Steve Landells
Flight Safety Specialist
Alongside our Company Council reps and staff at BALPA HQ, we are fortunate enough to have a number of specialist groups run by member volunteers who we can turn to for advice on issues that affect the lives of our members, and the wider pilot community. Often, a lot of issues that arise in the world of aviation are not so black and white, so when it comes to which safety group is going to deal with the issue, there can be multiple groups involved (a list and brief description of each group can be found below).

These groups also come in very useful in gauging the opinions of our members. When an event is picked up by the media, often BALPA is called upon for our thoughts, so we need to be able to form an opinion on the issue quickly. By getting in touch with the relevant technical groups, we are able to produce a sensible and considered response to any questions that may arise.

Whilst we have great representation in some groups, we have seen numbers fall recently in others. Below is a list of our technical groups and a brief introduction on the areas they cover. They meet between four and six times a year, and whilst joining a group would require a degree of commitment, we are understanding to the demands of flying and family life.

If you wanted to, you could join the first few meetings to observe before making any decisions. However much time you think you would be able to devote to this rewarding cause, any involvement is greatly appreciated. If you’d like to join one of the groups, please email SteveLandells@balpa.org or ZoeReeves@balpa.org, who can give you more information and explain how the system works.

Accident Investigation Group (AIG): While looking at all aspects of accident analysis and prevention, this group specialises in dangerous goods and flight data issues. You don’t have to be a qualified accident investigator but an analytical mind and a willingness to read accident reports and understand not only what has been said, but also what hasn’t, is important. BALPA usually sends a representative to the IFALPA security meetings as well as the International Society of Air Safety Investigators (ISASI) meeting.

Air Traffic Services (ATS): Topics of responsibility range from the obvious airspace issues to having representatives at the UK Airprox Board, the MET Office user forum, the National Air Traffic Management Advisory Committee and a number of other important forums which need pilot input. What Brexit is going to bring will be subject of much debate in the ATS world in the coming months. The group does have some current and former air traffic controllers on it but the majority are line pilots who have an interest in the wide variety of areas covered by this group.

Aircraft Design and Operation/Aerodromes and Ground Environment Group (ADO/AGE):  Incorrect airfield plates and head up displays are just two of the many areas that this group influences the thinking on. This group also provides representatives to various airport meetings to give the pilot’s point of view. A willingness to engage with external organisations and individuals and the ability to translate the often complex issues to those that may not have a clear understanding of what a pilot does and needs are important attributes for the members of this group.

Helicopter Affairs Committee (HAC): Dealing with all things rotary, this group has been incredibly busy over the last couple of years and has had a number of notable successes. In 2017 BALPA will be hosting the IFALPA and ECA annual helicopter meetings at Heathrow which will be an excellent opportunity to share experiences with helicopter pilots from around the world.

Occupational Health and Safety Group (OHSG): Health and Safety is often mentioned in a less than complimentary context, but it is this area that keeps us safe and gives legislative teeth to stop abusive practices. It is undoubtedly one of the most important groups. We need significantly more involvement in this area, as we have the potential to make huge gains for all pilots if we can get more people involved. It is a fascinating area and is incredibly rewarding. This group does require commitment as the training is expensive, but if keeping your colleagues safe is important to you then please do get in contact.

Operational Aviation Medicine (OpsAvMed): A small group of medically trained people who can answer some of the more obscure medical questions that come our way. A pilot should always contact their AME in the first instant, but this group can offer an opinion in the event of confusion or dispute. You don’t have to be a brain surgeon to join – we currently have a vet and a classics scholar on our books!

Pilots Advisory Group: A small group of trained and experienced counsellors who are able to help members in need of assistance. We currently have a full complement in this group but if you have experience in counselling we would love to hear from you as these skills are always valuable to our members.

Remotely Piloted Aircraft Systems (RPAS): The clue is in the name. With ridiculous regulatory proposals coming out all the time, and a sometimes lackadaisical approach to safety from those who should know better, this group is constantly busy. Reps from this group engage with the regular ECA meetings in Brussels and also with the IFALPA ADO group, under which RPAS sit at an international level. We are always after people who have an interest in the regulatory side of things as this can be very complex and it would be easy to miss something that could have a profound effect on flight safety. We always respond to government consultations and are represented of all the significant national groups dealing with RPAS.

Security Group (SEC): Ceramic weapons, overzealous security, backscatter scanners, insider threat and frozen stew are just some of the questions that this group has answered in the last week. Whilst dealing with the frustrations endured by members on a day to day basis forms a significant part of our work, interacting with the government when security breaks down overseas, with the potential for British pilots being involved, is an important area that we cover. Issues for 2017 will no doubt include lasers, insider threats, misuse of RPAS and many other interesting areas, which we work closely with the UK government on.
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