Keynote Address to 45th ALPA Air Safety
presented by ALPA President Duane E. Woerth
July 21, 1999
Hyatt Regency Washington on Capitol Hill
Good evening, ladies and gentlemen.
I want to welcome you to ALPA's annual Air Safety Awards banquet.
This event allows us to recognize – to applaud – all of your heroic efforts to improve air safety, and particularly to spotlight two flight crews who went way beyond the call of duty, and successfully landed their aircraft after surviving traumatic, but distinctly different, emergency situations in the air.
This banquet also is a time to thank all of the Association’s safety volunteers – the lifeblood of ALPA – but to officially recognize the efforts of six remarkable pilots.
One Captain from Alaska Airlines, Dave Smith, is receiving ALPA’s highest safety award to honor his many years of outstanding service and dedication to advancing ALPA’s safety goals.
Another of the honorees, retired Delta Captain Victor Hewes, spent 50 years working with ALPA’s safety structure … almost a lifetime dedicated to safety.
I would like to thank all of the 1999 award recipients for your hard work – for your unselfish devotion – to enhance air safety.
You all have truly made a difference and I hope you inspire others to follow in your footsteps.
Now, those of you who have attended these awards banquets before know that a guest speaker of distinction …an individual outside of ALPA …usually gives the keynote address. I appreciate your indulging me in this departure from custom.
I asked to address you this evening so I could speak about ALPA’s recent, significant accomplishments in the air safety arena, and to deliver a message about our new safety structure. As Captain McCarthy mentioned in his remarks to you yesterday, we are revising – improving – this structure to allow it to better serve our pilots and the interests of safety in the years ahead.
The individual pilot groups – through their central air safety chairman – will now play a much larger role in setting ALPA’s safety agenda than in the past.
A greater level of cooperation between staff and the pilots also will be stressed. It is my firm belief that this increased emphasis on teamwork will allow ALPA to "play to win" to achieve our goals in the safety arena.
Take ALPA’s LAHSO campaign, for example. Without the cooperation between both the Association’s air safety structure and the political structure, our historic agreement with the FAA and ATA simply would not have been possible.
ALPA’s strength comes from within, and to achieve our safety goals we must use all available resources … our staff experts and our pilot volunteers.
We must view these resources as a team, which requires involvement by all to be effective.
This is a brand new way of looking at our internal safety structure, but times are changing and we must adapt to remain powerful and ahead of the curve.
The ability to look ahead to the future … to be proactive … to adapt to change has always been one of ALPA’s strengths. It’s allowed us to deal effectively with an ever-evolving industry.
As aviation continues to evolve, so do ALPA’s safety priorities. But one problem has resurfaced and will undoubtedly get worse before it gets better – insidious pilot pushing.
And, as you well know, pilot pushing was the main reason why the Association was founded almost seven decades ago.
Pilot pushing at the end of 1999 is different from the pilot pushing Dave Behncke testified to Congress about in the 30s.
As you know, Behncke was fired by Northwest for refusing to fly an airplane that had performed aerobatics.
Pilots were randomly terminated or at least demoted for refusing to fly broken airplanes – terminated for refusing to fly in dangerous weather conditions. While these forms of pilot pushing over issues of broken airplanes and bad weather have not been eliminated, they have been curtailed to a large degree.
There are many reasons for this. But at the risk of oversimplification; first, as compared to aircraft flown by ALPA's founders, today's aircraft are exponentially more reliable.
How many of you have read Scott Berg's biography of Lindbergh? In the middle of the book is a photograph of Lindbergh beside the smoking wreckage of the 2nd aircraft he had crashed in less than 30 days on the St. Louis to Chicago mail run due to mechanical failure.
This was a year before he became famous at the age of 25 for crossing the Atlantic.
It has been said, if we had the same accident rate per flying hours as in the time of Lindbergh, we would be losing dozens of aircraft – per day.
Secondly, the broken airplane issue has been reduced because ALPA has successfully assisted the government in setting federal aircraft maintenance and operating standards as a matter of federal law that was non-existent then.
And while weather is a factor in many accidents even today, it is usually the result of inadequate weather reporting to the pilot rather than management demanding a pilot deliberately fly into weather against his better judgment.
Incidentally, Captain McCarthy will be testifying before Congress tomorrow on this problem of inadequate weather information and the effect of inclement weather conditions on airline operations. Our Communications Department has been doing a fantastic job of using the media to inform the public of what is frankly an unbelievable fact. The fact is that, many passengers with a PC can plug that PC into the phone at his seat and get better and more up-to-date weather than can the pilots in their brand new $150 million dollar jets. That's preposterous. We are going to change that.
