Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Talking to the TV

Okay, this story doesn’t have anything to do with TVs. It doesn’t have anything to do with talking either. You know how you’re sitting at home watching the TV and you wind up talking back at the person talking on the TV -- who just made some inane comment ? That is what this is about.

The Orlando Sentinel recently ran a story on their front page. Above the fold, even. About controller staffing. Or the lack thereof. You can read it here: Orlando International Airport faces controller shortage

Just in case you’re like me and occasionally miss the obvious, let me toss out a couple of hints to you. Orlando. Airport. Tourism. Mickey Mouse.

Now that I’ve got you steered in the right direction I’ll need to set up the other part of the story. Switch gears. I’ve got a friend (no, really, I do) that lives in another part of the Sunshine State. Cliff is one of those guys that you immediately like the second you shake his hand. You know there’s something substantial and real behind that easy smile. I knew he was somebody you could count on long before he proved it (several times.)

Cliff read the article in the Orlando Sentinel and found himself talking to the TV. The fact that it was a newspaper and we were using e-mail doesn’t change how funny (in a sad sort of way) it was. I asked him if I could steal it and he graciously said yes (told you he was my friend), knowing full well that I would probably take the funny out of it. Humor is not my forte.

If you didn’t click on the link above and read the story, including the comments of the FAA spokeswoman, Kathleen Bergen, this won’t be nearly as much fun. Take the time to read the whole thing.

“FAA spokeswoman Kathleen Bergen said the slowing of air traffic March 15 -- which she called a "rare" event -- happened after "a couple" of people called in sick and a manager was unable to find anyone else to work. “

Gee, you mean after working 6 day weeks and 10 hour days there’s nobody left to call in for overtime ? Too bad there is that pesky Federal law that prevents controllers from working 7 days a week. I guess the FAA will just have to learn how to count.

”Thunderstorms further complicated matters, she said, making the air-traffic flow more difficult that day.”

Thunderstorms in Orlando ? Who’d a thunk it ? Never mind that the locals set their watches by the afternoon thunderstorms. I guess it’s hard to factor thunderstorms into the staffing equation (that claims to factor in a dozen other items.)

” Currently there are 52 certified controllers to fill the allotted 69 to 85 positions in Orlando, Bergen said.”

What ? How could they run out of controllers with staffing like that ? You mean to tell me they don’t even meet the “new and improved” staffing standard ? Why don’t they just transfer in some controllers from the facilities that are “overstaffed” ? Surely there are some controllers that want to live in a nice city like Orlando, in the Sunshine State. What’s that ? No senior controllers want to bid on the place (or any place) because they have to take a pay cut to transfer ? Who made up that stupid rule ?

It’s time for a reality check folks. Let’s go back to...say, November 28, 2005.

"Statements by FAA Administrator Marion C. Blakey and Chief Operating Officer Russ Chew"
Marion C. Blakey, Washington D.C.
November 28, 2005

Now as I am sure you are aware, over the past two months, we’ve witnessed NATCA engage in a multi-million dollar print and television advertising campaign, all designed to scare the American public into believing that America’s aviation system is unsafe and that the system isn’t staffed adequately.

Those claims patently aren’t true … and using aviation safety as a bargaining chip is wrong and irresponsible. When your proposal isn’t reasonable and you don’t have the facts on your side, scare tactics are the next best thing. Unfortunately, these claims also damage the reputation of our controller workforce … a workforce that does an outstanding job day in and day out.

You got your “contract” (that isn’t a contract) Madame Administrator, by imposing it upon your unwilling workforce. What’s your excuse now ?

NATCA continues to highlight gaps in the safety of the system (just as it always has) even though they aren’t in negotiations. And lo and behold, it turns out they were correct. I could spend another thousand words using Ms. Blakey’s own words against her. But I’ll let you -- and history -- be her judge.

Don Brown
April 3, 2007

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