Air Line Pilot, October 2001

President's Forum: Working Together

Duane Woerth, ALPA PresidentThe terrorists who attacked the United States on September 11 also attacked this country’s aviation industry and adversely affected airlines on a global scale. Our jobs and our profession, by virtue of the method the terrorists used, have been placed in extreme jeopardy. All of us will face many difficulties in the coming weeks and months to establish and implement new safety and security procedures while we help our carriers return to flight status and regain public confidence.

ALPA officers, members, and staff are working diligently with officials from U.S. and Canadian airlines, Transport Canada, and the FAA to create meaningful changes in safety and security requirements. In addition, we are cooperating with the FBI investigations at the crash scenes. I was appointed as the labor representative to a U. S. government task force created to develop recommendations for improving aviation safety. The initial recommendations of this task force were due to go to Secretary of Transportation Norman Mineta on October 1.

Our responsibilities as airline pilots for the safety of our passengers and other crewmembers require that we play an important role in the creation of any new security initiative our governments implement. We must guarantee that real improvements are implemented. We cannot tolerate procedures that create an illusion of security for the traveling public but, in fact, do not really make air travel any safer and denigrate the high esteem most passengers hold toward their pilots.

This is a time for all airline pilots to work together to ensure that any rights and benefits we choose to set aside temporarily, so that airlines on the cusp of financial ruin can regain lost momentum, are not abrogated for the long run. We must understand also that all airline pilots are members of our extended family. If our profession is to survive and grow stronger during this difficult transition period, all pilots must recognize who their brothers and sisters are—other pilots. Like any large family, we have our internal arguments. But when someone outside our family tries to take advantage of perceived disunity, we must swiftly pull together to present a solid defense. That must happen right now as our industry goes through its first serious downturn in several years.

After seven or eight years of airline industry prosperity, during which many airlines enjoyed unprecedented hiring, large purchases of new equipment, and unhindered route expansion, we may now face pilot furloughs and carrier contractions. Many current ALPA members have never personally experienced a negative airline-industry cycle. They have heard hangar stories, of course. Older pilots who have had to fly for a laundry list of failed and merged airlines have ways of reminding rookie pilots that the profession has seen leaner years. If the economy continues to decline and the traveling public questions the safety of flight, we may witness a downturn in the next few months as airlines reposition airplanes and passengers seek some other form of transportation.

We have survived reduction cycles before, but only when we had unity. Only when the pilots could rally around their union and put their long-term goals ahead of shortsighted interests and quick-fix targets, did we recover quickly and ultimately stronger than before. I know I can count on you to respond to this crisis in a constructive manner—in unity.

s/Duane E. Woerth