer program

When asked about the armed-pilot (FFDO) program, the vast majority of pilots opposed any pilots being armed without first going through FFDO training, felt strongly that pilots should be required to undergo a psychological evaluation as part of the selection process, and favored ALPA’s approach to FFDO training.

Positive views about the way in which government has implemented the FFDO program were not as strong. Just 55 percent of pilots favored the way the government has implemented the program, with 37 percent opposed and 5 percent neutral.

Pilots were asked what specific improvements they wanted. Most pilots want better support from the airlines to attend FFDO training and to be able to carry the weapon on their person. These were named by more than 7 out of 10 pilots from among a given list of improvements. They were also most named as the single most important improvement wanted (named by 21 percent and 27 percent, respectively). (See Table 2, page 28.)

Just 13 percent of pilots have applied for FFDO training. Of those who have applied, more than 6 out of 10 had been accepted and some of the others were waiting for confirmation of acceptance. Among the 87 percent who have not applied for training, the principal obstacle is the lack of available time (16 percent).

When pilots were asked, in an unprompted format, for their reasons for not applying, 11 percent said they were simply not interested, 10 percent felt that the procedure was too complicated or a hassle, 10 percent were opposed to guns in the cockpit, and 6 percent said it was not applicable internationally.

Of those who were accepted for training, 41 percent said that they had already been trained. As the primary reason for training delays, 13 percent of the pilots volunteered that it was scheduling problems. Others said they could not get the time off (9 percent) to attend training.

A greater percentage of pilots at larger airlines were already trained than at small airlines. More at the smaller airlines had scheduling problems, could not get the time off, or had no class date.

Cockpit video

Fully 93 percent of pilots opposed having cameras in the cockpit. A strong majority felt that the "privacy protections" currently in place for CVR are inadequate. Fully 78 percent were strongly opposed to cameras.

Pilots’ main reasons for opposing cameras were a concern for privacy and a view that cameras were not useful or necessary. Pilots who were neutral were concerned about their use, and those in favor said they would help in accident investigations.

Opposition was strong, even with assurances that a pilot’s head or shoulders would not be shown. Fully 83 percent still opposed cockpit cameras even with that provision. Demographic differences were little except in degree of intensity of response. Most pilots (69 percent) feel that the current privacy protections are inadequate, with 28 percent trusting the provisions, and 2 percent neutral.

Table 2--Fixing FFDO Program   




Single Most Important

Allow FFDOs to carry weapon on person   



Better support from airlines to attend training   



Allow FFDOs to be armed on international flights   



Better communication between FFDO and the TSA   



Better management and support for FFDOs   



More training sites   



Issue badges to FFDOs   



Improve requalification training   



Enhance oversight of application process   



Flight-time/duty-time provisions

Pilots were asked what specific problems they had experienced in the past 30 days with flight and duty regulations. The most common, unprompted responses involved fatigue (named by 9 percent), long duty days (5 percent), or rest issues (8 percent). Most pilots (64 percent) feel that the current regulations for preventing fatigue are not effective. But 100 percent of the cargo pilots surveyed expressed that view.

Reducing duty time and changing minimum rest rules were the most common suggestions pilots had to improve existing regulations that govern flight- and duty-time limits and rest requirements. Pilots were also given an opportunity to recommend specific changes they would make to the existing regulations that govern flight- and duty-time limits and rest requirements. The most common suggestions were to reduce duty time (volunteered by 23 percent), followed by changing minimum rest rules (16 percent) and the length of the duty day (6 percent).

Security effectiveness

The survey queried respondents on their views about the effectiveness of ALPA in promoting aviation security. The vast majority (89 percent) of pilots surveyed indicated that ALPA had been effective, with 37 percent rating ALPA’s efforts as extremely or very effective.

A related question asked whether ALPA and a list of other organizations had played an especially useful role in promoting flightdeck security. Once again, 89 percent of those pilots surveyed credited ALPA with playing such a role, which was a greater percentage by far than for any other government agency or industry organization named, specifically (by order of ranking), the Federal Air Marshal Service, the Allied Pilots Association, the Department of Homeland Security, the Airline Pilots Security Alliance, the FAA, the Department of Transportation, the Transportation Security Administration, the Coalition of Airline Pilots Associations, and the Teamsters Union.

Safety culture

Pilots generally gave high marks to the safety culture at their individual airlines (average 3.8 out of 5, with 5 meaning excellent). Most pilots also feel that the Aviation Safety Action Program has improved safety and procedures to at least some extent. Of the pilots surveyed, 81 percent also feel that pilots are likely to make an ASAP report regarding an incident in which they are involved--about one in five was certain to make a report, but only 14 percent were not likely to make a report, and 5 percent were unsure.

Human Performance Committee

The survey revealed that 28 percent of pilots had used ALPA Human Performance Committee services. Most used was Aeromedical--21 percent had used it; 9 percent had used Professional Standards, 3 percent used Pilot Assistance, and 2 percent used Critical Incident Response. A greater percentage of second officers had not used any services in the past 12 months compared to other seat positions.

The Wilson Center report on this poll is posted on, in the Preflight area (left navigation).