FAA’s Bobby Sturgell Needs to Check His Voicemail … Now

By Robert Mark on January 10th, 2008

bobby_sturgell

Knowing when to call for help is a critical element in learning to fly, in fact, it’s pretty darned important for survival in life as well. In an emergency, most people often don’t have the mental and sometimes the physical skills to see them through. Two or more heads really do work better than one.

The National Air Traffic Controllers Association sent out a news release and organized a telephone press briefing today to explain their declaration of a controller staffing emergency. As many of you may know, I spent 10 years of my life pushing airplanes in VFR towers and radar rooms myself in another life so being short staffed is not exactly a new topic for me. I’m not going to rewrite the news release here. I’d encourage you to go look for yourself. The statements are pretty eye opening.

What really made my jaw drop today though was the private e-mail I saw from a regional NATCA rep. It read simply, “Please help us, help us.”

Staffing levels at ATC facilities are still dropping due to retirements, faster than FAA can backfill with experienced people. FAA imposed a contract on controllers in 2006 right after John Carr left office as the union’s president. With terms imposed on them, controllers began leaving the agency rather than work under rules they had no part in adopting.

But there’s more to the story than simply the numbers of veteran controllers the agency is losing. These same veteran controllers also work a second job of sorts as on-the-job instructors for new hire air traffic controllers. The loss of experienced instructors to guide the new people is a crisis unto itself. TRACON_Controller

Mayday

While NATCA and I have not always agreed on everything, as a pilot and a former controller, today’s Mayday trumps everything, much like we saw an Alaskan bush pilot save four people on Saturday. When someone calls for help, you dive in help and ask questions later.

The dramatic increase in the number of close calls both on the ground and in the air over the past six months, as well as the November GAO report warning that safety in the nation’s skies will become even more compromised without significant change seems to be falling on deaf ears at 800 Independence Ave.  Controllers are working way too much forced overtime to make the system function.

Listening in on the conference call with NATCA’s president Patrick Forrey plenty of reporters had questions, most focusing on whether the airspace around one particular airport or another is safe. What I asked Forrey was about the leadership issue at FAA – or the lack of it – my particular hot button, not of course that safety of airspace isn’t.

Leadership Vacuum

“The staffing problem is not new,” I began with Forrey. “We’ve been talking about this since Marion Blakey was administrator. Has acting administrator Bobby Sturgell been telling you anything new about the problem since Marion left?”

“No. There has been no change in FAA’s position on staffing,” Forrey replied. “In fact, Sturgell has not been a part of any of the discussions we’ve had with the agency recently as we’ve tried to address safety and staffing problems.” Sturgell has also run into a serious Congressional confirmation roadblock in recent weeks. So at present, the nation’s aviation system is running with part-time help of sorts.

FAA has told the public it hired 1,800 or so controllers last year to help ease the crisis. The problem stems from most of those people not being certified to work alone. That’s a process that can take years. FAA is also not mentioning how many of the 1,800 have failed the training process, so essentially 1,800 is really a meaningless figure.

So is this story about a labor group that’s really pissed off at their boss? Absolutely. Would it help if FAA went back to the bargaining table? Sure. But that still wouldn’t solve the experience problem completely.

This story is also about an experienced group of people who are keeping the air traffic control system patched together with chewing gum and string. It’s gonna break somewhere soon while the Congress deals with really important issues like helping to hire a boss in the White House and funding the war in Iraq.

I have good friends at FAA (yes, believe it or not!) and some are trying to solve the controller staffing problem. For instance, hiring new controllers means FAA is doing something. But what is also clearly occurring is that senior FAA leadership is not watching the results of their efforts. Like it or not, FAA is simply not doing enough. I’d rather not see Bobbie on TV trying to talk his way out of a fatal midair or a runway incursion.

I saw a midair collision once early on in my air traffic control career. I never want to see one again.

Help these men and women out, not simply because they’re asking, but because just as we put our lives into the hands of the pilots and flight attendants when we step into the cabin of an airplane, we’re putting our own lives and those of our families in the hands of a bunch of hard-working controllers too. But these folks are tired. The controller on duty when Comair 5191 crashed on takeoff was running on about two hours of sleep.

