<!----Enter Date Bellow *****************> Weekly Presidential Update for January 12, 2001 <!----End Enter Date Bellow *************>
Weekly Update for <!----Enter Date Bellow ****************> January 12, 2001 <!----End Enter Date Bellow *************>

Weekly Update For The Week of January 12, 2001

When last we spoke I had done the Engineer’s briefing and was getting ready to go over to the big island. Saturday we did just that, and spent some of the afternoon visiting with the folks in Hilo Tower.

On Sunday Jill and I flew from Hawaii to Maui, where we promptly ran into Jane Garvey and made plans for breakfast Monday morning. Sunday evening a reception was held to kick off the AAAE Conference. Ken Montoya, Jill and I ran into literally dozens of people to talk to, from Congressmen to staffers to Jane to industry and trade types. It was a target rich environment for our cause, and we used the opportunity to maximum effect.

Everyone is represented here. Airports. House. Senate. I’ll try somehow to get out a complete list of attendees so can all share in the scope of the conference and recognize and appreciate it’s importance to our agenda.

Monday morning I had breakfast with Jane Garvey and Peter Challin. We discussed operational error reduction, the Spring/Summer 2001 Initiative, ways to improve controller training, and we also discussed the FAA budget. We talked off the record on a few topics, and agreed to meet several times during the coming week.

The conference officially started at 8:30 with a Congressional Panel consisting of Senator Ted Stevens, Representative Jimmy Duncan, Representative Ed Pastor, Representative Robert Menendez, Representative Hal Rogers, Representative Todd Tiahrt, Representative Peter DeFazio and Senator Slade Gordon. Authorizers, appropriators, and aviators. What a conference.

This panel discussed the incoming 107th, the Presidents’ cabinet choices and also spent an hour or so on aviation issues, specifically AIR 21 and the coming budget battles. The panel ended with a “lightning round,” which was both informative and entertaining to watch. Ken had already set up meetings with several of the congressmen and staffers for the coming week, so I didn’t bull-rush any of them during the coffee break!

Instead I returned some of the thirty pages I’d gotten in the last twelve hours, and also talked to our General Counsel and Chris Boughn on the CIC arbitration, Phil on the OE/OD MOU, and returned a few other calls. I met confidentially with Jane for a few minutes, and shared a moment with the IG to discuss the Linda Chavez nomination. He asked us if we were in opposition and I affirmed that position very strongly.

The second panel, on Capacity Expansion, was notable for it’s lack of specifics. While everyone here seems cognizant of the fact that fifty miles of runway…two miles at each of the top twenty-five airports…would alleviate all delay concerns, no one is quite sure how to get that accomplished. There’s a lot of talk about prioritizing aviation infrastructure concerns in order to tackle them from most to least important. The views seem so divergent, however, that I’ll believe it when I see it.

The afternoon was spent on the golf course with Peter Challin from the FAA and Congressman Bob Menendez from New Jersey. We discussed a range of issues including delays, FAA funding and privatization threats. I think Bob will be a strong ally for us in the coming debate on our issues…his district includes Newark, and his constituency includes Gordon Bethune.

Jill and I were guests of Ed Bolen, President of the General Aviation Manufacturing Association, for dinner. GAMA represents the business jet and general aviation communities and they are very anti-privatization. We discussed strategy and tactics, and agreed to share information and resources on research into the hidden pitfalls of this policy.

We discussed privatization and user fees, with both of us agreeing that each is a short-sighted and reckless approach. Ed’s resources and the people he represents will be welcome voices in our coming battles.

Whew!!! I haven’t been to the beach yet and I worked from seven am to eleven pm. Feels like DC. I’m exhausted.

Tuesday began with a Continental Breakfast (That’s rolls and muffins and such, not coffee and cereal with Gordon Bethune.) Ken and I mingled about, schmoozing like everyone else here. It’s very important and valuable face time and the relationships are invaluable, but like I said…it’s schmoozing.

