A Message from the President

IFALPA President - Captain Ron Abel

Airplanes have profoundly changed our lives, and our world has never been so connected as it is now – but behind every successful flight there is an army of people working tirelessly to ensure that all aircraft arrive on time and safely at their destination. The International Federation of Air Line Pilots’ Associations (IFALPA) was founded in 1948 for the purpose of promoting the highest level of air safety worldwide.

Since then, the Federation has worked with the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), Regulators, Aircraft Manufacturers, Airports, Air Traffic Service Providers, Airlines, and many other organizations to make global aviation safe, secure and sustainable for everyone.

The year 2018 marks the 70th anniversary of the Federation. For seven decades, IFALPA has been the global voice of pilots, and the airline pilot’s unique perspective has been profoundly influential in making the skies safe and secure. We pride ourselves on upholding our mission at every turn; 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.

This is an exciting time for all of us—an occasion not only to celebrate our legacy of innovation and achievement, but also to advance a vision that will guide the Federation’s next 70 years. As we look into the future, it is clear we must continue to find new ways to support our unique industry while building on the strengths that have made us successful for so long: remarkable volunteers dedicated to making aviation safer every day, a community of outstanding and engaged Member Associations that share a passion to make a difference in the world, and a global reach that fosters cooperation and the exchange of ideas.

We invite you to explore our accomplishments and achievements of the past seven decades and celebrate with us 70 years of safe air travel.

Kind regards,

Ron Abel

IFALPA President

The Foundation Decade

1948 – 1957

The International Federation of Air Line Pilots’ Associations (IFALPA) was founded in 1948 after the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) was formed for the purpose of regulating international civil aviation.

Throughout its history, IFALPA has contributed to the development and adoption of ICAO Standards and Recommended Practices (SARPs) to achieve the highest level of aviation safety worldwide.

 In 1952, the first technical study group was created in order to include the pilot’s perspective and expertise into discussions at ICAO regarding Airworthiness. In 1956, the Regional Vice-President structure was formed.

First IFALPA Conference, London, 1948


The first IFALPA Conference was held in London with the participation of 13 Member Associations. Today, IFALPA has nearly 100 Member Associations representing more than 100,000 professional pilots worldwide.

1948 - Dave-Behnkle, First IFALPA President


In the early days of air travel, the piloting profession lacked basic operational safety protections and pilots were often not fairly compensated for their work. Motivated by these professional roadblocks, Captain Dave Behncke founded the Air Line Pilots’ Association (ALPA), and became the first IFALPA President in 1948.

The Second Decade

1958 – 1967

ICAO’s planned reduction of oceanic separation standards, which became a major concern in the first decade, led to the Battle of the Atlantic in which IFALPA pushed for data collection that by 1966 successfully demonstrated that the proposed reductions were not safe without further major technical improvements.

The technical study group structure was expanded, and in 1959, the All Weather Operations Study Group developed a policy advocating the use of Head Up Displays. IFALPA representatives were successfully integrating the line pilot’s voice into the international aviation discussion.

The end of the second decade saw the dramatic emergence of hijacking and other forms of unlawful flight interference used as tools for political purposes. 


1952 – 1964

Captain Clarence Sayen (far left) was elected IFALPA President in 1952 and served in the role for 12 years. His term of office ended tragically in 1964, with a fatal flight accident. 

1965 - IFALPA Conference in Rio de Janeiro


IFALPA Conference in Rio de Janeiro.

The Third Decade

1968 – 1977

As civilian hijackings rose from five incidents in 1967 to over 85 in 1969, IFALPA’s campaign for effective action dominated the next 10 years. It included the authorization of a 48-hour cessation of operations worldwide, and IFALPA’s President addressing the United Nations. By 1977 the number was down to about 30 a year.

IFALPA pushed hard for improvements in areas such as Fire and Rescue requirements, and made major contributions to achieving better protection when carrying Dangerous Goods.

In much of the world, jet aircraft operated in less developed environments that lagged behind ICAO standards. In Africa, this necessitated “do-it-yourself” air traffic control techniques, formalized by IFALPA in the Blind Broadcast procedures regrettably still needed today.



IFALPA President, Captain Ola Forsberg (center).



