Air Line Pilot
April 2012
Table of Contents

Aviation Matters
Take Note
Pilot Commentary
The Pilot Partisan Agenda
Money Matters
ALPA Toolbox
Health Watch
The Landing


Aviation Matters

Everything Matters: Negotiations
By Capt. Lee Moak, ALPA President

We continue to be concerned by the number of challenges facing our industry in the short and long term. To be honest, though, resolving them is essential to the success of our profession.

It’s startling how rules, regulations, and court decisions have undercut a once-prosperous industry and rewarding profession. Whether it’s the shortsighted decision not to include cargo pilots in the new fatigue regulations, the flawed belief that U.S. tax dollars should subsidize the financing of airplanes of foreign airlines that compete with our own employers, or inconsistent bankruptcy laws, we continue to have big problems to solve. And we will solve them.

That’s why it’s critical for ALPA to continually play both offense and defense. Offensively, we must use our professional expertise and situational awareness to develop reasoned positions; we must set aggressive but realistic goals; we must seek the support of those who share our views on each issue; and we must create and wisely use opportunities to voice our message. At the same time, we must be prepared defensively by anticipating challenges, having well-thought-out contingency plans, engaging quickly when action is needed, and deploying the resources to handle crisis—all without losing focus on our offense agenda.

Our offensive and defensive weapons are used to influence decisions in Washington and Ottawa. We have launched unprecedented efforts on Capitol Hill to cement our role as the leading authority on professional pilot issues and to build our advocacy more broadly on a wide range of aviation, health, retirement, and economic issues that matter to us. In Canada, ALPA’s Government Affairs Department closely monitors government bodies that may have an effect on ALPA members’ interests. In this issue of Air Line Pilot, you can read all about our aggressive campaign and what you can do to help. We also outline current airline-pilot-related regulations on Parliament Hill and other regulatory agencies in Canada. (See “The Pilot Partisan Agenda.”)

We employ the same strategy in negotiations, too, because government advocacy isn’t our only means to an end. In fact, our advocacy work and our negotiations are symbiotic. Just one example is the relationship between new flight-time/duty-time rules and the negotiations that go on every day on work rules. So the number one initiative for the Association along with advocacy, as I wrote in my January column, is dedicating the resources to support all pilot groups preparing for or in the midst of contract negotiations. Now more than ever it is a strategic imperative to stop the decline, stabilize, and improve the pay, working conditions, retirement, and benefits of our members.

Of the 37 ALPA-represented groups, 3 of them, representing 3,600 members, are in bankruptcy; 6 are involved in negotiations related to mergers; and 15 are in “regular” bargaining. Of course, other ALPA pilot groups are also preparing to begin negotiations.

Even though the playing field in bankruptcy is tilted against working men and women, we’re going to keep fighting for ALPA members at American Eagle, North American, Ryan, and Pinnacle (if that company files bankruptcy, as it has warned may be necessary) as they defend their contracts. Legal resources, professional negotiators, benefits specialists, and economic and financial analysts are working closely with our fellow pilots at these airlines, and I urge you to reach out to them on a personal level.

Even where bankruptcy isn’t an issue, negotiations can prove to be challenging for the Association—sometimes related to the status of affiliates or mainline partners—and uncertain. Negotiations continue at Evergreen, Mesa, Piedmont, and PSA without satisfactorily resolving key issues that would stem pilot turnover. The story is similar at Comair, where the pilots and management search for cost savings to offset losses that will halve the fleet and pilot group by mid-2012. Pilots at Air Transat are facing layoffs and worry about company requests for concessions in upcoming interim negotiations. ASTAR Air Cargo pilots have tackled a shrinking airline with a positive approach by working together with management and investors to seek solutions.

While bankruptcy and uncertain airline futures challenge pilots and require tough decision-making, industry consolidation also offers opportunities. Joint collective bargaining agreements are being negotiated at Continental and United, Atlantic Southeast and ExpressJet, and Capital Cargo and Air Transport International. In their respective mergers, Delta and former Northwest pilots and AirTran pilots were provided with similar opportunities and made significant improvements to pay, work rules, and benefits. The contrast with former ALPA members at US Airways is stark and unfortunate. Negotiations there have now been under way for more than five years. ALPA calculates that those pilots have lost close to $1 billion in contract value—or nearly $200,000 each on average—based on the state of negotiations in May 2007. The current pay gap between a Delta and a US Airways A330 pilot is $54,000 a year.

But ALPA isn’t content to play defense or wait for opportunities to come our way. Offensively, we’re making our own opportunities. Take FedEx Express pilots, for example. The contract the pilot group signed a year ago provided a lump-sum payment, pay rate increases, improved foreign duty assignments, and new safety programs, and it gave the pilots the right to extend the agreement and receive another 3 percent increase or elect to return to Section 6 bargaining. They chose to add the second year of the agreement, take the increase, and continue negotiations outside Section 6. The total improvements were worth close to $100 million.

Delta pilots, now in talks with management, are starting early negotiations and hope to complete bargaining by the contract’s amendable date. Alaska pilots, after robust strategic planning on this and other subjects, are considering similarly creative approaches to continue the progress made in their last round of bargaining. First Air also hopes to reach a deal in 2012.

So it doesn’t matter whether we’re playing offense or defense—or both simultaneously. ALPA’s strategic plan, and my personal commitment as president, is to dedicate the unmatched planning, costing, negotiating, actuarial, and communication resources that only ALPA can offer to every ALPA-represented pilot group to make sure we continue to build favorable patterns of pay, benefits, and work rules for our profession.

And contract compliance is just as important as negotiating a new contract. It’s important to make sure that these same resources are being used to help execute new contracts. That’s why we’re on the job at Air Transport International, Canadian North, Capital Cargo, CommutAir, Pinnacle, Spirit, and Trans States—all in the first year of new agreements. Both Jazz and Kelowna Flightcraft pilots are working with their managements to find new ways to grow. Hawaiian is adding service and new A330s to its fleet, and stretching its legs internationally. Its fellow airline in Hawaii, Island Air, is expanding and hiring. Calm Air and Compass are growing while their pilots are preparing for negotiations later this year, as are pilots at Wasaya. Air Wisconsin continues to make progress in its negotiations, and Bearskin is seeking a new agreement using the problem-solving negotiating technique known as interest-based bargaining. Sun Country pilots are working hard to move low B-737 pay into the industry mainstream after recovering from bankruptcy. Some pilot groups like CanJet just entered negotiations.

As I said earlier, we must not only defend individual members and pilot groups, we must also move the ball forward for Association members by playing offense. We will do just that with your support and willingness to volunteer, and our union’s financial and professional resources. And we’ll succeed with a renewed commitment to engage meaningfully and effectively—not just in the legislative and regulatory process and in the safety and security arena, but also at the bargaining table.

Because everything matters.

Return to top

Take Note

What’s Trending…

It’s amazing to me what happens in just one minute on social media sites, and how social media has changed the way we get our news. We’ve moved away from reading headlines to reading about what other people are reading. If it’s trending, you feel the urge to read all about it, if only to keep up with conversation. What’s trending today? One quick search and I found out that the top stories on Google are Peyton Manning, Mitt Romney, Kate Hudson, LightSquared, and Burger King. Relevant to the airline industry: LightSquared—the telecommunications company that wants to install a high-speed wireless network, but was denied due to regulators’ concerns over its interference with dozens of personal-navigation devices and aircraft control systems that rely on GPS. ALPA shares those concerns and has testified against the proposed broadband network. But I learned today that the company is now arguing that it can address federal regulators’ concerns.

But I want to know what’s trending in your life. When you read the news, scan the headlines, or buy magazines, what do you want to read about? When you open Air Line Pilot, what do you want to see? Last month, we ran a survey about our video podcast, The FlightDeck. A disappointing number of members took the survey, prompting me to ask, Is it the programming you don’t like? Do you even know what The FlightDeck is? Or do you have too many e-mails, text messages, phone calls, and face-to-face conversations competing with our efforts to keep you up-to-date with your union that you’re experiencing information overload?

Please let me know what topics are trending for you.

Marie Schwartz
Director, ALPA Communications

Return to top

Pilot Commentary

Time to Get Involved
By F/O Bill Secord, Member, FedEx Express MEC Legislative Affairs Committee

Recently I was scheduled to meet with a congressman to discuss pilot issues. But, as is often the case in Washington, D.C., he was unable to see me due to a vote on the House floor. I was disappointed until his chief of staff, who took the meeting on the congressman’s behalf, quickly stated that they were solidly with us on the issue because they had already heard from more than 100 constituents who supported the bill!

I walked away from the meeting thinking how effective critical mass is on Capitol Hill. It’s important for me to share this insight with you, my fellow airline pilots, so that when you are asked to participate in a “Call to Action” you take it seriously and do your part to positively affect our profession.

What we’re able to do through our grassroots efforts sets the stage for our direct lobbying in Washington, D.C.—the center of the political universe. What happens there has a direct effect on all of us and everyone around the globe.
As pilots operating in one of the most regulated, heavily taxed industries in the nation, the stakes are higher for us because Congress can quickly take away what has taken years or even decades for us to negotiate. For these reasons and more, ALPA has a robust Government Affairs Department to advocate for a pro-pilot agenda in Washington, D.C., and Ottawa.

ALPA staff members work closely with Legislative Affairs Committee members—all pilot volunteers—from our respective master executive councils (MECs) to take the ALPA message directly to decision-makers. And for our efforts to be successful, we must excel in three critical aspects of advocacy: direct lobbying, line pilot involvement and fund-raising, and effective use of ALPA-PAC.

Direct lobbying is just what it sounds like. Your MEC’s Legislative Affairs Committee members spend time in Washington having one-on-one meetings with congressmen and their staffers, presenting our views and concerns on the issues of the day.

As a member of the FedEx Legislative Affairs team, I can tell you that the issues cover the spectrum of our profession. In the last six months, we have had hundreds of meetings discussing the FAA reauthorization bill, FAR Part 117, the cargo carveout of Part 117, and the congressional Super Committee targeting the current IRS 415(c) retirement plan contribution limits (essentially raising our taxes), to name a few. All have huge ramifications for our safety and quality of life, and Congress must hear our side of the issues.

For those of you who aren’t familiar with the process, ALPA and your Legislative Affairs Committee issue a Call to Action when the timing is right for members of Congress to hear from you. In these e-mails seeking your participation, a link directs you to a prewritten letter stating ALPA’s pro-pilot position. After logging in to the site, you are a few clicks away from sending the letter to your congressman and both senators. The entire process takes about 30 seconds and is one of the most effective things that we as line pilots can do to advance our agenda. One congressman admitted to me that he needed guidance regarding our issues as he was not on any transportation committees and was not an expert on aviation. But we are the experts. And participating in a Call to Action is the best way to give that guidance.

Another way that we as line pilots can help is through ALPA-PAC, ALPA’s Political Action Committee. The PAC is funded through voluntary contributions. The most common argument I hear from those who do not support the PAC is that we donate money to congressmen who are on the “wrong” side of the aisle. Well, as the third-most bipartisan labor PAC in the country, that is an easy argument to refute. ALPA-PAC is pilot-partisan, and that is all. I have had many good meetings and garnered support from congressmen I personally could not agree with on other issues, but my responsibility on the Hill is to represent the pilots of the Air Line Pilots Association. The $10 or $20 a month that you donate can help the PAC expand our sphere of influence on the Hill and secure access when we need it most.

