Your Vote Does Matter:
NATCA and FAA Reach Labor Agreement

8:22 PM

If you fly cross country in the USA, you have talked to one of the National Air Traffic Controllers Association's members. Love them or hate them, those NATCA controllers got you and your flying machine where you were aiming to go, without trading paint with anyone else.

What you might not have known as they were giving you flight following or guiding your IFR flight was that the person in your headset was possibly fatigued from working well past when their shift should have ended. Or, they could have been a trainee rushed through the system who was not quite ready for prime time.

The working conditions that our controllers have had to endure for the past few years could have easily been avoided, had the Bush administration only came to the table. But in several blog posts such as this one, this one and this one, I continuously reminded my readers that for some insane reason, Bushie's appointees at FAA wanted no part of a labor deal with the people pushing tin through our skies.

From as far back as March 31 of 2006, I have been one of many bloggers chronicling the public screwing that NATCA got from the last administration. Here's a pull quote from one of my posts dated 12.21.07 that clearly showed that many of us pilots on the left had about enough of the strangely misguided priorities in Bush's Washington:
"Gee, I wonder how many controllers we could buy and train with the money spent on ONE DAY of Bushco's war, which by the way is $275 MILLION according to That kind of cash would go a long way towards filling those chairs at Chicago Center with trained bodies. So I propose we stop the war - just for one day, say maybe Christmas Day, which when you think about it IS what Jesus would do - and give all that money to NATCA to hire and train more controllers."
Yes, we screamed, and yes, we pleaded. Bloggers wrote daily flames chastising W's henchmen for avoiding their nagging NATCA problem, and NATCA's President, Patrick Forrey used his share of ink doing the same, asking the tough questions, as if anyone in the last administration gave a crap:
"Citing the safety board and GAO concerns about fatigue, NATCA president Patrick Forrey asked, "How much more do we have to hear before the FAA is held accountable for the blatant disregard for safety it is showing by understaffing its facilities, working controllers past their breaking points and refusing to work with us to settle an ongoing contract negotiating impasse that has created the largest mass exodus of both veteran controllers and trainees we have seen since 1981?"
Well today – with a new President in the White House, and a new leader at FAA – it is no surprise that NATCA and FAA have announced they have reached a labor agreement. Funny, that wasn't an option before 01.20.09. Here's NATCA's press release:
"The FAA and its largest union, NATCA, have concluded a challenging mediation process that has produced a landmark labor agreement. After years of strained relations, the joint decision to engage in mediation was an important first step, and today’s proposed agreement represents a milestone on the final road to settlement, which awaits ratification by union members. An independent arbitration team today released a decision on a handful of issues not resolved by the mediation, which settled more than 100 of the issues in dispute. The Obama administration recognized that not having a mutually agreed upon contract for the air traffic controllers had created an untenable situation and that ensuring the safety and efficiency of the nation’s aviation system made fair resolution a must."
And with this agreement, we can all move forward at a time when moving forward seems like a really good idea. Again, NATCA's release:
“This marks a new day between the FAA and the air traffic controllers as we move forward with a spirit of cooperation,” said FAA Administrator Randy Babbitt. “We are hopeful that once the review and ratification are complete, we can accelerate our efforts to adopt NextGen, the next generation air transportation system. This tentative agreement marks a turning point in the relationship between the FAA and its air traffic controller and traffic management employees.”
While this technically is a tentative agreement, I am assured from some of my NATCA contacts that accepting it by the membership is a slam-dunk.

So the next time you as a licensed pilot wants to stand up and shout rude disruptive comments about Barack Obama's health care reform plan, or want to paint swastikas on Democratic politician's office buildings while wearing your flag pin (as if it's better than mine), remember that your guy made it clear he wanted no part of airspace safety. As long as the flaming bodies raining down on Crawford didn't take out any cattle, he was good. Say what you want about our exploding deficit, but Obama came through for the aviation community when the Cowboy could not.

And yes, with this NATCA agreement, I am elated to close an ugly chapter in our country's aviation history, and vow never to type Bush's name again. He has now officially became irrelevant in my world.

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