One Level of Safety: 80 Years and Counting
57th annual Air Safety Forum, past and present ALPA leaders and government
regulators called on aviation advocates to fly in formation and coordinate
our efforts to effect change in the political arena. Here are a few sound
bites from keynote speakers:
Deborah Hersman, National Transportation Safety Board chairman, on
“ALPA is still leading the way, and we are still talking about flight and
duty time [limits]. We share your frustration with the special interests
that are putting profits ahead of safety and slow rolling the publication of
the final rule.”
Capt. Lee Moak, ALPA president, on ALPA’s formula for success
“Our success is also due to our constructive engagement and partnership with
the many stakeholders—from legislators and regulators to manufacturers and
operators, other employee groups, unions, and ALPA pilot groups—who share
our goal of advancing the highest standards of air safety. I believe that
this type of collaboration is paramount to accomplishing this mission.”
Capt. Duane Woerth, U.S. ambassador to the International Civil Aviation
Organization, former ALPA president, on ALPA’s history
The 80th anniversary of ALPA’s founding is a time for celebration as well as
an opportunity to remember the Association’s core values of safety,
security, and pilot assistance, reminding members that while “defeats fly
solo, victories come with wingmen.
“Most progress comes through the dogged persistence of countless aviation
professionals. Bit by bit, inch by inch, they keep moving the ball forward.
“We will do it. We will do it all. We will not be the first generation to
give up on our future because the sledding is mostly uphill, because it’s
always been uphill. We will live up to the legacy of past generations,” he
Randy Babbitt, FAA administrator, former ALPA president, on ALPA’s role in
one level of safety
“ALPA has been key in helping us achieve one level of safety. To continue
the effort, we need to create a common safety standard internationally. We
need something we can all count on. A standard that we know is going to be
uniform across the globe.”
John Pistole, TSA administrator, on aviation security
“Partnerships are critical. The whole approach that we at the TSA are taking
is to try to work in partnerships to provide the most effective security in
the most efficient way. I want to applaud ALPA, particularly, along with the
ATA, in terms of the risk-based security initiatives.”
This year’s Air Safety Forum was held August 15–19 in Washington, D.C. For
complete coverage, click here.
Cooperation and collaboration are at the heart of any successful jumpseat
program, and those qualities were on full display at ALPA’s Jumpseat Forum.
F/O Rich Odbert (FedEx Express), ALPA’s Jumpseat Council chairman, welcomed
pilot representatives from ALPA’s pilot groups as well as from American,
JetBlue, Southwest, and UPS. The united goal: preserving cockpit and
non-revenue access industrywide.
In his opening remarks to the Jumpseat attendees, Capt. Lee Moak, ALPA’s
president, outlined two major advancements secured this year by union pilots
• In April, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) adopted
significant policy changes regarding cockpit jumpseat access. Under the new
policy, offline pilots will be able to ride in the cockpits of U.S.
airliners on domestic flights, regardless of passenger load, and on
international flights at the discretion of the airline, the
pilot-in-command, and pursuant to complying with the TSA-mandated Master
Crew List (MCL) requirements. International flight deck jumpseat access
remains a work in progress, with additional details still to be worked out.
• In Canada, the director general of civil aviation has approved an
exemption to Subsection 705.104(1) of the Canadian aviation regulations,
clearing the way for airlines in Canada to provide jumpseat access to
offline pilots and removing a major obstacle to full flight deck jumpseat
“These two victories are great examples of how pilots from different
airlines, working together across company lines, can effect positive
change,” Moak said.
F/O Rob Frank (Air Wisconsin), a Jumpseat Council member, discussed the ALPA-created
jumpseat app for smartphones, which is currently running as an adjunct to
the ALPA mobile app. “This new feature is available to all users of the app
and can be accessed by tapping the ‘JSeat’ button at the bottom of the app.
This feature provides a list of airlines and their jumpseat policies.”
Also during the Jumpseat Forum, F/O Jeff Sanford (Spirit) was presented with
a recognition plaque for his work during the Spirit Airlines strike in
2010.—Rusty Ayers, ALPA Senior Communications Specialist
International Jumpseating: Some Strings Attached
Earlier this year, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA)
announced it was relaxing the rules that previously barred international
cockpit jumpseating. However, substantial barriers remain to widespread
implementation of worldwide commuting, especially for pilots flying for
smaller airlines that don’t conduct international operations and that don’t
maintain a TSA-mandated Master Crew List (MCL). Here’s how international
flight deck access will work, according to the TSA’s Bob Vogt, who
participated in ALPA’s Air Safety Forum.
