The Virgin Independent Pilots Association (VIPA), extends its condolences to the family and friends of the 149 passengers and 8 crew who lost their lives in yesterday’s Ethiopian Air accident.
The aircraft in yesterday’s accident which resulted in the loss of some 149 passengers and 8 crew was the latest model Boeing 737 MAX-8, the same type that was involved in the tragic Lion Air accident in August 2018. Under similar circumstances, the crew in the Lion Air accident appear to have lost control of the aircraft and were allegedly not notified of updated flight control software during the introduction of the new type to the airline.
VIPA does not wish to speculate between the apparent similarities of the two accidents and won’t comment on these matters until the Ethiopian Transport Authority, Civil Aviation Authority and Boeing have determined the cause of the accident.
Virgin Australian currently has 30 Boeing 737 MAX-8 aircraft on order for delivery commencing in November this year.
Today VIPA president Captain John Lyons (ret) said:
“VIPA continues to have the utmost confidence in the Boeing 737 and the rigorous training that Virgin Australia provides its pilots. We look forward to its introduction at Virgin Australia as it brings outstanding commercial advantages to the airline and enhanced customer appeal. Boeing has delivered more than 10,000 737 aircraft since it first flew in 1967, accumulating nearly 300 million flight hours with the lowest fatality rate of passenger airliners. Without exception, this makes the 737 the safest and most popular commercial jet ever.”
The Virgin Independent Pilots Association (VIPA) represents Virgin Australia group pilots including Virgin Australia and Tigerair pilots.
Contact: VIPA President, John Lyons (m) 0405 323000
VIPA, representing pilots from the Virgin Australia Group (Virgin Australia Airlines, Tiger Airways and Virgin Australia Regional Airlines) are concerned about recent reports of a security beach with CASA’s Aviation Security Identification System.
The Australian Federal Police are currently investigating the electronic data breach of Aviation ID Australia’s website, oversight of which falls to the regulator CASA.
The breached database contains security sensitive data that is used to issue aviation personnel access ID to security sensitive areas of all of Australia’s airports. VIPA’s concern with this breach comes just days after our Flight Safety Group issued a warning to all pilots to not participate in the My Health Record, the online medical records database, which launches nationwide this month.
Today VIPA president Captain John Lyons (ret) said:
“In the age of ‘big data’, VIPA is concerned by the rise in hacking events systematically targeting corporations and government databases. The cyber attack of the Census in 2016, the 2017 hack of an Australian Defence Force contractor and recent ASIC breaches, illustrate the exponential threats created by allowing increasingly more personal data available to government bodies and their industry partners.”
The Federal Government will soon start collecting personal medical records Australia wide. VIPA has made inquiries to the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner regarding the privacy of medical records for pilots and is seeking further expert advice regarding CASA’s handling of personal medical records held with non aviation medical practitioners.
Contact: John Lyons, VIPA President m: 0405 323 000
The Virgin Independent Pilots Association (VIPA) represents pilots from the Virgin Australia Group, including Virgin Australia Airlines, Tiger Airways and Virgin Australia Regional Airlines.
The VIPA Flight Safety Group acknowledges and supports AirServices Australia’s use of GNSS based aircraft routing for the newly implemented Standard Instrument Departures and Standard Terminal Arrivals into Hobart (SIDS/STARS). Using the latest surveillance technology for air traffic control and aircraft navigation is consistent with the safety mandate of Australia’s aeronautical agencies, including CASA, AirServices Australia and Virgin Australia.
We also recognise that the safest flight path for an airliner is not always strictly limited to a predetermined route, often due to weather avoidance or for traffic separation purposes. Therefore, we continue to advocate that using the latest surveillance and navigation capabilities to its greatest safety potential, arrival and departure routing into Hobart must be accompanied by modern separation procedures by Air Traffic Control. To this end we do not support the current practice of limiting ATC separation services to pre-WWII “procedural separation”.
Tasmania has the latest Multilateration and ADSB supported radar capabilities. We call upon AirServices Australia and CASA to adopt other leading aviation countries’ policy of giving full radar separation services to low level on the new arrival routes into Hobart.
This initiative would also go a long way to resolve some complaints highlighted in the Airservices review. Specifically, increased flexibility for Air Traffic Controllers and the ability to provide more direct routing away from noise sensitive neighbourhoods in periods of favourable weather.
