Letters to the Editor

Subject: Inherent Biases & Unions
From: R.W. ROLAND RWROLAND@aol.com

While it is true, as you point out, that every writer has a bias, it is not true, as you seem to indicate, that such biases are all-compelling and thus detrimental to the truth. I spent 35 years flying for what I believe to be one of the finest airlines in the world, but that has never prevented me from pointing out its flaws.

As to your statement, that there is no correlation between unions and airline safety, you are dead wrong. Yes, it is true that union and non-union pilots alike can and do make careless and even stupid mistakes that end up killing innocent and trusting passengers. Statistics verify that fact. However, what the statistics cannot tell us is how many accidents have been prevented because of the safety efforts of organized union pilots. No other organizations, including the FAA and the NTSB, have contributed more to making our skies safer than the pilots of ALPA, APA, IALPA, and other smaller groups of organized pilots. The safety innovations brought about by such organized pilot groups have added immeasurably to air safety; innovations so numerous that they would fill volumes.

During my flying career there were countless safety decisions that had to be made. Many were not in the best economic interest of my carrier, but I made those decisions on the side of safety without a scintilla of thought that I might be placing my career in jeopardy. This cannot always be said of non-union pilots who, fearing repercussion from management, often act against their better judgment in matters both significant and minor in nature.

Let me end my argument with two questions:

How many union pilots have you seen hiding behind concealing screens and speaking in distorted voices, testifying before congressional and other public hearings?

How many non-union pilots?

I rest my case. Union-protected pilots make a difference!

For more on this subject check out: http://members.aol.com/safeflt/unions.htm

Capt. R.W. Roland, ret.

 

EDITOR'S REPLY:

I have never said, nor implied, that bias is "all-compelling and thus detrimental to the truth."

The bias statement, on the home page of AirlineSaftey.Com, enables the reader to better judge the objectivity of the writer. Objectivity, like temperature, is a matter of degree. I donít believe it is possible for any human to be 100% objective, but I do see a big difference between the objectivity of Benjamin Franklin and that of Adolph Hitler.

I did not say there was no correlation between unions and airline safety. I said I have never seen any data to support a positive correlation between safety and pilot pay or union membership. The distinction is important.

Mr. Bellís letter specifically addressed the issue of low pay and if it might affect a pilotís concentration in the cockpit. If one could produce objective data, to show a positive correlation between pilot pay and the accident rate, then there should also be a correlation between the accident rate and union membership, since higher pilot pay, it is often argued, comes from union membership (that too, is debatable).

I have never seen any data to support the idea that either low pay or union membership is correlated to the accident rate. If anyone out there has such data, then please send it to me. I will post it on AirlineSafety.Com.

Mr. Bellís letter, and my reply, did not address the question of labor unions and their effect on airline safety. However, I do thank Capt. Roland for bringing up that subject. I think it is worth exploring. Look for it in the FAQ section of AirlineSafety.Com, hopefully in the not too distant future.

March, 1998

Robert J. Boser    
Editor-in-Chief 
AirlineSafety.Com

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