ALPA Leaders Address Critical NextGen Issues

During this week’s “NextGen Ahead” conference sponsored by Aviation Week, ALPA Air Safety Organization representatives Capt. Sean Cassidy and F/O Marc Henegar presented the association’s views on several key NextGen issues. The Washington, D.C., conference drew attendance from government and industry organizations to discuss topics across the full spectrum of NextGen operations.

Cassidy, ALPA first vice president and national safety coordinator, summarized ALPA’s position on Remotely Piloted Aircraft integration in the National Airspace System (NAS) as “first, do no harm,” which reflects ALPA’s established view that unmanned aircraft should not be allowed unrestricted access to the NAS until the aircraft, pilots, and operators meet the same level of safety as all other NAS users.

Cassidy outlined the need for standards and technology development to continue to support that goal. He recognized the potential value of some proposed uses of RPA, but also cautioned that as for all NAS users, access to and operation in the NAS must be contingent on maintaining One Level of Safety for the NAS with the only difference being where the pilot sits.

Henegar, ALPA Air Traffic Services Group chair, discussed the use of modern Flight Management Systems to help realize NextGen benefits. That discussion covered a broad range of topics, including the challenges of accommodating a wide variety of aircraft and equipment in the same airspace, and the evolving roles of pilots and controllers in future air traffic management. He illustrated how mixed aircraft equipage and capabilities present challenges that can be safely overcome through training, operational support, and procedure design.

In addition, Henegar participated in a panel discussion on the changes needed in culture and training philosophy in order to take full advantage of Performance Based Operations (PBN). PBN requires understanding, currency, precision, and performance from pilots to be successful, as well as a “comfort level” that comes from robust training.

In addition to the ALPA presenters, IFALPA president Capt. Don Wykoff participated in a discussion of international issues related to NextGen. Among these were the need for interoperability of equipment and procedures, international environmental concerns, and progress toward internationally harmonized standards for air traffic services.