VIPA President, retired Captain John Lyons said today that: “VIPA welcomes AirServices Australia’s trial project to reclassify airspace above Hobart and Launceston to Class E and supports their Airspace Change Proposal to add Class E airspace to lower levels along the eastern seaboard.”
The VIPA Flight Safety Group see this initiative as recognition by AirSevices Australia that low level airspace near airports is high risk and requires higher levels of surveillance and control. We encourage AirServices and CASA to adopt the world’s best safety and efficiency practice by providing radar separation to low level on Hobart arrival and departure routes. This will enhance safety and facilitate Air Traffic Controllers’ ability to provide noise relief to the local community as often as possible.
VIPA Flight Safety Group
Contact: VIPA President John Lyons 0405 323 000
Tigerair pilots set to commence industrial action
Pilots at Tigerair have given notice that protected industrial action will commence this Friday unless a deal can be reached in negotiations being held in Melbourne on Tuesday and Wednesday.
The industrial action will include pilots not performing any duties not prescribed on their originally published roster, not accepting duty call outs on rostered days off or annual leave days, and refusal to fly aircraft with any permissible unserviceability as described in the Minimum Equipment List.
VIPA, which represents Virgin and Tigerair pilots in Australia, said today the decision to take action is not one the pilots have taken lightly.
“After more than 12 months of negotiations, we’re disappointed that the pilots have had to take industrial action to ensure they have comparable employment conditions to flying for all other major airlines in Australia,” VIPA President John Lyons said.
“But the Tigerair pilots we represent in these negotiations voted overwhelmingly to take these actions to send a clear message to the business that they are seeking significant improvements in what is being offered to them to bring their next enterprise agreement in line with basic industry standards, both in terms of pay and work-life balance. Tigerair pilots are simply looking for a fair deal.”
“What we won’t accept is substantial cuts to pilots’ conditions, including a reduced number of days off and restrictions on access to rostering lifestyle benefits in order to earn a salary that is still well below their peers in other Australian airlines.”
Contact: VIPA President John Lyons 0405 323 000
How ‘cockpit politics’ can lead to plane crashes
On Thursday, ABC News published an opinion piece by Eve Fabre, which suggests that certain Human Factors on the flight deck between the captain and first officer lead to plane crashes. A number of high profile airline crashes were put forward illustrating the significant and ongoing need for airlines to address these issues.
VIPA, representing pilots from the Virgin Australia Group (Virgin Australia Airlines, Tiger Airways and Virgin Australia Regional Airlines) acknowledges the importance of Human Factor studies and training currently being conducted by all major airlines in Australia.
Human Factors training for pilots was institutionalised by United Airlines as far back as 1981 and has been adopted all around the world at both the regulatory and operational level of the industry. Renowned pilot and Technical Director at International Safety Systems, Glen Eastlake, led Virgin Australia’s implementation of Human Factors and Non-Technical Skills training and is recognised as industry leading.
In a more globalised labour market, VIPA recognises the importance of cultural differences that affect hierarchy, assertiveness and power imbalance on the flight deck and the need for expanding research and training focal points that address these issues.
The growth of research in neuroergonomics is welcomed by VIPA, and President John Lyons says the Association looks forward to seeing advances in training associated with fatigue, stress, attention, workload, communications and cognitive biases.
VIPA Flight Safety Group
Contact: VIPA President John Lyons 0405 323 000
Pilot Shortage in Australia
VIPA, the union representing more than half the pilots in the Virgin Australia Group of airlines, strongly supports the call by their colleagues at Qantas, through their union AIPA, in the call for a government white paper on the serious and growing shortage of pilots.
VIPA President, John Lyons said yesterday that the shortage has been apparent for some time and that the government reversal of its position to grant 457 visas is not going to remedy the problem. Foreign pilots are required to be trained and tested to Australian standards which could take up to six months. Allowing a two-year 457 visa is not cost effective.
“The problem is systemic in that the traditional sources of recruitment for airlines has dried up. General aviation has been forced into decline largely because of an over regulated, punitive system enforced by CASA and the flow of experienced RAAF pilots has dwindled,” Captain Lyons said.
VIPA maintains that the implementation of costly regulatory changes such as Part 61, Part 141 and Part 142 of the Regulations, which have not contributed to better standards or safety, have really hurt the training organizations.
“Thirty years ago the general aviation industry was thriving. It employed a lot of pilots and licenced engineers which provided an experienced source of recruitment for the airlines. Stifling regulatory changes and prohibitive costs have forced many general aviation operators and flying schools out of business,” Captain Lyons said.