Your ALPA volunteers and staff are working hard on your behalf. Our recent efforts have helped obtain a long-term FAA funding bill that guarantees funding for NextGen and protects the current 415(c) contribution limits, and we continue to fight for One Level of Safety regarding pilot fatigue. Your help will make these and future challenges easier to tackle.

Return to top


Airline Industry Update

Department of Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood met in early March with United Parcel Service, Inc., and FedEx Corp. to appeal to the two cargo airlines to adopt the new flight-time/duty-time rules imposed on passenger airlines, reported Bloomberg. Before the meeting took place LaHood commented, “I hope they’ll voluntarily adopt our guidelines. We’re going to have a conversation. This is a good rule, and I’m going to ask them to consider it.”

• Per The Washington Times, Transportation Security Administrator (TSA) John Pistole, speaking at the National Press Club on March 5, said that the TSA will continue to target high-risk travelers and “move away from a one-size-fits-all security model.” Pistole said the Precheck screening program, which allows travelers who provide personal information to move through screening more quickly, is one example of this risk-based approach. However, he also said random pat-downs will continue for now.

• According to The Wall Street Journal, airlines are putting a lot of thought and money into lie-flat seats and the perfect cabin configuration, one that provides total passenger comfort but won’t result in lost seats. The goal is to attract the profitable business-class long-distance traveler.

• Per AAAE Security SmartBrief, a U.S. House of Representatives committee has approved a bill that would require the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) to donate change left at airport security checkpoints to an organization that serves members of the military. Travelers left more than $400,000 in change at checkpoints in 2011, according to the TSA. “The lost change should be put to good use, and I know the USO will make those thousands of coins have a positive impact on millions of our nation’s warriors,” said Rep. Jeff Miller (R-Fla.), the bill’s sponsor and chairman of the House Veterans Affairs Committee.

USA Today reported that Alaska Air Group CEO Bill Ayer has announced his plans to retire on May 15. Ayer, 57, will continue to serve as the chairman of the board for the parent company of Alaska Airlines and Horizon Air. Brad Tilden, president of Alaska Airlines, will succeed Ayer as CEO.

Airlines are increasing the size of overhead bins to accommodate more carry-on luggage, according to the Associated Press. Boeing is also designing overhead bins with more space as more travelers are bringing carry-ons to avoid luggage fees. “We never used to talk about how many bags would fit. We talked about volume,” said Boeing’s Kent Craver.

AMR Corp., the parent company of American Airlines, reported a fourth-quarter loss of $1.1 billion, compared with a $97 million loss for the same quarter a year earlier, reported The Wall Street Journal. The company posted a full-year loss of $1.98 billion.

• According to the Star Tribune, Delta is adding digital entertainment to its list of services. On longer U.S. flights, passengers can use their laptops to access the airline’s Wi-Fi portal to purchase movies starting at $3.99 and TV shows starting at 99 cents. The airline says the service is a convenient way for customers to watch a specific movie or program without paying for Internet access.

Front Lines

Congress Must Act to Ensure U.S. Ex–Im Bank Fosters U.S. Economy and Jobs

On March 12, ALPA called on the U.S. Senate to take swift action to ensure that the Export–Import Bank of the United States fulfills its legal responsibility to protect U.S. jobs when it finances foreign airlines’ airplane purchases.
“Aircraft financing already represents more than 40 percent of all financing granted by the Export–Import Bank of the United States,” said Capt. Lee Moak, ALPA’s president. “Ex–Im Bank financing for widebody aircraft is expected to grow rapidly in the near future, and the threat posed to the U.S. airline industry and its workers by the Bank’s using U.S. taxpayers’ money to support our nation’s competitors is very real.”

In a letter to U.S. senators, the Association asked legislators to direct the Obama administration to negotiate with the five European countries whose export credit agencies support Airbus aircraft sales with the goal of eliminating export credit agency financing of widebody airplanes. This would eliminate credit agency financing of both Airbus and Boeing widebody airliners and allow all airline purchasers to compete for financing on a level playing field.

ALPA also called on Congress to ensure that the U.S. Export Bank fulfills its congressionally mandated duty to analyze any potential financing to ensure that granting such financing would be a net positive for U.S. industry and employees. The reauthorization for the Ex–Im Bank is slated to come before Congress in the coming weeks, and ALPA urges legislators to include the strongest possible language in the bill to require the Bank to fulfill its responsibility to conduct an economic impact assessment and make certain that its financing will not harm U.S. industry.

Over the past five years, the Ex–Im Bank has provided financing to foreign airlines for dozens of widebody airplanes at a financing rate that is not available to U.S. airlines. Many of these Bank-subsidized airliners are used on routes that have been served, are currently served, or could be served by U.S. airlines to increase the U.S. airline industry’s contribution to the national economy and support jobs for U.S. airline industry employees.

“Congress must take a stand for the U.S. airline industry and its workers,” Moak said. “The U.S. airline industry and its tens of thousands of employees need Congress to include language in the Ex–Im Bank reauthorization to ensure the credit agency uses U.S. taxpayers’ money to help our nation’s economy, better position the U.S. airline industry to compete in the global marketplace, and create and maintain jobs for U.S. airline industry workers.”

Click here to view The FlightDeck segment on the Ex–Im Bank.

Sleep Study Backs Up Need to Apply Fatigue Rule to Cargo Pilots

“The National Sleep Foundation’s 2012 ‘Sleep in America’ poll vividly illustrates the risk posed by fatigue to transportation workers and the particular challenges that airline pilots face in delivering on their commitment to achieving the highest standards of safety,” said Capt. Lee Moak, ALPA’s president, regarding the poll results.

“With the release last December of the FAA’s new science-based flight- and duty-time regulations and minimum rest requirements, airline pilots who fly passengers became far better positioned to receive the rest they need to perform their jobs safely. Of grave concern, however, is that the FAA excluded pilots who fly cargo from these safety regulations due to concerns about cost to their airlines. ALPA’s adamant position is that, regardless of whether the pilot flies passengers or cargo, all airline pilots are human beings and deserve equal protection from fatigue under FAA regulations.

“The National Sleep Foundation poll is the latest evidence of the serious risk,” Moak noted. “ALPA respectfully urges the administration to heed this latest poll—and the compelling and conclusive science that preceded it—and bring cargo pilots under the new pilot fatigue rules. Given the risk we know exists, this is no time to rest in the pursuit of safety.”

ALPA Comments on FAA Proposed Rule on Minimum Pilot Qualifications

“The FAA’s notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM) regarding minimum qualification standards for airline first officers is the culmination of many months of intensive work by the FAA and industry stakeholders,” said Capt. Lee Moak, ALPA’s president, in late February.

“The First Officer Qualifications Aviation Rulemaking Committee (ARC) was established as a result of the Airline Safety and Federal Aviation Administration Extension Act of 2010, which directed the FAA to modify the flight experience and training necessary for an individual to become an airline first officer. ALPA served on the ARC with the goal of ensuring that air transportation achieves the highest possible level of safety,” Moak commented.

“The pilots of ALPA thank Congress for underscoring the importance of rigorous qualifications and training standards for first officers, and we commend the FAA for establishing the First Officer Qualification Aviation Rulemaking Committee to solicit recommendations from across the industry. ALPA has advocated that the quality of training is a key component in establishing the quality of the pilot, more than just total flight hours. This proposed rule appears to recognize that in determining qualifications and ability to serve as an airline pilot.”

The proposed rule would

• mandate, consistent with a mandate in the Airline Safety and Federal Aviation Administration Extension Act of 2010, that first officers hold an airline transport pilot (ATP) certificate, requiring 1,500 hours of pilot flight time. The proposal would also require first officers to have an aircraft type rating,

• require a pilot to have a minimum of 1,000 flight hours as a pilot in air carrier operations that require an ATP before serving as a captain for a U.S. airline,

• mandate enhanced training requirements for an ATP certificate, including 50 hours of multi-engine flight experience and completion of a new FAA-approved training program, and

• allow pilots with fewer than 1,500 hours of flight time, but who have an aviation degree or military pilot experience, to obtain a “restricted privileges” ATP certificate. These pilots could serve only as a first officer, not as a captain. Former military pilots with 750 hours of flight time would be able to apply for an ATP certificate with restricted privileges. Graduates of a four-year baccalaureate aviation degree program would be able to obtain a restricted ATP with 1,000 hours of flight time, only if they also obtained an airline pilot certificate and instrument rating from a pilot school affiliated with the university or college.

“ALPA’s pilot and staff experts will evaluate the proposed rule and submit comments as appropriate to further the union’s goal of advancing safety,” concluded Moak.

FAA’s Aviation Forecast Fuels Many ALPA Policy Goals

On March 8, the FAA released its projection that U.S. airline passenger travel will nearly double in the next 20 years, while it anticipates cargo traffic on U.S. airlines will more than double from 2012 to 2032. The forecast for intensifying demand reinforces the importance of many of ALPA’s policy priorities, including modernizing U.S. air transportation through NextGen and applying the FAA’s new fatigue rules to pilots who fly cargo.

The FAA’s report, “FAA Aerospace Forecast Fiscal Years 2012–2032,” was released in conjunction with the 37th Annual FAA Aviation Forecast Conference, held in Washington, D.C. In his remarks to open the conference, Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood said that NextGen was among the top items on his agenda, stating in a news release, “Our investment in NextGen is the key to getting passengers and cargo to their destinations more safely, faster, and with less impact on the environment.”

According to the FAA forecast, total mainline and regional airline enplanements would increase from 730.7 million in 2011 to 1.23 billion in 2032, an average annual growth rate of 2.5 percent. Domestic enplanements are projected to decrease 0.1 percent in 2012, and then grow an average of 2.4 percent per year during the remaining 20-year forecast. International enplanements are forecast to increase 1.9 percent in 2012 and then grow an average of 4.2 percent per year for the rest of the forecast period. Total system enplanements are expected to reach 1 billion in 2024. Total air cargo revenue ton miles are projected to increase from 37.3 billion in 2011 to 101.8 billion in 2032, up an average of 4.9 percent per year. Domestic revenue ton miles are expected to increase 1.6 percent per year, while international cargo is anticipated to increase 6.0 percent per year.

The two-day FAA Forecast Conference, which was centered on the theme “Aviation—Driver of the Global Economy,” touched on many of ALPA pilots’ top policy priorities, including U.S. airlines’ ability to compete in the global marketplace, energy policy and fuel costs, and the airline industry’s environmental commitment. The Conference panelists, who included representatives from regulatory agencies, airlines, airports, manufacturers, and other industry stakeholders, also emphasized the importance of managing economic volatility through developing both optimistic and pessimistic forecasts and the need for agility in reacting to unforeseen events such as the 2003 SARS outbreak and the fuel spikes of 2008.

In his remarks, FAA Acting Administrator Michael Huerta underscored the importance of pursuing NextGen, stressing that the FAA now has a new four-year authorization and that President Obama’s budget proposes $1 billion for NextGen. “The American people deserve an aviation system that can keep pace with our increasing reliance on air travel, and NextGen will help us get there,” he said.

Mesa Pilots Want to Know: What’s My Future Here?

Mesa pilots marked the one-year anniversary of negotiations in early March by asking, “Mesa Management: What’s My Future Here?”