The ALPA safety team working with the ALPA political team is going to change that.
As we near the end of the 20th century, pilot pushing is now overwhelmingly focused on an issue that has remained constant over 70 years – pilot fatigue and it is getting worse – although more insidious. Why is that?
First of all, the aircraft reliability, durability and range has far outstripped the human body's ability to adjust or keep pace. Aircraft utilization, productivity, -- the human body (i.e. the pilot) is now the limiting factor. Technology and computer schedule optimizers, constantly run into a wall that limits profits – pilot fatigue and pilot contracted work rules and to a lesser degree federal flight time and duty time rules.
Why did I use the word insidious earlier? Because today pilot pushing has more style, more finesse – more cold-blooded, computer driven efficiency.
As every pilot in this room knows, schedules are routinely built by computers right up to the precise minute of the contractual limits or even the FARs.
Especially in the regional carriers reduced rest provisions which were intended to be an emergency procedure are routinely used as standard operating procedures.
Then what happens? The perfectly built computerized, digitalized and optimized schedule runs into the real world of weather delays, mechanical delays, and the ever popular – ATC delays.
The simple truth is that before your day even starts – you know with absolute certainty you should cancel the last leg because you will undoubtedly exceed your safe and reasonable duty limits. But wait! You know the rest of the story, don't you?
The last leg magically is scheduled to go to your hub, maybe it is your home as well. In any event, what is a good, loyal, customer service oriented pilot like you going to do to yourself and all these paying passengers who have other competitive choices and who have discovered that they have passenger rights not to be inconvenienced ... What are you going to do? Shut down this trip in "No Place," North Dakota?
Managements don't usually threaten to fire you today, they just let the pressure build and hope you'll do the "right thing" by the customer.
Well, as your president, I hope you will soon be required by federal regulations to do the right by the customer too. I hope that new, realistic, flight and duty time rules require you to shut that trip down in No Place, North Dakota, to ensure that those passengers get the ultimate Bill of Rights and the right is to the safest possible flight that includes a fully functioning flight crew that is not fatigued by any sensible and scientific standards. Period!
Actually, of course, shutting down the trip is not our first choice. Our first choice is a realistic schedule that is constructed to allow for greater delays and has sufficient safeguards to allow operation of the flight safely. Contracts can't guarantee this – only an adequate, realistic federal flight time and duty time regulation can ensure that every pilot – major airline, regional airline, union and non-union alike – can put an end to this last vestige of insidious pilot pushing.
Administrator Garvey has taken a huge first step by announcing her intention to enforce the long dormant reserve rest rule, and we are pushing to get the complete NPRM out and, in fact, I will testify before Congress on August 3 on the subject of pilot fatigue.
Tonight in this audience, are ALPA's finest aviation safety experts. Your technical expertise is only exceeded by the extraordinary number of technical issues you have mastered.
This evening, I deliberately did not attempt to list or mention in passing, the literally hundreds of projects and areas of specialization you have divided yourself into within our safety structure.
I chose to talk about fatigue because it is on special evenings like this, when we need to recommit ourselves to our union's motto "Schedule with Safety."
To get back to our roots and remember why pilots from many airlines formed one union – to remove safety from the competitive equation.
Yes, it is on special evenings like this when we get to reconnect with our aviation ancestors, who had the courage to make aviation safe.
It is evenings like this we get to understand the legacy that they left us – and more importantly to pledge ourselves to a safer future that we, as airline pilots, are ultimately responsible for.
Before we begin the formal awards ceremony for this evening's honorees, would all prior Air Safety Awards recipients in the audience please stand and be recognized,
Vic Hewes: don’t sit down just yet, please come and join me on the stage.
Vic, on behalf of the Air Line Pilots Association, I would like to present you with a special award for your 50 years of service to improve aviation safety.
We thank you for your unbelievable dedication to aviation safety, for your tireless activism, and for being a true example of the ultimate air safety volunteer and advocate. Your work has touched the lives of thousands and thousands of people across the globe.
You are the perfect example of the fact that one person can make a difference.
Because of your work to improve airport standards and certification … for your efforts to advance firefighting and rescue efforts at airports … many passengers who survived an accident on or near an airport have lived to tell the tale.
Now, you have been honored with multiple awards from multiple organizations … really far too many to mention, and are a 1961 ALPA Air Safety Award recipient.
I hope that this award will sit on your bookshelf along with the others … a constant reminder that you are appreciated for all that you did and that you are an inspiration to all of us at ALPA.
