Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Class In Session



The FAA is out making the world safer for airplanes, democracy and contractors again. In a move that I can only describe as bizarre, the FAA has increased the number of colleges in its Air Traffic Collegiate Training Initiative (CTI) program. All the small colleges that have been accepted into this program are (of course) in their local newspapers trumpeting the news. Take, for example, this article from The Muncie Free Press

FAA Expands Air Traffic Education Program

”Of the 1,815 new controllers hired in fiscal year 2007 — a number exceeding the target set in the agency’s controller workforce plan — approximately 800 were graduates of CTI schools. Graduation does not guarantee acceptance to the FAA Academy in Oklahoma City, but those accepted are allowed to skip the initial, five-week basic training in air traffic control. “

See if you can follow along now. The FAA hired more trainees than their (rebaselined) plan called for, less than half of which came from a CTI school, and in trade for 2 to 4 years of your life (and money) the FAA will let you skip 5 weeks of training. Where can I sign up for that deal ? (Obscure pun alert -- “Deal” is a bad word to air traffic controllers.)

One of the new places you can sign up for the FAA’s “deal” is Middle Georgia College. I don’t know much about MGC except for the fact that it is in Cochran, GA. Cochran is a fine little Georgia town a little south of Macon. I passed through it once about 35 years ago around midnight. (Don’t ask.) There’s not much to see in Cochran around midnight. Of course, the “aviation campus” is in Eastman, GA. I’m not sure I’ve ever been to Eastman. Surely I have. I’ve been in Georgia most of my life. I lived in Macon. My grandparents lived on a farm outside of Dexter. Surely I’ve been to Eastman. If I ever was, I can’t remember it. So, I looked it up on a map. Eastman is about 15 miles south-southwest of Dexter. Pretty much, that is precisely, right smack-dab in the middle of Nowhere.

Please don’t get the idea that I’m trying to pick on Middle Georgia College or the fine folks of Eastman, GA. I’m not. And as a sign of my sincerity I’ll make them an offer. I’ll drive down there and speak to a class on the ATC subject of their choosing -- for free. (Offer limited to the non-gnat season.)

I fully support the idea of government funding to further education and to help build economic prosperity in rural communities. What I don’t support is the FAA trying to suck young kids into an ex-career under false pretenses.

The FAA took me -- right off the street -- and trained me to be an air traffic controller. They even paid me (and well) while I was going to school. I made a good living. It was a tough career, but in the end, it worked out well for me. That isn’t the career that is being offered to young people today.

The FAA cut starting salaries by 30%. They haven’t been paying for room and board out at the Academy (as they did for my generation) and some of the kids out there are living in poverty. They’ve also started hiring people “off the street.” The FAA has made candidates pay for their schooling (the CTI schools) for several years but now -- because they’re so short of controllers -- they’re taking people in as trainees that haven’t been to the CTI schools.

Just today I learned that the FAA will once again start paying per diem -- room and board -- to their students at the Academy in Oklahoma City. They aren’t doing this out of the kindness of their hearts. They’re doing it because people are turning down the FAA’s job offers left and right. You can read the story at ”The FAA Follies”. But if you’re thinking about becoming a controller, you need to read the comments section.

Per diem is nice. The job still comes with a 30% pay cut and the imposed work rules. You’ll want to think long and hard before you decide to go to college for it. The way I see it, the only reason for more CTI schools is so the FAA can privatize ATC. Privatizing the training -- getting students to pay for it -- is just the start. My career was a tough career...but it least it was a career.

Don Brown
October 31, 2007

FAA History Lesson -- October 31



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

”Oct 31, 1994: An American Eagle commuter flight crashed near Roselawn, Ind., with the loss of all 68 persons aboard. The aircraft, an Avions de Transport Regional ATR-72, had been in a holding pattern due to weather delays at Chicago. In a report issued on Jul 9, 1996, the National Transportation Safety Board cited the probable cause as a loss of control due to icing, the manufacturer’s failure to provide information on the icing hazard to the aircraft, and French aviation authorities’ failure to ensure its airworthiness under icing conditions. Deficiencies in FAA oversight were listed as contributory causes.

Following the accident, meanwhile, FAA took a variety of steps to reduce hazards to ATR aircraft and, on Dec 9, 1994, prohibited flight by models 72 or 42 into known or forecast icing conditions. On Jan 11, 1995, FAA eased this ban, subject to certain requirements, to apply only to freezing rain and freezing drizzle. The agency also required the installation of improved deicing boots on the aircraft by June 1995. Subsequent FAA actions on the broader issue of combating icing included the issuance on May 2, 1996, of 18 new airworthiness directives affecting pilots of 29 different aircraft types. (See May 28, 1992, and Dec 13, 1994.) “


Don Brown
October 31, 2007

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Headline News ?



I’m increasingly dismayed by what I see on CNN’s Headline News. Back when I was a controller, I could rarely watch the regular evening news and was grateful that Headline News Network (renamed Headline News) came along so I could catch the news whenever I had some time.

I guess those days are gone too. The channel is still on the air but nobody is home. This was just a random 30 minutes I picked out this afternoon.

Grading parents -- should schools tell parents how well they’re doing ?
Halloween Costumes Too Sexy ?
Britney Spears’ new album (more excuses for sexy costumes)
Blackwater story -- tease...
Commercials
Blackwater Immunity ? (Does every headline have a question mark now ?)
Guests walking out on interviews -- tease...
America’s Favorite Cities (Don’t ask me. A CNN infomercial I think)
Commercial
Britney Spears again -- custody battle
The President of France walks out of an interview
Report Says Texas Issues Too Many Reports
High school Cheerleader steps in front of banner and gets trampled when the football team busts through the banner
Commercial

Well, there’s 30 minutes of my life I’ll never get back. You can be assured, I don’t watch Glen Beck, Nancy Grace or Showbiz Tonight. And I won’t watch Fox News. Thank heavens for The Daily Show. How sad is that ? A comedian with a fake news program does a better job of covering the news than the news channels ? I just set my video recorder to start taping the BBC news.

Who would have ever thought you’d miss the days of Bill Tush and the Weather Dog ?

Don Brown
October 30, 2007

FAA History Lesson -- October 30



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

”Oct 30, 1955: The first commercial flights began at the new O’Hare Field, Chicago International Airport, which had been under construction since 1949. The facility was named for Lt. Commander Edward H. O’Hare, who won the Medal of Honor as a naval aviator in World War II. Subsequent years saw major improvements at the site, and the expanded Chicago-O’Hare International Airport was dedicated on Mar 23, 1963.“

Don Brown
October 30, 2007

No News Isn’t Good



I find it odd -- if not downright disturbing -- that I had to find a news story about the human side of America’s sub-prime loan mess on the BBC’s web page. Why not an American media outlet ? Read this story and see what I mean. Oh and while you’re there, you might want to spend some time reading the related stories listed on the right side of the web page. The one entitled “Credit woes ‘need private action’” got my attention.

American Nightmare

” The result is a city blighted by house repossessions - with one in six households in Cleveland have faced eviction proceedings since 2000. Due to a glut of houses on the property market, house prices have crashed. Banks can no longer sell the properties on and they are left derelict and deserted.“

Why haven’t I read something similar is the U.S. papers ? I try to keep up. I don’t have any researchers or a staff but I do have the internet. I plugged in “sub prime” into Google News this morning and didn’t find anything like the BBC story. What I did find was interesting.

