IFALPA The global voice of pilots

The International Federation of Air Line Pilots' Associations (IFALPA) is the global voice of pilots. An international not-for-profit organization, IFALPA represents over 100,000 pilots in nearly 100 countries. The mission of the Federation is to promote the highest level of aviation safety worldwide and to be the global advocate of the piloting profession; providing representation, services, and support to both our members and the aviation industry.

Report to Conference

Building a Bridge to Aviation’s Future

Captain Ron Abel, IFALPA President

Airplanes have profoundly changed our lives, and our world has never been so connected as it is now – but behind every successful flight there is an army of people working tirelessly to ensure that all aircraft arrive on time and safely at their destination. The International Federation of Air Line Pilots’ Associations (IFALPA) was founded in 1948 for the purpose of promoting the highest level of air safety worldwide.

The United Nations was established just after WWII, and with it, the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO). Pilots around the world became interested in providing their perspective in the creation of international aviation policy.

At a London Conference in April 1948, held for the purpose of providing a formal means for the pilots of the world to interact with ICAO, IFALPA was founded by thirteen Member Associations.

Since then, the Federation has worked with the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), Regulators, Aircraft Manufacturers, Airports, Air Traffic Service Providers, Airlines, and many other organizations to make global aviation safe, secure and sustainable for everyone.

International Civil Aviation Organization

For seven decades, IFALPA has been the global voice of pilots, and the airline pilot’s unique perspective has been profoundly influential in making the skies safe and secure.

Throughout its history, IFALPA has contributed to the development and adoption of ICAO Standards and Recommended Practices (SARPs) to achieve the highest level of aviation safety worldwide.

This is an exciting time for all of us—an occasion not only to celebrate our legacy of innovation and achievement, but also to advance a vision that will guide the Federation’s next 70 years. As we look into the future, it is clear we must continue to find new ways to support our unique industry while building on the strengths that have made us successful for so long: remarkable volunteers dedicated to making aviation safer every day, a community of outstanding and engaged Member Associations that share a passion to make a difference in the world, and a global reach that fosters cooperation and the exchange of ideas.

IFALPA volunteers are deeply aware of the importance of our history as the foundation of a bridge to the future. While celebrating IFALPA’s 70th anniversary last year provided both occasion and reason to reflect on our Federation’s long history of accomplishment. We recognized then, as we do today, that our work is never done.

While flying remains the safest mode of transportation, the Ethiopian Airlines tragedy, the Lion Air crash, and other recent aviation accidents remind us that we cannot rest and that our Federation’s work is extremely important, whether it’s in aviation safety, aircraft certification process improvements, the challenges of technology and human interactions, security, pilot assistance, or industrial relations.

Today, IFALPA’s pilot and staff experts are studying an even broader range of issues that currently affect or could influence our Member Associations in the days to come. Our work truly touches on every aspect of air transportation—and 2018 was an extremely productive year.

Any and all successes achieved by our Federation depend wholly on the solid execution and disciplined management of our resources. We’re aggressively managing our costs and investments and applying financial controls, all so that IFALPA is well positioned for the challenges ahead.

I am pleased to report that the Federation’s financial position remains extremely strong. We remain committed to securing the long-term financial health of the organization, to enable us to pursue IFALPA’s mission and execute innovative programs in response to rapidly changing times.

At ICAO, our work has been wide-ranging—and it’s made a tremendous difference for pilots around the world. On the Air Navigation Commission and Air Transport Regulation Panel, our subject-matter experts attended more than 60 meetings—and 27 panels & working groups last year. We took on issues from pilot licensing to remotely piloted aircraft systems and air transport liberalization. In addition, we’re also involved in ICAO’s Global Air Navigation Plan, a strategy to achieve a worldwide system firmly centered on maintaining and enhancing safety, efficiency, and security.

