Tuesday, August 14, 2007

FAA History Lesson -- August 14

From the FAA Historical Chronology, 1926-1996...

”Aug 14, 1974: The Operations Committee of the Air Transport Association (ATA) decided that, effective Sep 1, its member airlines would withdraw from the familiarization flight (SF 160) program under which an air traffic controller could make up to eight free flights per year as a cockpit observer. Members of the Professional Air Traffic Controllers Organization reacted by conducting work slowdowns that continued until ATA reversed its decision on Oct 16. (See May 7, 1975.) ”

Huh. I can’t help but wonder how many current NATCA members know this.

The important part of the familiarization program always seems to get lost somewhere between a small minority of controllers abusing the privilege and managers (both FAA’s and ATA member’s) scared that somebody might get away with something.

The important part is that controllers (and pilots) might actually learn some little subtle piece of information that could save somebody’s life one day. Like how confusing it can be taxiing an airplane out to the runway at o’dark-thirty in a multicolored sea of lights. I watched it being done from a Tower or the ramp at least a hundred times and I was shocked at how different it looked from the cockpit the first time I saw it.

You never know when an experience like that might save a life. Or 49.

Don Brown
August 14, 2007

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