Sorted by date, the story’s countries of origin were:

Canada
Canada
Spain
Canada
U.S.
U.S.
U.S.
U.S.
United Kingdom
France
United Kingdom
Hong Kong
Japan

I’m not sure how much this says about Google and how much it says about the story. I did notice that the blame remains the same throughout the world though. This is a crisis made in the good old U.S of A. I suspect our unregulated financial industry isn’t going to win us any more friends than our war of choice did.

Everyone in the system - the brokers, the lenders, the investment appraisers - took their cut and the returns were good. But, as it turns out, so were the risks.

"We found the smoking gun, and everyone's fingerprints were on it," says Mark Seifert, director of ESOP, a local poverty action group.


There’s one other story on the BBC’s web page that you might want to read.

Financial crises: Lessons from history

That’s another thing we Americans’ don’t do very well -- remember history.

Don Brown
October 30, 2007

Monday, October 29, 2007

D.E.S.



Depression Era Syndrome. You’ve probably met someone with this affliction. I’ve known several. They lived through the Great Depression and it left a permanent mark on them. They can’t throw anything away without trying to fix it first, they don’t waste anything and they never have enough money squirreled away “just in case.”

Today, October 29th, was “Black Tuesday” in 1929. After suffering a tremendous loss on “Black Thursday”, October 24, and then enjoying a slight recovery -- the bottom fell out of the stock market on Tuesday. The market didn’t regain the ground it lost for 25 years -- until 1954.

People now will talk endlessly about who was to blame for the Great Depression. For years and years in was considered that unregulated speculation caused the stock market crash which led to the Great Depression. Economist Milton Friedman rewrote the history books (for some) and blamed the government’s response to the stock market crash for causing the Great Depression.

I feel strongly about much of this period in our history and will argue endlessly with the best of them. We talk as if our arguments or economic policies or history are important. Somehow, the thing that is most important gets lost in the arguments. The People.



Florence Thompson didn’t care about which economist was right or which was wrong. She didn’t care about history. She couldn’t afford to care. She just wanted to feed her kids. She was 32 years old in this picture and she had 7 kids depending on her.

Hunger has a way of focusing the mind on what is truly important. And evidently, it will leave a mark on a person that will last a lifetime.

If you know someone with DES try to be tolerant and understanding. They know something that -- fortunately -- you and I don’t know. Let’s hope we never do.

Don Brown
October 29, 2007

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Raiding the Cookie Jar -- Again



They’ve done it again. The Bush Administration staged a fake news conference and got caught with their hand in the cookie jar. The fact that it was FEMA that got caught just makes the story bittersweet.

FEMA blasted for 'news' conference

”The news conference looked like a success in the Bush administration's effort this week to demonstrate it could respond competently to a disaster.

On Friday, however, the agency admitted that the softball questions were posed by FEMA employees, not reporters.”


The best part, though -- the very best part -- was this line:

” "It is not a practice that we would employ here at the White House," said Press Secretary Dana Perino,... “

Sure they wouldn’t. I don’t think I’m the only one that will remember Jeff Gannon.

Don Brown
October 27, 2007

Hope in Haggard



I’ve had this feeling in the last few months that the worm has finally turned -- America is sick of this right-wing, neo-conservative ideology that has taken over their government. Obviously, something changed in the last election. Democrats picked up enough seats (barely) to regain control of the Congress. But still, it didn’t seem like a genuine change of heart.

My favorite columnist, Paul Krugman, has started using the term “populist” a lot.

”Last week’s populist wave, among other things, vindicates the populist direction that Al Gore took in the closing months of the 2000 campaign. But will this wave be reflected in the actual direction of the Democratic Party?”

But Paul Krugman isn’t exactly the figure you’d come up with when thinking of the term “populist.” American isn’t populated by economists from New Jersey. So imagine my surprise (and delight) when I read this article in Time magazine.

Does Merle Haggard Speak for America?

”But Haggard's greatest complaint is a matter of pride--and pride, in his hardscrabble past and his country, has always been his favorite song. "The thing that gets under my skin most about George W. is his intention to install fear in people," he said, after walking me down a hallway lined with gold and platinum records. "This is America. We're proud. We're not afraid of a bunch of terrorists. But this government is all about terror alerts and scaring us at airports. We're changing the Constitution out of fear. We spend all our time looking up each other's dresses. Fear's the only issue the Republican Party has. Vote for them, or the terrorists will win. That's not what Reagan was about. I hate to think about our soldiers over in Iraq fighting for a country that's slipping away.“”

I’m not trying to hold Merle up as some kind of role model -- I don’t even think Merle tries to hold himself up as a role model -- but he’s about as “real” as a famous person can be in America. And he does have an uncanny ability to tap into America’s heart. If Merle is writing songs for Hillary Clinton, something has definitely changed in America. Here’s hoping that Haggard is onto something.

Don Brown
October 27, 2007

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Government Inc.



I’m going to go out on a limb and recommend a blog I’ve just discovered. It’s called Government Inc. and it’s written by Robert O’Harrow Jr. at The Washington Post.

As I said, I’ve just discovered the blog but what I’ve seen so far got my attention. I’m betting things like these snippets will interest you.

” $31.5 billion, the 2006 revenue of Lockheed Martin, the government's No. 1 number one federal contractor. It's worth noting that the figure is more than 40 countries' gross domestic product.”

“They argue that government is becoming overly dependent on contractors.”

“They want government to operate more like a business,...“


That’s all just from the “welcome” page. Browse around and see what you think.

Don Brown
October 25, 2007

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

FAA History Lesson -- October 24



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

”Oct 24, 1978: President Carter signed the Airline Deregulation Act of 1978 allowing immediate fare reductions of up to 70 percent without CAB approval, and the automatic entry of new airlines into routes not protected by other air carriers. CAB's authority over fares, routes, and mergers was to be phased out entirely before 1983, and, unless Congress acted, CAB itself would shut down by Jan 1, 1985. The prospective abolition of CAB brought to a culmination the work of Chairman Alfred E. Kahn at that agency (see Jun 10, 1977). Moreover, by Oct 1978, the major emphasis of deregulation had changed from an ideological campaign against government regulation to a key element in the President's effort to curb inflation. This was highlighted by the President's appointment of Kahn as head of his anti-inflation program, which was announced on this date.

This day also ended the week-long vigil of twenty-two airline representatives who had lined up outside CAB headquarters to submit first-come-first-serve applications for dormant airline routes under the terms of the new act. By the end of the year, CAB had awarded 248 new airline routes to these applicants. Smaller communities, from which the airlines might wish to shift their operations, were guaranteed essential air services for 10 years under the act, with a government subsidy if necessary. Along with the subsidies for smaller-city service, the act provided for the inclusion of commuter airlines in the FAA equipment loan guarantee program and in uniform methods for establishing joint fares between air carriers. It also authorized the use of larger aircraft by commuter airlines. These special provisions for commuter airlines boosted their already-booming growth rates, and led to important new FAA regulations later in 1978 (see Dec 1, 1978).

The Airline Deregulation Act also revived the aircraft loan guaranty program (see Sep 7, 1977), raising the total amount that could be guaranteed for any eligible participant from $30 million to $100 million, expanding the eligible participants to include charter air carriers, commuter air carriers, and intrastate air carriers, and extending the term of eligible loans to 15 years. Congress withdrew authority for the program in 1983, however, and FAA ceased issuing new loan guarantees after Jun 30 of that year. Over its life, the program had guaranteed 106 loans totaling $900 million. Twelve airlines had defaulted on 23 of the loans for a loss of $182 million, but FAA had been able to recover $132 million. “


As much as I admire President Carter, I think this was a major policy mistake. This summer’s record airline delays were just the latest manifestation of the cost associated with this legislation. Laid off employees, lost pensions and bankruptcies galore. I don’t think the price of a “cheap” airline ticket was worth the cost to our society.