I would now like to use this segue, to take us into the formal awards portion of this evening. There are many awards to be presented this evening to many well-deserving individuals, but I promise to keep my comments brief, but meaningful.
As tradition dictates, following the presentation of awards, I’ll ask the winners to join me for photographs.
Our first set of awards is for Superior Airmanship, and tonight we’re honoring crews from Delta and DHL.
At this time, I’d like to invite Captain Bruce Harris, First Officer Frank Hebner, Second Officer Mark Jansky and Line Check Second Officer Paul Gruber to the stage …
On January 8 of last year, these gentlemen were the flight crew of Delta flight 1783 from Houston to DFW. After takeoff on climb-through 6000 feet, the aircraft
struck a flock of snow geese … birds of the size and weight of your average sports utility vehicle.
The resulting damage to the aircraft was extensive.
The crew found themselves in an airplane that was not only vibrating intensely, but had lost all power in one of its three engines and suffered significant damage to a second engine.
First Officer Hebner’s cockpit instruments also had failed and the noise in the cockpit was deafening.
The situation was indeed grim.
However, the crew worked as a team to return the crippled 727 back to Houston. First Officer Hebner flew using Captain Harris’ instruments – using the "cross cockpit" technique – while Second Officer Jansky and Line Check Second Officer Gruber worked with Captain Harris to analyze the situation and perform the appropriate emergency procedures.
They declared an emergency, and informed passengers of their situation. Then, with Captain Harris taking the controls on the aircraft’s final approach, flight 1783 landed safely … without any injuries.
Post-flight, it was confirmed that bird strikes extensively damaged the aircraft: destroying the radome and the left and center engine; and badly damaging the right wing and other parts of the airplane.
The Delta MEC nominated the crew for their "exceptional airmanship" and their "adroit use of crew resource management."
I, personally, would like to commend each for you for your superior teamwork and trust in each other to get the job done …which alone saved you and your passengers from disaster.
Captain Harris, First Officer Hebner, Second Officer Jansky and Line Check Second Officer Gruber, I’m delighted to present you with ALPA’s Superior Airmanship Award.
Congratulations for a job well done.
Next, we will be honoring Captain Arthur Stark, First Officer Matthew Rubin and Second Officer John Backhus of DHL. I’d like to ask you three to join me on the stage at this time.
Almost a year ago – on August 31, 1998 – these pilots formed the flight crew of DHL flight 1165 – a Boeing 727-200 – from New York City to Cincinnati. Shortly after liftoff from JFK, the center engine failed. It was later found that a faulty fuel pump caused the engine failure.
Captain Stark and his crew assessed the situation, followed proper emergency procedures and decided to return to JFK. Like "Murphy’s Law" would dictate, the crew was forced to perform a two-engine go-around because a Boeing 747 was on the designated runway. I thought this stunt was for simulator check rides only!
Following a second approach, after First Officer Rubin accomplished a smooth landing, the right main landing gear departed from its trunion mounts and the right wing dipped to the runway. Captain Stark managed to control the rollout until wing friction overcame the nosewheel, brake and rudder steering forces, and the B-727 slowed to the point where it slid off the runway.
The crew, after completing the emergency evacuation checklists, evacuated the aircraft via the cockpit window escape route.
No one was injured.
This was DHL’s first major aircraft accident. After investigating the accident, the NTSB and the FAA determined that Captain Stark and his crew handled the situation completely "by the book," reflecting their training and supreme skill.
Art, Matt and John, I am pleased to present you with the Superior Airmanship Award. Your professionalism, your airmanship and quick thinking are an example to us all.
Next we come to our Presidential Citations for Outstanding Service in Air Safety. ALPA has been presenting these awards since 1981 to individuals or groups whose work on safety has helped to forward the Association’s goals in an extraordinary manner.
We have four citations to present tonight, and I will do so alphabetically not to harm anyone’s ego – as all honorees are equally important and equally honored.
First, could Bob Aaron join me on the stage? Now, I’ve known Bob for quite a while – since the late 1980s.
Bob first began his ALPA volunteer safety work in 1991 as the NWA Boston air safety committee chairman and as an accident investigator. He took over chairmanship of the NWA pilot group’s Technical Operations Committee in 1995, and joined the ALPA Master Minimum Equipment List – or MMEL – Committee the following year.
Today, Bob is chairman of this vitally important committee. In this role, he coordinates ALPA’s participation in Flight Operations Evaluation Boards, which determine changes to the MMEL, directly affecting the safe operation of our aircraft.
