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Chairman's Message - 7/24/17
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Chairman's Message - 7/24/17

 

ALPA Air Safety Forum

Last week’s ALPA Air Safety Forum in Washington, D.C., saw an amazing development that should provide significant encouragement to each of us. Two years ago, when I was first elected as your FDX MEC Chairman, we were deep into endgame bargaining, but even so it was apparent that our mission required allocating resources and focus to broader safety, security, and pilot-assistance concerns. FDX MEC Vice Chairman Captain John Cardaci, FDX MEC Secretary Treasurer First Officer Rich Zins, and myself set about cataloging all the issues that we felt the FedEx pilot group faced. While we absolutely needed to keep our focus on bargaining, we knew that many important issues were beyond that effort. After speaking with your committee chairmen and elected representatives, we concluded that three pressing issues presented the greatest threats to our pilot group’s safety and security. Those issues were lithium battery safety, fatigue mitigation, and pilot fitness.

Lithium Battery Safety

The lithium battery threat exists on virtually all of our flights, and we have absolutely no control over it. The more I’ve learned, the more I’ve become concerned. Exploding hoverboards, exploding telephones, and a host of other lithium-battery accidents and incidents have focused attention on this threat. We worry that our luck could run out at any time. Currently the focus is on better manufacturing and packaging methods as well as increasing penalties on those that illegally ship dangerous goods. The search for more effective firefighting technologies and fire-containment strategies continues, but no immediate relief is in sight.

Fatigue Mitigation

We also recognized that fatigue is ever-present and, as each of us knows better than almost anyone, it is a persistent threat to safe operations. We adamantly believe that science-based rules to mitigate fatigue should be incorporated into regulations. The friction that exists between any corporation’s desire to reduce costs and the need to provide an operational framework that effectively mitigates risk means that this effort requires continuous engagement and feedback. Certain pairings are identified by you as particularly problematic, and we engage Flight Management in an attempt to change those pairing to reflect our fatigue concerns. We’ve learned that as we have added more aircraft types (B-777, MD11, MD10, A300, A310, B-767, B-757) and more pilot bases (MEM, ANC, LAX, IND, HKG, CGN), an ever-changing pairing environment now exists unlike anything in the past. Now more than ever, we need vigilance and effective regulation. FAR Part 121 was crafted in the 1940s; science has obviously progressed considerably since then, and the aircraft we fly have redefined the fatigue challenges that were in existence when this regulation was created. Here at FedEx we have moved the bar forward with the addition of sleep rooms and a wake-up call system that will hopefully in the not-too-distant future extend to all domestic operations. Sound sleep is enhanced when you know a wake-up call is coming, and being able to adjust that wake-up to changing conditions makes sense.

Pilot Fitness

Thirdly, pilot fitness concerns us, as we must acknowledge that we as individuals are no different than others. As such we are not immune to distractions and health challenges, both mental and physical, that can negatively influence our performance. FX Flight 705 serves as unique reminder to FedEx pilots that mental illness can also threaten our very existence. We know that we need further enhancements to regulation to provide vital support to our membership. The establishment of our PATH program is an important step in recognizing and addressing a broad range of challenges. If you find yourself struggling with anything, I encourage you to reach out to our PATH team. It’s confidential and they can direct you to the appropriate support.

Summary

Obviously these are not the only challenges, but they are indeed major concerns. With these things in mind, we are determined to encourage greater involvement and participation in efforts to improve these areas and others in the same vein. We supported our volunteers and encouraged others to step up in pursuit of a healthier, safer, and more secure operating environment. I encourage any of you who are interested in joining these efforts or particular committees to let us know. Over the last couple of years we built on existing efforts, and our influence in these efforts has been growing on a national level as well as with our corporation.

At the Air Safety Forum, it was an inescapable fact that the FDX MEC has taken a strong position, front and center. During the introduction speech, ALPA President Captain Tim Canoll highlighted our efforts for dangerous goods and lithium battery regulation, cockpit security, fatigue, and pilot-experience requirements. I am deeply thankful for Tim’s continuing support and his efforts to elevate our concerns.

ALPA First Vice President, our own FDX Captain Joe DePete as National Safety Coordinator, has brought a focus to cargo issues as never before. In that effort he has been ably assisted by FDX MEC Executive Vice President Captain Russ Sklenka; Chairman of the ALPA President’s Committee for Cargo, FDX Captain Rich Hughey and vice Chairman Captain Preston Greene; ALPA National Jumpseat Committee Chairman Captain Rich Odbert; ALPA UAS Committee Chairman FDX Captain Jim Pala; IFALPA Dangerous Goods Committee Chairman Captain Scott Schwartz;  and ALPA Air Safety Organization Communication Coordinator Captain Mark Harrison (master of ceremonies for ASF). This motivated team of FDX national volunteers was supported by FDX MEC Security Committee Chairman Captain Ted Wallace; FDX MEC Training Committee Chairman Captain Ty Sanders; FDX MEC Legislative Affairs Committee Chairman Captain Bill Secord; FDX Safety Committee Vice Chairman Captain Doug Howard; and FDX MEC Accident Investigation Committee member Captain Bill Levin. FDX Vice Chairman Captain John Cardaci and myself were present in support as well.

In addition, retired FDX MEC Safety Committee Chairmen Captain Dave Wells and Captain Mike Bender were there supporting our efforts. Great to see these guys still working to improve air safety.

I should note that for the first time that I am aware of, a member of FedEx upper management participated in the public panel discussions discussing the challenges of all cargo operations. FedEx Vice President of Safety and Airworthiness Bobbi Wells gave a memorable talk and participated in an excellent public forum discussing air cargo’s unique safety and security challenges. Bobbi was joined by FDX Captain Rich Hughey; Victoria Newhouse, TSA Deputy Assistant administrator, Office of Security Policy and Industry Engagement; Dr. Peter Dimitri, ALPA fatigue consultant; Janet McGlaughlin, FAA Director, Office of Hazardous Materials Safety, and Captain Steve Jangelis, ALPA National Safety Chairman. Bobbi has brought enthusiasm and a fresh approach to our mutual efforts to make a difference to our safety effort. Supporting our company’s effort to enhance safety by participating in this multiday event was Captain Stewart Harro, Air Safety Managing Director; Captain Rob Fisher, FedEx Chief Pilot; Captain Mike Olsen, MD11 Fleet; and Captain JR Lawler, FedEx Air Safety. Our thanks to all these folks for supporting this effort.

I apologize as I’m sure I’ve missed someone, but I hope you get the idea. We have flooded the zone, and the opportunities to present our issues directly to U.S. federal and international regulators and leaders has provided direct illumination of our concerns.

The ALPA Air Safety Forum is a weeklong event that includes both public and closed-door events. Each of these venues provides unique opportunities to interact with decision makers and ensure our voice is heard. The frank discussions in the private events are particularly refreshing and enlightening.

Of particular note this year, FedEx Captain Preston Greene received the ALPA National Security Award for his tireless efforts to advance our security agenda along with ALPA national initiatives. Not uncharacteristically, Preston took the opportunity to highlight our particular security concerns as he related his current concerns to past missions he participated in as a U.S. Navy SEAL. In the not-too-distant future I am hopeful we can provide a video of Preston’s acceptance speech.

I know this message is a bit longwinded, but these individuals do so much and ask so little from us that I can’t let this opportunity pass. When you see these folks in the crew room, be sure and thank them.

With that in mind, I want to thank all of you for your support as we have made this dramatic effort. Without your support we would have no voice and our concerns would be missing from consideration.

Regards,


Captain Chuck Dyer
FedEx MEC Chairman

 

 

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