WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Unions and trade associations representing more than 100,000 pilots are joining forces to oppose a set of provisions added to the Federal Aviation Administration reauthorization bill passed by the House of Representatives earlier this year.
The controversy surrounds Sections 744 and 703(a)(xviii), which would authorize a new FAA research and development program that could lead to the replacement of pilot tandems in cargo operations with single pilots and remote- or computer-controlled technology.
A joint statement issued yesterday during the Air Line Pilots Association (ALPA) Air Safety Forum in Washington, D.C., said its goal now is to inform Congress "how reckless passage of a bill with this provision would be."
"ALPA adamantly opposes FAA Reauthorization Section 744 and will continue to use every resource we have to ensure that this anti-safety provision is not enacted," said Capt. Tim Canoll, ALPA president. "The inclusion of this unacceptable provision serves as an existential threat to aviation safety and security, the general public and the airline piloting profession."
The group argues that the rigors of operating a flight deck requires at least two pilots who communicate without delays or the potential for lost connections.
"The safety of commercial aviation relies heavily on the experience and coordination of a crew to operate complex aircraft worldwide," said Robert Travis, Independent Pilots Association president. "Anything less than two pilots physically in the cockpit will significantly increase risk, especially during emergency operations, when timely actions are coordinated and implemented by each crewmember based on real-time information."
The young state of autonomous technology and a potential susceptibility to cyberattack is also of concern, organization officials said, furthering their concern.
"We demand that Congress continue to protect the flying public and the crews that operate commercial aircraft by keeping two pilots in the cockpit," said Capt. Jon Weaks, Southwest Airlines Pilots Association president. "No amount of cost savings is worth putting people at risk."
Represented in the ALPA's statement are the Allied Pilot Association, Coalition of Airline Pilots Association, Independent Pilots Association, International Brotherhood of Teamsters, NetJets Association of Shared Aircraft Pilots and Southwest Airlines Pilots Association. Combined, the unions and organizations represent the pilots of nearly 50 commercial airlines.
The legislation -- available for viewing here -- was passed by the House in April. It now awaits consideration from the Senate.