Sobering 411 from NATCA
I get lots of info from NATCA's WDC Communications Office, and with each email, the news just gets worse and worse. So today, as I head out the door on a agency business trip (with a little airplane shopping thrown in), here is today's email from NATCA's Doug Church, verbatim. And if you have a beef with any of this, the guy to contact is at the end of the post:
Record Number of Resignations Since FAA Imposed Work Rules Further Deepens the Controller Staffing Crisis at Oakland CenterCONTACT: Scott Conde, NATCA Oakland Center Facility Representative, 510-673-0237
FREMONT, Calif. – Three more air traffic controller trainees have resigned from Oakland Air Route Traffic Control Center in the past four days, effective next Friday, bringing the total number who have quit to 14 since the Federal Aviation Administration imposed work rules and pay cuts on the controller workforce against its will one year ago. In a normal year, there are only one or two resignations at this facility, which controls the airspace above 10 percent of the earth’s surface.
There are currently 161 fully certified controllers on staff, which is 98 short of safe staffing levels established by the FAA and NATCA in 1998 and is even short of the absolute minimum of 175 controllers that the FAA said in March was needed after throwing out the 1998 numbers without any justification or staffing study. Of those fully certified controllers, 40 will be eligible to retire by the end of this calendar year.
Oakland Center has lost a total of 32 controllers and trainees since the FAA imposed work rules: The 14 resignations, six people who failed the training program, five experienced controller retirements and seven experienced controllers who left their position to take an FAA supervisor job at the facility.
On Monday, trainee Douglas Ridgeway resigned. He had six years of experience with radar control in the military. “He was cruising through the training program,” Oakland Center NATCA Facility Representative Scott Conde said. “He is now leaving the FAA to go to work for a contractor in Afghanistan.”
Ridgeway cites pay as the reason he is leaving. In his resignation letter, he writes: “I have been at Oakland Center since September 2006. It is one year later, and I am still at the same salary that I came in at. I am also making almost $1,000 a month less than I was when I made the decision to separate from the Air Force. … I sought a career in the FAA so I could make good money and not have to live paycheck to paycheck. Not so I could go into debt.”
Two more resignations occurred last weekend – a husband and wife, Patricia and Joseph Murgatroyd. They also cited pay. Both Patricia and Joseph had prior military experience and were “breezing” through the training program, according to Conde. Patricia wrote the following in her resignation letter:
“The FAA has been a long time dream job of mine, and has turned out to be WAY less then I expected. The pay is way less than I was originally offered. The management can’t seem to answer questions asked of them. Nobody seems to know the answer to anything except for the controllers who know how to do their jobs, and they are the ones getting the short end of the stick. There is so much overtime available and everyone keeps taking their name off the list because if you are on the list you only get one day a week off every week. People are being pushed through training either way to fast or not getting any training at all. Either case isn’t very safe.
“I love air traffic control and hope to one day to be able to return to the FAA if things ever get better; if the FAA ever realizes that it cannot function without the air traffic controllers and that not just anybody can be an air traffic controller.”