Do you qualify for international flight deck access?
The cockpit jumpseat is only authorized for pilots holding U.S. airman
certificates, flying for U.S. flag carriers from a U.S. destination and
returning to the U.S. In addition:
For pilots of code-share partners and wholly owned subsidiary airlines:
All pilots authorized to ride in the flight deck jumpseat in accordance with
14 CFR 121.547 may do so, provided that the aircraft operator uses its
automated identification system to verify the identity and current
employment status of each requesting pilot before transporting the pilot,
and also provided that the aircraft operator complies with all TSA MCL
For pilots of non-affiliated airlines:
Pilots who fly for other aircraft operators governed by 49 CFR 1544 may be
granted flight deck jumpseat(s) access if a TSA-approved automated
identification system is used to verify the identity and current employment
status of the requester and if the requester’s name appears on a TSA-required
MCL maintained and supplied to the TSA by the requester’s airline.
In summary, for offline international jumpseat access, ALL of the following
conditions must be met:
• The jumpseating pilot must present his or her aircraft operator employee
ID and employee ID number to the gate agent.
• The gate agent must query and receive a valid response from the automated
identification system indicating that the pilot requesting access to the
flight deck jumpseat has authority to do so.
• The gate agent must verify that the digital photo accompanying the valid
response from the automated identification system corresponds to the pilot
requesting access to the flight deck jumpseat.
• The jumpseating pilot’s name must appear on a MCL maintained and supplied
to TSA by his or her own airline. Any flight carrying a pilot on the flight
deck whose name does not appear on a TSA-mandated MCL will not be allowed to
enter U.S. airspace.
For more information,
A panel of government and industry security professionals, as part of ALPA’s
Aviation Security Forum, debriefed pilot security representatives on the
Oct. 29, 2010, ink cartridge terror plot.
Two U.S.-bound packages containing laser printers, originally from Yemen,
were intercepted at East Midlands Airport near Leicester, UK, and Dubai
International Airport in the United Arab Emirates. Upon closer
investigation, authorities determined that the printers’ ink cartridges were
rigged with the explosive, pentaerythritol tetranitrate (PETN).
The packages were addressed to religious institutions in Chicago. Although
detected before they crossed the Atlantic, the laser printers had already
been transported on passenger and cargo flights. Al Qaeda later labeled the
effort “Operation Hemorrhage,” claiming that the entire plot cost the
terrorist organization $4,200.
• Capt. Bill McReynolds (FedEx Express)—ALPA’s President’s Committee for
Cargo (PCFC) chairman and his pilot group’s Master Executive Council
Security Committee chairman;
• Jeff Price—proprietor of Leading Edge Strategies, associate professor at
Metro State College of Denver, and author of Practical Aviation Security;
• Norm White, an intelligence analyst with the National Counterterrorism
Center (NCTC); and
• Doug Foster, acting branch chief with the Air Cargo—International Policy
Organization, Transportation Security Administration.
McReynolds discussed how security protocols differ for passenger vs.
all-cargo operations. “The Israeli [security] model can’t work in the United
States, but the methodologies can.”
Price stressed that security must be taught as part of collegiate aviation
programs; the threat is evolving and so must our efforts; we should embrace
“Kaizen”—the Japanese philosophy of continuous improvement.
White talked about different kinds of explosives and detonation devices.
“[The terrorists] are forcing us to reexamine our security and expend our
Foster reviewed screening protocols for high-risk regions, specifically
looking at mail vulnerabilities. He said aviation security analysts are
exploring very specific initiatives that concentrate on terrorist efforts to
“target cargo before being loaded on an aircraft.”
Price noted that clues to possible new terrorist threats are available if we
pay attention. Seven years before 9/11, author Tom Clancy wrote Debt of
Honor, in which a pilot intentionally flies an airliner into the U.S.
Capitol.—John Perkinson, Staff Writer
Security Forum Examines All-Cargo Security Threats
Capt. Bill McReynolds (FedEx Express), ALPA’s President’s Committee for
Cargo chairman, provided a “macro view” of the unique risks associated with
air freight, leading the group in a discussion about “where we see the
threat and the holes that need to be filled.”
