Monday, July 07, 2008

Stupid Is As Stupid Does

Note: The following post is one that I had discarded over a month ago. I didn’t think it was one of my better ones and, besides, John Carr had already covered the subject before I got it done. And then I read today’s post from my friend Todd over at Vanity Fair Musings.

Todd is one of those guys that pays attention. I’ve got a paper he wrote over a decade ago, downstairs, buried in a file cabinet. It’s a “white paper” of sorts, arguing against NATCA’s support of corporatization under the Clinton Administration. NATCA listened to the dissent and changed its position. The FAA -- currently -- is too stupid to listen to dissent.

Read Todd’s post for July 6, 2008. Skip over the part about me and read about the FAA being stupid -- again. Then you can read what I wrote below, if you have the time.

Stupid Is As Stupid Does

You really have to wonder about the leadership of the FAA. They really don’t seem to get it. Let me see if I can help them. You can follow along if you like.

Mr. Robert Sturgell
Acting Administrator
Federal Aviation Administration
Washington, DC

Mr. Sturgell,

Please forgive the informal nature of this letter. I mean you no disrespect. I simply don’t want the importance of the message to be lost in formalities.

Your managers are being stupid. There’s this thing called the internet and on the internet you can find these things called blogs. There are millions of blogs covering hundreds of thousands of topics. Think of them as books -- or magazines -- that can be published almost instantly by anyone that has a computer. They are deceptively simple and can be deceptively powerful.

Some blogs get thousands of readers every day. The vast majority however, hardly get any notice at all. Take this one for instance.


This is typical of most blogs. It’s a diary of some guy’s life and it’s as boring as it can be to most people. He doesn’t even write on a regular basis. Nobody but his relatives reads it. You can look at the “comments” section and you’ll see most entries generate a big, fat zero. The blog is all over the place -- rodeo, babies, RV’ing. Nobody cares and nobody reads it. Until your managers go and do something stupid to attract attention to it.

There’s no other word for it Robert. It’s just plain stupidity to tell a guy with a blog that you’re firing him for having a blog. It gets the blog world in an uproar and turns a nobody into a celebrity. It forces guys like me to read it and the next thing you know the whole blog world is picking gold nuggets out of a pile of rocks. Things like this.

I hear this is happening in the field too, the "dumming down" of training. There is no other way the faa can get CPC's in the glass houses or on chairs in front of scopes without short shifting the training process.“

I took some surveys last night, and this is my fault for not keeping good records, but I was contemplating the last time a student failed out of here on the final "personal valuation" known here as the PV. The number we came up with was, at least six classes ago. “

At the end of my twelve minute presentation I was offered a position as a class room instructor. Hmmmm, let me think about that for just a second, no thanks. First, you have to tow the party (faa) line and not say anything derogatory about the faa. I could not hold those thoughts in. If I liked the faa I would still be vectoring and telling pilots where to go. Second, you cannot venture one inch outside of the written text. This sacred text written by people with masters and phd's out the ying-yang, but not one of these writers have spoken to a real airplane. “

It appears, from rumors only, sorry folks, no facts here, that the faa wants to increase output from the academy in 08 and their answer is running a third shift. My first thought was this had to come from some idiot that never worked a mid shift in their miserable life. The faa also wants to add another lab with the toy airplanes and one more computer lab, probably the small less user friendly one, no doubt. I wonder, does any type of learning institute anywhere include a midnight to 0800am for classroom instruction and practical labs. “

He has a point Mr. Sturgell. Nobody does training on the midnight shift -- unless they’re desperate. And we know you’re not desperate (because you’ve told us you aren’t.) So, it just makes you look stupid. But don’t forget the important part -- the reason I’m writing this letter. If your managers hadn’t been stupid we would have never known about this blog. But now that we do, thousands of people are going to read this:

Said faa employee, told someone up the food chain that instructors were planning to tell students how to file for back pay over their newly acquired per-deim. Well that set off a chain reaction that had us in a large room the next day having the law set down to us. Here are some things that were said that I can remember, "We are here to serve the faa." " We are here at the faa's whim and can be fired at a moment's notice." "We cannot talk or tell or inform any student about NATCA." "The faa is our customer." "If a student should ask us anything about the faa, we should tell them to ask the faa.”

That little blurb -- that would have gone unnoticed -- will now be seen by thousands of controllers who will ensure that it is seen by thousands and thousands of other people. You may not realize it but there is a growing list of blogs written by controllers.

The Main Bang
The FAA Follies
Vanity Fair Musings
The Potomac Current and Undertow
Truth Hurts
NAS Confusion
We, the PEOPLE !!

You might think I put those in random order but I didn’t. I know you’re a busy man so if you don’t have enough time to look at them all, you need to look at the first and last. The first is John Carr. You know him and you know he’s no dummy. You also know he can crank out a post a day in his sleep. The last is Howie Barte. Howie has been chewing on the FAA’s tail for 30 years or more. Think about that Robert -- 30 years. PATCO, the strike, NATCA, retirement -- and he’s still at it. He’s probably going to write me and tell me it’s been 38 years and 176 days. He’s like that. He’s absolutely relentless.

The point, Robert, is that you can’t “win.” There will always be a John Carr or a Howie Barte or a “Dave.” There’s something else you should notice (and probably have.) John, Howie, “Dave” and I are all retired. We actually care about our country, civil service and (believe it or not) the FAA. You can either accept the criticism -- accept that there will always be dissent and that it can be useful -- or you can continue to let your managers try to silence the critics. And make you look stupid in the process.

Don Brown
July 7, 2008

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