Contract pilots’ group widens scope

 - May 9, 2008, 4:40 AM

Independent pilots have been joined by flight attendants and mechanics in the newly renamed Independent Contract Aviation Professionals of America association (ICAPAmerica). The organization, which grew out of an online forum for independent contract pilots, held a breakfast get-together in Orlando, Fla., on the last day of this fall’s NBAA Convention. Some 15 pilots met to discuss issues facing independent contract pilots and to plan the future course of the association.

Underlying the concerns of ICAPAmerica’s leadership is the perception that a contract pilot is one who cannot hold a permanent job. Jeff Beck, an independent Gulfstream-qualified pilot, began his address at the breakfast with a USA Today statistic indicating that three out of five Americans would like to be running their own business. “As contract pilots, that’s what we’re doing. And we’re doing it because we want to,” he said. Beck spoke about raising the training and qualifications bar so operators can be assured that association members will have the polish and professionalism they need in a temporary contractor.

Warren Birmingham administers an online forum for contract pilots, a communications platform that has been in service since 1999. He told the breakfast group that he believes there is a strong need for organization among contract pilots, flight attendants and mechanics. Through the nascent association, he hopes these independent personnel can define specific standards and qualifications so operators can be confident in taking on a temporary contractor when the need arises.

The forum is available at (the site address still uses the initials of the association’s old name, the Independent Contract Pilots Association).

Since the breakfast meeting in Orlando, Beck and Birmingham have gone separate ways. Birmingham said he continues to administer the forum and support the Web site at

Vendors were on hand to address the pilots and listen to their concerns. One of the primary obstacles to operating as an independent pilot is the high cost of recurrent training. Randy Phelps from CAE SimuFlite (sponsor of the breakfast) told the association members that his company would be making incentive offers to association members similar to those offered to large fleet operators.

Insurer LL Johns & Associates was represented by Sean Kalsen. He addressed recent underwriters’ standards calling for all pilots to have 12-month, manufacturer-approved simulator training specific to make and model. This new policy supercedes the previous standard of the 24-month, so-called “alternating aircraft” rule, under which pilots who flew two different types could undergo training in one simulator one year, and the second simulator type the following year. For independent pilots, this is an even greater burden than for those who fly for the same company all the time. Kalsen said the requirement could be waived on a case-by-case basis, and regular contract pilots were among the best qualified for such waivers.

Further addressing the insurance issue, Virgil Wolfe spoke to the need for reasonably priced workman’s compensation insurance and liability coverage for independent pilots, crewmembers and mechanics. Wolfe is a retired Gulfstream company pilot who now operates Select Personnel, a personnel-placement agency for contract pilots.

CAPAmerica has a list of standards with which it expects members to comply. They include benchmarks for training, recent experience, crew resource management, risk-management analysis and passenger relations. As an example of the latter, the association has a published protocol that discusses how passengers are to be greeted and advised of weather or other delays en route. It addresses the issue of unruly passengers, confidentiality and even what to do if a passenger performs an illegal act during a flight. Also, the protocol addresses issues of cultural differences among nations and regions of the world.