May 14, 2009
Colgan Accident Legacy Must be to Enhance Training and Address Fatigue
WASHINGTON – Facts explored at this week’s National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) Public Hearing on the Colgan Air Flight 3407 accident drew attention to many long-standing safety priorities of the Air Line Pilots Association, Int’l (ALPA).
“This accident was a terrible tragedy and our thoughts are with all those who were affected,” said Capt. John Prater, ALPA’s president, at the conclusion of the hearing. “We must honor them by making our industry even safer. Given the enormous growth in the express airlines and the number of passengers they carry, we can’t rest in our pursuit of one level of safety for all airline operations.”
Pilot fatigue, one of ALPA’s priority issues, was among the topics on the final day of the hearing. Capt. Rory Kay, ALPA’s Executive Air Safety Chairman, testified as an expert witness on the subject. “We must address pilot fatigue in all types of flying from long-haul international to multi-leg domestic,” said Kay following his testimony. “While ALPA recognizes that individual pilots have the responsibility to report for duty fit to fly, we also recognize that those pilots must be given the tools to fulfill that responsibility.”
Kay pointed out that regulators must develop science-based rules covering fatigue and rest; operators must develop schedules consistent with studies on fatigue; pilots must arrive for work fit to fly. Pilots must also be trained in how to best prevent fatigue and combat its effects, he said.
In addition, ALPA has long maintained that pilot training must encompass all aspects of what it means to be a professional airline pilot. Adequate training on how to operate the aircraft safely, particularly in abnormal and potentially hazardous situations, is vital. However, equally important is command training that teaches pilots the sound judgment and leadership skills that they might not have received through previous experience.
“An airline’s corporate culture must be centered on safety and focused on preventing accidents,” said Capt. Paul Rice, ALPA’s first vice-president. “Airline management must foster a safety environment that looks for trends and implements corrective actions long before accidents occur.”
Rice underscored that encouraging nonpunitive employee reporting of safety issues forms the foundation of a ”just culture” within an airline. “Key to this is building an unshakable sense of trust that the information reported by pilots and other employees will be used solely to advance safety.”
“ALPA is pleased that U.S. Senate Aviation Operations, Safety, and Security Subcommittee Chairman Byron Dorgan announced this week that he plans to hold hearings on regional airline safety,” concluded Prater. “We look forward to working with Congress and with all airline industry stakeholders in a relentless pursuit of safety.”
Founded in 1931, ALPA is the world’s largest pilots union, representing nearly 54,000 pilots at 36 airlines in the United States and Canada.
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