McReynolds noted that the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) is
hiring additional cargo inspectors, and he talked at length about how
current security efforts are shifting from a regulatory paradigm to a more
Ed Kittel, the chief of the TSA’s Explosives Operations Division, discussed
steps his organization is taking to better secure all-cargo aircraft,
facilities, and the air cargo supply chain. He commented on a variety of
improvised explosive device (IED) strategies that terrorists have used,
differences in impact on the cargo hold vs. passenger cabin, and lessons
learned. Kittel also cited the many partnerships the TSA has established
with other government and industry security entities to combat these
Staying One Step Ahead of Terrorists
A distinguished panel, moderated by Capt. Sean Cassidy, ALPA’s first vice
president and national safety coordinator, dealt head-on with “Risk
Mitigation in Aviation Security.”
TSA Administrator John Pistole was characteristically succinct and direct.
“I have three main points to make today,” he said. “Number one, the threats
are real, and evolving. Two, risk-based security makes sense. Third,
partnerships [among government, industry, and union stakeholders] are
Nick Calio, Air Transport Association president, declared that “the airline
industry is the physical ‘Internet’” and that ATA is “pleased to partner
with ALPA on Known Crewmember…. We also look forward to [having a] trusted
Chris Bidwell, vice president for security and facilitation at Airports
Council International–North America (ACI-NA), reported, “This morning,
[Department of Homeland Security] Secretary [Janet] Napolitano said the
private sector will need to take on an even greater role in aviation
security. We will leverage intelligence and data provided by our partners in
Bidwell stressed that the ACI-NA supports the Known Crewmember and Trusted
Traveler programs and, with ALPA, the ATA, and the federal government, has a
“shared goal of effective and efficient security screening.”
ALPA’s president, Capt. Lee Moak, commended Pistole for “the courage and
wisdom he has shown in taking TSA on a course toward true, risk-based
“We also commend our industry partners, the ATA and the ACI-NA, and others
who share in this vision,” he added.
Moak cautioned, “To achieve success, we encourage the TSA to continue to
reach out to industry subject-matter experts in truly meaningful dialogue,
while policies are being shaped, not after, so that truly workable solutions
are devised, and the mistakes of the past are not repeated.
“As always,” he concluded, “ALPA stands ready as a trusted and capable
partner to help bring solutions to the table.”—Jan W. Steenblik, Technical
Hotel Security Checklist
How secure is your layover hotel? Depending on the country and level of
risk, the highest level of protection at an individual property can range
anywhere from a simple deadbolt lock to blast barricades, metal detectors,
and sharpshooters on the roof.
Alan Orlob, vice president of global safety and security for Marriott,
International, is responsible for protecting all hotels in the Marriott
system, including 37 properties in high-threat environments. Whether staying
in Moline or Mogadishu, Orlob suggests that hotel guests review this list
before they check in:
• Does the hotel have sprinkler systems, smoke evacuation routes, and other
fire protection measures? Whether you’re at home or overseas, you are much
more likely to be killed or injured in a hotel fire than in a terrorist act.
• Does the hotel have basic security devices like electronic door locks,
viewports, night latches, and deadbolts?
• Does the hotel observe basic Western-style food sanitation standards?
Food poisoning is a more likely problem than violence when traveling abroad.
• Does the hotel offer in-house restaurants, fitness facilities, and
entertainment within its security perimeter?
• In high-threat areas, is the hotel’s security persistent and visible? Is
the building set back from the street with prominent armed guards, CCTV
cameras, and vehicle barriers?
Think your hotel is overdoing it with their security precautions? Remember
this motto from former FBI Director William Webster: “Security is always too
much…until it’s not enough.”—Rusty Ayers, ALPA Senior Communications
Security Threats in Mexico: What You Should Know
During the Association’s Air Safety Forum, representatives from the U.S. Air
Force, the State Department, the FBI, and the DEA told ALPA security
representatives that while the problem of cartel violence is very real,
crews on layover or vacationing in Mexico are as safe as they would be in
any other country if they exercise good judgment and take some commonsense
precautions. They agreed that cartels realize killing foreigners is bad for
business, and most drug violence is aimed at members of competing cartels
and at police.
Drug barons and their gunmen, however, are heavily armed and becoming more
indiscriminate in their attacks, blockading public highways, battling with
police, and tossing grenades into crowded bars and restaurants. With such a
high potential for collateral damage, in this environment being in the wrong
place at the wrong time can be deadly.
