ALPA Responds to LGA Accident

January 16, 2009 - The US Airways accident in New York has dominated the news over the last few days. From the preliminary accounts it appears this crew, under the command of former long-time ALPA Safety Representative Capt. Chesley B. “Sully” Sullenberger and First Officer Jeff Skiles, did an extraordinary job in landing their aircraft in the water and in safely evacuating every passenger on board. It will be a few days or weeks before we know the direction of the investigation but we know at this point that the professionalism of the crew has been universally praised and how fortunate everyone is that there were no fatalities.

Although the pilots at US Airways are now represented by an independent union, the safety issues highlighted by this accident have implications for all of us. ALPA continues to emphasize the value of having well-trained professional men and women in the cockpits and cabins of commercial aircraft to ensure the safety of our passengers and customers. Our ALPA safety team will remain active during the course of this investigation. We will continue our liaison efforts with NTSB and FAA to ensure relevant ALPA safety issues are known and to ensure we have the most current information on the progress of the investigation.

This accident took place one day after USA Today ran a front page news story regarding the new record for airline safety. The two-year safety record was not tarnished by the accident as no fatalities resulted from the ditching, but the events exposed an omission in the newspaper’s article.

ALPA pilot Capt. Kevin J. Cameron (Piedmont) said it best in his well-articulated letter to the editor that ran in the January 15 edition of USA Today:

“As an airline pilot since 2000, I, too, am thankful for the outstanding safety record of our airlines in the past two years. But USA Today’s article failed to give credit where credit is due. The article cited government requirements, technology improvements and more reliable aircraft as helping to reduce accidents. In my humble opinion, these have helped, but they pale compared with the security of having competent, experienced and professional pilots in the cockpit. … The true credit for this extraordinary safety record goes to the experience, professionalism and good common sense of my fellow airline pilots. To them, safety is not a mere catchphrase but underlines every aspect of how they manage their cockpits.”