The Impact of Pilots Helping Pilots Showcased at Annual IFALPA Conference

By Corey Kuhn, Contributing Writer
Capt. Bob Fox, ALPA’s first vice president, bottom, participates in the International Federation of Air Line Pilots’ Associations Global Pilot Symposium.

As pilots from around the world face the similar devastating effects that COVID-19 has had on the entire industry, this year’s International Federation of Air Line Pilots’ Associations (IFALPA) Conference provided a virtual forum that gave participants the opportunity to compare notes and share personal stories about the challenges they had to overcome and those that still lie ahead.

Held March 17–19, IFALPA’s critical role in advancing global aviation was front and center as attendees addressed the long-standing issues facing the global industry as well as the current COVID-19 pandemic. The meeting demonstrated the vital importance of collaboration and support, and ALPA continues to play a leadership role in this important organization. ALPA is the largest member association in IFALPA, which acts as the global voice of pilots through the International Civil Aviation Organization, the aviation arm of the United Nations.

Elected to key IFALPA leadership positions were several ALPA pilots:

  • Capt. Joseph Genovese, ALPA’s vice president–finance/treasurer, was elected executive vice president, Administration, Membership & Finance.
  • Capt. Al Gaspari (United) was elected to IFALPA’s Executive Committee and will serve as executive vice president, Professional & Government Affairs.
  • Capt. Rod Lypchuk, ALPA Canada vice president, was elected executive vice-president, Caribbean & North America.
  • Capt. Carlos Rodriguez (United) was elected to a third term as regional vice president, North Atlantic.
  • Capt. Jeffrey Sedin (United) was elected chair of the Aerodrome & Ground Environment Committee.

The Global Pilot Symposium

Hosted by three global pilot alliances—the Association of Star Alliance Pilots, which includes the pilots of United; the One World Cockpit Crew Coalition (OCCC), which includes the pilots of Alaska; and the SkyTeam Pilots Association, which includes the pilots of Delta—the one-day Global Pilot Symposium (GPS) that preceded the IFALPA conference highlighted the impact that the global pilot community has on the average line pilot.

“We really wanted to showcase that when you’re a part of our international pilot community, just about anywhere in the world you’re operating, a local pilot representative is on the ground available to help should you need assistance. This amount of support is only possible through and by being a member of IFALPA,” said Capt. John Sluys (Alaska), vice chair of the OCCC, who served as GPS moderator.

Among the compelling narratives of how the world’s pilots have helped each other throughout the last year was an account from ALPA’s Kalitta Air pilots.

While forced into a 22-day quarantine at a Hong Kong government hospital after health officials flagged him positive for COVID-19, one Kalitta pilot received support and resources from his IFALPA community.

“Once we got word of this situation, we immediately called ALPA national and through IFALPA contacts were able to provide assistance on the ground,” said Capt. Jeremy Keyes (Kalitta Air), the pilot group’s Master Executive Council chair.

Immediately after receiving word from IFALPA, representatives from the Hong Kong Aircrew Officers Association (HKAOA) went into action and provided care packages to the quarantined pilot. Through that local contact, the Kalitta MEC was also able to provide crucial updates regarding the pilot’s health and status to the pilot’s family.

“IFALPA was the conduit that connected us all together,” said Capt. Tad Hazelton, the HKAOA chair. “If a pilot ever faces a situation when flying internationally, IFALPA is ready and able to offer assistance. This is what unions do.”

The symposium also featured a discussion that included Capt. Bob Fox, ALPA’s first vice president and national safety coordinator. Joined by fellow international pilot leaders, Fox helped address several topics, such as the global response by pilots to the challenges presented by the pandemic; restructuring the industry; and working toward a more financially, socially, and environmentally sustainable industry.

Fox noted, “In the U.S., the partnerships cultivated throughout the B-737 MAX grounding and COVID-19 have demonstrated how important labor is in developing solutions and moving forward. For the past several years, we’ve taken the valuable lessons we’ve learned and applied them at our airlines. We’ve found that managements that don’t bring labor together are missing out because we know that by working collaboratively we can achieve great results.”

Today, ALPA remains the only pilot union in the U.S. and Canada with seats at the table where international decisions being made directly affect a pilot’s career.

This article was originally published in the May 2021 issue of Air Line Pilot.

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