“In Washington, D.C., going out and drinking too much can get you in
trouble. In Mexico, it can get you killed,” warns Capt. Chris Malo
(ExpressJet), manager of international operational security and threat
assessment for Atlantic Southeast and ExpressJet.
Atlantic Southeast and ExpressJet have one of the largest airline operations
in Mexico, serving 30 cities throughout the country, including 21 layover
destinations. On any given night, the airlines may have 3 to 17 crewmembers
in-country, many of them in Monterey, the “kidnapping hub” of Mexico.
Malo, a former ExpressJet Master Executive Council vice chairman, says the
airline takes security for its employees very seriously and has updated its
emergency preparedness and employee response programs, initiated a security
incident telephone hotline, and created a security checklist for its crew
hotels in Mexico. Layover hotels in the country must pass a strict security
The airlines have also created an innovative vehicle tracking program based
on cell phone signals. The tracking system can direct van drivers around
potential trouble spots or pinpoint the location of a crew vehicle in the
event of an incident.
However, the best approach for staying safe in Mexico—or anywhere else—is
keeping a low profile, being vigilant, and avoiding becoming a target of
opportunity for a potential robber or thief, according to U.S. Air Force
intelligence analyst Maj. Williams “Rob” Cannon.
“You should always have a plan for yourself,” Cannon said. “No one should be
more concerned about your security than you are.”—Rusty Ayers, ALPA Senior
Don’t Be a Target
Because of their high visibility, predictable movements, and fluid
operations, airline crews can be at special risk for crime, and even more so
when traveling outside heavily traveled tourist areas. But there are ways to
• Avoid traveling to high-risk areas whenever possible. Restrict sightseeing
to daylight hours only, and don’t leave the hotel if the neighborhood is
unsafe. Atlantic Southeast and ExpressJet require layover hotels in Mexico
to provide lists of restaurants that will deliver food.
• Recognize that you are most vulnerable when you are in motion; raise your
awareness level accordingly.
• Maintain a low profile. Don’t dress like a tourist or wear expensive
watches or flashy jewelry. Most street crimes are based on perceived wealth
• Avoid high-risk, compromising situations and unfamiliar bars and
restaurants. You could become collateral damage if a cartel decides to
target the location.
• Consider your transportation: to avoid kidnapping, use only
radio-dispatched taxis rather than flagging down a cab on the street. Is the
large, black SUV you’re in similar to vehicles used by police and drug
bosses? Don’t become an accidental target.—RA
The U.S. State Department regularly issues consular updates with information
on troubled areas around the world. Here’s some of the latest information on
Areas of concern: Tamaulipas and Michoacán, Chihuahua and Sinaloa, Durango
and Sonora, San Luis Potosi, Nayarit and Jalisco, Nogales and the
surrounding area, and Guerrero and Morelos.
Guadalajara: Early this year, cartel-related crime spiked significantly
after the death of a cartel boss in July 2010. The area has stabilized since
the government increased security preparing for this October’s Pan American
Games, but it remains to be seen whether crime will increase again once the
Games are over.
Mexico City: The national capital is relatively immune to cartel violence
except for isolated incidents in low-income suburbs surrounding the city.
Street-level crime rates, however, remain very high, with most victims
selected opportunistically based on perceived wealth (expensive watches and
jewelry, high-end electronics, etc.).
Monterey: Formerly considered one of the safest cities in Latin America,
Monterey is now a major hub for kidnapping and carjacking, with more than
1,000 murders in the state of Nueva Leon this year alone.
Tourist areas: The major problem areas remain Acapulco and Mazatlan, where
several cruise lines have stopped making port calls. Cabo San Lucas, Cancun,
Cozumel, and Puerto Vallarta are very safe overall. Most robberies and
assaults in these areas are crimes of opportunity conducted in outlying
areas away from major tourist destinations.
For regular updates and alerts on hotspots around the world, visit the U.S.
State Department’s Overseas Security Advisory Council website at
Panelists Agree Technology Must Include Human Touch
“Fifty percent of your time, you are performing below your average,” noted
Dr. Immanuel Barshi of the NASA Ames Research Center, during the Air Safety
Forum’s Human-Centered Approach to Flight Procedures and Operations panel
discussion. As part of his initial presentation, he pondered whether
checkrides and other pilot evaluations are an adequate reflection of routine
performance. Barshi was one of five panelists who discussed human-factors
considerations for improving aviation safety.
