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


As we approach the end of 2019 there is an opportunity for NZALPA and for me to reflect on what we have and haven’t achieved over the previous 12 months.

There are areas for us to celebrate and there are other areas where it is taking a lot longer than expected to implement change, despite our substantial efforts. The dedication that NZALPA volunteers put into our organisation is second to none. 

One of the principal events that shaped NZALPA, and epitomises why we are now members, was the Mt Erebus disaster, which has just marked its 40th anniversary. There is no event more important to shaping an organisation, an industry and a country than the disaster that unfolded on 28 November 1979. 

One of the primary responsibilities we have as professional pilots is to subject the lessons of the past to persistent critical scrutiny. NZALPA is the Voice of Aviation as an organisation. As individual pilots we have a responsibility to ensure that our families and those that rely on us, as our passengers and customers, are ultimately safe. 

The pilot in command has definitive responsibility for the safe operation of the aircraft and our profession shoulders that responsibility seriously. As our industry changes, the lessons of the past become more and more important. However, the flight crew cannot achieve all that is necessary alone; to effectively carry out this duty we need: 

  • To be able to rely on a regulatory and legislative framework that protects and supports the role of the pilot in command as an agent of safety, supporting exceptional safety principles in an environment that maintains the concepts of just culture. 
  • Employer respect and support for the independence of the pilot in command to ensure individuals who make safety related decisions are esteemed for the responsibility.
  • Company management teams to accept the professional standards and advice provided by the pilot in command.
  • The support of other professional employee groups to deliver their own safety responsibilities.

It is often said that safety is everyone’s responsibility. But we must constantly examine how seriously that concept matches reality. 

NZALPA’s highest award is the Jim Collins Memorial Award, awarded in memory of Captain Jim Collins, who piloted the Mt Erebus flight. The trophy is awarded for significant contributions to aviation safety or for exceptional valour in an emergency. Forty years on from New Zealand’s greatest disaster there is very good reason why this award is considered one of the highest distinctions given in our industry. It has been said that a wise man learns from his own experience but a wiser man learns from the experience of others. 

Successes over the last 12 months 

The Virgin Pilots council under the leadership of Jason Irvine achieved an exceptional change in their working conditions. The platform that this council has laid down for their pilots means these members can now be on an equal footing with their Australian colleagues. As the airline consolidates and looks to a more amalgamated future this contract will give the Virgin pilot members an equal voice in the decisions that will affect them. 

The achievement of a single collective agreement for Air New Zealand’s Regional Pilots (RANCAP) has been a strategic objective of NZALPA since Air New Zealand sold off its F-27 Friendship fleet in 1990 and established Air Nelson as a cheaper subsidiary turboprop operation. Various NZALPA conferences over the last 10 years have approved policies on multi-employer collective agreements (MECA), notably in 2010, and the Group employment opportunities by both the 2009 and 2019 conferences related to this regional airline integration. Under the leadership of Tony McKevitt and Nick Pittaway this long-held strategic objective of the NZALPA was achieved. 

The continued leadership in the Air New Zealand space by Craig Malcolm, who has led this council for the last four and a half years, and NZALPA’s Air New Zealand Jet Council has resulted in considerable gains for our largest representative group. The council is now able to influence decisions before they are implemented by the company – largely for the benefit of all involved (including the company). This has given NZALPA the opportunity to advocate alternative viewpoints that wouldn’t have been considered in the past. I consistently advocate that “If we are not at the table, we are on the menu” and the work of this council is evidence of that. We must continue to foster and enhance these relationships so that NZALPA views are heard at the top table. This is the best place for us to advocate for our membership.

It is disappointing that we have not been able to take all of our members with us on some of the successes that we are now celebrating. NZALPA is a democratic organisation, democracy by definition is “the control of an organisation or group by the majority of its members”. We expect a lot from our elected representatives but I think we fail to recognise that these individuals are volunteers in the main. 

NZALPA volunteers sacrifice time with family and loved ones to pursue a passion on behalf of our membership. Our organisation is so successful because we are a member led and, more importantly, member driven organisation. The members are the owners and stakeholders of this organisation – you determine our direction.

I have invited the keyboard warriors who write uninformed, anonymous articles to air their concerns at NZALPA council or board level. That offer and the offer of support from our elected representatives still stands, however some choose to continue to provide ill-informed scuttlebutt which only provides more work for these volunteers and the limited time that they give to all of us. 

You are the membership. You are the owners. You are welcome to get involved and have your voice at the top table. This is why NZALPA as an organisation is so successful. The philosopher Aristotle’s phrase aptly defines NZALPA, “The whole is greater than the sum of its parts”. 

In closing, Christmas (and summer) is all but upon us. This is an opportunity to provide thanks to all who have been involved in this great organisation over the last year, including those who serve on our Board of Management, Principal Officers, the councils and the numerous volunteers who make up the various committees and subsidiaries of the NZALPA. Thank you for your time that you contribute on behalf of all of us.

Finally, I thank Dawn and her team. These people live and breathe the NZALPA (the good and the bad). The team at ALPA house works every day on our behalf, trying to improve the key areas of our profession. Thank you to you all. I wish all the membership and staff a safe and happy Christmas.



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