ATC Union Tactics or a Air-Travel Wake-up Call?

By Robert Mark on January 21st, 2008

For those readers who may not follow everything aviation all the time, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) was taken to task a few months ago for suppressing huge amounts of safety data related to the aviation industry.

The information was gathered during thousands of individual interviews the agency conducted with pilots and air Gettytraffic controllers around the country about just how safe, or unsafe, the nation’s airways are today.

David McNew / Getty Images

NASA spokesman said the agency withheld the information because they feared scaring the flying public if the raw data got out.

NASA finally relented to media pressure and released the figures on December 31, 2007, hoping it would be lost in the slowest news of the year pile. The manner in which the agency organized the numbers made it almost impossible to decipher, so for all practical purposes, we still know very little about the safety information the agency spent millions of tax dollars gathering. We do know, however, that something was afoot, enough to concern NASA about keeping the public as far away from the information as possible.

Here They Go Again

Now similar scare-tactic charges are being leveled at the National Air Traffic Controllers Association (NATCA). They were beaten up in a Los Angeles Times article last Thursday in which the union was accused of also attempting to scare the public when they declared a staffing emergency last week at a number of busy airports around the nation. The union says too few air traffic controllers are on duty in relation to the amount of air traffic in the skies.

The Times asked Hank Krakowski, FAA air traffic organization chief operating officer for his perspective. “I have zero hesitation putting myself or my Center_Controllerfamily on any airplane at any airport in this country, and the flying public should feel the same.” Imagine if Krakowski had said anything different.

Some might think that sounding of the air traffic sirens last week was motivated only by the fact that the union is unhappy that FAA forced a labor agreement down their throats a year or so ago and that the union has been essentially powerless to do much about the situation except hope others outside the FAA aid them in their quest.

Here comes the however.

The number of close calls between airplanes both on the ground and in the air has been climbing of late at an astronomical rate. The vast majority of controllers are also working mandatory six-day work weeks because of a shortage of personnel. These veteran controllers also function as first-line On-The-Job trainers for new controllers. That means that each time a vet retires, we also lose their ability to train a replacement. Today, seasoned controllers are reacting to these labor issues by retiring since many came into the FAA after president Reagan fired their predecessors in 1981. The FAA would have you believe that everything is under control. But it’s not.

I’ve been flying for 40 years and the thought of flying into and out of O’Hare, Atlanta, Dallas, Los Angeles and New York bothers the heck out of me.

Am I scared to fly though? Pretty close. But pilots hate to ever admit they’re afraid so I might not be the best example.

Perhaps the union’s claims of an emergency are wrong. Perhaps they are overestimating the severity of the problem. Maybe they’re even making it up. But FAA is part of the same government that brought you NASA, the TSA and the CIA, groups whom almost no one trusts anymore.

So what does this mean for air travel if FAA is right? Absolutely nothing actually.

But if FAA is wrong, or is perhaps covering up the information about the system’s safety the way NASA did and we are actually immersed in an air traffic controller staffing emergency, you need to be asking yourself the same question every time you fly … “do you feel lucky today?”

From the Editor: Are you a Jetwhine subscriber? You’ll find details in the upper right-hand corner of this blog or at www.jetwhine.com. And if you know someone else who might enjoy a little aviation buzz and bold opinion, please send them the link to this story. Thanks. 

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24 Responses to “ATC Union Tactics or a Air-Travel Wake-up Call?”

  1. Mike Says:

    Where I work we have 9 trainees in various stages of training. It takes 2 years of longer to certify at my facility, until certification is accomplished and the trainee is fully rated they are not permitted to work without direct supervision which ties up a fully rated controller from working traffic.

    There are many days where the number of trainees out number the fully certified controllers, because of this we are unable to open additional radar positions when traffic dictates.

    The FAA has deluded the public into thinking that as soon as an individual is hired that they are a controller, would you allow a first year med student perform surgery? I didn’t think so.

