February 2, 2009
ALPA Unveils 2009 Safety and Security Priorities
WASHINGTON—Pilot fatigue, aviation safety reporting programs, and enhanced crewmember screening all topped the list today, as the Air Line Pilots Association, Int’l (ALPA) issued its 2009 aviation safety and security priorities at a Washington, D.C., media briefing.
“Airline pilots fly complex, high-performance aircraft into every region of the world, transporting millions of passengers and thousands of tons of cargo safely every day,” said Capt. John Prater, ALPA president. “Our union is the world’s largest independent aviation safety organization, and our members are dedicated professionals who epitomize leadership every day, on every flight.”
Prater opened the briefing by pointing to pilot fatigue—and its serious implications for aviation safety—as a major area of concern. In a recent poll of ALPA members, 62.8 percent of the pilots surveyed indicate that they are fatigued. ”No industry was hit harder by the 9/11 terrorist attacks than the U.S. airline industry,” said Prater. “To keep our airlines in business, pilots made major contract concessions, which resulted in many of our members working at or near-regulatory limits for flight- and duty-time.”
Prater noted that the current regulatory flight- and duty-time limits are a patchwork of rules developed decades ago and well before the age of jet airliners. As a result, existing regulations fail to take into account today’s science, flight schedules, aircraft equipment, human physiology, and travel distances.
To address pilot fatigue, ALPA advocates a complete overhaul of existing regulations to include adequate rest periods, reasonable duty periods, and special provisions for flying on the “back side of the clock” and for crossing multiple time zones. The union maintains that any regulations developed to deal with fatigue must be based on sound science, apply to all sizes of aircraft operations, and address passenger and all-cargo airlines equally.
At the briefing, ALPA leaders also highlighted the need for regulators, airlines, and pilots to relentlessly pursue safety improvements to help ensure that the North American air transportation system continues to build on its remarkable safety record. To that end, ALPA pilots stand firmly resolved that
voluntary, nonpunitive safety reporting systems—notably Flight Operations Quality Assurance (FOQA) and Aviation Safety Action Programs (ASAP)—are critical to bettering our already outstanding airline safety record, and Congress needs to step in to provide maximum protection from misuse of voluntarily supplied safety information.
unmanned aerial systems need significant design and operational safety regulatory requirements before these unmanned aircraft can safely share airspace with airliners,
long-term funding of the U.S. air traffic control infrastructure and National Airspace System modernization is essential,
methods to reduce the severity of wildlife hazards must be strengthened.
“ALPA is working with the FAA and other stakeholders to ensure that the airline pilot voice is a part of all discussions regarding the transition from the current air traffic control system to NextGen,” said Capt. Rory Kay, ALPA’s Executive Air Safety Chairman. “We must make this transition without affecting the excellent safety record of our air transportation system, which is the envy of the world.”
ALPA leaders at the briefing also underscored the need for the airline industry to continue to raise the bar in securing the air transportation system. The association’s airline security representatives strongly emphasized the importance of
adopting an enhanced version of CrewPASS, the biometric-based security screening system for airline pilots, as a standing security program nationwide,
implementing ALPA recommendations for securing all-cargo airline operations and raising all-cargo security to the level already obtained in the passenger airline domain,
bolstering the Federal Flight Deck Officer program, which provides a critical layer of defense intended to protect airline cockpits from hostile takeover,
installing secondary cockpit barriers on all airliners.
“ALPA has been concerned about and involved in efforts to maintain and improve aviation security for decades; however, the terrorist attacks of 9/11 enormously increased our nation’s resolve to strengthen our security measures,” said Capt. Bob Hesselbein, ALPA’s National Security Committee chairman. “Much good work has been done during the past seven years, but much remains to be done.”
“Line pilot involvement is critically important on all these airline safety and security issues,” concluded Prater. “As the frontline professionals who make the airline industry work every day and every night of the year, we’re the ones who know what works and what doesn’t. We’re the ones with the view through the cockpit window.”
Founded in 1931, ALPA is the world’s largest pilots union representing 52,500 pilots at 36 airlines in the United States and Canada.
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