F/O Helena Reidemar, the Human Factors Committee chair for the Delta pilot
group, noted that more than 60 percent of the identified causal factors for
accidents involve human error. “There’s an awareness of the problem and a
growing momentum to address it,” she said. Reidemar highlighted the wealth
of information available, warning of the dangers of “death by data
collection” and emphasizing the need to ensure that these statistics and
other materials are used appropriately.
F/O Karl Fennell (United), ALPA’s director of Human Factors and moderator of
the panel, compared the crash of Northwest Airlines Flight 6231 in 1974 to
recent accidents such as Colgan Air Flight 3407, Turkish Airlines Flight
1951, and Air France Flight 447, noting a mismatch between perception and
the actual condition of the aircraft. Fennell warned that new technologies,
intended to help pilots, can actually “distance us from the situation” if
human factors are not properly considered.
“The changes that we’ve seen in the cockpit are astounding,” said Dr. Steve
Casner, also from the NASA Ames Research Center, referring to the difference
in manual handling skills of today’s pilots versus those from 30 years ago.
He noted the differences in training and experience between the populations,
adding that current pilots’ dependence on available technologies can
sometimes result in atrophied flying skills. Casner asked the question, “How
do we address these [concerns] in initial and recurrent training?”
Nadine Bienefeld, a researcher from the ETH Swiss Federal Institute of
Technology, explored the idea of determining criteria for and evaluating
positive behavioral skills as part of flight training. She observed that
flight instructors need to also be behavioral evaluators and that crews
should be “briefed on their CRM [crew resource management] behavior.”
Panelists stressed the importance of including human-factors considerations
at the beginning of any procedural or equipment enhancement to ensure that
new technologies optimize human performance and do not inundate or confuse
the cockpit crew.—John Perkinson, Staff Writer
Preparing for the Unthinkable
If the unthinkable happens, are you prepared? This was just one of the
questions posed to hundreds of ALPA safety, security, and pilot assistance
volunteers who descended on Washington, D.C., for workshop training classes
before the 57th Annual ALPA Air Safety Forum. It’s one that gained a lot of
attention as pilots relived the tragic events of 9/11 and discussed the
effects they had on the airline industry and the airline piloting
In one session, Critical Incident Response Program (CIRP) volunteers took
part in a mock drill to test their preparedness for responding to a
terrorist threat, accident, or serious incident. The goal was to leave the
session better prepared and ready to handle any type of event that may
occur. No one plan fits every airline, so it’s important to develop a
customized CIRP response that fits the needs of each pilot group.
As part of the drill, participants were provided with fictitious details of
a Level 4 security event and worked together to develop a plan that needed
to be accomplished within the first hour after an event. The situation
continued to evolve as it would in the “real world,” and “new” information
was reported to the group as they worked. During that time, they were also
tasked with developing a checklist for the first 24 hours after the event.
Gathering information, assessing the union’s resources, prioritizing where
the assets should be distributed, and communicating with union leaders, the
pilot group, and management were top priorities.
The bottom line: Be prepared. ALPA’s CIRP is a valuable, well-respected
resource that has been used by other groups within the airline industry. The
keys to its success are preplanning, rehearsing a planned response to an
event, and sharing information with other ALPA CIRP volunteers.—Lydia Jakub,
ALPA Communications Specialist
Canadian Pilots Spearhead Revolutionary Assistance Program
What began as two pilots simply helping their fellow aviators adhere to
strict company standards sparked a revolutionary new program that is now
called Pilot Assistance.
During a hiring boom in Canada in the early 1970s, two senior Air Canada
pilots began to mentor those pilots who were new to the profession and those
who may have needed a peer to speak with. Air Canada employed strict
performance and behavioral standards, and the pilots knew that any deviation
from those standards would be met with termination. Many of the issues, the
pilots believed, could be handled informally by peers. The key was to alert
pilots to their behaviors and recommend corrective action before the company
noticed any deviation in performance.
The two pilot assistants operated in this manner for two years before being
approached by a chief pilot who was interested in referring pilots to the
program. The chief pilot recognized the effectiveness of the program and
understood that it would become a formal process if management were to
attempt to correct the behaviors. The pilot assistants’ caseload soon began
to grow as word of their work spread, and they sought assistance from their
union and appointed an advisor to spearhead the program’s efforts.
The Canadian model for pilot assistance focuses on protecting the overall
health and well-being of the pilots. It’s a peer-based program in which line
pilot volunteers work with line pilots, and management volunteers with
management pilots, to avoid any potential conflicts. These volunteers have
limited authority and serve primarily as mentors. Their program was so
successful that it was adopted Canada-wide.
