Mark Rammell, NZALPA President from 2005-11 and from 2015-16
As NZALPA celebrates 75 years of pilot and, since the 1980’s, air traffic controller representation, we can look back with pride on our association’s vital contribution to the aviation industry. Our members, the travelling public and aviation safety are all better off because of NZALPA’s activities over three quarters of a century.
What makes NZALPA so special? In essence, it is elected representatives who are passionate about their profession and a strong, loyal membership base. Over the years they have worked tirelessly for and on behalf of all members, now numbering almost 3000 from throughout our industry. Special mention should be made of the fact that when our air traffic control colleagues joined the association in 1989, we became the world’s only joint pilot and air traffic controller union.
Over the last 75 years there have been many achievements, some disappointments and, as always in aviation, a number of tragedies along the way.
When we look at our achievements, we can claim an enviable record of successes in terms of securing employment, health and safety, and fair working conditions for our members over the years. Often these challenges and opportunities have arisen through the series of changes in ownership and structure among the employers our members have worked for.
For example, the amalgamation of Air New Zealand International and National Airways Corporation (NAC) in 1978 provided career opportunities for turboprop and jet pilots through one employer. Then, 12 years later, the Friendship fleet was withdrawn, resulting in a significant number of redundancies. This was followed by the creation of Air New Zealand Link - a combination of Mount Cook, Eagle Airways and Air Nelson. Late last year another significant milestone occurred when all Link pilots were welcomed back to Air New Zealand Ltd. There is just a little more work to do as we head towards one seniority list for all Air New Zealand pilots.
Again, in 1995, Air New Zealand established budget airline Freedom Air then integrated it into Air New Zealand in 2006, removing a significant threat to the security of employment of all Air New Zealand pilots. Most significantly, this did not occur at the expense of the Freedom pilots who remained employed with salaries protected for five years - great mutual support.
I mentioned tragedies, and in 75 years there have been more than anyone would like. But, there are often resulting learnings or changes from these incidents. NZALPA has played a vital role in supporting our members involved in incidents, and also lobbying for changes identified as necessary.
One of the most notable events was, of course, the Erebus tragedy in 1979; once again members stood up to protect the professional integrity of the pilots involved. This cost NZALPA representative Captain Gordon Vette his career at Air New Zealand, and yet his achievements included exoneration of the pilots and changes to aircraft accident investigation throughout the globe. It is fitting that he was later made an honorary lifetime member of NZALPA.
Late last year NZALPA marked the 40th anniversary of the Erebus tragedy by launching a new look for its erebus.co.nz website. The website (hosted and maintained by NZALPA) is a comprehensive source of information about the Erebus tragedy and the events that followed.
NZALPA hosted the International Federation of Air Line Pilots’ Associations (IFALPA) conference in Auckland in 2009, which brought just over 400 aviation professionals to New Zealand. This conference saw presentation of the President’s Award to Captain Gordon Vette and posthumous awarding of the Captain Jim Collins Memorial Award to Justice Mahon, who led the Commission of Inquiry into the Erebus accident.
There were other notable air accidents, one of which led to positive change for our members and the flying public. In the late 1990s we saw the accident involving Ansett flight 703 just out of Palmerston North, the Ansett pilots’ strike and eventual collapse of Ansett Airlines. Many members suffered greatly during this time, likely none more so than the Ansett 703 Captain who was charged with manslaughter. He was defended by NZALPA, and the Police case against him eventually failed. Further litigation as a result means we now have better protection for cockpit voice recordings.
In another accident, Captain Brian Horrell was tragically lost in the 2011 A320 test flight accident off the coast of France. He was on board as an Air New Zealand observer after delivering the aircraft back to France from New Zealand.
Throughout all these events and changes in the New Zealand aviation industry, NZALPA has been a professional and dependable organisation. It has served its members well and looked out for the interests of airline passengers.
NZALPA is arguably New Zealand's most successful union and enjoys a very strong membership within the aviation industry. It continues to grow where most other unions are in decline.
Congratulations to NZALPA and a big thank you to all the members over the years who have supported the association or stood up and taken representative roles.
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