The emergency helpline for pilots
Hopefully, you will all have the BALPA emergency number (+44 (0)20 8476 4099) saved in your phones already. All being well, you will never have to use it. But you might like to know the process that springs into action if you do ever need it.
Of course, BALPA HQ is not in a position to man a telephone line 24 hours a day and so, like many other organisations, we outsource the requirement to an external agency. In our case, this is a company called Message Direct based in Dorset.
Whenever the number is called, the operator knows that it is a BALPA-related call, and will then ask you to confirm that you are calling about an emergency. After this has been established, they will take some details from you and then call BALPA staff on a cascade system, until one of us responds. They will start by calling the Head of Flight Safety first, followed by the Flight Safety Specialist, Flight Safety Officer, the Head of Organisation, and a series of other key personnel who will be able to assist.
We have a number of resources available to us, and depending on the incident, we will use as few or as many of these resources as is required. Sometimes we can sort out the issue in a couple of phone calls, but on other occasions we will need to use the services of the 24-hour solicitors we retain. We may even need to despatch a staff or Company Council member to be of direct assistance to a BALPA member in trouble.
As part of our agreement with IFALPA, we can request that overseas membership associations come to the aid of our members when they are away from home. This has proved to be very useful on many occasions over the years. By the same token, we often willingly assist pilots when they need help in the UK, working on the principle of ‘treat others as you would want to be treated yourself.’
As these incidents have a nasty habit of happening at 2am UK time, whoever picks up the issue and runs with it will endeavour to do as much as possible before involving other members of the team. We all have different areas of expertise, however, and it is not uncommon for us to be calling each other in the early hours. So, if you do come into the office and see a lot of bleary-eyed people, please don’t assume it is down to over-indulgence the night before!
Examples of recent calls to the BALPA emergency line include:
- Runway excursion
- Overseas pilots being arrested in the UK for alleged alcohol rule infringement
- Family members looking for guidance following an accident
- Imminent AAIB interview
- Diversions following fumes events
- Collision during push back
To make life much easier for our members we also have all our emergency telephone numbers and support information contained within the BALPA 2Way app. The BALPA emergency number is stored in the app and can be dialled at the touch of a single button. You can also use the handy SMS service, which is designed to capture your membership details automatically, pre-populate the message and send through to Message Direct. There is also further supporting information within the app to ensure BALPA members are well informed and supported in the event of an accident or incident.
Please do remember that if you need assistance urgently, then it is an emergency. The best way to get hold of us, and to ensure that the correct procedures are started, is to call the emergency line as soon as possible.