Don Brown
October 24, 2007

All the News



If you read the papers, you’ll notice there’s an explosion of press coverage about air traffic controllers and the Federal Aviation Administration.

The big one was the Associated Press story on Monday:

Air Controller Retirements Surge

It made the front page of many papers. It even made the front page of The Wall Street Journal. Well, just barely. One sentence. Not to worry though. The Wall Street Journal hasn’t completely lost their monied minds. They “balanced” it with an editorial bashing unions.

This might be a good place for you to pause and reflect on who would be telling you that we’re running out of air traffic controllers if there wasn’t a union.

Pause over. Moving on. Tuesday’s story is NASA’s suppression of a safety study. It’s hard to know what it’s about (it’s being suppressed) but it was bad enough that NASA feared it might have a negative impact on the airline’s financial health. I guess the airlines don’t need any more bad news.

We’ll have to wait and see if anyone picks up NATCA’s press release and runs with it.

Total Number of Experienced Controllers Nationally Reaches 15-Year Low 

Who knows ? Somebody might even make the connection between that headline and this headline.

Airline Delays Worsen, Complaints Rise

Who knows ? Somebody might actually look at whole ball of wax and see the link between staffing, delays and safety.

Speaking of safety (and moving off the front pages), Don Brown’s friends are a-moldering in the bays of the control room at Atlanta Center -- still.

Congressmen speak out on FAA mold problem

You might think I’d be happy about all this press coverage on air traffic control. Not really. Air traffic control is one of those areas where the less you hear about it the better things are -- usually. And the reverse is true too. The more you hear, the worse things are.

The Looney Tunes are in charge of the FAA and now Bush wants to make Bobby’s promotion permanent. Lord help us all.

Bush, Blakey and Bobby have made the FAA the poster child for the “Business is Better” crowd. They don’t like government, they’re not the least bit interested in making it work and it shows. The damage is done and the only way to keep it from getting worse is to stop doing what they’ve been doing. Bobby won’t fix anything, he’ll just keep breaking it.

The equation is simple: Less and less experienced controllers plus more and more airplanes equals a disaster. The cost to our country has already been enormous (you do remember this summer’s delays, right ?) and it will continue to climb. The only question left is if taxpayers will have to pay with their lives.

If that happens, the Free Marketeers will be waiting in the wings with the “solution” -- their privatization plans. If there are any truth-in-advertising laws left (they won’t obey those either) they’ll have to put a sign over the smoking crater -- “Mission Accomplished.”

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

FAA History Lesson -- October 23



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

”Oct 23, 1972: Effective this date, FAA tightened the safety operating standards for large airplanes, and for turbine-powered airplanes with more than one engine, in private carriage. The new requirements included: survival and radio equipment for extended overwater operations; provisions regarding minimum altitudes; passenger briefings; a fuel reserve of 30 minutes for Visual Flight Rules operations; icing equipment; a flight engineer and a second-in-command pilot on certain airplanes; a flight attendant on an airplane with over 19 passengers on board; and an aircraft inspection program. The new rule was part of a series of actions following an accident on Oct 2, 1970 (see that date and Jan 3, 1973.)“

In case you have forgotten already, on October 2, 1970, the aircraft carrying the Wichita State University football team crashed. That was shortly followed by another crash involving the Marshall University football team in West Virginia.

It’s driving me nuts because I can’t find a book I read that involved these two crashes. It was written by someone that was a couple of steps down from the FAA Administrator. He’d been working on tightening up the regulations governing charter flights (and being ignored) when these two crashes occurred. If I remember correctly, he got canned for putting a sandwich on his expense voucher or some such nonsense. If that rings any bells with anybody (the book, not how the FAA acts when they’re caught with their pants down) drop me a note.

Don Brown
October 23, 2007

Monday, October 22, 2007

FAA History Lesson -- October 22



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

”Oct 22, 1962: President Kennedy made a national broadcast on the Cuban missile crisis and U.S. "quarantine" of Cuba. On the previous day, FAA had set up a temporary air traffic control tower at Key West about 5 hours after receiving a request for this action to assist military operations. During the crisis, the Miami air route traffic control center became a focal control point for air operations to support preparedness. The center also administered a special regulation, placed in effect on Oct 24, banning civil flights over the southern two-thirds of Florida and adjacent waters without a flight plan or functioning navigational equipment and two-way radio.“

Food for thought. If the military found itself facing such a situation today, could the FAA respond ? Could the military ? How about a contractor ?

Don Brown
October 22, 2007

Saturday, October 20, 2007

FAA History Lesson -- October 20



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

”Oct 20, 1972: The Federal Labor Relations Council certified PATCO as the sole bargaining unit for air traffic controllers. (See Feb 7, 1972, and Mar 17, 1973.)“

”Oct 20, 1980: Republican presidential candidate Ronald Reagan wrote to PATCO president Robert E. Poli, saying: "You can rest assured that if I am elected President, I will take whatever steps are necessary to provide our air traffic controllers with the most modern equipment available and to adjust staff levels and work days so that they are commensurate with achieving a maximum degree of public safety." On Oct 23, the PATCO executive board endorsed Reagan for President. At the same time, the union charged President Carter with ignoring serious safety problems that jeopardized the nation's air traffic control system. (See Aug 15, 1980, and Dec 15, 1980.)“

It’s amazing how many people don’t know that PATCO endorsed the guy that fired them.

Don Brown
October 20, 2007

At The Flick



Now Showing at The Main Bang theater:

Night of the Living Republicans

If I had John Carr’s sense of humor, I’d be dangerous. After you’ve watched the show, be sure to click on the ChipIn! button, found on the top-left side of his blog.

You’ve got to admit, for a guy that is getting sued, John manages to carry on with an extraordinary wit. He’ll probably carry on without your help but why should he have to ? Donate the cost of a movie ticket. Or popcorn. Or peanuts. The message is more important than the money. Yours and his. Come on folks. Get The Flick.

Don Brown
October 20, 2007

Friday, October 19, 2007

FAA History Lesson -- October 19



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

”Oct 19, 1981: FAA placed a General Aviation Reservation (GAR) plan in effect, because the number of private aircraft flying in the sytem increased substantially after the controllers' strike. General aviation pilots who wished to fly under air traffic control were required to make reservations under a quota based on the percentage of flights that aircraft in their category had flown prior to the PATCO strike of Aug 3, 1981 (see that date). The restriction became necessary as non-airline pilots, some of whom had refrained from using the air traffic control system at the strike's beginning, began to increase operations. After two weeks under the GAR plan, FAA announced that the number of private aircraft flying in the system had been reduced to approximately the pre-strike level, and that the plan had helped to cut delays for both airline and private flights. (See Dec 31, 1983.)“

Maybe it’s just me, but this entry seems to lead people astray right from the start. The General Aviation Reservation plan wasn’t because there were too many airplanes -- it was because there was a lack of controllers. I’d also argue with the use of “refrained.” If you go back and check the entry from August 3rd -- the day of the PATCO strike...

