Above and Beyond the Call of Duty

ALPA Honors Pilots for ASO Volunteerism and Superior Airmanship

By Gavin Francis, Senior Aviation Writer
Capt. Jason Ambrosi, ALPA’s president, addresses attendees of the Association’s Air Safety Forum awards banquet.

ALPA recognized its best and brightest recently at the Association’s annual Air Safety Forum awards banquet. The event was the culmination of four days of meetings, panel discussions, and presentations that took place during ALPA’s 67th Air Safety Forum held in Chicago, Ill. Attendees gathered to pay tribute to the Association’s Air Safety Organization (ASO) pilot volunteers for their significant contributions in the areas of aviation safety, aviation security, aviation jumpseat, and pilot assistance. In addition, flight crews were honored for their exceptional airmanship and professionalism under extremely difficult circumstances.

“I’m proud to have the opportunity this evening to honor these individuals,” said Capt. Jason Ambrosi, ALPA’s president. “They set an example for pilots around the world and uphold our union’s tradition of service to others and an unwavering dedication to excellence. We celebrate those airline pilots who’ve demonstrated the very highest standards of excellence and pay tribute to those ALPA pilots who embody courage and perseverance. Their resilience and determination in the face of challenges has truly changed our union and our industry.”

The tradition of honoring pilots at the annual forum began in 1957 when Capt. E.A. “Ernie” Cutrell (American) received the very first award for his work in developing standards for a centerline approach lighting system. Since then, ALPA has expanded the awards to recognize volunteers whose work has advanced initiatives within other areas of the ASO. The first Superior Airmanship Award was presented in 1984.

“As we celebrate our 2022 honorees, I’d also like to acknowledge ALPA’s more than 75,000 pilots who fly for 43 airlines in Canada and the United States,” Ambrosi remarked. “ALPA now represents more airline pilots than ever before in its history. Every day and on every passenger and all-cargo flight, ALPA pilots deliver on our union’s commitment to ensuring that North America remains the gold standard of aviation safety and security.”

 Air Safety Forum 2023

Superior Airmanship Award

Capt. Stuart Smith and Capt. Ian Augustine
Delta Air Lines Flight 2295

Capt. Stuart Smith and Capt. Ian Augustine received the 2022 Superior Airmanship Award in recognition of their professionalism and resolve in handling a bird-strike event while operating Delta Air Lines Flight 2295. On Nov. 19, 2022, Smith and then F/O Augustine were enroute from Atlanta Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport to Omaha, Neb. During a nighttime descent to Eppley Field, the crew experienced a loud explosion and rapid decompression at 13,000 feet. The flight deck door blew open, and the temperature on the flight deck plummeted. Smith quickly assessed the situation, assigned duties, and declared an emergency while Augustine flew the aircraft. Upon landing, the crew was met by aircraft rescue and firefighting personnel, who relayed evidence of multiple bird strikes near and around the flight deck, all of which penetrated the aircraft skin. The crew also noted that the flight deck dome light was broken and there was a basketball-sized hole in the ceiling panel above Augustine’s head.

“ALPA recognizes Capt. Smith and Capt. Augustine for their superior airmanship,” said Capt. Keith Costo (Delta), his pilot group’s Master Executive Council (MEC) treasurer, who accepted the award for Smith and Augustine. “Through extreme noise, a wide array of distractions, and communication challenges, the crew executed textbook threat and error management to ensure the safety of all on board.”

Superior Airmanship Award

Capt. Brandon Hendrickson
Envoy Air Flight 3556

Capt. Brandon Hendrickson was honored with the 2022 Superior Airmanship Award for his decisive action in dealing with an in-flight incapacitation event on Envoy Air Flight 3556. On Nov. 19, 2022, Hendrickson and the captain who was doing his initial operating experience (IOE) departed Chicago O’Hare International Airport, Runway 28R, on a flight headed for Columbus, Ohio. Hendrickson was acting as a check pilot while the IOE captain was the pilot flying. As the aircraft reached 1,000 feet, the IOE captain suffered a medical event and became unresponsive. Hendrickson assumed positive control of the aircraft, declared an emergency, and requested an immediate return to the airport. After landing, doctors traveling as passengers assisted flight attendants in removing the IOE captain from the flight deck. Also on board was a commuting pilot who assisted with radio communications during taxi. Although medical personnel met the aircraft at the gate, they were unable to revive the IOE captain, who unfortunately passed away.