While IFALPA’s expertise and involvement in international aviation policy are crucial every year, our pilot representatives have been especially vital in preparation for this year, as ICAO holds its tri-annual assembly. IFALPA’s engagement at the ICAO level in the development and implementation of safety-related standards and recommended practices is critical to ensuring the greatest possible level of safety.

I feel proud that our representatives at ICAO are part of the highest level of international decision-making on technical and safety issues. It’s been both a privilege and a tremendous responsibility to represent each of you as we speak as the global voice of pilots.

Our standing committees form the core of our work.

Each IFALPA publication, position paper, briefing leaflet, and safety bulletin is anchored in the work of our committees. Likewise, our news media and social media outreach reflect the work and consensus of our expert volunteers.

I never fail to feel awed by the tremendous range of issues on which we engage—from secondary cockpit barriers and electronic flight bags to pregnancy and flying, or helicopter cockpit ergonomics.

At this conference, we’ll continue our efforts on all these issues, but we’ll also intentionally refine our focus in certain areas. For example, I made a recommendation and the Board has approved strengthening our commitment to improving the safety of all-cargo operations. I’m deeply concerned about the accident rate disparity, as well as inequalities in regulatory, security, and risk levels for our members who fly freight.

All of us understand that one level of safety is essential to protecting each of you, your families, and the communities that care about you. The imbalances that exist today in all-cargo operations are simply unacceptable.

As we look to the future, IFALPA is also involved with developing the next generation of aircraft design and air traffic management systems. We know that future ATMs will not only be assisted by satellite technology—they will depend on it. As a result, we have been focused squarely on ensuring that safety is held paramount as these technologies are adopted.

One example is the trial of spaced-based automatic dependent surveillance–broadcast — ADS-B. As a result of the concern we’ve expressed, the initial trials will establish the safety of the technology before moving ahead with full implementation. IFALPA is a strong proponent of using technology to allow greater numbers of flight operations in the North Atlantic and elsewhere, but only if the current level of safety remains uncompromised.

In the same way, IFALPA is building a bridge to the future for pilot training. Our Federation supports prescriptive competency-based training and assessment programs as another tool to enhance pilot training. We know from history that measurable and objective performance standards must be established, and that competence must be clearly defined, if we are to safeguard our system. However, IFALPA has strongly opposed any effort to reduce the specific hour requirements for actual flight experience.

There’s simply no substitute for experience—it allows pilots to build the critical skills they need to ensure safety.

I’m pleased to report that our efforts have resulted in an Air Navigation Commission recommendation to maintain regulatory standards despite intense pressure to reduce them.

As the pace of globalization accelerates, we must also consider the past as we work to set the stage for future union work and negotiations strategies for pilots around the globe.

After all, the challenges we face are not European or African. They are not South American, North American, or Asian challenges. They are our challenges. IFALPA challenges. And they are challenges that, together, we can overcome and transform into opportunity.

One of our greatest challenges is that managements continue to exploit the gap between the local nature of labor laws and the global corporate structure of capital.
At the same time, many governments that have in the past supported social contracts with labor are now actively undermining them.

If liberalization proceeds without adequate protection for labor, then flags of convenience business models will be part of our future—an ugly, disturbing, and unsafe part of our future, unless we all work together to make certain that our governments and policy makers understand what is at stake, and what needs to be done.

In Montreal, our work is wide-ranging and has made a difference in the everyday lives of pilots around the world. In 2018 we significantly advanced initiatives in Training, Communications, and Strategic Partnerships that will fuel our success for years to come. But we are not done, and this work will continue in 2019.

Constructive dialogue and timely information-sharing among industry, technology providers and governments will be critical to the future of our industry. Together with other industry stakeholders and even other sectors, we continue to work together were it is in our interest on issues facing pilots today and in the future.

Now, more than ever, strong pilot advocacy plays an integral role in IFALPA’s ability to effect change in all our work—safety, security, human performance, and professional issues.

Today commercial airlines utilize highly advanced information technology systems to optimize their businesses and communicate with their fleets.