“...General aviation flights operated under the severest restrictions. Aircraft with a gross takeoff weight of 12,500 pounds or less were prohibited from flying under instrument flight rules; moreover, aircraft flying under visual flight rules were prohibited from entering terminal control areas. Other general aviation aircraft were served, as conditons permitted, on a first-come-first-served basis. (See Jul 2, 1981, and Sep 4, 1981.)”

A lack of controllers. Hmmm...I wonder why that sounds familiar ?

Don Brown
October 19, 2007

Thursday, October 18, 2007

More On Mold



Aviation News Network has a story on their site about the mold at Atlanta Center also. You’ll appreciate this quote from the contractor.

”Denney says the mold poses a hazard to his company's employees, too... and the FAA failed to tell the company about it when Peachtree was hired to remove duct work at the center.”

I believe this would be an appropriate time to provide a quote from the FAA’s Mission Statement.

Our Values

Safety is our passion. We're world leaders in aerospace safety.

Quality is our trademark. We serve our country, our customers, and each other.

Integrity is our character. We do the right thing, even if no one is looking.

People are our strength. We treat each other as we want to be treated.”


I received a nice letter from a reader the other day, thanking me for staying on the “high road.” As I replied, sometimes, it sure is difficult.

Don Brown
October 18, 2007

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Odds and Ends in the Future



There are a couple of odd aviation stories in the news today. You might want to check them out for a glimpse of the future.

Safety Fears on No-Pilot Airplanes by Matthew Wald at The New York Times. Mr. Wald is (as far as I know) the only full-time aviation reporter at a newspaper in the entire country. I can’t say as I’ve been able to follow his coverage closely over the years but he has been there for years.

The next story is from GovernmentExecutive.com.

Labor union blasts FAA's new navigation approach

I haven’t quite got a handle on what is really going on here. The FAA can talk about replacing radars all they want but it isn’t going to happen and everybody in air traffic control (and the military) knows it. They might use ADS-B and GPS for ATC purposes but radar will still be used for national security purposes.

I think the real story is about privatization (on the sly) but I haven’t got a real handle on it so I (obviously) can’t explain it (yet.) Something is going on. And it bothers me. I’ll figure it out sooner or later.

Don Brown
October 17, 2007

The Smell of Rot



You may have noticed from the October 15th FAA History post that my old place of employment (emphasis on old), Atlanta Center, is entering its 47th year in the same building. You might think that would explain the current mold problem but it doesn’t. The air traffic control operation was actually moved into a new control room (that was attached to the old building) about two decades ago.

When we moved out of the old control room, it was sealed off. It was full of asbestos. There’s nothing like the sight of continuous-air-monitoring pumps and a closet full of respirators (both of which the union had to fight for) to instill confidence in your highly skilled, safety-critical workforce. In that I was the safety rep for Atlanta Center, I had several opportunities to peek behind the curtain and see the filth in the nooks and crannies of the old control room. The dust on the wiring behind the radar scopes was literally an inch thick.

When we moved into the new control room, we were assured that they’d never let the new control room become dirty like the previous one. Sure.

What I find interesting about the current situation is the fact that the contractor walked off the job. As I understand it, one company came in to “abate” the asbestos (that means remove it or seal it up -- in place) and then a different contractor came in to remodel and rebuild. They’re the guys mentioned in the news (here’s the latest story) that walked off the job when the mold problem was discovered.

Asbestos is some nasty stuff. You can get a quick read on it at Wikipedia. You might be surprised how long the health problems have been known. What I find most interesting is that the construction contractors were willing to deal with the “abated” asbestos but drew the line at dealing with the mold. And it wasn’t the workers mind you -- it was the company that pulled the plug.

In that I’m married to a Yankee I know how confusing the perceptions behind this issue can be. She still thinks unions have some power in the workplace. That was the world in which she grew up. Unions never had that kind of power down here. Now, they hardly have any power at all.

It will be interesting to see how much power a U.S. Congressman has. In case you didn’t read the story at the link I supplied, the entire Georgia Congressional delegation signed a letter of concern to the FAA about the working conditions at Atlanta Center. Start your stop watch. See how long it takes the FAA to do something constructive.

I hope you’ll take a few moments to reflect on the “checks and balances” and the potential for abuse in the way this system -- your government -- is set up. The same government that would shut down any “business” that was operated in this manner continues to operate Atlanta Center (and it’s not the only facility with this problem.) You might wonder, where is OSHA in all this ? Check the newspaper article. Do you see any mention of OSHA ? I know where they are. I used to be the union’s safety rep, remember ? You wouldn’t believe the answer if I told you. I’m one of those bad union guys. Find out the truth for yourself. Ask your Congressman why OSHA is missing in action.

The contractor’s workers didn’t walk off the job. It wasn’t the workers and it wasn’t the union that shut down the job site. Come to think of it, it wasn’t OSHA either. It was the employer -- the contractor. I guess trial lawyers are still feared even if unions aren’t. And while you’re on that thought, who do you think will be left holding the bag if the FAA is successfully sued ? That’s right, you, the taxpayer will be.

In the mean time, the controllers and other employees of the FAA just have to sit there and take it. I know you’re just hoping they don’t have to sneeze or cough when they need to turn your airplane but I’m hoping you’ll look beyond that. I’m hoping you have a sense of fairness, justice and just a little compassion for your employees. Don’t expect that out of the FAA. According to my sources, they’re still counseling controllers about using too much sick leave. No, I’m not kidding. If you get sick in a “sick” building you can get a letter in your employment file that can help get you fired. I think we’ve already covered the part about going on strike.

Tell me, which part of our government is supposed to help these people -- our employees and fellow citizens ? Is the “We the People” part of our government broken too ? We won’t let them go on strike. We won’t let them stage a job action to call attention to their plight. We won’t even let them call in sick without threatening to fire them. What will we do besides letting them sit there and rot ?

Contact information:

The President of the United States of America

The United States Senate

The United States House of Representatives


Don Brown
October 17, 2007

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Sympathy for the Devil



It is occasionally useful to put yourself in the shoes of someone else and try to walk a mile. Let’s try these shoes on for size.

Imagine you’re 25 years old and you decided to become an air traffic controller. The PATCO strike in 1981 occurred before you were born. What do you suppose you learned about the strike while growing up ? Anything ? Would it even be mentioned in the history books in high school or college ? If you went to one of the Collegiate Training initiative (CTI) schools I suppose it might. Otherwise, I doubt it. I wonder what the typical 25 year old thought of PATCO before they became a controller ? Before they themselves had to learn to walk in someone else’s shoes.

Imagine being a teenager growing up during the “Republican Revolution” with Newt Gingrich laying all the country’s problems at the feet of the Democrats. A job made all too easy with Bill Clinton hamstrung by his own personal weaknesses. As soon as that nightmare is over, here comes George W. Bush, riding into Washington with his white hat on. There’s a new sheriff in town and he’s going to bring back all the “values” that we American’s admire. Truth, justice and The American (Ronald-Reagan-is-a-saint) Way.

What must that 25 year old controller be thinking now ? Loaded down with a mountain of debt from the CTI school, working next to others that didn’t even have to go to school, making a lot less than promised, possibly working a second (or third) job to make ends meet and working under the compassionate conservatism known as Imposed Work Rules.

What must they be thinking ?

My bet is that -- right about now -- they’re thinking that somebody lied to them. Somebody lied about how much they’d be earning. Somebody lied to them about what the job requirements were -- you have to go to a CTI school (but you don’t.) And that “somebody” wasn’t PATCO.