  2. Retired ATC Says:

    Although I trust the people I worked with for 25 years, I now drive. It’s not just the Imposed Work Rules (IWR). The FAA treats it’s employees worse than you could imagine. Mistakes used to be a learning experience that was shared with the workforce. Now they’re a reason to discipline and/or fire a controller. The IWR’s came in 7 months befor I retired. It was the worst 7 months of my career. As a pilot who’s flown for many years, you have to be observant of the change in the way traffic is run. I was ORD TRACON for 19 years. With the FAA managment calling losses of seperation at 2.98 miles, instead of the required 3, everyone is covering their butts and adding room between airplanes. You can’t put 40 aircraft per hour on a runway when you can’t run minimum spacing.
    Let controllers get back to the way they used to run traffic without the knife point in their back, ready to be inserted at the slightest mistake, and delays, retirements and resignations will be reduced.

  3. buzz Says:

    I agree with some of the things Mike said. I LOVED working airplanes. My coworkers and I had pride in our work and management for the most part understood the job, supported the controller and protected us as a valuable resource. Then came the “new” FAA, the IWR’s and I could not get out fast enough. The job of ATC is difficult enough. Adding office politics and punitive tactics made it unbearable. I miss the airplanes and would like to help out but until the agency “gets the flick” I will remain on the sidelines. P.S. to Washington. The entire private sector has figured out the benefits of part-time employment. If you are confused as to how to accomplish this feel free to contact me any time. Sincerely BZ

  4. Sean Reilly Says:

    I’m not a pilot or an air traffic controller. I am a frequent business traveler with a wife and three kids to provide for – so getting there safely is definitely a priority. I have enormous respect for pilots and for air traffic controllers. I don’t, however, share equal respect for the government running anything or for unions (sorry). Those who run our government and unions don’t always have the public’s or the consumer’s best interest in mind. Could frequent flyers fly safely and less expensively if we privatized the system and nixed the unions? I’ll bet they could, but it would certainly ruffle feathers and cost many votes. Nobody wants that, right?

  5. throwusalifeline Says:

    Sean…

    What you don’t understand is that air traffic controllers by nature are a different breed. Yes, a lot of what you’re hearing nowadays might be classified as ‘union rhetoric’, but realize that if someone speaks out as a controller and the FAA decides to, they can fire the controller simply for expressing his/her opinion. The union is their ONLY legal voice.

    As to the ‘different breed’ tag….controllers care about safety first and foremost. What you’re hearing now in the press is their call for help because safety IS being compromised, and deliberately so (in their view) by the FAA. Low staffing, zero-experience trainees counted as controllers, errors ‘rebaselined’ and called something else so as to lower a matrix or data-point, 6 day weeks generating massive fatigue….This is YOUR modern FAA.

    I ASSURE you that if ATC were privatized, safety would take the backseat to profits, PR campaigns, etc. Do you think that if you’re on a United Airlines flight and the manager of facility X (your destination) was appointed by American Airlines that your flight would be ‘first come, first served’ as it is today? Not a chance….you would be vectored behind one or more American Airline flights so that they could meet their on-time ‘matrix’. “Safety? Who cares, our number are down this month…run ‘em closer!!!”

    Safety itself doesn’t generate revenue. For that reason, privatizing ATC is a mistake. Just look at the countries that have tried it. The contract companies return year after year with their hand out to the gov’t asking for more money. In the end run, contracting out is neither safer, cheaper, nor smarter. Do you demand that your fire department generate revenue? How about your police force….would you want ‘Mikes Security Squad’ guarding you while you sleep? I didn’t think so.

