Friday, January 04, 2008

FAA History Lesson -- January 4



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

”Jan 4, 1983: Effective this date, FAA increased the minimum qualifications for air traffic controllers who provide on-the-job training (OJT). As before, FAA required such controllers to be certificated on the position for which they served as an OJT instructor. In addition, they were now required to have operated in the position for a minimum of 30 solo hours after certification, and to have received certification as an OJT instructor based on a supervisor's observation of actual performance at the position.“

Another little glimpse into the kind of things where the FAA ‘s foresight fails. That date was less than 2 years after the strike in 1981. The FAA had trainees training trainees. It was a mess. And as you can see, when they finally addressed the situation, there really wasn’t much they could do about it. Requiring 30 hours of “solo” time (whatever the heck that was) wouldn’t take but about a week to obtain.

You see, at many places, we were so short-staffed that once you checked out on a sector, you worked that sector full-time. As an example, at Atlanta Center, we had 6 to 7 sectors in each Area. Each sector had two positions -- the R-side (radar scope) and the D-side (data/flight progress strips). A trainee would progress from one D-side to the next until he was checked out on all the D-side positions. Then they would start training on the R-side, where they would actually start talking to airplanes. Once you checked out on a R-side, you became useful. You could staff the position by yourself. And you did. Sometimes for weeks. When that staffing mini-crisis was over, you got to progress to the next sectors. The “crisis” usually didn’t end until somebody else caught up to you and needed to train on the only sector you were checked out on.

Sometimes they would move you from working one, single R-side and use you as a trainer for a new D-side trainee. In other words, a trainee training a trainee. Desperate times call for desperate measures. The FAA is about to be desperate again.

Don Brown
January 4, 2008

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