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.

Upfront with NZALPA President

President Andrew Ridling


Over the last few weeks the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) has been in the media spotlight. NZALPA has taken a neutral position on this issue, as our focus is on the safety and security of our members.

Since our inception nearly 75 years ago, we have campaigned for safety-related changes from within the New Zealand aviation scene by maintaining active involvement in technical areas. 

In that time ALPA - in New Zealand and internationally - has been instrumental in achieving changes that have made air travel one of the safest modes of transportation in New Zealand. The high level of expertise of our staff and officers enables us to provide authoritative opinion on important issues affecting our members and the New Zealand travelling public.

NZALPA’s mission is:

  • to promote and champion all aspects of aviation safety throughout all segments of the aviation community;
  • to represent, in both specific and general respects, the collective interests of all pilots and air traffic controllers in commercial aviation; 
  • to assist in collective bargaining activities on behalf of all pilots and air traffic controllers represented by the Association; 
  • to promote the health and welfare of the members of the Association before all governmental agencies; 
  • to be a strong, forceful advocate of the aviation profession, through all forms of media, and with the public at large; 
  • and to be the ultimate guardian and defender of the rights and privileges of the professional pilots and air traffic controllers who are members of the Association.

Back when we started out, aviation wasn’t the safest form of transportation here or anywhere in the world. With our organisation’s drive and commitment to ensuring the highest level of safety, new standards have been set in this country. Over the last 20 years, international commercial aviation fatalities have decreased by 95 percent.

We can’t take the credit for all improvements in aviation safety over the last few decades. Our current safety standards have come about because we have collaborated as an industry. Airlines, pilots, air traffic controllers, manufacturers, engineers and the CAA have worked together to become the driving force behind our safety record. The next level of improvements will result from effective partnerships between NZALPA, the CAA and industry.

New technologies and procedures are making our industry far more complicated and expensive. Over the past 20 years technology has been introduced on a piecemeal basis, allowing us to understand new concepts and imbed them into our operations over time. This is no longer the case. Change is now so rapid that we require collaboration and partnerships just to keep up with the change, especially in an industry the size of ours in New Zealand. 

An example is the introduction of automatic dependent surveillance – broadcast (ADSB) and performance navigation standards, which is a massive change affecting everyone from the training school right through to the large airline operators.

Effective partnerships are not a new concept, they have been very successfully introduced with other regulators, operators, pilot and air traffic controller representative associations. We can see international evidence of this in the introduction and monitoring of Fatigue Risk Management Systems (FRMS).

Once the proof of concept and trust levels have been built, a very successful forward looking partnership can be developed ensuring all three pillars of safety are met.

  • The first pillar of safety is voluntary reporting. If we are to continuously improve our procedures, we need good data. The best way to get it is directly from the industry – the people working and flying in the system. 
  • The second pillar of our safety culture is risk management. Once data has been collected it needs to be analysed to establish emerging trends so we can identify areas of risk that can be addressed before incidents occur. 
  • The final pillar is mitigation. Once we identify an issue we need to decide how to deal with it. Inadvertent mistakes can often be traced back to flawed processes or a lack of understanding. 

The key ingredient in this is trust from all three players – industry, the CAA and NZALPA. That trust currently does not exist. We need to build an environment of mutual trust and support between all parties. 

The CAA is in a conundrum; financially restricted, and unable to attract people with experience to understand and deliver in this dynamic industry. It needs to be able to draw on industry’s unbiased operational knowledge. The current B787 and B737 Max issues are examples of industry holding all the operational knowledge. This knowledge and resource gap is only likely to increase. 

NZALPA is the ideal conduit for getting operational information to the industry and CAA, providing an effective feedback loop. A partnership with NZALPA is the most effective way to establish an open exchange of information while still ensuring legal compliance. Partnership doesn’t mean CAA loses its strong enforcement focus. NZALPA supports strong enforcement for intentionally reckless behaviour, flagrant violations and refusal to comply with the rules.

We need to develop the ability to learn from each other. Working with industry doesn’t lower the bar on safety. It’s what allows us to raise that bar even higher. We need these partnerships now more than ever if we’re to tackle the challenges heading our way in the future. 

As a country and an organisation we still need to tackle the issues of drones, lasers, pilotless aircraft and commercial space vehicles which are all on industry radar – and they’re not going away. We need to collaborate in the name of safety. Many companies involved with these new technologies have no experience in aviation and don’t have a core safety culture.

The two organisations which truly hold safety as their key drivers in New Zealand are NZALPA and the CAA.

We look forward to developing a new partnership that will link both our organisations.


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