ALPA President, Captain Lee Moak testified today before the U.S. House Aviation Subcommittee on Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) safe integration into the National Airspace System (NAS). With a number of recent news reports highlighting “near miss” incidents between airliners and UAS’s, public attention is rightly on the safety of remotely piloted aircraft (RPA) and how to safely integrate them into the NAS. Today Congress reviewed the integration, oversight and competitiveness issues related to UAS in advance of the September 2015 deadline for the FAA’s plan for UAS integration. Watch the webcast here.
Captain Moak stated during his testimony that ALPA does not oppose the safe integration of UAS into shared airspace. We recognize the economic value and innovation presented by UAS. However, it must be reiterated that UAS are aircraft. When and if they fly in the national airspace, they must be subject to the same rules and regulations as other airspace users. Finally, the FAA needs a solid funding stream to continue to produce the regulations that will guide integration of UAS into the NAS. These points were well received by the Members of Congress in attendance who heard from Captain Moak about what actually happens while operating in the NAS. ALPA will continue to serve as a resource for policy makers in the coming years as rules and regulations are developed to keep the skies safe while allowing the UAS industry to grow.
For additional reading on ALPA’s position on UAS’s, please read our white paper by clicking here.
As the threat of high powered lasers being pointed at airliners during critical phases of flight continue to be a threat to aviation safety, ALPA and the FBI continue to partner in a campaign to raise awareness about the dangers of lasers. So far the campaign seems to be successful in the New York City area with the number of incidents dropping overall in New York airspace. ALPA pilot Captain Robert Hamilton (PSA) highlighted to a CBS news affiliate the danger of a laser beam penetrating an aircraft cockpit and the effect that a laser beam can have on the pilot’s short and long term vision. This growing threat aviation safety and pilot’s’ health spurred ALPA and the FBI to team up to work at the local level to deter and combat those who would knowingly or unknowingly endanger public safety.
The campaign works with FBI field offices in major metropolitan areas to educate the public about the safety risk and consequences of pointing a laser at an aircraft. FBI officers are also staffed on the ground in high risk areas ready to mobilize immediately after an incident is reported. When the campaign started in June there was an immediate drop off in the number of laser incident throughout the country. As part of the FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012, shining a laser at an airplane became a federal offence that is punishable by up to five years in jail and a fine of $11,000. ALPA was successful in pushing for this change as part of the Act that was signed into law two years ago.
Similar efforts are underway in Canada where recently a laser incident illuminated the cockpit of a WestJet flight. Under Canada’s Aeronautics Act, it is a criminal offense to interfere with the safety of an aircraft. If convicted, offenders face a maximum $100,000 fine, five years in prison or both. However, actively shining a laser at an aircraft is not specifically a criminal offense – yet. ALPA has joined with other stakeholders to urge Canadian Justice and Transport Ministries to stiffen penalties and to work together on a campaign to reduce laser strikes on aircraft. Hear ALPA Canada Board Chairman Dan Adamus’ recent interview highlighting the need for more attention on this growing threat.
For more information on ALPA’s efforts to keep pilots safe from lasers, click here.
An agreement by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) co-signed September 23rd by the International Air Transport Association (IATA) and several other international aviation groups at the United Nations Climate Change Summit pledges to stabilize the growth of carbon emissions from aircraft by 2020 and reduce carbon emissions to 2005 levels by 2050. This agreement is consistent with ALPA’s longstanding commitment to sound environmental aviation policy. Advanced biofuels, a national airline policy that allows U.S. airlines to invest in modern, energy efficient aircraft, and the advancement of NextGen technology to reduce flight miles flown and optimize operations will play key roles in meeting these targets.
The aviation industry is a leader in voluntary emissions reductions over the last few decades. U.S. airlines improved fuel efficiency by 120% between 1978-2013, which has resulted in 3.6 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide savings in that period. Advancements in efficient aircraft design, air traffic control technology and procedures, and other measures have led to these savings. Despite these gains there is a push by some environmental groups towards regulation by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to limit emissions, in lieu of an international solution which ALPA supports.
Another component of the agreement to reduce carbon emissions from aviation is the commercialization of advanced biofuels. Congress must end the ideological battles and support the progress made by the Department of Defense, Department of Energy and the Department of Agriculture in their partnerships with the private sector to commercialize advanced biofuels. The National Defense Authorization Act, which Congress will consider after the elections, is a vehicle to promote the availability of advanced biofuels for the aviation industry at competitive prices. By allowing the private sector to engage with these Departments to develop advanced biofuels that are viable for aviation use, we will likely see such a product available for commercial aviation use much sooner – a win for all.
ALPA urges governments around the world to recognize that our mutual goal of reducing emissions from aircraft, while protecting the ability of aviation to maintain its ability to drive the global economy, rests with an international solution now in motion at ICAO. Unilateral actions to limit emissions by any government threaten the ability of global stakeholders to achieve the agreed upon goals as stated at the U.N. Summit on Climate Change.
Last week U.S. Department of Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson announced at a Congressional hearing that the Administration has reconsidered its plan to lift the ban on allowing Libyan nationals to be trained as pilots in the United States. The development reflects ALPA’s strongly held position that the ban must remain in place.
On August 14, 2014, ALPA sent a letter to Secretary Johnson expressing opposition to lifting this 30-year-old ban. The letter stated ALPA’s concern about the current turmoil in Libya and the effect that such instability could have on accurately ascertaining background-check information on Libyan nationals who seek pilot training in the United States.
Further, ALPA supports efforts in the U.S. House of Representatives to move legislation (H.R. 5401) introduced by Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-SC) that would codify the current prohibition on training Libyan pilots into statute. ALPA responded to the bill’s introduction and scheduled full committee markup by sending a letter of support to House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-VA) and Ranking Member John Conyers (D-MI), thanking them for acting so quickly to address this important issue.
While we are pleased that Secretary Johnson has stated the Administration will not to lift the prohibition “anytime soon,” we remain concerned that the proposal to do so is still pending. We are encouraged that the cosponsors of H.R. 5401 plan to pursue action on this legislation and we remain supportive of their efforts.
As this issue continues to evolve, we will provide you with the most accurate and up-to-date information.