Release #09.003
February 11, 2009

ALPA Calls on Congress to Pass FAA Reauthorization Bill
Legislation Poised to Advance Aviation Safety

WASHINGTON—Capt. John Prater, president of the Air Line Pilots Association, Int’l (ALPA), took airline pilots’ leading safety and policy concerns to Capitol Hill today, as Congress begins deliberations on the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) reauthorization bill.

In testimony before the U.S. House Aviation Subcommittee, Prater pointed to the bill as a critical opportunity to advance long-sought-after improvements in aviation on issues ranging from pilot fatigue to proactive aviation safety reporting programs.

“Airline pilots are flying right up to the FAA regulatory limits for flight and duty time. The current FAA limits are outdated and may lead to unsafe conditions,” said Prater. “ALPA advocates a complete overhaul of the regulations based on science. We support language in the reauthorization bill that directs the FAA to collect new data and use it to reconstruct flight and duty regulations that take into account current airline and aircraft operations.”

Prater stated ALPA’s adamant view that fostering a safe air transportation system requires a foundation of voluntary, non-punitive safety reporting programs. “These programs must be based on an unshakable sense of trust among the participants,” he said. “Programs have been suspended because of misused reports. We ask Congress to strengthen protections around voluntarily supplied safety information against misuse for discipline, FAA sanction, or litigation.”

ALPA pilots have also long advocated modernizing the nation’s airspace. “Modernizing our air transportation system will help return our airlines to profitability,” continued Prater. “It will be a complex, expensive, and long-term endeavor that must be done right the first time.” He stated that all users will benefit from a safe, modern system and all should bear a fair share of the cost.

Provisions in the reauthorization bill to enhance runway safety, to research wake turbulence, icing and other weather impacts on airline operations, and to continue to operate Midway Island airfield as a trans-pacific emergency landing option also drew staunch support from the world’s largest pilots’ union.

ALPA also noted the need for more research into wildlife hazards including bird strikes. The Association has been invited to testify before the U.S. House Aviation Subcommittee on the issue later this month.

“ALPA strongly backs language in the bill affirming that U.S. citizens must control key operational aspects of U.S. airlines,” Prater stated. “This bill does that by identifying fleet composition, route selection, pricing, and labor relations as among the operational elements that the Department of Transportation must ensure U.S. citizens control.”

Prater also identified several top ALPA issues that had yet to be addressed by Congress. “Many all-cargo aircraft currently operate without flight deck doors, a critical layer of safety for pilots who, along with cargo, often fly animal handlers and couriers vetted using only limited ground security procedures,” he said. “Whether all-cargo or passenger, all airline operations must be afforded one standard of safety and security. We call on Congress to ensure that all-cargo aircraft can be equipped with reinforced flight deck doors or an equivalent level of protection.”

“Our industry’s financial health is extremely important to pilots,” concluded Prater. “Large jet fuel price spikes and scarcity pose the greatest threat. ALPA urges Congress to swiftly adopt a national energy policy that will increase jet fuel supply, reduce rampant oil investor speculation, and hold the line on new fuel taxes, charges, or fees.”

Founded in 1931, ALPA is the world’s largest pilots union representing nearly 52,250 pilots at 35 U.S. and Canadian airlines.

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CONTACT: Linda Shotwell, 703/481-4440 or