February 26, 2010
ALPA: Ill-Conceived Cockpit Monitoring
Legislation Threatens Safety
World’s largest nongovernmental aviation safety organization blasts attempt by Sen. Jim DeMint to misuse cockpit voice recorder
WASHINGTON – The Air Line Pilots Association, Int’l (ALPA) stands in adamant opposition to an ill-conceived proposal by Sen. Jim DeMint to use cockpit voice recorder and flight data recorder information for discipline, rather than as it was intended, because the proposal poses a serious risk to aviation safety.
“ALPA adamantly opposes this misguided legislation that seeks to use cockpit voice recorder and flight data recorder information to punish individual pilots, rather than to promote and support the proactive safety culture that our industry needs to protect our passengers, crews, and cargo,” said Capt. John Prater, ALPA’s president. “The DeMint proposal will threaten aviation safety, compromise the accident investigation process, and squander financial resources that could make proven aviation safety programs even more effective. We will use every tool at our disposal to prevent this from becoming law.”
Every airline flight is unique due to weather, equipment, and other operational factors. Pilots are expected to work as a team, communicate effectively, and supplement one another’s skills and experience to continuously evaluate and adapt to the changing operational environment of each individual flight.
The chilling effect of having conversations and flight data monitored and evaluated out of context for possible disciplinary action by corporate managers and others who may have motivations other than safety would be substantial. This irresponsible proposal would suppress the flow of information and valuable safety information would be lost.
“In the case of the voice recording, having your every word recorded in the workplace with the possibility that it could be taken out of context and used for disciplinary action would cause any employee to hesitate to speak at all,” continued Prater. “Airline pilots operate multi-million-dollar equipment in extremely complex environments and are responsible for the safety of passengers, crews, and cargo. Do we want pilots to feel distracted before speaking by the need to consider how their words might be interpreted or intimidated about sharing information on the flight deck? If the goal is advancing aviation safety, the answer must be ‘no.’”
The airline industry and the federal government have made great strides in improving aviation safety over the past decades. Some of the greatest benefits have been achieved through the implementation of nonpunitive, proactive safety reporting programs such as Flight Operations Quality Assurance (FOQA) programs and Aviation Safety Action Programs (ASAP).
The information extracted from these programs has been invaluable because such proactive programs encourage individuals to report safety issues that airlines and government agencies would otherwise never know about. These “sole source” reports constitute approximately 90 percent of all reports received. By threatening discipline and punishment, this legislation puts these programs and sole-source reports in jeopardy, along with the safety of the traveling public.
“The DeMint proposal will send our industry back in time with regard to ensuring our air transportation system leads the world in safety,” concluded Prater. “ALPA urges the Senate to reject this ill-conceived notion and instead promote the aviation safety reporting programs that have proven time and again to contribute to making our industry as safe as possible for the traveling public.”
Founded in 1931, ALPA is the world’s largest pilot union, representing more than 53,000 pilots at 37 airlines in the United States and Canada. Visit the ALPA website at www.alpa.org.
CONTACT: Linda Shotwell, 703/481-4440 or firstname.lastname@example.org