It looks like NATCA is organizing a little bit of support for their former president (Question of the Week, Jun. 21). If he can get everyone a 30% increase in my paycheck, I'll change my vote ...
Copies of this article (The Pilot's Lounge, Jun. 18) should be handed out to every person that walks through the gate at Oshkosh this year. This is classic, pork-barrel politics at its best and we in general aviation are gonna pay! This is just the tip of the ol' iceberg if we do not all get off our duffs and participate. Nicely done, Rick Durden!
Regarding the Question of the Week (QOTW, Jun. 28):
It just amazes me how the fundamental issues and facts seem to be ignored by FAA management, especially with regards to staffing levels. It does not take a nuclear physics major to understand that when you drastically cut base pay and negatively impact general working conditions, the current workforce and potential hires will not stay with the program. Just hiring a new controller candidate (if they can find any) is a small part of the equation. That person must then be trained, and that takes several years to bring them up to full qualification. Just who is going to train the new hires, when a significant number of qualified staff people have already (or are planning to) "pulled the handles"? A demoralized and overworked workforce is a dangerous situation.
For years, the FAA required applicants to follow a prescribed path to qualification ... via specifically approved college training programs. Anyone who did not follow this path need not apply. Now that the hiring pool has dwindled, the FAA is willing to take almost anyone as a "qualified candidate," and include that person in the hiring pool.
The FAA pay scale as imposed by Blakey's "Nontract" is an insult to those candidates who spent the 10s of thousands of dollars to obtain the required college training in order to qualify.
Don't take the FAA Public Affairs statements on what the pay scales are; go to the FAA official website. The actual base pay in many cases is approximately $18,700 per year (excluding locality pay and bonuses). What an insult!
The FAA Administrator and her staff need to start letting the truth to the public! They should stop referring to controller pay in terms of their total compensation, which includes all of those items that any employee never actually receives in their paycheck! (Those items are unemployment insurance, Social Security payments, health insurance, etc.)
The next few years are really going to be scary in more ways than one. Let's hope these conditions are not a direct contributing factor to a major smoking crater!
Waiting for some improvement ...
Gary H. Readio
In the article "Controllers Retiring Faster Than Predicted" (AVwebFlash, Jun. 27), you quote FAA's Laura Brown as saying, "We can always ramp up and hire more people ..." I am an air traffic control supervisor at one of the top 10 busiest FAA approach control (TRACON) facilities in the nation. I can attest to the fact that far more controllers are retiring than the FAA expected.
You can blame the FAA's bullying of the workforce, wage cuts and lifetime wage freezes for existing controllers, and new controllers only topping out at half the current salary, for our imminent situation. Add to that a mentality that nearly anyone can perform this job with enough training, when history has proven that only very few people possess the unique raw skills necessary to perform this work, and you have the perfect storm that will soon result in a massive failure of the ATC system due to staffing.
We are already working record levels of traffic with the fewest controllers ever. My busy facility is already 30% below our staffing target, is expecting to be 45% below, and could be as much as 60% below if every eligible controller retires by the end of December. If all eligibles retire, we will be lucky to have half the qualified controllers needed to operate our airport at current capacity by year end. Many new people have recently reported to our facility for training and the FAA proudly reports that we are nearly fully staffed. But, most of these new people are not yet trained on anything and it will take about a year for most of them to certify on their first of many, many, positions ... if they even possess the skills to successfully certify at all.
The time to "ramp up and hire more people" was five years ago, since it takes three to five years or more to train a controller, and years more of mentoring and assistance by more experienced team members before they can safely work heavy levels of traffic with little or no assistance. It is demoralizing to have worked the front lines of the ATC system for over 25 years and feel powerless to witness its certain collapse.
Name withheld by request