Think about that the next time you fly. This will link you directly to your Congressional representatives. Please get on this one today. Like we’ve seen in Iowa and New Hampshire, one vote counts for plenty.

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53 Responses to “FAA’s Bobby Sturgell Needs to Check His Voicemail … Now”

  1. ken Says:

    once again we thank jetwhine for the support

  2. Vectorz Says:

    Very good fair article. Give us a REAL contract and a little respect and we will stop retiring and quitting in droves!

  3. Debbie Says:

    They hired 1,800 trainees not controllers. Med school students are not doctors and these kids are far from controllers. Some will never be controllers and others will take 3-5 years to become one… It isn’t like it was a surprise, and 25 to 1981(strike) and then subtract 3-5 years for training and that is when the hiring push should have started. They hired 14 that year!!!!Yes 14!!!!

  4. Tom Says:

    This is not about air safety at all. It is about Bush trying to break the controllers union. It is unsafe to fly !

  5. BS-SDFNOMORE Says:

    Gee, somebody gets it. I left the FAA just shy of a year ago. I loved moving airplanes but the tyrannical way the FAA was setting up shop sickened me. The concern over a dress code rather than safety was pathetic. And training my replacement to make 30-50% less than I did…. absolutely NOT. I finally figured out though what it took to be an FAA manager…. be unable to hold a job in the real world…. you want fried wid that!

  6. Robert Mark Says:

    One of the big problems we also have is that we’re all preaching to the choir. To the traditional media, this is a good news story.

    Just like the industry dug in and took charge of trying to defeat user fees, we all need to get the alphabet groups to see this for what it is … a much bigger problem.

    We all know that if two of them run together, people will be clucking like chickens saying I told you so.

    For once, we need to gather everyone in the industry to develop and them help implement a solution.

    What do you think is the first step?

  7. Daily News Buff Says:

    This article, although interesting, tells a story like one entitled: “People Die In Titanic Accident”. There is a whole bigger story that needs to get out there. The Bush Administration wants to eliminate federal employee controllers and privatize the Air Traffic Control System both from the air traffic and maintenance sides. We are enduring their initial assault but rest assured there are more attack waves coming. Like an arsonist, they are “Burning Down The House” at the expense of all who have to extinguish the fire, pay for the damage and rebuild. Major corporations have been drooling over this cash cow (National Airspace System) for a long time and they have their willing accomplice in the white house at the moment.

  8. i didnt do anything Says:

    stop the authoritarian style of management in the FAA.

    I’m an American for crying out loud

  9. Robert Mark Says:

    You are absolutely right when you say there is more to the story my friend.

    But you also need to understand there are many, many people who do not understand the complexities of this story the way you and I do.

    That’s why I took the time to write the story the way I did. We need to begin somnewhere.

    But I also do think we spend entirely too much time preaching to the choir about the staffing issue.

    We all need to venture out into Cyberspace and connect with people who don’t know anything about air traffic controllers and how they fit into the current situation.

    Why not visit a business or a travel blog and post a comment. If you don’t feel you have the best understanding of all the facts simply add in a link to John Carr’s Main Bang or to Jetwhine and let our work help tell the story.

    As we speak I’m up on the AARP message board posting something in the travel section because there are thousands of people there who can help us. But we need to tell them what’s going on.

    How about getting your own fingers busy typing just one post yet today somewhere about the issue.

    That would help … a lot.

  10. Daily News Buff Says:

    Mr. Mark,

    I believe we are beating the same drum. I was addressing my thoughts to the reader, not the author. I will be doing as you suggest. Come on everyone, grab a shovel.

  11. Terry Paddack Says:

    Once again another article about the critical air traffic shortages from the union that REPLACED the PATCO union.

    You remember that union that was filled with people who couldn’t wait to fill out applications to take the striking controller jobs. Those who were quoted as saying “I’ll do anything for $32,000 a year.”

    While I am sympathetic with the current controller workforce, why is no one asking the question as to where or not the upper levels of management is filled with those hired immediately after 1981 or, for that matter, those who never walked out.