Pilot assistants are generalists who provide pilots with referrals to
experts; they are not experts in specific areas such as grief, addiction, or
trauma. Rather, they assist pilots with relational, behavioral, and
performance issues by providing them with support and encouragement while
the pilots solve their own problems. All calls are confidential.
When the Canadian Air Line Pilots Association (CALPA) and ALPA merged in
1997, CALPA had a mature Pilot Assistance program that was integrated into
ALPA’s program while maintaining its separate identity in helping Canadian
pilots. It continues as a separate group (Canadian Pilot Assistance) under
the authority of ALPA’s Pilot Assistance chairman.—Lydia Jakub, ALPA
How the Japan Earthquake/Tsunami Shook Pilots’ Lives
Members from ALPA’s Critical Incident Response Program (CIRP) and several
international partners discussed the performance of the Association’s CIRP,
and the Critical Incident Stress Management (CISM) approach that others
employed, to help flight crews affected by the earthquake/tsunami that hit
northern Japan on March 11.
The event set in motion an elaborate support network in which both programs
were used to help mitigate the psychological effects that pilots and their
families were suffering.
One of the five most powerful earthquakes ever to be recorded—packing a 9.0
magnitude punch—occurred in the western Pacific Ocean on March 11. In
addition to initial damages, the earthquake triggered a massive tsunami that
slammed Japan’s northern islands, killing and injuring thousands. The tidal
surge flooded the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant where three reactors
were damaged, releasing large amounts of radioactive material into the air.
Moderated by F/O Louise Cullinan (Mesa), ALPA’s CIRP chair, the panel
featured Capts. John McFadden (United) and Bill Cheney (Continental), CIRP
chairmen for their respective pilot groups; F/O Christoph Thurn (Lufthansa),
CISM chair for the Lufthansa chapter of Vereinigung Cockpit; Gerhard
Fahnenbruck, clinical director of the Stiftung Mayday Foundation; and Keiko
Nakahama from Aviation CISM in Japan.
“A critical incident can cause so much stress that normal coping mechanisms
of a human being can fail,” said Fahnenbruck, explaining the need for
intervention following disasters.
“We should not forget that a sense of loneliness makes it easier to develop
psychological difficulties,” added Nakahama, describing the feeling of
isolation that sometimes follows catastrophic experiences.
Cheney indicated that in performing his CIRP duties to respond to the
catastrophe, he contacted 64 Continental pilots, met 16 pilots at the gate
as they returned home, conducted follow-ups with 22 pilots, and conducted
repeat follow-ups with 6 of the pilots.
By contrast, Thurl said Lufthansa’s CISM program addressed 280 Lufthansa
pilots and flight attendants. Of this group, 50 demonstrated stress
symptoms, 3 to 5 were diagnosed as psychologically unwell and are
recovering, and that 1 to 2 will leave likely the company as a result of the
“The only way we get better is by practicing,” said McFadden, talking about
the importance of conducting mock drills of crises to test and improve CIRP.
Most agreed that text messaging or SMS (short message service) was the most
reliable source of communications. In the days that followed March 11,
internet and voice communications were spotty and not as dependable.—John Perkinson, Staff Writer
Congressional Staffers, Pilot Lobbyists Tell All
ALPA pilot representatives and congressional staff members explored the role
of Congress in providing regulatory guidance during a panel discussion
titled “Safety and Security—The Role of Congress and Legislation.”
Contributing to the discussion were Capt. Dino Atsalis (Delta), his pilot
group’s Master Executive Council Government Affairs Committee chairman; Rich
Swayze, staff for the Senate Aviation Operations, Safety, and Security
Subcommittee; Capt. Fred Eissler (FedEx Express), ALPA Legislative Affairs
Committee chairman for his pilot group; and Marisela Salayandia, staff for
the House Subcommittee on Transportation Security. Michael Robbins, ALPA’s
director of Government Affairs, moderated the group, which also examined how
ALPA works with government officials and congressional staff to influence
legislative and regulatory action.
Eissler: To convince lawmakers to support a policy, he and his fellow ALPA
legislative affairs pilot volunteers must clearly define the problem and,
most importantly, show why it’s in the decision-makers’ best interest to act
in this manner. “We have to have a righteous argument,” he said, implying
that his priorities can be neither Republican nor Democratic—they must focus
solely on safety and security.
