Friday, November 23, 2007


McDonald’s isn’t exactly the place I think of when I need an internet connection but I suppose any port in a storm will do. I swear I don’t know how businessmen get anything done while they’re on the road.

If you’ll remember a few posts ago, I told you about being in a meeting with then-Secretary of Transportation, James Burnley. It was quite an education for a young man (I was still in my twenties at the time.) I remember Secretary Burnley just laying into Congressman Molinari (He had graciously arranged the meeting) for “setting him up” to talk to a bunch of union reps under the guise of safety. Secretary Burnley tried to use that as a pretext to kick us out. I knew you could talk to a bunch of controllers like that and get away with it but I didn’t think you could do it to a Congressman.

Unfortunately for Secretary Burnley, two of us weren’t union “reps”. We were just plain old union members concerned about safety. I heard from the other one today...the other guy that was just a union member. I didn’t talk to him about making him famous in my blog so we’ll just call him “Bill.”

Bill and I have known each other for years. But not until today did I realize that he was “the other guy.” You see, back when all this happened, NATCA was very young. We were just getting started, we weren't “connected”, we didn’t have much money and -- to be honest -- we really didn’t know what we were doing. We didn’t even know each other.

We don’t have that problem today. Which brings me around to today. If the Secretary of Transportation pulled a stunt like that today, we’d make her famous.

We were trying to tell Secretary Burnley that the Expanded East Coast Plan (EECP) may or may not have been a decent “plan” but the training to implement the plan was horrible. One of the first assignments a controller is given is a map of their airspace to memorize. Controllers don’t have time to look at a map. They have to have their airspace memorized. The EECP was going to change that airspace overnight. All of it. And there wasn’t going to be any meaningful training on it. It was idiotic and it almost got two plane loads of people killed.

Which begs the question, with the current controller shortage, how will the FAA train it’s controllers on whatever they come up with as the new airspace configuration around New York ? They have to be overwhelmed just trying to train new controllers to be controllers. How will they fit in even more training ? More to the point, will that decrease in safety (no matter how small) be worth whatever gain we’re talking about here ? I can’t tell you what gains we’re talking about because I don’t see any gains. You’ve got to ask yourself a question (or two.) What has changed since the implementation of the Expanded East Coast Plan in 1987 ? What new airports have been built ? What has changed that a new plan will fix ?

Don Brown
November 23, 2007

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