Monday, February 26, 2007

Ya Big Bully

Did you ever wonder what makes me so unique ? That sounds horribly egotistical doesn’t it ? Sorry. Let me rephrase. Did you ever wonder why there aren’t more controllers out there telling you the truth about the Air Traffic Control system ? Why am I the guy that wound up as the safety rep. at the busiest ATC facility in the world ? Why am I the only air traffic controller in the country with his own column (at least I think I am) ? You might not wonder, but I do.

Here’s part of the reason why. Look at what the FAA is doing to this guy.

You might be tempted to tell yourself that this is an isolated incident. It isn’t. It actually started with the FAA firing 11 controllers at the New York Tracon. They all got their jobs back but the FAA got its message across. “Screw with us and we’ll screw your life up. And your wife’s and your children’s.” You might be able to withstand a few months without pay (with the help of your friends) but while you’re “fired” you (and your family) don’t have any health insurance. Think on that for just a second and you’ll realize just how much I mean it when I tell you how brave my wife was. She always supported me when I challenged the FAA.

There are many more of these cases. Most of them will never see the light of day. Why ? Well, some of them will look bad. It isn’t necessary for the FAA to get these instances into the press to spread their message of fear and intimidation among the workforce. But it is necessary for the controllers to get their stories across if they want to win in the court that matters -- the court of public opinion. (The other courts are being dominated by Bush appointees.) And some of these stories aren’t going to play well in the press.

It’s incredibly simple. Put a guy in a pressure cooker and sooner or later he’ll explode. I know I’ve had many an outburst that I wouldn’t want made public. I keep waiting for a controller to punch a manager. It will happen (if it hasn’t already.) You might be tempted to say no one could make you angry enough to punch them and risk losing your job. You’d be wrong. And you’ve never sat behind a radar scope with a belligerent supervisor breathing down your neck. You can’t just walk away from a radar scope full of airplanes you know. You can get fired for that. See how easy it is ? (Please take a moment to reflect on what keeps a controller from walking away from a radar scope full of airplanes. It isn’t the fear of being fired.)

Speaking of stories that don’t play well in the press, I assume you’ve seen this one on the handling of an emergency into DFW.

Notice that the incident was in August. It's February. Hmmm, wonder where this story has been hiding for 6 months ? I wonder how long it will be before you hear “the rest of the story.” It shouldn’t take too long. Check back in tomorrow.

Don Brown
February 26, 2007

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