VIPA acknowledges that recruitment of experienced pilots has had an impact but does not believe that it is the prime cause of the pilot shortage.
Captain Lyons said young people entering the work force today are not attracted to a flying career because of the availability of alternative high-income careers which do not require an investment of over $100,000 to gain basic qualifications.
VIPA calls for a joint approach by the three main unions, VIPA, AIPA and the AFAP together with the major and regional airlines.
For further comment or information contact John Lyons, VIPA President on 0405 323 000 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Virgin Pilots say Air Services Australia job cuts will impact safety
The Virgin Independent Pilots Association (VIPA) today expressed serious concern at the news that Air Services Australia will cut up to 900 staff.
VIPA President John Lyons said that the piloting community were deeply concerned at the decision.
“Air Services plays a vital role in the safe conduct of airline and other aviation related operations.
“Nine hundred is a significant reduction in ASA’s staff and cannot fail to have an impact on air traffic control.
“VIPA joins with others in the aviation community to express serious concern that air traffic control services will be reduced, which will in turn increase the risk of incidents and accidents”
VIPA Flight Safety Committee spokesperson Matthew Bowden said that the government mandated cost recovery program that required ASA to pay a “dividend” from its operations to the Government, was incompatible with the organisations responsibilities.
“It is patently clear that the profit motive that ASA is subject to is directly in conflict with their safety responsibilities.
“Clearly, reducing staff will put more pressure on the safety objectives of ASA.”
For further comment or information contact John Lyons 0405 323 000 or email@example.com
Virgin Pilots alarmed at lifting of UAV (drone) restrictions today
The union representing Virgin Australia pilots, VIPA, has expressed serious concern at the relaxation of drone (UAV) regulations by the Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA) today.
VIPA says the risk of an aircraft hitting a drone has increased considerably.
VIPA is concerned that the lifting of licensing controls on small UAVs under 2 kgs will add to the already large number of drones – which can pose a serious threat to air safety.
President of VIPA, retired Captain John Lyons, himself a fully licensed UAV operator, says “CASA has been forced to lift the licensing restrictions on UAVs as a result of the explosion in small low-cost drones available to the public and its [CASA’s] lack of resources to monitor illegal use”.
“Small drones in unqualified hands equates to a potentially lethal weapon. They are prone to loss of control, battery and structural failure. Even a small UAV falling out of the sky over a public area can cause lethal injury and serious damage” said Captain Lyons.
VIPA’s concern is for the safety of its members and the travelling public. “A drone inadvertently or deliberately flown into the path of an airline on approach to or departing an airport could easily cause a disaster” says Capt Lyons.
Until the lifting of the restrictions by CASA this week, UAV operators were required to be licensed and regulated by CASA. UAV pilots were subject to examination and operators were required to establish procedures and carry out safety evaluations.
For further comment or information contact John Lyons 0405 323 000 or firstname.lastname@example.org
VIPA Questions Effectiveness of “Rule of Two” Policy
The Virgin Independents Pilots Association (VIPA), whilst not directly opposed to the new two crew flight procedures, has expressed concern that the Federal Government has introduced this new regulation without a more considered and timely consultation process with industry.
Whilst VIPA will always support initiatives to improve aviation safety, Executive Director Simon O’Hara said the Government should have undertaken a more exhaustive process, which importantly included the findings of the Germanwings crash.
“VIPA believes it is premature to be introducing major changes without fully consulting with VIPA and wider industry as there are many considerations which need to be taken into account. These include the effect on fatigue and stress by further restricting the movement of pilots in an already hostile working environment and the possible issues associated with having a technically untrained flight attendant monitoring the cockpit,” Mr O’Hara said today.
“In our opinion, the rule of two policy also sends out the wrong message to the public that pilots can no longer be trusted as a result of the Germanwings tragedy and they should be monitored by a second crew member on the flight deck at all times.
“Whilst it is important to allay the fears of the traveling public, a statement of impending change and a more consultative approach that included issues of employee health and wellbeing may have better served all involved.”
Mr O’Hara called on the Government to hold a roundtable with CASA, the ATSB, VIPA and other pilot unions, as part of a consultative review of flight deck safety and pilot welfare.
“Whilst we clearly represent a professional body within a highly competitive environment we would like to also promote the ongoing public discussion and awareness of mental health and the way we manage it as a society,” Mr O’Hara said.