I caught up on some phone work, taking calls or pages from Rodney Turner, Steve Dye, Lorrie Hayes, Ruth, John Tune, Adell, Carol Branaman, Bob Taylor, Karl Grundmann, Joe Perrone, Phil Boyer’s secretary, Don Ossinger, Mike Hull, Andy Cantwell, Bill McGowen, Alan Clendenin, and another dozen or so.

I played fax/fax with Phil on some MOU language I’m working on, and also asked Adell to send over some things I needed to take a look at. From there it was off to the “Town Hall Meeting” with Jane Garvey and Senator Ted Stevens, Chairman of the Appropriations Committee.

After the Town Hall meeting it was my turn to sit on a panel who’s topic was “Air Traffic Control Modernization and Reform.” On the panel with me was Ken Mead, Jim Hall from the NTSB, Jim Coyne from the NATA, Jack Ferarnsides, Peter Challin and several others. One of the two moderators for our panel was our friend Ed Bolen with GAMA, and he kindly asked in public some of the questions we’d discussed in private the night before.

As you can imagine I used the opportunity and the audience to maximum effect, going close but not over the “No Fillibusters” rule. I spoke at length on the travails of privatization and the need to allow recent legislative relief and budgetary maneuvering a chance to work before reinventing us once again. I also mentioned that the very same audience which had just moments ago been singing the praises of the best FAA Administrator in history now seemed poised to reward her by gutting her agency. I felt like our discussion scored some points.

I also discussed reducing separation standards to eke out unused capacity in the system, which seemed to be very well received.

Tuesday afternoon it was back out to the course for the AAAE Golf Tournament. Ken and I were paired with representatives from Lockeed and ARINC, and we landscaped our way to a best-ball one-over score. It was a fun break from the action of the conference and a great tension reliever.

We left immediately following the round since we knew we had one nothing. Although there was a complimentary cocktail reception at the course work called, and it was back to the hotel for our evening date. I called Jane to touch base on a few issues and then met with Ken and DOT Inspector General Ken Mead for dinner.

We discussed privatization, contract towers, oceanic control (which he is in favor of moving towards privatizing) and the CIC agreement. We also discussed increased productivity found in the 1998 contract, the operations budget for the FAA, and the “Trojan Horse” syndrome so prevalent in regional offices and at Headquarters.

Seems the RO’s and HQ’s have long figured out that “whatever the controllers get, we get.” That was true enough until the 1998 agreement, I suppose, and Mr. Mead’s mail is reflective of the fact that a change is in the offing. Our increased productivity and our increased responsibility and our increased accountability has resulted in our increased compensation, and there are people who are upset that they didn’t get it. Well…truth of the matter is, they don’t understand what we gave up to get our new agreement.

We also discussed a settlement to the Contract Tower lawsuit, and how that might look, and discussed using contract towers as a training ground for FAA facilities. We also spent some time talking about the incoming 107th, and how it might shake out for aviation and organized labor.

Wednesday I had promised myself I’d get up early and do some business with the East Coast, so when the alarm went off at 4:30 I hopped…OK, crawled…out of bed. I went downstairs at 5:30 and got on the blower to Ruth, who was just landing from Kansas City.

We talked about her visit, my visit, and a few nagging Central Region issues. I paged the board to change next weeks’ telcon, then talked with Craig Byrzych from Chicago for a bit. I took calls or pages from our Article 55 rep as well as Jim D’Agati with the Engineers, then hustled to an early morning meeting with Spenser Dickerson, the Executive Vice President of the AAAE, and Jerry Olson, also with AAAE and the Airport Manager of Cheyenne, Wyoming.

We discussed the existing contract tower program, which now includes 200 towers and has grown to over a 500 million dollar program. I made clear to them that I believed the original program was done in error, and that no bright line existed with which to define the towers currently contracted.

While they plan to endorse the IG’s call for an expansion of the program, they do not plan to lobby for it, and they are keenly aware of our opposition. They intend to concentrate their efforts on new municipal towers where no FAA tower existed, and where traffic volumes would probably preclude an FAA tower.

We spoke at length and also discussed the status quo. It was a very helpful and productive meeting and I think went a long way towards turning a natural adversary into a potential ally.