Just days after the company exited bankruptcy in 2011, the pilots entered into Section 6 negotiations. Now one year into the process, the pilots and management have tentatively agreed to eight sections of the contract. Rapid progress was initially made by going through many of the administrative issues and those that had little effect on the bottom line. As the issues became more substantial, however, management made it clear that it would not agree to any changes unless they were “cost neutral” or reduced current pay, benefits, and work rules. The parties have made very slow progress over seven months, with no additional tentative agreements. During a recent bargaining session in February, several items were closed and another section was tentatively agreed to, but much work still needs to be done to secure a contract.

The Master Executive Council has been holding road shows to provide pilots with an in-depth look at negotiations, including what’s happening in the industry and how it relates to Mesa.

Family Awareness Event Kicks Off “Comair Rebuild”

For the past two years, the Comair pilots have faced many challenges, including furloughs, loss of aircraft, and a revolving door of management personnel. On March 3, however, Comair pilots gathered to kick off a campaign that focuses on the future: Comair Rebuild.

More than 130 pilots, family members, and children came out to a Cincinnati Cyclones hockey game to get information about the new campaign, learn the latest about negotiations, and have a good time. The kids also went home with a free Cyclones jersey.

“We know we have a long road ahead of us,” said Capt. Erik Jensen, the pilots’ Master Executive Council (MEC) chairman. “But our objective is to rebuild this company to what it was. This can be accomplished when the pilots and management work together toward a common goal with a common vision of the future. It’s more than survival—we are aiming for renewal.”

The MEC has distributed bag tags, stickers, and construction hats with the new slogan and is staying in touch with the pilot group across multiple channels—including podcasts, all-pilot calls, and additional Family Awareness events.

ALPA Reps Attend AABI Conference

Capt. Dave Farmer (Delta), chairman of ALPA’s Leadership Committee, and ALPA staff members participated in the winter conference of the Aviation Accreditation Board International (AABI) in mid-February in Auburn, Ala. As part of the conference, town hall meeting participants examined a proposal by John Allen, director of the FAA’s Flight Standards Service, to create a U.S. Aviation Academy Program (USAAP).

The Program would address the anticipated pilot shortage by offering a specialized four-year scholastic and flight training program. USAAP would establish a board to set standards for participating U.S. academic institutions that offer these programs—schools like AABI-accredited Auburn, Embry-Riddle, and the University of North Dakota. The cost would be borne by contributions from airlines, government, participating colleges, students, and private philanthropies.

The conference also featured an industry/educator forum, which examined promoting safety in collegiate aviation programs and establishing a framework for professionalism, responsibility, and decision-making. Participants discussed how best to prepare student aviators for real-life situations and how to bolster the public image of new pilots as professionals.

The next AABI conference will take place in Montreal, P.Q., in July in conjunction with the International Civil Aviation Organization and its Next Generation of Aviation Professionals initiative.

The AABI, composed of many large and small universities and colleges in the United States and Canada, sets accreditation standards for those institutions’ aviation programs. The organization also audits member programs on an ongoing basis to ensure that they meet or exceed established standards.

Education Committee Update

Committee Participates in Ace Club Meetings and Other Events

ALPA’s Education Commit-tee is working to establish an ACE Club this year at the University of North Dakota (UND) and is continuing to support the ACE Club at ERAU-Daytona Beach. The Committee plans to use video conferencing at ACE Club meetings so that subject-matter experts can attend without being on location. Video conferencing will allow the Committee to hold ACE Club events at smaller schools that are unable to support individual ACE Clubs.
In March, Committee members attended the Women in Aviation Conference in Dallas, Tex., and the Maus Middle School’s 8th Grade Career Day in Frisco, Tex. In May, the Committee will participate in the Kingsbury Center Career Day in Washington, D.C.

Interested in volunteering at an Education Committee event? Click here for more information.

The Committee would like to remind ALPA members to take a few minutes each month to participate in student surveys posted on the Education Committee website. Aviation students, some of whom are current ALPA pilots, need to gather survey information as part of their course of study. To participate in a survey, click here.


Canada Board Meets, Approves Strategic Plan

ALPA’s Canada Board convened in mid-February in Vancouver, B.C., to review its draft strategic plan and communications action plan. After a lively discussion, the Board unanimously approved the plan with the mission “to work collectively as the leading advocate and representative for the Canadian professional pilot, with a focus on safety.”

Board members discussed several topics, including

• flight time/duty time and the Fatigue Management Working Group,

• promoting captain’s authority with regard to the jumpseat,

• new Canadian SID/STAR phraseology,

• a new regulation that restricts airspeed below 10,000 feet,

• runway safety,

• pending legislation affecting Canadian pilots, and

• organizing.

During the meeting, the Board also heard a report from the chairman of the Board of Insurance Trustees (BOIT) Committee and reviewed proposed new BOIT trust documents, which the Board approved.

The Canada Board will convene again in December.

ALPA Represents Canadian Members at Various Meetings

At the end of January, Réal Levasseur, an ALPA senior staff engineer, participated with other airline industry partners in a Transport Canada-led one-week focus group on CRM. The focus group was working to accelerate CRM-related recommendations for the 702, 703, and 704 airlines through various levels of the regulatory process.

During the first week of February, Levasseur took part in a risk assessment working group dealing with Transportation Safety Board of Canada recommendations on CVR updates, stemming from the Sept. 2, 1998, Swissair accident, which claimed the lives of all 229 crew and passengers. This risk assessment is required before the regulatory change proposals can be forwarded to the Canadian legal department.

On February 7–8, Levasseur participated in the second meeting of the NAV CANADA/Transport Canada performance-based navigation (PBN) Working Group. With input from interested sectors of the airline industry, the WG is making progress toward implementing the regulatory framework required to support this technology. Some of the benefits of PBN are reduced fuel consumption and greenhouse gas emissions and safer and increased traffic flow in congested airspace.

During February 14–17, Levasseur attended the 50th NAV CANADA Advisory Committee (NCAC) meeting and annual general meeting of the corporation. The NCAC reviews all aspects of the services that NAV CANADA provides and makes recommendations to the Board. Elections for the positions of chair, vice chair, and secretary were held at the end of the meeting. Levasseur was appointed secretary of the NCAC for a two-year term.

During the third week in February, Levasseur attended the joint Safety and Training Council meeting in Herndon, Va. Participants discussed stickshaker/stall recoveries, rudder limitations and training, multicrew pilot licenses, ASAP, and mentoring. Canadian attendees from Air Transat and Jazz had the opportunity to meet their U.S. counterparts and discuss issues of mutual concern.

ALPA Negotiations Update

The following is a summary of the status of ALPA contract negotiations by airline as of March 9, 2012:

Air Wisconsin—A Section 6 notice was filed on Oct. 1, 2010. Negotiations continue April 17–20, May 15–18, June 10–13, and August 28–31.

Atlantic Southeast—A Section 6 notice was filed on May 20, 2010. A joint Section 6 notice was filed on March 28, 2011. Atlantic Southeast/ExpressJet joint negotiations continue.

Bearskin—A notice to bargain was sent on Sept. 1, 2011. Negotiations continue April 10–12 and 24–26.

CanJet—A notice to bargain was filed on Dec. 1, 2011. Negotiations continue April 23–27 and May 21–25.

Comair—A Section 6 notice was filed on Sept. 27, 2010. Negotiations continue.

Continental—Negotiations are under way on the Continental/United joint collective bargaining agreement (JCBA). The parties requested assistance from the National Mediation Board (NMB) on Dec. 17, 2010. Mediation continues.

Evergreen—Negotiations began in December 2004. ALPA became the pilots’ bargaining agent in November 2007. A tentative agreement was reached on April 16, 2010. The pilots voted against ratification on Aug. 16, 2010. 

ExpressJet—A Section 6 notice was received on May 28, 2010. A joint Section 6 notice was filed on March 28, 2011. Negotiations are under way for the Atlantic Southeast/ExpressJet JCBA.

First Air—A notice to bargain was filed on Oct. 1, 2010. Negotiations are under way.

Mesa—A Section 6 notice was filed on Sept. 10, 2010. Negotiations continue April 24–26, May 8–9, and June 12–14.

Piedmont—A Section 6 notice was sent on March 13, 2009. An application for mediation was filed with the NMB on April 21, 2010. Negotiations continue.

PSA—A Section 6 notice was sent on Jan. 19, 2009. A joint application for mediation was filed on July 12, 2011. Negotiations continue April 9–13 and May 8–10.

Ryan—A Section 6 notice was sent on Sept. 2, 2011. Negotiations continue April 2–6, April 30–May 2, May 29–June 1, and June 18–22.

Sun Country—A Section 6 notice was sent on Feb. 23, 2010. Negotiations continue.

United—A Section 6 notice was sent on April 6, 2009. Negotiations are under way on the United/Continental JCBA.

ALPA Security Structure Representatives Meet

Security and jumpseat chairmen/coordinators representing 23 ALPA master executives councils met in Herndon, Va., March 13–14 during the first plenary session of the Association’s reorganized security structure. Capt. Sean Cassidy, ALPA’s first vice president and national safety coordinator, opened the meetings and provided a general overview of the current state of the ALPA Board of Director’s safety and security priorities. Capt. Fred Eissler (FedEx Express), ALPA’s aviation security chair, chaired the plenary sessions.

During the course of the two-day event, Security Council and Jumpseat Council members convened in separate break-out sessions to discuss pertinent matters of interest at individual airlines, to redefine each group’s operating procedures to ensure conformity with ALPA’s Administrative Manual, Section 85, and to plan for the Association’s 2012 Annual Air Safety Forum. In addition, each group discussed a number of matters of interest that were referred to the aviation security chair for consideration and potential follow-up action.

The program included presentations by the Transportation Security Administration’s (TSA) chief of Explosive Operations Division, representatives of TSA’s Security Policy and Industry Engagement Division, and ALPA’s Government Affairs Department.

The full security structure will next meet in Washington, D.C., during ALPA’s annual Air Safety Forum, August 6–9.


Letters to the editor may be submitted via regular mail to Air Line Pilot, Letters to the Editor, 535 Herndon Parkway, P.O. Box 1169, Herndon, VA 20172-1169, or by e-mail to

Known Crewmember

Thanks for your diligent work on the Known Crewmember program. It’s good to see things finally taking shape after many years. It will be a great benefit to pilots and help ease congestion for passengers at the regular security lines. I will not miss getting undressed in the security line. Good job!

F/O Bob Taylor (Delta)

The pilots of ALPA

I wanted to commend you on your recent January/February issue, “The Pilots of ALPA 2012.” It was very informative and gave pilots an update on what’s happening at all of our fellow ALPA pilot groups. I did, however, notice an inaccuracy that I hope we can correct. The “CAL at a Glance” info, page 36, says the pilot group joined ALPA in 2001. It might be more accurately stated that the Continental pilots rejoined ALPA in 2001, similar to FedEx’s listing as rejoining ALPA in 2002.

