September 23, 2009
ALPA President Calls on Congress to Improve
Association Issues “Producing a Professional Airline Pilot” White Paper
WASHINGTON – Capt. John Prater, president of the Air Line Pilots Association, Int’l (ALPA), testified [oral | written] before the U.S. House Aviation Subcommittee today to describe how the current economic environment compromises airline safety and called on Congress to enhance pilot screening, training, and mentoring.
“Code-share and fee-for-departure agreements mean that mainline carriers exert enormous pressure on regional airlines to provide their flight operations as cheaply as possible,” Prater stated. “To win this ‘race to the bottom,’ they replace experienced pilots with low-experience pilots who fly for low-paying operators marketed under the mainline brand.”
In his testimony, Prater highlighted ALPA’s participation in the FAA’s Call to Action on Pilot Training and Aviation Safety, noting that nearly 70 ALPA pilots participated in the 12 events.
“Based on our extensive participation, we feel the Call to Action meetings identified the best—and certainly some of the worst—practices in our industry. But what has changed?” Prater asked. “The action we believe to be absolutely essential from the regulated parties and the agency was noticeably absent.”
ALPA’s president pointed to onerous sick leave and fatigue policies that continue to exist at some of the regional airlines. “Despite hearings earlier this year substantiating this egregious behavior, our members continue to present evidence that some of these companies haven’t changed,” said Prater. “They continue to punish pilots who call in too sick or too fatigued to fly.” Prater explained that mainline management often refuses to intervene, despite the fact that these other airlines carry their passengers.
Prater illustrated ALPA’s commitment to assist the industry in recognizing the serious issues raised by the Call to Action meetings. He pointed to enhanced efforts to work with management to do more to integrate ALPA’s Code of Ethics, adopted in 1956, into both initial and recurrent training. In addition, Prater discussed the importance of ALPA’s Professional Standards Committees currently in place at each of its pilot groups, and the fact that many managements still refuse to allow their pilots to participate in ALPA’s professional standards and safety efforts.
A new white paper titled “Producing a Professional Airline Pilot,” issued by the Association today, details ALPA’s perspectives on actions needed to enhance pilot candidate screening, hiring, training, and mentoring.
“Safety requires the investment of both time and money,” concluded Prater. “The ‘race to the bottom’ currently taking place in the airline industry fails to deliver the safest possible service for passengers, crews, and cargo across the network. We urge Congress to act quickly to pass proposed legislation that would address the issues brought out in the FAA’s Call to Action meetings.”
Prater urged Congress to act swiftly to pass the “Airline Safety and Pilot Training Improvement Act of 2009” (H.R.3371). If enacted, the legislation will make profound improvements in the areas of pilot screening, training, and mentoring, and do more to protect airline passengers, crews, and cargo.
Founded in 1931, ALPA is the world’s largest pilots union, representing nearly 53,500 pilots at 36 airlines in the United States and Canada.
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