    I believe that any discussion about the situation today without a discussion of 1981 and NATCA’s formation to represent those who took the job after 1981 is missing an important point.

  12. Wally Briggs Says:

    Thank you for your article concerning the staffing crisis involving our nation’s air traffic controllers.

    I’ve been a controller at LEX for 18 yrs. Early in 2006 we went to 2 man mids at LEX due to an incident at RDU.

    After we lost a controller due to retirement the FAA didn’t want to pay overtime to staff the mid with 2 controllers.

    Then August 27th happened and amazingly overtime money is now readily available for the LEX mid.

    I worked more OT in 2007 than I did in my entire career prior to the accident. Thanks again for supporting us.

    Wally Briggs
    ATCS LEX

  13. ZDC KY Says:

    I will be retiring this year after a 30 military/FAA air traffic control career. I have been NATCA since Day 1…I’ve heard the FAA, I believe NATCA, and you all should too. I am retiring for many reasons. It’s not about the money or even the contract. It’s about being treated like an adult and a professional.

    Management training is one of the biggest weaknesses in the FAA. They are not taught how to manage highly technical workers.

    It’s the coaches that should be replaced, not the players!

  14. Dennis Wallace Says:

    Thank you, Thank you, Thank you.

  15. Dugan Says:

    I believe NATCA.

    I recently found a button that states , “When I grow up, I want to be an air traffic controller.”

    Used to be worth something.

    Probably couldn’t get a dime for it on ebay now !

  16. Annie Says:

    I’m a non-aviation industry interested reader, and I have and continue to write and post about air traffic control and air passenger safety based on what John Carr, the folks at the FAA Follies and the NYTimes’ Matthew Wald write.

    However, one person who is actively soliciting evidence of governmental agencies intentionally subverting their missions is Dan Froomkin, who writes a blog column on the Washington Post called White House Watch. He is also one of the senior editors at Neiman Watch.

    I suggest forwarding this post and encouraging as many air traffic controllers as possible to send Dan examples and evidence about how the FAA is not meeting the basic aims of ATC and air passenger safety. I have done this a couple of times on your (ATC) behalf, and Dan has acknowledged what I sent. But I’m neither deeply informed nor an expert, and your expert opinions and observations are exactly what he is looking for.

    Thanks for writing this post, and thank you to commenters for providing compelling and sobering perspective.

  17. troller Says:

    Imagine a tower that has 63 certified controllers one year and 41 the next. This is happeneing at Orlando and it isn’t one of the crisis facilities listed. People are retiring to get away from the goons that run this agency now and have NO CLUE how to run it and treat people.

    My medium sized facility used to staff 4-2-4. 4 in the morning, 2 mid-day, and 4 at night. We are now 3-1-3. Why? Not enough staffing. A couple of times 1 person on sick leave has caused people to go over 4 hours on position. For the people that can’t imagine this, try palying a video game for 4 hours. No bathroom break, don’t look away from the TV, total attention on the game. I was one that had to do this and was totally “brain fried” when done. Call your congressman and express your concerns, its getting bad.

  18. Donald Bracewell Says:

    Thank you for your recent post concerning Air Traffic Control staffing and FAA leadership. I thank you for your logical approach to our situation.

    Our professions (Pilots and Controllers) are rewarding and challenging. When those professions are supported and appreciated from our employers……..IT WORKS WELL! When they are not…….disaster is possible.

    I can not speak for all Air Traffic Controllers, but I would like to express my appreciation to you and all pilots (commercial and private) for being a rewarding and challenging part of my job.

    I have been a controller for 19 years and I have enjoyed every key of the mic and every exchange with every pilot. We depend on each other and we need each other.

    Our professions may change some as time goes by, who knows where aviation is headed, but let’s challenge each other to face it together. United in a common goal….To keep aviation safe.

    Thanks again.

    Donald Bracewell

  19. Robert Mark Says:

    I took my own advice yesterday and went up to the AARP site and posted a piece about this topic to an audience who knew essentially nothing about it just to see what happened.

    In just a few days, three dozen folks have looked at it. I have had a couple of really intense conversations with a few people up there as well. Does it mean they will all take action. Probably not.

