Safety Is ALPA’s Payload


By Capt. Joe DePete, ALPA’s First Vice President and National Safety Coordinator

As ALPA’s first national officer who comes from an all-cargo carrier, I know from experience the unique challenges faced by pilots who fly freight. As the union’s first vice president and national safety coordinator, I also witness the common commitment to safety, pilot assistance, and security all ALPA pilots share, regardless of what they carry on their aircraft.

Air freight has been part of the North American airline industry since its beginnings. The first cargo flight occurred on November 7, 1910. It took 61 minutes to fly the 70-mile route that traced the railway line between Dayton and Columbus. This cargo flight moved merchandise, but it also gave a leg-up to local business, attracting a crowd of 3,000 people when it landed in Columbus and drawing public attention to a sale at the city’s largest store. Even with its inaugural flight, air freight proved a powerful economic driver.

Like the first passenger operations, all-cargo flying in the early airline industry was fraught with hazard. Ever since I became an ALPA member, I have recognized and respected ALPA’s history of safety advocacy that spans more than 80 years. Our union’s work has been integral to achieving the extraordinary level of safety that is the hallmark of our industry today.

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A Deal is a Deal

Aviation stakeholders from across the industry met this week in Washington for U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s 14th Annual Aviation Summit. While attendees engaged in robust discussion regarding aviation’s role in the global economy, the CEOs of two Middle Eastern carriers, Etihad Airways and Emirates Airline, were also in D.C., reportedly conducting their own discussions with industry representatives. One of those CEO’s, James Hogan of Etihad, also spoke at the Summit.

Etihad Airways and Emirates Airline, in addition to Qatar Airways, spare no expense—thanks to the financial backing of Qatar and the United Arab Emirates—in trying to convince U.S. officials that their massive subsidies do not distort the international market. But as these state-supported foreign airlines try to convince our government that Open Skies is a win-win-win, I believe their lack of transparency speaks louder than their efforts to explain how their highly subsidized carriers are not in violation of current air transport services agreements – and in effect, results in a lose-lose-lose for the U.S aviation industry.

No one should be fooled by their rhetoric. ALPA recognizes the dangerous reality—the negative domino effect that comes along with hugely state-supported airlines that are growing rapidly and operate without the need to show a profit.

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ALPA Helps Expose Gulf Airlines’ Massive Subsidies

Fair Skies Blog

The most compelling and credible evidence yet emerged this week regarding the massive, unprecedented, and sustained subsidies that Qatar and the United Arab Emirates provide to their airlines and the tremendous economic disadvantage they create for North American airlines and their workers as they compete in the global marketplace.

ALPA served as a major voice of airline workers as the Partnership for Open and Fair Skies coalition members joined together to release a 55-page whitepaper titled Restoring Open Skies: the Need to Address Subsidized Competition from State-Owned Airlines in Qatar and the UAE. The findings dramatically illustrate how unfair economic advantages such as interest-free “loans” with no repayment obligation, government assumption of fuel-hedging losses, subsidized airport charges, free land, and more have allowed Qatar Airways, Etihad Airways, and Emirates to rapidly expand their fleets and international routes. Directly contradicting the premise of the U.S. Government’s Open Skies policy––that all airlines will compete fairly, without government interference––these government-provided subsidies distort the commercial marketplace to the severe detriment of U.S. employment, the U.S. economy, and U.S. airline jobs.

Our coalition partners, which include American, Delta, and United; flight attendants; and other airline pilot unions called upon the Obama Administration to consult with Qatar and the United Arab Emirates, as the existing air transport agreements allow, to address the flow of subsidized air service to the United States, and to request a freeze on current passenger service for these countries while consultations are underway.

These countries and airlines should no longer illegitimately benefit at the expense of North American workers. This new white paper underscores the urgent importance of ALPA’s work to restore fair competition in the marketplace for North American airlines and their employees.

