White Papers

Aviation Cybersecurity

Download (October 2022)

Cybersecurity experts from ALPA and the Aerospace Industries Association published joint recommendations that outline cybersecurity risks, mitigations, and if/how pilots might need to be informed of or respond to cyber events. The paper is based on discussions between ALPA pilots and airplane and avionics system manufacturers that raised issues about how a pilot receives, interprets, and uses data from the modern connected aircraft, and to what extent pilots should be trained on how systems operate, are interconnected, and can fail due to cybersecurity events. As with any potential safety-impacting event on an aircraft, mitigations to prevent their occurrence can be technical, procedural, and/or physical.

Occupational Safety

Download: Enhancing Pilots’ Occupational Safety and Health Protections (updated August 2022)

The airliner cabin is quite comfortable and accommodating for passengers who may fly only a few trips per year and poses very little risk for them because of the short time spent in that environment. For crewmembers, however, it is quite different. Flight deck crews may spend up to 1,000 hours in flight during any calendar year. During that time they are exposed to a number of environmental hazards. The airline pilot’s work environment poses numerous health and safety risks. In flight, pilots are exposed to cosmic radiation, ozone, a very arid atmosphere, high levels of ambient noise, and communicable diseases, among other risks.

Airlines and the Environment

Download (July 2020)

Passengers, businesses, stockholders, regulators, and the general public expect airlines to be environmentally responsible. Commercial airline flying, which is the safest means of transportation, contributes only about 2 percent of the carbon emissions attributable to human activity, despite the industry’s huge contributions to the global economy, and efforts are underway to further reduce aviation’s overall environmental impact, while enhancing its economic viability.

Safe Integration of Commercial Space Operations into the U.S. National Airspace System and Beyond

Download (October 2019)

The last few years have borne witness to an incredible feat—the coming of age of commercial spaceflight. This follow-up to our 2018 paper further explores the operational integration of commercial space into the national airspace system and beyond, particularly in the area of oceanic air traffic management. This vision will address the evolution from today’s manual, segregated operations to a future that is highly integrated. By working together, the aviation and space communities have the opportunity to mutually benefit from investments in our national airspace infrastructure.

Improving Commercial Aviation Safety in the Far North

Download (October 2019)

Increased commercial air traffic over remote regions in the United States and Canada poses unique challenges. ALPA has provided recommendations to address identified shortcomings in international standards, regulations, infrastructure, procedures, and resources—all of which are aimed at making significant aviation safety improvements in this largely neglected part of the world.

The Dangers of Single-Pilot Operations

Download (July 2019)

Commercial aviation is the world’s safest mode of transportation, with a record that continues to improve even as the enterprise steadily grows. The public has many factors to thank for this, but at the top of the list are the highly trained pilots who fly the aircraft through increasingly crowded skies, 24 hours a day, in all types of weather. Yet some entities have begun to advocate for reducing the flight crew present in large aircraft, possibly down to even a single pilot. Those promoting single-pilot operations argue that reducing crew size will lead to cost savings. However, the current body of evidence and experience, including more than a decade of study by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), shows that the safety risks and challenges associated with single-pilot operations far outweigh its potential benefits.

Commercial Space

Download: Addressing the Challenges to Aviation from Evolving Space Transportation (June 2018)

The future growth and success of U.S. commercial aviation depends upon continued safe, dependable, and efficient access to shared public resources, such as the national airspace system, air traffic management, ground infrastructure, and airport services. Expanded markets and technology advances in the commercial space industry are enabling new entrants to access these limited resources, which has become a critical challenge for the aviation community.

ASAP Reporting

Download: Aviation Action Program Reporting of Security Information (September 2017)

Safety reports from frontline employees have been collected for many years via the Aviation Safety Action Program (ASAP), which are submitted to the FAA to enhance safety. An “ASAP type” reporting system should be developed to provide security reports from frontline employees to the TSA.


Download: Aircraft Cybersecurity: The Pilot's Perspective (June 2017)

Because aircraft interact with countless different networks around the globe, all with varying degrees of security, cyber attacks pose an ongoing threat. This paper explores the various possible cybersecurity threats to airline operations, along with current mitigation policies in the United States and the airline pilot’s role in defending against attacks.

