Santa Should Take the Bus
The latest out of NATCA HQ this week shows more bad news in Air Traffic Controllerland, and all the red flags they are hoisting are screaming for you to possible think about finding an alternate means of transportation to Grandma's house this Christmas season:
WASHINGTON – As the government releases September flight delay statistics, air traffic controllers today are looking ahead and warning that the upcoming holiday travel season is likely to be plagued by delay problems because there will be 7.5 percent fewer fully trained controllers working than last year. Additionally, imposed work rules by the Federal Aviation Administration are forcing an average of three veteran controllers a day – with a minimum of 60 years of combined experience – to leave the workforce.If ATC were a dike, the lowlands would be 20 feet deep in water - that's how many holes there are in the controller workforce. And according to NATCA's Doug Church, there may be only one way to stop the bleeding:
Unless Congress acts quickly to send NATCA and the FAA back to the table to finish work on a new collective bargaining agreement, this will be the second straight holiday travel season that controllers will be suffering under imposed work rules that have worsened an already critical staffing shortage nationwide. More than 1,500 experienced controllers and trainees left the workforce in fiscal year 2007. Of the 856 who retired, 404 did so in their first year of eligibility, doubling the previous two years’ total as a percentage of those eligible to retire and smashing the FAA projection of 150.And while I love to bring you weekly news of the NATCA staffing crisis, there are certainly plenty of growing concern outside of the ATC community:
Last week, former National Transportation Safety Board Chairman Jim Hall testified to the House Science Committee that, “we are currently in the middle of an air traffic controller staffing crisis. Fueled in part by the lack of a contract, this crisis has industry-wide consequences including: more and longer flight delays, combined radar and tower control positions, and an increased use of mandatory overtime resulting in an exhausted, stressed out, and burned out workforce.”Congress needs to force FAA and NATCA to kiss and make up, and the House version of the FAA reauthorization bill (H.R.2881) makes that happen:
“We continue to impress upon Congress the urgency in passing legislation that resolves our contract issues with the FAA before the end of this calendar year,” said NATCA President Patrick Forrey, who noted that the House in September passed an FAA reauthorization bill that would send NATCA and the FAA back to contract negotiations, but the Senate has not yet acted on its FAA reauthorization bill. “Without a resolution to our issues, an already critical staffing shortage will become an emergency staffing shortage, increasing delays and impacting the safety of the National Airspace System.”Of course, all the pilots in the Red States who still have those tired "W04" stickers on the back of their monster trucks can feel proud of their Decider, who has vowed to veto any legislation such as H.R.2881. Because in W's delusional world, forcing FAA and NATCA to fix the biggest problem facing the U.S. aviation industry is far less important then making sure a Senate bill passes that gives his airline CEO cronies a fat tax break.