Also on Our Radar
As successful as the airline industry has been in developing a safer, faster, and less expensive mode of transportation, it has also excelled in lessening its impact on the environment.
Read more in Airlines and the Environment
Now more than ever, commercial airlines utilize highly advanced information technology systems to optimize their businesses. Just as airline safety and security efforts have mitigated threats on numerous occasions, cybersecurity policies, procedures, and risk mitigations are increasingly needed to ensure aircraft do not become the victims of cyber-related accidents or incidents.
Read more in Aircraft Cybersecurity: The Pilot’s Perspective
The Federal Flight Deck Officer Program
The Federal Flight Deck Officer program provides a critical, efficient, and economical layer of defense to our national aviation security system. TSA-trained and deputized pilots are a force multiplier of our aviation security program; however, the program is a continual target for budget cuts, even though there is a backlog of pilots requesting training.
Joint Ventures Between U.S. and Foreign Carriers
The DOT uses its discretionary authority to grant antitrust immunity to joint ventures (JVs) that essentially merge selected international operations of a U.S. and foreign carrier. Lately, DOT has recognized that U.S. airline labor may not be benefitting from these arrangements as the 1995 policy had anticipated.
Modernizing the National Air Space for New Entrants
Safely Sharing Airspace with Remotely Piloted Aircraft
Remotely piloted aircraft systems will eventually be integrated into the national airspace system, interacting with other aircraft. This integration must not introduce any risk that could negatively impact the airline industry’s safety record.
Modernizing Airspace for Safe Commercial Space Operations
ALPA remains committed to working with the aviation and space communities to advocate for modernized oceanic airspace, including improved data exchange, communications, aircraft and spacecraft surveillance, and air traffic control capabilities and procedures.
Transportation of Hazardous Materials/Dangerous Goods
ALPA has long advocated for improved transport requirements for dangerous goods. Hoverboards, cell phones, and power banks bursting aflame inside passenger aircraft cabins illustrate how lithium batteries and other dangerous goods (aka hazardous materials) can create real safety threats in the absence of proper regulations and safety risk mitigations.
The significant consumer demand for this high-density power source has resulted in rapid expansion in lithium battery production, supply, and proliferation. Consequently, this hazard is increasing exponentially. While lithium batteries represent a significant technological improvement over older battery technology, their high energy density and flammability make these batteries more prone to failure, resulting in fire, explosion, and exposure to toxic gases. The Federal Aviation Administration has released videos of lithium battery tests, key to raising awareness for this aviation safety risk.
Mitigating dangerous goods incidents requires a focus on three specific areas:
- Improve Regulations
The lack of comprehensive dangerous-goods regulations for the carriage of lithium batteries as cargo onboard commercial aircraft, both passenger and cargo, continue to pose risks to air transportation. The U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) adopted new standards implemented by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) on April 1, 2016, which made significant improvements to provisions for lithium batteries shipped as cargo by air around the globe. However, these standards do not go far enough in addressing the safety risk created by lithium batteries.
Work must continue to develop and mandate performance-based packaging standards that will prevent and/or contain a lithium battery fire onboard an aircraft. These standards must also address the threat from external fires.
- Eliminate Undeclared Dangerous Goods Shipments
Undeclared dangerous goods (UDG) are one of the highest risk areas to air transportation. In 2020, the DOT received 1,265 incident reports of such events, and 63 percent of the incidents involved “undeclared” shipments, or noncompliant shipments of dangerous goods. However, there is only data for UDG involved in an incident; we do not know how many actual shipments of undeclared or noncompliant dangerous goods are in the system. The trend over the past three years shows an annual increase in both incidents and undeclared shipments.
- Develop a Safety Risk Management Program
An operator chooses whom it will accept shipments from based solely on the honor system. The carrier relies on “trust,” and usually doesn’t know what is inside the package. The carrier is not allowed to open the package for inspection. Therefore, operators should be assessing the safety risks associated with the transport of various types of items in the aircraft cargo compartment and the value of considering the hazards associated with those items.
This safety risk assessment should also include the safety of the cargo transport supply chain. An operator should have procedures in place for monitoring the effectiveness of its interface management controls to ensure that nothing contained in cargo will endanger an aircraft. This would include analysis of its dangerous goods safety data collection and processing system. Controls for ensuring that undeclared dangerous goods are not offered for air transport should be present throughout the supply
Shipments of undeclared hazardous materials (liquids, flammables, lithium batteries, and other materials) shipped as cargo without being identified by the shipper are considered “undeclared” dangerous goods. chain, including (when involved) the shipper, freight forwarder, cargo agent, and the operator. Operators should consider whether the arrangements for receiving cargo adequately address the risk of undeclared dangerous goods.
Cabin Air Quality
Abnormal odors, smoke, haze, or fumes in the cabin may arise from various internal or external sources in an aircraft, creating a potentially toxic environment for both passengers and crew. Understanding the scope of issues related to cabin air quality has been difficult due to lack of standardized reporting.
Read more in Enhancing Pilots’ Occupational Health Protections
Mandating “All-Cargo Common Strategy” for Employees and Crew
The TSA has developed and mandated the use of a security training guidance document known as the “common strategy” for passenger airlines and crews. The all-cargo common strategy guidance needs to be tailored toward that unique environment, and training for all affected crewmembers should be required.
Mandating SIDA for All-Cargo Operations
Cargo which is handled and loaded on FAR Part 121 aircraft is done within a security identification display area (SIDA), which has higher security requirements than the surrounding area. However, cargo that is intended for carriage on Part 121 aircraft may be loaded on a non-Part 121 aircraft outside of a SIDA prior to being transported to a hub and transferred to a Part 121 aircraft within a SIDA.
Redefining Aircraft Rescue and Firefighting to Include Cargo Aircraft
A safety gap in all-cargo operations involves the aircraft-rescue-and-firefighting feature, which is currently not required to be staffed or even present at airports during nighttime operations of cargo aircraft.
Dignity of Work and Labor Rights
Defending Workers’ Rights to Access State Labor Protections
ALPA remains committed to protecting the rights of flight crews to avail themselves of local paid family and sick-leave laws, and will fight any attempt to modify our members’ rights by federal preemption legislation.
Rejecting All Right-to-Work Legislation
ALPA is opposed to any national right-to-work law that would remove unions’ ability to collect “fair share” agency fees from nonmembers who do not pay union dues, while still requiring unions to provide representation to nonmembers who refuse to pay for that representation.
Pilot Staffing Levels in All Operations
Commercial aviation is the world’s safest mode of transportation, and history shows that at least two fully qualified, highly trained, and well-rested pilots on the flight deck is an airliner’s strongest safety asset.
Read more in The Dangers of Single-Pilot Operations