Airline Pilot Medical Certificates

Download: Increasing the Duration of Airline Pilot Medical Certificates: More Efficiency, Same Level of Safety (June 2016)

A well-qualified and highly trained airline pilot is the most important safety asset on every flight. One important way in which pilots confirm their fitness is to regularly see aviation medical examiners for physical exams. International standards on the frequency of these exams have changed as a result of greater knowledge about age-related changes in health and accident risk. The United States is one of just a few nations to still require airline pilots between the ages of 40 and 59 to take a medical exam twice a year. Based on the success of other countries that have adopted a 12-month interval between pilot medical exams, ALPA supports adopting that same standard as a means of maintaining safety while improving efficiency.

Producing a Professional Pilot

The best and most important safety feature of any airline operation is a well-trained, highly motivated, and professional pilot. With a solid foundation of training and adequate experience, pilots are an essential ingredient in ensuring that aviation safety continues to advance. This paper explores five elements to producing a professional pilot in today's aviation industry.

Download: Producing a Professional Pilot (May 2016)  

Additional information on airline pilot training and associated topics not included in the Producing a Professional Pilot  white paper: 


Download: ALPA Perspectives on the Next Generation Air Transportation System (December 2015)

The modernization of air transportation infrastructure is critical to aviation safety and fundamental to the future growth of the industry. In the United States, the FAA has a modernization program called the Next Generation Air Transportation System (NextGen), while Canada and other countries upgrade their infrastructure continuously as well. The design, development, deployment, and implementation of infrastructure improvements must consider the needs and concerns of pilots. As such, ALPA is fully engaged in these activities to ensure the success of NextGen.

Lithium Batteries

Download: Safely Transporting Lithium Batteries by Air (January 2015)

Lithium batteries represent a significant technological improvement over older battery types, such as lead acid, alkaline, nickel cadmium, and nickel metal hydride. They are smaller and lighter than previous chemistries, with a higher energy density, have no memory effect, and produce a slow loss of charge when not in use. However, due to their high energy density and flammable electrolyte, these batteries can initiate a fire and burn very violently when shortcircuited or exposed to high temperatures. A short circuit may occur following a manufacturing defect, damage, or by bringing the external battery terminals into contact with other batteries or conducting material. The current provisions for the carriage of these batteries onboard commercial aircraft do not adequately address the risk presented in transport.

Unmanned Aircraft

Download: Remotely Piloted Aircraft: Challenges for Safe Integration into Civil Airspace (December 2015)

The much-publicized success of Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) in combat operations has created a potentially large commercial market for these aircraft. As the potential for business use increases, so does pressure to allow unrestricted UAS operations in the National Airspace System. ALPA vows to protect the safety and integrity of the NAS and ensure the introduction of UAS operations will not compromise the safety of our members, passengers, cargo or the public at large.

Competition from Foreign Airlines

Download: Leveling the Playing Field for U.S. Airlines and Their Employees (June 2013)

This paper explores and offers policy solutions to create a better business environment for U.S. airlines and level the playing field in the international marketplace. Issues explored as ways to level the playing field for U.S. airlines and their employees include:

  • the problem of excessive oil speculation; 
  • the low barriers to entry for new carriers, which can lead to undercapitalized and ill-prepared airlines that distort pricing before going out of business; 
  • the customer experience at the airport; 
  • the positive impact of tourism on U.S. airlines; 
  • and investment in NextGen.

Cockpit Security

Download: Secondary Flight Deck Barriers And Flight Deck Access Procedures (March 2013)

Simply put, an open cockpit door provides an attacker the opportunity to invade, and flight crews open the door for flights of any significant duration for a variety of reasons—crewmember coordination and meal service, just to name a few. Installing secondary barriers would enhance a layered system of cockpit defense, effectively delaying, deterring, or entirely preventing attackers’ efforts to gain control of an airliner. ALPA, in concert with industry partners, has long supported adding secondary barriers to passenger and cargo airliners; accompanied by specific flight deck access procedures, it is an ideal security complement to the fortified cockpit door.

See also: Secondary Barriers Position Paper

Federal Flight Deck Officer Program

Download: Improving the Federal Flight Deck Officer Program (February 2012)

When dealing with terrorism, the deterrent value of an armed presence within the cockpit cannot be overstated. Today, thousands of FFDOs protect the flight decks of our nation’s airliners and defend more than 100,000 flight segments per month. In spite of the program’s tremendous value, the TSA has relegated it to a “caretaker” status. While TSA has supported the increase in FFDO ranks, it has not increased the funds necessary for logistical support and infrastructure. ALPA will remain focused on these issues in 2009.

