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|Weekly Update for February 23, 2001|
Weekly Update for the Week of February 23, 2001
It’s late and I should be tired so I’m going to fire through this puppy and desperately try to get some rest.
This week began on Sunday when a couple of controller buddies of ours, Jeff Ireland and Julie Healey came over to Casa De Carr in Cleveland for brunch. I whupped up a mess of groceries, and we enjoyed spending time with our friends. When they left for the evening shift I decided to tag along, and the next thing you know I was back in the ‘hood with my homies. (That’s, “At the facility with my friends,” to those of you who are tragically unhip.)
After hanging out at CLE for a while Dick Pinkston (my campaign treasurer) and Mark Bohn (my Facrep and campaign chairman) met me for a cold beverage at a local stopping spot. We enjoyed each other’s company more than I can describe, and I was the one who had to call an early end to our visit. We promised to get together again soon.
Monday was President’s Day, so being a president I decided to celebrate by taking the day off.
Tuesday began as weeks always do, with the obligatory hundred emails and phone calls. I met with Courtney Portner first thing in the morning to discuss the Communications Department Director vacancy. Courtney has been working long and hard to take up the slack in the department while we conduct the search, and her efforts are not unnoticed and are very appreciated.
I spoke with Ed Wytkind at the TTD, Steve Lenertz on some PRM issues and Fred Duval over at Hill and Knowlton to confirm scripts for our commercial shoot and go over wardrobe.
At midmorning Cris Johnson from C90 called. Another accident. Another fatality. Another friend. And here I am again, Friday night, preparing for a funeral that came too soon.
The Chicago Tribune obituary, written by Rogers Worthington, said:
“Charles Bunting learned to direct airplanes as a young sergeant in the Marine Corps. He went on to lead a local chapter of the national air traffic controllers union at one of the busiest flight-control operations in the nation.
Mr. Bunting, 49, was killed Tuesday, Feb. 20 when his pickup truck overturned on a Northwest Tollway embankment near Hampshire.
He had been traveling to his home in Rockford after just having been inducted as a master Mason at the Masonic Temple in Elgin, said his wife, Becky. State police still are investigating the accident.
“He was everybody’s Uncle Charlie,” she said. “There was never a guy he wouldn’t help. He would go out in the middle of the night to help anybody.”
A big, friendly man, Mr. Bunting, a native of Michigan, got his start in air traffic control while a Marine Corps sergeant in South Carolina. After he left the service, he worked as a meat cutter in Toledo, Ohio.
Then in August, 1981, President Ronald Reagan fired striking members of the old PATCO air traffic controllers union, effectively ending its existence. But the president’s action created a job opening for Mr. Bunting, whose first assignment was at an airfield in Jackson, Mich. From there he went to the Federal Aviation Administration facility in Cleveland, and later to the Chicago area’s Terminal Radar Approach Control facility, considered one of the country’s busiest air traffic control operations.
“Being there at times is like being in a foxhole with your mates,” said John Carr, president of the National Air Traffic Controllers Association and a former facility representative at TRACON in Elgin. “Charlie Bunting had command of the foxhole every time he plugged in.”
Mr. Bunting was the facility representative for the air-traffic controller union at TRACON last summer, a time of great turmoil between the controllers and management.
He was one of 11 air traffic controllers disciplined after an investigation into the delay of several hundred flights on July 17. An investigation by the FAA and the Inspector General’s Office of the U.S. Department of Transportation concluded that a job action at the facility led to the delays. NATCA officials said there was no job action, and have vowed to appeal the disciplinary measures.
Mr. Bunting was transferred in September to the FAA’s Chicago flight control center in Aurora.
A charter member of NATCA, Mr. Bunting eventually served on the executive board of the local NATCA chapter. He was elected facility representative in 1999. Carr praised him for his leadership abilities.
“He had tenacity and integrity,” Carr said.
Other survivors include three children from a previous marriage, daughter Christy Avalos and sons Todd and Troy; a brother, Lawrence; and a sister, Diane Wollam. Memorial services will be at 11:30 a.m. Saturday at the Unitarian Universalist Church, 4848 Turner St., Rockford.”
The news of Charlie’s passing was devastating to his friends, his family and to the facilities where he worked. Charlie was serving a suspension for the events of July 17th when he was killed. In light of this tragedy, I asked the agency to clear Mr. Bunting’s record and give his family some closure and some peace. The agency refused.
Because of the agency’s refusal to clear my friend Charlie’s name, we will be trying his case this summer both in the courts and in the Chicago Tribune, the Sun-Times, and several other pertinent media outlets. I gave the FAA the opportunity to do the right thing for a man, his family, and three grieving facilities. The FAA chose a different course of action. History will record that again, the FAA made the wrong choice. I am deeply and profoundly disturbed by the agency’s actions in this matter. And I will never forget it.
I spoke with Alan Clendenin shortly after noon, and then my day deteriorated into a nonstop carousel of meetings. I met with Jeff Sparrow on Free Flight, Blackie on Tech issues, Wade on LAHSO, Dale Wright reference some liaison and tech rep issues, and I think Don Ossinger stopped in to watch me take these beatings unassisted.
I spoke to several people who told me how desperate the FAA is to install MIAWS in Little Rock, Arkansas. Hmmm. Imagine my surprise. We will send over a good faith proposal to the agency to open these negotiations and begin constructing some useful ground rules for the parties to follow under Article 7.
