ALPA Petitions FAA

WASHINGTON, D.C.—-The Air Line Pilots Association, the union that represents most of the nation’s airline pilots, has petitioned the FAA for a rule change that would extend the authority of a pilot in command (“captain’s authority”) to cover the period immediately before and after the actual duration of a flight.

The union’s request was prompted by safety concerns, by security issues that have arisen since 9/11, plus the need to bring U.S. rules in line with changes recently made by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO). It was filed Tuesday by Capt. Dan Ashby, chairman of ALPA’s Captain’s Authority Committee.

The current FAA definitions limit captain’s authority from the time the aircraft doors are closed, to when they are opened at the end of a flight. The proposed rule change would extend that to cover the period of time that the captain is “on duty,” essentially from the time he reports early to prepare the aircraft, until he is released from duty at the end of the flight.

Pilots need the expanded period of authority to deal with security matters. For example, if a passenger is behaving suspiciously or disruptively, the regulations do not give the captain legal authority to overrule a gate agent’s decision to board the passenger. It can be done after the fact, but it would be far safer not to permit the passenger to board. Another example is the case where cutting tools were found on an airliner before takeoff. The captain’s request for a bomb-sniffer dog was overruled by company officials, although the aircraft was manually searched.

ALPA represents 66,000 airline pilots at 42 airlines in the U.S. and Canada. Its Web site is at .