See also: Federal Flight Deck Officer Program Position Paper

Air Cargo Security

Download: Securing Air Cargo (August 2011)

ALPA believes that the security of cargo transported on passenger airliners is of critical importance. However, the Association concentrates instead on the most neglected area of cargo security: the measures applicable to all-cargo air operations. Although many improvements have been made in this regard since the events of 9/11, One Level of Security does not yet exist between the passenger and all-cargo domains, while TSA has stated that the threat remains.

See also: Securing Air Cargo Position Paper

Aviation Sustainability and the Environment

Download: Reducing Aviation’s Impact on the Environment (July 2010)

Over the past 40 years, the North American airline industry has increased aircraft payload capacity six-fold while concurrently using 60 percent less fuel. Technological improvements in navigation and surveillance have contributed tremendously to improved capacity and operational efficiency in the National Airspace System (NAS), leading to growth in operations without a corresponding increase in aviation’s carbon “footprint.” ALPA strongly supports reducing aviation’s small overall percentage of adverse impact on the environment, partly by advocating for the implementation of the Next Generation Air Transportation System (NextGen).

Aviation Security Screening

Download: Trust-Based Security System (January 2010)

Aviation security screening has long focused on the interdiction of threat objects (e.g., guns, knives, improvised explosive devices). The weapons of choice by those who would attack aircraft have evolved over time, and their methods for concealing those weapons continually change. The one constant for all would-be attackers, however, is hostile intent to carry out an assault. ALPA believes that the focus of our security resources should be directed primarily toward identifying those with hostile intent before they are allowed to board our aircraft. Technologies, such as metal detectors, x-ray machines, whole-body imaging machines and the like are valuable tools, but they can never replace the detection of hostile intent.

See also: Trust-Based Aviation Security System Position Paper

Oxygen Mask Use in Aviation

Download (October 2009)

The current practice of sharing oxygen masks among multiple users both in aircraft cockpits and in training simulators may place airline pilots at increased risk for contracting transmissible disease. An infectious outbreak could destroy the airline industry in short order. Every conceivable precaution must be taken to mitigate these risks.

Wildlife Hazards

Download: Wildlife Hazard Mitigation Strategies for Pilots (February 2009)

The potential for bird strikes is a risk that is far from new—in fact, the Wright brothers recorded the first bird strike in 1905. Striking large birds at high speeds may result in catastrophic damage to an aircraft engine or an airframe, however, and that’s why ALPA makes sure the industry awareness of this issue remains high. If a 4-pound bird struck an aircraft traveling 250 knots, it delivers the force of approximately 38,000 pounds at the point of impact. ALPA’s safety efforts focus on reducing the possibility of a wildlife strike and the severity of the consequences.

See also: Wildlife Hazards Position Paper

Shoulder-Launched Missile Threat

Download: Recommendations for Countermeasures to Man-Portable Air Defense Systems (MANPADS) (July 2008)

Security experts are concerned about the threat to commercial airliners by shoulder-fired antiaircraft missiles, also known as MANPADS, or Man-Portable Air Defense Systems. Small, light, and obtainable in the international arms markets, there are thousands of MANPADS in various versions available from surplus or stolen military stocks. Some military aircraft are equipped with special defensive systems that often (but not always) mislead the missile away from its target. Some are now advocating that similar systems be installed on commercial airliners.

Fighting Pilot Fatigue

Download: Fatigue Risk Management Systems (June 2008)

Sixteen-hour domestic duty days—even longer with some long-range international operations—are facts of life for many airline pilots. Irregular shifts, crossing time zones, all-night operations, and significant circadian rhythm challenges all contribute to the serious safety issue of pilot fatigue. ALPA calls for updating airline flight/duty/rest practices based upon scientifically demonstrated human performance limitations, rather than on economic misperceptions.

See also: Pilot Fatigue Position Paper

Runway Safety

Download: Runway Incursions (March 2007)

Increased amounts of air traffic, especially at the highest-volume U.S. and Canadian airports, makes runway safety today more important than ever. ALPA puts pressure on airports and regulators to improve runway design, signage, and technologies. The Association also encourages the airlines to improve training and operational procedures that will help pilots avoid errors on the ground. After all, nothing can replace the awareness of a pilot in the cockpit.