“ALPA commends Capt. Hendrickson for the professionalism and superior airmanship he exhibited in dealing with this critical in-flight emergency,” said F/O Chase Freeman (Envoy Air), his pilot group’s MEC chair, who assisted with the presentation. “His quick action and leadership ensured the safety of passengers and crew and mitigated risk to other aircraft in the vicinity in a busy and complex airspace. He’s a credit to the airline piloting profession.”

In accepting the award, Hendrickson expressed his appreciation and warned against the dangers of reduced-crew and single-pilot operations, remotely piloted aircraft, and automated flight. He stressed the importance of always having at least two highly trained, qualified, and well-rested pilots on the flight deck at all times and noted various circumstances, such as bird strikes, damage to flight controls, and unexpected runway environment occurrences, in which it’s crucial to have at least two experienced flightdeck crewmembers at the controls.

“Those are just a few scenarios that occur daily in our air transportation business that require skilled pilots to make immediate decisions to ensure a safe outcome,” said Hendrickson. “A computer or a remote pilot can’t possibly make time-critical decisions in the way that a skilled and experienced crew on board that aircraft can. We preach and practice crew resource management to help prevent such events from happening, and that’s the reason that air travel is one of the safest forms of transportation.”

Aviation Jumpseat Award

Capt. Richard Odbert (FedEx Express)

Ambrosi and Capt. A.J. Berlotti (Alaska), ALPA’s Aviation Jumpseat Group chair, presented Capt. Rich Odbert with the 2022 Aviation Jumpseat Award for his work in making jumpseat privileges more accessible to his fellow pilots. Odbert currently serves ALPA’s Jumpseat Committee as director of Legislation, Regulations, and Compliance, as well as Governmental Affairs. He previously served for 15 years as the committee’s chair, and also previously held the position of vice chair. Odbert has been involved with ALPA’s Jumpseat program since its inception and has influenced its development and implementation throughout its existence. He’s served ALPA as a member of the ASO Steering and Oversight Committee and has been a member of the FedEx MEC Jumpseat Committee. Odbert’s work has also included assistance with initial development of the Cockpit Access Security System and Known Crewmember®, work with the International Federation of Air Line Pilots’ Associations, and assisting pilots with jumpseating during COVID-19.

“Going forward, we need to lead by innovation,” said Odbert during his acceptance remarks. “We need to find solutions to problems before those problems occur, whether it’s safety, security, or the insane COVID nightmare that we’ve had to endure over the last several years. It’s been my honor and pleasure to serve, and now to step aside and let another group of gentlemen take over for us. Thank you.”

Pilot Assistance Award

Capt. Jason Graves (JetBlue)

Capt. Travis Ludwig (United), ALPA’s Pilot Assistance Group chair, assisted Ambrosi in presenting Capt. Jason Graves with the 2022 Pilot Assistance Award for service to his fellow pilots through his work in professional standards. Graves serves as the ASO’s Professional Standards subject-matter expert. He demonstrates a high degree of commitment in all his volunteer roles and has dedicated more than 14 years of volunteer service supporting Professional Standards for various pilot groups. Graves previously served as the JetBlue Professional Standards chair and the JetBlue Professional Standards training facilitator, the Colgan Air Professional Standards chair, and the Endeavor Air Professional Standards chair. His work includes assisting the Unión Panameña de Aviadores Comerciales with training development in Panama, serving as a member of ALPA’s Professional Standards/President’s Committee for Diversity and Inclusion Code of Ethics Working Group, and participating in the JetBlue ALPA COVID-19 Working Group.

“After the Colgan Air Flight 3407 crash, I got a call from our MEC chair asking if I’d be the Professional Standards chair. I had no clue what that was,” Graves commented when accepting his award. “Well, they sent me to Herndon and put me in a room with some Pilot Assistance all-stars, and they said ‘Jason, we’re not going to let you fall. We’re going to carry you until you can walk, and then you’re going to run, and we’re going to teach you and keep you moving.’ There have been so many people who’ve mentored me along this journey.

