"Moving Forward with One Level of Safety"
J. Randolph Babbitt, Washington Hilton Hotel, Washington, D.C.
August 18, 2011

ALPA 57th Air Safety Forum Awards Banquet

as prepared for delivery

Good evening everyone. It’s great to see all of you tonight.

I came here straight from the airport after a very productive meeting in Mexico with our North American Aviation Tri-lateral partners.

It’s good to be home and look out on a room full of familiar faces.

As we start, I first want to thank the members of ALPA and Captain Moak for being our allies on so many fronts – especially over the last month.

As you know, we have just gone through a challenging time with the lapse of our authorization and subsequent furlough of nearly 4,000 FAA employees. We had to issue stop work orders for more than 250 projects around the country. The Associated General Contractors says the stop work orders affected 70,000 jobs in construction, related trades and the broader economy that depend on those construction workers who were sent home without pay.

We also lost nearly $400 million in uncollected airline ticket taxes – that is money that would have gone to needed projects to advance our aviation system.

We have had 21 short-term reauthorizations in the last four years. Parceling out money to the FAA in short term increments makes it very difficult to plan the kind of long-term improvements that we need to modernize our aviation transportation system.

It's increasingly important that Congress understands that there are real costs and consequences associated with failing to authorize the FAA.

Our present reauthorization expires September 16th. A furlough absolutely cannot happen again. We will do everything we can to prevent Congress from using the FAA as a bargaining chip in larger political disagreements.

What the FAA needs is a long-term reauthorization bill and that is what we will continue to push for through this August recess and beyond.

So stay tuned.

As I said before, ALPA has been an ally on many important fronts. And one of those fronts is the issue of pilot fatigue.

I’ve been pushing for pilot flight and duty time changes since I was ALPA president in the 1990s.

The rule is in its final stages. We are working aggressively to get it out as soon as possible.

We are committed to ensuring that airline pilots are fit and rested when they report for duty.

It’s been a long time coming and we’re so close now.

We also want the best trained and best prepared pilots in the world. Our training rules will make sure pilots have the right blend of skills and experience. We are dedicated to one level of safety and we want to make sure that pilots have the right qualifications to handle any situation they encounter.

Skills and experience are the bedrock of any good piloting career. But so is a dedication to professionalism.

ALPA has played such a big role in helping the FAA keep the message of professionalism on the front burner. Labor organizations have a special ability to reach members and motivate them to live by professional standards. You help us reinforce these codes of behavior.

ALPA has been key in helping us achieve one level of safety. To continue the effort, we need to create a common safety standard internationally. We need something we can all count on. A standard that we know is going to be uniform across the globe.

We’ve had many successes working together on improving safety, including the Commercial Aviation Safety Team – CAST – and FOQA, ASAP and ASIAS.

We’ve gone from a forensic approach, to improve safety, to a more data-driven, preventative approach of identifying trends and making changes to mitigate potential hazards. And we have improved safety.

And international standards, through ICAO, well that's another area where ALPA can lend expertise. ICAO standards set the foundation for safety and it’s where our next set of significant safety improvements can be made.

We have made significant progress but we still have more to do. Our continued action will improve aviation safety for generations to come.

As the entire world moves from ground-based navigation and radar surveillance to NextGen – creating international standards that are in harmony becomes even more critical. It’s up to us the help mold those standards and lead the way.

As a former president of ALPA, I gave these safety awards many years. And I’ve had time to think about the superior airmanship that our pilots have shown over the years.

The winners tonight exemplify the kind of leadership, professionalism and clear thinking under stress that we all train for during our careers – and hope we never have to use.

Congratulations to the crew of Alaska Airlines Flight 68 – Captain Stephen Cleary and First Officer Michael Hendrix. And congratulations to the crew of AirTran Airways Flight 981 – Captain Richard Stalnaker and First Officer Mendel Bell.

I’d like to thank the safety, security and pilot assistance winners Pete Frey, Bob Hesselbien and Mimi Tompkins for their dedication to furthering our profession and supporting fellow pilots. I met Mimi back when I was ALPA Executive Administrator, at the time of the Aloha 243 event in 1988. Her involvement now, nearly 25 years later, is a testament to the dedication of ALPA representatives.

Tonight’s winners are high caliber individuals. Their actions are a testament to their quick thinking. Their actions are also a testament to the improvement in training we have made over the years to better handle these situations.

In closing, I wanted to say a few more words about professionalism. I have pondered the meaning of professionalism for some time, and I think that we really show professionalism not only when we are dealing with an emergency, but when everything is going perfectly well. When things are smooth, a professional doesn’t relax, but still conducts business in an orderly fashion.

This reminds me of some sage advice that was given by the late Captain James C. Waugh, who passed away earlier this year. He had a 43-year career at Pan Am. And his son, Jim Waugh of Flight Safety International, shared one of his dad’s maxims with me. I think he expressed it very well. So in closing, I’d like to share it with you.

Jim said his dad was full of advice. Including advice to always read instructions before assembling something and always to put away tools so you’re not fumbling for something basic like a flashlight during an emergency.

But his dad’s first and foremost maxim applied to the cockpit.

He said, “Honor the trust that the passengers have placed in you by being vigilant and fully prepared for each flight. At the completion of a flight, always leave the cockpit in a safe configuration so if the next crew is in a hurry, they won’t hurt themselves.”

It’s simple advice and it’s good advice. And with more than 14,000 hours, it’s something I listen to as well. We could all stand to remember the basics during our busy schedules.

So I want to thank you for your attention tonight. Congratulations again to the winners. And my sincerest appreciation for all that you do in helping us move our industry forward to the next level of safety.