Membership Seminar Highlights Changing Demographics, Value of Mentoring

By John Perkinson, Senior Staff Writer
Attendees take time to pose for a group photo during ALPA’s Membership Seminar held at the Association’s McLean, Va., offices.

ALPA is witnessing a tremendous growth cycle, as the union’s total number of represented members has increased by approximately 16,000 in just the last two years. The face of ALPA continues to change as senior pilots retire, new hires join the Association, pilot demographics shift, and the needs and priorities of the organization’s members evolve.

Tracking this transformation to help ensure ALPA members get the appropriate support and services they need is the responsibility of the union’s Membership Committee, a component of ALPA’s Professional Development Group (PDG). Accordingly, nearly 30 volunteers from 13 ALPA pilot groups attended the Association’s Membership Seminar on Nov. 7–8, 2023, to compare practices, review available resources, and network with their pilot peers.

Moderated by Capt. Kandy Bernskoetter (FedEx Express), ALPA’s Membership Committee chair, the seminar featured panels, presentations, and group discussions, giving special attention to the importance of mentoring. As the Hawaiian Airlines pilots’ new-hire guide notes, “All of us were new at one point, and we remember well the stress of getting acquainted with a new company, a new career, different bases, corporate policies, and, in some cases, relocation.”

Capt. Wes Clapper, ALPA’s vice president–finance/treasurer and then acting vice president–administration/secretary, welcomed the seminar attendees, reviewing recent membership developments including the creation of a new online membership application. “We have the form ready, and we did a soft release at Frontier to make sure there were no hiccups,” he reported. Clapper also highlighted the recently introduced ability for members to make online payments for any outstanding dues balances.

F/O Kaori Paris (United), ALPA’s PDG lead, provided an overview of the group’s structure. She discussed how the Membership Committee and its corresponding Veterans Affairs and Furloughed Pilots Support Subcommittees work in conjunction with the Diversity, Equity, Belonging, and Inclusion (DEBI); Education; and Leadership Committees to act on PDG goals.

Capt. Erik Gott (FedEx Express) and Capt. Chad Whittington (Frontier) shared information about their respective Master Executive Council’s (MEC) mentoring programs, and F/O Mitchell Murgoitio (United) addressed the responsibilities of the United MEC’s Professional Development Committee. As these pilots indicated, mentoring isn’t limited to assisting apprentice and reactivated pilots; it can also be a valuable tool in managing change throughout an airline pilot’s career.

ALPA recently introduced the use of Qooper, a specialized software with analytical reporting features, to assist pilot group mentoring needs. Capt. Sean Creed (Spirit), then ALPA’s national resource coordinator, examined how this program can empower MECs by identifying its newest members’ union activity at their previous carriers. These pilot groups can then use this information to encourage volunteerism among these new hires and benefit from their experience.

In addition, a panel discussion moderated by Gott explored the new-hire pilot experience. Membership volunteers Capt. John Tabet (Spirit), Capt. Tradd Gralak (Frontier), and F/O Taylor Hitson (Endeavor Air) spoke from personal experience about the changing needs of new hires, providing recommendations to help MECs better support their probationary members. Topics included how each MEC handles onboarding new hires, the unique needs of reactivated members, and how positive mentoring can help pilots beginning their professional careers.

F/O Camila Turrieta (JetBlue), ALPA’s DEBI Committee chair, discussed the committee’s recent activities, emphasizing the significance of diversity, particularly among age groups. Given that there are four generations currently working on ALPA flight decks, attendees gained valuable insights on how generational diversity affects learning, member engagement, interaction, information processing, and interpretation. The presentation stressed the importance of fostering open and respectful dialogue to encourage diverse perspectives from members.

For the balance of the conference, ALPA’s Membership Administration staff reviewed their role in supporting Membership Committee volunteers, including processing membership applications, updating membership records, and managing reporting responsibilities. Attendees learned about available insurance programs, Association financial practices, and the work of the union’s Government Affairs Department, and Capt. Wendy Morse, ALPA’s first vice president and national safety coordinator, provided an overview of the Association’s Air Safety Organization.

Pilot mentoring

For ALPA pilot groups considering new mentoring programs, a quick review of “10 Things New and Experienced ALPA Pilots Should Know About” is a great place to start.

This article was originally published in the January 2024 issue of Air Line Pilot.

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