From there I dashed off to keep my promise to Ken Mead to give him a copy of “TRACON,” which he seemed genuinely interested in. I spoke with a representative from the GAO about some interviews they’re planning on conducting, and directed them to contact Bob Taylor in Labor Relations.

I sat in and watched the first panel, entitled, “FAA FUNDING---Future Needs, Future Challenges.” The consensus Ken and I are getting is that while AIR 21 may have provided the vehicle for freeing up money for a plethora of programs and improvements, the new Congress might not fund these to authorized levels, thereby sidestepping the legislative intent. We’ll have to keep our eyes on this as it develops, because an underfunded AIR 21 would not serve our best interests in any way.

I had a short discussion with Steve Alterman, President of the Cargo Airline Association, regarding equipment issues. We agreed to flesh out some of his concerns and suggestions at a meeting in DC sometime in February or March.

After the first panel we took Congressman Menendez and Congressman Pastor out for a round of golf. I paired up with Ed, and I believe our cart beat their cart. I availed myself of a few congressional gimmes along the way, and I might even have appropriated myself an occasional par.

We had a great round and a good discussion on how to keep the focus on the inherently governmental nature of our work. We discussed many topics, and the afternoon gave way to early evening, so I asked them each to join us for dinner.

We met at 7:30 and picked right up where we’d left off. Jill, meanwhile, bumped into Congressman Todd Tiahrt, whose district includes the General Aviation industry in Wichita, for about the tenth time today and decided to introduce ME! I told the congressman about my two brothers in his district…one a Catholic priest and one a test pilot for Raytheon…and we shared several stories about Kansas.

I think the time we spent with these gentlemen was very productive and valuable. We have built a strong relationship with Congress over the years (witness Ed asking me if Barry still liked Tequila!) and these meetings strengthen the ties that bind. We’ve got some great friends on the Hill, and I hope to have more and more.

Thursday morning’s session was “International Aviation and it’s Environmental Challenges.” ZZZZZZzzzzz.

The conference ended at noon, so Thursday midday I took the resort’s scuba class with my niece (who lives here,) and we liked it so well we asked the instructor to take us back out. He agreed, and we piled into his van for a ride down the coast to another, more challenging shore dive site.

After prebriefing the dive we swam out for about thirty minutes to a pointed reef and then submerged. We explored two underwater caves, including one that is home to three white pointed reef sharks. They were six to eight feet long and scary but (I’m told) harmless. The cave was about thirty feet deep, and while orbiting near the roof I caught my hand on the coral and put about a two-inch gash in one finger.

Oh, great! Thirty feet deep, I’m at the back of a cave, sharks are circling at the entrance, and I’m bleeding. May I just say, “YIKES?!?!?”

I showed the dive instructor my finger, he gave me the, “So What, Who Cares?” sign, and we continued to swim for another thirty minutes or so. The sharks let me out, and we saw huge sea turtles, a manta ray, a school of fish or two, and oh, by the way did I mention I swam with the sharks????????

And here it is, Friday. I’ve made plans to visit the tower here on Maui on our way to the airport, and we leave at six this evening. We get home around two o’clock tomorrow afternoon, and then Sunday morning I fly up to Chicago to assist in their discipline cases. I’ll fly back to DC on Monday night, and be back in the office on Tuesday morning.

This conference has been invaluable to me as your President and to us as a Union. Ken Montoya has facilitated everything while I’ve been here, and has taken care of the important and the mundane. We’re very lucky to have him. Our presence here has increased our visibility, enlisted us new friends and allies, solidified our position as a player in the industry, and planted a flag in the ground on our issues.

Along the way I’ve made facility visits, conducted contract briefings, and met dozens and dozens of people who are important to our future. Some of them are Congressmen and Senators, and some of them are members, just like you.

I’m counting on you, folks!!! You are the most important part of our plan and you hold our collective destiny in your hands. Your willingness to join, contribute to the PAC, and empower activists to work for and with you will pay dividends in the coming four years.

I hope this finds you all in good health and good spirits. Thank you to all of my dear friends here in the islands who have made my stay so very special, and we’ll talk to you all next week, from Washington.

Aloha! Maui no ka oi’!

John

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