Executive Board Convenes, Prepares for Union’s Board of Directors Meeting
ALPA’s Executive Board assembled on September 9 for its 127th regular meeting, conducting the union’s business via video conference for a second time this year to maintain social-distancing measures and limit the spread of COVID-19. The virtual gathering featured two special presentations, the first remembering Capt. Andy Hughes and the second bidding farewell to the pilots of ExpressJet Airlines. Following roll call and preliminary announcements, the meeting began with national officer reports.
“ALPA pilots have had our share of blows during this pandemic and the resulting economic downturn, and we likely have more coming,” said ALPA president Capt. Joe DePete in his opening remarks. “But I’m here to tell you that we always get back up again. We simply will not accept defeat.” DePete talked at length about ALPA’s Calls to Action, giving special attention to the CARES Act and the Association’s ongoing campaign to extend the Payroll Support Program through March 31, 2021. He also discussed the “Why I Fly” social media campaign and other efforts to contain the effects of the pandemic on the airline industry and the airline pilot profession.
“Because we’ve spent an incredible amount of time and resources on dealing with the far-reaching impacts of COVID-19 and the aftermath, it would be easy to let other safety issues fall through the cracks,” remarked first vice president and national safety coordinator Capt. Bob Fox. “I’m extremely proud to say that hasn’t happened.” Fox explained the many ways ALPA’s Air Safety Organization is working to advance aviation safety and security in good times and bad. As an example, he highlighted the union’s efforts to persuade the Federal Communications Commission to reverse its decision to allow Ligado to transmit in a radio wave spectrum that could interfere with satellite communications and navigation bands.
Vice president−administration/secretary Capt. Bill Couette reported, “The COVID-19 pandemic continues to disrupt airline operations. More than 11,000 of our members have received announcements of job displacements, and more are expected.” He reviewed the many resources available to affected members through the ALPA Furloughed Pilots Support Program, a component of the Professional Development Group’s Membership Committee. Couette also talked about the work of the Information Technology Advisory Committee, including two updates to the ALPA mobile app—a revised Part 117 flight- and duty-time calculator and a new jumpseat flight finder feature, both of which are expected to be available soon.
Assessing ALPA’s current financial situation, vice president−finance/treasurer Capt. Joseph Genovese noted, “The past few years have fortuitously paved the way to prepare for a crisis like the one that hit us in March.” Talking about the pandemic, Genovese outlined how the union’s conservative-budgeting approach combined with a string of extremely profitable years in the aviation industry were “exactly the buffer we needed heading into 2020.” The vice president discussed what he called the new financial landscape and the measures ALPA will need to take to manage spending while continuing to offer members the same level of services and support they’ve come to expect.
The first of two special presentations during the Executive Board plenary session was a tribute to Capt. Andy Hughes (MAG), his pilot group’s most recent MEC chair, a previous ALPA executive vice president, and a longtime pilot volunteer and advocate who recently lost his life to cancer. Of Hughes, DePete said, “From organizing the Air Midwest pilots to join ALPA to mentoring those newest to our profession, Capt. Hughes was as fierce as they come in advocating for airline pilots.” DePete acknowledged the Andrew J. Hughes Memorial Aviation Scholarship Fund, and the presentation ended with a tribute video that honored Capt. Hughes.
In a late agenda item, DePete called for a vote to nominate Hughes for the David Behncke Lifetime Achievement Award, which recognizes ALPA members who, during the course of their careers, make extraordinary contributions to the Association, its members, and trade unionism. The resolution, which would require Executive Council consideration and final approval, recommended that the award be presented at a special ceremony during the upcoming ALPA Board of Directors meeting.
The second presentation addressed the announced shutdown of ExpressJet Airlines. The carrier recently revealed it will cease operations later this month, resulting in the displacement of more than 1,400 pilots. DePete described the carrier as “an airline that has long been a leader in the regional airline industry and a pilot group that has shaped and strengthened our union in extraordinary ways.” A video profiled the pilot group’s history and extensive contributions, and F/O Joe Mauro, XJT MEC chair, thanked his fellow pilot leaders for their continued support.
Other Executive Board business included the review and approval of reports from national committees in preparation for the ALPA Board of Directors meeting next month and a policy change addressing the union’s position on aircraft auto recovery systems. ALPA’s Executive Board is made up of the Association’s 35 master executive council chairs. ALPA’s four national officers and nine executive vice presidents serve as ex officio members.
Look for additional coverage of the Executive Board meeting in the October 2020 issue of Air Line Pilot magazine.