“Mental health issues are widely accepted as commonplace and treatable in the general community, provided the correct support mechanisms are in place. The government and industry stakeholders should work together to develop these mechanisms and ensuring better pilot welfare outcomes across the industry.”
VIPA media contact: 0411 254 390
The Virgin Independent Pilots Association (VIPA) offers its deepest sympathies to the victims and families of the Germanwings Airbus 320 tragedy in the French Alps.
“On behalf of VIPA and our members, we further extend our condolences to all those affected by this tragic event,” VIPA President Captain John Lyons said today.
“VIPA has full confidence in Virgin Australia’s recruitment policies and its ongoing full-performance monitoring which our pilots undertake at least twice a year.
“We can attest to the fact that Australian pilots operate to the highest standards of world aviation practice on a daily basis.
“VIPA also offers a peer support program to assist and counsel pilots for any work or private stress-related issues they may experience.”
Captain Lyons said VIPA supported an international review of cockpit safety procedures.
“VIPA and the wider pilot community have been concerned about a pilot’s ability to access the cockpit under all circumstances,” Captain Lyons explained.
“We won’t be offering any further comment at this stage, given the matter is under investigation by authorities.”
Captain Lyons said VIPA will be in contact with its international affiliates for updates on the Germanwings Airbus 320 crash.
VIPA media contact: Richard Lenarduzzi 0411 254 390
The Virgin Independent Pilots Association (VIPA) says hundreds of highly experienced Australian pilots could see their careers destroyed if the Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA) proceeds with its “de-facto” appeal against decisions handed down by the Administrative Appeals Tribunal (AAT) in 1987 and 1989 which opened doors to airline careers for pilots who are colour vision defective (CVD).
VIPA Executive Director, Simon O’Hara, said today VIPA recognises that safety is always paramount in aviation. However, CVD pilots have passed check and line training requirements and shown the same demonstrated performance with no discernable differences. In addition in all instances where colour is used in aviation displays, colour is neither sufficient nor necessary to obtain the information a pilot needs and is in fact, redundant.
An appeal has recently been lodged in the AAT by a CVD pilot against a refusal by CASA to permit him to become a Captain in his airline based on his performance on a control tower signal gun test – a device which has no relevance in modern aviation practice.
Mr O’Hara, said CASA had used this pilot’s case to launch what amounts to a “de facto” appeal against the earlier AAT decisions which have allowed many hundreds of CVD pilots to fly with no restrictions at all levels of the aviation industry.
He explained that many pilots had additional and alternative requirements placed upon them, like for instance, needing to fly with a non CVD First Officer.
“VIPA maintains there is no record of any incident or accident in which impaired colour vision could be attributed a causal factor,” Mr O’Hara said.
“The performance of the many CVD pilots employed in the airline industry is indistinguishable from that of the pilots who have normal colour vision.
“VIPA believes there is little doubt that the current planned action by CASA and its de-facto appeal will, if CASA succeeds, impact on hundreds of competent and safe pilots across the industry, including those presently employed in all of Australia’s major airlines.
“We have a number of VIPA members whose careers would be negatively and severely curtailed should CASA prevail in the AAT and that’s why we see this case as significant for the Virgin Australia pilot group.”
Mr O’Hara said VIPA was making representations on the pilot’s behalf to Members of the Federal Parliament, including key independent, Senator Nick Xenophon and Liberal Senator David Fawcett.
“We thank these Senators for their interest in the case to date as it is of great importance to the many CVD pilots currently in airline employment as well as the wider aviation industry,” Mr O’Hara added.
* 83% vote for new enterprise agreement
* Job security clause, career progression, engagement clause, credit system and pay increases form backbone of new agreement
The pilot union for Virgin Australia (VIPA) today announced that Virgin pilots have voted overwhelmingly for a new enterprise agreement, which includes a job security clause and represents a “quantum leap” from the 2007 EA.
The new EA, which was endorsed by 83 per cent of Virgin Australia pilots (96.5 per cent participation rate) includes a job security clause, despite a similar clause being at the centre of the recent Qantas industrial dispute.
“This agreement represents a quantum leap from the previous 2007 EA,” said Simon O’Hara, VIPA’s Executive Director.
“Virgin Australia pilots now officially have a job security clause in their agreements, which will help ensure their jobs stay in Australia and cannot be cannibalised by future airline acquisitions or other outsourcing.”