The connected aircraft will transform our industry. But this advancement does not come without risk. Secure, seamless coverage delivering operational data live from aircraft to the ground and back will need advanced cyber threat protections and procedures.

While we are expanding methods to further advocate on behalf of our membership in the variety of new doors that have opened for us, we must not forget the importance of our technical and professional expertise and the invaluable work each of our committees and support staff do for our benefit.

IFALPA cements partnership with McGill IASL

Our advocacy has been instrumental in making aviation the safest form of long-distance travel the world has ever known. Thanks to IFALPA’s experience, we recognize the importance of looking back to learn from the past but also ahead when it comes to setting the stage for success.

In 2014 the Industrial Committee and subsequently Conference, accepted my recommendation to reshape itself into the Professional and Government Affairs Committee.

Since then, it has been in a position to engage government stakeholders at the local, national, and international level to advance IFALPA members’ interests. The work that began five years ago is driving results for our members, both directly and through enhanced training, communications, and strategic partnerships.

One example is the Ryanair pilots’ successes in organizing. After years of struggle, Ryanair pilots stood together and prevailed in gaining a public commitment from management to acknowledge and work with employee union representatives.

IFALPA’s recent Negotiations Seminar allowed each of us to learn directly from the experience of Ryanair pilots.

Another example is remotely piloted aircraft systems. We look at this issue through our technical committees and advocacy in Montreal, but also from an industrial and representational perspective.

In 2018, the IFALPA Executive Board directed the PGA to adapt the results of its working group report on RPAS into a formal position paper. It’s now been published as a Briefing Leaflet and can be found on our website.

Another way that IFALPA’s pilot advocacy is evident, is in our role as an observer on the ICAO Air Transport Regulation Panel. This group has been examining possible international agreements regarding liberalized market access and a stand-alone agreement or convention on foreign investments.

Our Federation’s adamant position is that air travel is the safest mode of transportation the world has ever known and any move to liberalize international agreements must maintain the same level of safety or enhance it. This necessarily must include enforceable protections for labor.

Any move to liberalize international agreements covering air services must be deliberate and with due care and respect for the system that brought us this good result. Thus, in the same way that there are explicit articles addressing;

safety (6), security (7), charges (8), customs (9), commercial opportunities (12), etc., there is a need for an article relating to social issues.

This is essential in order to avoid forum shopping for the purpose of blunting labor laws and shifting risk to employees.

Long-term solutions to the challenges of liberalization must involve the full range of industry stakeholders, including pilots.

IFALPA’s vision for our PGA Steering Group reflects our long-held belief that long-term solutions to the challenges of liberalization must involve the full range of industry stakeholders, including pilots.

On all issues, IFALPA’s strength lies in our solidarity. IFALPA pilots recognize this—it’s clear from the way IFALPA Member Associations stand together across national boundaries, continents, and around the globe. In Unity.

While our progress has been clear, we know more collaboration will yield even greater results.

We’re pursuing more ways to help our members collaborate. With our strategic plan as our guide, we’ve made enormous strides to equip our volunteers and provide more information, training, and tools to assist our Member Associations.

One example is IFALPA’s website renovation. Our upgraded online presence allows us to reach the traveling public and international policymakers with our perspective on virtually every issue affecting air transportation. Equally important, our website now offers a deeper well of resources for Member Associations to use in reaching your goals at local, national, and regional levels.

More than just a fresh look, the site offers valuable new features, including:

  • Advanced search functions to help you explore our technical publications with ease
  • Mobile responsiveness so you won’t miss anything from your phone, and
  • An intuitive design for a more user-friendly experience across the site.

A core element of the project has also been to make sure the back-end of the application is as consistent and stable as possible. Our communications team can now maintain all site content, and regularly review usage and flow.

Together with the public website, we’ve put enormous work into our new Member’s Area which will now be called The IFALPA Hub. It integrates seamlessly with our extranet and other micro applications allowing for improved user experience across all platforms. This gives our global users a faster, more secure, and more reliable internet experience.