    As I said the other day though, we need to begin somewhere.

    I love you all dearly – figuratively of course – but we need to educate other people about this crisis.

    I read something tonight in the Washington Post related to aviation safety and went up and posted a note relating it back to our topic.

    That’s how the blogosphere works. Go get them and point them back to a place that you think speaks to the way you feel about the issues.

    And a big Jetwhine welcome to FAA Follies who joined our blogroll today.

  20. Mr. Big Says:

    Mr. Mark,

    Good info here. I think the first step is to pressure the FAA enough to bring them back to the table with NATCA. A ratified contract is probably the only thing that may stem the tide of people retiring as soon as they are eligible. Pressure on Congress=pressure on the FAA (hopefully)
    My 2 cents.

  21. R. Francis Says:

    I’ve always been bitter about the 1981 strike because the pilots (i.e.ALPA)could have assisted the controllers at that time. All they had to say was “It’s not safe”…. However, it was a “who controls the skies” deal, and they let the controllers down. Reagan jumped on it, and then it became politically o.k. to try to break strong unions…
    I would hope that other unions (especially ALPA and others) woul become very vocal about the current safety issue…..

  22. ret. from tombstone agency Says:

    Thank you, I wish it would help but I fear it is too late, I wouldn’t go back to help those B*%$%#*d’s. Anyone ever try to get a FOI regarding the 2007 EAS (employee attitude survey) that the FAA withheld because it was “compromised”?? They all LIE LIE LIE. I would never fly, I will only drive now, by the way…

  23. In Air Traffic Control, a "Deal" is Ugly - Jetwhine: Aviation Buzz and Bold Opinon Says:

    [...] Aviation buzz and bold opinion « Previous Post [...]

  24. Ben Says:

    During the PATCO strike and mass firing there was no sympathy for the controllers and they were replaced in mass by strike breakers and others.

    How dare the controllers complain about something they created.

  25. WG Says:

    Interesting article but no sympathy for the Reagan controllers.

    The Reagan controllers hired after and during the PATCO strike have no reason to complain about anything. They crossed the picket lines, took the jobs of professional tradesmen and reaped the rewards for over two decades. They have a memory of convenience to spin what they did for self serving purposes, and yet that is not enough. What more do they want or expect that society owes them?

    Let them retire and shut up! The system will survive without them, just like it did when the same employer fired the PATCO controllers.

  26. Robert Mark Says:

    Ben and WG – Your comments really irritate the hell out of me.

    You guys learned a lesson and now the NATCA folks are learning the same one … the FAA doesn’t care any more about them than they did about you.

    But how about thinking about the thousands of folks who fly everyday. Why the sam hill should they be pawns in a labor dispute they didn’t create?

  27. Debbie Says:

    Ben and WB-your comments irritate me too. I was hired more than 10 years after the strike. I was a child during the strike and have almost no memories of the event. I can hardly be called out for crossing a picket line. I do however have to deal with the current work environment and all its crap. I can’t even be sure that I will get to retirement. Oh and I also took a pay cut!!

  28. WG Says:

    First why should we believe anything NATCA says? Is it not possible the hype being created over air safety and staffing is really a labor dispute about a contract and money? If a contract is agreed upon by the parties, does the air safety hype go away with the signing of the paperwork? Who is using the thousands of folks that fly as pawns?

    Do you really think the system is on the verge of collapse because Reagan controllers from 26 years ago are retiring? Reagan fired 12,000 PATCO strikers in mass in 81 and the system survived and everything was great…until now.

    If any lesson has been learned it is that the system will survive without these folks, no matter what. The employer is the US Government, not General Motors.

  29. Debbie Says:

    WG there is no agreed upon contract! They required new hires to go to CTI schools running up $100k in debt with a promise of great pay. Made them wait until they changed the pay scales before they started hiring them. Then paid them $8.00 an hour to start with the new payscales lower than they were in 1991! The new kids are quitting as fast as the old guys. A trainee at DFW quit to work at Denton contract tower and GOT A PAY RAISE in the process. The FAA is doomed.

