Thursday, July 23, 2009

An Open Letter to ALPA President Captain John Prater


“Patriotism and Freedom of Speech in Action”

Captain John Prater - President
Air Line Pilots Association International
1625 Massachusetts, Avenue N.W.
Washington DC 20036

Captain Dan Adamus - Canada Board President
Air Line Pilots Association
155 Queen Street, Suite 1301
Ottawa Ontario K1P 6L1


Dear Captain Prater and Captain Adamus,

I write to you today on behalf of the grassroots members of the Whistleblowing Airline Employees Association concerning issues of public air transportation safety. As you may or may not know, our association is comprised of active and retired airline employees from all airlines on the North American continent and abroad, whose purpose is to augment ALPA efforts, as well as the Department of Transportation and the Federal Aviation Administration, in identifying weaknesses or areas of concern in the commercial air transportation industry that potentially could cause harm our to ‘special interests’, the traveling public and the many airline employees within the industry.

We have recently joined political hands with members of the FAA Whistleblowers Alliance and the Government Accountability Project office in DC to support the goals of the FAA in their stated mission of providing ‘the safest, most efficient aerospace system in the world’, as well as embracement of the theme of the first sentence of the ALPA Code of Ethics:

“An Air Line Pilot will keep uppermost in his mind that the safety, comfort, and well-being of the passengers who entrust their lives to him are his first and greatest responsibility.”

Commercial airline safety is, and always has been, based on a bond of trust between management and employees, pilots and mechanics, flight attendants, air traffic controllers, air carrier inspectors, and many others who comprise the aviation safety team, but more importantly, the governmental oversight agencies whose function is to ensure compliance with federal aviation regulations. Our airline passengers rely on the integrity of this trust without compromise each day. Based on many recent news reports, it has become apparent that this bond has been eroded significantly and must be restored. It is for this reason that I correspond with your good offices today.

Based on recent feedback received from the ‘Contact Us’ page ( ) of our website and from other sources, we encourage the ALPA leadership, if they have not already done so, to publicly endorse in writing the following measures for air safety enhancement:

Management/Employee Relationships

Since 9/11, it has been blatantly obvious that management has been running rough-shod over all employee groups in their obsession to consolidate the industry without regard to morale or safety considerations. While recognizing that unions must comply with current labor laws, the line of demarcation must be identified by Congress as to where concern for bottom-line profits overrides passenger safety, particularly when it comes to reporting safety issues without impediment.

While there is some talk about reregulation of the industry, must we wait until the next air disaster before Congress moves to intercede? The bond of trust has long ago been broken between management and airline employees at all airlines and passengers realize this has happened.

Questionable Licensing and Oversight of Aircraft Mechanics

As has been reported by WFAA Dallas reporter Byron Harris in two news accounts, questions have arisen regarding the alleged illegal licensing of FAA mechanics in this country. Additionally, on June 17, 2009, at a subcommittee hearing held by Senator Dorgan concerning the Colgan Air disaster, Senator Claire McCaskill expressed concerns regarding the outsourcing of maintenance work on aircraft to workers in foreign countries with little or no U.S. governmental oversight.

Before pushback from the gate, airline captains rely on the bond of trust they have when receiving a clean aircraft log book from the mechanic. In light of these reports and reported concerns, given that the Captain’s license and passenger safety are at risk, it is hoped that the ALPA leadership will publicly petition relevant congressional leaders in writing to expeditiously respond with appropriate legislation to address these safety issues.

FAA Employee Whistleblower Suppression

While pilots and mechanics are federally licensed, airline employees are not federal employees, but are bound by the federal aviation regulations that govern the proper conduct of their assigned duties. Pilots, flight attendants, and mechanics routinely interface with air carrier inspectors and, in the case of pilots, with air traffic controllers.

