May 14, 2009
ALPA Urges Congress to Pass FAA Reauthorization Bill
WASHINGTON—Capt. John Prater, president of the Air Line Pilots Association, Int’l (ALPA), took airline pilots’ safety and policy concerns to Capitol Hill this week, as Congress continues deliberations on the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) reauthorization bill.
In testimony before the U.S. Senate Aviation Operations, Safety, and Security Subcommittee on Wednesday, Prater cited the bill as a critical opportunity to advance safety on issues ranging from pilot fatigue to proactive aviation safety reporting programs.
“Because of the airlines’ difficult economic environment, airline pilots are now 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 The current FAA limits are outdated and may lead to unsafe conditions,” said Prater.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 and Wake Island airfields as trans-pacific emergency landing options also drew staunch support from the world’s largest pilots’ union.
“ALPA strongly calls for the inclusion of language affirming that U.S. citizens must control key operational aspects of U.S. airlines,” Prater stated. “ALPA supports clarifying that fleet composition, route selection, pricing, and labor relations are among the operational elements that the Department of Transportation must ensure that 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 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 are equipped with reinforced flight deck doors or an equivalent level of protection.”
“Our industry’s financial health is extremely important to pilots,” said 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.”
“We were pleased that Subcommittee Chairman Byron Dorgan announced plans to hold a hearing on safety in the regional airline industry,” concluded Prater. “ALPA stands ready to work with the subcommittee and the full Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee on this important issue.”
Founded in 1931, ALPA is the world’s largest pilots union representing nearly 54,000 pilots at 36 U.S. and Canadian airlines.
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