  30. WG Says:

    Debbie,

    You are not a Reagan replacement controller from the PATCO strike of 81, only a casualty of what happened when the strike was broken by others for profit and personal gain.

    The foundation was laid by the Reagan controllers and history is finally catching up with them. The FAA is an agency of the US Government that also runs the contract towers, and they will survive.

    I wish you the best

  31. Bill Humphres Says:

    Going back in replys to Robert Mark’s last one,he mentioned that the public should not be held responsible for Patco and Natco’s situation. Yes, they should, as they are the only ones that have a voice with Congress, who has the power and not the b—s to do sometning about it. I am also a PATCO casualty and saw where the public believed all the corporate news media told them.The only thing ever mentioned was a request for a $10,000 pay raise which no one ever expected to get, just a bargaining tool. And now NACTA’S complaints are also suppressed by this same news media, who are held captive to this same government. So until the flying public ever hears the whole story and demand their congress(persons) start doing what they were hired for and paid for, there will be no changes.

  32. Robert Mark Says:

    Bill makes a very good point here, but I do think you might have misinterpreted what I was trying to say.

    You are absolutely right in saying the public needs to be the ones out there helping to tell the story. In fact, I noticed that everyone kind of backed off this entire post when I suggested that controllers needed to go out and start doing just that … talking to non-aviation people.

    I tried that up at the AARP site and garnered almost 150 views to my post.

    So believe me Bill … controllers do need to get out there and talk to the public.

    I was actually making reference to the risks in the ATC system for the public while NATCA and FAA battle it out.

    Good post. Thanks for taking the time.

    Rob

  33. C BOWERS Says:

    WG…

    I WOULD LOVE TO KNOW WHAT IT IS THAT MAKES YOU AN EXPERT ON THE CURRENT AIR TRAFFIC CONTROL SITUATION. I AM AN ATC (AIR TRAFFIC CONTOLLER) SO I FEEL THAT I HAVE PARTICULAR KNOWLEDGE AND INSIGHT.

    I ALWAYS FIND IT INTERESTING WHEN UNINFORMED INDIVIDUALS WANT TO CRITISIZE ATCS AND MAKE DISPARRAGING REMARKS ABOUT HOW MUCH MONEY WE MAKE AND HOW WE ARE ALWAYS WHINING FOR MORE. HOPEFULLY THIS WILL HELP YOU UNDERSTAND WHY WE ARE PAID WHAT WE ARE PAID AND FEEL WE DESERVE TO RETAIN THAT PAY AND HAVE QUALIFIED INDIVIDUALS COMING IN AS REPLACEMENTS. KEEP IN MIND IN OUR LAST CONTRACT NEGOTIATIONS NATCA DID NOT ASK FOR PAY INCREASES, ONLY TO CONTINUE ON OUR CURRENT PAY AND BENEFIT SYSTEM FOR CURRENT AND INCOMING CONTROLLERS.

    AS ATCS WE ARE EXPECTED TO BE RIGHT 100% OF THE TIME. WE MAKE QUICK JUDGEMENT DECISIONS THAT CONSTANTLY HAVE AN EFFECT ON MANY PEOPLES LIVES. WE AS ATCS ARE PAID FOR WHAT WE KNOW HOW TO DO WHEN IT HITS THE FAN. WE ARE NOT ALWAYS CONTOLLING 20 AIRPLANES AT ATIME BUT WE ARE CAPABLE OF CONTOLLING 30 OR MORE IF WE HAVE TO.

    DOES ANYBODY EVER COMPLAIN ABOUT FIREFIGHTERS MAKING 40-60K A YEAR, AND HOW OFTEN ARE THAY ACTUALLY FIGHTING FIRES? HECK THEY EVEN GET PAID TO SLEEP FOR A THIRD OF THEIR SHIFT AND HAVE 14 DAYS OFF A MONTH. DO THEY EARN IT? I THINK SO BECAUSE OF THE KNOWLEDGE AND SKILLS THEY POSSESS TO REACT WHEN NECESSARY. ARE THERE REPLCEMENTS PROPERLY TRAINED AND COMPENSATED WHEN THEY TAKE OVER FOR RETIRING INDIVIDUALS? A WHOLE LOT BETTER THAN IN ATC.

