<!----Enter Date Bellow *****************> Weekly Presidential Update for January 19, 2001 <!----End Enter Date Bellow *************>
Weekly Update for <!----Enter Date Bellow ****************> January 19, 2001 <!----End Enter Date Bellow *************>


This update begins the day after my return from Hawaii, on Sunday. I caught the early morning flight from DCA to ORD, rented a car and promptly drove out to my old stomping grounds, the Chicago TRACON.

Ahhhh…home. The place looked just like I left it, but it felt considerably more subdued. Fifteen discipline cases will do that to you. After a low pass through the radar room it was off site for a meeting with the affected employees.

Bill Osborne, our outside legal counsel and Mike Daugherty, our Deputy General Counsel gave the employees a briefing on the case, on MSPB and other case law, and discussed strategy and tactics both together and individually. We met one large group and then split off into individual interviews, and I think everyone was very happy with the information exchanged.

The National Office has been working the legal and labor relations aspects of this case since Day One, and we have committed huge resources to providing these controllers with the absolute best possible representation.

Our meeting this day didn’t adjourn until almost seven pm, and from there it was off to a good meal with Bill, Mike, Facility Representative Ray Gibbons and his VP Sheldon Williams. After dinner it was over to the Gibbons’ house to hang out with Ray’s wife Pat and their three boys, Shane, Matt and Dan. I used to live with the Ray in the wild days, then with the Gibbons in the city and again with them in the suburbs. Jill and I have babysat the Gibbon’s boys for weeks at a time while Ray and Patty slip off to Jamaica, and it’s one of our favorite things to do. Ray’s doing a super job with the C90 Local, which is only natural since he’s been facrep there (and in the tower) before.

Monday it was more of the same, in spite of the holiday. We met with another group of employees at eight, and then went over to the facility around one to finish the last group. I swung back through the TRACON to see some more old friends, and then it was off to the airport at four.

Lucky me, I turned in the rent-a-car early so I headed over to O’Hare Tower to visit with those folks for a while. What a super bunch of people. You know, the facilities used to be co-located, back in the good old days, and I really enjoyed catching up with my old friends. John Baldyga, who’s now at O’Hare from DuPage, took his break and we went down to the terminal for some Chicago style polish with relish and onions and tomatoes and peppers and poppy seeds and a pickle spear, right on the bun. Man, sometimes I really miss this place.

My reservation took me home through Cleveland, which was both a blessing and a bit of a cruel trick. I was forty minutes late for a forty-five minute connection between Gates 22 and 5, so I called ahead to see if any of my mates in CLE could help. Jim Scarpelli got a cart to tote me from gate to gate and gave me a box he’d gotten from my sister-in-law with all my mail, to boot! Thanks, Jim! I got in to DC about eleven, and I was home by midnight.

Tuesday morning found me in the office at seven, catching up with Ruth on the entire goings on while I’ve been away. I gathered some notes for our Privatization group meeting and signed a couple hundred new member letters.

I kicked off the Privatization group meeting with a trip report of sorts, telling them my discussions on privatization with some of the competing interests in Maui. I advised the group that I would be downsizing the three groups into one for purposes of efficiency and to prevent duplication of effort. I will be winnowing the three lists down to one with help from Ruth.

I advised them that we need a major in privatization with a minor in contract towers, and we need people willing to step up and research the hard data on these subjects. We need white papers. We need facts. And we need information from sources (like CATCA) to refute the shrill voices being heard. What we DON’T need is another meeting to discuss the subject. I’m just about meeting’d out on this topic and I’m ready for some action.

I left this gathering and met up with Dale Wright, who had brought over Bruce Henry from the FAA for a meeting. Bruce is the former president of NAATS and is now the FAA ARS lead on union/management issues. Bruce and I had a very frank and forthright discussion of Article 48 empowerment and I think he’s got a very good idea of NATCA’s position in that regard.

From this meeting it was directly into my Director’s Meeting at ten am. As usual the group all had contributions to make to the discussion on everything from a new disability insurance to the 2001 schedule for the Training Department to the hire of a junior accountant for the Accounting Department. We also discussed our new ISP contract and several other issues I won’t bore you with.

