ATC Overtime; The Conversation Continues

By Robert Mark on February 16th, 2008

So tell me how you really feel!

Believe it or not, I didn’t buy everything that came from 800 Independence hook line and sinker, any more than I would totally believe something I hear from 1325 Massachusetts Avenue 100 percent.

I simply published paperwork that existed from FAA and the GAO and asked someone to set me straight if I missed the point. Obviously some of you think I did. And for the most part, these posts have proven to be solid learning experiences about your world for everyone of us.

That being said, I also took the time to connect with Laura Brown, the agency’s Deputy Asst. Administrator for Public Affairs to ask for some clarification about why the overtime language in the documents doesn’t seem to jive with what you readers are telling me. I also have a call in to the GAO folks to see if they can explain some of the gray areas to me in a way that will make sense to readers. I want to hear a few different sides to this.

But a few of you need to chill out a bit when I mention FAA I think. Just because I publish some prose that doesn’t seem to support everything you all believe all the time doesn’t mean I don’t empathize. If I didn’t have a sense that something was odd, this conversation about overtime would never have begun.

I’ll publish the conversation with Laura Brown by Monday and then you all can pipe in with your opinion on her thoughts about OT and continue the conversation. It should be interesting. I’m planning on adding some responses to the posts you all sent as well. That might take a little time since I have three dozen to get through.

A moment of reflection on blogging … please

Most of the time Scott or I pick the topic for a story. After the landslide of responses yesterday, I’d say you the reader have swayed us for awhile. And that’s OK. We’re not a magazine.

We’re hear for the conversation, an interaction where we all learn something. A good argument in front of the mainstream press that read Jetwhine can only be a positive for everyone.  That’s where we depend upon you.

But I must say I had to remove some unsavory language from a number of the posts before I published them.

Look, I know you are all frustrated. I honestly do. But foul language here really isn’t going to help your cause. But a good argument will.

We all want to hear the conversation because we want to be able to recognize the answers when we see them. So give us as many facts as you can. But please keep your language civil so we don’t need to give you the hook.

Oh and one final comment for late on Friday night … I think it was the fellow who told me that if I had any brains at all, I’d catch up with Doug Church at NATCA before I publish anything again.

While I think Scott and I can probably handle much of the work, I actually did connect with Doug who has provided me with some background material that will run in the Monday piece with the FAA response. And I probably will talk to him more before Monday again too.

Thanks for taking the time to send your comments. They are always welcome.

Rob Mark, editor,

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13 Responses to “ATC Overtime; The Conversation Continues”

  1. Jeff Aulbach Says:

    Thanks for putting in the effort in getting the whole story. It is sometimes difficult to convey what we want to tell you by typing it down.

  2. ac2usn Says:

    We can not refuse overtime. It works out better to be on a volunteer list because you have some input to the shift and day you are scheduled (in advance) than to be a fill the blank with Joe the controller. So we are caught coming and going. Understand the overtime is not wanted, five shifts a week is more than enough.

  3. Scott C. @ K90 Says:

    “I simply published paperwork that existed from FAA and the GAO and asked someone to set me straight if I missed the point.”

    Not quite Mr. Mark. You got an intriguing bit of tech-no-drivel from the head of an agency you have accused of ignoring the truth. So you regurgitate this material under your blog, and call us (NATCA) out, saying we have to explain ourselves. I understand, as a blogger, your claims do not have to rise to editorial standards, but its time to admit you did a stupid thing, and admonishing your readers for fowl language brought on by you own irresponsibility isnt going to get your credibility back. My brothers and sisters in this fight have been tuning in to you blog because you have shown yourself, until now anyway, as an objective onlooker who is only interested in seeing the best possible solution to this situation. I am glad to see that you have contacted Doug Church. I am confident any info you receive from him will withstand any editorial standards. Please keep digging for the TRUTH! And remember what is at stake here.

  4. dave w Says:

    When talking to the faa public affairs. If their lips are moving, it’s a lie.