    Don’t delude yourself, Sean. NATCA is concerned with safety first and foremost. But that requires that you hire and retain the best qualified individuals. And THAT requires a fair wage. Don’t forget that ATC personnel are FORCED to retire at age 56. So next time you see a controllers’ salary thrown around in the press at ‘six figures’, remember that it takes 3-5 years to train one, and that their earning power is limited to age 56. A doctor or lawyer takes just about as much schooling, has a MUCH longer career, yet no one cares that they make six figures. Nor Kobe Bryant, for that matter, making 6 figures PER BASKETBALL GAME! And oh yeah, none of the above professions can kill hundreds of people with a few mispoken words. No ATC takes that responsibility lightly. If they did, they’d be paid accordingly and would use phrases like “do you want fries with that?”

    Be VERY careful what you ask for, Sean. Privatizing would lower safety, be more expensive and would only benefit the stockholders of the contract companies. Contracting may be a good idea for some portions of government, but I assure you, for ATC, it’s the LAST thing this country and the flying public needs.

    4 years, 2 months, and 9 days

  6. XX Says:

    Sean, privatization isn’t always the answer (especially when it comes to air traffic safety). The Lockheed Martin AFSS debacle is a perfect example of privatization gone bad, ask any pilot. NATCA actually does have your safety in mind, not so much the Government. They (the FAA) say “safety was never comprimised” but how can it not be when they continue to cut, cut, cut. (corners, staffing, $$$).

  7. Jetpusher Says:

    Mr. Reilly,
    Here’s the answer to your question,”Could frequent flyers fly safely and less expensively if we privatized the system and nixed the unions?”. NO and NO. In order for a private company to continue to turn a profit they have to attain fees and these fees will still come from airlines and General Aviation pilots. As for your second question, one only has to look at the ATC debacle in Canada. When the reins of the Government are taken away then the private sector makes the rules. Therefore, when a facility is short staffed they can enforce longer days, i.e., twelve hour shifts if need be. Right now we are regulated to no longer than a ten hour day and must have a 24 hour break every six days. The private sector could make you work seven days if they needed it. Now, would you feel safer knowing that some controller is watching over you and yours when he is even more overworked than the present controller? How much safer would you feel knowing that a Controller was working your airplane after being on position for four hours straight?

  8. A controller ready to retire. Says:

    It’s all fun and games until we have another major aircraft accident due to the controller shortage. I would of thought the COMAIR tragedy in Lexington would of been a wake up call. The NTSB tap danced all around the fact there was only one controller in the tower with a couple hours sleep. There’s a reason why the airlines have 2 sets of eyes and ears in the cockpit….safety! I believe, that if there was another controller in the tower, the tragedy in Lexington would of never happened.

    I’m a FAA controller (22 years). I see a lot of wild stuff happening every week that could of led to something really bad. The majority goes unreported. It’s only a matter of time. The odds are in favor of something really bad happening again.

    Pilots, remember the conclusions from Lexington, your the PIC and the controllers aren’t there to watch your 6. Your on your own! The controllers are only there to follow FAA rules. The rules may not have anything to do with your best interest.

  9. Sean Reilly Says:

    All,

    I suspected I would stir the pot when I breeched the subjects of privatization and nixing unions.

    I read your thoughtful replies and the recurring theme seems to be, “Privatization is bad/dangerous — that it’s all about profit (which is somehow evil) and that the evil profit mongers would make flying less safe in a variety of ways for a variety of reasons.” Capitalism bad.

    On the other hand, I hear nothing but complaints about the way the FAA is running things — threatening termination of any controller who expresses an opinion. Covering up errors and other scary things. No freedom of speech. Communism bad.

    The logic with the later is, “Unions are the only force in the universe that gives controllers a voice against the Stalin-like FAA.” Really, are unions going to save the day? If so, why all the complaining and admissions that things are being buried to make the statistics look good? Doesn’t appear that this system is working.

    Sounds like we’re all damned if we continue on the path we’re presently on. Isn’t the definition of insanity doing what doesn’t work — over and over again — expecting a different outcome?

    Here’s a crazy idea. Replace the ridiculous baseball steroids hearings (that are costing taxpayers millions, no doubt) with very public FAA/ATC hearings. Would be interesting to see where everybody’s priorities really lie.

