Release #06.044
July 27, 2006

W. Palm Beach, Fla. Pilot Honored by Air Line Pilots Association

WASHINGTON, D.C. --- Enrique “Rick” L. Valdes, a United Airlines captain and resident of W. Palm Beach, Fla., was awarded a 2006 Presidential Citation for his tireless efforts to improve the safety of international aviation through his work in defining English language proficiency standards. This award was presented by the Air Line Pilots Association, International (ALPA) on July 27th during the Association’s annual Air Safety Forum and Awards Banquet.

“Capt. Valdes has spearheaded this effort, pointing out that effectively dealing with irregular operations, incidents, and accidents requires more than just a superficial understanding of English,” said ALPA President Duane E. Woerth. “It necessitates a mastery of the language, if pilots and controllers are to effectively communicate and work together. (Capt. Valdes) has worked tirelessly to achieve his goals and continues to champion this effort for the Association.”

Capt. Valdes officially began his flying career ferrying new Cessnas from Miami to Caracas, Venezuela. He later worked as a flight instructor in Miami while attending Berry College at night. He flew briefly for Lloyd Aereo Boliviano, a Bolivian airline and, in 1989, Capt. Valdes became an FAA air carrier inspector for Air Carrier District Office #32. He spent two years at Ryan Aviation and four years at People Express, before joining United Airlines in 1986. He now flies as a B767 captain.

In addition to several local council positions for the Association, Capt. Valdes has served as the United pilots’ Latin American Coordinator and the chairman of ALPA’s Latin American Air Traffic Advisory Group. Presently, he is the United pilots’ Central Air Safety vice chairman, a member of the United Pilot Dispatcher Communications Group, and a representative to the International Civil Aviation Association, working with the Professional Requirement in English Study Group.

In his presentation of the award, Capt. Woerth noted the irony that Capt. Valdes, a Cuban-born immigrant, came to the U.S. in 1961 speaking only Spanish, and that he now spearheads efforts to define English language proficiency standards for the airline industry.

“Capt. Valdes’ dedication and determination are an example to all of us that we can accomplish anything if we make a commitment and believe in ourselves,” Capt. Woerth added.

Founded in 1931, ALPA celebrates its 75th anniversary this year representing 62,000 pilots at 40 airlines in the U.S. and Canada. Visit the ALPA website at for more information.

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ALPA CONTACT: Jeff Orschel, (703) 481-4440 or