As a matter of fact, I’d bet more than a few of them are looking anew at the history of PATCO and what can be learned from it. The first thing that they’ll find is that PATCO wasn’t the devil that Saint Ronald made them out to be. The next thing that they’ll learn is that PATCO’s plight started out much like their own: Poor pay, excessive overtime and an oppressive and deceitful management. Sympathy for the devil will follow shortly thereafter.

There is some great quality that remains undefined in my mind about America. Some call it a yearning for freedom -- for lack of a better analysis or a better term. I once read it described as a national short-term memory. Once we’re proved wrong we, as a nation, move on and forget about it. We tend to amend our ways but we don’t beat ourselves up about it. That was back then. This is now. We’re better now. Let’s move on. A national willingness to forgive ourselves of our transgressions, if you will.

I wish to add to that line of thought. Americans refuse to be oppressors, even if we are. If you’re the oppressed, America will root for you, even if it means rooting against ourselves. But first, you must truly be oppressed. And then recognized.

PATCO-pre-Poli made tremendous gains for air traffic controllers. They didn’t happen overnight. NATCA regained any ground lost to Saint Ronald in the PATCO strike and made a few gains of their own. NATCA’s successes didn’t happen overnight either. But they were moving forward, right up until the reign of King George.

It’s hard to understand the Bush Administration’s attack on government employees outside of an ideological framework. Perhaps that is the reason so many in America still don’t understand what is happening to their government. I’m not sure that President Bush has an ideological framework so much as the people behind the throne do. They aren’t really interested in explaining their motivations (at least not in public) and President Bush really isn’t the man to explain anybody’s ideology -- much less his own.

Regardless, this too shall pass. To hasten that day and prepare for the future, I’d recommend looking at the examples of the past. If you still think it is only the victors that write history, you haven’t been paying attention. The victors might have been the only ones that could afford to write the books, once upon a time, but that is no longer the case. Magazines are even cheaper. Blogs are free.

I don’t think a college-educated crowd with the internet, email, text- messaging and YouTube will have much trouble finding new and creative techniques -- legal techniques -- to make their point. One thing I’m certain of -- they won’t suffer the role of the oppressed silently.

Don Brown
October 16, 2007

Monday, October 15, 2007

FAA History Lesson -- October 15



It’s a busy, busy day in FAA history. There should be something here for everyone.


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

”Oct 15-21, 1950: During this seven-day period, CAA put into operation the first omnirange (VOR) airways (see Calendar Year 1947). Although 271 omniranges had already been commissioned in different parts of the United States, this marked the initial designation of a chain of these ranges as a controlled airway. The new routes, approximately 4,380 miles long, linked such major terminals as Kansas City, Denver, Albuquerque, El Paso, Omaha, and Oklahoma City. (Jun 1, 1952.) During fiscal year 1951, CAA began enhancing the VOR airways with distance measuring equipment (DME) to assist in low visibility approaches. “

” Oct 15, 1962: An experiment testing FAA's capability to provide air traffic control service to interceptor aircraft of the Air Force's Air Defense Command (ADC) during military operations got underway in FAA's Central Region. The experiment was born of the need to end a situation in which two organizations--FAA, controlling civil aircraft, and ADC, controlling its interceptor aircraft--were directing aircraft movements in the same airspace at the same time. This need, which had caused concern for some time, was intensified by the implementation of the area positive control program (see Oct 15, 1960-Mar 1, 1961). In the test, ADC's pilots received air traffic control service from FAA controllers for scramble, flight en route to target, and recovery; for actual intercept, they were handed off to ADC intercept directors. The test ended successfully on Apr 6, 1963, and pending formalization of the program, FAA continued providing services as during the test period. (See Sep 9, 1963.) “

” Oct 15, 1965: FAA established a comprehensive new air traffic controller health program. The previous practice had been to examine only terminal controllers, under standards originally designed for airman certification. Under the new program, every controller and flight service specialist would receive an annual physical examination, including a chest X-ray, electrocardiogram, audiogram, measurement of intraocular tension, and psychological screening. Psychophysiological data generated by these examinations would be used to formulate administrative policies on selection, employment, and retirement. “

”Oct 9, 1960: FAA commissioned the Oakland air traffic control center's new building, followed by the Atlanta center's new building on Oct 15. “


Don Brown
October 15, 2007

Sunday, October 14, 2007

FAA History Lesson -- October 14



Another “2 for 1” today.


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

”Oct 14, 1947: Maj. Charles E. Yeager, USAF, piloting the Bell X-l rocket-propelled research aircraft at Muroc, Calif., became the first pilot to exceed the speed of sound in level flight. “

” Oct 14, 1971: FAA completed lowering the base of area positive control from 24,000 to 18,000 feet over the entire contiguous 48 States with the lowering of the base over the southeastern United States. The base had previously been lowered over the northeastern and north central United States on Nov 9, 1967; the northwestern and northern tier states on May 27, 1971; the west central states on Jul 22, 1971; and the central and southwestern states on Aug 19, 1971.

The action meant that all aircraft flying between 18,000 and 60,000 feet over the contiguous United States would receive separation services under direct FAA air traffic control. The agency had considered the measure for a number of years, since the increasing closure speeds of aircraft reduced the time available for pilots operating under Visual Flight Rules to detect potential collisions and take evasive action. (See Nov 9, 1967.) “



Don Brown
October 14, 2007

Saturday, October 13, 2007

The Nation’s Best



Remember when you were a kid and you had big dreams ? I don’t know how the rest of the world is but in America, we encourage our children to dream big. There isn’t a child in America that hasn’t heard, at some point in life, “You could even be President someday.”

Have you ever dreamed of being the best ? The best in the whole-wide world ? Imagine what it must be like. Even for just one brief, shining moment. A team from Warner-Robbins, GA (just south of where I live) won the Little League World Series this summer. It was all over the news here -- the talk of the town, if you will. Heroes. The best in the world.

Imagine being on the team that will win the real World Series soon. Or the real Super Bowl. The fame, the glory, the adulation. Not to mention the money.

Or how about Al Gore winning the Nobel Peace Prize this week ? Imagine the sense of accomplishment he must feel. The vindication. After being America’s political punching bag for so many years, he is honored for his efforts with the most prestigious award in the world.

Do you know what you get if you’re on the team of air traffic controllers that is the busiest in the world ? You get mold. Look at their reward. Click on the link below and look at the pictures.

ABC News -- Nation’s Busiest FAA Facility Plagued by Mold and Other Problems

But, hey, you’ve always got to remember it could be worse. You could be the best solider in the world, get shot and get mold.

What’s it going to take America ? Just how bad is your government going to get before you get mad enough to do something about it ? Is this the nation’s best ?

Don Brown
October 13, 2007

Friday, October 12, 2007

Of Mouth and Money



I’ve never been one to try and separate people from their money but I’m going to give it whirl. Not for myself -- yet -- but for someone I believe deserves my help -- and yours.

I’ve sent my readers to The Main Bang on several occasions. John Carr is the author of The Main Bang and he’s my friend. He was once my enemy.

Perhaps “enemy” is too harsh a word. He and I were on opposite sides of the political fence. I helped run a campaign for another friend that was opposing John. Like all political campaigns, it seems, things got a little harsh at times.