It is an integrated cloud solution so our professionals and volunteers can collaborate more effectively with team chat, online meetings, co-authoring and securely shared files across the globe.

It’s worth pausing for just a moment to take note of two important lessons from our past.

The first lesson is this: every one of you matters. Every MA matters. As a result, we must make sure that every member’s resources and efforts are used wisely—not only because it’s our responsibility, but because those resources and efforts will ultimately benefit all of us.

The second lesson is that the incredible safety record in aviation is a result of the hard work of our volunteers in advancing our safety-first agenda. And the most important link in the system is IFALPA’s credibility.

Unity, trust, and credibility are inseparable concepts.

Our history has proven that it isn’t a spark of individual genius or a playbook of cutthroat tactics that allows us to achieve our mission – it’s our unity.

Our past proves that when we stand united, we can accomplish much. That pilot unity is important today and its importance will only grow in the future.

Unity empowers us to achieve, while division inevitably forces us into failure.

Trust – is one of the most important elements of unity.

Being trustworthy means being honest. When you build a reputation for honesty, you are also building integrity and credibility – truly, two aspects of relationships essential in building trust.

The Executive Board, your executive officers, IFALPA volunteers, and the Secretariat are the lens through which you project these qualities to the aviation community and the entire world. To serve you, we must be open, honest, and transparent.

If something breaks, misses the mark, fails to perform … we have to admit it … we have to get out there and fix it. Bad news isn't like a fine wine. It doesn't improve with age. Wait too long … and it turns to vinegar.

This brings me to why candor is so important to trust and unity. Real leaders don’t discourage dissent or bad news. Bad news is often good, useful information – even when it's painful at first. It’s called candor.

Candor leads to credibility.

Credible leadership is judged by actions, not words. This can mean making the tough decisions, when necessary, the unpopular decisions … this means sticking to the highest ethical standards and principles of candor, honesty, and credibility.

Credibility rests on the foundation of accountability… something I've always insisted on from myself first, as well as those I work with. Credibility builds trust. Accountability builds credibility.

As officers of the Federation, you have to be certain you can trust us. We have to hold ourselves accountable to you.
Our unity, our credibility, and our future as the global voice of pilots depend on it.

IFALPA has made its mark as a pivotal part of the aviation community for more than 70 years. During that time, we have interacted with ICAO, Regulators, Aircraft Manufacturers, Airports, ATSOs, Airlines, and many other organizations to make global aviation safe, secure and sustainable for everyone. At the same time, our ability to project our industrial strength and capacity continues to grow enormously. On that foundation, our efforts have strengthened the global pilot community.

IFALPA has an incredible asset that sets us apart from every other aviation organization in the world. That asset is the knowledge and experience of our Member Associations, subject-matter experts, and professional staff—and the generosity with which you share your expertise with others.

I would like to thank every IFALPA Member Association and volunteer. No matter where you’re located on the globe, IFALPA pilots simply never stop working toward a safer, more secure air transportation system and a stronger profession.

Without you, none of our Federation’s success would be possible. We’ll count on you even more in future as we work together to attract and inspire the next generation of IFALPA volunteers.

There’s a famous Berlin landmark that’s also a reminder of the past—it’s known as the “Bridge of Spies.” During the Cold War, the bridge served as a checkpoint between West Berlin and East Berlin. In the 1970s, it was restored and renamed the “Bridge of Unity” as a reflection of the lessons of the past creating the link to a better future.

Through you, IFALPA can continue to build our own bridge of unity—and a better future for aviation and pilots everywhere.

We have a lot of work still ahead of us. Having worked together with you as we continued our journey last year, I am left with enormous confidence and pride in the professional men and women who are part of IFALPA. Thanks again for your hard work and dedication throughout the last year. I look forward with optimism and pride, as the Federation continues its work to present and advocate the Air Line Pilot point of view.

It has truly been an honor and a pleasure to serve all of you.

— Captain Ron Abel, President

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Ron Abel


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