Airlines Must Continue Build On High Professionalism Standards <


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Airlines Must Continue Build On High Professionalism Standards

By Daniel Baxter

May 23, 2010 - The Air Line Pilots Association, Int’l (ALPA) participated in the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) Public Safety Forum on Professionalism in Aviation this week to underscore the exemplary professionalism of airline pilots, who safely flew more than 10 million flights in the United States and Canada in 2009.  

“ALPA pilots have demonstrated a commitment to professional excellence since the Association was founded in 1931,” said Capt. John Prater, ALPA’s president. “We commend the NTSB for challenging our industry to do even more, because professionalism is a shared responsibility among the regulators, the airlines, and airline workers. If a link is lost anywhere in this chain, our industry fails its passengers and all who depend on a safe transportation system.” 


Three ALPA pilots were asked by the NTSB to make formal presentations to assist in identifying the attributes of professional pilots as well as innovative ways to promote the highest possible professionalism standards within the industry. Representing ALPA were Capt. John Sluys (ALA), executive vice-president and chair of ALPA’s Professional Development Group, Capt. Tim Flaherty (DAL), chair of the ALPA Air Traffic Services Group, and Capt. John Rosenberg (DAL), chair of ALPA’s Professional Standards Committee. 

Numerous government and industry presenters cited ALPA’s long-standing dedication to professionalism as expressed in ALPA’s Code of Ethics, which was adopted by the Association’s Executive Board in 1956 and still serves as the “gold standard” of professionalism across the industry today. Although professionalism issues are extremely rare, ALPA maintains a robust professional standards program that proactively employs time-tested techniques including peer-to-peer counseling to swiftly address any personal or performance-related issue that holds the potential to compromise flight safety.

During the forum, ALPA presenters challenged the airlines to promote greater opportunities for strengthening pilot professionalism including: 

Adopting and supporting an airline code of ethics to create a professional corporate culture that recognizes and values the contributions of pilots to the company’s success;

Adopting a professional standards program at all Part 121 airlines;

Recognizing and addressing the negative impact on pilot professionalism when the company or the regulator acts in an unprofessional manner or attempts to undermine captain’s authority;


Using sophisticated pilot selection tools and methods during the pilot hiring process;

Overhauling education, training, and certification requirements for future airline pilots;

Including the subjects of professionalism and ethics in airline training;

Promoting pilot mentoring programs; and

Encouraging the continued evolution of effective crew resource management training while respecting captain’s authority. 

ALPA also urged the FAA to help pilot and controllers go “back to basics” with respect to pilot-controller communications. A better understanding of each other’s roles and responsibilities is needed and could be facilitated in part by the restoration of familiarization flights for air traffic controllers. 

“While ALPA pilots operate thousands of flights safely every day, the union takes extremely seriously its shared responsibility to ensure that our industry does not rest in pursuing even higher standards of professionalism,” continued Prater. “The NTSB forum this week has served to remind everyone that a true industry-wide partnership is needed and that all the stakeholders within government and industry must commit and engage.” 

As a result of this forum, ALPA expects that the NTSB will summarize and identify potential actions that would lead to improvement.
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