To not reference Continental’s proud ALPA history dating back almost 80 years is a disservice to those Continental ALPA members who held out and endured one of the longest, nastiest strikes (1983–1985) in ALPA history. I was one of those pilots who joined Continental after the strike in a merger with People Express (the original). But it has been my extreme pleasure over the last 25 years to fly with and work alongside many extraordinary men and women helping to return Continental to ALPA. Proud ALPA “full-term strikers” worked tirelessly with Continental ALPA members who had joined the airline from other ALPA [pilot groups]; [other ALPA-represented pilots], many of whom were strikers who hadn’t returned or left Lorenzo’s airline for ALPA [pilot groups]; enlightened Continental and ExpressJet IACP members (Continental and Continental Express’s independent joint union); a few like me who joined ALPA previously under ALPA’s Independent Airman Program in the late 1980 to return the Continental and ExpressJet pilots back to ALPA where they rightfully belonged; and ALPA staff members.

There were plenty who fought us in the crew rooms and courtrooms to prevent Continental’s return, but we prevailed in 2001 and returned Continental Airlines to the Air Line Pilots Association, International!

I certainly hope next year’s issue will be corrected to display Continental’s proud history for all of Continental’s distinguished battle star recipients to view, whether they are still flying at Continental, somewhere else, or enjoying Air Line Pilot in retirement with pride! Scratch that, I hope to see next year’s issue with Continental displayed with our new United brother and sisters, having achieved a long-overdue joint contract and listed together, highlighting both pilot groups’ proud ALPA history!

Capt. Chris Lynch (Continental)

Editor’s note: Continental pilots do indeed have a long and proud history as ALPA members. We apologize for the oversight.

In the January/February 2012 “The Pilots of ALPA” issue, [an article] describes Piedmont Airlines as “a successor to Allegheny Airlines and one of the oldest airlines in the United States,” with “a rich history and an important place in the airline industry.” It sounds to me as if [this statement] is describing the “original” Piedmont, which was folded into USAir some 25 years ago. The existing Piedmont is simply the renamed Henson Airlines. Several years ago, USAir renamed its largest regional affiliates in a tribute to the various airlines it merged with or it had previously acquired: Piedmont, Allegheny, and PSA in particular.

In the box on the bottom of page 48, it states that Piedmont’s pilots joined ALPA in 1952. Henson Airlines didn’t even exist until 1962. Again, [this date refers] to the original Piedmont, whose remaining pilots today are part of US Airways.

In the synopsis of ASTAR, [it says of] the carrier’s DC-8 aircraft: “ 2000 ASTAR was mainly using the DC-8s for cargo, with very few exceptions.” There were no exceptions. ASTAR never flew any of its aircraft in a passenger configuration. The DC-8s were acquired by ASTAR (operating as DHL Airways at the time) already in full cargo configuration, and they remained that way permanently. In fact, they’d already been flying as freighters for several years before joining the DHL/ASTAR fleet. (I was a pilot for the carrier between 1997 and 2001.)

F/O Patrick Smith (Delta)

Editor’s note: The 1952 date is indeed incorrect and refers to the original Piedmont Airlines. The pilots of the current Piedmont Airlines joined ALPA in 1984 as Henson, the Piedmont Regional Airline. Regarding the ASTAR article, the sentence in question was originally written to refer to DC-8s in general, not those flown specifically by ASTAR. Some words were dropped during the editing process, which changed the meaning of the sentence.

Pilots for Kids

I am writing to thank you for the heartening story of Zach Drew in the March issue. Kudos to John Perkinson for an excellent article.

The Pilots for Kids organization was briefly mentioned in the article, and I wanted to expound upon it a little.

Every year, thousands of children just like Zach are hospitalized, often away from friends and the familiarities of normal childhood. It can be a terribly frightening experience for a child, amid tests and treatments. Doctors and nurses are given the overwhelming task of caring for and befriending these kids in their time of need. But the reality is that there is a shortage of volunteers willing to spend time with these children to make their stay a little more comfortable.

This is where Pilots for Kids comes in. Imagine a child’s amazement at seeing a group of real-life airline pilots in uniform coming to hang out with them! It’s easy to forget just how cool we are to a child full of imagination. The look in the eyes of kids whom PFK volunteers visit every year is universal—wide-eyed with big smiles!

Spending time playing with, chatting with, and making crafts with hospitalized children is one of the most rewarding opportunities this career has afforded me. Pilots for Kids organizers are in nearly every major city in the U.S. and often make multiple visits to children’s hospitals over the holidays. Every single cent donated to the organization goes directly to children. Volunteers are always welcomed, no matter what you can contribute. Visiting these children is a humbling and extremely uplifting experience, emotions we sometimes rarely experience in uniform.

In short, donning my uniform every year to visit hospitalized children with Pilots for Kids is the most rewarding trip I take in uniform. I hope that other ALPA pilots will consider doing the same. has a list of cities with yearly events and a link on how to join the organization. Dues are $15 per year and pay for membership and newsletters, along with a lanyard, flight bag stickers, and wristbands.

F/O Steven Flesch (ExpressJet/Atlantic Southeast), Communications Coordinator, ALPA Air Safety Organization

Delta Pilots’ “Leading the Industry” Contract 2012 Negotiations Begin

On March 13, the Delta pilots’ Master Executive Council (MEC) Negotiating Committee and management exchanged Section 6 openers. With contract negotiations now under way, every MEC committee is engaged in some fashion with the “Leading the Industry” Contract 2012 effort. In the same way that the internal team is working together, the next step is to strengthen pilot unity—the single most important aspect for succeeding in 2012. To that end, the Delta Pilot Network, a subcommittee of the MEC Communications Committee, is physically expanding its presence all across the U.S. to where Delta pilots live.

The Delta Pilot Network will provide venues and opportunities to get local pilots together with Pilot Unity Building events. These events will allow the Delta Pilot Network and ALPA leaders to share information, listen to concerns, address rumors, and receive feedback, all in a casual social setting. Pilot Unity Building events recently took place in Cincinnati, Ohio; Seattle, Wash.; and Salt Lake City, Utah. Weekly code-a-phone messages and targeted e-mails/calls will be used to announce future events.

Fuel Prices

As fuel prices continue to rise, many major U.S. airlines have been shedding capacity as a means of controlling costs. These capacity cuts are now affecting their regional flying partners as well. Express flying partners typically fly passengers on smaller airplanes from smaller airports to a major’s hub airport. As fuel prices have continued to rise (and are well above the prices when many of these aircraft were ordered), operating smaller jets has become a less cost-effective way to provide feed to the hubs. Not surprisingly, as costs have increased, the demand for smaller jet flying has decreased.

Data from the OAG show the drop in regional carriers’ block hours and available seat miles since the first quarter of 2010. Overall, pilots of jets with 50 seats or fewer have seen a 4 percent drop in block hours and available seat miles since 2010. The more notable changes started to occur in the third quarter of 2011 and continued through the first quarter of this year. In addition, with AMR in bankruptcy and its business plan not fully developed, it is still unclear how its regional flying may change.

Operators of turboprops are also facing capacity cuts. Although turboprop operators did not see the decline in block hours as early as small jet operators did, the later decline has been more pronounced in the second half of 2011 and the first quarter of 2012. Overall, domestic turboprop block hours are down 10 percent since 2010. Additionally, AMR has announced that American Eagle’s ATR fleet is likely to be retired in the near future, and some pilot furloughs have already been announced.

Return to top

The Pilot Partisan Agenda

Bleeding-Heart Liberal? Die-Hard Conservative?

Attention U.S. and Canadian ALPA members: It’s time to put your personal politics aside and focus on your profession, your career, and your future.

Join the Pilot Partisan Movement.

The Air Line Pilots Association, International is defining the agenda and leading the way. Want to know more? Want to be involved? Continue reading.

A Progress Report on Current Issues
By Elizabeth Baker, ALPA Senior Legislative Affairs Representative

The following is a list of current issues on ALPA’s legislative agenda for 2012. It is not all-inclusive nor is it representative of issues that may arise as ALPA moves forward.

Improving the Federal Flight Deck Officer Program

When dealing with terrorism, the deterrent value of an armed presence within the airline cockpit cannot be overstated. Today, thousands of fully trained and deputized airline pilot volunteers defend more than 100,000 flight segments per month at a cost of only $15 per flight for oversight of the program. The program is a critical and cost-efficient airline security program. In spite of the program’s tremendous value, the Executive Branch’s 2013 budget proposal cuts the funding for the FFDO program in half and cuts $36 million from the Federal Air Marshall Service program. There is no question that the United States is facing a serious debt crisis; however, a cut to the FFDO program is not the answer to fixing the deficit problem in Washington, D.C. ALPA will continue to fight the cuts to the FFDO and FAMS programs on Capitol Hill and will push instead for a fully funded FFDO program.

Safeguarding Shipments of Lithium Batteries

Lithium batteries provide essential power for millions of Americans every day as they use laptop computers, cell phones, flashlights, and cameras. ALPA is not calling for new restrictions on what passengers are permitted to bring aboard aircraft, but the world’s largest nongovernmental aviation safety organization is extremely concerned about the risk from transporting lithium batteries aboard aircraft as cargo. ALPA has long advocated for improved transport requirements. During the years-long debate on the FAA reauthorization bill, there were attempts to limit the Department of Transportation’s (DOT) ability to regulate the air transport of lithium batteries beyond the standards set by ICAO. ALPA adamantly opposed that provision and ultimately the Federal Aviation Administration Modernization and Reform Act of 2012, which was enacted on Feb. 14, 2012, included a provision that allows the DOT to regulate these shipments in a manner more stringent than ICAO, based on credible reports of lithium-battery-sourced fire incidents or accidents on aircraft. Furthermore, action at ICAO sets the stage for better dangerous-goods regulations for lithium batteries beginning in 2013.

Fighting Pilot Fatigue

On Dec.1, 2011, the FAA released its final regulations (FAR Part 117) to address pilot fatigue in the cockpit. Unfortunately, the rule covers only passenger airlines and excludes cargo airline operations from mandatory compliance. For decades, ALPA has advocated for One Level of Safety for the simple reason that all pilots and airline operations should be treated equally regardless of the size of the aircraft, the number of passengers, or the cargo load. Cargo aircraft share airspace and runways with passenger airliners, and cargo pilots deserve the same safety protections as their counterparts at passenger airlines.

ALPA is working aggressively on Capitol Hill to pursue a legislative mandate to include cargo in FAR Part 117.

Protecting Pilot Benefits

Over the past few years, proposals to impose taxes on employer-provided health-care benefits and retirement contributions have gained momentum as Congress wrestles with deficit-reduction strategies. If adopted, these proposals would lead to higher health-care costs and threaten the retirement security of all pilots. ALPA has been actively and successfully fighting both policies on Capitol Hill.

Promoting a Sound U.S. Aviation Policy

ALPA is front and center with respect to protecting U.S. aviation policy to ensure there are no threats to current foreign cabotage restrictions. Furthermore, the Association supports enhancing labor protections in any air transport service agreements where appropriate.

Any sound U.S. aviation policy must recognize that the price of jet fuel is the largest and most volatile expense for the airline industry. ALPA has long supported oversight and transparency in the U.S. derivatives market to end excessive oil speculation and price spikes for jet fuel. ALPA supports S. 1598, the Anti-Excessive Speculation Act, to curb oil speculation while allowing legitimate hedging. ALPA also supports research into alternative fuels to improve emissions and lower costs for the aviation industry.