“I’d also like to acknowledge that the time we spend as volunteers is time that we’re taking away from something or someone else. We took my daughter to Benihana for dinner one night, and from the time the salad hit the table until the food was going into the doggy bags, I was already outside on the phone with our chief pilot and my MEC chair. So I want to thank my wife and my family, not only for being tolerant, but for also being supportive, because without that, this work doesn’t happen.”

Aviation Security Award

F/O George “Andy” Uribe (Delta)

Capt. Wolfgang Koch, ALPA’s Aviation Safety Group chair, joined Ambrosi in recognizing F/O George “Andy” Uribe with the 2022 Aviation Security Award, honoring his important achievements in aviation security. Uribe is the threatened airspace subject-matter expert for the Aviation Security Committee and works closely with ALPA’s partners on security matters as they relate to domestic and international airspace. He’s tasked with special-use airspace prohibitions and assisting government entities in those security matters. Uribe currently is ALPA’s security subject-matter expert on P-56 airspace matters. Throughout his time on the Aviation Security Committee, he’s routinely demonstrated a willingness to volunteer and make use of his past military experience as it relates to security. Uribe previously served as chair and vice chair of the Delta Security Committee, and as a subject-matter expert in hotel/layover security planning. His efforts have improved communication and coordination among pilot groups and across the industry, resulting in increased awareness and better information sharing regarding security.

“Earlier tonight, I was able to meet many of the previous award winners, and I must say that I’m humbled to be included in that group of great volunteers who’ve worked tirelessly for their fellow pilots,” said Uribe during his acceptance remarks. “I’d also like to thank my wife for her support and understanding. We both have military backgrounds, so that made it easier for me. She truly understands that the phone will ring at odd times, and that I have to take the call. And it’s often because of a fellow pilot somewhere around the world who needs help. And the support that we get at every level—from the LECs, the MECs, the ASO, ALPA national, and the staff—is what enables us to stay focused on the task at hand, which is keeping pilots secure, both on the ground and in the air.”

Air Safety Award

Capt. Steve Jangelis (Delta)

Capt. Wendy Morse, ALPA’s first vice president and national safety coordinator, joined Ambrosi in honoring Capt. Steve Jangelis with the 2022 Air Safety Award in recognition of his many years of volunteer work and significant contributions to aviation safety. Jangelis currently serves as ALPA’s Aviation Safety Group chair. His safety work has helped to achieve collaborative industry standards for airport operations and construction, runway safety, runway shortened procedures, and EMAS deployment. He also actively engages with ALPA’s international partners to promote the organization’s safety priorities to regulatory agencies in the United States, Canada, and internationally. Over the years, Jangelis has filled numerous roles as a safety volunteer: former ALPA Aviation Safety Group vice chair, as well as ALPA Airport & Ground Environment Group chair, the FAA’s Runway Safety Council chair, and member of the FAA/Industry Commercial Aviation Safety Team. He’s currently the Aviation Safety Information Analysis and Sharing industry elected co-chair.

“I’ve handed this award out many times to many deserving ALPA safety volunteers,” said Jangelis when accepting his award. “But now being on the receiving end, the true gravity of the award hits me. The idea that the son of a union pipefitter, who was born and raised and went to school to learn how to fly just a few miles from here in Chicago, gets to receive this tremendous honor, it feels like an out-of-body experience. For everyone who’s here for the first time, I was in your shoes in 2007, sitting there and hearing about the many achievements of past and current leaders of this Air Safety Organization and wondering, How do I fit in with all of these professionals doing all this great work? It all starts when you raise your hand and continue the work in whatever volunteer discipline you choose. That makes you part of the safety family. And you’ll always have a seat at my dinner table, because you chose to do more than just be a line pilot. You chose the honorable work that keeps passengers, crew, and cargo safe by working as an ALPA volunteer.”

Presidential Citations, a Special Award for 37 Years of Service, and AGE Awards

A number of additional awards were presented during the Wednesday sessions of the Air Safety Forum, recognizing individuals for their exceptional service in support of the Air Safety Organization (ASO) and ALPA. During a lunchtime presentation, Capt. Jason Ambrosi, ALPA’s president, awarded four ALPA pilots with presidential citations for their significant contributions to the ASO: Capt. Jeff Sedin (United) for his role in advancing aviation safety, Capt. Bill Schild (FedEx Express) for his contributions to aviation security, Capt. John White (United) for his efforts in support of pilot assistance initiatives, and F/O Paul Emery (United) for his work on aviation jumpseat issues.

