Air Line Pilots Association, International

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Air Line Pilots Association, International
Founded27 July 1931
Headquarters7950 Jones Branch Drive
McLean, Virginia 22102
Key people
Capt. Joe DePete, President
AffiliationsAFL-CIO, IFALPA, CLC

The Air Line Pilots Association, International (ALPA) is the largest pilot union in the world,[1] representing more than 59,000 pilots[1] from 35 U.S. and Canadian airlines. ALPA was founded on 27 July 1931[2][3] and is a member of the AFL-CIO and the Canadian Labour Congress. Known internationally as U.S.-ALPA, ALPA is also a member of the IFALPA.[4]


ALPA was founded by Captain David L. Behncke and 23 other key figures in Chicago, Illinois, on July 27, 1931.[5] In the 1930s, flying was a perilous occupation;[6] thus, from the time of its formation, one of ALPA’s main goals was to improve air safety.[7]

In 1933, the decision by the National Labor Board to limit the flight time for pilots and co-pilots to 85 hours a month was the result of the union’s first major lobbying campaign to make the skies safer. By the end of the ‘30s, the association had persuaded numerous airlines to form air traffic control centers, and had started the Airworthiness and Performance Committee, the first ALPA technical committee dedicated to improving flight safety.[8]

In the 1940s, numerous ALPA pilots enlisted in the military to help the United States battle the Axis powers during World War II. In this decade, ALPA created additional air safety committees, and the newly established International Federation of Air Line Pilots’ Associations (IFALPA) worked to improve flight safety around the world.[8]

In 1951, ALPA created an internal air safety system, which developed into the world’s biggest independent, nongovernmental safety structure. During the 1950s, jet travel was introduced, marking a new period for the air industry. In this era, crew fatigue became a greater concern for pilots, with the union successfully persuading the Civil Aeronautics Board to stop airlines from scheduling impractical flights.[8]

During the 1960s, jet transport of people and goods became commonplace, with ALPA addressing the new safety issues that came with this type of travel.[8] In 1961, ALPA’s second president, Clarence N. Sayen, directly asked new U.S. President John F. Kennedy to make hijacking a federal crime,[9] which subsequently became the law of the land in September of that year.[10] The Southern Airways strike of 1960-62, a conflict that ALPA winningly took on in a dispute over pilot wages, is the longest walkout in the union’s history.[11] For years, ALPA had lobbied hard for the creation of an independent government agency that would investigate accidents, and in 1967, the National Transportation Safety Board was established to conduct such investigations.[8]

In 1972, ALPA began an anti-skyjacking lobby offensive, among other efforts to fight air terrorism, which was all too common in the early 1970s. Also in 1972, after decades of campaigning by ALPA, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) established an airport certification program, which required airport operators to prove they are following safety standards. In 1976, the union’s dedicated work resulted in NASA creating the Aviation Safety Reporting System (ASRS),[8] a database of confidential incident reports.[12]

During the 1980s, ALPA accomplished much in the way of safety. In 1981, among other achievements, the Association convinced the FAA that “fasten seatbelt” signs were needed,[8] and in 1987, the FAA again heeded calls from the union, requiring the installation of a traffic collision avoidance system (TCAS) in every airplane.[8] On March 4, 1989, ALPA pilots at Eastern Airlines went on strike in support of the International Association of Machinists. The pilots stood their ground for 285 days.[13]

Following the 1994 crash of USAir Flight 427, in which all 132 people on board were killed, the NTSB ruled that pilot error was the cause. But ALPA fought that decision, and in the end, it was found that a malfunction in the rudder control system of the B-737 plane was likely the cause. Subsequently, a redesign of all B-737’s—the most commonly flown commercial airplane—was ordered by the FAA. After another tragic 1994 crash, of American Eagle Flight 4184, a study of icing issues with the ATR 72 commenced, an inquiry ALPA was closely involved with. The outcomes were alterations in the design of the ATR 72 and improved pilot training.[8] ALPA’s chief accomplishment of the 1990s was the 1995 enactment of the “One Level of Safety” program by the FAA, resulting in stricter safety rules for smaller airplanes. ALPA came up with the name for the program and lobbied hard for the measure.[14]

In 1997, the Canadian Airline Pilots Association (CALPA) merged with ALPA, forming what would become known as ALPA Canada.[15] As of 2020, ALPA Canada represents more than 5,000 pilots.[16]

In 2000, after years of advocacy by the association, the FAA approved ALPA’s recommendations for Land and Hold Short Operations (LAHSO).[8] In the wake of the catastrophic September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, improving airline security would be ALPA’s main priority for the next several years.[8] This concentrated effort by the union included the formation of their Security Task Force, instrumental in the creation of numerous new security rules.[7]

During the 2010s, ALPA continued to campaign for improvements in airline security and safety. One such issue was the deliberate and dangerous act of pointing lasers at pilots in the air. Thanks to ALPA’s efforts, a new law was enacted making this undertaking a federal crime.[7]