Strengthening Aviation Security

In addition to promoting the FFDO program, ALPA has a robust security agenda. As Congress considers a reauthorization bill for the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), ALPA will pursue opportunities to influence the legislative process to improve several aspects of the national security network. Those improvements include

• instituting a Threatened Airspace Management (TAM) protocol to require information sharing among agencies, airlines, air traffic control, pilots, and other essential personnel during airline security incidents;

• improving perimeter security at all-cargo airports;

• mandating security training for all-cargo crews in line with the All-Cargo Common Strategy; and

• promoting an overall risk-based security system.

Protecting U.S. Airlines and U.S. Piloting Jobs by Leveling the Playing Field in the Global Marketplace

The U.S. airline industry and its employees operate in a hyper-competitive international marketplace that is currently skewed against the success of the U.S. domestic aviation network. Competition from foreign airlines, some of which are state-owned or heavily state-sponsored, and which operate from countries with low or nonexistent tax and regulatory burdens, is growing rapidly. Around the world, airlines such as Emirates are impeding international growth for U.S. airlines by expanding into markets once dominated by U.S. airlines and into our own back yard. Foreign carriers are often able to buy American-manufactured airplanes with below-market financing rates subsidized by U.S. taxpayers, using those same airplanes to compete against U.S. airlines on international routes with significantly lower costs. ALPA is looking at all avenues to level the playing field for U.S. airlines to protect U.S. piloting jobs and to strengthen the ability of U.S. airlines to compete globally.

Opposing Tax Burdens on U.S. Airlines

As federal legislators continue to debate how best to reduce the federal budget deficit and bring our fiscal house in order, ALPA will continue to oppose all additional taxes and fees proposed for the airline industry. Taxes that airlines pay are higher than taxes paid on alcohol, tobacco, and firearms, the so-called “sin taxes” that are designed to discourage use. ALPA advocates that U.S. tax policy should actually encourage the survivability of the U.S. airline industry, which is a cornerstone of the U.S. economy. The Association will continue to oppose proposals for a departure tax for air operations and any increase in airline security fees.

ALPA is also continuing to oppose the European Union’s emissions trading scheme, which imposes taxes on U.S. airlines to and from Europe under the guise of lowering carbon emissions. ALPA supports S. 1956, which prohibits the U.S. from participating in this scheme and instead calls for all carbon emission decisions that affect global aviation to be established through the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO).

Update on Pilot Regulations in Canada
By Al Ogilvie, ALPA Legal and Government Affairs Representative

In Canada, ALPA’s Government Affairs Department closely monitors government bodies that may have an effect on ALPA members’ interests. The union actively advances those interests before these government entities.

The following is an update on current airline-pilot-related regulations on Parliament Hill and other regulatory agencies in Canada.


The 41st Parliament began on June 2, 2011, with the Conservative Party achieving a majority (122 of 308 seats). Of primary concern in this session is Bill C-377, An Act to Amend the Income Tax Act (Labour Organizations) Private Member’s Bill.

C-377 would force labour unions to file detailed annual financial reports about salaries, revenues, expenses, and more. The information would be posted on the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) public website.

ALPA and the Canada Labour Congress oppose this bill, which far exceeds the reporting requirements of most income tax filings.

C-377 would require a detailed breakdown of spending on labour relations and political, lobbying, and organizing and collective bargaining activities. It would pile onerous, costly administrative burdens on labour unions and give employers and anti-union groups insights into unions’ financial strength.

Fatigue Working Group

Canada’s pilot fatigue regulations were last amended in 1996. Transport Canada decided to update them in light of ICAO’s Annex 6 recommendations and to ensure that the regulations are based on current scientific knowledge.

The Canadian Aviation Regulation Advisory Council (CARAC) formed a Flight Crew Fatigue Management Working Group (WG) to review Canadian (and other countries’) flight- and duty-time regulations, ICAO standards and recommended practices, and the supporting science.

The WG met over the course of 18 months, and deliberations ended in December 2011. ALPA participated fully, with a WG member and two technical advisors attending all sessions. ALPA’s representatives submitted the union’s position, with supporting science and operational experience, in late February.

The WG co-chairs will draft a report that reflects the WG members’ recommendations. The recommendations and dissents will go to the CARAC Technical Committee in September 2012. Transport Canada will draft regulations based on the Technical Committee’s recommendations.

Mandatory Retirement

Canadian law does not set a pilot retirement age; that’s usually found in union contracts or company policies. The Canadian Human Rights Act (CHR Act) prohibits age discrimination—unless the person has reached “the normal age of retirement.”

The omnibus budget bill, C-3, amended the CHR Act by deleting the exemption for “the normal age of retirement,” effectively eliminating a mandatory retirement age at airlines by December 2012. But an employer can still impose a retirement age if the employer can show that it is a bona fide occupational requirement (BFOR).

Most Canadian airlines with an ALPA contract set a retirement age and/or have a provision in their collective bargaining agreement (for example, on disability benefits) that may be age-dependent. In February, ALPA’s Canada Board created a committee to recommend how to address this situation.

Canadian Human Rights Commission

Two cases before the Canadian Human Rights Commission are challenging Jazz’s retirement age (65) in the pension plan as discriminatory. These cases predate the legislative amendment, so they may still be adjudicated.

The Commission has made an initial recommendation that the two complaints proceed to the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal for adjudication. Jazz argued before the Commission that the retirement age is a BFOR.

Senate Hearings

In 2011, Canada’s Senate Standing Committee on Transport and Communications held hearings on “The Emerging Issues Related to the Canadian Airline Industry.”

ALPA testified on Nov. 30, 2011, to provide the union’s position on issues, including its opposition to fuel and excise taxes, airport rents, airport improvement fees, security, and security fees. The Association also talked about Canadian airlines’ using foreign pilots, bilateral relations with the United Arab Emirates, and airline industry problems with pilot recruitment, retention, and retirement.

Stay tuned!

A Day in the Life
Changing Attitudes: Pilots on the Hill

By Jessie Cornelius, ALPA Public Relations Coordinator

Capt. Brendan Cantwell (Air Wisconsin) is on Capitol Hill fighting for the embattled Federal Flight Deck Officer program and One Level of Safety for all airline pilots.

He is one of 19 ALPA legislative/political action coordinators serving as a voice of pilots on Capitol Hill.
A Washington, D.C., area native, Cantwell’s mother and grandmother both worked on the Hill, but he says he never spent much time here until now. Over the last year-and-a-half, Cantwell has been volunteering his time to meet with lawmakers and their staff regarding several ALPA issues, including the recently adopted flight-time/duty-time (FT/DT) rules.

Today, he’s meeting with northern Virginia Congressman Jim Moran, who currently serves as a senior member of the U.S. House Appropriations Committee, which oversees funding for programs like FFDO. Cantwell, who is accompanied by Government Affairs staff members Elizabeth Baker and Carly Hepola, is in uniform and sitting on a long leather couch across from Moran in his office at the Rayburn House Office Building.

Their top priority is persuading Moran to support funding for the FFDO program, which could be cut by more than half—from $25 million to $12.5 million annually—as part of the FY2013 Executive Branch budget proposal.

Cantwell, a constituent of Moran’s, is leading the discussion. He’s explaining to Moran that the program is already underfunded and that a majority of the funding is on the pilots themselves, who incur expenses for portions of their training and certification. Cutting resources would compromise the program, which is already operating on inadequate funding. FFDO pilots serve as an important last line of defense for airline safety and security.

But the program raises questions with Moran, who is wondering why it’s even necessary since cockpit doors have been reinforced. Enhanced cockpit doors were required to be installed on passenger airliners by April 2003, but cargo airplanes fell through a loophole.

“I thought that the doors were going to be secured,” said Moran. “So what do you need a gun for? Who is going to get in that cockpit?”

It’s a question that is best answered by a pilot.

“The cockpit doors on airliners are fortified, but they are not impenetrable under every conceivable circumstance,” said Cantwell. “Many all-cargo airplanes do not even have cockpit bulkheads, much less cockpit doors. In any event, the fortified door is properly recognized by the Transportation Security Administration as a layer of security, but the TSA recognizes the FFDO program as a layer of security as well, and we need both layers.”

ALPA implemented its grassroots legislative program, which relies on pilots who can share their knowledge and first-hand experiences, to educate lawmakers on ALPA’s position on legislative issues. The program is part of the Association’s multi-prong approach to promoting and protecting pilot interests in the U.S. and Canada.

Cantwell gets to the heart of the message, telling Moran: “We’re hoping that the funding can at least remain the same, and really we would like to see some more funding as far as increasing the training is concerned…and allowing more pilots to enter the program or to cover attrition caused by some pilots’ leaving the program due to furloughs and retirements.”

Over the course of the next few months, ALPA legislative/political action coordinators and Government Affairs Department staff will communicate ALPA’s position on the FFDO program to every representative on Capitol Hill in an effort to ensure proper funding for the program.

“Whenever I talk to members [of Congress], I really appreciate the fact that they are always engaged. The majority of them have questions, and they take interest because they are not always in contact with the person who deals with the issue,” said Cantwell. “Being able to talk directly to us, they ask questions and they are interested in what we go through.”

Dedicated volunteers like Cantwell have proven to be effective resources in educating members of Congress. ALPA legislative/political action coordinators were part of the team, in addition to ALPA leaders and Government Affairs Department staff, that encouraged the FAA to overhaul the decades-old FT/DT rules for airline pilots.

Expanding the FT/DT rules to include cargo airlines continues to be another top priority for ALPA’s Government Affairs team and an issue that Moran seemed to understand when speaking with Cantwell.

“On a regular basis,” Cantwell said, “We’re taxiing right behind a [cargo] airplane or taking off or landing right behind a [cargo] airplane. If the [cargo] pilot is tired, it’d be very easy for the pilot on the ground to miss a taxi instruction, taxi onto a runway where the airplane is not supposed to be—that could cause an accident.… We want everyone to be rested. We all operate in the same environment; we need everyone at their best.”

“You make a good point,” said Moran.


To see more photos of Capt. Brendan Cantwell’s day on Capitol Hill, click here.


How You Can Help

The Executive Branch’s 2013 budget proposal cuts the funding for the Federal Flight Deck Officer (FFDO) program by more than half and cuts $36 million from the Federal Air Marshal Service (FAMS) program. This is unsatisfactory and needs to be remedied.

The FFDO program is a critical and cost-efficient airline security program composed of thousands of fully trained and deputized airline pilots, the majority of whom are ALPA members, who volunteer their time to become qualified FFDOs. In light of its barely adequate funding, any budget reduction to the FFDO program could very well lead to its ultimate demise.

Click here to tell your representative to oppose FY2013 budget cuts to the FFDO and FAMS programs.

5 Ways You Can Help Advance ALPA’s Pilot Partisan Agenda
By Carly Hepola, ALPA Government Affairs Grassroots Coordinator

Grassroots advocacy is one of the most important and unique components of our democracy. As Americans, we treasure our First Amendment right to petition our government and demand action from our elected leaders. The term “grassroots advocacy” defines the efforts of a community that engages its legislators directly in pursuit of a common goal.

At ALPA, our grassroots community is you—the airline pilot and your colleagues across the country (and your network of family and friends). Our goal, through grassroots campaigns, is to make your voice heard in both Congress and the administration to demand action from our elected officials that will promote the security and growth of the airline piloting profession.

Airline piloting has the distinction of being one of the most regulated professions in the country and is highly affected by the laws passed in Congress and the regulations written by the Executive Branch. The current Congress’s agenda includes issues such as new aviation taxes and fees, participation in the European Union’s emission trading scheme, pilot fatigue rules, funding for the Federal Flight Deck Officer program, subsidies to foreign airlines through the Export-Import Bank, and taxation of your health-care benefits and retirement contributions. Members of Congress will never know how these issues affect your life unless ALPA pilots tell them.