“Truly, these pilots are among the finest examples of the spirit of volunteerism and service to the profession as well as air transportation,” Ambrosi remarked.

Ambrosi and David Krieger, ALPA’s general manager, also recognized Keith Hagy, the longtime director of ALPA’s Engineering & Air Safety Department who retired in August. Ambrosi noted Hagy’s tremendous accomplishments during his tenure and called his departure after 37 years “the end of an era.” Hagy thanked his colleagues and many of the pilot volunteers he’d worked with, remarking, “I feel very lucky to have found ALPA.”

During the Wednesday afternoon session, Ambrosi; Capt. Steve Jangelis (Delta), ALPA’s Aviation Safety Group chair; and Sedin, ALPA’s Airport & Ground Environment (AGE) Group chair, presented a pair of annual AGE awards. Capt. Robert Devadason (JetBlue) was honored as the 2022–2023 Airport Safety Liaison (ASL) of the Year for his work with Washington National Airport (DCA). Devadason has represented ALPA at DCA since 2018. Ambrosi lauded him for dedicating countless hours to building relationships with airport stakeholders and representing pilots’ perspectives at airport meetings. Devadason, Ambrosi commented, “ensures that pilots at Washington National Airport receive the information they need to operate flights safely.”

Ambrosi also welcomed back one of the day’s keynote speakers, Jamie Rhee, commissioner of the Chicago Department of Aviation, to honor Chicago O’Hare International Airport as the Airport of the Year. The airport has an “extraordinary commitment to achieving the highest safety standards, going above and beyond for flight crews, and maintaining a strong relationship with ALPA,” he said.—Gavin Francis, Senior Aviation Writer, and Kevin Cuddihy, Contributing Writer

Past ALPA Award Winners

Capt. Jason Ambrosi, ALPA’s president, recognized the many award recipients from previous years who were in attendance at this year’s Air Safety Forum awards banquet. “We’re pleased to have with us this evening a number of past annual Air Safety, Aviation Security, Pilot Assistance, and Aviation Jumpseat Award honorees,” he said. “It’s difficult to calculate or capture in words these individuals’ tremendous contributions to our industry.”

Past award recipients who were in attendance included Capt. William “Bill” Melvin (Delta, Ret.), Air Safety Award; Capt. Lindsay Fenwick (Northwest, Ret.), Air Safety Award; Capt. Terry McVenes (US Airways, Ret.), Air Safety Award; Capt. William “Bill” de Groh (former American Eagle), Air Safety Award; Capt. Thomas O’Toole (Jazz Aviation), Pilot Assistance Award; F/O Mark Rogers (United), Air Safety Award; Capt. Wolfgang Koch (Delta), Aviation Security Award; Capt. Mike Bender (FedEx Express, Ret.), Air Safety Award; Capt. Isabelle Caron (Jazz Aviation), Pilot Assistance Award; Capt. Helena Cunningham (Delta), Air Safety Award; Capt. Darrin Dorn (Alaska), Aviation Security Award; Capt. Thomas Thornton (Delta), Pilot Assistance Award; Capt. Richard Odbert (FedEx Express), Aviation Security Award; Capt. Scott Hammond (Delta, Ret.), Air Safety Award; Capt. James Berzon (United), Aviation Jumpseat Award; Capt. Jerry McDermott (United), Pilot Assistance Award; Capt. Robert Frank (Air Wisconsin), Aviation Jumpseat Award; Capt. Scott Schwartz (FedEx Express), Air Safety Award; Capt. Ali Frohlich (Delta, Ret.), Aviation Security Award; Capt. Joseph Chance (FedEx Express), Aviation Jumpseat Award; Capt. Murray Munro (Jazz Aviation), Pilot Assistance Award; Capt. Travis Ludwig (United), Pilot Assistance Award; and Capt. A.J. Berlotti (Alaska), Aviation Jumpseat Award.

Learn More About All of This Year's Honorees

This article was originally published in the October 2023 issue of Air Line Pilot.

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