    Pardon the pun… why not air it out?

  10. Robert Mark Says:

    I don’t think anyone – at least not me – has ever claimed the unions are the soultion to this problem.

    But what is a problem for air traffic controllers that doesn’t exist with pilots, is that controllers have essentially zero leverage in talking to their bosses about anything, a problem that has frustrated NATCA no end.

    I’m not sure I believe privitization is bad rather that I haven’t seen anything that would make me believe that privitizing the system would change anything.

    Certainly it would prove to be a huge distraction, but I’d like someone to tell me why users would benefit.

  11. dblz-retired ATC Says:

    It (Privatization) all boils down to the Bottom Line…it has to make a profit! Ensuring Safety is not profitable, therefore something has to be sacrificed, and it won’t be profits…so Sean…what do you suggest gets cut? Like the fire dept., you need a dept. staffed to handle one or two fires, even if that means they sit around a lot…training of course…not profitable but necessary for safety. Good luck to you as you must fly in your work…I would drive if at all possible.

  12. Sean Reilly Says:

    dblz-retired ATC,

    Are you implying that it is impossible for a system to be both profitable and safe? It can’t be both?? Really??? Consider the millions of businesses throughout the world – many of them quite dangerous – that are both profitable and safe.

    As I admitted from the beginning, I’m no expert on this difficult and sensitive subject but I suspect there are plenty of experts out there (let’s at least invite them into this discussion) who can make a strong case for running the system more economically than the government, at a reasonable profit, while maintaining passenger safety. Tall order? Perhaps. But if the current system isn’t working (as you all seem to believe), then maybe it’s time to think outside the box.

    So… Why not call all to the table – publicly? Air the laundry. Show the costs of running the system. Discuss the abuses of ATC employees by the FAA. Present evidence of the dangerous conditions that exist and/or of things that have been buried to hide the truth. Expose the inept. Step up and be accountable. At the same time, let the FAA make its case and also invite experts who support privatization do the same.

    If all were willing to do this, maybe we’d find that the present system is truly the best way to go. At the very least, this could facilitate healthier discussions between warring (FAA/ATC) factions and eventually lead to actionable solutions to make flying safer for guys like me.

    On the other hand, if public exploration/scrutiny proves the best solution is something more radical — possibly privatization even –- and this leads to actionable solutions that makes flying safer, then so be it.

    If everyone’s motives are pure, and (both) public safety and efficiencies are – truly – the goal, then step up to the microphone and state your case. Roll the dice. The reward outweighs the risk – right?

    Or… no??

  13. ATCWhiner Says:

    I think what has gotten lost here is the fact that what makes the system work are air traffic controllers and pilots. Period.

    I work at a large center and in my area alone we will be losing 5+ veteran controllers this year. Of the two dozen or so trainees that we have, do you know how many will stay on FOR SURE under the current FAA climate? Zero! Nada. Zilch. None.

    I personally know that at least five of the trainees have second jobs! Hey, does that checkout clerk also work departures? That Starbucks barista, will she clear my flight for takeoff later?

    Anyone one of them could quit at any time. As a matter of fact we had 2 good trainees quit in the last few months and guess where they went? Guess? Another town? Another state? McDonald’s? Wrong…Afghanistan! Yep…that’s right. WTF?

    The point is you cannot do it without controllers. Period. No debate. It’s the controllers and the pilots who MAKE IT WORK EVERY SINGLE DAY! Believe it!

    If you want talented people to do that job you have to pay them, and pay them well. You have to have a REAL contract with safety first and great benefits — otherwise they’ll just go to Starbucks or Afghanistan. Oh, and maybe stop treating controllers like garbage, that helps too.

    So yeah, if “scare-tactics” is what it takes to fix things, then scare the crap out of em before it’s too late.

  14. John Carr Says:

    Dear Everybody,

    Great discussion of a very important topic on a super blog. I’m thrilled to be a part of it.