As soon as I stepped out of my meeting and into my office Jerry McArthur, our new ADA Representative, stuck his head in the office to discuss spooling up his activism on this issue. Jerry has already contacted Jim D’Agati to work with his Engineer’s designee and is hoping to comb new MOUs for ADA compatibility.

Bye, Jerry. Hello, Bill Osborne and Michael Daugherty for more discussion on tactics to be used in the C90 discipline cases. We had a very fruitful exchange. I booted these two out of my office so I could host the NEB Telcon, and is my hair on fire or what? I can’t even get a second cup of coffee here!

We did some untimely expense vouchers and other errata, and approved the hire of the admin assistant for Jim D’Agati. The board also concurred with my decision to publish the Air Traffic Controller newsletter on a bi-monthly basis, starting with the January/February edition. I feel the bi-monthlies have always been better written and more interesting and don’t drain resources unnecessarily just for the sake of sending something out. Courtney is doing extraordinary things with the newsletter now, and I hope those of you who have news tips, controller saves, interesting facility tales and other publishable material will help her put out the very best newsletter we can.

After the telcon I had a meeting with one of the hardest working men in NATCA, Alan Clendenin, chairman of the Legislative Committee. Alan and I discussed the privatization issue and our role in the battle, and I briefed him about some of my meetings at the AAAE Conference. Alan’s instincts on this issue have been deadly accurate, and I value his opinion as both a hard working activist and as my personal friend.

In between training at Tampa, Alan has managed to hold Lobby Week in September, he’s convened a couple full committee meetings (including getting some of his crew in to some inaugural festivities) and has also nailed down planning for another NATCA In Washington effort to be held in May of this year. And the official time he gets is, well, non-existent. Whew! And I thought I was busy.

After cleaning up some loose ends at the office I returned calls to Don Ossinger on airspace, Phil on an MOU, Phil again on the MOU, PHIL AGAIN ON THE MOU, Jim D’Agati, Tim Hardison, my sister-in-law Judy…hey…how’d she get in there??? I raced home to take Mrs. Bull to dinner and a show, and I only slept through about ten minutes of the movie….”Family Man.” Some title, Family Man. Very funny. Is that supposed to be some kind of hint?!?!?

Wednesday morning began with Don Ossinger. He said he was an early bird and he wasn’t kidding. Don and I discussed National Airspace initiatives and the chokepoint sectors, the TAAP MOU and the agency’s desire to pick the “low hanging fruit.” I must tell you for the record that I also promised Ruth on Wednesday that I would use the term, “low hanging fruit” in my update this week, so there it is. (Next week I think I’m going to use “granular,” but don’t tell her. Let it be a surprise.)

Maureen Woods came over to the NATCA office to discuss an organizational assessment the agency is planning to do. They were originally planning to do interviews until Rodney and I protested, and now it looks like it will take the form of a survey under Article 50.

After Mo left I talked to a contingent from Washington Center on some issues they are facing. Tim, Kevin and I have agreed to work the issue through every avenue, and Fuse is working the issue as well.

David Sandbach and I got together with Gerald Dillingham and a couple other folks from the GAO to discuss their desire to chair some discussion groups in the field concerning Free Flight, CIC implementation and controller attrition issues. I put Ruth in touch with Gerald to see if they could use a leg up on some data…our data…on the subject of controller retirements. I left David to look for any snakes in the grass, and went back to my office to prepare for the Staff Meeting.

After talking to several people about tomorrow’s events I made the command decision to close the National Office at noon. Bridges all over the District were closing and streets were barricading in preparation for the Inaugural Opening Ceremonies down at the Lincoln Memorial. I decided there was no reason for our staff to be “Livin’ La Vida Loca,” and made plans to send them home early.

Christine Corcoran and I bolted out of the staff meeting early (but not before I showed everyone my cave-diving scar) to attend the Air Traffic Control Association symposium at the Renaissance Hotel. I was scheduled for a panel discussion, and all the usual suspects were there. Free Flight folks, AAAE people, our friends with AOPA and GAMA. You name the alphabet group, they were there.