Recent news reports, as well as reports received from members of the FAA Whistleblowers Alliance, allege the intimidation, suppression, demotion and, in some cases, the firing of Federal Aviation Administration employees who have attempted to speak out as whistleblowers on issues of public air safety. On a daily basis, pilots rely on the honesty and integrity of air traffic controller to guide them safely to their destination. Additionally, all employees rely on the same with regard to unimpeded government oversight of operations to ensure regulatory compliance. Any break in the chain of trust denigrates air safety. Employees and passengers recognize the breakage.

The House of Representatives recently passed HR 1507, the Whistleblower Protection Enhancement Act of 2009, while the Senate legislation, S.372, is still in committee for work-up. The House version of this bill contains much stronger language that ensures appropriate whistleblower protection for all federal employees, which includes FAA employees, who garner the courage to speak out on wrongdoing within their work place. It is respectfully requested that the ALPA leadership publicly endorse in writing the stronger language contained in HR 1507 vice that of S.372.

Aircraft Cabin Air Toxicity

It has recently been reported on CNN.COM, ‘The Guardian’ newspaper in London, and other news sources, the growing public concern over the quality of cabin air in commercial and military aircraft as a result of outdated modes of jet aircraft air conditioning systems without monitors in place to measure the quality of air. See: and

Recognizing the potentially harmful effect of air toxicity on passengers and aircrew members and the possible physical impairment of the cockpit crew, based on concerns expressed to us through our website by both U.S. and foreign crews, it is respectfully requested that you peruse the attached proposed letter authored by William Harrison , President of the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating, and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRE).

Since these issues impact public safety, it is hoped that your good offices will publicly endorse Mr. Harrison’s request for the Federal Aviation Administration and the European Aviation Safety Agency to “establish a joint independent committee (perhaps with other regulatory authorities) this year to investigate the technical implications and flight safety benefits of addressing bleed air contamination, and to determine the requirements for bleed air contaminant detection systems and solutions to prevent bleed air contamination.”

FAA Employment of Former Airline Pilots

It has come to the attention of our association that there have been instances where former very highly qualified airline captains, some with military experiences in Viet Nam and the Gulf War, have been denied employment by the Federal Aviation Administration, while other less-qualified individuals with very limited experience in aviation matters were hired in their stead.

In light of the sacrifices these returning veterans have made for their country, never mind the horrific loss of pension benefits as a result of post-9/11 bankruptcy rulings, it is strongly urged that the ALPA leadership step up to the plate in petitioning the Department of Transportation and the Federal Aviation Administration to provide for preferential hiring of these higher-qualified patriotic pilots who have given so much in defense of our nation, while receiving so little in return. Given the recent DOT acknowledgement that the FAA ‘has problems’, it would only seem reasonable in the interest of public safety to ensure that the highest qualified candidates for each job be employed, vice reports of alleged hiring for political reasons within the Federal Aviation Administration.

Passenger Rights

The latest consumer travel reports indicate that passenger satisfaction with air travel is the lowest since 2001. Airline managements’ continued obsession with on-time departures from the gate to hold DOT statistics down oft times cause the necessity for the aircraft to return to the gate for maintenance problems that might have been avoided had the mechanic not been unduly pressured to release the aircraft for flight on time.

Additionally, many passenger service agents have reported to us that this same pressure to close the aircraft door on time, while leaving many passengers stranded at the gate as the aircraft pushes back from the gate with open seats, has caused much passenger anger and distress.

Passenger rights groups have reported that the much-degraded service and poor morale of some aircrew members as a result of the financial distress and abhorrent scheduling practices 9/11 have caused them to consider alternative means of transportation to their destinations in lieu of commercial air. With fuel prices creeping higher in concert with horrific financial losses being reported in the industry, one must question the illogical judgment and reasoning of airline managers’ with regard to the above.

Finally, there have been numerous news accounts of passengers held hostage away from the gate for extended periods of time without their physiological needs being met. In light of the aforementioned, it is strongly urged that ALPA leadership endorse publicly in writing S.213 the Airline Passenger Bill of Rights Act of 2009.

