May 14, 2010 - The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) will convene a three-day “Public Safety Forum on Professionalism in Aviation” beginning Tuesday, May 18, and ALPA representatives will be active in all phases of discussions.
ALPA is participating to show the aviation community the true level of ethics, professionalism, and commitment that airline pilots have to their profession. “Our membership has been the subject of unprecedented scrutiny in the past year, and has come under fire for an extremely small number of high-profile incidents. It’s time for us to remind the industry that aviation in North America is the safest it has ever been, mostly due to the commitment of professional airline pilots,” states ALPA’s president, Capt. John Prater. “Every day tens of thousands of flights operate, carrying more than a million passengers and thousands of tons of freight, safely and without accident or incident. It’s time we received the credit and respect we deserve.”
The NTSB invited ALPA to participate with three panelists during this forum: Capt. John Sluys (ALA), chair of the Professional Development Group; Capt. John Rosenberg (DAL), chair of the Professional Standards Committee; and Capt. Tim Flaherty (DAL), chair of the Air Traffic Services Group.
During this hearing ALPA speakers will highlight:
In the United States and Canada, there are approximately 80,000 passenger and cargo airline pilots. They are the utmost professionals who approach their duties and responsibilities with the safety of their passengers and cargo as their highest priority. ALPA’s Code of Ethics was developed early in ALPA’s history to underscore the absolute need for professional airline pilots to maintain the highest standards.
We have an astonishingly safe air transport system. ALPA takes considerable pride in having been at the forefront of creating the safest mode of transportation in the world’s history.
This forum has been called, in large measure, because significant lapses in professionalism or airmanship are so very rare within our workforce that when they do occur, they become front-page news.
In 2009, airline pilots in the United States and Canada safely transported 767 million passengers and 23 million tons of freight and mail on more than 10 million flights that traveled more than 7 billion miles. Yet two fatal accidents involving U.S. airlines represented a major focus of our safety activity worldwide, because although we have achieved excellence, the goal remains perfection.
A higher standard of education and flight experience is needed for the next generation of airline pilots. It should be hard to become an airline pilot; it is not an entry-level position.
ALPA has a strong professional standards program that helps pilots work through any number of issues with confidential assistance from a peer pilot. The program is a win-win for both the pilot—who is able to resolve problems that could threaten his or her career—and the company, which is able to retain a valuable, highly trained employee.
Captain’s authority is being undermined at some airlines. Chief pilots can put pressure on pilots to accept aircraft with mechanical problems, take flights into serious weather conditions, accept less fuel than prudence dictates, and other threatening measures. ALPA will always support the decision of a captain to exercise his or her authority under the provisions of U.S. or Canadian aviation regulations to ensure the safety and security of each flight.
Accurate, concise communications between pilots and controllers is key to ensuring a common understanding of what is expected by the professionals on each side of the microphone. Demonstrated proficiency in English is a foundation to effective communication. ALPA continues its call for the return of controller-familiarization flights as a means to enhance flight safety.
ALPA representatives will make it clear that professional airline pilots have the continued safety of the aviation system as their goal, and work every day on every flight to ensure that this goal is met. At the same time, we will make it equally clear that airlines and regulators are part of that same process to ensure safety. An environment that fosters professionalism, gives professionals the tools they need, and treats professionals with the respect our members have earned is a vital part of the process to ensure safety.
ALPA will continue to push for standards of conduct for airline managements and for regulatory support for training, professional development, and a work environment that fosters a positive safety culture.