ALPA Beyond Borders: Working with International Partners
Crew Receives Assistance After Incident in South Korea
By Gavin Francis, Senior Aviation Writer
In the early morning hours of January 3, Capt. Jorge Padilla and the crew of Amerijet Flight 99 departed Runway 34R out of Seoul-Incheon International Airport enroute to Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport. The crew of the B-767-300 cargo flight was just settling in for the trip to Alaska. It would be a long flight, and, in addition to Padilla and F/O Kyle Strunk, F/O Eyinsan Odugba, a relief pilot, was also aboard.
Shortly after departure as the aircraft was climbing toward 14,000 feet, the flight crew received low oil pressure and engine fire warnings. The crewmembers reacted quickly and followed procedures, discharging both fire bottles, then turned back toward Incheon, South Korea. Padilla was glad to have had the relief pilot along for the trip.
“I can’t stress enough how important it was to have that extra pilot available,” said Padilla. “Having two pilots on the flight deck at all times is critical, but when emergencies happen and we get busy running checklists and trying to evaluate the situation, it’s easy to get caught up in the moment. Having another pilot on board allowed my first officer to just concentrate on flying the plane while we dealt with the engine situation.”
Approximately 30 minutes after takeoff, the aircraft and crew were back on the ground in Incheon, having landed safely on Runway 33R. Padilla wrote up the engine failure in the maintenance log, called dispatch to make the company aware of the aborted trip, and after securing the aircraft, the crew headed back to the hotel.
Civil aviation authorities in Incheon requested that the pilots remain in country until they had the opportunity to interview the crew about the incident. Understandably, the prospect of sitting down with investigators in a foreign country where the language and regulations were unfamiliar was a bit daunting. So Padilla dialed the number for ALPA’s Worldwide Accident/Serious Incident Hotline—the number on the “orange card” that’s staffed 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. Any ALPA member can call the number whenever they’ve been involved in an aircraft accident, incident, or time-critical safety or security event. The hotline receives on average between 400 and 500 calls per year. (For more information, review the orange card, download the ALPA app, or visit alpa.org/resources.)
“Amerijet pilots have only been with ALPA since 2020, so we’re still just learning the ropes when it comes to what ALPA resources are available to us,” said Padilla. “My brother, who’s a United pilot, has been an ALPA member for more than 30 years. As soon as I spoke with him, he said, ‘Call ALPA immediately. They’ll take care of you.’”
There was a 14-hour time difference, so it was the middle of the night back in the U.S. when Padilla made the call. He explained the situation to ALPA’s Engineering & Air Safety staff. ALPA’s Legal Department was also notified, and folks at ALPA began reaching out to its networks at the International Federation of Air Line Pilots’ Associations (IFALPA) as well as making contact with counterparts in South Korea.
“Within a couple of hours, I got a call from an ALPA representative who assured me that the Association was there to support us and that they were working through the IFALPA member associations in South Korea to provide assistance,” said Padilla. Shortly thereafter, he received a phone call from Capt. Nak-Ju “Sam” Sung, an Airbus A320 pilot with Asiana Airlines, who also serves as the ALPA-Korea Aircraft Accident Investigation chair. Sung said that he was on his way to meet the crew and that he had already arranged to have attorney Yohan Chu present to provide legal representation.
At the same time, ALPA was in touch with Capt. Tim Millar (Amerijet), his pilot group’s Master Executive Council (MEC) chair, who was coordinating with ALPA staff to make sure his members got the assistance they needed. As a relatively new MEC chair, he, too, was learning much about the resources available to pilots through ALPA’s international network.
“I was very impressed with ALPA’s quick response to this request from our crew,” said Millar. “Korea is on the back side of our clock here in the U.S., so obviously ALPA staff employees were working through the night to provide support to our pilots.”
Meanwhile, the company had also retained an attorney and a translator. Sung had already arranged a time for the civil aviation authorities to meet with the crew and conduct the interviews. At the appointed time, everyone convened so that the crew could respond to the investigators’ questions.
“Fortunately, everything went smoothly,” said Padilla. “The authorities indicated that they just wanted to know what had happened. They interviewed all three of us separately, but Capt. Sung, the translator, and both the ALPA- and company-provided attorneys were present for all three interviews.”
ALPA has helped thousands of pilots who’ve reached out for assistance through the hotline, both during and after an aircraft accident or incident. In fact, just a short time later on January 12, ALPA responded again when the crew of Delta Air Lines Flight 134 requested assistance after experiencing an incident on landing at Amsterdam-Schiphol International Airport in the Netherlands. Working with the VNV-Dutch Airline Pilots Association, ALPA was able to arrange support for those pilots as well, in addition to the legal representation and Critical Incident Response Program support they received from ALPA.
And it works the other way as well. When foreign pilots flying into the U.S. or Canada need assistance, ALPA is frequently able to provide that support, coordinating through IFALPA with its member associations back home. Notably, ALPA staff responded with assistance to the Asiana Airlines Flight 214 accident at San Francisco International Airport in July 2013 and again in September 2015 to the British Airways Flight 2276 accident at Harry Reid International Airport in Las Vegas, Nev.
IFALPA was created in 1948 when 13 pilot unions, including the British Air Line Pilots Association, ALPA, and the Canadian Air Line Pilots Association, identified a need for a formal body to interact with the newly created International Civil Aviation Organization. Today, IFALPA has member associations in nearly 100 countries around the world with more than 100,000 pilots. As one of IFALPA’s founding member associations, ALPA has played an integral role in the organization’s efforts over the past 75 years to represent the interests of pilots in the creation of international aviation regulations and safety policies. Through IFALPA, the Association has developed strong relationships with other members associations around the globe, and a network of pilot advocates who are ready to provide support whenever an ALPA member requires assistance.
“I’ve been flying for more than 30 years now, but this was the first time I’d ever had to give a statement to the civil aviation authority of a foreign country,” said Padilla. “The guidance that Capt. Sung, attorney Chu, and the resources that ALPA-Korea provided throughout the interview process were above and beyond what we expected. It made what could have been an extremely stressful situation much easier to deal with. ALPA really knocked it out of the park.”