At numerous MMEL meetings – and under Bob’s superior leadership – ALPA has worked with various industry associations in the U.S. and Canada, member airlines, FAA and airline manufacturers on several important MMEL issues like: proposed relief for twin-engine aircraft with inoperative fuel quantity systems, inoperative autopilots, and establishing cargo smoke detection and fire suppression relief limits.
Bob actually was one of ALPA’s representatives at the Joint Safety Review meeting on MMEL in New Orleans – along with this year’s Air Safety Award recipient, Captain Dave Smith – in the mid 1990s. This meeting was a direct result of the Aviation Safety Summit, convened by former Transportation Secretary Frederico Peña in January 1995.
I could go on and on about Bob’s past accomplishments and his work to further ALPA’s air safety goals … he was ALPA’s accident coordinator during the NTSB’s investigation of the NWA Flight 18 incident at Narita, Japan, in March 1994 …chairman of the NWA Deicing Committee from 1992-96 …but I promised that the awards presentations would be brief …
So, I’ll stop and present this Presidential Citation to an old friend … Bob Aaron.
Next, I would like to invite United Airlines Captain William Brashear to the stage.
Now, I consider Bill to be a consummate volunteer. One who has given his time and his energy – for more than 30 years – to improve ALPA’s safety structure and our political trade union structure as well.
Besides his work to improve and promote air safety, which I will touch on in a moment, Bill also served as the vice chairman of the United Negotiating Committee in 1981, and as the chairman of that committee during the negotiations and difficult strike of 1985.
He also was the vice chairman of UAL Council 52 for two terms from 1968 to 1970 and from 1976 to 1978.
In between and during and after this other volunteer work, Bill managed to squeeze in some time for air safety … and we are all the better for it.
For the past eight years, he has been involved in all of ALPA’s Flight Operations Quality Assurance program – or FOQA – activities. These began with his appointment as chairman of the Association’s Digital Flight Data Recorder Monitoring Committee, created by ALPA’s Board of Directors and assigned to the President’s Office.
The task of this committee was to develop ALPA’s FOQA policy. After this was completed, the committee was assigned to ALPA’s air safety structure to implement the policy.
With the formation of the Operations Committee in the safety structure, Bill’s project – under that committee – provided direct support to the pilot groups that chose to implement FOQA programs. So far, we have such programs either implemented or being implemented at United, US Airways, Alaska, Delta and Northwest.
Whenever a FOQA situation is identified, Bill is known as the first to step up to the plate and volunteer to communicate with his fellow pilots and the ALPA safety structure, to develop a realistic solution to the problem.
For the past several years, he has been diligently working …with infinite patience …to develop a self-disclosure program for UAL pilots.
Today, Bill and UAL’s Safety Department have developed the comprehensive framework for this project, which could be approved in the very near future.
Before I hand the award over to the man standing beside me, I would like to quote from the words of United MEC Chairman Mike Glawe: "[Bill Brashear] is a pilot who every day gives unselfishly to make his profession better and whose leadership in safety will have a lasting legacy far beyond his years at United."
Bill, I am pleased to present you with an ALPA Presidential Citation.
Now, could Captain Alan Campbell of Delta Airlines please come and join me on the stage?
Alan is being honored this evening for his years of tireless advocacy for critical incident response assistance for pilots. In fact, he identified the need to create a Critical Incident Stress Debriefing Team for the Delta pilot group.
After this program was up and running, Alan turned his attention and energy to ALPA’s overall safety goals. He was a lead force in developing the procedures for an Association-wide Critical Incident Response Program, or CIRP.
Without the hard work and unflagging support of Alan Campbell, this critical program would not exist today.
ALPA’s Executive Board directed the CIRP to be put in effect in 1994. At this time, Alan took the lead role in developing the training and related educational components of the program. He also – and importantly – remains extremely active in providing peer support … key to the CIRP’s success. Alan has provided critical incident response assistance after a number of aircraft accidents at Delta – and at other carriers, as well.
Alan, on behalf of ALPA, I am honored to present you with a Presidential Citation for your many years of dedication to establishing and maintaining our critical incident response program. I speak for the entire Association, when I say that I thank you for your trail-blazing efforts in this vital safety area.
I would now like to ask Captain Ross Sagun of United Airlines to please join me on the stage so I can present him with the fourth and final Presidential Citation for Outstanding Service in Air Safety.
Ross is being honored for his many years of work on ALPA’s air traffic control safety goals. He has been a leading advocate for the Association’s development of the 2005 and 2015 ATC plan and has led ALPA efforts for better and improved ATC services for pilots.
Ross currently is chairman of our ATC Committee – a post he has held since 1995. Previously, he was the committee’s vice chairman, and a member since 1992.
