Extending recognition and appreciation on World Pilots’ Day

This article has been written with insight from ICAO pilots Captain Sheri Pippin and Captain Paul Thoren


World Pilots’ Day is celebrated every year on April 26th. In 2014 the day was first commemorated by the International Federation of Air Line Pilots’ Associations (IFALPA) to recognize the many contributions of pilots who safely connect millions of passengers around the world every year.  ICAO also celebrates the crucial importance of pilots’ contributions to the sustainability of aviation and our long-standing relationship with IFALPA.

IFALPA is the global voice of pilots. An international not-for-profit organization, IFALPA represents more than 120,000 pilots in over 70 countries. The mission of the Federation is to promote the highest level of aviation safety worldwide and to be the global advocate of the piloting profession; providing representation, services, and support to both our members and the aviation industry.

IFALPA’s representative to ICAO plays an important role in implementing the Federation’s policies during the development of ICAO Standards and Recommendations Practices within the Air Navigation Commission (ANC). IFALPA is involved in several Standing Committees to develop work programme items and proposals of mature policy status.

At ICAO we show our commitment to environments that support the professional growth and well-being of pilots through various programmes and initiatives. We promote a culture of safety, address emerging challenges in the aviation industry and actively engage with pilot associations, industry stakeholders, and regulatory bodies to ensure that the voices of pilots are heard and their concerns addressed at the global level.

World Pilots’ Day provides an important opportunity for ICAO to commemorate the crucial importance of these professionals and their unions in both developing and advocating for the implementation of our safety, security, and sustainability guidance.  It is also an opportunity for us to express our gratitude for the contributions of the pilots working here at ICAO to advance these activities, and to offer them a platform to voice their views.

Captain Sheri Pippin and Captain Paul Thoren, of our Operational Safety teams and Regional Safety Cooperation teams respectively, have taken this occasion to share their thoughts on the ways pilots support aviation safety.

With over 16,000 hours of combined experience flying airliners and performing safety oversight functions at the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) for the last 18 years, and now here at ICAO, we have seen the many complicated facets of aviation and how pilots can contribute to make the skies safer.

These include, but are not limited to:

  • Communication – pilots have to give and receive communication and relay complex information, not only with each other, but with dispatchers (flight operations officers), air traffic controllers, maintenance engineers, cabin safety crew, and other ground operations personnel
  • Captain Paul Thoren, Regional Safety Oversight Organizations Coordination Officer

    Teamwork and leadership – pilots must foster teamwork among all team members to ensure safe operations, ensuring each team member is heard and empowered to provide input

  • Decision making – pilots must be able to interpret information from multiple sources such as weather, flight plans, aircraft systems, air traffic control, and other team members to determine the safest course of action
  • Knowledge – Accompanying technical skills of flying the aircraft, pilots must have knowledge of other complex items such as regulations, weather, physics, and aircraft systems
  • Adaptability, focus, and multi-tasking – when operating an aircraft and dealing with adverse weather, system malfunctions, or air traffic control routing changes, pilots must be able to absorb rapidly changing information or situations and prioritize items in order to ensure the safety of flight.
Captain Sheri Pippin, Technical Officer – Operational Safety Section

All of these skills are critical in the flight deck when operating aircraft.

Pilots can also capitalize on these skills learned in flight and translate them into being contributing members of pilot unions, industry groups, Civil Aviation Authorities, or ICAO. These skills can assist in improving safety procedures or regulations, providing critical insight from the perspective of the flight deck.

Pilots should be aware that their valuable skills can translate to places outside of the flight deck and can make a large impact on improving safety.  Pilots are critical parts of any safety or oversight team because we interact with so many other job functions and have to use and interpret varying regulations and procedures therefore we have a unique perspective regarding how “all the pieces fit together.”

We would like to encourage more pilots to lend their unique skills to helping improve safety around the world.