John won the election and became president of the National Air Traffic Controllers Association. While he was president, I was offered an opportunity to write for AVweb. It was one of the greatest opportunities of my life. John didn’t just stand out of the way and let it happen, he put the full resources of NATCA behind me and made it happen. The FAA said I couldn’t write for AVweb. NATCA’s legal department said I could. And John Carr said NATCA would back me up if it came to a fight. Without his word -- without NATCA’s backing -- I would never have agreed to risk my career.

John has his own legal battle to fight now. You can read about it on his blog, The Main Bang, but before you go, I want to say this: If you’ve ever derived anything of value from my columns, if you’ve ever attended any of the dozens of lectures I’ve given around the country -- I’m asking you to help John out.

I’ve been threatened with a lawsuit before and it isn’t any fun. But I kept writing because I believe what I have to say is important. It’s people like John Carr that give people like me the courage to say the things that need to be said. I’m asking you to be one of those people too. I’ve put my money where my mouth is -- I’ve donated. Jump on over to The Main Bang, read the story and then take the time to stand up for a standup guy.

Don Brown
October 12, 2007

FAA History Lesson -- October 12



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

”Oct 12, 1978: President Carter signed Public Law 95-452, establishing Offices of Inspector General in the Department of Transportation and several other departments and agencies. The independent offices were to conduct objective audits and investigations of programs and operations. “

I almost let this pass but then thought, why should I ? I know it doesn’t interest the soley-aviation minded but it is about good government. Carter probably won’t go down as one of the greater Presidents in history but he was interested in making government work. And say what you will, the man has worked tirelessly since he left the Presidency to solve the world’s problems. I think he’s a good man and I believe history will look favorably on him -- and his Presidency.

Don Brown
October 12, 2007

Keeping Tabs



These stories are just follow-ups on previously covered issues.

FSS -- “Congress Chides FAA for Failing In Oversight of Lockheed Work”

The Memphis Center Outage -- ”Air Traffic Control Failure Is Examined”

Don Brown
October 12, 2007

Hindsight From Texas



Remember what I told you about Molly Ivins ?

”It’s just a collection of various columns from her career. The thing that struck me about them, though, was how timely they are -- still.”

Timely they are. Try this one for hindsight.

” The single worst thing I can say about George W. Bush after five years of watching him is that if you think his daddy had trouble with "the vision thing," wait’ll you meet this one. I don’t think he has any idea why he’s running for the presidency, except that he’s competitive and he can. On the other hand, most Republicans don’t want government to do much anyway, so Bush is perfect for them. “


”This is not a person of great depth or complexity or intelligence; he does not have many ideas. (Actually, aside from tort reform, I’ve never spotted one.) I don’t think he knows or cares a great deal about governance. Nevertheless, he is a perfectly adequate governor of Texas, where we so famously have the weak-governor system. Bush was smart enough to do what Bob Bullock told him to for four years, and it worked fine. “

(Note: Bob Bullock was the Vice President...err...the Lieutenant Governor of Texas, the position where the real power lies in Texas.)

Does anybody know of any Molly Ivins’ out there now, so maybe we can pay attention the next time around ?

Don Brown
October 12, 2007

Thursday, October 11, 2007

ERAM



ERAM is an acronym that you need to remember. It stands for En Route Automation Modernization and, so far, CNN Money is the only news outlet I’ve found that has picked up the story.

The most important aspect of the program is somewhat buried in the fluff.

” Considered a critical part of the National Airspace System's future, ERAM will be the backbone of the FAA's en route operations once it is fully operational. The system includes computer hardware, software and an extremely robust backup with four levels of redundancy. “

To truly understand the scope of the program, you must understand what the Air Route Traffic Control Centers (or the “en route operations”) actually do and the job of the “software” the story refers to. The ARTCCs (or Centers) handle all the operational data for the FAA. All the flight plans that pilots file are sent there and then distributed to the Towers, Approach Controls and other Centers. The “devil in the details” is that once those flight plans become active -- the airplane takes off -- the flight plans change. Continuously.

Let’s say a flight has proposed flying at an altitude of 33,000 feet from Atlanta (ATL) to New York’s Kennedy (JFK) airport. As soon as the pilot talks to a controller he’s told that the ride at 33,000 feet is bumpy so he asks for and receives a clearance to fly at 29,000 feet. That little detail has to be communicated to all the other air traffic controllers on that aircraft’s route of flight. And speaking of it’s route of flight, every change in the route of flight has to be communicated also. A deviation around weather, a change in speed, an equipment malfunction -- every little detail has to be passed to the next controller. That is what the ERAM software will do. And it has to happen in real time for thousands of flights. It is a complicated process that is beyond description.

When the FAA first tried to automate this process, they turned to IBM back in the days when IBM was known as “Big Blue.” IBM was It when it came to computers. It is the most fascinating story I know of in the FAA. In short, IBM couldn’t do it. Their programmers couldn’t think like air traffic controllers. To save the program, the FAA and IBM took some air traffic controllers and trained them to be programmers. The controller/programmers worked with the IBM programmers to complete the job.

The next attempt to update the program was called the Advanced Automation System. It was a colossal failure. In the end, it cost about 2.5 billion dollars for virtually no gain.

This is part of what ERAM will attempt to do. Keep your eyes open. This should be interesting.

Don Brown
October 11, 2007

FAA History Lesson -- October 11



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

”Oct 11, 1983: An Air Illinois commuter flight crashed near Pinckneyville, Ill., killing all ten persons aboard. The National Transportation Safety Board later reported that the accident was caused by the pilot's decision to continue the flight after loss of electrical power from both generators of his Hawker-Siddley 748. As contributory factors, the Safety Board cited inadequate aircrew training and FAA failure to prevent this inadequacy. Following the crash, FAA made changes designed to improve in its inspection procedures and inspector training.

On Dec 2, 1983, FAA announced a special surveillance of Air Illinois, and grounded the airline's two largest aircraft on Dec 14. The next day, Air Illinois voluntarily ceased operations. FAA enforcement activity subsequently resulted in a series of other groundings of commuter and charter air carriers, some as a result of the National Air Transportation Inspection (see Mar 4, 1984). ”


The Airline Deregulation Act was signed in 1978. According to statistics from the Air Transport Association, the were 2 airline bankruptcies in 1979, 4 in 1980, 16 in 1981 and 12 in 1982. Companies near bankruptcy tend to defer maintenance and training (barring any regulatory requirements.)

I think it worth restating (again and again): The Airline Deregulation Act was about deregulating the economic aspects of the air transportation industry. Safety wasn’t deregulated. Supposedly. If you add economic pressure without stepping up regulatory oversight (safety inspections), the results are rather predictable.

Don Brown
October 11, 2007

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Subprime 101



If you have any interest at all in the U.S. economy (and who doesn’t ?) you have got to go over to NPR and listen to this story.

Morgenson Sheds Light on Subprime Mortgage Crisis

Seriously, if it means you won’t have time to read anything else I’ve posted today -- so be it. I’d rather you listen to this story.

Terry Gross, the host of Fresh Air, interviews Gretchen Morgenson from The New York Times and asks the fundamental questions that need to be asked about the subprime mortgage mess. Ms. Morgenson’s answers might surprise you. They might even scare you. I hope they’ll leave you better educated -- and outraged.

Listen for the subject of regulation. Or lack thereof. The Bush Administration. Lack of regulation. Who would have thought it ? But if you’ll listen real closely, you’ll hear it didn’t start there.

Go on now. Go listen.