I spoke with Doug Church about our commercial shoot and then did some media contacts with him. After he left the office I suddenly realized that I had lost enthusiasm for the day and packed it in.
Wednesday morning I got up extra early to try and capture back some of the time I’d be missing. I worked like a madman until nine in the morning when I headed over to the studio to shoot three new commercials for rotation on the CNN Airport Network.
One of the commercials in particular should work very well. ALPA loaned us Captain Andy Deane, and we made an “alternating dialogue” commercial that’s very powerful. Our market research and focus groups indicate that the target audience trusts both us and pilots, so this should prove fruitful to our cause.
Captain Deane was a real trooper, and he walked, talked and looked the part. As for me, it was all I could do to keep Courtney from taking pictures of me while they put on my makeup.
The shoot lasted until four pm, and I rushed back to the office. Lucky for me there were only 25 messages waiting. Susan, Doug, SINATCA, Jill, Bill, Bryan, Peter, Dan, Pat, Pat again, Mike, Adell, Kevin, Mike, Scott, Mike, Tampa Joe, Pat a third time, Ruth, rick, and Wade.
After fielding those concerns I directed my attention to the Poole report, and our efforts to blunt the attack. Doug Church was on the phone the entire day, and the early analysis is that most media are taking a “ho-hum” approach to the release. Maybe Bob Poole got a better reaction when he first released this fiction some twenty years ago.
With Jill on the night shift I was free to stay in the office until all hours, and I took advantage of the quiet time to get caught up on the crush of mail that comes into the Executive Offices. The volume is incredible, but I managed to get most of it either read, filed or put away before calling it a night around eight.
Thursday I got on the phone early to Jane’s office, then talked to Ray Gibbons in Chicago about the Chicago Tribune.
Doug and I did some work on damage control surrounding the Poole report, then caught a lucky break as Hillary Clinton decided to do her press conference a few blocks over from the privatization gang, and at the same time.
I had an early morning meeting with Ed Wytkind and Mike Ingrao from TTD, and we discussed political campaigns at my request so I could come up to speed on the fund raising and fund spending efforts underway in the off-cycle years.
I met with Susan Grundmann to discuss a pending legal issue, and then met with Bob Taylor to discuss a whole host of LR business. Bob and I went over the PCS MOU, the CISM training he’s planning, and we discussed a new LR specialist he wants to hire.
The snow started falling in the District about noon, and by four it was looking pretty bleak downtown. South of the city there was a record 128-car pileup that took 12 hours to tow away, and the roads were becoming dicey.
At five I headed over to the Ron Morgan Retirement Dinner at the Ft. Meyer Officer’s Club, and hooked up with Barry Krasner, Mike McNally, Tim Haines, Karl and Susan Grundmann and three hundred other brave souls. The occasion…to honor Ron on his 32 years of service. I presented Ron with a nice plaque, and all had a good time. It was fun watching people do double takes as they realized that Mike, Barry and I were there en masse. I gave Mike and Barry a ride back to their hotel, and I got home by eleven. By the time I’d finished with my homework it was after twelve.
Friday. Whew. Up at four, packed and gone by five-thirty, in the office at six. I took care of email early, then caught a cab over to the City Club of Washington for an early morning breakfast meeting with Carol Hallett and Jack Cole. Carol’s the President of ATA, and of course Jack used to work for us before going over to them as their senior Air Safety person.
Carol, Jack and I had a very productive meeting, and we are going to work on finding common ground on which to stand. We are convinced, and I think more and more people in industry are starting to feel this way, that if we can just set our differences aside for another day and concentrate on our agreements, great progress can be made for all of us. A perfect example of this strategy is ATA’s call for 1,000 new air traffic controllers, a call we may be taking up with them in short order.
After breakfast it was back to the office for an hour and a half interview with CNN, who are beginning the threads of a one hour special on delays, capacity and so forth. I think the reporter found both Blackie Blackmer and myself to be glib and engaging, and he promised to keep us in the loop as the story progresses and to return for some on camera work later in the spring.
I had to bolt just a tad early from the meeting with CNN to make my speaking engagement at the National Press Club. I was the featured speaker at their monthly Transportation Table, and the text can be found elsewhere on NATCA.net. To say that I lit up the Poole report like a pinball machine would be an understatement, and the audience was very receptive to the message. We’ll see what they print.
Back at the office I checked in on a friend who’s hurting right now, and talked to Pat Forrey, live on the phone!!! No voicemail!!! Such a blessing.
I worked with Courtney on ad copy ideas for our ads for the AOPA Magazine, hoping to hit the issue that goes down to Sun ‘n Fun. I think we’ve got a good shot of some outstanding exposure as we continue to link our message to our friend’s.
At five I drove over to National Airport where I met Jill, and together we traveled to Chicago for Charlie’s memorial service tomorrow. We got a car and made a beeline for Ray’s house, where too many friends to mention were reminiscing in that odd, queer way where you want to laugh and cry at the same time. There are friends from Cleveland here as well, including Dick Pinkston, and tomorrow, Mark Bohn. I had no idea when I saw them just last Sunday that, “get together soon” would be so sudden and unspeakably tragic.
It’s three am. Four am on the east coast where I come from. The house is quiet, yet I can’t sleep. I bet I’m not the only one. Dawn will be here soon, slowly uncovering the long, sad day that lies before us.
Rest in peace, Charlie Bunting. Rest in peace.