Europe’s pilots are united!

First I would like to thank the 37 pilot associations in Europe for electing me as the new President of the European Cockpit Association. It’s a great honour and responsibility for me to take this position and work for the future of Europe’s aviation.

More than 38.000 European pilots are united in 37 associations and under the umbrella of ECA. When joining these associations, pilots do not only look for representation when it comes to negotiating salaries or duty times. No. Pilots do proactively work in their association’s expert groups on improving aviation safety, security and infrastructure. From the beginning of our industry as we know it today, pilots were involved in finding the right answers for the many different problems in aviation. These solutions – of course – had to be found under a transnational scope, as our industry always was and will be transnational.

The 38.000 European pilots help to connect countries, regions and cities within and outside of Europe. They help to build this important infrastructure, which is a driving motor of the pan-European economy. Nearly every day that they spend at work, they can see our continent from above and they can see how close together we all live. But they also understand that our industry is unthinkable without transnational rules and regulations. Or could you imagine what aviation would look like, if its rules would change at every borderline that an airplane crosses? Surely not!

Under these premises aviation was able to find transnational solutions to significantly increase safety and to reduce accident rates. Especially in Europe the industry did an excellent job, as here these rates are among the lowest worldwide.

But today, we seem to be unable to find rules for the future of our industry. Especially here in Europe, we see the spreading of unfair competition, social dumping and outsourcing in aviation. State-owned airlines from third countries enjoy unfair competitive advantages, while European airlines are restricted by European laws. Pilots and cabin crew are hired via Far-Eastern contracting companies and based outside Europe, just to avoid taxation and social contributions. The flight crew fluctuation in some airlines has grown so much that their training departments are constantly running at their limits.

What interest should a pilot have in the future of his/her airline, when she/he plans to leave it anyhow? Why should such a pilot try to improve its safety culture? Why help building its safety management? Why should she/he do all this, when they are not a full employee of this airline, but on an unstable temporary contract or even fake self-employed?

Do we really believe that this industry would have reached today's safety levels with these practices being used?

In the aftermath of the European financial crisis, the intra-continental connectivity in aviation has gone down for the first time. This should ring the alarm bell for decision-makers in Europe. Aviation is vitally important for Europe's joint economy.

Together with the ECA Board and staff, we are determined to do everything we can to build a reliable and trustworthy industry, which provides an excellent safety culture and quality employment for all. And we start today!

by Dirk Polloczek