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Every year, the International Federation of Air Line Pilot Associations (IFALPA) brings together pilots from across the globe to discuss the most pressing issues for aviation and our profession. This year, the event was hosted by the Panamanian Pilot Organisation UNPAC between 27-31 March, with an ECA Conference slot on Sunday 30 March.

It is always interesting to meet pilots from other regions and discuss the challenges they are confronted with and look for solutions together. It is also a great opportunity to meet with friends who spend a lot of their spare time representing their fellow pilots to the airlines and the National Aviation Authorities.

The already traditional Global Pilot Symposium, which took place before the Conference, focused on the challenges of new employment models and fair competition in aviation. Those issues – high on the agenda in Europe – also attracted the attention of other regions.  A telling example of an “exotic” employment model – set up to cut costs and undermine fair competition – is Norwegian Air International. This model is well-known in Europe and the United States but it was an eye opener for pilots from other regions. A clear word of caution was heard during the GPS: unless we act, aviation will follow the bad example of the shipping industry, where most ships operate under a flag of convenience.

And when so many professional pilots from around the world are together the disappearance of Malaysian flight 370 inevitably becomes a topic of discussion. The reasons behind the disappearance of MH370 are certainly worth investigating and discussing. But the main emotion of the pilot community was outrage – outrage with the lack of factual information and growing speculations. A golden rule – that both media and some national authorities seem to have forgotten – is not to release hastily contradictory, unconfirmed or unreliable information that could lead to wrong conclusions or fuel speculations about guilt or fault. Such speculations divert the attention from the fact finding process and damage the progress of the investigation. For the past weeks crew’s and passengers’ relatives and friends have had to bear not only a great sorrow and uncertainty but also continuous disrespectful speculations. Such speculations neither serve them, nor do they serve aviation safety.

by Nico Voorbach