ALPA & its safety credibility take on AOPA & AUVSI down the stretch of FAA Reauthorization

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The Airline Pilot Association recently took strong positions on two high profile issues against two Washington aviation trade associations with considerable policy-making clout. In a time when aviation consensus is critical to passage of the FAA Reauthorization, such discord is problematic.

ALPA occupies a special, though not unique, position within the aviation safety pantheon. Its members, pilots, are knowledgeable, well educated professionals. Their sophisticated opinions are given great deference by the FAA and Congress. Their perspective from the cockpit provides great insights on safety matters.

The first article linked below is directed at the UAS industry. After numerous reports of near misses between airliners and UASs, ALPA’s President Tim Canoll made the following challenge to the FAA and the UAV industry:

“’It’s important that active collision avoidance [technology] be mandated on [UAVs], otherwise these aircraft are invisible to our pilots,’ Canoll said, adding that UAVs must be required to ‘use the same rules as we do.’”

alpa3These safety instruments for GA and commercial aircraft are priced between $5,000 and $30,000 according to this source. The ADS-B unit, which incorporates some of the attributes of TCAS, is under considerable pressure to lower its costs with some units slipping under the $1,000 mark and some in the $4K+ range. The FAA has made it clear that the availability of a low-priced “detect and avoid” system would open the operational restrictions imposed by the draft Part 107 and other impending rules.

President Canoll’s pitch was heard and well received by Ranking House T&I Aviation Subcommittee Rep. DeFazio. He is in a position to draft the final version of the FAA Reauthorization and said:

“Basically, you should say nobody should fly a drone that isn’t pre-programmed to avoid restricted airspace. We should register [UAVs] so we can track them back [to owners and operators]. We need to institute a system of meaningful fines and penalties for people who do operate them in restricted airspace.”

ALPA’s credibility could result in the Congressional and/or FAA mandating of such expensive equipment. Such a position will cause AUVSI to respond to this expert, damaging opinion.

An ALPA challenge to the Third Class Medical revision is a direct confrontation to the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association, generally regarded as aviation’s equivalent to the NRA as pertains to Hill matters. AOPA declared that legislation reducing the burden on GA pilots’ requirement to get an annual physical from an Aviation Medical Examiner is its #1 priority. The association’s argument is that there will be no reduction in safety and that such a liberalization will result with an increase in the pilots roll. President’s Canoll’s letter to Congress declares war on AOPA:alpa

“This legislation has the potential to allow medically unfit pilots unfettered access to the national airspace at altitudes up to 18,000 feet, which also includes commercial airline traffic carrying passengers and cargo. The amendment would eliminate the requirement that these pilots see an Aviation Medical Examiner (AME) at regular intervals for mental and physical evaluation in order to show medical fitness to operate an aircraft. It also reduces the number of medical conditions that could disqualify a pilot from receiving a medical certificate and relies on the pilot to self-report when a disqualifying condition is identified. Even if a pilot develops and discloses a serious medical condition that creates risk in the national airspace, the amendment could prevent the FAA from ensuring that the pilot seek treatment.”

Given such a strong, unconditional safety attack, ALPA and AOPA will likely be seen battling before Congress. will likely be seen battling before Congress. EAA’s Jack Pelton, citing EAA members who are also ALPA pilots, returned fire at the union. Coincidentally, Senator Inhofe is a proponent of the change to the requirements for GA pilots.
With 65 days and counting remaining until the FAA’s authority terminates,  ALPA, AOPA and AUVSI will engage in a contentious tripartite debate on issues important to each but perhaps tangential to the major substantive, transformational debates on the FAA Reauthorization.


ARTICLE: ALPA: Mandate collision avoidance technology on UAVs

ARTICLE: Urgent action needed to support medical reform; ALPA actively opposed

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