I spoke about the systemic nature of the current delay problem, and I told them it was a good news, bad news scenario. The good news, I said, is that the problem has become so acute that a cover story in the August issue of Life magazine on gridlock mentioned the need for a fourth New York airport, and further described ground hold procedures as far away as Los Angeles.

The bad news, I went on to say, was that it was the August 1968 issue of Life magazine. I linked our remarks with Ed Bolen’s (from GAMA, who you may remember from last week’s update and who I forgot to tell you is the Chairman of the MAC.) Ed rightly asserts that privatization and user fees will not improve capacity or reduce delays: fifty miles of runway will.

I’m uncertain why we’ve shrinked away from the debate over user fees for so long, because they are the trigger mechanism on privatization. We have a PBO. We have a MAC. We have an Aviation Committee. We have autonomy from the Administrator, to the extent that she delegates it. Add in some off budget or user-fee funding and you’re private. I think it’s time we stood by our friends on this issue, as they have stood, and will stand, by us.

I touched on demand management versus capacity enhancement, and I closed by saying that I was there representing the finest air traffic controllers in the world, operators of the safest, busiest and most complex system in the world, and that we planned to spend less and less of our time assigning blame, and more and more of our time achieving solutions. You’d have to ask Christine how I did, but I do know this: of all the speakers, I was the only one they applauded.

After the panel people, congratulating me and exchanging business cards, swamped me. I believe Aviation Week will be calling for an interview, as may a couple of others.

From the Renaissance it was back to the office to gather my gear, Metro out of the mayhem, and get home in time for dinner OR a show. We chose the latter rather than the former, proving again what I’ve known for years: Popcorn is a food group.

Thursday morning I walked in about 6:45 with Don Ossinger, and we discussed the Spring/Summer 2001 initiative, chokepoint sectors and other airspace issues. Don does a very thorough job briefing me on the entire minutia with respect to airspace.

After he left I did the standard issue calls and emails before eight, then climbed into the presidential limo---OK, it was some guy’s two door Escort---for the ride out to ARINC in Annapolis. I think by the weekend my back will quit spazzing from the ride in the back seat, because I didn’t have the heart to ask Mike Connor, all 6’5”, two hundred-some pounds of him, to sit back there. He facilitated this visit on behalf of NARI, and we spent the entire morning in a briefing and hands-on presentation on ARINCs’ Oceanic Air Traffic Control workstations.

The FAA will be making a decision on which of the two finalist vendors to choose from by June 30 of this year, and the competition is down to Lockeed Martin and ARINC. I intend to check in with my friends in Oceanic in Oakland, New York and Anchorage to get their impressions of the two competing systems.

The ARINC briefing lasted until shortly after noon, but calling the office I got Adell on the first ring. She informed me that Bill Peacock had signed and sent back our joint Operational Error Reduction MOU.

This MOU represents a watershed event in our relationship with the agency. From the very highest levels of the FAA there is an understanding and acknowledgement of the need to decriminalize the operational error process. Jane Garvey, Monte Belger, Ron Morgan and Bill Peacock are to be saluted for their genuine belief in your professionalism and skill.

Of course, now the onus is on us to live up to our part of the bargain. This MOU is designed to increase safety, improve efficiency and enhance capacity, and I know that each and every one of you is up to the challenge of improving what already is the very best air traffic control system in the world.

I was in the process of putting this MOU out when an issue came to my attention that required immediate care. It seems that some AOS’s in the field were under the mistaken impression that the DOT IG had begun an investigation of their pay inequity. In point of fact, after talking to the IG, it was discovered that there is three levels of attention they bring to bear on issues: an audit survey, an audit, and an investigation. They were conducting an audit survey, to determine whether or not there was the need for an audit or even an investigation.

The IG advised me that they chose a couple regions, and facilities in those regions, completely at random, and interviewed a few willing participants. They have completed their fieldwork, and will now cogitate on it before deciding whether they’re done or need to move forward with the issue. As the IG characterized it, “this is a learning experience for us.” They committed to contact me when they had made any decisions in this regard, and I in turn will pass the news on to you.

