A Global Voice for Airline Pilots

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

Often when I speak to groups of airline pilots about my role as President of the International Federation of Air Line Pilots Associations, someone questions me about what IFALPA’s role in international aviation means to the average line pilot. IFALPA is the global voice for all airline pilots and represents pilot unions; it has more than 100,000 members from 95 countries.

Just as ALPA is the voice and protector of airline pilots in the United States and Canada, IFALPA plays that role on a global scale. 

The idea for IFALPA germinated in meetings of the three unions for airline pilots in Britain, Canada, and the United States after World War II. The Federation was created during a conference in London in 1948, called to create a formal means to interact with the International Civil Aviation Organization, a newly formed United Nations body. Airline pilots were convinced that their unique perspective of flying the line would be of great importance in the creation and adaptation of ICAO standards and recommendations.

After 57 years of IFALPA participation in ICAO, I can safely say that every part of every ICAO Operating Specification has had some degree of influence from the experience line pilots bring to the table. We bring reality and balance to what can otherwise be an intense political and economic process of drafting aviation operating procedures for the entire world. IFALPA and the International Air Transport Association are the only organizations that have been granted permanent observer status to ICAO’s Air Navigation Commission. This involvement directly and indirectly affects every line pilot. When an ICAO procedural change does or does not occur, IFALPA is there to ensure that aviation safety is maintained or enhanced. 

And when an airline accident or incident occurs, anywhere in the world, IFALPA ensures that the accident investigation expertise of line pilots is part of the investigation team and that the surviving pilots are properly represented and protected. In addition, IFALPA’s Accident Analysis Committee sponsors an accident investigation course for line pilots, regulatory authorities, and airline management aimed at increasing awareness of how and why line pilots play a vital role in the aviation safety process.
Cooperation among member unions in times of need or crisis is an invaluable benefit of IFALPA membership. For example, IFALPA teams have been called upon to help flight crews who faced criminal prosecution as a result of an airline accident. IFALPA teams have also provided incident and accident specialists and provided other onsite assistance at a moment’s notice. Although IFALPA’s efforts have traditionally been directed more toward the technical and operational side of the aviation industry, in recent years the Federation has provided assistance for member unions that require additional representation, financial analysis, and communications expertise. 
Following are some of the highlights of IFALPA achievements:

In short, just as ALPA is the voice and protector of airline pilots in the United States and Canada, IFALPA plays that role on a global scale.