    The controller’s union, NATCA, began organizing less than TWO years after the firing of the PATCO strikers. The controllers who stayed and the thousands they hired had gotten pay raises and other workplace advancements, but the fundamentals that brought about the strike were still there.

    The stresses of the occupation were still overwhelming, the equipment was third-worldian, and the autocratic, dictatorial and jurassic management structure made labor-management relations a simple question of “yes sir” or “no sir.” That doesn’t really work when two Pringle’s tubes full of people and jet fuel are aimed at each other at a closure rate of a dozen miles a minute.

    Privatization works in many industries, and there was a time when our government followed the “Yellow Pages” test: if a product or function could be found in the Yellow Pages, then we bid it out between government workers and the people listed in the Yellow Pages. Lawn mowing, building maintenance. Air traffic control is NOT listed in the Yellow Pages. Neither is “National Defense.”

    Privatization does NOT work in functions that are so intrinsic to the safety of government or citizenry that they are better performed from within the safe harbor of the federal government.

    Could we privatize the Secret Service? Certainly. Cheaper, for sure. Hire Pinkerton guards, or the Nation Of Islam guards, or the Brinks guys. Is it in the best interests of the citizenry? ABSOLUTELY NOT.

    Same logic applies to air traffic control. Could you privatize the whole thing? Certainly. But eventually…market forces and bottom line forces would incrimentally diminish the margin of safety our current system enjoys.

    The current system is like an onion. If you peel away one layer (AFSS,) do you still have an onion? You bet. If you peel away another layer (Level One Towers) do you still have an onion? Probably. But eventually you are going to peel away the layer that changes your fundamental existence from onion to random parts. And like an onion…once you dismantle the system, you cannot put it back together. Government and the industrial complex and the lobbyists (and I used to be one) will prevent it.

    We did what we did on 9-11 because we were inherently governmental. Iraqi Freedom? Those airplanes didn’t get there by boat, kids. My controllers worked them over there while you slept. Air traffic control provides a fundamental safety AND NATIONAL SECURITY function that is essential to the liberty of our citizenry. We would be foolish to think we could part it out like a ’69 Cougar and still have a smooth running muscle car.

    It shouldn’t take scare tactics to fix things, and frankly the union isn’t engaged in them. Right now, NATCA is more like Harry Truman. When someone shouted, “Give ‘em hell, Harry!” He shouted back, “I don’t give them hell. I just tell the truth and they think it’s hell.”

    Very best,

    John S. Carr
    Immediate Past President, NATCA
    Air Traffic Controller, Retired at age 48 due to imposed work rules
    Author/Journalist, The Main Bang
    http://www.themainbang.typepad.com
    CEO, Main Bang Consulting LLC

  15. Rob Mark Says:

    I’m intrigued with this direction.

    And if the system were private as Sean suggested? Would a privatized system also expect to be able to hold controllers to a no-strike clause?

    Is that what the EuroControl folks do or in Canada or Australia?

  16. Sean Reilly Says:

    Since I’m already in hot water here, I’ll boil myself a little more… Maybe the point should be that a no-strike clause should a non-issue. It most likely would be in a non-unionized setting. Have you ever heard of a stike of non-unionized personnel?

    In a free (i.e. non-unionized) market setting, this is my understanding of how it typically works… The employee says to the job candidate… “Here is the job. These are the responsibilities. These are the hours. These are the benefits. This is what is expected of you. This is how you’ll be measured. This is the pay. If you’d like the job and agree to the pay/benefits, then welcome to the company/team. If I fail to live up to my end of the bargain or you fail to live up to yours, then we sever the partnership. You go your way and I find someone else willing to fill the opening.”

    In this world, free market economics do the talking. If I’m reasonable in what I offer and in my expectations, I have a good work force that hangs around. Hopefully, my business thrives. If I’m unreasonable, then I have big problems recruiting and maintaining talent. My business suffers.

