The last month has been unprecedented in terms of tragedy in our industry. In addition to the crash of the 737 Max flight in Ethiopia, killing all crew and passengers on board, here in New Zealand two of our youngest and brightest pilot instructors died when their Diamond DA-42 Twin Star aircraft disappeared into the Kaimanawa Ranges, south east of Turangi. Until investigations are complete we won’t know for sure what caused both of these aircraft tragedies, but for the moment can only reflect and speculate while our hearts go out to the families, friends and colleagues who grieve and look for any lessons that we can learn.
Meanwhile, an unthinkable horror in my hometown of Christchurch led to New Zealand’s security threat being set at high for the first time. We have now unfortunately joined an unenviable club of countries that have suffered the blight of terrorism.
As a security and safety-led industry, aviation is where this is most keenly felt and, in light of the 15 March tragic events, I must say how impressed I was at the quick response of Christchurch Airport, and Air New Zealand particularly, showing how quickly and calmly they can put in place the emergency plans we all train for but pray we never have to use.
Following the Ethiopian Airlines disaster, there was much speculation in regard to the similarities between this Boeing 737 Max 8 accident and that of the earlier Indonesian Lion crash. Advocating a conservative approach, NZALPA was contacted by national media and the Wall Street Journal to provide informed input into the subsequent 737-8 and 737-9 Max aircraft groundings.
This included providing specific technical and educational information to the public about the automated aircraft systems that are at the centre of the current issue and to lend support to a conservative and safety conscious approach in grounding the aircraft. This is consistent with the approach taken by our CAA and overseas regulators until more substantive evidence comes to light from both investigations.
We need calm and clear heads going forward, rather than emotive speculation surrounding the causes of these accidents. Media contacts I spoke to appreciated a clear and concise explanation of the Manoeuvring Characteristics Augmentation System (MCAS) system on board the 737 MAX aircraft, the background to its implementation, and where the suspected problems may lie.
Meanwhile, back home NZALPA continued our call for more affirmative Government action in relation to drone/RPAS and high powered laser regulation. This was in addition to the real need to address pilot training funding, using updated data on pilot career pathways and pilot trainee demand within the industry. Much media attention followed an on point editorial from our General Manager in the March Uplink and NZALPA’s views were aired on Newstalk ZB and throughout the country on the New Zealand Herald and Stuff news networks. This will hopefully bear fruit when we meet Government Ministers and Opposition MPs on 4 April in Wellington. I hope they will be on notice that we need to see a better delivery of these aviation safety imperatives we have been advocating for over the last 24 months.
Earlier, Andrew Ridling and I attended a Prime Ministerial/Air New Zealand-hosted annual Parliamentary function, where we engaged informally with Transport Minister, Phil Twyford; Minister of Workplace Relations and Safety, Iain Lees-Galloway; Coalition Defence Minister, Hon Ron Mark; Deputy Prime Minister, Winston Peters; Opposition spokespeople, CAA Director Graeme Harris and Air New Zealand CEO Christopher Luxon – amongst others.
All were very aware of NZALPA’s contribution to the industry and our strategic imperative of forming strong working relationships with government, regulator, and industry group stakeholders and allies – such as Aviation New Zealand and the Air New Zealand-aligned preferred flight training organisations (PFTOs). Interestingly, NZALPA was the only aviation union present at the Parliamentary event, which highlights the respect we hold within the industry.
Later this month, I have the privilege to lead the New Zealand delegation to the 2019 IFALPA Conference. This is a historic year for host country Germany as it’s 30 years since the fall of the Berlin Wall and the 50th anniversary of the country’s pilot member association, Vereinigung Cockpit (VC).
As well as a strong agenda focussing on key industrial, safety and technical matters facing IFALPA member organisations, the Global Pilots’ Symposium (GPS), always an IFALPA highlight, this year focusses on empowering delegates with strategic tools that will enable member associations to ‘build bridges’ and strengthen relationships they have with employers, industry stakeholders, government and regulators.
It will also be a time of recognition of the leading part Germany and its capital Berlin have played in civil aviation and growth of the industry throughout Europe. As part of the conference, delegates will visit key sites of modern aviation history, including the Berlin Airlift museum, and sites associated with the fall of communism in 1989. Background on this can be viewed HERE.
Have a safe month and be kind to each other.
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