9:14 PM

Support From
Around the Country

Not a day goes by anymore when I don't get an email from a NATCA air traffic controller in support of the weekly posts I have been publishing on their degrading work situation.

Yes, their plight is starting to gain a little traction in the MSM, but there aren't many other voices out there on the Internets spreading the word about what our controllers are going through. I am very happy to be one of the few who are riding their bandwagon. Generally, the letters I get from the men and women at ATC all follow about the same theme as these:

I am a controller at Jacksonville Center, Jax Florida as well as a pilot. I just wanted to take a few minutes to thank you for your kind words towards the controller workforce and our profession. It is an extraordinary job to say the least and we always enjoy it when others from the "outside" take the time to appreciate the work we do. If you're ever in the Jacksonville area, please feel free to contact me for a tour of Jax Center. We'd love to have you.

Dear Aviator Dan,
Thank you very much for your blog entry about ATC and future probable accidents. I am an air traffic controller and my husband is a pilot for a major airline. I am increasingly worried about his safety as he traverses the most complicated and heavily populated airspace of our country. I am so grateful that someone like you with an audience grasps the information that NATCA has been trying so hard to get out there! Keep up the good work and we'll try to keep our eyes on you!

On behalf of the controllers that I represent in New York, I just wanted to take a moment to thank you for spreading the message! While we certainly haven’t given up hope (outside of electing a worker-friendly POTUS in 2008), the past year has been the most dismal in my nearly 19 as a controller.

Dear World of Flying:
The idea of using cell towers as part of the ATC system scares me. Before becoming a controller, I attended Embry-Riddle in Daytona Beach. When Hurricanes and Tropical Storms approached us, what was the first thing to start to crumble? The cell networks. If cell towers are used for air traffic control and a national emergency or natural disaster occurs, an important part of the infrastructure may become too taxed to handle the load at the very time that you need it most. That scares me beyond belief.
It is truly a very sad situation these controllers are living through, a raw deal from an arrogant administration that is asleep at the wheel. It is so bad and so dire that today, NATCA President Patrick Forrey showed he and NATCA have seen enough, and challenged FAA Acting Administrator Robert Sturgell to this...from a NATCA release:
Last week’s GAO report on runway incursions highlighted the risk of a potential catastrophic collision due, in part, to lack of adequate technology, FAA’s failure to exhibit national leadership on high-priority, runway-related safety actions, and unprecedented numbers of overworked controllers at facilities around the country. These conditions are placing both pilots and air traffic controllers at great risk of mishap. NATCA is extremely worried that the safety margins—which have kept the nation’s skies the safest in the world—have all but eroded. We have initiated our own technology review to identify capacity and safety enhancements that we can propose to the agency and its stakeholders. In the interim, however, we are requesting an emergency meeting between the FAA’s top ATC executives and NATCA to see what we can do together to restore system safety before tragedy occurs. My team and I stand ready to meet at your earliest possible convenience.
There it is...gauntlet thrown down. To use the most cliché of clichés, the ball is now squarely in FAA's court. If Sturgell and FAA ignore NATCA and do not come to the table to hammer out a deal that protects the flying public, we will know who to blame when – not if – tragedy strikes.

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