    From what I’m reading here, sounds like the FAA may be in the second position… and ATC folks are bailing in large numbers. In time, one of two things might happen… (1) The FAA will realize that there is a serious problem and they’ll have to fix the problem and change their ways or (2) ATC personnel who exit will be replaced by others with different expectations and business will continue… maybe with a happier work force the second time around.

    As a frequent flyer, I can only hope that free market economics don’t compromise my getting from point A to B safely. This is where the rubber hits the tarmac.

  17. Robert Mark Says:

    I can’t say I have heard of a direct strike in a non-unionized setting because, as you rightly point out, disgruntled folks simply get up and leave.

    But unionized or not, I do believe in standing behind a promise when you make one and in essence, that’s what the feds did years ago, give their word when they agreed to let NATCA represent controllers.

    I didn’t form the union and I honestly don’t even support everything it does at times, nor did I totally support everything ALPA did when I was a member.

    But in this case, the feds did sign a collective bargaining agreement with NATCA and everyone should demand as much from the feds as they do from their unionized workers.

    If somehow the entire union system at FAA falls apart because enough of the rank and file folks want it that way, so be it.

    But except for a loophole to the bargaining agreement that FAA used in 2006, that collective bargaining agreement should stand.

    FAA hirearchy simply ignoring their employees right now is not going to make them go away.

    I don’t care if the number of near-misses is up or down – one is too many – the odds are that as more of the experienced people leave operational issues to their less experienced comrades, because FAA refuses to talk to them, the chances rise that two of these babies will smack together.

    When that happens, no one is going to remember much about the bargaining issues. They’ll simply be pointing the finger at FAA asking how they could let this happen.

    And what do we all tell people then?

  18. Debbie Says:

    The current controllers are leaving, and their replacements are following them out the door. This is the first time EVER that new hires are quitting in droves.
    Another point that really busts me is the pay. The FAA and all the press releases always quote the highest paid facilities. The ATC 11 and 12′s. They never look at the pay scale charts and notice that the lower levels. The new hires are not just being placed in the high paid jobs, they are getting placed in lower ones. Try and feel for the trainee at an ATC-5 making less than the secretary or janitor, still working nights and weekends and responsible for lives. While they might not be working at Atlanta, Chicago or Dallas, but their aiplanes fly just as fast. And since their airport might be adjacent the larger airports and their mistakes might affect the other airspace and airplanes. But hey I am sure the $8 an hour at the academy and $35k is fair right. Oh wait, you can make more cleaning toilets in the same building.

  19. John Carr Says:

    Sean,

    You oversimplify the business aspect, in my opinion. The craft of air traffic control is just that—a craft. Part aircraft, part witchcraft, part learned craft, but a craft.

    When I got to O’Hare in the 80′s I was one of ten new trainees (from many other facilities…Denver, Dallas, Kansas City,) and I was the only one who made it. The FAA Academy at that time had a 50% attrition rate.

    Yes, training methods have improved, but desperation has gone up, too, so yes…you will replace my thirty years of aviation everywhere from the Gulf Of Oman to Chicago O’Hare with the kid just up from Oke City making eight bucks an hour. And I ONLY LEFT because I was not being treated with dignity and respect.

    As I told Marion Blakey when I was meeting with her to discuss controller pay: “When you have the heart attack you are going to have, and they rush you to the hospital, and a surgeon takes a saw and cuts your breast bone, then cracks your rib cage open to grab and massage your quivering heart…when that happens, who do you want making more money—the surgeon with your heart in his hands, or the hospital administrator upstairs, making sure the janitorial contract is signed and the light bulb order goes in on time? And while we’re on the subject…with his years of experience and dozens of successes at rescuing hearts just like yours…do you really care if he’s wearing his favorite fishing cap?”

    At that point Marion put her man on and changed the subject.

    Best wishes on the new “run it like a business|” FAA, and on your next flight. I hope your new surgeon’s reflexes are as good as mine were.

