Controllers As Airspace Police?

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If you've ever missed a turn, set the altitude bug incorrectly or committed any of thousands of sins that air traffic controllers routinely catch and help correct every day without much fuss, those days are apparently over. The FAA has apparently ordered controllers to violate pilots for any and all errors and has threatened to discipline them if they don't file the reports. While the FAA says it's just enforcing rules already in place, the head of the National Air Traffic Controllers Association say it's yet another burden on an already-overworked workforce that will pit controllers against pilots. "We are not the FAA police! The FAA's and controller's mission is to provide the safe and efficient movement of live air traffic," said NATCA President Patrick Forrey. "The fact that the FAA is now disciplining controllers for not 'policing' pilot actions as they relate to flight regulations is indicative of the tyrannical and oppressive culture the FAA has created." The FAA, as might be suspected, has a different view.

In an e-mail to AVweb, FAA spokeswoman Laura Brown said it's alway been controllers' jobs to report pilot infractions and she stressed there has been no change in FAA policy in this regard. However, in a quote from an unnamed senior staff member in the Air Traffic Organization (ATO) it's clear that reporting infractions is now being stressed. "The bottom line is there has been no change in ATC requirements just reinforcing the reporting piece," Brown quoted one of the ATO managers as saying. For the record, controllers are supposed to write up errors and supply supporting evidence to the FSDO manager and the decision to sanction pilots is made there. Make sure those clearances and readbacks are clear ... .

Related Content:
Be sure to listen in to The 25Zulu Show on Gold Seal Live Aviation Talk Radio Thursday night about 9:30 p.m. EDT as AVweb Editor-in-Chief Russ Niles gives his views on the FAA's recent decision to step up enforcement of minor pilot errors through the controller reporting method now in place. (Hint: He doesn't think much of it.)