June 17, 2009
ALPA Testifies Before U.S. Senate on Regional Airline Safety
WASHINGTON – Capt. John Prater, president of the Air Line Pilots Association, Int’l (ALPA), brought airline pilots’ views on regional airline safety to Capitol Hill today in testimony [written/oral] before the U.S. Senate Subcommittee on Aviation Operations, Safety, and Security.
“The best safety feature of any airplane is a well-trained, well-rested, highly motivated pilot,” said Prater before the subcommittee. “A strong safety culture must be instilled and consistently reinforced from the highest levels within an airline and among its code-share partners.”
In his testimony, Prater pointed to the current code-share arrangements with which major airlines use regional airlines to connect many U.S. cities to their international hubs. In these agreements, major airlines control ticket pricing and schedules, and they regularly move flying among their regional partners based on cost. Because regional airlines must be extremely cost-competitive to garner business from the major carriers, reducing training as a cost-saving measure can easily result in gaps in a new pilot’s knowledge. Carriers must view training as an investment that pays dividends over time, not a cost to be kept to the bare legal minimum.
ALPA presented a series of recommendations in the areas of pilot screening and hiring standards, training, and mentoring that included the Federal Aviation Administration, the airlines, and labor working together to:
Develop more stringent academic requirements to obtain commercial and airline transport pilot certificates.
Create more rigorous ground school programs and testing evaluation for pilots who want to fly for the airlines.
Establish screening processes to ensure that new-hire pilot candidates are well suited to develop the abilities, airmanship, professionalism, and performance expected of an airline pilot.
Tailor pilot training to an individual’s education and experience.
Provide specific command and leadership training for new captains.
Implement mentoring programs for both captains and first officers to help them apply their knowledge and skills to line operations.
Address pilot fatigue for all types of flying.
Foster continued growth of safety data collection and analysis programs such as the Flight Operations Quality Assurance Program (FOQA) and the Aviation Safety Action Program (ASAP) by strengthening protections to ensure that the data is used for safety purposes only.
On June 15, ALPA participated in the FAA’s “Call to Action” summit, where many of these issues were discussed. While the meeting was a critical first step, Prater explained that ALPA encourages the FAA to take a “more structured approach” in working with the airlines and labor to establish an agreed-to implementation plan for all parties to adopt.
“ALPA pilots perform their jobs with extraordinary professionalism and safety each and every day,” concluded Prater. “At the same time, we cannot rest in our pursuit of safety, regardless of whether the airline is regional, mainline, or cargo. ALPA pilots stand ready to work together with the regulators, the airlines, and the industry to make sure that the encouraging commitments made this week become decisive action for enhanced safety in the future.”
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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