Five Questions for ALPA’s Fee-for-Departure Committee Chair
By Christopher Freeze, Senior Aviation Technical Writer
Editor note: This column showcases the efforts of a cross section of ALPA pilots who volunteer their time and talents to advocate for the union’s priorities and the cadre of knowledgeable and passionate staff specialists who support them.
The Fee-for-Departure (FFD) Committee’s primary goal is to help FFD pilots advance career protection, career progression, and pay and benefits through contract improvements. The committee also works with FFD pilots to develop strategies to counter threats and capture opportunities in the piloting profession.
Air Line Pilot sat down with Capt. Brad Ladimer (ExpressJet), the committee’s chair, to learn more about the pilot who leads the committee’s efforts and how ALPA’s staff helps to achieve the committee’s goals.
Air Line Pilot: 1. How did you get into aviation/flying?
Capt. Brad Ladimer: My love for aviation started at a young age. My dad began working for Eastern Air Lines in 1964, working in air cargo for more than six decades. From the early days of going to Hangar 9 at John F. Kennedy International Airport with him to the yearly trips we took, I couldn’t get enough. I would look forward to going to the airport and seeing all of those aircraft tails lined up more than the actual vacation! My first tour of an L-1011 flight deck was all I needed to realize I wanted to pursue a career in the aviation industry. It was a magical place for a young kid, full of adventure and excitement. It still is today and is still the source of the passion I have for our industry.
My family later moved to northern Virginia after a few tough years in the early 1990s. It was a fresh start for us all, and a new high school for me. My brother and I met some friends who also loved aviation, and we all got jobs pushing wheelchairs at Dulles International Airport, which eventually led to working on the ramp with Swissport USA. I was able to earn money to take flying lessons, taking a discovery flight at age 14, soloing on my 16th birthday, and earning my private pilot’s license just after turning 17. Shortly after, I attended Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, where I secured an internship with Atlantic Southeast Airlines working on the ramp until I was able to earn my wings on the Brasilia and begin my flying career.
I later flew the ATR 72, transitioned to CRJ aircraft, and then upgraded on them. My best memories of the 10 years spent flying CRJ200s are from the short time I was a check airman. After the fleet transition last year, I’m now flying the Embraer E145 as a proud part of both the ExpressJet and United Airlines family, doing what I dreamed of since I saw those tails lined up at Kennedy as a kid.
2. How did you first become involved with ALPA work?
Ladimer: I spent five years on leave due to an incident caused by a mechanical malfunction of the left landing gear of a CRJ200. I injured my neck and back after landing on two wheels, which required four surgeries and lots of doctors and lawyers before I could return to work. ALPA was there shortly after the accident to look after the first officer and me. Legal, Aeromedical, and the Pilot Assistance groups got me back to work and helped me settle in when I returned, but things were very different. My brother left ExpressJet for JetBlue, while other friends were at mainlines, and I didn’t even know what an airline application was! Terrified of the interview process, I went to a career-progression event in Atlanta, Ga., hosted by the FFD Committee and Cage Marshall Consulting, and spoke with F/O Lindsey Van Beusekom (United), then the FFD chair, who was looking for volunteers. After all that ALPA had done to help me get back to work, I was eager to give back. Shortly afterward, I got involved with ALPA’s Pilot Peer Support Group, which is also close to my heart, as it allows me to help support fellow pilots in need. It’s been a privilege to give back, just like those ALPA volunteers who helped me get back on my feet after my doctor told me I might never return to flying.
3. What are your roles and responsibilities as the committee chair?
Ladimer: My primary role is to provide a platform for all of ALPA’s FFD pilot groups to communicate freely and unite them as one. I like to consider this the information hub where all of our pilots can work together, keep open the lines of communication, and share best practices. We kicked off our commitment to the FFD pilots last October at ALPA’s Executive Board. Since then, we’ve established a monthly newsletter and monthly call to help increase communication and find common ground among all FFD groups. We have a great working relationship with Cage Marshall Consulting for all of our career-progression needs, different now than just a month ago. We’ve engaged with other national committees to ensure that we have their support. Under the direction of Capt. Joe DePete and the leadership of F/O Paul Ryder (United), the Joint Standing Committees have been reestablished and are a tremendous asset to the FFD community. We’re currently adding additional members to our team to support any challenges we may face as we progress.
The upheaval caused by COVID-19 has had a significant impact on our entire industry, but especially FFD airlines. Despite the hardships, the committee stands unified and stronger than ever. The synergy, open dialogue, and continuous sharing of information has allowed us to face this unique set of challenges head on. The FFD Committee has had the privilege to join the Pilot Support Group headed by F/O Ryder and is working with other committees to pass vital information to master executive committee chairs to distribute to our pilots on the front line.
4. How do you see ALPA national and staff helping you achieve your committee’s goals?
Ladimer: ALPA national is an integral part of what we do daily. The national office in McLean, Va., is a hub of great people, experience, knowledge, and passion. When I visited there for the first time, I was impressed with the energy everyone has. It’s contagious and motivating. From strategic planning to hosting career events to making sure our team has a place to sleep on the road, the national office is always there to support our committee and our goals. We work closely with the national officers and staff, who provide support and advice at all hours and act as my check-and-balance system. If there’s a question, someone in the building knows the answer or how to find it. As a committee that’s experienced a lot of recent transition, we’re grateful that ALPA has graciously welcomed our new team.
5. What advice would you give to new pilots who want to get involved with ALPA?
Ladimer: I would say that the gratitude you get from doing service work is one of the most rewarding things I’ve experienced in life. The feeling I get just knowing I’m part of the solution and helping others is wonderful. If I can ease the burden of a fellow pilot on the phone at midnight or help FFD pilots achieve their goals, I know that I’ve helped do my part. Someone was there for me when I stood next to a plane lying on its wing in the middle of two runways, just as someone was there when I thought I’d never get back my medical certificate or fly again. More than a few people were there to see me through my return to work after being away for five years. Now I can be there for someone and share my experience, support, and time. If I knew then what I know now, I wouldn’t have waited as long as I did or to have had something happen to me before joining this fantastic family.