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Punching above our weight

In the blue & white corner: weighing in with just ten staff, and wearing a very tight budgetary belt, it’s… the EUROPEAN COCKPIT ASSOCIATION – your pilot voice at European level!

In… ‘whatever the most convenient regulatory corner at the time’ is: under the weight of an almost unlimited lobbying budget, and almost unlimited staff and managers than they know what to do with, it’s… the vested corporate interests of Europe’s aviation industry!

And yet… the effect ECA has had on EU aviation regulation, politics and employment in the past year has been staggering. In the face of overwhelming commercial interests and some of the most aggressive players in the European aviation industry, we have truly punched well above our weight. I am proud to be part of this profession, one of the few left with an independent public safety mandate, and even prouder to see ECA working so effectively on our pilot profession’s behalf.

You will read in this report how, despite its small size and shoestring budget, ECA’s dedicated staff and reps have fought for the pilot profession on multiple fronts, and with results that others in our industry look at with envy.

Whether it be securing the systematic attention of combined labour inspectorates and national authorities on dubious and unsafe practices for engaging pilots, or having our professional concerns at the centre of scrutiny of flawed airliners and the regulatory capture that enabled them, ECA’s positive influence on our industry this past year has been immense. Be certain – without ECA’s focussed energy and activity behind the scenes, many major issues in our industry would have turned out differently.

We have been able to ensure that the legislation and treaties that impact employment conditions and related safety issues have been strengthened to give protection, or pushed away if flawed – you will see the work done on social impacts in the EU-Qatar air transport agreement (amongst others still ongoing), and in making the legal foundation for air service provision, regulation 1008/2008, open to improvement. You will see ICAO’s multilateral air service agreement being “kicked into the long grass” after many European and allied states all came to see the threat of instant liberalisation, flag of convenience enabling, and de-regulation for what it was.

We have continued assisting pilots from transnational airlines cooperate better. With a powerful incentive from employers to keep pilots at arm's length through contrived layers of corporate structure, and salami sliced into isolated national groups that can be played off against each other, it is all too easy to retreat under cover of national interests or ‘sovereignty’. Against this background, enabling pilots with a single ‘controlling mind’ employer to unite and support each other can be demanding, intensive and an occasional rollercoaster ride. But where we help pilots get this right, the results can be transformational.

We have been sought out as one of the most serious and trusted voices in the industry by the media as a result of our credibility and expertise. This has meant ECA’s pilot voice and view being covered in major press outlets throughout the year, including the Wall Street Journal, New York Times, Politico, the Financial Times, Bloomberg, Reuters and The Times of London. For an organisation of our size to be shaping the news agenda in our sphere like this is an incredible achievement.

With big issues to come in the following years to add to this – science-based environmental sustainability for aviation, reduced pilot operations, and the spectre of regulatory capture and greater de-regulation – you will see in this year’s report that you can have confidence and hope with ECA fighting the profession’s corner, whether it’s up against the political heavyweights, or the dirty fighting brawlers at the bottom of our industry!

by Capt. Jon Horne, ECA President