Union Leadership - Airline Employee Bond of Trust

When United Airlines Captain Dave Behnke met secretly in a Chicago hotel room in1931 to give birth to the Air Line Pilots Association, it was precipitated by the ‘pilot pushing’ that was occurring at the time with early air mail pilots, which resulted in the death of some. The presidency of George W. Bush was the worst blow to commercial aviation unionism in the recall of aviation history. With labor unions rendered powerless at the mercy of bankruptcy judges, and as contract were shredded, airline management danced happily to the bank to deposit their obscene bonuses in the bank, Concurrently, increasing demands for productivity improvements of the already overworked employee groups were made, while ignoring previously effective safety reporting systems, which further denigrated airline safety.

Our association applauds ALPA for its current ‘Call to Action’ regarding the implementation of an effective ASAP/FOQA program within the industry, as well as recent strides made concerning crew fatigue issues. However, attendance at union meetings is dismal at best. Some pilots are discarding their ALPA pins in disgust with the current work rules and pay schedules in place industry wide. In ignoring the past history of ALPA, these pilots have not yet come to recognize that THEY are ALPA.

The bond of trust between ALPA leadership at the local and national level and line pilots must be restored and ALPA strengthened to ensure the optimal level of safety of passengers and aircrew alike. Effective pilot leadership starts at the top and in the left seat, but also amongst the entire ranks of the 54,000 ALPA pilots on the North American continent. Words are cheap and action speaks louder than words. The traveling public and the entire commercial aviation workforce are awaiting effective legal and political action and leadership at the national level.

Recognizing that unions must deal with the political constraints and pressures exerted inside the beltway in DC, grassroots efforts are not so impeded, as they exercise their first amendment freedom of speech rights in consonance with the U.S. Constitution. Our ‘special interests’ are the millions who travel by commercial air and the professional workforce of the airline industry that serve them each day.

The bond of trust must be restored on all fronts.


Dan Hanley
Public Spokesperson – Whistleblowing Airline Employees Association

Encl: Proposed letter to FAA/EASA from ASHRAE on behalf of SSPC161P

Cc: President Barack Obama
Calvin Scovel – Inspector General, Department of Transportation
Raymond LaHood – Secretary of Transportation
Randolph Babbitt – Administrator, Federal Aviation Administration
Mark Rosenker – Chairman, National Transportation Safety Board
William E. Reukauf – Acting Special Counsel, Office of Special Council
Neil McPhee – Chairman, Merit System Protection Board
Hilda Solis – Secretary, Department of Labor
Senator John Rockefeller – Chairman, Commerce, Science, and Transportation
Senator Daniel Akaka – Chairman, Government/Veterans Affairs Committees
Senator Byron Dorgan – Chairman, Subcommittee on Transportation
Senator Claire McCaskill – Member, Subcommittee on Transportation
Congressman Oberstar – Chairman, Transportation and Infrastructure Committee
Congressman Jerry Costello – Chairman, House Aviation Subcommittee
Congresswoman Sheila Jackson-Lee – Chairwoman, Subcommittee on Transportation
Congressman Eldolphus Towns – Chairman, Oversight and Government Reform
Congressman Bob Filner – Chairman, Veterans Affairs Committe
Tom Devine – Legal Director, Government Accountability Project
Gabe Bruno – Representative, FAA Whistleblowers Alliance
Captain Lloyd Hill – President, Allied Pilots Association
Captain Mike Cleary – President, US Airline Pilots Association
Patricia Friend – International President, Association of Flight Attendants
Laura Glading – President, Association of Professional Flight Attendants
William Harrison – President, ASHRE
John Hoyte – Chairman,
Kate Hanni – Executive Director,
Brandon Macsata – Executive Director, Association for Airline PassengerRights

Dave Behnke – Circa 1930

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