While ALPA’s professional lobbyists and pilot volunteers can effectively raise the profile of issues on Capitol Hill, direct grassroots advocacy between pilots and their federal representatives is critical in order to maximize the Association’s success. With more than 50,000 members, ALPA certainly has the potential to influence every member of Congress in a meaningful way.

ALPA’s goal this year is to significantly increase members’ grassroots participation and to increase the union’s power in Washington, D.C. Here are five ways to get involved to suit your schedule and level of interest.

One: Write/E-mail/or Call Your Congressman

This is one of the easiest grassroots actions to take, and the most important! ALPA regularly posts “Calls to Action” on its website when Congress debates issues that affect you. The Call to Action system allows you to easily and electronically send your message to your legislators and also provides you with information on the issue and a sample message.

In 2011, only about 6 percent of ALPA members contacted their representatives in response to a Call to Action. ALPA has a great opportunity to improve that number this year. If you have never participated in a Call to Action, please take a minute to do so in 2012.

2: D.C. Grassroots Meetings

The presence of uniformed ALPA pilots in the halls of Capitol Hill makes a lasting impression in the minds of members of Congress and their staff. No one can deliver ALPA’s legislative message better than you, which is why we encourage pilots to visit D.C. and take part in these important meetings (don’t worry, we’ll train you first if you haven’t participated in a Hill meeting before). During a visit, you may meet with both members and staff from a variety of districts, including representatives from your home state. Interested pilots should contact their master executive council’s (MEC) legislative coordinator (listed on the ALPA Government Affairs Department website), who can help you schedule a time to come to D.C.

III: District Grassroots Meetings

Many members of Congress are more accessible in their home districts than in their D.C. offices. They may take personal meetings or hold meet-and-greet sessions and town hall meetings. These forums provide a great opportunity for pilots to develop a relationship with their own legislators while delivering ALPA’s message. Each MEC’s legislative coordinator can help you find out about upcoming district events and provide talking points and meeting materials to help with these visits.

FOUR: Social Media

Join ALPA on Facebook and Twitter and subscribe to the Association’s “Pilot Partisan” blog to stay up-to-date on legislative issues. Share and re-tweet ALPA’s posts and help spread the word to your friends and colleagues on our campaigns to promote pro-pilot outcomes in Washington, D.C.


ALPA pilots also garner influence with the nation’s political community through the Association’s political action committee, ALPA-PAC. By pooling donations from members, ALPA is able to help elect pro-pilot members of Congress who support the union’s legislative agenda regardless of political affiliation.

Through grassroots action, ALPA can improve the professional future for its pilots. Every pilot can help, and ALPA hopes that you will consider participating in at least one of the above activities this year.

How to Win. Period.
By Zack Mooneyham, ALPA-PAC Coordinator

On Capitol Hill, there are three primary ways to win legislative battles: be convincing (direct lobbying), have a large number of active voters on your side (grassroots advocacy), and spend money through a political action committee (PAC).

ALPA actively pursues all three, but the PAC strategy will become increasingly more important in order for the Association to become an ever greater force on Capitol Hill.

Through ALPA-PAC, the Association is able to achieve far more of its objectives than it could without it. For years, ALPA-PAC has been among the largest and most bipartisan labor PACs, on par with unions 14 times ALPA’s size. Politically, the Association has earned its place as the most influential aviation labor voice by being a big player in the bipartisan money game.

That said, the world has changed, and the Association’s most frequent opponents today are much more alarming. They’ve learned to play the money game very well, and they’re taking that success to Congress.

ALPA is facing new rivals on Capitol Hill that are unlike any seen before. They are bigger, less scrupulous, and better funded than those from the past. The United Arab Emirates (home of state-sponsored Emirates Air and Etihad) has spent as much as $5.3 million in one year lobbying the federal government. Furthermore, a Supreme Court decision in Citizens United allows foreign entities to spend unlimited sums to directly influence the election process.

In 2008, all of the Middle East airlines combined had a fleet of 190 widebody aircraft. Including airplanes currently on order from Airbus and Boeing, that number will jump to 752 in the next few years, an increase of nearly 300 percent and about 140 more widebody airliners than all of the U.S. airlines combined. Make no mistake, these foreign airlines want the U.S. airline industry’s routes, foreign and domestic, and are preparing to flood Congress with requests to loosen the rules on foreign cabotage and foreign control and ownership.

ALPA’s ongoing fight on Capitol Hill over the Export-Import Bank is a prime example of why ALPA-PAC must be better funded. These same Middle East airlines are using a taxpayer-capitalized institution to finance their fleet. The Bank’s reauthorization is currently moving through Congress, and the Bank has been lobbying hard, in conjunction with Boeing and others, to essentially earn legal sanction for its subsidies of widebody airplanes to foreign competitors. This is an argument that ALPA can win easily on merit, but the Association is facing a strong headwind of cash. The Association must significantly fortify ALPA-PAC to guarantee that ALPA’s message of saving U.S. pilot jobs is not ignored.

ALPA-PAC is funded 100 percent by ALPA members’ voluntary contributions. Success depends entirely on members’ dedication to the airline piloting profession. In the very near future, ALPA has huge battles to wage on taxes on employer-provided benefits (like health care), labor protections in Open Skies agreements, and foreign control and ownership laws. The Association must be ready to fight these battles, and a strong PAC is essential to that effort.

Click here to learn more about ALPA-PAC and join the PAC.


Glossary of Terms

Direct Lobbying: Be convincing!

Grassroots Advocacy: Have a large number of active voters on your side

PAC: Political action committee

Making a Difference with Pilot-Driven Advocacy
By Michael Robbins, Director, ALPA’s Government Affairs Department

ALPA’s Government Affairs staff engages daily on Capitol Hill and with the Executive Branch to lobby for pro-pilot legislation and regulations. ALPA’s full-time lobbyists are former Capitol Hill professionals, with decades of experience as Washington insiders, giving ALPA members a valuable resource by effectively lobbying in Washington, D.C., on their behalf. The effectiveness of ALPA’s staff, however, grows exponentially when ALPA pilots, often in uniform, join the direct advocacy meetings.

Direct advocacy, or lobbying, is an important tool for the Association. Communicating directly to members of Congress and their staff through meetings on Capitol Hill gives ALPA the opportunity to inform decision-makers about the Association’s position on key pilot issues and to advocate for them.

Members of Congress and their staff fly on airlines on a regular basis and therefore most have a high level of respect for the airline piloting profession. When ALPA’s members are on Capitol Hill with professional ALPA staff lobbyists, that respect is visible and helps to advance meetings in a positive way. Whether discussing pilot fatigue, a safety or security issue, or protecting negotiated benefits from taxation, having a pilot in the room brings additional authority and gravitas to the meeting.

On numerous issues of late, ALPA members in uniform have come to Washington, D.C., to lobby Capitol Hill. ALPA’s Government Affairs Department helps to schedule congressional meetings for ALPA pilots and ensures that the right message is being delivered to key players. ALPA staff ensures that pilot lobbyists are well trained on how to properly conduct a meeting, are armed with talking points and facts, and are ready to face numerous questions from inquisitive members of Congress.

The pilot-driven approach to direct lobbying is proving to be effective. On issues such as allowing airline payments received in bankruptcy to be rolled into a traditional IRA as a rollover contribution, protecting funding for the Federal Flight Deck Officer program, and ensuring One Level of Safety for all pilots, ALPA members are making a difference on Capitol Hill advocating for the Association’s pilot partisan agenda.

Return to top


LTC Adds Focus on Building Unity

ALPA’s 2012 Leadership Training Conference (LTC) added new emphasis around the theme of consensus: how to build it, why good leaders strive for it, and the ALPA tools available to achieve it. In an increasingly competitive airline marketplace driven more by globalization than by traditional airline rivalries, building consensus isn’t a luxury, it’s a necessity.

Running from February 27 to March 1, the intensive four-day conference brought together almost 100 newly elected local council representatives and master executive council (MEC) officers from 25 ALPA pilot groups. It’s ALPA ground school for the volunteers who govern the Association and make the big decisions, and the union’s top leaders wasted no time reminding the newcomers of the importance of their roles.

“Right now, airline labor is fundamentally changing. We can either shape it flying in the front with shoulder harnesses on, or sitting in the back with a lap belt on and not doing anything. You have made a decision to do something. You have become part of the team,” said Capt. Lee Moak, ALPA’s president.

The LTC is held once a year and focuses on reviewing ALPA’s structure and resources and providing attendees an overview of the airline industry and its challenges and opportunities. The reps and officers are taught how to run effective local meetings, how to effectively participate in MEC and Board of Directors meetings, and how to represent line pilots in grievances and discipline cases.

This year’s meeting was restructured to provide a greater emphasis on the “soft skills” of leadership—building unity, communicating effectively, and leading by example, said Capt. David Farmer (Delta), chairman of ALPA’s national Leadership Committee.

“We felt the LTC needed an additional training segment regarding how you interact with your pilots—they’re going to be happy with you some days, unhappy with you other days, so we demonstrated various communication techniques on how to talk and listen to pilots in the crew room, and at the MEC level, about how to work together,” Farmer said.

Why build consensus? Good governance makes an MEC more effective, and it can put money in your pocket. Consensus pays because every new contract or successful merger improves conditions across the profession. Conversely, infighting and squabbling can be expensive.

Take the case of US Airways: it’s estimated that the combined US Airways/America West pilot group has lost more than $1 billion worth of value in pay, benefits, and work rules because of their leaders’ inability to agree on a merged seniority list and negotiate a combined contract. According to Moak, a 12-year US Airways A330 pilot is losing nearly $54,000 per year because of a stagnant contract, compared to a 12-year A330 pilot flying for Northwest post-merger with Delta.

In a presentation to the group, National Mediation Board Chairman Linda Puchala said the NMB seeks the same consensus process to lead unions and management to a “zone of reasonableness,” the middle ground where successful contracts are achieved.

“The majority of [negotiating] time is spent outside that zone, and time is money. So you have to consider whether that is time well spent,” Puchala said.

In an environment where bargaining for a new contract can take as long as eight years, the class of 2012 was encouraged to find innovative ways to reach deals faster, such as the new one-year contract extension that the FedEx Express pilots recently approved.

The new leaders were told that gaining consensus and finding the courage to do things differently comes back around to the tools of leadership: governing with one voice, knowing your group’s needs, creating unity, and making decisions honestly.

Capt. Dan Schultz (Compass) attended his first LTC in 2006, as a first officer representative for ATA Council 96. Seven years later, ATA is out of business and Schultz is now a newly elected MEC chairman for the Compass pilot group.

According to Schultz, the corporate names and the aircraft may change but the overall mission of defending the airline piloting profession goes on.

