FAA And ATC Negotiating Safety…

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The National Air Traffic Controllers Association (NATCA) has launched an impressive PR campaign on air traffic safety in correlation with its contract negotiations with the FAA. In the midst, the rest of us are getting an unprecedented look (both in terms of volume and detail) at the complex interplay between the agency, the employees and the traveling public. Equipment failures are nothing new in the U.S. or any other air traffic system and unless they tie up flights or cause accidents, the public rarely hears (or cares) about them. But in the context of FAA cutbacks and ATC/FAA contract negotiations the controllers union appears to be making a case that all the problems are rooted in an inflexible bureaucracy that refuses to listen to (the union's) reason. It's a public relations cat-and-mouse game that's appeared at Washington, Boston and Denver in the past week and it could be coming to a major airport near you. Recently, NATCA members experienced a significant technical glitch and the union issued a press release invoking what is becoming a familiar mantra about understaffing, tired equipment and administrative mismanagement. The FAA then responds with sterile facts about the glitch and the efforts to fix it.