Staying Safe, Healthy, Informed, and Engaged

By Capt. Bob Fox, ALPA First Vice President

In 1963, Martin Luther King Jr., wrote, “The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.” These words ring true within ALPA today as our union continues to diligently work to protect the health, safety, and security of our more than 63,000 members, along with our passengers and cargo, as the COVID-19 crisis maintains its grip on nations around the world.

The Association has been on the front lines of this pandemic from day one. For several months now, ALPA’s leaders, Air Safety Organization (ASO) pilot representatives, and professional staff have been working around-the-clock to help ensure safe and secure airline operations in the face of this pandemic.

During these difficult times, it’s crucial that we continue to keep safety our number one priority. Due to the Association’s unwavering tenacity, on April 17 the FAA finally addressed our concerns regarding pilot health, issuing Safety Alert for Operators (SAFO) 20009. The SAFO contains new and revised recommendations to air carriers regarding health protection, flight crew health monitoring, personal protective equipment for crewmembers, and employee notification after a positive COVID-19 test of employees. While the safety alert falls short by not mandating compliance by airlines, the issuance of this SAFO wouldn’t have occurred without the strong and continuous push from ALPA and your ASO representatives. Yet during a health crisis of this magnitude, ALPA knows that adherence to the strictest public-health guidelines should not be optional, especially in an industry that’s so critical to transporting needed health professionals and supplies—and turning our economy around.

By using numerous examples of the threats our members are facing, ALPA was able to provide the FAA with data to support the need for airlines to immediately comply with these public-health measures. Collecting timely and relevant data continues to be critical to our success in this endeavor. There’s nothing like a pilot report to grab management’s or government’s attention and show that a situation needs to change. That’s why I strongly encourage each of you to file a pilot report—either through the Association’s Data Action ReporT (DART) or your pilot group’s reporting system—so that we can collect as much data as possible to help move the needle in protecting our members, our fellow crewmembers, and our passengers.

During normal operations, the professionalism of ALPA pilots is unparalleled. But the work you’re doing during these difficult times is even more extraordinary. ALPA members remain extra vigilant in minimizing potential distractions on the flight deck to maintain the safety of each and every flight. However, we know that sometimes external pressures can creep into our lives, and that’s why the Association created the Pilot Peer Support program (PPS). Through a network of pilot volunteers, members get the assistance they need quickly. PPS is manned 24 hours a day, 7 days a week by pilot peers who offer confidential assistance to help fellow crewmembers sort through whatever they might be experiencing in the way of family issues or psychological, physiological, or chronic stress without jeopardy to their career. I encourage you to take advantage of this exceptional program, if needed, by calling 309-PPS-ALPA (309-777-2572) day or night.

For pilot groups that have an independent support line in place, these groups can be reached directly by contacting:

  • Delta PAN: 800-USA-ALPA,
  • FedEx PATH: 866-FDX-ALPA,
  • JetBlue PAN/PPS: 309-PPS-ALPA,
  • United Airlines SOAR: 866-653-SOAR, and
  • Canadian Pilot Assistance: 309-PPS-ALPA.

There’s no checklist for handling this crisis. The decisions we make today will impact our industry for years to come. Through the exceptional resilience and focus of ALPA members today, I’m confident that we’ll emerge stronger than ever. This pandemic has demonstrated the true strength of our Association, and I couldn’t be more proud to work alongside each of you every day.

Please stay safe, healthy, informed, and engaged.

This article was originally published in the May 2020 issue of Air Line Pilot.

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