“The big picture is still there. We’re under attack from a lot of different sides continuously throughout our careers. The message is still the same: we need to stay together as a comprehensive group. Factions that go off alone don’t survive very well,” Schultz said.—Rusty Ayers, ALPA Senior Communications Specialist


The Nine Traits of Effective Leadership

1. forward-looking

2. inspiring

3. courageous

4. competent

5. fair-minded

6. intelligent

7. imaginative

8. straightforward

9. honest



“The point about leading is that you have to lead when it’s hard. As long as
the goals are clear, the methods you can use to get to your goal are very flexible.”—Capt. Andy Nelson (Spirit), ALPA Leadership Committee member


“You’ve decided to step forward and make a difference, not remain silent. We take your investment seriously. There are 325 highly educated, very experienced, and highly seasoned ALPA employees who are determined to make sure you succeed. You are our greatest asset.”—Capt. Lee Moak, ALPA’s president, welcoming pilots to the Leadership Training Conference

“You’ve heard about the ALPA national ‘agenda’? That agenda is you. Everything we do, you touch. So if you don’t like the way things are going, you need to work a little bit harder, because status reps run this Association.”—Capt. Tom Wychor (Pinnacle), member, ALPA Leadership Committee

“You won’t have to hunt for the media any more, the media will find you.”—Marie Schwartz, director of ALPA’s Communications Department, discussing the omnipresence of social media in modern life


“Strategic planning isn’t just project management, it’s taking a look at the current environment and identifying your strengths and weaknesses. MECs that undertake rigorous strategic planning are much more successful.”—Bruce York, director of ALPA’s ALPA Representation Department

“ALPA’s safety organization has great respect and a lot of influence among the industry and government regulators, thanks to our years of experience and wide contacts around the world.”—Keith Hagy, director of ALPA’s Engineering & Air Safety Department


“We won’t be effective as an organization if we don’t have a strong PAC. This town thrives on money. We’ve got to play in a big way.”—Michael Robbins, director of ALPA’s Government Affairs Department, on the importance of bipartisan political funding

“Realistically, you’re only going to get about five chances in your whole career to get a good contract.”—Linda Puchala, chair of the National Mediation Board


“The strategic plan approved by the 2010 Board of Directors was not a document that has gathered dust on the shelf. It is a real plan upon which our activities over the past two years have been based. Our process is reflective of ALPA being a pilot-driven organization.”—F/O Ron Abel (United), member, ALPA Strategic Planning Committee


Did You Know?

What we now call flight attendants used to be ALPA members back when the Association still had a Steward and Stewardesses (S&S) Division. National Mediation Board Chair Linda Puchala was a member when she flew as a stewardess for North Central Airlines, which later merged with Republic.

“I still have my ALPA pin. It says ‘ALPA S&S Division’ and I’m very proud of it,” Puchala said. “It was a damned good start.”

According to Puchala, ALPA dues helped pay for lawsuits ending the age cap for flight attendants, as well as suits that ended the no-spouse rule and the no-children rule. ALPA disbanded the S&S division in 1973.

ALPA Safety Council and Training Council Meet

In late February, 38 line pilots from 19 airlines met in Herndon, Va., to do the work of ALPA’s Safety and Training Councils.

The Safety Council, chaired by F/O Frank Pizzonia (Continental), is made up of the central air safety chairs of all 37 ALPA pilot groups. Its mission is to represent the safety interests of all ALPA members by serving as a direct conduit between members through their master executive councils to ALPA’s Air Safety Organization. During the meeting, Safety Council members discussed a proposed captain mentoring program, the FAA’s final rule that changed flight- and duty-time limits and minimum rest requirements, cargo safety issues, and a number of safety concerns of individual pilot groups.

Meanwhile, the Training Council, chaired by Capt. Frank Cheeseman (United) and comprised of the master executive council training chairs from each ALPA pilot group, dealt with a broad range of training issues, including distance learning; IFALPA pilot training standards; multicrew pilot licenses; depiction of NOTAMs on electronic charts in the cockpit; training for inflight loss of control and stall recovery, including stickpusher and adverse weather training; and standardizing human factors in aviation safety applications. At the conclusion of the meeting, the Training Council elected F/O Leja Noe (Mesa) to serve as its new chair.

During a joint session, the two Councils heard from Capt. Sean Cassidy, ALPA’s first vice president and national safety coordinator; Elizabeth Baker, a senior legislative representative in ALPA’s Government Affairs Department; John Duncan, manager of the FAA’s Air Transportation Division; and NTSB Vice-Chairman Chris Hart. Each speaker answered a number of questions during the lively discussion.—Jan W. Steenblik, Technical Editor

Return to top

Money Matters

Retirement Planning, Part II
How to Maximize Your Social Security Benefits

By Jack Parrack, ALPA Enrolled Actuary

Social Security. You’ve been paying into the system ever since you started your first job years ago. Now you can’t wait to receive your benefits. After all, the sooner you start getting your money back the better—right? Not necessarily. Be sure you understand how that decision today can affect you, and your family, for many years to come.

If you’re a U.S. citizen and you’ve paid Social Security taxes, you’re eligible to receive payments from Social Security after you reach age 62—or earlier, if you’re disabled. Family members may be eligible to receive Social Security benefits based on your earnings history. These benefits include child benefits plus spousal benefits while you are alive and after your death.

But many Americans don’t understand how the Social Security system works and how to maximize their benefits.
Here’s the short course:

When is it payable?

• Unreduced at Social Security normal retirement age (SSNRA), which is currently age 65 to 67 based on your date of birth.

• Reduced amount payable as early as age 62.

• Increased amount payable if deferred beyond SSNRA, with no additional increases for deferral beyond age 70.

How is it calculated?

Your “primary insurance amount” is calculated via a complex formula based on your Social Security earnings history. Earnings are “indexed” to the second year before the year you turn 62. Actual (unindexed) Social Security earnings are used for the indexing year and later years.

Annual cost-of-living adjustments (COLAs) are based on the increase in the Consumer Price Index for Urban Wage Earners and Clerical Workers (CPI-W) from the third quarter of the previous year to the third quarter of the current year. The COLA applies to benefits payable in December (though checks and deposits are not actually received until January because benefits are paid in arrears). The initial Social Security amount reflects COLAs from age 62 until the recipient’s original commencement date.

How is it taxed?

Federal income tax is based on “combined income,” the total of adjusted gross income (generally, any pension, wages, and dividend or taxable interest, minus IRS deductions) plus tax-exempt interest plus one-half of the Social Security benefits received for the year. Whatever your age, Social Security benefits are subject to federal income tax.

As much as 50 percent of the Social Security benefits may be taxed if you are a single taxpayer with combined income between $25,001 and $34,000, or a married taxpayer filing jointly with combined income between $32,001 and $44,000. As much as 85 percent of your Social Security benefits may be taxed if you are (1) a single taxpayer with combined income greater than $34,000, (2) a married taxpayer filing jointly with a combined income greater than $44,000, or (3) a married taxpayer who files a separate return but does not live apart from your spouse.
State taxation of Social Security benefits differs from state to state. Washington, D.C., and 41 states impose broad-based income taxes; D.C. and 27 states with a broad-based income tax do not tax Social Security benefits. In the remaining 14 states with broad-based income taxes, however, Social Security benefits are taxed to some extent.
Two other states apply income tax only to income from interest and dividends. Seven states do not tax personal income at all.

Strategies for maximizing benefits

1. Spousal strategy: The spouse who is eligible for lower benefit payments elects to start receiving those benefits at age 62; the other spouse defers receipt until age 70.

2. “Claim and suspend” strategy: The spouse who is eligible for higher benefit payments claims and immediately suspends benefits at SSNRA. The other spouse is then eligible to receive spousal benefits based on the earnings history of the first spouse who has suspended his or her benefits. The spouse who claimed and suspended benefits is free to continue working and receive delayed retirement credits, which increase that spouse’s benefit and the other spouse’s survivor benefit.

Factors to consider in deciding when to start receiving benefits:

• Think about the amount of benefits: Receiving benefits before reaching SSNRA reduces the amount payable. Beginning benefits after SSNRA (up to age 70) increases the amount payable and actually maximizes the amount.

• Continuing employment instead of retiring results in higher Social Security benefits for two reasons: First, delayed receipt increases the benefit. Second, replacing old years of Social Security earnings with higher amounts increases the benefit.

• Similarly, continuing employment after beginning to receive Social Security benefits can lead to higher Social Security benefits by replacing old years of Social Security earnings with higher amounts. If you are younger than SSNRA for the entire calendar year, your Social Security benefits are reduced by $1 for every $2 you earn from employment above an annual limit ($14,640 in 2012). In the calendar year in which you reach SSNRA, your Social Security benefits will be reduced by $1 for every $3 you earn from employment above an annual limit ($38,880 in 2012). This only applies to earnings you receive before reaching SSNRA.

Costly mistakes regarding Social Security

1. Underestimating the real value: Social Security payments are a defined benefit with no longevity risk and are adjusted for inflation. People need to understand how decisions they make regarding Social Security could affect them throughout retirement, which often will last one-third of their lives. Lack of knowledge regarding spousal and survivor benefits payable on another person’s Social Security earnings history can cost a family a lot of money.

2. Taking benefits too early: Most people apply for benefits early; 72 percent of current recipients started receiving benefits before reaching SSNRA!

Many financial planners still recommend starting to receive Social Security benefits “early” and investing them to provide even greater benefits later. This may have been good advice in the 1990s, but most economic experts expect future equity returns (i.e., stocks) to continue to be low and future yields on fixed-income investments to remain low.

“Break even” Social Security calculators (many can be found on the Internet) often ignore some key considerations, such as

• the value of Social Security COLAs,

• tax preferences afforded Social Security income compared to IRA income,

• the ability to optimize spousal benefits to provide optimal income and survivor protection,

• the value of the surviving spouse’s benefit,

• the defined benefit nature of the benefit, and

• the fact that average life expectancy is just that—i.e., average.

3. Not understanding how one spouse’s decisions affect the other spouse’s benefits: A recipient is eligible to receive the higher of his or her own Social Security worker’s benefit OR one-half of their spouse’s benefit. Delaying Social Security benefits can increase surviving spouse protection since the surviving spouse is eligible for the greater of his/her own Social Security benefit or the deceased spouse’s Social Security benefit (both of which include any COLAs).

Changes made by the Senior Citizens’ Freedom to Work Act of 2000 allow a worker (i.e., the higher earner of a married couple) to “claim and suspend” Social Security benefits when he or she reaches SSNRA. This allows the spouse to begin receiving spousal benefits based on the worker’s earnings history while the worker continues to accrue delayed retirement credits.

4. Not understanding tax issues: Receiving distributions from an IRA or 401(k) and starting to receive Social Security benefits early may trigger as much as 85 percent of the Social Security benefits being taxed. By receiving higher distributions from an IRA or 401(k) and delaying Social Security benefits, the amount of Social Security benefits can be maximized and the taxation of those benefits minimized.

Have you thought about?

• Other sources of income: If you have other sources of income (for example, pensions or investments), consider delaying Social Security benefits to maximize benefits to you and your surviving spouse at an older age.

• Taxation of benefits: See section on “Costly mistakes regarding Social Security.”

• Health insurance availability: Before giving up a job that provides access to health insurance, be sure you can afford to provide similar coverage on your own (or in cooperation with your former employer). Medicare is generally unavailable until age 65, unless you are disabled. Even if you qualify for Medicare, if your spouse is younger than 65 he or she will not be eligible for Medicare until he or she is 65.

Regardless of the age at which you start receiving Social Security benefits, you and your spouse should sign up for Medicare coverage to start at age 65 (even if you or your spouse continue to work beyond age 65). Failure to start Medicare coverage at age 65 will result in higher Medicare premiums for starting at an older age.