    John S. Carr
    Immediate Past President, NATCA
    Air Traffic Controller, Retired
    Author/Journalist, The Main Bang
    http://www.themainbang.typepad.com
    CEO, Main Bang Consulting LLC

  20. Sean Reilly Says:

    Rob, Debbie, John (and all),

    This is been an interesting subject/thread and I truly appreciated the opportunity to participate, even though I’ve been the lone voice in the wilderness.

    I truly don’t know enough about all dimensions of this problem to argue with (much-needed) facts from “the other side.” Sadly, aside from my devil’s advocate position, all voices here are ATC voices. The thread is more of a group therapy session than a solution-trigger. It’s a shame that representatives from the FAA and/or political types on aviation committees and/or those who can make a substantial case for privatization haven’t participated. I would have liked to read contrary views/opinions.

    Bottom line, I’m grateful for the professionalism and dedication of ATC controllers and for each and every safe flight I’ve taken. I admire your work. I’m sorry you are all so unhappy and wish you well in your future endeavors — whether they be as controllers or in other industries. My advice, if you’re so unhappy with the job and/or with the pay, then move on. You’re crazy to stay if you can do better and be happier elsewhere.

    One note of caution for those looking to move on to other industries… in the free market, pay is based on many things… not the least of which is required profitability of the company to sustain itself. In case you haven’t noticed, the economy isn’t great these days. Asking for higher salaries or pay increases when the companies you work for cannot afford it probably won’t net the results you’re looking for. The government is probably one of the only ‘businesses’ (term used loosely) that can run on empty (a growing deficit). Be careful for what you wish for… contrary to popular opinion, the grass isn’t always greener on the other side.

    Peace!

  21. throwusalifeline Says:

    Sean….

    You hit on something very important.

    “It’s a shame that representatives from the FAA and/or political types on aviation committees and/or those who can make a substantial case for privatization haven’t participated.”

    They ARE reading these blogs. THEY have “all (the) dimensions and facts” concerning their position. They don’t participate for one big reason:

    THEY KNOW THE FACTS DON’T SUPPORT THE PUBLIC FAA RHETORIC OR DISPEL NATCA’S ARGUMENTS!

    You’re smart enough, Sean, to know that you don’t have all the info. THEY have all the info and know that if they let YOU (they flying public) have all that info, they’re doomed. They can sit comfortably and not let any real facts out, and continue their “it’s only union BS” line. This is about a few select people crashing a perfectly good (or more better, GREAT) air traffic control system all for control. Safety? Nope….keep your eyes on the prize (the control). Staffing and treating your workers with respect? Nope, not ‘the prize’. Honor your commitments and promises? Again, doesn’t meet “the prize” litmus test. Tell the public the truth? HELL no, not “prize” sensible!

    We’re telling you there’s smoke. We’re telling you there’s fire. We’re telling you it’s about to get VERY hot around here. The FAA is standing there repeating over and over “all is well”.

    One side has your best interests at heart. The other couldn’t care less about anything but “the prize”.

    Who are you gonna believe? But chose carefully, because your very safety is at stake.

    Veteran controller are choosing. They’re leaving in droves. The new trainees are choosing. They’re quitting in record numbers. Those of us who cant go are choosing to sound the alarm….we are ALL running out of time.

  22. John Carr Says:

    Sean,

    I am grateful for your perspective, regardless of how many facts or “gazintas” are included. I’m also appreciative of the fact that you at least give enough of a damn to want to see and hear all sides of the issue. Believe me…I was a politician for quite some time…and if you wanted me to I could argue very passionately either way! In this particular instance, though, thirty years of personal experience leads me to report the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth, so help me God.

    I did in fact personally retire from the FAA at age 48, due ONLY to the imposition of work and pay rules on an unwilling workforce in violation of an agreement that we reach a contract that could be ratified by my membership. The FAA, and Marion Blakey specifically, lied to the American public concerning both negotiations and their potential outcome. These are facts, my good friend, and readily verifiable at http://www.faa.gov .

