Uplink ALPA - The Voice of Aviation

The New Zealand Air Line Pilots' Association Newsletter. As of April 2020 Uplink ALPA is a 6-monthly publication.

International News

What May Be U.S.’s First Drone-Linked Aircraft Crash Is Being Investigated

A helicopter’s crash landing in South Carolina in late February may have been triggered by a civilian drone, which would make it the first drone-related crash of an aircraft in the United States, Bloomberg has reported.

The incident involved a student pilot and an instructor, both of whom told investigators that a small drone appeared directly in front of them. The instructor took over the controls and attempted to avoid a collision, and the tail of the helicopter hit a tree or bush.

Luckily no one was killed in the incident which is currently being investigated by the National Transportation Safety Board.

Read the full story >

Airline Group call on the US Congress for tougher drone regulation

Meanwhile, Air Transport World has reported on industry calls that are getting louder in the United States for tougher drone regulations. 

The Air Line Pilots Association (ALPA), the National Air Traffic Controllers Association (NATCA) and trade group Airlines for America (A4A) have asked Congress to amend Section 336 of the FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012 (sic) legislation. That section, called the Special Rule for Model Aircrafts, prohibits FAA from regulating model aircraft, including small unmanned aircraft systems (UAS),that are flown for hobby or recreation.

“The airline groups cite a video, widely disseminated on the web earlier in February that shows a Frontier Airlines Airbus A320 passing underneath an apparent drone while on approach to Las Vegas McCarran International Airport. FAA guidelines call for operating a drone no higher than 400 ft. and Section 336 specifies that an operator notify an airport operator or air traffic control in advance of flying within 5 mi. of an airport,”  the article said. 

Read the full story >

L3 CTS features in Air Transport World as pilot training recognised as aviation’s biggest area of growth

L3 Commercial Training Services (CTS), who have a popular training facility based in Hamilton, New Zealand, features prominently in the latest edition of leading industry weekly Air Transport World.  In Making Pilots: Training companies work with airlines to meet their pilot supply needs, as well as discussing the burgeoning numbers of those wishing to train to fly, the story also focuses on how L3 CTS is working with airlines to increase the number of female airline pilots.

Read the full story >

Robots used in the aviation safety industry and New Zealand is at the forefront

Former long serving General Counsel at Air New Zealand, John Blair, now Director of Aerospace Inspections Ltd writes, in a recent issue of JTS’s Plane Matters about the rise of robots and drones used in the Maintenance, Repair and Overhaul (MRO) sector. New Zealand is leading in the robotic area with Christchurch-based Invert Robotics and its remote-controlled robots. Their robots use  patented suction technology to adhere to and traverse a range of surfaces including aluminium, glass and carbon fibre; even when aircraft surfaces are wet and upside down. 


In late February, following trials on Air New Zealand aircrafts, Invert Robotics entered the European market with a partnership announcement with industry leader SR Technics.

Read more >

Union recognition not a threat to Ryannair’s ‘cost leadership’ says CE

Business Travel News has reported that pilot union recognition will not affect Ryanair’s market position as number one in the low cost airline market according to Chief Executive Michael O’Leary. 

However, O’Leary was in a pessimistic mood when he announced the airline’s quarterly results. Despite a “very challenging” quarter, the Irish airline managed to achieve a 12% rise in third quarter profit to €106m as average fares fell 4% to €32 per customer.

"Following our pilot rostering failure in September the painful decision to ground 25 aircraft ensured that punctuality of our operations quickly returned to our normal 90% average."

And on the move to union recognition he came out strong: "While union recognition may add some complexity to our business and may cause short-term disruptions and negative PR it will not alter our cost leadership in European aviation, or change our plan to grow to 200m traffic a year by March 2024."  The union problem has not gone away.  Only 25% of pilots are represented by BALPA and with 87 bases -  life is complicated. 

Read the full story  >

Calm the farm!  Stricter guidelines for support animals on airlines released

There have been a number of stories around the world regarding companion animals on planes, including the banning of a passenger’s “emotional support peacock” on a recent United Airlines flight.  Both Delta and United have now issued stricter guidelines on what is required before a passenger can bring on board an animal in an “emotional support” or “therapy” role as aviation commentator Karen Walker discusses in a blog. 

“Delta says in a press release that it has seen an 84% increase in reported animal incidents since 2016, including urination/defecation, aggression and biting.”

“Given the soaring growth in the number of passengers who bring on board these “support” animals, it seems likely that more airlines will follow suit….They are common sense, practical and easy to comply with where an animal is a genuine, trained service animal. They include proof of health or vaccinations 48 hours in advance, a letter signed by a doctor or licensed mental health professional, and a signed document confirming the animal is trained not to act aggressively.”

For more background, including policy and some interesting story links, see Karen’s story >

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