Do the Right Thing

By Capt. Wendy Morse, ALPA First Vice President

When I became a pilot, Capt. Hank Duffy was serving as ALPA’s fifth president. I’m now serving with Capt. Jason Ambrosi, ALPA’s 12th president. I’ve been an ALPA pilot during eight of our 12 presidents’ administrations. Over the decades, transitioning as a young second officer to being elected ALPA’s first vice president at our 2022 Board of Directors meeting, I’ve seen a sea of change and I’m honored to be a part of ALPA’s evolution.

When I was elected, there was much emphasis on my being ALPA’s first female national officer, and I understand why to some it’s seen as a breakthrough accomplishment. To me, the choices I’ve made throughout my professional career and the union roles I’ve undertaken have always been due to my love for our piloting profession, unionism, flying airplanes, and doing the right thing.

In March, I attended my first Women in Aviation International (WAI) Conference, a popular recruiting and educational event of which ALPA is a prominent sponsor. I soon realized that although being ALPA’s first female national officer wasn’t how I defined myself, it was precisely how the convention’s audience regarded me. I quickly recognized that although it was never a platform I pursued, it’s a responsibility I bear and emphatically accept. Indeed, it’s a responsibility that we all shoulder to ensure that a strong pilot pipeline will follow behind us. Introducing aviation to school-aged children, mentoring secondary and collegiate students, welcoming the next generation of airline pilots and new hires into our Association, and ensuring they have a career to look forward to by fighting to maintain that at least two pilots are always on the flight deck is part of how we leave this profession better than we found it.

As union leaders, we’re trained to put pilot members first: negotiate the best work agreements, ensure contracts are enforced, make certain aviation safety remains a priority, and provide resources to our pilots when they need them most. Our union planning focuses on cultivating the next round of pilot leaders for a seamless changing of the guard as we continue to meet the needs of our pilots. This is why since 1931 our Association, through its democratic process, has endured and thrived despite decades of recalcitrant managements, economic uncertainty, and most recently a pandemic. And thanks to the advocacy of ALPA and other unions, CARES Act grants and loans left our profession as strong or stronger postpandemic.

As unionists, we focus on our members’ safety and quality of life. And as advocates for the next generation of airline pilots, we must also prioritize our efforts to promote the piloting profession as a career worth exploring and investing in. I was fortunate to witness this activism during the WAI Conference as volunteers of ALPA’s Education; Membership; and Diversity, Equity, Belonging, and Inclusion Committees were sought after for their professional advice. The number of young female students and aspiring pilots who stood in line waiting to talk with ALPA pilots was impressive and underscored the importance of making ourselves available to everyone interested in aviation.

It’s also important that ALPA continues its leadership role in creating career pathways and promoting the piloting profession while maintaining the highest levels of safety. Capt. Ambrosi recently testified before a Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation hearing seeking congressional support for several potential areas of opportunity. It’s critical that our solutions are heard and implemented and that doors of opportunity continue to open for those interested.

To explain a pilot-supply issue, our opponents have created a false narrative of a “pilot shortage.” This supply issue is in large part due to airline managements making the profession unattractive by creating undesirable wages and working conditions, greatly affecting pilot supply during the economic downturn after 9/11 and the recent pandemic. These opponents are using this false narrative instead of taking responsibility for promoting safety shortcuts in the form of a reduction in pilot training hours and experience and removing pilots from the flight deck. We must stand united to prevent any deterioration to aviation safety.

ALPA will never back down from doing what’s right. My decades of experience as an ALPA member have consistently demonstrated the caliber of pilot volunteers who continue to raise their hands and do more than just their job. We all love to fly, but we also love our profession. And through this union, we’ll continue to successfully protect our members and enhance the safety gains we’ve achieved. I’m honored to serve as ALPA’s first vice president and to be an advocate for today and tomorrow’s unionists. Together, we’ll always do the right thing.

This article was originally published in the April 2023 issue of Air Line Pilot.

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