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Big ambitions for 2018

by Captain Brendan O'Neal BALPA Chairman

Many of the 10,000 British pilots that BALPA represents will have ushered in New Year in the skies or on foreign soil. No matter where you are New Year offers the chance to reflect on the highs and lows of the year gone by and focus on ambitions for what the coming year might bring.

For the pilot community there is a lot to be positive about as we enter 2018 and build on the achievements of 2017.

Last year we weathered massive highs and lows and though it all the pilot community stood united. Pilots at Thomas Cook took the decision to undertake industrial action including a strike. They stood their ground and showed their strength in the first strike of UK pilots in 40 years. As a pilot family we showed our solidarity, sending those involved in the strike messages of support from far and wide.

There were of course some big blows in 2017. The turbulent North Sea economy and the collapse of Monarch meant many pilots faced redundancy and uncertainty. But once again BALPA reached out to support those pilots though the difficult times. Our programme of action offered, amongst other things, support, assistance in understanding the redundancy process, and careers advice. For many that help means 2018 comes with opportunities as they embark on new jobs.

Flight safety as ever is on our minds as we begin 2018. This week we have seen the statistic that 2017 is the safest year in history for commercial airlines making headlines. This is a testament to pilots who work day in day out to make every flight a safe flight. But we must not take our eye off the ball. Our focus on flight safety must be unrelenting and we must continue to shine a light on areas where we fear risks can still arise.

Fatigue remains a huge priority for pilots and BALPA is continuing to work across the industry to mitigate this safety threat. We are currently analysing the responses you gave us in our Summer Fatigue Project and this data will help us to deepen our understanding of fatigue and its prevalence across the industry. At the same time, we persist in our examination and challenge of rosters that are likely to cause fatigue.

In 2017 we took massive steps forward with our flight safety campaigns on both drones and lasers and we will resume our efforts on these in 2018. We have secured commitment from the Government to act on both issues. As the new year gets underway we will maintain our dialogue with those in the corridors of power to make sure the right safety measures are put in place.

I hope that 2018 will be a time of growth for the aviation industry and for BALPA. We continue to welcome pilots in to our BALPA family and amongst them are those who work for Ryanair. It came as a surprise to many when just before Christmas, unions received a letter from Ryanair inviting talks on recognition. We immediately began working on this and agreed to meet with Ryanair. Later this month BALPA General Secretary Brian Strutton will meet with Peter Bellew, Ryanair’s Chief Operations Manager, to discuss what Ryanair management is doing to change the culture in the airline and prepare for recognition.

So, 2018 has had an upbeat start for British pilots. We are a community of pilots who stood together in 2017 to safeguard the piloting career and to make sure flight safety is a priority in aviation. In 2018, BALPA will drive those agendas forward, giving pilots a voice and working to make every flight a safe flight.