Atsalis: “We have skin in the game.” Pilots speak with authority and provide
a unique level of credibility on aviation-related concerns. He observed that
wearing the pilot uniform when speaking with elected government
representatives and staff helps to generate attention. However, Atsalis said
that legislative affairs work requires patience, adding that “the government
tends to work at a slower pace than we work in the cockpit.”
Swayze noted that the subcommittee he supports pays close attention to the
work of the FAA, the Transportation Security Administration, and the NTSB,
and that two things that can help move an aviation bill forward are pilot
support and statistical data.
Salayandia agreed: Meeting with pilots helps her better understand the
operational effects of Congress’s decisions. She said that she and her
fellow staffers particular appreciate coalition-building efforts to help
steer congressional positions. “The more we can encourage everyone to get
engaged, the better.”
The panelists talked about how events like the Colgan Flight 3407 accident
have raised safety and security concerns in the public eye in recent years,
compelling Congress to work more closely with regulators.—John Perkinson,
Honoring ALPA Pilots—A Snapshot
Superior Airmanship Awards
AirTran Airways pilots Capt. Richard Stalnaker and F/O Mendel Bell received
the ALPA Superior Airmanship Award for safely landing their B-717 on Aug. 5,
2010, after suffering a critical fuel system failure—and a lateral fuel
imbalance of more than 9,000 pounds, six times the flight manual limit.
During their climb after departing Orlando, the crew noted that fuel was
moving rapidly—and inexplicably—from the right to the left wing tank,
despite the pilots’ best efforts to troubleshoot the problem. Returning to
Orlando, the pilots expertly coped with the dual challenge of reduced
controllability of the aircraft and having to land at an abnormally high
speed to improve flight control.
The fuel imbalance was found to be the result of a break in the main fuel
manifold in the left wing root.
Stalnaker said, “We are honored to be the first—and last—AirTran pilots to
receive this award.” He thanked his family “for their patience and support
during my airline career,” his entire crew “for their calm response to this
emergency,” and the AirTran training and safety department for the excellent
training he has received.
Alaska Airlines Capt. Steve Cleary and F/O Michael Hendrix received the ALPA
Superior Airmanship Award for their superb handling of a bird strike and
engine failure during takeoff at Sitka, Alaska on Aug. 8, 2010.
Their B-737-400 was full and weighed 132,000 pounds for takeoff from Sitka’s
wet, challenging runway, which is surrounded on most sides by the frigid
Gulf of Alaska. At 130 knots, an eagle struck the left engine, which
exploded and burst into flames.
The airplane lurched left. Quickly and calmly, Cleary called out, “Abort! My
aircraft!” and swiftly started emergency procedures to reject the takeoff
and maintain control of the yawing B-737. As Cleary overrode the autobrakes
with maximum manual braking, Hendrix kept him apprised of the aircraft’s
speed and runway distance remaining. The heavy airliner stopped at runway’s
end, just before the sea.
“What an honor to receive from our fellow pilots,” said Cleary. He thanked
his family and Alaska Airlines for their support after the harrowing event,
and noted that the first telephone call he received after the rejected
takeoff “was from ALPA safety.”
“I want to thank every check airman who made me go back and do over
everything I ever did wrong in the sim. Michael and our flight attendants
made me look good. Hopefully Michael and I will never be back here,” he
Pilot Assistance Award
For her exceptional leadership in supporting airline pilots who experience
serious psychological trauma, the union recognized F/O Madeline “Mimi”
Tompkins (Hawaiian) with the 2010 ALPA Pilot Assistance Award.
On Aloha Airlines Flight 243 on April 28, 1988, a 20-foot section of the
B-737’s upper fuselage blew away in an explosive decompression at FL240.
Capt. Robert Schornstheimer and Tompkins safely landed the severely crippled
airliner despite significant structural damage. One flight attendant died,
and all 89 passengers were injured.
After that tragedy, Tompkins became involved with ALPA’s Air Safety
Committee and participated on a special task force to develop a critical
incident response program. Beginning in 1994, she coordinated and led the
union’s efforts, and ALPA’s Critical Incident Response Program (CIRP) was
formally established in 1996. From then until 2001, Tompkins chaired ALPA’s
national CIRP Committee, coordinating critical incident stress management
(CISM) responses to major accidents and incidents involving ALPA pilot
Today, Tompkins remains very active in pilot assistance, traveling around
the world to share her expertise with others.
