Pilot Professionalism

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The Coalition of Airline Pilots Associations (CAPA) represents over 28,000 pilots of large mainline passenger and cargo carriers, all of whom take professionalism in the cockpit extremely seriously. We, as an organization, find ourselves in a unique position to tap our vast well of experience, maturity and expertise to develop a statement of pilot professionalism.  This statement can be a guide to more inexperienced pilots at non-member airlines, to promote professionalism within themselves, and the industry to create an environment within every airline in which professionalism can thrive.

Professionalism within an organization, and in the cockpit, is a multi-faceted concept with responsibilities borne by all parties of consequence. They are as follows:

1)    The FAA itself bears a responsibility to provide adequate oversight of the airline or organization to insure compliance with regulations and to encourage an overall culture of professionalism.

2)    The Airline has a responsibility to maintain a culture of professionalism by setting an example of compliance and treating their pilots as the professionals they are. Airlines must adopt the proven safety reporting mechanisms of FOQA, LOSA, ASAP and SMS and provide their pilots with immunity protections to facilitate their operation.

3)    Pilot Associations must provide access for their members to non-punitive peer review mechanisms.

4)    Pilots must use the tools given them by the FAA, their respective airline managements, and pilots' associations to self-police their actions while in the cockpit to provide the safest transportation possible for the traveling public.

All four parties must be participants to create a culture of compliance with regulations and company procedures and a tradition of mutual respect that is necessary to promote professionalism within an organization.



The FAA has a role to play in pilot professionalism by their responsibilities in oversight and compliance.

  • The FAA needs to promote an environment of respect, within the airline managements they oversee, for the contributions and professional judgment of the frontline pilots.
  • The FAA should carefully monitor airlines in bankruptcy, or who have significantly reduced pilot compensation and retirement benefits within bankruptcy proceedings. Such tactics significantly hinder a pilots self- worth and adherence to concepts of professionalism.
  • The FAA needs to develop a more centralized interpretation of Federal Aviation Regulations so the same rules apply to the entire industry, rather than the current airline office centered FAR interpretation.
  • The FAA needs to insure that FOQA, ASAP, LOSA and SMS programs are operating at all airlines, not just the majors.


The Airlines must take the responsibility to create a tradition of excellence.  As airline pilots of many decades, CAPA members know that the airline management creates a culture of professionalism within their employees.

  • Airlines must treat their pilots as professionals whose participation and efforts are valued within the organization.
  • Through strict compliance with federal regulation and company procedures, airline management sets a tone of excellence within the organization.
  • All airline management must embrace FOQA, ASAP, LOSA and SMS as proven safety programs that have shown their value at the major airlines.
  • Airlines must set up line pilot participation forums where line pilots can express their views on the efficacy of new procedures.
  • Airlines must develop fatigue mitigation and sick leave programs, which allow pilots to adequately self-regulate their health and fatigue compliance without fear of retribution.
  • Airlines must develop employee assistance programs where employees can self report and get treatment for substance abuse problems.
  • Airlines must bring Pilots Association safety and training committees into the discussion when developing new training procedures.


Pilots' Association must take responsibility for advocating within the pilot ranks for professionalism and regulation and procedural compliance.

  • Pilots Association must set up Professional Standards “peer review” programs to allow their members to self-report problems.
  • Pilot’s Association must develop safety and training committees to assist their members with compliance.
  • Pilot Associations must demand professionalism and responsibility from their members.


The pilot themselves is the ultimate judge of their own readiness for flight and the commitment with which they approach their own professionalism.

  • The pilot must self assess their own fitness for flight, both from a health and fatigue standpoint, and self regulate his/her activity.
  • The pilot must strictly adhere to company procedure and Federal Aviation Regulation.
  • The pilot must set a tone of professionalism within the cockpit and with other employee groups.
  • The pilot must conduct him/herself as a professional when in the public view while wearing a uniform.

Every level of the aviation industry has a role to play in creating an environment with which pilot professionalism can flourish.  However, professionalism first and foremost can only be maintained by hiring professionals into the cockpit in the first place. In the past this was achieved by a selective employment process with an emphasis placed on flight time, maturity, advanced licensing and previous work experience.

Today, in an effort to pay the lowest possible compensation, pilots are asked to conduct themselves as professionals at perhaps 18 years of age with little more than 6 months of experience since their first flights. A career which demands the professionalism of a medical doctor, but that pays fast food wages, is unsustainable. To attract pilot professionals back to the cockpit, we need to first hire mature, experienced, professionals and treat them as professionals within the workplace; compensate them at a level commensurate with the enormous responsibilities they shoulder.

That formula worked for many years before the ravages of the last 10 years turned the industry upside down.  A return to the proven system that had evolved since the time of the first airlines too flight, will insure that no airline passenger will have to show concern for who may be behind the cockpit door.