Don Brown
October 10, 2007

Back in the Saddle Again



Once the thought hit me, I couldn’t get the title out of my head. Even worse, I couldn’t get the song out of my head. Don’t click on that link (a .ram file) unless you want to suffer the same fate. “Whoopi-ty-aye-yay....

Anyway, all is right with the world today. The heat wave is supposed to break today, my wife is back from her girls-only trip to Savannah and I have my trusty iBook back. What more can a man ask for ?

It’s amazing how personalized a computer becomes. I spent more time trying to find web sites -- web sites I had bookmarked on this computer -- than I did writing. I remember a neat trick my friend Pete showed me years ago. He’d turned his home page at his ISP into his bookmarks. In other words, his home page was nothing but bookmarks of his favorite sites. I might have to revisit that idea.

My wife’s iBook was noticeably faster than mine. That was nice. The dictionary widget alone might be worth the price of a new laptop (with the latest version of OS X.) I’m not known for my spelling skills.

While I’m on the subject of computers, a public thank you to AIS Computers in Fayetteville, GA. They must be doing something right because they sure aren’t getting rich off of me. The service department still had my address down as my previous one and that was nine years ago. No visits to the shop in nine years and we have five Apple computers in our house. Need I say we like Apple ? I like AIS too. They always treat me right -- even if I only show up once in a decade.

I’ll be playing catch up again this week. I’ll have to go back through the FAA’s history book and see if there’s anything I missed telling you about in the last few days. There’s the retirement party for another friend of mine from Atlanta Center to tell you about. That, of course, means I’ve got even more dirt on the mold situation in the facility. And then there’s the never ending list of the Bush Administration’s lessons on how not to run a government. Yippe-yi-oh-ty-aye.

Don Brown
October 10, 2007

FAA History Lesson -- October 3-9

FAA History Lesson -- October 3-9


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

”Oct 3, 1988: Citing increasing congestion and a rash of air traffic control operation errors, FAA indefinitely reduced the maximum number of arrivals permitted at Chicago O'Hare from 96 an hour to 80.”

”Oct 4, 1971: FAA commissioned the first operational Automated Radar Terminal System (ARTS) III, at Chicago's terminal radar control facility at O'Hare International Airport. The basic ARTS III, when added to existing airport surveillance radars, permitted the display of such flight information as aircraft identity and altitude directly on the radarscopes for aircraft equipped with transponders. (See Feb 13, 1973.) ”

”Oct 4, 1958: British Overseas Airways Corporation inaugurated the first transatlantic jet passenger service, using de Havilland Comet 4 aircraft flying between New York and London. On the 26th of the same month, Pan American World Airways began the first U.S. scheduled jet service with Boeing 707 flights between New York and Paris. On Dec 10, 1958, National Airlines used leased 707s to begin the first U.S. domestic scheduled jet airline service, flying between New York and Miami. ”

” Oct 7, 1963: The Learjet 23 made its initial flight. FAA certificated the twin-engine executive aircraft in July of the following year, and the company made its first delivery in October. The success of Model 23 and later Learjets helped to popularize corporate jet transportation. ”

In that I’m just playing catch up, I’ll let you see if any of these entries might have any bearing on today’s National Airspace System for yourself.

Don Brown
October 10, 2007

FAA History Lesson -- October 10



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

”Oct 10, 1968: Enactment of Public Law 90-566 authorized higher overtime pay for certain FAA employees. Those nonmanagerial employees with duties critical to the daily operation of the air traffic control and navigation system became eligible for overtime pay at one and a half times their regular pay in grades up to and including GS-14. The affected employees--who worked in air traffic control, flight inspection of navigational aids, and airway facility maintenance--were thus excepted from a general ceiling that limited overtime pay to one and a half times the regular pay for the first step of pay grade GS-10.”

I thought I’d throw just a glimmer of hope out for the new guys. Of course, it could be viewed as a warning. We know that things are regressing at the FAA. Could you imagine how much overtime the FAA would assign if they only had to pay time and a half at GS-10 ? (For the non-controllers, back when controllers were on the GS scale, the “big houses” were GS-14.)

I’m in a good mood today so let’s look at it in a positive light. You’ve come a long way baby. Progress in the FAA is possible. Don’t let the temporary setbacks of this Administration get you down.

Don Brown
October 10, 2007

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Just Tryin’ to Be Helpful



I was reading a story in The Washington Post today and discovered a little known problem in government. With the end of the Bush Administration drawing near, it appears some people are headed for the unemployment line. I think I can be of help.

But first, I guess I ought to let you know more about the background. I can’t do it any better than the reporter, Christopher Lee, did so let me use his words.

Political Appointees 'Burrowing In'

”And no matter how much some in the Bush administration seem to look down on government, no matter how many say they long to return to the private sector or spend more time with family, a few political folks, in the end, will decide that they would rather not part ways with Uncle Sam. So they will try to stick around, angling to turn their short-term stint in an administration of their choice into a permanent job amid the ranks of career civil servants and federal executives.”

Well, if you’re one of those folks, have I got a job for you. If Mr. Lee is correct, you’ll be perfect.

”Burrowing in often looks like an especially good option to younger political appointees, people in their 20s...“

Yep. People in their 20’s would be perfect. And if you’re looking for a hole to hide in, I know just the place. It’s dark, in an out-of-the-way place and best of all, it’s slap full of Republicans. Well, at least they used to be Republicans. They might have had a change of heart in recent years. It’s a little moldy right now but what do you expect ? It is a hole after all.

There are plenty of job openings for all. You can apply right here. When you fill out an application -- if there’s a place where you can request a specific location -- be sure to put in ZTL. That’s Hampton, GA. Trust me. You’ll love it. It’s perfect for you. As soon as you walk into the building, I assure you, somebody with a smile on their face will shake your hand and say, “Welcome to ZTL Hell.” That’s just their way of telling you it’s hot in the summer. Don’t worry, it’s nice and cool in the hole.

Did I mention the money ? The money is GREAT ! Marion Blakey said so. Now I ask you, would she lie ?

”New controllers, however, would start much lower and rise to salary and benefits of 127 thousand after five years on the job.”

Just in case you hear that story about the trainee with the second (or was it the third ?) job gathering shopping carts at the local BigBox store, I want you to know who to believe. Ms. Blakey was the Administrator. Shopping-cart boy is probably a Democrat. You know how they can’t handle their money. Besides, Ms. Blakey didn’t say how “much lower” did she ?

Yes siree. I haven’t recommend the job of air traffic controller to anyone in decade. But if you’re a Bush Administration political appointee looking for a permanent guvmint job I think you’d be a perfect fit. Come on and enjoy the work environment you helped create. You’ll fit right in. Tell you what, send me a note letting me know when you’ll arrive and I’ll come up to Atlanta Center and I’ll personally welcome you to Hell...I mean...ZTL.

Don Brown
October 9, 2007

Monday, October 08, 2007

Ouch !



Normally, I ‘d feel bad for the recipient of a world-class tongue-lashing such as acting-FAA Administrator Bobby Sturgell has to endure in this video. Normally. I can’t say that Mr. Sturgell deserves it personally but I assure you, FAA management (which includes Mr. Sturgell) does.

Watch the Video

Thanks go out to NATCA member Paul Williams for taking the time to put these pieces together.

Don Brown
October 8, 2007

Sunday, October 07, 2007

Good Golly Miss Molly



I love Molly Ivins. I miss her too. Ms. Molly was somewhere to left of me on the political spectrum (she was left of a lot of folks) but she was so passionate and so funny, it never really bothered me.