• Spouse eligible for benefits based on your earnings history.

• Family and personal medical history.

• Potential for future changes in law.


The Social Security Administration, despite what many Americans think, is one of the best-run federal agencies. To apply for benefits, estimate future benefits, or review frequently asked questions, visit the Social Security Administration’s website at—JP

Return to top

ALPA Toolbox

ALPA Disability Insurance: Income When You’re Grounded
By Scott Baker, Manager, ALPA Member Insurance

It’s easy, especially when you’re young, to think you’re invincible, that bad stuff—including your own body betraying you, stalling, or even ending your pilot career—is the kind of thing that only happens to other people. Heed what a couple of your fellow pilots learned about that. Neither ever imagined actually needing ALPA Loss of License (LOL) insurance, which each bought years ago as a new ALPA member.

F/O Martha Collins (United, Ret.), 58, reacted badly to an antibiotic while getting a dental implant in January 2008. Her doctor prescribed prednisone, a powerful oral steroid, to which she had an even worse reaction. Collins ended up with multiple food allergies and, indirectly, a shoulder injury. After three surgeries, she can lift only two pounds with her right arm and has been told she’ll never fly again.

After paying the mortgage, Collins had $300 per month for all other expenses. Making her situation more difficult was the costly and restrictive diet she needed to follow due to her now acute allergies. When her ALPA LOL insurance kicked in, providing a benefit every month, Collins was able to sleep at night again—and regained the weight she’d lost to worry and her food allergies.

For F/O Mike Eberling (Delta), 58, the situation was more straightforward. In 2004, he noticed that he was losing his hearing, making his job as a line pilot much more difficult—especially while flying the B-767-400 internationally and trying to decipher ATC clearances from non-native speakers of English. In 2007, he removed himself from flying status and claimed a disability benefit under his LOL insurance.

“When I lost my ability to fly, my pay was cut in half,” Eberling recalls. “I only have $600 per month coming in from the ALPA LOL insurance, but when you’re on disability, every little bit helps. The extra $600 helps cover the monthly bills, and my wife and I are actually putting a little money away in savings.”

Pilots at greater risk

Here’s a shocking statistic: Pilots are almost three times more likely than the general public to need disability insurance.

ALPA is all about pilots helping each other, so the Association offers several types of members-only insurance, including short-term disability and LOL insurance for U.S. members. These policies replace some of your income if you’re unable to work as a pilot.

Short-term disability benefits begin 14, 30, or 60 days after your disability begins, depending on which policy you buy. The benefits extend to a maximum duration of 52 weeks minus the waiting period.

After that, ALPA LOL insurance kicks in (if you’ve been prudent enough to obtain it beforehand), providing as much as $4,200 per month for as long as four years. Under the Loss of License Plus program, you’ll continue to receive 50 percent of your LOL benefit if you’re totally disabled when your LOL benefits end. Lump-Sum LOL insurance is another option. Approximately 90 percent of pilots who purchase ALPA’s Lump-Sum LOL insurance also purchase monthly LOL or LOL Plus insurance.

ALPA insurance

ALPA knows that pilots have unique needs. Virtually every other competing insurance product is an effort to fit a square peg into a round hole.

Unlike our competitors, ALPA handles claims intake at the union’s administrative offices. If a pilot does not fill out the claims form properly, we help him or her to do so.

We offer a very high-quality product, backed by the Guardian Life Insurance Company of America, a superbly managed, AAA-rated insurance carrier. The plan reimburses its own claims up to a certain amount, but if a claim exceeds a certain threshold amount, our Guardian stop-loss insurance pays the amount that exceeded the threshold.
Collins notes, “ALPA has been beyond fabulous—the medical, legal, and insurance folks. And the people at Guardian were wonderful.” She only regrets that she didn’t think to increase her coverage as she progressed from B-727 flight engineer to captain and then B-777 international first officer. She urges all ALPA members, “Sign up for ALPA Loss of License insurance. Whenever you get a pay raise, increase your coverage. This is the [insurance] that gets you by when you’re blindsided. This is the one that puts food on the table.” The one message she would like every ALPA member to know is—“When you can’t fly, it’s too late to apply.”

To read more pilot testimonials, click here.

Return to top

Health Watch

Protect Your Eyes
By Dr. Quay Snyder, ALPA Aeromedical Advisor

Editor’s note: The following information, part of a series of Health Watch columns on vision and eye health, is adapted from an article available at

Of the many tasks required of pilots, nearly all use vision as a critical source of information input and assessment of outcome. Indeed, visual input is the most critical source for pilot judgment and decision-making.

Many hazards to vision exist, and all can jeopardize a pilot’s career. Some hazards can rob a pilot of vision in one eye very suddenly, while others may affect both eyes very gradually.

What can you do to protect your vision?

Physical trauma

Many people lose their vision to preventable eye injuries each year. These injuries occur in the workplace, during sports, in motor vehicle accidents, and in casual activities around the house. Nearly 90 percent are preventable. Traumatic injuries tend to occur suddenly with potential total loss of vision in one or both eyes.

Active sports participants should use eye protection if available. Polycarbonate “sports” lenses are shatter-resistant and can stop a .22LR bullet. Vision protection is absolutely necessary in indoor racquet sports such as squash and racquetball. High-contact sports such as hockey and lacrosse also put the eyes at risk for serious injury. Many football and hockey players are now using face shields to prevent career-ending injuries. Hunters, trap and skeet shooters, and target marksmen often wear polycarbonate lenses to protect their eyes, even if they do not need glasses for better vision. The American Academy of Ophthalmology has specific recommendations for athletic eye protection for many sports.

Eye injuries on the worksite may affect even full-time pilots. Certainly those who do their own maintenance have experienced sprays of hydraulic fluid, metallic chips, or (hopefully not!) flakes of rust near or in their eyes. Rust particles can permanently stain the cornea (the clear part of the front of the eyes), while a metal splinter coming off a hammer may penetrate the globe of the eye. Simple and inexpensive soft plastic goggles can prevent all of these injuries. For those working with welding equipment, additional protection is required.

Many permanent eye injuries occur in the home or during recreation. Wood chips and splinters thrown from power saws, rust and petroleum products from working underneath a car, and playful pets with claws all cause serious injuries. Trimming bushes that reach to eye height often leads to individuals focusing on one branch and walking into another. For the free spirits who ride motorcycles without helmets, goggles, or glasses, a bug in the wind stream or a rock thrown from a tire can be disastrous. Having goggles or wraparound glasses can prevent each of these injuries.

Radiation hazards

Electromagnetic radiation comes in many forms. The primary forms of concern to pilots include both ionizing and nonionizing. Nonionizing radiation includes visible, near-visible (ultraviolet and infrared), and radiofrequency. In general, aircraft cockpit windscreens and fuselages block any significant ionizing radiation that may affect the eye. Visible light and ultraviolet (UV) light require sunglasses for comfort and improved visual acuity depending on the intensity, but UV light does not present hazards when in an aircraft.

Sunglasses worn on bright days also improve night vision if a pilot is flying from daylight into darkness. Outside an aircraft in direct or reflected sunlight, protection from UV light is desirable. UV-B light less than 315 nanometers in wavelength, the same type that causes sunburns and skin cancer, can induce cataracts and also contributes to macular degeneration. UV-B light will penetrate acrylics and soft plastics found in cheap sunglasses but is blocked by plain glass and polycarbonate.

A future “Health Watch” column will examine in more depth the many different options available in today’s sunglasses and the pros and cons of those options for pilots. In brief, the ALPA Aeromedical Office recommends that, on bright days, pilots consider using neutral tint (green or grey) glass or polycarbonate lenses that block 70–90 percent of the incoming light, perhaps with a gradient that lightens on the lower portion of the lenses. On a hazy or smoggy day, consider wearing yellow or brown lenses that block 20 percent of the light, but avoid wearing them when color perception (IMC flight), rather than visual acquisition (VMC flight), is important.

At dusk or in lighting that is comfortable without sunglasses, remove them to increase visual acuity. Don’t use polarized or photochromatic lenses in the cockpit, and don’t waste your money on soft plastic lenses or mirrored lenses.

Infrared (IR) radiation is perceived primarily as heat and is not a hazard to vision. Microwave radiation from radars may accelerate cataract formation if an individual repeatedly stands in front of an operating radar. The microwave radiation is converted into heat energy when it is absorbed by the lens. The heat causes the proteins of the lens to “clump” and form a focus for a growing cataract that will obscure vision.

Weather radars are generally lower power and will not cause visual problems as significant as those caused by military search radars. Incidental exposures, such as performing a preflight inspection on an airliner with the weather radar powered on a single time, is unlikely to cause any damage. Although microwave ovens are supposed to be shielded, it would be wise not to stare closely at food cooking in a microwave oven to avoid possible IR damage to the lens of the eye.

Eye strain and vision fatigue

As we moved into the computer age, eye strain at work and at home has become a more frequent phenomenon. The eye focuses by using muscles to change the shape of the lens, thereby adjusting for different working distances. As we age, the lens becomes less pliable, and focusing at near distances becomes more difficult. This condition is called presbyopia.

When we stare at a computer monitor for extended periods of time, we are asking the ciliary muscles of the eye to constantly contract a fixed amount to keep the screen in focus. Just as a biceps muscle fatigues if someone holds an object in a fixed position (remember your student pilot days, holding the yoke for straight-and-level flight without proper trim), the eye muscles tire if focusing at a fixed distance. As a result, the eyes may get more blood flow (turn red), become dry from not blinking (increased tears to compensate), and not be able to rapidly change focus.

The key to preventing eye strain and fatigue is to take frequent breaks and to focus the eyes on a distant object. This allows the ciliary muscles to relax. Computers do not emit enough radiation to be a hazard to vision.

Likewise, reading for long periods of time or reading in the dark will cause eye fatigue. Neither will cause permanent damage, but both will lead to temporary problems in focusing, redness, tearing, and headaches. Overly bright conditions or large amounts of reflected light cause the pupils to constrict, also using eye muscles to constantly adjust the light reaching the retina. Although these are different muscles than those changing the shape of the lens, the same symptoms of fatigue occur. The key to preventing this type of fatigue is to read in a comfortable light and to take frequent breaks.

Next month: Nutrition and medical examinations to protect and enhance your vision.


ALPA members in good standing can get free, confidential consultations and assistance with aeromedical certification by calling ALPA’s Aeromedical Office at 303-341-4435, Monday-Friday, 8:30 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. Mountain Time.

Information regarding FAA policies, medical conditions, and medications is available at


For more information on aeromedical issues, click here.

Return to top

The Landing

ALPA Pilots’ Vital Stats

The demographic profile of ALPA’s membership has changed during the more than 80 years since the union was founded. Where do you fall in these vital stats?


U.S.: 94.7%

Canada: 5.3%


Male: 94.7%

Female: 5.3%

Voting Status

(as a percentage of represented pilots): 82.99%

34 and younger: 16.81%

35-44: 24.59%

45-54: 38.13%

55 and older: 20.47%

Age as of Jan. 1, 2012

Top 10 U.S. States with Member Counts

Washington   2,302
Minnesota   2,469
Illinois   1,710
California   3,061
Colorado   2,126
Virginia   1,608
Tennessee   2,361
Texas   5,115
Georgia   4,858
Florida   4,135

Return to top