Ross also is active in the United pilot group’s ATC efforts, serving as the UAL MEC’s ATC coordinator, and is recognized as a top ATC expert outside of ALPA. He is our Association’s representative to the FAA’s Air Traffic Procedures Advisory Committee.
Lastly – and importantly – Ross was a key player in ALPA’s LAHSO program as technical team leader. This team provided all of the technical advice to the LAHSO Steering Committee.
Captain Sagun, I am pleased to present you with this Presidential Citation for your dedication … your perseverance … to improving the ATC system to the benefit of your fellow commercial pilots, other airline employees and our passengers.
[Read the March 25, 1999 testimony to learn more about the Modernization of the Air Traffic Control System.]
And, now, the moment you have all been waiting for … the presentation of our annual Air Safety Award.
This award is ALPA’s air safety structure’s version of induction into the Baseball Hall of Fame. Now, past award winners’ autographs may not be worth as much money as Joe DiMaggio's, but their contributions to air safety are worth their weight in gold.
This award is presented for the first time to a pilot from Alaska Airlines – and I would now like to ask Captain Dave Smith to please join me on the stage.
Dave, it is with great pride that I present you with the 1999 Air Safety Award – ALPA’s highest honor for a volunteer in aviation safety.
Throughout your long and distinguished career in aviation, you have remained dedicated and an active participant in efforts to enhance the safety of our air transportation system.
It actually started from the earliest days of your career in the U.S. Air Force. After leaving active duty and joining Alaska Airlines, you continued your commitment to this field. You became involved as an ALPA safety volunteer, under the leadership of Central Air Safety Committee Chairman Jim Applegate. It was at that time when you got your feet wet on Master Minimum Equipment List issues …one of your passions and greatest contributions to ALPA.
One year later, you took over as the chairman of your pilot group’s Central Air Safety Committee, and really brought that committee up to the next level. You never were afraid to step up to the plate, in fact you relished, the opportunity to develop Alaska’s premier air safety structure.
This was no short order, considering some of the unique challenges of weather and terrain under which Alaska pilots operate.
I’d now like to read off just a few of your many accomplishments while serving in this critical post. All of the accomplishments are of considerable value to your pilots and the work they do every day:
developing a comprehensive incident/accident investigation team, in which every pilot domicile is represented by trained and qualified ALPA volunteers
developing and implementing a highly successful and effective Altitude Awareness Program at Alaska, which significantly reduced the number of altitude deviation incidents by Alaska crewmembers;
initiating and developing a Critical Incident Response Program at Alaska; and
guiding the development and implementation of the Alaska Flight Operations Quality Assurance Program.
Dave, you should take pride that your legacy is one of the most active and effective MEC air safety structures in ALPA.
However, your contributions to ALPA don’t stop at the MEC level, but extend to the highest levels of the Association. You currently serve as the chairman of the influential Operations Committee, made up of central air safety chairmen from every ALPA pilot group.
You have served on that committee since its inception, and as its current leader, you have tackled significant issues. Your dedication to improving MMELs also is evidenced by your chairmanship of that Working Group for 11 years, and the fact that you are still an active member of that important group.
Dave also directly contributed to ALPA’s ability to forge that monumental land-and-hold-short agreement with the FAA and ATA, serving as a member of the key LAHSO project team. No small feat …
And, you contributed to other Association-wide safety efforts, serving on the ALPA Air Safety Structure Steering and Oversight Committee for the past four years, and as the team leader of ALPA’s Wake Turbulence Project Team.
Dave is recognized as a premier air safety expert by others outside of ALPA, as well. He was formally acknowledged by the FAA administrator for his work on the Safety Initiative Review and is a Designated Friend of the FSDO for his work on the Altitude Awareness Program.
Notably Dave also is a co-recipient of the prestigious Collier Trophy – displayed in ALPA’s Herndon office – for his work as a member of ALPA’s B-777 review team.
Before I present the award to Dave, I would like to quote from the award application form submitted by Captain Gary Nowak, who was the Alaska MEC chairman at the time. I think it sums everything up about Dave perfectly and why he is so deserving of this award:
"Captain Smith is an invaluable asset and a national treasure to our organization in the field of aviation safety."
Thank you Dave for everything that you have done and on behalf of everyone whose lives you have touched.
Ladies and Gentlemen, our 1999 ALPA Air Safety Award winner, Captain Dave Smith
That concludes our awards ceremony this evening. I’d like to invite all of the recipients to join me for the traditional photos, and then they can continue to enjoy the evening.