    IN ATC, THE FAA HANDBOOK, REGULATING ATC RULES, STATES THE #1 PRIORITY FOR ATCS IS THE SAFE, ORDERLY, EXPEDITIOUS HANDLING OF AIR TRAFFIC. HOWEVER, THE FAA AND THE FAA HANDBOOK, WITH A GLOSSARY OF DEFINITIONS, DO NOT DEFINE THEM. SAFE AND EXPEDITIOUS ARE PRETTY MUCH SELF EXPLANATORY. ORDERLY IS A LITTLE DIFFERENT STORY, YET IM EXPECTED TO INTERPRET IT AND BE 100% RIGHT. MY EMPLOYER WONT EVEN TAKE THE TIME TO DEFINE THE EXPECTIONS I AM TO ADHERE TO 100% OF THE TIME.

    IM EXPECTED TO SEQUENCE AIRCRAFT TO THE RUNWAY AND HAVE THE FAA HANDBOOK REQUIRED SEPARATION. IF IT’S 3 MILES AND I HAVE 2.99 BETWEEN THEM THE FAA SAYS IM NOT SAFE. IF I HAVE 3.01 THEY SAY I’M NOT EXPEDITIOUS. HOWS THAT FOR AN EXPECTATION? THERE ARE SEVERAL THOUSAND DIFFERENT KINDS OF AIRCRAFT WITH DIFFERENT CHARACTERISTICS AND APPROACH SPEEDS, WITH CONSTANTLY CHANGING WINDS AT ALTITUDE, THAT VARY IN DIRECTION AND VELOCITY EFFECTING THE AIRCRAFT PERFORMANCE DESCENDING ON FINAL APPROACH, AND ATCS ARE EXPECTED TO BE 100% ACCURATE 100% OF THE TIME.

    THE FAA SAYS THAT THERE IS NO CORRELATION TO FATIGUING CONTROLLERS AND DETERIORATION OF SAFETY. IN FACT THAY ARE SAYING THAT THE RISE IN OPERATIONAL ERRORS (LOSS OF STANDARD SEPARATION) HAS NOTHING TO DO WITH STAFFING SHORTAGES AND CONTROLLER FATIGUE. OH BY THE WAY, THE FAA HAS CHANGED THE OPERATIONAL ERROR CRITERIA. SOME SITUATIONS THAT USED TO BE OPERATIONAL ERRORS ARE NOW CALLED PROXIMITY EVENTS. INTERESTING THIS RECLASSIFICATION JUST CAME OUT A FEW MONTHS AGO, SO THE FAA CAN LIE TO CONGRESS AND THE GENERAL PUBLIC. NOW THE FAA DOESN’T HAVE TO EXPLAIN TO EVERYONE ABOUT HOW MANY OPERATIONAL ERRORS ARE ACTUALLY OCCURRING.

    HOW IS THAT FOR AN EMPLOYER AND THE ORGANIZATION TASKED WITH AVIATION SAFETY? THEY ARE CONSTANTLY CRITISIZING A FATIGUED AND AGING WORKFORCE, BUT TELLING EVERYBODY ELSE HOW WELL THE SYSTEM IS WORKING WITH NO COMPROMISE TO SAFETY.

    CURRENTLY ATCS ARE WORKING FOR AN EMPLOYER THAT EXPECTS NOTHING LESS THAN 100%, CONSTANTLY CRITISIZING THE JOB THEY ARE DOING, FORCING THEM TO WORK UNDER CONDITIONS THAT VIOLATE THEIR HUMAN RIGHTS (WE DID NOT HAVE AN OPPORTUNITY TO RATIFY A CONTRACT), WHILE CUTTING PAY AND RETIREMENT BENEFITS. ALL THIS WITHOUT THE SAME RIGHTS AS A COMMON CRIMINAL. WE HAVE SAID IT, WE HAVE DONE IT, AND IT WILL BE USED AGAINST US IN A COURT OF LAW.

