July 30, 2000via FAX and Certified Mail (Z196290772)
Capt. Duane Woerth
I just finished reading your press release from last Thursday, and I’d like to respond to it. First, it is difficult to believe that instead of responding to the serious safety problems repeatedly brought to your attention, the only response from the President of the Air Line Pilots Association is a personal attack on my credibility. As far as the content of your release, I am surprised at your lack of knowledge of the air traffic control system, considering the position you hold. The delay issues you mentioned allegedly took place at the Chicago approach control facility in Elgin Illinois, and had nothing to do with the O’Hare air traffic control tower. These 2 facilities are 22 miles apart from one another; they provide different services, and they have separate FAA and union management. Regarding the taxi times you mentioned, the numbers you quote are averages, which likely includes all airlines. If you looked at numbers for United only, you’d most likely see different results. In one case last week, a United 737 took 25 minutes to taxi to runway 22L at ORD, normally a 5 to 8 minute taxi.
You mentioned that I have made earlier accusations of pilot slowdowns at O’Hare, this is entirely false and I challenge you to prove otherwise. The safety concerns I have repeatedly raised to you have to do with unsafe activities on the runways, not slowdowns. You are correct, there was a team put together which included ALPA and NATCA representatives to look into these occurrences. Your representative heard actual tapes of unsafe events on O’Hare runways by your pilots, yet he either failed to get that information to you or you failed to act on it. The bottom line is that these occurrences have been documented with tape recordings and pilot deviations. You apparently don’t realize that this is not a NATCA issue, it is a facility issue and FAA management supports my claims. FAA management makes tapes and files pilot deviations, not controllers or the controllers’ union. As far as my energy goes, I have in fact directed quite a bit of my attention toward my facility. This has apparently paid off considering that the FAA recently named ORD facility of the year. In fact, there is a story in today’s "Chicago Tribune" (attached) about this.
I have tried to contact you several times since June 1 about safety related issues involving pilots represented by ALPA. It has been over 2 months since I first wrote you requesting your assistance in this matter, and for 2 months you have failed to respond. In the meantime, the flying public has been put at risk. I am surprised that you have chosen to air your dirty laundry to the press. Since May 27, NATCA National has asked me to refrain from talking to the media regarding this issue. I committed to them to do everything possible to solve this issue within ALPA and NATCA. Unfortunately, because of your press release this is no longer possible. Mr. Woerth, you may have opened a can of worms that you didn’t want opened. In the near future, I will be putting out our own press release. This release will not quote averages, but instead will give detailed descriptions of unsafe acts committed by your pilots. Tapes, pilot deviations and controller statements will back it up. Considering your track record so far, it is obvious nothing will get done working with ALPA. Therefore, you have forced me to request that the Department of Transportation Inspector Generals Office investigate these incidents. I’m sure you’ll be hearing more about this shortly.
It is unfortunate that we have to go this route, this could have all been solved had you only taken a minute to return a phone call. There is something seriously wrong when an organization like yours, which supposedly stands for safety, ignores it all together. Instead of attacking controllers, Mr. Woerth, maybe it’s time for you to redirect your energy and attention toward matters closely related to your profession.
NATCA -O’Hare Tower, Chicago
cc: Mr. Mike McNalley – Executive President, NATCA