The Time For Ex-Im Reform is Now


ALPA continues its push for targeted and meaningful reforms to the Export-Import Bank’s widebody aircraft financing. With the Bank’s current authorization expiring on June 30, now is a key opportunity to ensure that its lending practices do not harm the U.S. airline industry and its workers.

ALPA pilots joined forces with airline workers from across the industry this week and visited the halls of Congress, informing their elected representatives about the importance of ensuring we have sound and fair policies that allow U.S. airlines and their employees the opportunity to compete on a level playing field.

I also sent a letter to Congress encouraging lawmakers to put an end to providing state-owned, state-supported, and credit-worthy airlines with advantageous financing that puts U.S. airlines at a significant competitive disadvantage.

The problem lies in the Bank’s practice of providing below-market financing for the purchase of widebody aircraft—U.S. airlines are not eligible for this program, only our foreign competitors are. This Bank support can result in a $20 million-per-airplane financing advantage for an airline. Once these airlines receive the Bank-financed aircraft, they can use them to compete directly with U.S. airlines on international routes, can flood the market with excess capacity, and can drastically undercut market-driven pricing.

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Norwegian’s Ex-Im Financing Request Comes Up Short for U.S. Airline Workers

10592690_10152173364360672_7648566619592751042_nIn ALPA’s latest effort to secure a fair marketplace for U.S. airlines and airline workers, our union called for the U.S. Export-Import Bank to reject Norwegian Air Shuttle’s application for aircraft financing. Why? Because the bank has not performed the economic assessment required by Congress to determine the effect its lending could have on U.S. airlines and their workers.

In a filing joined by Hawaiian Airlines and Delta Air Lines, ALPA underscored how the bank’s below-market lending rates save foreign airlines millions of dollars in financing costs when purchasing widebody airliners. These foreign airlines then use these U.S. taxpayer-subsidized aircraft to compete with U.S. airlines in the international marketplace.

Congress requires the bank to evaluate the financing requests it receives to identify potential harm to U.S. airlines and their workers. It appears that the bank has not performed this Congressionally-mandated analysis. Without it, we don’t know the extent of the adverse effect granting Norwegian’s financing request would have on U.S. industry and workers. As a result, the bank must reject Norwegian’s financing request. Don’t misunderstand—we welcome competition. But it has to be fair competition. The deck shouldn’t be stacked against domestic airlines.

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Unmanned Aircraft Systems: Safe Integration is Key

Unmanned aircraft systems (UAS), or “drones” as many like to describe them, are increasingly in the news and in the hands of enthusiasts and commercial users alike. In fact, a quadcopter UAS recently made an unscheduled landing on the White House lawn.

While the Air Line Pilots Association, International (ALPA) recognizes the popularity of UAS and the value of remotely piloted aircraft for a variety of commercial applications, safety must be front and center.

It’s quite simple—we are for the safe integration of UAS into our national airspace system.

As a pilot, I need to be able to see a UAS on my cockpit display. Air traffic controllers need to see them too. And the UAS itself must be equipped with safety systems—to include active collision-avoidance technology—in order to operate in shared airspace with commercial aircraft. We are not there yet.

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Safety Is and Always Will Be Our Number One Priority

Securing the safety of our nation’s aviation system is our industry’s top priority. In order to maintain our standing as the safest air transport system in the world, we rely on a multilayer approach to security, using numerous strategies that all play important roles. One of those critical layers is the Federal Flight Deck Officer (FFDO) program.

Since 2003, the FFDO program has been tremendously successful as a strong, ongoing deterrent against hijacking threats. FFDOs are cargo and passenger pilots who volunteer their personal time in order to receive the training required to become deputized FFDOs, and these pilot volunteers pay a portion of the expenses associated with the program. In total, thousands of ALPA pilots flying for cargo and passenger airlines have volunteered their time defending our airspace, securing nearly a million flight segments every year without any personal compensation.

The FFDO program is a proven and cost-effective component of transportation security in this country and has often been praised by the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) for the additional layer of protection it brings to air transportation.

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