In 2020, amidst the COVID-19 outbreak, ALPA pressed governments in the United States and Canada to pass legislation that would protect airline employees. The association was actively involved in the talks that resulted in the CARES Act, which stabilized the aviation industry and provided economic relief for pilots.[17]

Current leadership[edit]

ALPA's four national officers were elected by the union's Board of Directors on Oct. 17, 2018, and began their four-year terms on Jan. 1, 2019.[18]

President: Captain Joe DePete[edit]

Captain Joe DePete, FedEx Express, is ALPA's eleventh president.[18] Captain DePete previously served as ALPA first vice president and national safety coordinator, executive vice president, FedEx Express Master Executive Council chairman, and Local Executive Council chairman. He was an active member of the ALPA Organizing Committee for the merger with the Flying Tiger Line Pilots Association as well as for the merger with the FedEx Pilots Association.[18]

First Vice President: Captain Bob Fox[edit]

Captain Bob Fox, United Airlines, serves as ALPA's first vice president.[18] He has served his pilot group as Master Executive Council vice chairman and Alliance and Scope Oversight Committee member, as well as a Local Executive Council chairman and secretary-treasurer.[18]

Vice President–Administration/Secretary: Captain Bill Couette[edit]

Captain William Russell “Bill” Couette, Envoy Air, is serving his fourth consecutive term as ALPA's vice president–administration/secretary.[18] Captain Couette is a five-time elected local council representative who served until the end of 2006 as the American Eagle Local Executive Council 133 chairman in Chicago.[18] He acted as Strike Oversight Board representative for the Atlantic Southeast and Skyway pilots, and also served as an ALPA negotiator, organizer, and merger representative.[18]

Vice President–Finance/Treasurer: Captain Joseph A. Genovese Jr.[edit]

Captain Joseph A. Genovese Jr., United, serves as ALPA's vice president–finance/treasurer, having previously served on numerous ALPA committees and held ALPA leadership roles for his pilot group, including Master Executive Council (MEC) executive administrator, MEC secretary-treasurer, and member of the MEC Grievance Committee. He also served as a Local Executive Council chairman and secretary-treasurer.[18]


The Walter P. Reuther Library is home to over 40 collections of archival material documenting the history of the Air Line Pilots Association. To access the collections' finding aids, please refer to the ALPA-related content at the Walter P. Reuther Library's website.

Former Presidents[edit]

The following is a complete list of ALPA's former presidents[19] since the Association's founding in 1931:

  • Tim Canoll (2015 – 2018)
  • Lee Moak (2011 – 2014)
  • John H. Prater (2007 – 2010)
  • Duane E. Woerth (1999 – 2006)
  • J. Randolph Babbitt (1991 – 1998)
  • Henry A. Duffy (1983 – 1990)
  • John J. O'Donnell (1971 – 1982)
  • Charles H. Ruby (1962 – 1970)
  • Clarence N. Sayen (1951 – 1962)
  • David L. Behncke (1931 – 1951)

Member pilot groups[edit]

ALPA represents the following bargaining units:[20]


  1. ^ a b What We Do - ALPA
  2. ^ Checking In at ALPA HQ - 1931 to Today
  3. ^ Santiago, J. P., "The Early History of ALPA, the Air Line Pilots Association, and the First Airline Strike,", February 2016.
  4. ^ Gary M. Fink, ed. Labor unions (Greenwood, 1977) pp. 6–8.
  5. ^ Hopkins 1982, p. 9.
  6. ^ "ALPA Through the Decades". Retrieved July 30, 2020.
  7. ^ a b c "The Landing: Air Line Pilot Chronicles the Evolution of a Profession". Retrieved August 4, 2020.
  8. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k A HISTORY OF PRIDE: 80 Years of Pilots Putting Safety and Security First
  9. ^ Hopkins 1982, p. 264.
  10. ^ "LEGISLATIVE SUMMARY: AVIATION". Retrieved August 4, 2020.
  11. ^ "The Southern Airways strike of 1960: ALPA's epic battle over fair wages for pilots". Retrieved August 4, 2020.
  12. ^ "Aviation Safety Reporting System". Retrieved August 4, 2020.
  13. ^ "The Eastern Airlines Strike of 1989". Retrieved August 4, 2020.
  14. ^ "Creating One Level of Safety for Both Passenger and Cargo Carriers". Retrieved August 4, 2020.
  15. ^ "Our Third Decade of Moving Canadian Aviation Forward," by Capt. Dan Adamus, Air Line Pilot, January-February 2018
  16. ^ "Pilots, Flying Public Send More Than A Quarter-Million Messages to Congress to Prevent Furloughs". Retrieved August 25, 2020.
  17. ^ "COVID-19 Legislative Updates". Retrieved August 4, 2020.
  18. ^ a b c d e f g h i ALPA - Home
  19. ^ "The ALPA Hall of Presidents"
  20. ^ Our Pilot Groups - ALPA


External links[edit]