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CFS 2019 Speaker Preview: ALPA President Capt. Joe DePete

DepeteCFSsiteThe Air Line Pilots Association, Int’l (ALPA) represents over 62,000 professional airline pilots in the United States and Canada and is the largest non-governmental aviation safety organization in the world. NATCA and ALPA have a long history of collaboration and solidarity that has advanced the lives and professions of the members of our two great unions. ALPA works with NATCA to improve, modernize, and preserve the safety of our National Airspace System (NAS). There are several important programs NATCA members now have and greatly value, which were inspired by ALPA, including the Air Traffic Safety Action Program (ATSAP) and Professional Standards. 

Captain Joe DePete took office as ALPA’s 11th president on Jan. 1, 2019. As president, he serves as ALPA’s chief executive. He oversees his association’s daily operations and is the chief spokesman for the union, advancing airline pilots’ views before the U.S. Congress, Canadian Parliament, government agencies, airline and other business executives, and the news media.

Capt. DePete has been a true friend of NATCA and an outspoken supporter of all aviation safety professionals. Just days after taking office, Capt. DePete visited Washington National ATCT (DCA) and bought lunch for the controllers and safety specialists on duty. He also made public statements and did media interviews in support of NATCA and its members and signed onto aviation community letters. At NATCA’s rally on Capitol Hill in January, DePete spoke forcefully and passionately, “These folks are literally ‘shepherds in the sky,’ and they do an outstanding job keeping us safe and secure in the air.”

NATCA is thrilled to welcome Capt. DePete to Communicating For Safety, where he will express support for NATCA’s “Every Day Is a Training Day” program and speak about ALPA’s “Trained for Life” training initiative. For more than 80 years, the airline pilot union has fought for rigorous training and qualification standards. U.S. pilots are the best-trained in the world and always are committed to passenger safety.

Both Capt. DePete and NATCA President Paul Rinaldi are members of the AFL-CIO Executive Council. Capt. DePete is also a member of the International Committee as well as the Legislative and Policy Committee. Capt. DePete serves on the Transportation Security Administration’s Aviation Security Advisory Committee and co-chairs its International Aviation Security Committee. He is a member of the Federal Aviation Administration’s NextGen Advisory Committee and Drone Advisory Committee. He also led an aviation industry initiative to begin collaboration with the commercial space industry on operational integration and safety enhancements.

Prior to his current role, Capt. DePete served as ALPA’s first vice president and national safety coordinator. He was also executive vice president, FedEx Express Master Executive Council chairman, and Local Executive Council chairman. He was an active member of the ALPA Organizing Committee for the merger with the Flying Tiger Line Pilots Association as well as for the merger with the FedEx Pilots Association. 

Based in Memphis, Tenn., Capt. DePete flew and served as a line check airman on the A310/300 for FedEx Express.

CFS 2019 Speaker Preview: Brian Shul

ShulCFSsiteAfter suffering massive injuries and burns from being shot down over Cambodia during the Vietnam War, pilot Brian Shul found the will to live and to recover. But he was not expected to be able to fly again at all, let alone fly the fastest and, arguably, most exciting and awe-inspiring aircraft ever built, the SR-71 Blackbird spy plane.

It’s an extraordinary story, one which Brian tells with emotion and passion. He riveted and inspired the Communicating For Safety audience in 2018 and NATCA is very excited to welcome him back to the CFS stage this year. He is one of only 93 men in history to fly the SR-71. His amazing life has been marked by perseverance, fearlessness, and pursuing his passion.

The 71-year-old Vietnam War veteran and former attack pilot in the U.S. Air Force spoke at CFS 2018 about his illustrious career and the life lessons he’s learned. He flew 212 combat missions before he was shot down and was burned so badly that he was given almost no chance to live. He overcame his injuries, went through multiple surgeries, and eventually returned to full flight status, flying the SR-71 Blackbird. Major Shul completed a 20-year career in the Air Force. Out of all his life experiences, he left the audience with insight that he considers very valuable: “life is short and not certain; pursue your passion and live your dream,” he said.

Once Major Shul was able to return to the Air Force, he became a safety officer and constantly reminded his employees about their attitude, perspective and making choices. He said during his CFS remarks what he told his officers could also be applied to air traffic controllers. “Don’t be afraid to do something, anything, that you feel is out of the box,” he said. “You don’t have to be the most accomplished, the best, or the smartest.”

It’s been 20 years since the SR-71 made its final flight. Remarkably, many of its speed and altitude records are still intact. It flew at three and a half times the speed of sound and reached a maximum altitude of over 85,000 feet. Shul and his fellow Blackbird pilots had to wear space suits to handle those heights. And, as Shul noted in his 2018 remarks, none of the 32 Blackbirds built was ever shot down.

Shul is also an experienced, accomplished photographer and delights his audiences with stories of how he was able to take photos of the SR-71, which obviously was a delicate and challenging undertaking. His books have featured these stunning photographs, including Sled Driver: Flying the World's Fastest Jet.

As Major Shul ended his talk at CFS 2018, he thanked the controllers for all that they do. “Thank you for being air traffic controllers. Whether you realize it or not, you are that still, calm voice when things get sketchy for pilots. What a treat for me to finally address you and thank you.”


CFS 2019: Becoming the Best at our Chosen Profession: Renewed Energy with a Training Focus

EveryDayTrainingDay FINALThe NATCA Safety & Technology Leadership Council and the National Safety Committee members concluded their meeting this week, returning home with renewed focus and passion for one important safety topic: training.

“The purpose behind this effort is to help our members understand that training is something that continues throughout our entire career,” said National Training Representative Tom Adcock. “Whether it is new procedures, new equipment, or new rules, training is a part of a continuous self-improvement process, from the time we start as a developmental, to the time we retire. We should always be looking for ways to improve our performance as a workforce to make sure we are always operating at peak levels whenever we plug in.”

With the renewed focus on the importance of training for the members, the National Safety Committee unveiled a new logo and slogan for Communicating For Safety (CFS) 2019, Sept. 16-18 at Bally’s Las Vegas. “Every Day is a Training Day” reflects the ongoing effort to change the way the workforce perceives training.

“To a large degree, training has always been seen as punitive and for good reason: the FAA used training in a punitive manner,” National Safety Committee Chairman Steve Hansen said. “Even though those days are over, and have been over for years, the perception for many still exists.”

“Pilots embrace training on a daily basis, and we as aviation safety professionals need to do the same,” said President Paul Rinaldi. “We have to combat complacency to continue to be 100 percent, 100 percent of the time.”

Hansen and the other members of the CFS Planning Committee are accepting the challenge with this year’s CFS to confront the status quo and emphasize the importance of training. They are also working to challenge the membership to pursue professional development throughout their aviation career. The committee is hoping the workforce embraces a willingness to learn daily.

“Professional athletes train in order to be the best they can be at their chosen profession. We should strive to do the same, taking every opportunity to be the best at our chosen profession,” said Hansen. “One simple way is by learning from mistakes that are made and safety trends in the system. This is a foundational approach to ensure the U.S. maintains its position as the safest aviation system in the world.”

Speaking more on CFS, Hansen said that attending is vital to anyone who works in the aviation industry. The Committee has worked to provide a focus on the importance of training, but there will also be new and relevant topics. “We are always working to improve the conference by listening to suggestions from previous year’s attendees,” he said.

Registration for CFS opens on April 16. Visit the CFS website for more information and a recap from previous CFS events.