I picked up one of her books in a used book shop and I haven’t even finished reading it. It’s just a collection of various columns from her career. The thing that struck me about them, though, was how timely they are -- still.

In that (as Ms. Molly might say) I’ve still got a hitch in my giddy-up (the laptop is still in the shop) I thought I’d send you out to read something from Ms. Molly. If you’ve never read Molly Ivins, you’re in for a treat. If you have, take note of the date on this article -- 1993. You’ll see what I mean about timely. Enjoy.

The Fun's in the Fight

Don Brown
October 7, 2007

Thursday, October 04, 2007

When it Rains...



You get mold. Well, if your roof leaks and your building is 47 years old you do. At Atlanta Center, it does and it is. You can read about it for yourself.

Fungus is plaguing air traffic controllers

In that I worked in that building for 25 years, I feel as I can speak with some authority on the subject. Atlanta Center is a dump. It was already a toxic dump -- everybody used asbestos back when it was built -- so I guess they’re trying for Super Fund status now.

Oh well. At least the damage will be minimized. Controllers are bailing out of Atlanta Center as fast as they can. A buddy of mine wrote me last week to give me the list of retirees this month. I think it was a half-dozen or more. (It’s on my other computer -- the one in the shop.) I’ve been telling guys they should get out for their health. The job is hard enough on your health in the best of times. I can’t remember a “best of times” at Atlanta Center but I’m sure that now is not it. I’ll have to change my spiel now from, “Get out as soon as you can. You’ll live longer” to ”RUN FOR YOUR LIVES !”

Don Brown
October 4, 2007

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Please Stand By



We are experiencing technical difficulties. Well, okay, there is no “we” at Get the Flick. There’s just me. Unless of course, you consider that I’m having to type this on my wife’s iBook.

My beloved iBook is having some sort of breakdown. It is trying to struggle on but keeps falling asleep and then won’t wake up. Time to head for the doctor. It’s old and creaky but it’s mine. They are called “personal” computers for a reason you know. The screen settings on this one hurts my eyes. The fonts and resolutions are all wrong. I dare not reset them unless I want a trip to the doctor.

Anyway, I’ll be a little slower until I get my computer back.

Gee, I hope I don’t have to buy a new one. My old one is certainly adequate. Sure, an 80 GB HD with 2 GB of memory would be nice but it’s not like I actually need such a fine machine. I can make do. Never mind that my birthday is coming up.

Don Brown
October 3, 2007

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

FAA History Lesson -- October 2



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

”Oct 2, 1970: A chartered Martin 404 carrying members of the Wichita State University football team crashed near Silver Plume, Colo., killing 32 of the 40 persons aboard. The National Transportation Safety Board later cited the probable cause as the operation of the aircraft over a mountain valley route at an altitude from which the aircraft could not avoid obstructing terrain. Among factors listed as contributing to the accident was the charter company’s poor operational management. The accident called into question the business practices of charter and leasing firms, and Secretary of Transportation John A. Volpe on Oct 9 ordered an investigation of companies designated as commercial operators of large aircraft (see March 5, 1971). While this investigation proceeded, FAA on Oct 27 proposed a rule redefining the term "commercial operator" and requiring educational institutions and similar groups to hold an air travel club certificate when operating large aircraft over 12,500 pounds. The proposal would also have required operators of large aircraft to obtain a commercial operator's certificate for certain operations in the furtherance of business. Industry response to the proposal proved strongly negative.

Meanwhile, another major crash of a charter flight occurred on Nov 14, 1970, when a Southern Airways DC-9 descended too low during a nonprecision approach at Huntington, WVa. The accident killed all 75 of the plane’s occupants, including the Marshall University football team. (See Mar 5, 1971.) ”


In case that last entry is tickling your memory, there was a movie made about the aftermath of the West Virginia crash -- We Are Marshall.

Don Brown
October 2, 2007

Monday, October 01, 2007

A Social Contract



About a month ago I mentioned that the way the FAA’s Flight Service Specialist’s were treated when the FAA contracted out their jobs would make a good “human interest” story. Well, somebody wrote one.

As you read it, I want you to remember this; The FAA is currently running out of controllers. The controllers from the FSS option have many of the skills needed to be an air traffic controllers in a Tower. The FAA could have transferred them into the Towers if they were truly concerned about their employees. That would have helped their employees, helped themselves and helped the country. The FAA -- more specifically the Bush Administration -- chose not to do that. They chose instead to help a contractor -- Lockheed Martin. Without a trained and trapped workforce, Lockheed Martin would never have been able to take over the Flight Service Stations.

There’s a social contract --an understanding, a promise -- between you and your employees. You may not know it but your employees do. If you go to work for the government -- as a career -- you won’t get rich. You’ll have a good job and decent benefits. And if you don’t get yourself fired, you’ll have a retirement. Controllers (including FSS controllers) give up their weekends, their holidays and watching their kids grow up because of the strange hours and days off, just like other controllers. In turn, they are (for the most part) fairly compensated. Right until they were contracted out.

The FAA sold them out. They know it, I know it and now you know it. Think about what kind of employees you’ll be left with if you (via your government) keep breaking your promises.

Read the story.

Rough landing for FAA employees

Don Brown
October 1, 2007

FAA History Lesson -- October 1



Evidently, the first of October is a good day to start something. There are dozens of entries in the history book for this date.

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

”Oct 1, 1926: Northwest Airways began service as a contract mail carrier. The company began passenger service the following year, and expanded its routes in the late twenties and early thirties, changing its name to Northwest Airlines on Apr 16, 1934. Further expansion included routes to Asia, beginning in the 1940s, and for a time the carrier used the name Northwest Orient Airlines.

Oct 1, 1929: Allocation of radio frequencies by the Federal Radio Commission cleared the way for air transport companies to develop a communications network supplementing Federal facilities. At the close of the year some major transport lines were maintaining two-way voice communication with their planes in flight. (See Dec 2, 1929.)

Oct 1, 1929: The Aeronautics Branch issued a set of "Uniform Field Rules" for air traffic control that were recommended for adoption by states, counties, cities, and other agencies operating airports.

Oct 1, 1931: The Department of Commerce promulgated a regulation prescribing a cockpit crew complement of two, a pilot and copilot, on all scheduled air transports capable of carrying fifteen or more passengers or having a gross takeoff weight of 15,000 pounds or more. (See Feb 12, 1931, and Nov 1, 1937.)

Oct 1, 1940: CAA commissioned the Seattle air route traffic control center on this date, followed by the Cincinnati center on Nov 11.

Oct 1, 1942: Robert Stanley piloted the initial flight of the first U.S. jet-propelled aircraft, the Bell XP59A Airacomet, at Muroc, Calif. The aircraft was powered by two I-A engines developed by General Electric from the Whittle design. (See Sep 1941.)

Oct 1, 1945: CAA commissioned the New Orleans air route traffic control center.

Oct 1, 1946: CAA commissioned the El Paso air route traffic control center.

Oct 1, 1958: The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) was established under the National Aeronautics and Space Act of 1958. Passage of the Space Act (signed into law by President Eisenhower on Jul 29, 1958) settled the question of whether space exploration should be under civilian or military control. The National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA), which had been in existence since 1915, was absorbed by and formed the nucleus for the new civilian space agency.”


I’ll stop there, for now. That’s not all the entries from before I was born but it’s most of them. I’ll see what else is left later today (if I have time.)

Don Brown
October 1, 2007