  5. dave w Says:

    go to for an informative article on this topic.

  6. Burned out Says:

    A follow up:

    NATCA has been requesting of its member to request no OT for a few months now so the agency can’t use that “list” against us in the media.

    Well, it seems Bruce Johnson doesn’t much care for everyone jumping of the FAA-Titanic, and recently advised NATCA that our requesting of our members to not be on the OT list is **A JOB ACTION** and threatening to have the union decertified as a federal union.

    That’s right. A controller not wanting OT or requesting to be removed from a list being used for propaganda in the media is suddenly as heinous as a large number of controllers going on strike.

    This administration, and the people who’ve bought into it are out of control.

    Someone please help us.

  7. Debbie Says:

    The true story is IF they had hired sooner, there WOULDN’T BE A NEED FOR OVERTIME. The FAA dropped the ball big time. In 17 years I have never seen so much overtime used as in the past 2 years. Overtime isn’t something that is worked just because controllers want some extra money. I is a shortage on the schedule that has to be filled one way or another.
    Laura Brown has been quoted as saying “Fatigue is such a vague thing” and “Safety was never compromised” I am sure her respose will be of the similar spin. But the controllers are the ones working the overtime, and it isn’t voluntary no matter how they spin it.

  8. On the "No" List Says:

    First, I am on the “no” list and I have gotten called and scheduled for OT.

    This point was made in the comments on your other blog but it needs to be made again. You know there are plenty of pilots who would fly 24 hours straight if they could. Just because they would volunteer to do that doesn’t mean they should be allowed to. But not to worry, “fatigue is such a vague issue.” -FAA quote

  9. Chris Says:

    A class act response. Thank you Jetwine for keeping an objective outlook. However, The “facts” and statements you obtain from FAA spokes-persons need to be taken with a million grains of salt. Remember, Marion Blakey was a Public Relations Specialist, not an Air Traffic Control Specialist. She put in place the people she needed to accomplish her misguided mission.

  10. nonamebecauseIamafraidImightgetfired Says:

    Add me to the list of “I don’t want OT”, but was assigned it anyway.

  11. D Says:

    Mr. Mark, if you get a response from the FAA, ask them about the root of this problem, why is all this overtime being assigned anyway? I heard it was almost 100 million spent last year. You will have to verify that, not sure if it is correct.

  12. Tim Says:

    I work at a small to medium sized up/down facility and I can tell you that the FAA misrepresents the intent of the overtime list. I have on ocassion been called in for overtime that was neither wanted nor scheduled but I had to work it anyway. I can refuse (And often do!) but if they go thru the list and no one is reached they call back and ASSIGN the overtime! We have all become smarter in that we have caller ID’s on our phones. The one other thing I want to say is that a lot of us look at this issue as wanting to make sure our fellow controllers are safe. So if I get a call for overtime I am not doing it for the money, the FAA, or because I’m volunteering. I’m doing it to help a fellow controller out.

  13. Jeff martin Says:

    There are controllers that volunteer for overtime for many reasons. I was hired in 83. Six day mandatory weeks. Once the OT became voluntary, I didn’t work another shift for 15 years or so. As my retirement dat neared, I began accepting an occasional extra shift and earning compensatory time or credit hours [roughly the same as comp time]. The reason for this? So I could save my vacation time in my last year of employment and receive a cash payment for accrued leave. Many controllers are doing this as they approach retirement.

    Many controllers, just like any profession, are greedy. This isn’t a slam. Greed is what makes our economic system work. The six day weeks are not as hard for a 25 yr old to bounce back from as they are for a 50 yr old. Controllers are often the last to call for help or admit they can’t hack it. The 2-2-1 schedule, that many controllers love, is the absolute worst schedule in terms of worker fatigue. By the way, the FAA will not accept fatigue as a reason for not coming to work. If your wife goes to the emergency room at midnight and you are awake all night, the FAA expects you to report for duty at 7:00 am as scheduled.

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