NATCA is keenly aware that the AOS’s feel left out in the cold by the pay process. On the one hand you have our system, to which they did not belong. On the other hand you have the MSS pay system, to which they were not assigned. They have a legitimate issue, certainly, and one that predates their certification by over a year. It now becomes our issue to fight, and I hope to rectify their problems at the contract negotiation table.

I got the MOU out to the field and then hit the street for a cab ride over to the FAA. A light drizzle had started to fall, consistent with the forecast for showers throughout the weekend. That’s a shame, because an inauguration is such a pageant. I hope the grassy area in front of the Capitol doesn’t end up looking like Woodstock on Day Three.

Over at the FAA I made my way up to Bill Peacock’s office where we had a very productive two-hour meeting. Unsurprisingly, the FAA thinks I’ve taken hostages because they think I won’t work their issues, and of course I think the FAA has taken hostages because they won’t work ours. I’ve got a list of ten or twenty items that predate my administration, including retroactivity pay, Fort Worth DSR grievances, and so forth and so on. Bill’s got a list he got from Ron on various and sundry items that the FAA thinks I’ve been holding on to.

Well, we’ve both had about enough of that.

Bill and I both believe in many of the same things, not the least of which is the Facility Manager and the Facrep’s responsibilities to serve as pairs in the management of our facilities. There is a price to leadership, apparently, and it is that you must lead. And if we believe that for you in the field, we ought to go ahead and believe it for ourselves, too. We both also believe in being fair and consistent.

With those principles in mind we have committed to an exchange of lists in the coming week, and a meeting shortly thereafter to resolve the nagging outstanding issues between the parties. We may not agree, and we may have to let a third party decide some of them, but we absolutely must put some of them to rest if we are going to work productively and collaboratively through the summer. I’m very confident in our ability to fix solve some of the riddles.

By the time we got done it was after five and the traffic was pouring into the District faster than the rain. Lucky for me I took public transportation in, so I took public transportation out and I was home by six-thirty. Good thing I don’t own a gun because it was so early Mrs. Bull thought I was a burglar!

Today, Friday, I started my day in McLean, Virginia at the offices of MITRE. They do quite a bit of work for the agency, and I was there to see URET, CRCT, and the ADS-B. The briefing lasted until almost noon, and to say I was fascinated was an understatement. I’m particularly anxious to hear from some of my Center friends on the adaptability and usability of URET, and from some of the TMC’s on the real value of CRCT. ADS-B is operational in Alaska now, and everyone on both sides of the mike seems very happy.

From the briefing it was out to National airport, where I had hoped to stick my head in to say hi to the troops. Unfortunately I was running a little late, so maybe next time. I did have time, however, to talk to Joe Fruscella about the Washington Center issue and Fuse, true to form, had fixed it totally and completely. I was very appreciative for his help.

I’m on my way out to Las Vegas to host an opening (Diet Coke) reception for Facrep Training, as well as kick off the first morning of classes with a short briefing. I plan to check out our new hotel and meeting space, and I hope to squeeze in a visit to the facilities in the Vegas area before the NEB starts rolling into town for our meeting next week.

It’s been an incredibly busy and productive week. I have high hopes for our relationship with Bill Peacock, the new AT-1, and we’re off to a good start with the OE/OD MOU. The NATCA National Office staff continues to deliver a consistently high service for the owners and customers (that would be you), and they improve daily. I can’t tell you how many of them were still there on Thursday, well after noon, in spite of the fact that the office was closed. Our directors are coming into their own as leaders, and we have formed a real teamwork approach to getting the job done for you.

Our activists, like Alan and Dennis and James and Tim and Bryan and Don and Leslie and Carol and Kevin…what can I say? They give up their time to make a difference, and they leave home and family behind to rise to their Union’s side when called. No wonder we win more than we lose.

I didn’t even notice until typing this that I haven’t had a day off in a few weeks, but I don’t care. I love what I do and I can’t wait to get to work every day. I hope this finds you all in good health, and thanks for making it through to the end…the update was almost as long as the week was!

Best wishes, and we’ll see you next week.

John


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