    WHY, BECAUSE WE ARE DILIGENT, HARD WORKING, CARING PROFFESSIONALS WHO ARE MORE CONCERNED WITH THE SAFETY OF THE FLYING PUBLIC THAN THE ORGANIZATION THAT IS TASKED TO GUARANTEE THAT SAFETY.

    THIS PROFESSION WILL VOID ITSELF OF THESE TYPES OF INDIVIDUALS UNDER THE CURRENT WORKING CONDITIONS. SO IF YOU WANT TO KEEP ON BELIEVING THAT THE CURRENT ATC SYSTEM, HANDLING APPROXIMATELY 5 TIMES AS MANY FLIGHTS (JUST A STAB, DON’T HAVE EXACT FIGURES) AS THE PATCO CONTROLLERS WITH LESS PEOPLE, CAN SURVIVE ANOTHER MASS EXODUS, YOU ARE SORELY MISINFORMED.
    MY ADVICE TO YOU IS TO STOP CRITICIZING ATCS AND GET INFORMED. GET ACTIVE TO STOP THE DETERIORATION OF YOUR AIR TRAFFIC CONTOL SYSTEM, ISTEAD OF TEARING IT APART. IT IS YOUR RIGHT AS A FLYING PASSENGER AND A TAXPAYER, TO CONTINUE TO HAVE A SAFE, ORDERLY, EXPEDITIOUS AIR TRAFFIC CONTOL SYSTEM.

  34. Robert Mark Says:

    Well C Bowers, since you asked, I should say that I don’t consider myself an expert on the current ATC situation.

    But after having spent 40 years flying as a charter and airline pilot, as well as 25 years writing about the industry, I think I’ve been around long enough to have an opinion.

    I honestly am not sure which part of these posts you’re reacting too, because I think I’ve pretty much taken the side of ATC here, as John Carr mentioned in his column at the Main Bang – http://themainbang.typepad.com/ – last week.

    Be that as it is, you make a very important point when you state again that FAA believes there is no correlation between fatigue and a deterioration of safety.

    We have been through the same thing for years on the cockpit side. It won’t be until there is a crash that is clearly linked to fatigue and the FAA runs out of arguments that it will decide to do something.

    But now that I think of it, wasn’t the controller in LEX labeled as a contributing factor in that crash because he was tired?

    I also agree that we need to be talking about this topic somewhere in addition to Jetwhine, hence my comment about targeting a bulletin board at AARP, a place where I know there are people who travel quite a bit.

    They’ve so far been very interested in listening.

    Thanks for your note.

  35. Lisa T Says:

    Rob,

    Looks like C Bowers was addressing previous poster WG, not you, in the question of “what makes you an expert” — you’ve demonstrated that you’ve been there and do have a good understanding of the situation. WG hasn’t listed any creds, which leads one to think he/she is an observer, not an industry worker.

    Great blog, great job in generating discussion.

  36. ATC Union Tactics or a Air-Travel Wake-up Call? - Jetwhine: Aviation Buzz and Bold Opinon Says:

    [...] 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. [...]

  37. hilton Says:

    The strikebreakers took the blood money from the FAA back in 81 when the crossed the picket lines. They will have to earn it now!

  38. c bowers Says:

    Robert, I was referring to WG. I have just recently discovered this site and I think your insights are right on base with how the majority of the ATC workforce feels. Thanks for the support.

  39. Alan Bessey Says:

    I have to agree with most of the article but it is slanted toward the inability of the FAA to get a grip on the problems that are presented. Don’t you think the FAA is aware of these problems and are doing their best to solve them?

  40. Robert Mark Says:

    <<>>

    Well Alan, although I am taking your words a bit out of context, I think this is precisely the problem.

    I’d actually like to believe the FAA is aware of the problems, but I’m honestly not sure.

    A few posts ago, someone else brought up a very intersting question. If FAA is doing something to counter the effects of a controller shortage and a rising number of near misses, wouldn’t you think it would make sense for them to go out and psread the word in places like this?

    I would think so, but then I’m not an FAA communications person.

    Thanks very much for your thoughts.