IFALPA President Captain Ola Forsberg presenting the Clarence Sayen Award to Captain Alan Laurie at the 25th IFALPA Conference in London.

The Fourth Decade

1978 – 1987

The quest for reduced costs and the rise of smaller carriers in the industry led to major new challenges for the Federation and its Member Associations. With new respect for IFALPA input, collaboration with manufacturers increased. Airbus and Boeing began sending representatives to participate in IFALPA internal activity, and inviting IFALPA input to refine their own projects, such as fly-by-wire and electronic flight instruments.

Participation in many other external discussions led to increasing line pilot involvement in human factors and aeromedical research. IFALPA’s Helicopter Study Group was formed when there were no SARPS for helicopter operations, and its efforts are evident in the international standards of today.

1978 - Conference in Frankfurt


The Executive Board at the 33rd IFALPA Conference in Frankfurt. From left: IFALPA President CaptainDerry Pearce (Hong Kong), Captain Cook (UK), Captain Vermeulen (Netherlands), Captain Taylor.

1986 - IFALPA 41st Conference


HRH Princess Michael of Kent opens the 41st IFALPA Conference in London.

The Fifth Decade

1988 – 1997

Crew Resource Management principles and training began to fundamentally change the way that airline flight decks were managed. This change was accompanied by IFALPA involvement in flight monitoring efforts using onboard flight recorders and voluntary self-disclosure in a non-punitive environment. Pilot involvement was required due to the potential for misuse of these programs and the need for pilots to understand and support properly designed and administered plans.

The advent of this approach marked a fundamental shift in the way aviation safety was addressed worldwide and has since significantly contributed to spectacular reductions in global accident rates. IFALPA supported ICAO’s use of sanctions against poorly compliant airlines.  


IFALPA’s 50th Conference in Bali, Indonesia.


A gift from IFALPA to ICAO on the occasion of their Headquarters’ move to a new premises in Montreal, the mural Aerial Symphony by local artist Michel Guilbeault.

The Sixth Decade

1998 – 2007

During this decade, IFALPA’s Member Associations were facing an explosion of airlines based on new economic models, resulting in massive disruption of traditional pilot career paths and expectations.

Flight-Time/Duty-Time and fuel carriage and reporting were hotly debated issues, culminating in a comprehensive rewrite of the international standards to which IFALPA had significant input. ICAO generally began a transition to Performance-Based standards where some latitude was allowed to operators as to the “how”.

Most significantly, the 9/11 terrorist attacks in 2001, halfway through IFALPA’s sixth decade, resulted in huge changes for the entire industry. Pilots were intimately involved in the immediate international response and subsequent security requirements, which will always be a work-in-progress.  


54th IFALPA Conference in Thailand.


IFALPA President Captain Ted Murphy and Captain Duane Woerth at the Federation’s 56th Conference in Jamaica.

The Seventh Decade

2008 – 2017

The Federation moved its headquarters from London to Montreal in 2012, to be closer to its partners in aviation regulation, ICAO and IATA, among others.

Safety Management as it had evolved over the previous decades was finally codified in a new ICAO annex. The Annex contains several provisions to ensure that a “just culture” is maintained.

The flags of convenience airlines and carriers without effective state regulation continue to put pressure on aircrews worldwide. IFALPA continues to struggle with an effective strategic response but has been successful with tactical responses to particular challenges as they are understood. IFALPA’s technical and regional work programmes today reflect many of the issues that have emerged in the last decade.


IFALPA President Captain Don Wykoff cuts the ribbon at the inauguration of the Federation’s new Headquarters in Montreal, Canada. From left: Captain Mike Jackson, Wykoff, President of Montreal International Mr. Jacques St-Laurent, ICAO Flight Ops Chief Captain Mitchell Fox.

2017 - Honorable Marc Garneau opens IFALPA 72nd Conference in Montreal


Canadian Transport Minister The Honourable Marc Garneau opens the 72nd IFALPA Conference in Montreal. 

“Passengers’ lives are intimately bound up with those of the pilots who fly them, and it is only pilots who can speak authoritatively of the airline world as it really is. For 70 years, IFALPA has provided that global voice and will continue to do so for many more.”