“This is exactly the sort of clause Qantas Group has been refusing to offer its pilots, and we are extremely satisfied to be able to secure it.”
As well as job security, VIPA was able to secure a number of other key advancements for pilots including a more clearly defined career progression system, which replaces the old piecemeal system and will apply to the entirety of the Virgin Australia Group.
Starting from today, Virgin Australia pilots will also receive pay increases averaging 15 per cent, with some First Officers to receive up to 28 per cent over the life of the agreement. Travel standards for pilots flying as passengers have also been improved, with priority seating in the front rows to protect against fatigue risks.
“The overwhelming support for this EBA lies in stark contrast to its 2007 predecessor, which limped over the line with just over 50 per cent of the vote,” Mr O’Hara said.
“This is a giant step forward for Virgin Australia pilots, not just in terms of job security but in multiple other areas as well. Career progression, for example, was a piecemeal mess under the old agreement, but will now apply coherently to the entire Virgin Australia Group.”
“VIPA has secured a credit system for the first time, meaning pilots will be able to achieve a better work-life balance by receiving credit for simulator training, medicals and the like. Travel standards have been improved and clearly defined, while pay rises between 13 and 28 per cent will kick in for all pilots starting from today.”
“VIPA is really gratified by this agreement, both in terms of what has been achieved for pilots and in the support it has received from pilots.”
In the last four years, the Virgin Independent Pilots Association (VIPA) has grown from 150 members to 600 members, covering over 50% of Virgin Australia’s pilot workforce.
The union representing Virgin pilots has welcomed today’s announcement about the growth of Virgin Australia and the new and real opportunities it creates for competition in the domestic market.
“ Our members will be heartened to hear media reports that the job security of Virgin’s loyal workforce will not be affected, “ Mr Simon O’Hara, the Executive Director of the Virgin Independent Pilots Association (VIPA), said this morning.
“ We will need to consult with Virgin Australia to protect the 1200 proud Virgin Australia pilot group – we want to work with management to promote the interests of our people and our company.” the VIPA Executive Director said.
“VIPA members have always been eager to spread the wings of our company and to provide more competitive, quality travel alternatives for Australians and for our region,” Mr Simon O’Hara said.
“The industry is changing rapidly but the leadership of this airline has shown they have the vision to meet these challenges and to create secure and good jobs for their 7813 Australian workforce.”
Mr O’Hara also highlighted that Virgin Australia still had yet to complete the Virgin Australia Short and Medium Haul pilot negotiations with VIPA and that this would go a long way in completing John Borghetti’s transformation of the airline.
The union representing Virgin Australia pilots has called on their employer to work collaboratively with pilots to reach a better deal after pilots definitively rejected a new agreement.
“ Virgin Australia’s bank statement is back in the black in good part because of the effort of a loyal workforce,” said Simon O’Hara, Executive Director, VIPA – the organisation representing Virgin Australia Group pilots.
“ Management and employees have formed a great team which has seen the airline increasingly becoming the preferred service in both the corporate market and domestic travel services.
Virgin Australia pilots believe the company can thrive, match and beat its competition in the current environment.”
VIPA advocated a NO vote on the proposed EBA. The vote result delivered a 62 per cent rejection of the proposed EBA.
“The Company can afford to put forward a better offer to pilots, who backed the VIPA recommendation to Vote No. The no recommendation was, in part, a result of the last minute changes made by the company without discussion with pilot representatives.
The agreement did not reach pilot expectations,” Simon O’Hara said.
“The Virgin Australia pilot group has spoken loud and clear with two-thirds of Virgin Australia pilots voting down the proposed pilot agreement as inadequate.
This vote sends a very clear message to all parties involved that the pilot group wants the negotiations for a replacement pilots’ EBA to resume and for Virgin Australia to table a better offer.
We are eager to show from our side that VIPA wants to work collaboratively with Virgin Australia,” Simon O’Hara said.
For further comment: Andrew Casey 0417 054 194
VIPA has recently made a Submission to the Australian Government’s Senate Rural and Regional Affairs and Transport Legislation Committee, regarding the use of Full Body Scanners at Australian airports.
This submission examines the safety of millimetre-wave scanners, proposed to be introduced from July 2012 in Australian airports, as a mandatory process. The report also details VIPA’s concerns and recommendations in relation to the use of these scanners, and related health, religious and privacy issues are discussed.
To read the Senate Submission in full, (251kb pdf document) please click here.