  41. John J. Tormey III, Esq. Says:

    The ersatz impostor federal regulators of aviation have failed this country yet again, with their own arrogance, malice, incompetence, and ignorance.

    The bottom line on the 60,000-plus Southwest Airlines flights in 2006-2007 and the many cracks in the airplanes used in those flights, called by Rep. Oberstar as “one of the worst safety violations” he has ever seen:

    (1) the FAA let it happen, and thereby callously and malevolently put us all in harm’s way;

    (2) it happened under Bobby Sturgell’s watch as well as Marion Blakey’s watch;

    (3) the FAA looked the other way when first apprised of it happening – so that now, the only question is how high in the FAA did that cover-up go, just like we asked about the Watergate burglary and Sturgell’s namesake Frank Sturgis a few years ago; and

    (4) the FAA is now fining Southwest, to give itself, the FAA, political cover; not to mention likely to try to subsidize the now-spendthrift FAA’s extensive litigation defense-costs brought about by 13-and-counting litigations and the FAA’s mismanagement and trampling of the rights of innocent Americans.

    This is the FAILED AVIATION AGENCY. The American public must hit the “Eject” button on Bobby Sturgell, and replace him with an Administrator who is actually competent. NOW.

  42. todays staffing Says:

    [...] to the contrary, there are not enough people to watch all the airplanes flying today, even withttp://www.jetwhine.com/2008/01/faas-bobby-sturgell-needs-to-check-his-voicemail-now/Spherion Completes Todays Staffing Acquisition – HROA – Human …We will use the todays staffing [...]

  43. Flight Instructors: There’s Always More to Learn - Jetwhine: Aviation Buzz and Bold Opinion Says:

    [...] now by waving the flag, so to speak, about one of our own who was tonight recognized by my friend Bobby Sturgell, the FAA’s acting administrator, as being one of the best of the best as a flight [...]

  44. August 3, 1981 - PATCO Strike Remembered « Wittman Airport Today Says:

    [...] AirVenture 2008, acting administrator Bobby Sturgell told me the agency has other unions to deal with and has spent plenty of time dealing with NATCA [...]

  45. August 3, 1981 - PATCO Strike Remembered - Jetwhine: Aviation Buzz and Bold Opinion Says:

    [...] AirVenture 2008, acting administrator Bobby Sturgell told me the agency has other unions to deal with and has spent plenty of time dealing with NATCA [...]

  46. Flight Instructors: There’s Always More to Learn | RENT-A-PLANE Says:

    [...] now by waving the flag, so to speak, about one of our own who was tonight recognized by my friend Bobby Sturgell, the FAA’s acting administrator, as being one of the best of the best as a flight [...]

  47. August 3, 1981 - PATCO Strike Remembered | RENT-A-PLANE Says:

    [...] AirVenture 2008, acting administrator Bobby Sturgell told me the agency has other unions to deal with and has spent plenty of time dealing with NATCA [...]

  48. One Air Traffic Controller’s Perspective on Morale | RENT-A-PLANE Says:

    [...] question to Bobby Sturgell focused primarily on whether he realized the damage that bad morale was inflicting on the national [...]

  49. TSA is After General Aviation This Time - Jetwhine: Aviation Buzz and Bold Opinion Says:

    [...] call them … those federal employees who wander aimlessly between jobs every four years. The FAA’s Bobby Sturgell is a prime example – as of course is George W. Bush – although honestly no one expected to see [...]

  50. TSA is after General Aviation this Time | RENT-A-PLANE Says:

    [...] call them … those federal employees who wander aimlessly between jobs every four years. The FAA’s Bobby Sturgell is a prime example – as of course is George W. Bush – although honestly no one expected to see [...]

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  52. FAA: A Prozac-Induced Change to Business? - Jetwhine: Aviation Buzz and Bold Opinion Says:

    [...] for instance, that nothing even remotely akin to trend setting was going to happen while either Bobby or Marion were in charge and we were [...]

  53. FAA: A Prozac-Induced Change to Business? | RENT-A-PLANE Says:

    [...] for instance, that nothing even remotely akin to trend setting was going to happen while either Bobby or Marion were in charge and we were [...]

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