Friday, February 22, 2008

FAA History Lesson -- February 22

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

”Feb 22, 1974: At Baltimore-Washington International Airport, a former mental patient killed two persons and seriously wounded another in an attempt to hijack a DC-9 and crash it into the White House. The gunman committed suicide when wounded by a policeman.

I confess that I don’t remember this one. But after reading this article, I now know why.

”Feb 22, 1996: Confirming its intent to address staffing needs at key facilities, FAA announced that it planned to hire 100 more air traffic controllers during 1996, and that the Clinton Administration would
request funding for hundreds more during 1997 (see Sep 30, 1996). The agency pledged to give fair consideration to former strikers (see Aug 12, 1993). “

It’s usually forgotten now -- in the current crisis we face. Air traffic control has been chronically understaffed. For years and years. When I was working, we could get annual leave -- vacation time we had bid on a year in advance -- but you couldn’t get spot leave. Let’s say someone gave you a pair of tickets to the ball game a week from now. There wasn’t a chance to get off. If your sister was going to get married in three months -- there still wasn’t a chance of getting spot leave. It had been so long since the FAA had approved any spot leave, I literally forgot how to put in for it.

Instead, you had to swap days off with another controller, work credit hours or some other scheme to game the system. And trust me, we had some experts in gaming the system. What we didn’t have were enough controllers to assure you could lead some semblance of a normal life (even if your “weekend was Tuesday and Wednesday) by getting a day off to attend those moments that make a good life.

Don Brown
February 22, 2008

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