In nominating Tompkins for the award, Capt. Chris Elley, the Hawaiian
pilots’ Master Executive Council (MEC) chairman, said, “Her efforts over the
past two decades have had such a positive effect on the emotional and mental
health of traumatized pilots that many pilots have said that they owe their
continued careers, and even their lives, to Mimi because of the CIRP
organization she helped to create and lead.”
Tompkins confided, “I never imagined at the beginning that the program would
become global. Now every major U.S. airline has a CISM [program], and other
airlines and pilot associations around the world, in Germany, Japan, and
Hong Kong, have them, too.”
Aviation Security Award
Capt. Bob Hesselbein (Delta) received the 2010 ALPA Aviation Security Award,
the Association’s highest aviation security honor, for his exemplary efforts
to advance aviation security.
“Since the 9/11 terrorist attacks, the U.S. has made significant progress in
enhancing aviation security,” Capt. Lee Moak, president of the Air Line
Pilots Association, noted. “Capt. Hesselbein has played a key role in
galvanizing congressional, industry, and regulatory support for a wide range
of important aviation security initiatives.”
In 1986, Hesselbein joined ALPA as a Northwest Airlines pilot. He became
chairman of his pilot group’s Security Committee and created a team that
prioritized security issues and emphasized strong liaison with airline
security partners and law enforcement.
In 2005, Hesselbein was selected to lead ALPA’s newly restructured National
Security Committee (NSC). During his tenure, the Association’s annual
security training seminar became a leading international aviation security
Among his achievements, Hesselbein designed a comprehensive crewmember
checklist for pilots and cabin crewmembers to use to identify and address
chemical and biological weapons.
As NSC chairman, Hesselbein also began an initiative, threatened airspace
management (TAM), to modify ATC procedures used during security-related
events involving airborne aircraft. He held meetings with numerous
government and industry personnel on this topic and raised awareness among
During four years as chairman, Hesselbein strengthened ties to government
agencies. His attention to communications was an important catalyst for
aviation security improvements. He championed use of a range of
communications vehicles—from ALPA member publications to the news media—to
advocate for awareness and security enhancements.
“Over his long career, Capt. Hesselbein has served as a powerful advocate
for effective and efficient aviation security initiatives,” Moak concluded.
Hesselbein responded, “I’m deeply honored and humbled. In my heart, you are
the heroes. … Pilots possess important security expertise that cannot be
ignored. ALPA volunteers have reached across borders and oceans to do
aviation security work.
“The need for robust aviation security will outlast my participation. I ask
you to continue to do the good work.”
Air Safety Award
Capt. Pete Frey (Delta) received the 2010 ALPA Air Safety Award, the
Association’s highest safety honor, for his outstanding commitment to
advancing airline safety.
“For decades, ALPA pilots have been able to count on Capt. Frey’s formidable
strengths as a mentor to his fellow safety volunteers and as a skilled and
engaging instructor for ALPA’s accident investigation courses,” Moak
A long-time member of ALPA’s Accident Investigation Board, Frey has been a
driving force in accident and incident investigations for many years. He has
served as the course director of ALPA’s accident investigation courses and
coauthored and contributed to many of ALPA’s published accident analyses.
Frey also serves as the chief accident investigator and accident analysis
chair for the Delta pilots’ Central Air Safety Committee, a position he has
held for more than a decade. He also has served as the Delta pilots’ safety
chair at their New York base and as a member of the Delta pilots’
accident/incident hotline team.
Highly influential in establishing and implementing the ASAP and FOQA
programs at Delta, Frey has nurtured a high level of trust with Delta’s
Flight Safety Office that has resulted in the pilots’ Central Air Safety
Committee being swiftly notified of incidents and accidents.
Frey recalled the February 2009 Colgan Air Flight 3407 accident: “I got a
phone call late at night from ALPA’s Engineering and Air Safety Department.
I was told that Colgan had had an accident and that the Colgan pilots had
just joined ALPA and hadn’t had a chance to get any of their pilots trained
in accident investigation yet. I was asked to go to Buffalo and lead the
ALPA involvement in the onsite accident investigation.
“I said I would, but I thought that when I got to Buffalo I’d be doing it
alone. When I got off the plane in Buffalo, pilots were there from Piedmont,
Continental, Delta, Pinnacle, and Colgan. We were able to populate every
single technical group on the NTSB investigation. I am very proud to be part
of this organization that can react like that. Thank you all.”—Jan W. Steenblik, Technical Editor
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