An Air Line Pilots Association e-mail safety alert to its members about recent runway incursions and more concerns a pilot turned whistleblower.
The United States’ based Air Line Pilots Association (ALPA) has issued an e-mail safety alert to its members about recent runway incursions and more. The alert called for increased vigilance, preventing complacency and submitting voluntary safety reports. However, it did not go into specifics, which raised the concern of a medically retired commercial pilot turned whistleblower and published author with a doctorate in aviation safety.
Alert arising from FAA safety summit
The ALPA alert was a direct product from the Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA) Call to Action Safety Summit, an event intended to address six serious incidents. At the summit, acting FAA Administrator Billy Nolen explained that,
“One of the hallmarks of aviation and the people who pursue a life in this industry is a willingness to question conventional wisdom. And to always be looking for ways to advance safety.
“As I mentioned in my call to action, the biggest mistake we can make as an industry is to become complacent. As a safety professional, if you are comfortable it means you’re probably missing something.”
Photo: Joe Kunzler | Simple Flying
After the summit, the FAA issued a Safety Alert for Operations or SAFO. In the SAFO, the FAA made a series of recommendations. These included reviewing safety near runways with several hyperlinks to specific documents. Furthermore, the SAFO recommended ensuring compliance with and comprehension of checklists, Air Traffic Control instructions, and individual airline and aircraft procedures.
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ALPA Safety Alert 2023-03
ALPA’s one-page Safety Alert 2023-03 builds on the FAA SAFO calling on pilots to “increase vigilance, prevent complacency and submit voluntary safety reports.” The alert does make clear at the end in bold print,
There is no better safety feature on the flight deck than at least two well-trained and rested pilots—continue doing your part contributing to the safest air transportation system in the world.
One can read the entire alert below;
Graphic: Air Line Pilots Association (ALPA)
The new President of ALPA, Jason Ambrosi, even tweeted the below urging more safety and “to be vigilant”:
An aviation whistleblower’s perspective
Karlene Pettit, Ph.D. – a medically retired commercial pilot with type ratings on the Airbus A350 and A330 plus the Boeing 777, 747-400, 747-200, 757, 767, 737 and 727 plus a doctorate in aviation safety from Embry Riddle Aeronautical University – shared her concerns both on her blog “Flight to Success” and with Simple Flying. Pettit was unhappy with the absence of discussing mental health issues.
In recent blogs, Pettit has received permission from the next of kin to share information about a pilot’s suicide and also wrote about the FAA Safety Summit, criticizing the lack of discussion about pilot mental health and fatigue.
In Pettit’s blog about the summit, she wrote poignantly;
“Years ago the FAA approved airlines to reduce pilot training, with the new requirement of “train to proficiency”. But is “proficiency” enough to avoid hitting another aircraft or nearly impacting the ground when the pilot heads are down? Is proficiency enough to counteract the lack of understanding or fatigue? When the mind is task saturated due to new or novel information and lacks understanding to the condition, situation awareness reduces. Add a dose of fatigue, and all attention is taken from the external environment to focus on the task at hand.”
One should note that in the past year, Simple Flying has covered many pilot fatigue issues, including an analysis of how Delta Air Lines is addressing pilot fatigue where overscheduling was a problem. Simple Flying also did another analysis on pilot mental health issues. Additionally, in a recent guide, Simple Flying addressed how fatigue affects airline pilots.
Photo: Joe Kunzler | Simple Flying
Pettit also voiced concern about the lack of specifics in both alerts, but especially the ALPA alert. In a follow-up conversation with Simple Flying, Pettit said;
Telling people to be better, doesn’t make doesn’t improve anything. … It doesn’t improve vigilance. You have to either provide them skills to improve their vigilance. Or you have to give them the environment … If you’re trying to figure out what to do, because you just don’t have that knowledge and understanding… something else is going to be missing.
In other US pilot news
The US Senate has proposed to raise the pilot retirement age, to which ALPA has come out in opposition. In an ALPA statement, President Ambrosi explained the effort would increase training costs for pilots limited to only US domestic operations due to International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) regulations. The ALPA statement also mentioned that, on May 19, ALPA passed a resolution of union opposition to such efforts.
What is your assessment of the flight safety situation? Please share with civility in the comments section.
Sources: Karlene Pettit, Ph.D. “Flight to Success”, March 22, 2023 FAA SAFO