    Now—I’ve got a five year old daughter and four year old TRIPLETS. And I couldn’t give a rip about the economy. I left because Lexington wasn’t the first time the FAA’s stupidity has killed people, and it surely will not be the last. Try to “Google” the term “tombstone agency.” It’s a couple hundred thousand hits, and they ain’t talking pizza.

    Trust, honor, integrity, dignity and self-respect were not for sale when I was a fed, and they are not for sale now (although in true consultant-lobbyist fashion they can be rented for US $150/hr, one hour minimum, eight hour minimum on travel days, business class or better.)

    Best wishes, and stay in the fray. Assuming we don’t crash the thing, the G forces will be extreme, but the ride back to the top will be exhilarating!

    Very best,

    John S. Carr
    Immediate Past President, NATCA
    Air Traffic Controller, Retired
    Author/Journalist, The Main Bang
    http://www.themainbang.typepad.com
    CEO, Main Bang Consulting LLC

  23. Debbie Says:

    Sean I have 17 years into a retirement. I will leave as soon as I am eligible.

  24. Rob Mark Says:

    I’d like to disagree strongly with Sean.

    If you see this as a group therapy session then you’re buying into precisely what is wrong with the folks in the White House and at 800 Independence ave.

    This conversation isn’t simply about a bunch of people being unhappy at work.

    It’s about the fact that the feds are – in a word – dismissive about the issues in our nation’s aviation system, people included. Hell, this administration is dismissive to most of us about almost everything these days.

    Throwusalifeline is correct. We know the FAA reads this blog … quite a bit in fact from what the software says.

    But they don’t care. And they don’t care because they’ve been told to behave that way. Many of them agree with what they read here, many don’t. That’s OK though for them because no matter what they’re told to say or do, they all keep receiving the same nice check every two weeks.

    Bully people or push them around hard and then tell them to go back to their toys and play. And when they’re ready and interested enough, the Feds might listen.

    Till then, there is no need. C’mon folks.Even I don’t believe everyone at FAA isn’t embarased by their own employer … often.

    Sure there is a safety problem in our aviation system today. That’s not just a union perspective, that’s available to anyone who reads the data.

    Right now, not enough of the public thinks there is a problem. That might change under the right circumstances however.

    The reason the FAA stays away from any blogs like this though is simple. They’re afraid they might talk themselves into a corner.

    Even in the communications group where I had a few friends, I’ve said just that. You’re not communicating when you won’t debate.

    But please, these folks don’t have any kind of lock on the truth. Anyone at FAA can write a press release. And anyone there can answer a few questions for a reporter.

    FAA folks have been told to go out and tell the industry that the agency has it correct and that all this employee whining is just that, complaints from a bunch of disgruntled employees. But the people who work at FAA also know precisely why the agency’s listed as the worst agency of the Feds to work for. They just can’t acknowledge it.

    The proof is in the pudding though.

    If you choose to believe this is simply a labor issue – and it is one surely – that is your perspective, but that’s fairly shortsighted, I think.

    I don’t think you need to be an aviation expert to see that either. I’ve seen the same kind of indifference from Bush appointees at the FCC.

    But it’s the fact that FAA has made you and so many other people believe this IS only a labor issue is what makes people crazy.

    They can do that. They print some money put in a little extra overtime grab a few extra folks to direct a conversation.

    And too many people buy it. But who knows, come next November that might change. And when it does, those same FAA people here now may begin talking differently because they’ll have a different party script to follow.

    That’s OK. It’s how the game is played.

    But please, like that controller asked me a few eeks ago, please do what you can to prevent a disaster on the ground or in the air. You know as well as I do that you COULD do more.

    In the end though, I think it really is is too bad the FAA folks are too scared to appear on some of the blogs. We might all – yes, me too – learn something.

    The changing landscape of social media, like blogs and podcasts, are going to change that one of these days I bet.

    Nightie, night.

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